Friday, December 18, 2009
Matt wakes up in a hospital in Iraq and can't remember the events that brought him there.
As a lightweight investigation ensues, Matt tries to put together the pieces of his memory that he does have...but nothing makes sense. As Matt approaches the truth, he has to decide what he's ultimately going to do with the truth that he learns.
McCormick leads us on a realistic journey about choices we make, consequences, and maybe even karma - all with the backdrop of war and destruction. Fascinating, intense, and full of questions, readers will need to be ready to think about what is important.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
If you take your traditional Cinderella tale and you add superb writing ability and a handful of faeries, you have the recipe for a fabulous book. That is exactly what Malinda Lo has done.
Ash's mother passed away, and the young girl often found herself at her mother's graveside. In the twilight hours and sometime at night, she would experience weird events that she chalked up to dreams. These experiences play a part in the later story.
Her dad remarries and brings home a stepmother and two stepsisters for Ash. The story follows a traditional route from here. After her father dies, Ash is "employed" in the stepmother's home and she longs to escape...so she does, into the nearby woods.
Ash finds herself involved in the faerie world, something she doesn't at all mind. An escape from her dreary and frustrating existence is more than okay with this poor, sad girl. Until she meets the Prince's Huntress. The traditional thread of Cinderella showing up at the ball and wowing the Prince exists, but her heart isn't in it. Instead, she longs to be with the huntress. And when the faerie world and the real world collide, Ash must struggle to make the right choice.
This story is so beautiful and so well done. It is enthralling, even though you know the traditional tale. Lo's writing is amazing. This is one that I will purchase for my home collection - it is that good!
Click here to watch the Ash video, sponsored by the author.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
I finished Last Night I Sang to the Monster this afternoon and it was a fantastic work.
I will put this disclaimer on it: it is a time consuming, all involving read. It's not like you can read it and do something else at the same time (like watch college football, for example). You have to dedicate. But it is worth it. It is amazing.
Zach is our main character. He is in a rehab facility of some kind when the novel begins. We know that he has had some past relationship with bourbon, but as to what else is going on with this kid...we are left in the dark. Zach himself is in the dark, or is choosing to "not remember" his past.
As Saenz unveils his plot, we are left with an absolutely stunning vision of forgiveness, finding family, and learning to understand that where we came from can contribute to where we are going.
It is gut wrenching and unflinching. Zach's journey is a long time coming and is a painful revelation...but well worth seeing through to the end.
I highly recommend this title.
Obviously, not everyone will have the same life experiences as Zach, but I think that all readers will be able to take something away from Saenz's poetic writing.
Job well done!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Meridian notices that things start getting stranger and stranger. When she comes home from school that day, she witnesses a horrific accident. Worst of all, the accident was supposed to involve Meridian herself...only she survived.
Auntie has a few things to tell Meridian, however.
She isn't just a sixteen year old girl.
Shiver was recommended by my fancy friend from NYC. I hadn't heard of it, so I paid a quick trip to Amazon and the little gem arrived at my doorstep within a week. I started it immediately. My first thought: Twilight. Forks has been replaced by Mercy Falls.
Devon Sky Davenport is a soccer star. She plays on her own, she plays in soccer clubs, she is an A+ student, she is amazing. She is sixteen.
She also just gave birth to a baby that she put in a trash bag and placed in a dumpster.
But the year is 1943.
First the Russians come. Things fall apart for the Chiger family. They are forced to divide their apartment, then their worldly goods, then they find themselves out of jobs, forced into impoverished situations.
And then the Germans come...and you know where that part of the story is headed.
In order to survive, Chiger and her family are forced down below the city of Lvov to live in the sewer system. And though that is an extremely awful and trying experience for the Chiger's, Krystyna describes it as something that had to be done so that they could live. As negative as she could be, Chiger finds positive in a lot of the things that went on, giving this book an overall good feeling. Don't get me wrong, you are sick to your stomach and upset about what is going on; her childlike perspective helps you through the worst parts.
Interestingly enough, the green sweater for which the book is named, is part of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Chiger's story is one definitely worth reading.
who is fond of beer and punching.
If you know a boy,
If you purchase books that boys will read...
then you HAVE TO GET this novel!
I read this book and couldn't help myself from laughing out loud.
Jason kept asking me what was so funny, but the elaborate set up and the perfect wording that is mastercrafted by Brent Crawford simply cannot be explained. It is something to experience for yourself. When I was done, I passed it over to him, only to hear him laughing out loud while reading.
This book is so funny and so dead-on.
Crawford really wrote a home run about high school boys experiencing life.
It isn't always clean, but it is ALWAYS funny and always truthful.
Aside from Carter Finally Gets It, I have never laughed so hard as when I read Mishna Wolff's book I'm Down.
Mishna is a white girl raised by a white dad...who thinks he is black.
This provides for tons of hilarity, and a little bit of heartbreak as Mishna struggles to figure out just where she belongs.
Plus, with a cover like this...you really can't go wrong.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So this one has been sitting on my book shelf for ages. I bought it for Jas for his b-day back in February and while he read it and loved it...I didn't get around to it. Until this weekend.
...and man, I'm so sorry that I waited so long.
Eon has been injured in a cart accident. He has a bad hip. However, he has still learned the forms and stances to compete for the Rat Dragon apprentice position. Thanks to his master, the day has finally arrived where he will go up against others that want to be Dragoneye apprentices...and hopefully win his chance.
The rules change at the last minute, and Eon does an admirable job of competing, but it's not enough. The Rat Dragon chooses someone else.
Then, in a weird twist of fate, Eon is chosen by the Mirror Dragon, a feat that hasn't been accomplished in over 500 years.
Why did the Mirror Dragon pick Eon?
Read Eon: Dragoneye Reborn to find out.
You WON'T be disappointed
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Mary has always lived within the fences. Her mother has told her stories of life outside and what it used to be like before the Unconsecrated returned, but...those things only live in Mary's imagination.
Several months back, Mary's father went missing. It is suspected that he fell into the hands of the Unconsecrated. Every day her mother walks out to check the fences, desperately searching for her husband, and every day her mother breaks down a little bit more.
When Mary is out doing laundry one day taking her time, the siren sounds and she feels in her heart that her mother has breached the fence lines. When she gets to the fence line, it is too late. Her mother has been bitten. But Mary can't kill her mother, so she waits until her mother turns and then sends her out to become one of the Unconsecrated.
Mary's brother turns his back on her and Mary is forced to become one of the Sisterhood. As she becomes more embroiled in the secrets of the Sisterhood, Mary learns that in order for the Sisterhood to preserve order, they have kept many secrets. Before she can learn enough to piece together the whole story, however, the walls are breached and Mary finds herself running for her life to escape the Unconsecrated.
A zombie novel filled with enough horror and suspense to keep the pages turning, readers will not be disappointed with Ryan's first offering and they will be more than willing to stay on board for parts two and three (which are in the works).
Cindy Pon's debut novel is a hit! I was saturated in the culture and engrossed with the imagery. You fall right into this story and are surprised when you look up and hours have passed while you've been engaged in Ai Ling's world.
This is a quest story that combines horror, romance, and adventure. Ai Ling is the only daughter of a scholar father and mother who used to be a nanny, but Ai Ling is destined for greater things. She is a girl who has always lived within the confines of society, but now things are changing.
Ai Ling's father is called to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams, a dangerous return for him, as he was formerly kicked out of the palace and nearly executed by one of the King's advisors. While he is gone (for too long), Ai Ling is almost forced into a disagreeable marriage with a local merchant, but instead she leaves her village to find her father.
This leads her on a journey where she discovers demon life, roadblocks to prevent her progress, and love in the form of a fellow quester, Chen Young. As their paths intertwine and they trek forward towards the Palace, Ai Ling learns of her newly developing gift of being able send her spirit into other people...a gift that will serve her well when she encounters the evil that awaits her at the Palace of Fragrant Dreams.
Enchanting and colorful, you won't be disappointed in Pon's offering.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Along for the Ride begins with the start of Auden's summer. Auden has been raised by two academic parents who expected more of a little adult than a child. They have since divorced and Auden has come to terms with that.
When her father and his new wife, Heidi, call her and invite her to their beach side town for the summer, she decides to go for a visit. Immediately, Auden can tell that things aren't at all as they should be. Her father has immersed himself in writing leaving Heidi to raise the baby for herself. Heidi is at the end of her rope, she is very obviously crying out for help. Auden sees that, and she steps in to offer what she can from time to time. It becomes clear to her, however, that the problems are a little bit more than her experience level. She has been around this block before with her father and she has a lot to say about what is going on, but she can't figure out how to put it.
Auden also has trouble sleeping at night. In the past she has used that time to sneak away and study at an all night diner. Things in this small town are different, and she hasn't found the right spot yet, but her wanderings have led her to a boy named Eli. Eli shares Auden's insomnia problem, but he offers her some unique places to wait out her dreams.
While Auden and Eli share things about their past, Eli proposes that Auden begin a quest...everyone needs a quest. Since Auden's parents brought up a miniature adult, she hasn't had typical experiences (like learning to ride a bike).
In the meantime, stuff at home is out of control. Auden offers to take over the accounting aspects of Heidi's business while Heidi deals with the baby. Heidi has three teenage girls working for her, and as the summer progresses, Auden is befriended by these girls, making the first friends in her life.
Let me just say that Dessen is a fantastic author. She has the subtleties of being a teenager down. She does an excellent job of exploring frustrations and elations that accompany relationships of all kinds. This is summer reading at it's finest!!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Helmuth had ideas from the start. He did all of the correct German boy
activities…was a part of the Hitler Youth, participated in school activities, was a good Mormon boy…but he didn't believe. In fact, in his heart, he knew that the Fatherland was lying. It was something that gnawed at him and forced him to do reckless things. Through a shortwave radio, he listened to broadcasts about the war from the BBC and he drafted up leaflets to warn the German's about the propaganda his own country was serving up. He invited his friends to listen and to help him circulate the handouts. He even wanted to translate them into different languages. Silence was not going to find a home with Helmuth. The truth was. All of this cost him his life. At age sixteen he was put on trial as an adult for treason and he was executed to make an example for others.
This work of historical fiction is based in reality. These events all happened and Bartoletti put them together and speculated on what Helmuth might be feeling, a sixteen year old put on trial for his perceived wrong doings. We have all read the concentration camp stories, we know how the Jews were persecuted and what horrific things they went through at the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. What people probably don't know is the story of how German's treated their own citizens during this period in history...the paranoia, the fear, the lies. This book is fascinating and compelling.
Friday, June 19, 2009
William Edmondson's story is one I was not familiar with, but a story that is inspiring and fascinating. One of the things I loved most about his book was the interspersing of Edmondson's stone carvings paired with the photographs of the artist working away or resting or taking time to enjoy life.
When he began his career as a stone carver, he only used a railroad spike and a hammer to get going. As his career progressed, he carved tomb stones, which then evolved into birdbaths and things for people's yards. He began working for $5-10 a statue and now his work sells for over $300,000 a piece. Son of two former slaves, Edmondson believed that God gave him visions of what to carve and it was his duty to carry out the Lord's work.
My favorite thing is the picture of Edmondson's hands at work, dust and bent from chiseling...absolutely beautiful, as is this story! Part factual and part whimsical, I enjoyed learning about this man's life and career through Spires' careful telling.
For an insightful interview from author Elizabeth Spires, click here!
To view some of Edmonsdon's art from the novel, visit B&N's site and preview the book by clicking here!
A few weeks ago Jason and I were watching one of our netflix movies and a previews came on for this animated adult film called Waltz With Bashir. Neither of us had heard of it, but the story looked intriguing. A couple of days later, the graphic novel arrived in one of my TAYSHAS shipments...and today I got around to reading it.
It is an incredible story and one that I don't think our students today are acquainted with. The main character can't recall his part in the massacre in Beirut. He hardly even remembers the war at all, except a friend comes to him for help, explaining the hardships that he's going through. When Ari hears that, he gets pulled into his own hellish nightmare of remembrances, but some of the pages are blank. Employing the help of friends and specialists, he is able to piece together what happened and the impact his past had on what he was taking part in. The story is solid and worth being told for sure.
More than the words, however, Waltz With Bashir gives us pictures to drive it all home. Done in graphic novel format, the weaving of emotion and fact is masterfully done. Each picture is framed up to contain the most amount of detail possible, aiding the story incredibly...and the switch from drawn art to photographic art is stunningly done.
Due to some nudity and drug use, this graphic novel will probably be better suited to the public library, or liberal school library collections. It is so well done, however, I hope that it will be on shelves somewhere!
Click here to watch the trailer for the movie, which mirrors the book!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Lesson Plan: Toon Doo
Audience: English Classes/Reading Classes - at any level. This is the group for which I wrote this lp, however, I could also see this being used in history classes to cement an idea about a specific event, etc…almost political cartoon style.
Objectives: Before students begin this project, they should have read a novel of their choosing. Instead of presenting a book report format, students will be able to use creative means to present what they have learned.
Technology Tool (s) Category: ToonDoo (www.toondoo.com)
Overview: ToonDoo is a site that allows users to create their own comic strips. Students will create a comic strip that involves the book that they read.
Resources: Students will need access to a computer, the ability to create a log-in on the toondoo site, access to a printer, and access to the internet
Preparation: Before sitting down in front of the computer to begin, students should have read a book of their choosing. They will then need to gather some ideas of how they want to present a synopsis/evaluation of the book within three frames or less. Since this requires some logic and some organization, students may need some brainstorming time. Once a student has a solid idea of how to go forward, student should visit www.toondoo.com and get started.
Instruction and Activities:
Depending on the age group with which you are using this site, the teacher may want to offer a classroom preview by modeling the steps beforehand…
Depending on applications for this comic, teacher may want to create a list of usernames and share them with the students so that they can view each others work.
#1: go to www.toondoo.com and spend some time looking at the work other people have created/familiarizing yourself with the layout of the webpage.
#2: create a log in that will only be used by you. At the top right side of the page you will see the word “register”. You will create your own user name and password at this point. You might want to write this down so that you remember it in case you need to come back and edit your work. Sign in and get started.
#3: Once you are signed in, on the right hand side you will see a blue box that says “ToonDoo Maker”. Once you click on this, it will load up the basic template you will be using for your book review. Select the layout that best fits your presentation.
#4: You will now be moved to the slide layout you selected. There are eight choices at the top for getting started with your comic. They include: backgrounds, characters, props, texts, brushmen, special, open text art, and my galleries. Take some time to look through each selection so that you get a good idea of what to do next.
#5: Select the backgrounds you want to use. Once you find a suitable background, click/drag/drop the background on to your blank white layout. If done correctly, the layout will stick on the white background. You can then move on to adding characters. Once you have completed your characters, which work the same way (drag and drop), you can work with props/other effects to fill out your comic strip.
#6: If you decide you don’t like a feature that you have added, you can delete the feature by clicking and deleting. If it is a background, you can drag/drop another background on top to change the feature.
#7: Text – to add the text option, select the speech bubble that you would like to use from your given options, drag and drop it to the appropriate place on your comic. Once your bubble is in place, you can start writing inside. If the text goes off the page, press enter to move down to the next line. Remember that your speech bubble offers limited space, so you should be succinct in what you want to say.
#8: When you have completed your work, on the left hand side, go back to the ToonDoo icon. Drag your mouse over the top until your options pop up. Select “Save As”. Type in the title of your work, type a description of your work, where it says tags you should type in one word descriptions of the themes involved in the book. Please unclick the option to let others change your work as this will be a graded assignment based on what you are presenting. Select “Share with friends” and type in (teacher’s name) so that teacher can view work. You can also print screen from this point and turn in a hard copy to the teacher.
#9: Once you have published your work, you will be directed back to the main screen. You can select the aqua colored box that says “Toons” and then “My Toons” to see the work you have created.
Web Resources: Students will each need a computer and access to www.toondoo.com
Student Assessment/Reflections: Once students have created their usernames, they would be able to share their comics with other students. If teacher divided students into groups who read the same book, it would be interesting to see how each student’s presentation differed.
Also, if student did the print screen option, a later activity would be for students to critique the work of their classmates – is this a book you would want to read? Did this comic strip make you interested in the novel? What would have made this comic strip more enticing? What do you think the author of this comic strip was trying to say? In this way, the student would get direct peer feedback on their work.
Possible Technology Constraints: Problems could occur if this site is blocked/filtered by the district. If the internet is moving slowly that day, students would not be able to easily navigate the site, causing frustration. If this was a time when testing was prevalent, students would not have access to computers. Also, since it is a web based application, there is always the security of the student issue.
Instruction Sheet Template
Definition/Overview: see above
Basics about the site: this site allows students to express ideas in comic strip form. For people who can’t draw, etc…this gives the option of artistic expression sans artistic talent. It is a user friendly site that can be as basic or as complicated as the student would like. Savvy students are going to be able to navigate the more advanced features while basic users should be comfortable using the basic provided templates and formats.
Best Classroom Practices: This site has functionality for most or all of the major disciplines. I can see science using this to have students showcase their ideas on a principle. I can see English using this tool to layout/storyboard student ideas on plots and themes. History could use this application to create political-esque cartoons either for events in the past or even present day events.
Instructions: see above
Resources: students will need an independent reading book, access to computers, and access to www.toondoo.com
So I started some work with Web 2.0
this afternoon and one of the tools
was this site www.toondoos.com where
you can create your own comic strips.
I played around with it and...vooom
....an hour was sucked away. However,
I did make a brief (and possibly
horrible) comic on Tim Wynne-Jones'
latest novel, The Uninvited. I hope
the author will forgive my over-
simplification. This has some cool
implications for the classroom for sure!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
You can check out Sophie or any other pets up for adoption at www.spca.org
You have to love the Riley Rose's in the world.
She is flawed and knows it.
She gets into trouble, she doesn't give a fig.
She has a tough attitude and it's out on display.
But Riley's dad has had enough. Spurred on by his new girlfriend's religious fervor and Riley's most recent hair brained scheme, dad ships Riley off to summer camp.
The problem: It's a Christian summer camp and Riley doesn't believe in...well...anything.
This camp is zany, though...not your typical Christian camp. Riley chooses not to get involved with things at the camp, knowing that she is going to busting out half way through...but things never quite go as planned.
Riley ends up saving some kids from bullies, making begrudging friends with her cabin mates, and falling in love with the wheelchair bound youth leader, Dylan. None of it is easy, however, and as Riley takes us on her journey of self discovery, readers will find them selves cringing, laughing, and maybe even tearing up.
Riley is a tough old bird. She has some wickedly funny and insightful statements, but she is rough around the edges for sure. Her life of "Sex, Drugs, and Rock n Roll" shocks church campers and maybe some readers...but she is authentic.
For more info on this author, click here!
Monday, June 15, 2009
Lurlene McDaniel is the queen of tearjerkers that make you think. Her latest book, Breathless, is no different.
In Breathless we are introduced to Travis. Travis is a star diver. He loves the water. Colleges all over are trying to recruit him, he has won medals, he's at the top of his game. While out at the lake one weekend, he climbs to the top of a bluff in order to make a dive. Sure his leg is bothering him, but it has been for awhile - he just motors through the pain. But on this particular day, the hike plus the dive cause his leg to break. As he hits the water, he cries out. His sister, his best friend, and his girlfriend are all there with in seconds. They get him into the boat and to the hospital...where it is discovered he has osteosarcoma, bone cancer.
They have to amputate Travis' leg, forever changing his fate and his life.
However, as time progresses, Travis must face more than just a leg amputation.
Readers are left to question the morality and the ethics of euthanasia. Should a person have the right to choose? What if that person is underage? Do parents know better?
McDaniel puts us right in the middle of an emotional conundrum that is not easily solved, leaving the reader to ration out their own truths. Told from four different points of view, she makes sure that all ideas are represented, but doesn't push what is "right". Very good food for thought.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The reality of the cottage on the river is immensely different.
When Mimi first arrives, someone already lives in the cottage. That someone is her brother, Jay. A brother that she has never met and had no idea about. They both deal with the shock of finding a lost sibling...but there is more.
Someone has been breaking into the cottage and doing odd things...leaving a dead blue jay, leaving a snakeskin, interfering with the music tracks Jay has been recording, and taking odds and ends. Jay is worried about leaving Mimi there for the summer, so they agree to share the cottage, especially when her video camera shows recorded footage of Mimi in the cottage - something she did not shoot, something she knows nothing about.
As the summer progresses, things get more and more out of whack and Jay and Mimi are pulled into a crazy game that neither of them understand upfront, a game that will change their lives forever.
Tim Wynne-Jones' writing builds and builds the suspense all the way through. He masterfully plants clues that lead us right up to the surprising finale. Students who want a good solid mystery will enjoy this well thought out and well developed novel. Older readers will appreciate the beautiful scenery that Wynne-Jones sets up in the midst of creating a thriller of a story.
For more info on this author, please visit his page by clicking here!!
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
This weeks TAYSHAS shipments included Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog...and the cover is so interesting, that I had to get involved with it immediately.
Cam and Morgan have grown up together their whole lives, ever since they shared the same birthday in the hospital. Now that they are in high school, the are the perfect couple. Cameron, the star of the football team, is pretty much adored by everyone. Morgan has a psychic ability that allows her to see into the future, and while that doesn't make her exactly popular, it also doesn't make her a pariah. People are intrigued by her gift.
One night Morgan uses her ability to see into the future with Cam. The vision she has startles her and she convinces herself that it cannot be right.
The next day at school, a new boy arrives on the scene, Pip. Pip is a tiny nerdy little fellow who even carries a pencil box. Morgan takes pity on him and decides that he needs a little help navigating high school. She doesn't yet know how Pip fits into the larger picture.
You see, Pip is from The Otherworld. He is a human who was kidnapped at birth and has lived with the fairies for fifteen years. He and Cam were switched at birth and it turns out that Cam is the heir to the fairy throne...and now the fairies want him back. The only time the switch can be made, however, is on the evening of the sixteenth birthday.
As the birth date rapidly approaches, Cam, Pip, and Morgan begin to devise a plan that will keep Cam on earth and send Pip back in his place. However, Cam has begun to experience the physical changes that fairies go through: wings, pointy ears, tiny stature. Morgan knows that Cam will be viewed as a freak, but she is unwilling to let him go.
Pip, Morgan, and Cam find themselves embroiled in a love triangle that will keep readers guessing right up to the final page.
I was compelled enough to keep reading this book, despite it's flaws. Perhaps readers will be able to get over the oddly timed love triangle? I am sure this book will find a home with Melissa Marr/Cassandra Clare/Stephanie Meyer fans...those who are intrigued by a love that cannot be!
For more info on this new author, click here!
Friday, June 5, 2009
Ya'll, I'm not even kidding...this is one of the best books I've read. Ever.
Liam comes from a successful fashion model turned business woman mother and a super-successful businessman father. Liam, however, thinks he is a screw up. After he gets caught fooling around with a girl on his father's desk, the line is drawn.
Liam is sent to live with his Aunt Pete. Pete and Liam's father have had a falling out over some unknown issue, so Liam's father is angered that Liam is going to live with Pete...but he doesn't care enough to really do anything about it. He just wants Liam out of his house.
Liam is plagued by the fact that he is popular. He isn't studious. He isn't a part of a club. In order to garner favor with his father, he decides to start fresh at his new school - to be unpopular, to study hard, and to join the AV club. However, none of these things work like he thinks and he, of course, skyrockets to the top of the popularity charts. He perceives it all as another screw up.
In his search to make his father happy, Liam realizes that is never going to happen. Drawing strength from his Uncle Pete and the new friends that he has made, Liam is able to make his own decisions and finally realize the truth about his father.
This book is so moving because all Liam wants is approval from his father and he works so hard to get it and perceives that he falls short of the mark every time. It is painful because the writing is so genuine and raw that you feel the turmoil Liam is going through.
I picked it up this morning and read it straight through. Amazing work, as is all of Going's writing. She does such a fabulous job of involving the reader in the situation. You can't help but feel connected to the character. Highly, highly recommend!!
In other news, Going is running a pretty cool promo for this book on her website until June 30th.
Check it out by clicking here!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Everything seems to get off kilter fast. She finally lands the primo real estate of boyfriend land, Derek. He is everything she has wanted and pined for. He kisses her in public, he takes her on dates, he is gorgeous. But Marissa suspects that he is still in love with his ex-gf and she can't let go of that thought, driving a wedge between them.
Her best friend, Sterling, has changed. She is into her on-line relationships and Marissa thinks Sterling is jealous of the time she spends with Derek.
To top it all off, her parents, who anchored her during her hard time last year, have decided to separate.
So even though some of her stars are aligning, other parts of her life are in extreme turmoil. Lucky for Marissa, she has another friend in her next door neighbor, Nash. Nash and Marissa grew up together and then eventually grew apart. But now, when she needs someone the most, Nash will offer her support...will it be more?
Colasanti deals with some serious issues in this one, yet still sustains a comfortable mood throughout. She does the love triangle with such a deft hand, you can't help but appreciate her writing. To view more about this author and her work, click here!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Fans of Tonya Hurley’s debut novel, Ghostgirl, will not be disappointed in her latest installment, Ghostgirl: Homecoming. Charlotte is still the lead character and she is still struggling with her un-life. After Dead Ed, she moved on to answer phones at a phone bank, hardly her idea of Heaven. However, the appearance of a new friend, Maddy, helps to soothe Charlotte’s hurting heart. Maddy seems to understand Charlotte and when all of Charlotte’s Dead Ed friends abandon her to take on their new “lives”, Charlotte and Maddy bond and even become roommates. There is something more than meets the eye with Maddy, though. Meanwhile, Petula has gone into a coma due to a staph infection caused by a bad pedicure. In her quest to get her sister back, Scarlett has also entered a comatose state. Will Charlotte be able to guide the girls back home while managing the events going on in her own life?
I didn't read the first part and admit that I felt a little like I jumped into something in the middle. However, that didn't detract from the story. It isn't anything complex or life changing, but it is just a fun little read...perfect for summer and perfect for your fans of the undead.
Tonya Hurley also has a very graphically amusing webpage, so make sure that you don't miss out on viewing that!! Click here to see it for yourself!
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Elizabeth Scott is pretty much a YA goddess.
Usually she writes love stories, and I appreciate her work because it is so much fun - the excitement, the woe, the anguish!!! But today I read a love story of a different kind...the best friends kind of love.
When Amy's best friend, Julia, dies in a car accident, Amy feels responsible...and incredibly sad.
Her therapist recommends writing down her thoughts, which morphs into letters to Julia. Amy figures out some important details during her letter therapy, details about friendship and about relationships in general: the relationship she has with her parents, the relationship her parents have with each other, her relationship with Patrick (and what THAT all means), as well as the relationship that Julia and Amy shared.
A voyage of discovery and healing, you can't help but be mesmerized by Amy's story...and you kind of want to call your BF when it's all said and done. Scott has done it again!
Definitely worth reading!!
As a side note, I follow Elizabeth Scott's blog, which is amazing. She always does the neatest promotions, gives away a ton of free books, and pretty much lets her cool personality shine through. Check out her website by clicking here. Check out her blog by clicking here. Enjoy!! I sure have.
Monday, June 1, 2009
You are hooked from the start when you pick up Cooney's latest title, If The Witness Lied.
This family lost their mom when she chose having a child over fighting her aggressive form of liver cancer. This made the news. People thought she was making the wrong choice. The family never got any peace from the media. When the baby was two, they lost their father when he was crushed by his car in their driveway. The only witness to the accident said that the baby released the parking break, the baby that killed it's mother now killed it's father.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
School is canceled one morning. Another great day?
It might have been, but a brutal car accident robs Mia of her whole family in one brief moment.
As she struggles with the choice of staying on earth or returning to her coma bound body, Mia flashes back to every single thing that makes life on earth worth living. Recognizing that no one else survived the accident, she thinks on the little ways that her family influenced and touched her life, the stories and experiences that connected them. As Mia wades through the toughest decision she will ever make, return to her beat and battered body and endure life without the people she loves the most or choose to die and go on to the unknown, readers are introduced to a tender and gentle story about love, loss, and the blessing that is family.
My friend put a caveat on this book, and I completely agree: read it with kleenex nearby.
It is stunning.
For more information on this title, click here!
For more information on this amazing author or to watch the booktrailer, click here!!
For more information on how this book is being turned into a movie, click here!!!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Our main character, Alex, has a somewhat dysfunctional family. Dad - disconnected. Mom - workaholic. Sister - her sister is sweet and Alex genuinely loves her. Alex herself is shut off from people. Pink haired rebel, she doesn't have many/any friends at school.
Alex begins to notice things around her house and about her sis. Something isn't quite right, but she can't put her finger on it. Alex begins to wonder if she is going crazy, or if she's really experiencing the things she thinks she is. She starts noticing small things - like the pasta boiling on the stove top...the stove top that she never turned on...or did she?? And what's up with the changes in her sister?
As we race with Alex to find out the truth, we learn we are minutes away from a deadline that will change everything.
Readers of supernatural thrillers won't be disappointed with this ditty.
Chalked full of interesting twists and turns, you will be unable to put this book down, fully engaged until the last page!
Watch the incredibly creepy trailer by clicking here!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Rosanna runs away back to her family home in Richmond and aligns her convictions with those of the Confederacy. These two girls who were best friends, now find themselves on opposite sides of the war.
With all of the men in Lizzie's life gone, she must pick up the mantle and run the family business until things "return to normal". She must face tough choice that will affect her whole family and face down issues that will change lives forever.
When a battle of epic proportions converges on the town of Gettysburg. Each girl will be tested.
As each girl grows and changes within the context of a war that tore apart the country, the reader is taken on a historical journey of remarkable heroism and hardship.
Klein does a spectacular job of creating a fiction work that maintains accuracy while weaving a fascinating plot.
It is a slow and thorough read, as you do not want to lose even one detail included in the writing.
More than that, however, this novel plants some very good ideas about how things were for women left at home when the war commenced: their fears, their hopes, the stories that we don't always hear because the battles were so horrific and took up the focus of the nation.
It is a novel about women facing down very serious choices and persevering during immense personal hardships. It is a novel about both contributions and sacrifices.
Find out more about this amazing author by clicking here!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
So this book, Freeze Frame, had been sitting on my desk awhile. I didn't know anything about it, just that it was on my reading list. From the MINUTE I opened the page, Ayarbe had me completely hooked. I could not put this book down. I just knew that if I stopped reading, I would be haunted by Kyle's next move and I couldn't take it.
We begin with best friends Jason and Kyle horsing around at breakfast. After they push things too far with Kyle's sister, they decide to head out to the woodshed and see what treasures they can find.
What they find is Kyle's father's gun. And somehow that gun goes off and Jason is shot in the chest. At 10:46 he dies.
Kyle feels like he should be put on trial and convicted of murder. Things can't get any worse than how he already feels. How is he ever going to get over this? It is too large.
While waiting for his trial, Kyle meets with a shrink, a lady that he can't quite get comfortable with. He tries to write the scene of what happened that day, the day when he shot his best friend, but he simply can't remember. When he finds out that his only punishment is to have a parole officer that he meets with in addition to the shrink, he can't wrap his mind around it. How can they just let him go? He should get the death sentence. And maybe that is what the kids at school are for? They don't let him off the hook as easily as the justice system does. They ostracize him, beat him up, force him to stand up for himself...which only gets him into more trouble with his parole officer.
Along the way, though, Kyle forms several cathartic relationships. One is with Jason's younger brother, Chase. Kyle promises Jas that he will watch over his little brother, and it is a promise that he intends to keep. He meets Chase every day after school to protect him from the bullies. Chase dubs him the Orange Dragon because of his shoes and his "job" as bouncer.
Kyle also gets to know the school librarian through In-School-Suspension and through lunches where he doesn't quite feel comfortable enough to eat in the caf. While exploring life's truths through the novels Mr. Cordoba gives him, Kyle starts to learn about what it means to be a friend, to have a friend, and ultimately, to lose a friend.
Love, loss, personal ownership of deeds, and healing are all written so well by Ayarbe that you can't help but get involved in Kyle's life and his feelings.
As a side note, when I wrote the author to tell her how much I enjoyed her novel, she wrote back and was very appreciative. She also shared that Freeze Frame was just announced as the IRA's 2009 Children & YA Fiction Award. Kudos to a job well done!!
To read more from the author about this fantastic book, which is middle and hs appropriate, click here!!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Once the negative is developed, Rowan finds it is a picture of her brother before he died.
She seeks answers at home, but gets very little support. Instead, she is left to count her mother's pills to make sure she isn't overdosing. She is also left to raise her six year old sister. No one is taking care of Rowan, though...and as the truth about the negative unfurls, Rowan will be changed forever.
Sad, poignant, funny...you won't be disappointed with this bitter sweet story about loss and love.
Click here to view more info!!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
We've heard of the Mercury 7, the brave men who trained to become the first US Astronauts. The men who put aside their fear of dying, to test out new methodologies that would propel us into space before the Russians.
These men are heroes.
But the story we don't often hear is the story of Mercury 13, as equally heroic group of people who were campaigning not only for the US to be the first in space, but for equal rights. The year was 1958 and it was very clear, from the tone set by the nation that a woman's place was in the home. Sure, during the Great Wars women had taken important roles such as flying and helping build machinery, but everyone knew that (white, middle class) women were the fairer sex and should be relegated to more genteel roles.
The Mercury 13 didn't like that portrait, so they shook things up. To begin, they took the same physical and mental tests that the men of Mercury 7 took. They competed on the exact same level...and even excelled. Next, they lobbied in Washington for recognition and for approval.
Despite fighting other women, set notions for the time period, and Washington Brass, these women pushed past barriers and paved the way for the future.
The story of the Mercury 13 Women could be perceived as a sad tale...despite all of the good that they did, they ultimately ran up against prejudice and discrimination that would not be changed...at least not for awhile. However, this tale could also be perceived as a victory. Because of what these brave women did, challenging all types of preconceived notions and barriers, they did change what happened next. Because of their hard work, minorities and women eventually began to pilot their own planes and, ultimately, command a spacecraft.
These women weren't ever able to pilot those military crafts themselves, but because of the work that they did, today things are different.
Tanya Lee Stone creates an easy to read biography/historical revelation with her latest non-fiction work. I was as intrigued with the text as I was with the numerous photos that were included. What these women went through was amazing. Yeah for them!!!
I love being a librarian, but it is GREAT to know that, if I wanted to, I could be the captain of a space shuttle. :)
Thank you, remarkable ladies of Mercury 13!!!
Surface Tension by Brent Runyon amused me on different levels.
As a teacher, it was very funny to read about this kid who progresses over several summers...to watch his voice change from loving child to disaffected youth. I am not sure that students would find it as hilarious, as they might still be in the midst of "the change", which is why it helps that the story is also interesting. As a former teenager, I completely remember exactly how this story went for myself.
Now, this isn't a face paced novel that is going to blow your socks off. It's a meandering tale that begins in the 13th summer of Luke's life. Every summer Luke's family packs up and journeys to their lake cottage. They spend about two weeks there, take in a local baseball game, soak up the sun, have cookouts with the neighbors.
The plot description below contains some spoilers, so if you're planning on giving Surface Tension a read, you should pause here until you finish it... :)
In his 13th summer, Luke loves being with his parents. He loves being at the lake and taking it all in.
At 14, Luke's parents are idiots and he can hardly stand to be around them. He is slightly interested in some girls that also visit their summer cottages, but largely, he is just disgusted with life in general. They do have a new neighbor who flies a Confederate flag, which has everyone up in arms. The neighbor is a minister and is kind of a jerk.
At 15, Luke brings his BF down to the lake. All of the things that Luke loves about the lake, his friend doesn't "get", so Luke begins to regret bringing his friend down. They do manage to get into some trouble, the minister is still the catalyst to most issues.
At 16, Luke doesn't want to be at the lake at all. He misses his girlfriend. Time is moving slowly. The issues with the minister have escalated. But that summer, Luke saves a little girl from a house fire and he really comes into himself.
All in all, the book had a story of it's own to tell.
Seeing Luke transition over four summers is a unique way to tell a tale, and I think Runyon did a great job of capturing the truth of those years where you don't know who you are and then you start your own personal evolution.
In that way, kids will connect with Luke.
Click here to read an excerpt!!
Fergus is eighteen. He is on the verge of completing his exams and, perhaps, going on to be a doctor. It is the 1980s in Ireland, and things are tumultuous at best. Fergus' own brother is in jail for his part in radical terrorist activity. Things are a mess...and that is before his brother joins the Hunger Strike.
Fergus has a lot on his mind. One morning while he and his Uncle are out and about, Fergus sees a human hand sticking up out of the bog. They immediately call the authorities. Since they are on the wrong side of the country line, they make up a story about birdwatching. When the body is exhumed from the bog, archaeologists discover that the bog child is actually a girl from the Iron Age.
As events at home begin to snowball for Fergus (and huge surprises are in story for the reader), more and more of the bog child's story comes to the reader from Fergus' dreams. The reader discovers the truth of why the bog child was executed and what part she played in the history of the time period.
This novel sat on my desk for probably three months. The cover isn't great and I struggled with the desire to read it. However, now that I have completed it and thought about it for a few days, I have decided that I am sad that I waited so long. Siobhan Dowd did a great job with all of the different plot strings she was weaving. The story was interesting - compelling even, with romance, intrigue, subterfuge, and good old Catholic Guilt. The historical aspects from the bog child's era, as well as from 1980s Ireland were fascinating. I was very impressed with this novel...and very sad to learn that the author has recently passed away. You can read more about Siobhan Dowd and her other novels by clicking here.
The bottom line: you have to savor this novel. It isn't fast reading because you don't want to blow by any of the important details that Dowd scatters throughout her well planned text. It is well worth checking out, however. Perhaps - good summer reading???? (34 days...)
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
When her dad forces her to drive with the family to Victoria's parents house for Thanksgiving, Alice will do almost anything to avoid this trip. It doesn't matter, though. She is roped into the trip in order to help with the baby while on the road.
Thanksgiving isn't horrible, at least it isn't as horrible as Alice expected. However, her father is called back to work, forcing Victoria, Alice, and the baby to ride home together in the car. And since nothing can be easy, Alice wakes up after a Tylenol pm induced nap, to find that the car has broken down and that it is snowing heavily.
Victoria assures her that every thing will be fine, that once her father realizes they are late, he will send for help. As the evening progresses, Alice and Victoria have nothing to do but talk. They come to an understanding about each other and their relationship. There is hope.
An extreme snowstorm kicks up, however, and soon the car is covered in snow. Victoria and Alice realize that they have very few supplies and that help isn't coming. Victoria decides that if any of them are going to survive this ordeal, then she must go into the blizzard and search for aide.
Left alone with the baby and dwindling supplies, Alice begins to see an angel...but is the angel coming to watch over her until Victoria returns? Or is the angel there to take her home?
Compelling from start to finish, this verse style novel will keep you turning pages right up until the shocking end.
Imagine that you find out your school has a stock-market type system that rates the girls in your class from #1 (a primo slot) to #140 (needs some work). You are just an average girl...not too popular, not too famous. You look fine, but you know that you could do more...you're just not concerned with it. You have good friends and a supportive family. Imagine that you find out you're ranked #71 on this list.
Now...that isn't HORRIBLE, but it also isn't great. And while you weren't concerned with things like your looks before, now it is front and center in your life.
This is what happens with Kate Winthrop.
71 is hard on her ego, but she can get past that for the sake of money. Her friends convince her to play "The Market", to undergo an extreme make-over and to buy into this market in hopes of winning the final pot.
She enlists the help of said best friends do help with the extreme make-over: One friend tackles wardrobe, one friend tackles physical appearance. Suddenly, Kate is stunning. She is a blonde, she is well dressed, and people are starting to take notice.
But as Kate's market value skyrockets and she is incorporated into the popular clique, she forgets who she is.
Will she remember before it's too late?
On the first day of school the principal announces that a new curriculum has been added and all seniors must participate in order to graduate. This curriculum is to help students be better equipped for marriage and to help combat the 50% failure rate of marriages in America. Students are paired up randomly and "married" for the year with several sets of tasks they must complete.
Far fetched premise, I know...but author Kristin Walker works this plot like crazy, creating a completely likable cast of characters, a quick moving plot, and tons of laugh-out-loud moments! I loved this book!!
Fiona might be a little hard to get along with: she is a prickly personality, a little nerdy, a little opinionated, and unrelenting. She is forced to "marry" the head male cheerleader, Todd. Fiona is flabbergasted. How can this be? They are the worst match on the planet AND Todd's girlfriend, Amanda, is Fiona's arch-nemesis from grade school.
To make matters worse, Fiona's best friend has just announced that she is in love with Fee's life long crush and that she finds Fiona to be too self-absorbed to be a good friend. Fiona is, of course, hurt on many levels and left without a friend on whom she can rely.
Despite the hardships, Fiona's senior year is filled with non-stop hilarious situations. Fiona learns a great deal about herself as she deals with these trials and tribulations, as well as how to better interact with other people.
It is laugh-out-loud funny in many places, but it will also give readers time to pause and think about priorities, relationships, and making the most out of trying situations.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Before I begin, I just want to say that Michael Harmon is one of those great writers who always produces something that I will purchase. In the three different novels I have read, I have been impressed in three completely different ways.
Brutal is powerful.
Poe is a character who can change your life as a reader if you let her. She has the ability to teach you.
The story that Harmon weaves is compelling from start to finish.
Poe moves in with her father, a father she has never met. When Poe arrives at her new school, she takes in the injustices that she sees there and she decides to work to change those things. However, Poe's methodology challenges the norm and isn't well received. She will have to rely on advice from a father she doesn't know all that well, and she will have to change herself in order to change the future.
The title is apt. Brutal IS brutal. It stakes a good claim in your consciousness, if you let it. It will make you think, no matter what your position in life. Really, isn't that what a GOOD book is about?
Go pick this one up.
I know that I say that about a bunch of titles of different ilk that I have enjoyed.
For this book, I can only say that it Poe isn't always likable, but her overall motivation will move you.
Thank you, Michael Harmon, for writing this.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This powerful novel begins with Cassie's death. Cassie was Lia's BFF until events (unknown to the reader) pulled them apart. Cassie was bulimic and Lia was anorexic. They weren't a good influence on each other, and things finally fell apart their senior year.
On the night that she died, Cassie called Lia 33 times. Lia didn't answer the phone and when she finally listened to the messages, Cassie's pleading voice implored her for help.
Lia is constantly battling her own mind to get down to 85lbs and as she nears her mark, she begins seeing Cassie's ghost calling her over to the other side, to death.
Will Lia be able to continue to fight and find the will to keep going? Will she be able to battle
the voice in her head and make peace with the ghosts that haunt her?
As Lia deals with the implications of cutting and starving herself, explaining how she sees herself when she looks in the mirror, the reader is drawn into the complex emotional cage in which Lia lives.
Laurie Halse Anderson's afterword is just as important to read as the story itself, and while this book is hard to read because of the intense hardships that Lia faces, it will open your eyes to some experiences that you might not normally be familiar with...
Check out the booktrailer from YouTube by clicking here!
And if this book appeals to you, you might try Rachel Cohn's novel, You Know Where to Find Me.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Paul Volponi is an excellent writer, and I think he has distinct appeal to male audiences. I haven't read everything that he has written. I first read Hurricane Song, a horribly compelling story about Hurricane Katrina. It made me think about some things I hadn't previously considered. In all the stories that I heard during that time, the Superdome stories weren't stories that came onto my register. The stories I heard were from family members who had gone to New Orleans to help with their medical skills and those stories were horrible enough.
So to read Hurricane Song, I was introduced to a whole new perspective.
Volponi's newest piece of fiction, Response, is a series of events that could take place anywhere in the United States. Three best friends leave their side of town in order to boost a Lexus. While there, they change their minds and end up having pizza at an Italian joint. While inside the restaurant, they run into some white kids of Italian heritage and some racial slurs and threats are made.
While walking home that evening, the white kids pull up in a Landrover and get out with a R-E-S-P-O-N-S-E bat. The black kids take off, but one of them trips and falls. He is repeatedly beaten with the bat, cracking his skull and breaking bones. When the ambulance and police arrive, they rush him to the hospital where metal plates are put into his head. The police quickly find the perps, the white kids, and arrest them. This starts a black vs. white racial war that will turn the town on it's ear.
The main character, Noah, has much to live for, including his new baby daughter. His role in this whole thing, as survivor, is to be a model for others. How can he, though, when he is repeatedly forced into adverse situations that he doesn't know how to handle?
With help from his parents and his grandmother, Noah is able to keep to the right path and learn about what it means to be a man. Throughout the trial, he learns how to channel his anger and make himself productive rather than destroyed by hate.
Volponi does a great job of setting up scenario after scenario that require the reader to think and analyze their own reaction to hate crimes. The formatting changes from chapter to chapter, creating an interesting visual environment for the reader. You can't lose with this title!!
To view a digital book review from teacherlibrarian, click here!!