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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Fault in Our Stars (Green)

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: Green
Genre: Fiction, Love Stories, Illness, Travel, Cancer
Pages: 318
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From the publisher: Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumors in her lungs. for now. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too - post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and - shockingly, to her - interested in Hazel.

If you've been paying attention to year-end Top 10 book lists and reviews this season, I do not actually have to tell you anything about this book. In fact, you've probably read it yourself. Green is one of my all-time favorite authors, definitely Top 3. I honestly have a geeky book crush on him, his books, and his Crash Course video segments (which you MUST check out). I have been lucky enough to seem him speak in person several times, and entertain the audience at a dinner or two.

I fell in love with this book months before my own cancer diagnosis. This book is simply beautiful, and you will fall in love with Hazel and Augustus...and with their love story. Humor, challenges, sensitivity,'s all here in this sophisticated and honest tale that asks and answers some pretty big questions in a way that only John Green could tackle (and succeed at). 

This is an absolute must-read, and you just might need a Kleenex or two.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: In the Bag (Klise)

Title: In the Bag
Author: Klise
Genre: Fiction, Love Stories, Vacations
Pages: 306
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A European vacation. A luggage mix-up. A note from a secret admirer. Meet two single parents who think they're too busy to date. And two teenagers who can't stop writing flirty emails. Professional chef Daisy and her teenage daughter Coco take the same flight to Paris as Andrew and his son Webb. Although Daisy scoffs at Andrew's flirtatious glances and note, the two single parents will meet again because their kids accidentally swapped suitcases. 

I have long been a fan of the author's tween books. When I found out that she was writing a book for adults, I was intrigued. And I thoroughly enjoyed this title, told from all four characters' perspectives. This is an engaging, light-hearted read that also happens to be the perfect vacation book. All the romances in this story work in just the right way. This is a story for moms or their high school daughters...or both. It's a 2-for-1 gift, I suppose.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Son (Lowry)

Title: Son
Author: Lowry
Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Mothers, Adventure
Pages: 393
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

There are legions of fans of Lowry's "The Giver" (as well as it's companion novels, "Gathering Blue" and "Messenger"). Her latest title in the "series" is a legitimate sequel or conclusion to the wildly popular Giver, and will have fans clamoring to find the answers to questions left very much unanswered.

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn't exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child. 

And readers will realize that they know her child. Her son is baby Gabe, the baby Jonas formed a bond with in The Giver. The baby scheduled to be "released." 

Now, I'll have to admit that one of the things that is most appealing to me about The Giver is the fact that the ending is so open to interpretation. I have always loved that there were no concrete answers. I was slightly sad to be handed a book with an ending...but then, I couldn't resist it. It is haunting, ordered, intriguing, and so well written that you cannot help but be drawn into Claire's quest. A completely satisfying conclusion to the story that you will not want to miss.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Ungifted (Korman)

Title: Ungifted
Author: Korman
Genre: Fiction, Funny, Middle School, Friendship, Robots

Pages: 280
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

After pulling a major prank that lands him in the district superintendent's office, troublemaker Donovan Curtis is accidentally sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, a special program for gifted and talented students. Needless to say, Donovan knows he's dodged a bullet and intends to do whatever it takes not to let on that he doesn't belong in the gifted program.

Before we go any farther, I have to admit to being a HUGE Gordon Korman fan. 10 all-time authors. I recently convinced our 6th grade team to make his title "Schooled" an all-grade read. Big fan! And this latest book did not disappoint.

Written much like "Schooled," with multiple characters' first-person narration propelling the story forward, this has something to offer every reader. Yes, there is a subtle message of tolerance and many ideas to ponder while reading, but it is also a funny story that is universal to all middle school students. Donovan is a charming character with heart, and his story has broad appeal.

And who could say no to that cover?

On a recent online auction to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, I won an autographed copy of this book. I was quite excited (even though I missed out on some other great things...that's a post for another day) and looked forward to having some sort of clever contest at Evergreen with this book as a prize. However...the more I think about it bad that I kind of want to keep it for myself?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: One and Only Ivan (Applegate)

Title: One and Only Ivan
Author: Applegate
Genre: Fiction, Animals, Friendship
Pages: 305

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Having spent the majority of my life in the Northwest, the story of Ivan the Gorilla is not a new one to me. Ivan lived in the B & I, a store in Tacoma, Washington for decades before finally moving to Zoo Atlanta (where he passed away this summer).

In this book, the author writes Ivan's story from the gorilla's perspective. When Ivan, who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life. 

Having Ivan narrate this story is an unusual construct that completely works. It adds immediacy to this story of friendship that will resonate with tween (and teen) animal lovers. This book will capture the hearts of readers for quite some time. (And don't let the page count deter younger readers...there's lots of white space and perfect illustrations scattered throughout). I have recommended this one to several of my friends for their own children this holiday season, as well as touting it at school, where it has garnered a hold list.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Les Miserables

Today's Trailer Tuesday is brought to you by the movie I'm excited to see next Tuesday...

Les Miserables, the movie based on the musical based on the book by Victor Hugo, looks to be an amazing production. I can't wait!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Grave Mercy (LeFevers)

Title: Grave Mercy
Author: LeFevers
Genre: Fiction, Assassins, Death, Gods, Historical Fiction, Courts, Fantasy
Pages: 549

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

I love the tagline on this book: Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

17-year-old Ismae escapes the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. At the convent she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death.

Seriously? Nun assassins? Do you really need me to say anything more? Just look at that cover! And this book is the beginning of a new series!

I am in love with this has all the the elements of a dark, sophisticated fairy tale (castles, courts, good vs evil), a nod to historical fiction, and a twisted love story for feminists and romantics alike. And if you are one of those people that likes to read "Best Books," this title has made many Top Books of 2012 lists.

Ismae is one of the great heroines of literature these days. She if flawed but has a strong voice, can spy and kill with the best of them, shows mercy, and her romance with Duval shows her feminine side. This is definitely a book for older (high school and up) readers, but well worth the read. I am anxiously awaiting the sequel, Dark Triumph, due in April.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry (Lewis)

Title: National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry
Author: Various, edited by J. Patrick Lewis
Genre: Poetry, Nature, Animals, Picture Books
Pages: 183
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a beautiful book, and perfect for any elementary-aged animal lover on your list...or poetry fan...or an elementary classroom teacher. With over 200 poems by famous (Frost, Tennyson, Dickinson, Kipling, Prelutsky) poets, including the editor (U.S. Children's Poet Laureate), this is truly a treat. Photographs accompany the poems, which are grouped together by kind/type/size of animal.

An engrossing celebration of wildlife, animals, and nature in general. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Yes, Chef (Samuelsson)

Title: Yes, Chef
Author: Samuelsson
Genre: Biography/Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Cooking
Pages: 319
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I can't let the kids' books have all the fun. I am a big fan of biographies...and the Food Network...and I'm sure that many of you are looking for gifts for grownups on your list, so I'm posting a review of one of my favorite autobiographies of this year.

Marcus Samuelsson is known to many for his world-famous cooking and restaurants. He is a regular on the Food Network, and won Bravo TV's Top Chef Masters in 2010.

This memoir reads like a great story, but also feels like you are sitting down to dinner with a friend and listening to their stories. I was captivated throughout (and just a little hungry when I was done reading it).

An excellent choice for the foodie on your list, especially if they already have enough cook books, this is also a good title for anyone aspiring to be a chef.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Fairest of All (Mlynowski)

Title: Fairest of All (Whatever After #1)
Author: Mlynowski
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
Pages: 169
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The latest in my series of gift book ideas is the perfect book for tween girls! This is also a series starter (book #2 comes out in January), and nothing makes a better gift than getting a reader hooked on a good series.

Abby and her little brother Jonah discover a creepy mirror in the basement of their new house and it swoops them into the fairy tale world of Snow White. When Jonah inadvertently stops Snow from eating the poison apple, all kinds of things get messed up, which sets the siblings on a quest to put everything right.

This is an entertaining romp through a well-loved fairy tale and will have tween girls cheering for Abby. I COMPLETELY enjoyed this and am very much looking forward to book #2. Abby is a witty narrator and Jonah adds some funny one-liners. There is non-stop action and clever plot twists. In a genre filled will fractured fairy tales, this is a standout.

On a personal note, rumor has it Santa is bringing my own daughter these books for her stocking. And the author was generous enough to send some bookmarks for readers at Evergreen. Look for them in the new year. THANK YOU Ms. Mlynowski!

BTW, Evergreen readers should check out the author's "Gimme a Call" and the "Magic in Manhattan" series. Older readers will love "Ten Things We Did (and probably shouldn't have)."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Shadow and Bone, The Movie

I posted on Sunday about how this book by debut author Leigh Bardugo would make a good movie (and a good gift for fantasy lovers on your holiday list). Turns out, I'm not the only one. One of the "Harry Potter" movie producers thought so too and snapped up the movie rights. Here's the scoop on making it into a movie: 

Trailer Tuesday: The Hobbit

Since the movie is coming out on Friday, this is the perfect Trailer Tuesday for "The Hobbit" trailer!
Have you purchased your tickets yet? Are you planning on seeing it opening weekend? Looks as good as you would expect it to be, and I know MANY fans that are counting down the days. 

Happy Watching!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Assault (Falkner)

Title: The Assault
Author: Falkner
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Aliens, War, Spies, Action
Pages: 288

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Now, you must understand that I do not typically read straight up science fiction, the kinds with aliens, weapons, and intergalactic wars. But a middle school librarian friend recommended it, so I figured I should read it. And I am so glad that I did.

This is a terrific book for sci-fi fans of both genders, and the start of the author's new Recon Team Angel series. The fast-paced, page-turning action is non-stop. The characters are well-drawn and believable, and the story is movie-worthy. There is nothing missing from this one.

I found this fan-made book trailer that does a pretty good job explaining the book for you, so I'm going to let it do the talking. I'll just say that I am anxiously awaiting the second installment of this series!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Gift Ideas: Shadow and Bone (Bardugo)

The first installment in the Holiday Gift Ideas posts is a book that I talked all week to my 7th graders (and their teachers). 

Title: Shadow & Bone
Author: Bardugo
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Magic, Orphans, Abilities

Pages: 358
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5

This is the first book in a planned trilogy by a debut author, and has also been optioned for a movie. Within the first few pages, you will know why. This book is such a treat: the writing is exquisite, the sense of place is magical and exotic, and the heroine is memorable.

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, an area of darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now Ravka's fate may rest with Alina, an orphan taken from obscurity and her only friend, Mal, when it is discovered that she is the mythical Sun Summoner who might be able to destroy the monsters in the Fold. She must train with the mysterious Darkling to join the magical Grisha. 

Mal, handsome and competent, and Alina, are two young orphans who form an immediate bond. The story really begins when the two friends have joined the King’s Army and Alina is plucked from the ranks to join the Grisha, who train at the heart of the royal court.

The setting resembles Czarist Russia, the Darkling vaguely Rasputin-esque. Extravagance and deceit abound at court and Alina finds herself with allegiances on both sides. This is an engaging, captivating fantasy with a terrific supporting cast and amazing world building. Glad that I finally read this one, but sad that I have to wait for the next book!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday 5

Time for another round of the Friday 5! 

Here are some interesting facts about the library for the past few weeks:

(1) We had our very own Black Friday "shopping" experience...twice! All of Evergreen's 8th graders and 6th graders started their 2nd quarter reading project last week. That meant that books for these projects (Sci-Fi/Dystopian/Steampunk for 8th, and Realistic Fiction for 6th) were available for checkout to all students at the same time, first come, first served. And let me tell you, some of these books were "hot commodities." Wednesday was when the 8th Graders stormed the castle, and Friday was 6th Grade's turn. So many students lined up both days before the library opened to get their hands on the perfect book, that our very own principal was called in to action to help with check out. Happy Reading all!

(2) Because of these projects, there is a new list of "most requested." These are currently the Top Holds/requests for Evergreen: Ungifted by Gordon Korman, Almost Home and Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, Son by Lois Lowry, Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, Starters by Lissa Price, Legend by Marie Lu, Livvie Owen Lived Here by Sarah Dooley, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, and of course, The Third Wheel (Wimpy Kid) by Jeff Kinney.

(3) Books make great gifts...for all ages! I have compiled a list of great gift books for this holiday season. Click here to find the link to the Library newsletter for good books for kindergarten through adult. And, if you feel so inclined to include your favorite middle school library on your gift list, we have a wish list of books that our students would like. 

And to show a little bit of holiday spirit, all next week I'll be posting reviews of books that would make great gifts.

Oh, and there's a rumor that I just purchased a gift for the school...something to do with a Skype visit with an author. More details coming in the new year, but I am very excited by this!

(4) Lots and lots of movie buzz around the school! Great movies abound this holiday season, and many are based on books. The library has had a recent run on the following books: The Hobbit (and all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Breaking Dawn (and all of the Twilight books), and the Beautiful Creatures series (Garcia/Stohl). This last movie will hit theaters in February 2013 and looks great! (Stay tuned for the trailer on a future Trailer Tuesday). 

Personally, I am most excited for Les Miserables (a movie, based on a musical, based on a book)!

(5) Lastly, on a personal note, this Friday marked my last day at Evergreen for quite some time. On Thursday the 13th, I start the first of 20 weeks of chemotherapy for Stage 3 cancer. This is just the first stage of treatments which will probably continue throughout the summer. I have so appreciated all the thoughts, support, and prayers of my Evergreen family. Please stay tuned to this blog, as I will continue to post reviews of good books, new books, and all things book-related. You can follow the library news by liking our Facebook page.

I do have a separate blog that I am keeping about my journey through this experience. If you are interested in following along, you can find it here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Student Book Review: Witch & Wizard (Patterson)

Another of our Student Book Reviews. This review comes to you from a 6th grader at Evergreen!

Title: Witch and Wizard
Author: Patterson
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Mystery

Pages: 314
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From the publisher:
A sister and brother, along with thousands of young people, have been kidnapped and either thrown in prison or turned up missing after accusations of witchcraft were made against them, and the ruling regime will do anything in order to suppress life and liberty, music and books.

From the student:
"Whit and Wisteria Allgood live a perfectly normal life...until now. When their neighbor accuses them of witchcraft, some members of the New Order throw them in jail. Could this witchcraft thing be a mistake or more than that?

I read this book because the book sounded interesting and had a good summary. Someone else would want to read this book because it has a cool cover and title.

I gave this book 5/5 stars because it had such a good plot, I couldn't put it down! It was full of adventure and plenty of romance for a wonderful story.

Fans of Harry Potter or Maximum Ride would also like this book, which is the first book in a series."

To be honest, I haven't read this series by James Patterson. But this review makes me think I should put it on my list to read soon!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Student Review: Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Smith)

Over the next several weeks/months, I am going to be posting Student Reviews here while I am busy with chemotherapy treatments. I am reading a ton, but may not get to writing up my reviews. In the meantime, it's always enjoyable to read what students think about the books.

This review comes to us from a student at Mark Morris High School. I am friends with the librarian there, and she has sent me this review. (Just an FYI: I LOVE THIS BOOK! It is one of my favorite books published this year).

Title: Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Smith
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Love, Travel

Pages: 236
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (based on the review; it was not rated)

From the publisher:
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

From the student (edited only for length):

"Of course the romance between these two is delicious, but it also is realistic and serendipitous. Neither character is perfect, which makes it all the better. There is astonishingly true-to-life dialogue. The banter between Hadley and Oliver is witty, but completely plausible. Their flirting is just as awkward as it is clever. Hadley’s guessing at Oliver’s possible research studies was absolutely delightful. The way they learn about each other through questioning is wonderful character development. By the time they’re stepping off the plane, you really know the both of them. 

Moving beyond this though, the story line with Hadley’s parents was a very profound piece of the novel. Putting oneself in that situation with her, of knowing one parent had left the other for someone else, it truly blows one’s mind. This book is written in such a way you feel the confusion and pain with Hadley. You feel the way Hadley both misses and hates her father, as well as her determination to hate his new life along with it. You are literally sucked into her shoes while reading this book. 

If I have any complaint at all, it would be that because it was written in third person, some of the dialogue got confusing with pronouns and such. All in all, I honestly could not put this book down. Once I really started it I finished it in a day’s time and was left with the need to tell everyone I know to read it."--Alyssa

I completely agree! Thanks for your insightful and well-written comments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Seraphina

One of the better fantasies that I've read recently. Very sophisticated, great world building, political intrigue, assassination plots, and lots of secrets...oh, and there's dragons.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Blogtastic! series

This is an enjoyable series, especially for girl fans of the Wimpy Kid books who always ask me for a Wimpy Kid book for girls. These are the books for you!

Trailer Tuesday: Planet Tad

One of the funniest books that I've read in a long time. I love Tad! I hope there's more to come!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday 15: Soldier Stories

Veterans Day is right around the corner, so I thought I would honor all those who have served our country by posting my Top 15 favorite books about soldiers. In no particular order:

 (1) Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer. Okay, I lied about no particular order. This biography of Pat Tillman is one of my all-time favs for several reasons. One, it's Jon Krakauer, so it's well-written and completely engaging. Two, it tells not only Tillman's story, but the history of Afghanistan and the region which I think is important for everyone to understand. Is there bias in Krakauer's narrative? Sure, but the story is still one that should be read. And three, it's about a true American hero...someone I admire and hope my children will grow up to be like.

(2) The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt. Another complete favorite of mine! I spent the year this book came out recommending it to EVERYONE, adults and teens alike. Although they have never gotten along well, seventeen-year-old Levi follows his older brother Boaz, an ex-Marine, on a walking trip from Boston to Washington, D.C. in hopes of learning why Boaz is completely withdrawn. A must-read!

(3) Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant. True, not about American soldiers, but I enjoyed this book about the Crusades. A special horse named Hosanna changes the lives of two English brothers and those around them as they fight with King Richard I against Saladin's armies during the Third Crusades. Fans of "War Horse" will want to read this series starter.

(4) Five 4th of July by Pat Hughes and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson are two terrific novels about two young men from completely different circumstances fighting during the Revolutionary War.

(5) Kipling's Choice by Geert Spillebeen. A moving, fictionalized biography of eighteen-year-old John Kipling, son of writer Rudyard Kipling, who remembers his boyhood and the events leading up to World War I, as he lies dying on a battlefield in France.

(6) Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. When Thomas Peaceful's older brother is forced to join the British Army, Thomas decides to sign up as well, although he is only fourteen years old, to prove himself to his country, his family, his childhood love, Molly, and himself.

The next 5 are all stories set during WWII:

(7) A Boy at War by Harry Mazer
(8) Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac (pair this with the non-fiction title Navajo Code Talkers by Nathan Aaseng)
(9) Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley (this title for adults also has a young reader's edition).
(10) Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
(11) Jump into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall

(12) is shared by two similar stories, both equally intriguing. Cracker!: the best dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata is the story of a young soldier in Vietnam and how he bonds with his bomb-sniffing German shepherd. Letters from Wolfie by Patti Sherlock tells thirteen-year-old Mark's story after he donates his dog, Wolfie, to the Army's scout program in Vietnam, and then learns that the Army refuses to say when and if Wolfie will ever return.

(13) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. This autobiography about a boy soldier plucked from his village in Sierra Leone at the age of 13 is not for the faint of heart. But it is a powerful memoir that is the unfortunate story of many around the world.

(14) Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins. Two Burmese boys, one a Karenni refugee and the other the son of an imprisoned Burmese doctor, meet in the jungle and in order to survive they must learn to trust each other.

(15) Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am...another title by Harry Mazer (himself a Veteran). Ben leaves everything behind after graduation to enlist in the army. His convoy gets caught in an explosion, and Ben ends up in a coma for two months. When he wakes up, he doesn't know where he is or remember anything about his old life. His family and friends mourn what they see as a loss, but Ben perseveres.

To all our Veterans out there...THANK YOU! If you have not served, please remember to thank a Veteran on Sunday, and every day.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Dark Lord: The Early Years

This is one of the funniest, yet oddest, books that I have read in a long time. But I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think this is a perfect book for middle school boys! It was so hard to write a review of it because it is so quirky...luckily the trailer speaks for itself.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Graveyard Book

Halloween is just around the corner, so I thought I would post this trailer to get you in the mood. The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman, won the Newbery Medal in 2009. This trailer was conceived and narrated by the author, which really lends to the dark atmosphere. Enjoy! And Happy Haunting!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Deadly Pink (Vande Velde)

Title: Deadly Pink
Author: Vande Velde
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Games/Gaming, Family, Sisters, Adventure, Science Fiction

Pages: 276
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Fourteen-year-old Grace has just been summoned from high school to rescue her older sister Emily from a virtual reality game. Turns out, the brilliant, popular, friendly older sister who has been away at college hasn't been honest about her new life. When Emily refuses to leave the virtual reality game world that she created, Grace is asked to go into the game and convince her to come out. A task that turns out to be much harder than it should be.

Grace's humor, wit, and sarcasm resonated with me, and will with teen readers as well. Fans of gaming will appreciate the action and hilarious characters that populate the sweet little princess game gone horribly awry. Fans of fantasy, gaming, and sci-fi will truly enjoy this and should also check out the author's other companion titles, "User Unfriendly" and "Heir Apparent."

Even if you are not a fan of video games, this is an adventure story with heart, and has Grace trying everything she can think of to understand and save her much beloved sister.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday 5

Time for another round of the Friday 5!

Here are some interesting facts about the library for the past few weeks:

(1) I think that the students are eating the bookmarks I put out for them to take. Or they've become a hot commodity on campus. Or they're trading them for Twinkies. I'm not sure which, but we have run through nearly 1,000 bookmarks in the last two weeks. Yikes! That was not really a line item in my budget that I had planned on.

(2) Turning books in on time seems to be a real problem this year. I hope this gets better SOON because we are going to have a lot of sad students when these overdues turn into lost book fines after 30 days.

(3) The hot book right now is "Mark of Athena" by Rick Riordan. No surprise there. The kids are reading through our 5 copies pretty fast, but the hold list seems to be at a constant 15 or 20 students. Also rans in the Top 10 this week include: "The Maze Runner" (Dashner); "Catching Fire" (Collins); "Chomp" (Hiaasen); "Dark Lord" (Thomson).

(4) Okay, so it's not really library-related, but our principal spent a day working from the roof this week to pay back a "bet" to the students made during our recent fundraiser. The school was challenged to raise $40,000 (which would have doubled last year's amount). Because they met that goal, the principal spent a cold, rainy Wednesday up on the roof conducting business.

(5) We had an AMAZING author visit a couple of weeks ago with John Stephens ("Emerald Atlas," "Fire Chronicle"). I wish I had pictures to post, but the school computers were attacked by a computer virus last week and the pictures are all gone. But I must give a "shout out" of thanks to Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, as well as the publisher (Knopf Books for Young Readers), for allowing Evergreen to be included on Mr. Stephens' book tour. I cannot recommend this author enough if you are looking to host a school visit. This was definitely one of our top 2 author visits EVER! I've included a video interview (not done by me, but can be found on the author's website) so you can get a better sense of the fun we had. THANK YOU Mr. Stephens!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: On the Day I Died (Fleming)

Title: On the Day I Died: stories from the grave
Author: Fleming
Genre: Fiction, History, Ghost Stories, Death
Pages: 199
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've never been a fan of ghost story collections, but they are wildly popular in all the schools and libraries that I've ever worked in. I am, however, a HUGE fan of Candace Fleming and her writing, so when I found out that she was going to write a ghost story collection for teens, I had to get my hands on it.
Late one dark night, teenager Mike Kowalski drives to a deserted cemetery to return a pair of old-fashioned saddle shoes to a grave (don’t ask). Once there, he is horrified to find himself surrounded by the ghosts of the many teenagers buried there, all of them "dying" to tell him their stories.
This collection of ten ghost stories is sure to send chills up the spines of teen readers. Set in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, each story takes place during a different time period from the 1860's to the present. Some teens die heroically, others ironically, but all due to supernatural causes. Readers will meet walking corpses and witness demonic posession, all against the backdrop of Chicago's rich history: the Great Depression, the World's Fair, Al Capone and his fellow gangsters.
Good stuff...just in time for the "dark and scary night" season!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: Dark Lord: the early years (Thomson)

Title: Dark Lord: the early years
Author: Thomson (or is it???)
Genre: Fiction, Identity, Magic, Fantasy, Funny

Pages: 290
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Dark Lord is confounded when he wakes up in the middle of a small town on a planet he's never seen before. Where is he, why do they keep calling him Dirk Lloyd, and why is he powerless against these earthlings who insist on finding his parents? Is Dirk Lloyd the human incarnation of the Dark Lord who, after a cataclysmic final battle with his arch nemesis, was hurled into the Pit of Uttermost Despair (Earth)? Or is he just a lost and confused boy?

What is not to love about this book? The writing is terrific, and the word choice adds so many layers to the humor. From the Iron Tower of Despair that he misses on his home planet, to the Black Diary of Doom that he writes in, I love Dirk Lloyd/Dark Lord's voice.

As an adult reading this book, I spent much of it thinking that the Dark Lord character was a coping mechanism for some tragedy that we were going to discover at the end. I'm not going to give away the ending at all, but I think that this book is a SPOT ON choice for middle school boys, especially those with a penchant for fantasy/gaming...or a quirky sense of humor.

Stay tuned for the book trailer on an upcoming "Trailer Tuesday."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Trailer Tuesday: Forest of Hands and Teeth

Since I posted about scary stories on Friday, I thought I would post one of the creepiest book trailers I've seen in a long time. Great atmosphere! By the way, they are turning this book into a movie...due out in 2013 (hopefully). I'm sure this brilliant trailer inspired it! 

This book was one of the Evergreen Young Adult Book Award nominees last year, so I showed this trailer quite a bit in all our classes. It still gives some of the teachers nightmares...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: Secret Letters (Scheier)

Title: Secret Letters
Author: Leah Scheier
Genre: Mystery, Fiction, Family
Pages: 327
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin's ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead.

This is a terrific period mystery, with all the tone and feel of a classic Sherlock Holmes mystery...but without Sherlock Holmes ever appearing in the story. Dora is smart and feisty, and there might just be an intriguing leading man and a little bit of romance. Secret codes, disguises, deception, and murder...everything we want in a mystery!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: False Memory (Krokos)

Title: False Memory
Author: Dan Krokos
Genre: Science Fiction, Fiction, Adventure
Pages: 327
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

17-year-old Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory about who she is or where she is from. In her panic, she releases an energy that creates terror and death in those around her. She knows that she's causing it, but she doesn't know why, or how to stop it.

And then she runs into Peter, who claims to know her, and know why she's causing this terror. But can she trust him?

In a publishing world where dystopian has taken over the genre, it is nice to see a straight up science fiction title. Miranda discovers that she is one of four (or are there more?) genetically altered teens who have been engineered to cause destruction by a mysterious company who wants to use them to rule the world.

This is non-stop action and adventure, with a little mystery thrown in. Loved the premise, and that is what makes this book so unique and will definitely be popular with fans of many genres.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday 15: Scary Stories

Though you haven't been able to tell it by the weather here in the Seattle suburbs lately, it is the season of scary stories. When October 1st rolls around, I start to get the popular question, "Where are the SCARY books?" Luckily, this is also the time of year, where I pull all the scary stories off the shelf and display them front and center at the library's entrance.

Unfortunately, "scary" is much like "humor," it's all subjective...and sometimes dependent on where and when you are reading the book. The middle of the night when you are home alone may make a book slightly scarier than if you were reading it during homeroom surrounded by 30 of your classmates.

But since I am often asked what MY favorite scary/creepy/horror books are, I thought I would make the first Friday 15 column of the year about my Top 15 Scary Stories, perfect for a dark and scary night! In no particular order:

(1) The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. Rory is spending a year in a London boarding school when she witnesses a murder by a Jack the Ripper copycat...or is it a copycat?

(2) White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. This is one of the creepiest books that I have ever read. Unfortunately, I don't have a copy in my middle school library because it is pretty dark, but oh soooo good if you're older. I can still see the scenes in my head. Some secrets are better left buried; some secrets are so frightening they might make angels weep and the devil crow.

(3) This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel. Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins who stumble upon The Dark Library where secret books are stored. 

(4) Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. I am the first to admit that I do not like zombie novels, but this series starter had me hooked and I LOVE it. In a post-apocalyptic world where fences and border patrols guard the few people left from the zombies that have overtaken civilization, fifteen-year-old Benny Imura is finally convinced that he must follow in his older brother's footsteps and become a bounty hunter.

(5) My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick. In the dangerous dark of winter in an Eastern European village during the early seventeenth century, Peter learns from a gypsy girl that the Shadow Queen is behind the recent murders and reanimations, and his father's secret past may hold the key to stopping her.

(6) Unwind by Neal Shusterman. Set after the second Civil War in America, this is the story of three teens attempting to escape from a society that wants to salvage their body parts. 

(7) Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Mysterious blood-thirsty horses that come from the sea once each year. Brilliant writing and sense of place.

(8) Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Again, zombie novels are not my thing, but WOW does this book ever grab you! Mary wants to know what lies beyond her walled village and the surrounding forest, where the Unconsecrated, aggressive flesh-eating people who were once dead live.

(9) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. 13-year-old Conor awakens one night to find a monster outside his bedroom window, but not the one from the recurring nightmare that began when his mother became ill--an ancient, wild creature that wants him to face truth and loss.

(10) Enemy by Charlie Higson. Roaming adult zombies out to kill the teen survivors of the Buckingham Palace. Non-stop action.

(11) Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding. Thaniel, a wych-hunter, and Cathaline, his friend and mentor, try to destroy the terrible creatures that infest the alleys of London's Old Quarter, their lives become entwined with that of Alaizabel Cray, a woman who may be either mad or possessed.

(12) Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick. Sensing a pattern of this author here? You should...the man is an amazing writer! A magician named Valerian has only the days between Christmas and New Years to save his own life after making a pact with the devil years before and seeks the help of a servant boy and an orphan girl named Willow.

(13) Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Well of course you have to have a title by Neil Gaiman!

(14) Blood Red Road by Moira Young. Okay, maybe not the scariest story. But it does have "blood" in the title and is quite possibly one of the best dystopian books I've read. Saba is one of the strongest girl characters to come across my shelves. I truly believe that she could take Katniss in a battle. Saba sets out to save her twin brother in one of the bleakest, most desolate settings. Captured, she is forced to cage fight for her freedom.

(15) Ashfall by Mike Mullin. This was the scariest dystopian book for me, because it was the one most based on reality. After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, 15-year-old Alex must journey to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a transformed landscape and a new society in which all the old rules of living have vanished.

Enjoy...and you might want to keep the lights on!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Almost Home (Bauer)

Title: Almost Home
Author: Bauer
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Family, School, Dogs

Pages: 264
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I have long been a Joan Bauer fan...if she writes it, I will read it. This latest book about 12 year old Sugar Mae Cole is a great choice for young teens and tweens. And let's be honest, could that cover be any cuter??! (But look closely, you will see that everything is not all rainbows and puppy dogs...see the wear in her sweater? Big clue about what's to come).

When Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren't easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar's mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. 

This is a book that will ring true to many students facing financial hardship in our communities. But more than that, it is the story of making your own way in the world and letting your attitude determine how things affect you. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can't control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.

It is refreshing to read a book with a positive outlook on life, that's not all doom and gloom. This will find a wide audience of readers! After you've finished this, check out Close to Famous, also by Bauer. Another book you won't be disappointed by!

Trailer Tuesday: Relic Master series

This series by Catherine Fisher (author of Incarceron, Sapphique, and Darkwater) has a lot to offer! Fans of many genres (adventure, fantasy, and a little science fiction) are enjoying this series here at Evergreen. Here's a trailer by the publisher to entice you to become a fan too. And I love that the publisher chose to publish the series over the course of 4 months, rather than make us wait, and wait, and wait for each installment.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: Hope Solo: My Story (Solo)

Title: Hope Solo: My Story
Author: Solo
Genre: Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Sports, Soccer
Pages: 246
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Long-time fans of this blog, and any student that has had a conversation with me in the library, will know that I am a SPORTS JUNKIE! I'm not sure I moved during the recent Olympics (due mainly to the fact that my family was on vacation without me)...thank goodness for TiVo, some great take-out, and books to read during some of the less exciting action.

One of my favorite sports to play and watch is soccer. I love everything about this sport, especially the fact that women's soccer has become so popular since I played it in high school. If you've been paying attention at all, you will know all about Hope Solo (especially if you are from Washington...or even a fan of "Dancing with the Stars").

In this book, adapted from her adult title (Solo: A Memoir of Hope), the Olympic gold medalist and starting goalkeeper for the U.S. women's national soccer team gives readers behind-the-scenes details of her life on and off the field. Solo is a fearless female role model, driven to succeed on her own terms. You will be inspired by Hope's repeated triumphs over adversity, which will ring true with many teens and tweens in today's economy.

I'm interested to read the "adult" memoir to see what differences exist (most likely, what was left out). I'll admit that my rating probably is based on my love of the game and of good sports role models, but I think fans of soccer, or any other sport, will appreciate the honest look at how one athlete refused to take no for an answer. I will also deny that I may or may not have been reading this book over the weekend while watching my own kids play soccer...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Five

I've stolen today's post title from Sarah Dessen, one of my favorite authors. I'm not nearly clever enough to copy the way that she does it, but I wanted to do a Top 5 of sorts, and this was the only title that seemed to fit. So, for your Friday enjoyment, here are the Top 5 things about the Evergreen Library this week:
(1) The Hunger Games series remains 1, 2, and 3 in our "Top 10" (based on circulations). While it obviously does deserve the spots, I am sure this is because our incoming 6th and 7th graders (who were all at elementary schools last year as 5th & 6th graders) CANNOT get enough of these books. Most of them did not have access to the books in their elementary library, so they think we are pretty cool here! (By the way, we are pretty cool).

(2) I think that Mark of Athena, Rick Riordan's latest book in the Heroes of Olympus series, is going to knock one the above-mentioned books out of the Top 3 spots when it is released on Tuesday. I put the book in the catalog on Wednesday after school, and we already have MANY holds. Hoping I ordered enough copies...and that they show up on Tuesday, as promised by!

(3) If you build it, they will come. Or in our case, if you call it a series, they will read it. This is the first year we've tried "series shelving." Some of my favorite series that struggled on the shelves in the past (Artemis Fowl, Nicholas Flamel, Leviathan, Bloody Jack) are just a few of the books getting new life now that they are front and center on our "Series" shelves. (One cute little 8th grader was so excited to see the Bloody Jack series on the first day of school that she had to let me know how happy she was that I "finally" bought the books. I had to tell her that we've always had them here...but they had been getting lost in the Twilight books). I've discovered two things: First, we didn't need a shelf for The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner because none of the books are ever checked in anyway. Second, I've noticed that we can be very flexible with what we call a series (what, you mean all the books by Andrew Clements aren't a series?). If it's on the "Series" shelf, my kids want to read it!

(4) We can't get enough graphic novels this year. WOW, do I need a bigger budget. Our great graphic novel display spinner (which we've had for years) is almost EMPTY right now because these books are constantly checked out. This has never been that popular of a collection in the past. #7-#10 on our "Top 10" this week are all graphic novels (3 of the Maximum Ride mangas, and 1 of the Artemis Fowl graphic novels). Obviously I need more! Any suggestions of great series you have would be much appreciated! (We do have Bone, Amulet, some great classic adapatations, and the above mentioned series, as well as other single titles, but would love to hear what is popular where you are).

(5) It's possible that Mrs. Yusko has scored an author visit by the author of a pretty cool series sometime in the next two weeks. Details are hush, hush right now, but I AM VERY EXCITED about it! Still hammering out details and final approvals. Stay will be very happy...

That's the news from our little corner of the library world! Have a great weekend, and happy reading!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trailer Tuesday

Yes, we're back! After taking a year off because our school name and grade configuration changed (we wanted to make sure that we were starting off fresh this school year), we are up and running again. Here's the trailer for The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens. I've been booktalking this one a lot this week for several reasons. #1: IT'S A GREAT BOOK! #2: the audiobook is read by the amazing Jim Dale (of Harry Potter audiobook fame). #3: the sequel is coming out in a few weeks! Enjoy...and welcome back to the blog.

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