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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.


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