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Monday, December 17, 2007

Library2Play--Thing #3--Setting up shop, AISDCL20 #3

Here we go...

I got my avatar created and installed in my sidebar there, which is part of the requirement for Thing #3. (Dr. Seuss flits through my head. You know "Thing 1" and "Thing 2.")

I've kind of cheated. Or just started with a jump on things. I already had this blog set up. And I've been blogging in one way or another for 3 years now. So, getting going on this project was an easy one.

I am looking forward to the next Things. Can't wait to get going on on them.

Lifelong Learning (Library2Play #2, AISDCL20 #2)

You know, being an educator and all, you'd think lifelong learning would be a "gimme." And, I guess for many, if not most, coming into the world of education these days, it really is. I have to admit though, that a lot of the learning I choose to do now isn't really work-related. I spend a lot of time in Bible study, or learning how to do new crafts (can anyone show me how to knit? The video isn't working for me). I get on these tangents and have to learn all I can about whatever (I'm such a nerd).

Looking over the 7-1/2 habits for lifelong learners, I feel like I do several of those pretty well, regardless of what it is I'm learning or why I'm learning it.

The one habit I think is easiest for me is creating my own learning toolbox. From a young age (I sound so wise there, don't I?), I have always done a fabulous job with this. I love "getting ready" to learn. Buying school supplies every year gave me almost a big a thrill as actually starting school. Some years (some classes), it was a bigger thrill than actually starting school. Now that I'm not starting school or classes in quite the same way, I still love it. At home, I have rubber storage boxes with pens and notecards, so that when something catches my eye I can keep up with the research/learning I'm doing about it. I have sketch books with magazine articles cut-out and glued into them with things that have sparked my imagination. My desk is set up with all the things I know best meet my learning style/needs--the right lighting, a certain chair, pens in a variety of colors, and chocolate hidden in a box for emergencies. My laptop is on and connected 24/7, so that I can access any one of a thousand links I have (my bookmarks aren't just organized, they're alphabetized and annotated).

After talking to a friend, I think the hardest one for me is "beginning with the end in mind"--with a caveat. I don't have a hard time setting goals. Generally, I know what my end is when I'm learning, even when I'm reading about frogs because the frog on a commercial was really cute. (In that case, the goal is to learn more about frogs, just for my own edification. And because people should know about frogs.) Actually, my problem is more that I'm ADD, and while I can remember that I had a.....

I guess learning for me is now more about the process and enjoying it (PLAY!) than it was back in the day when someone else set the goals and parameters (like, say, a certain Information Retrieval teacher that I had). There are times that I have to force myself to be more structured, but being in charge of my own learning, and my own library, means that I can flit back and forth. The learning is accomplished, just maybe not in a strict fashion. But that's the point of accepting responsibility for your own learning and being confident that you are an effective learner, right? That the learning happens at all.


So, the wonderful people over at Spring Branch ISD have set up a 23 Things for 2.0 applications in the library and the librarians who (should) use them. I've decided to take part. While I am already pretty 2.0-capable, I figure it can't hurt to learn more, and from a different perspective.

If nothing else, it should encourage me to post here more often. My poor students are probably pretty bored with the lack of "stuff" here. I promise, it will get better--right after you pay all your fines, dear students. *grin*

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another year begins

Okay, so it began 17 school days ago. Give me a chance--it's been crazy here in the library.

I've decided to take the blog in a different direction. I'll still post book reviews and let you know what I'm reading, but I also want to keep you up to date regarding library happenings. As always, I look forward to anyone who wants to join in.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Ricochet, by Julie Gonzalez

This one didn't catch me right at first. And then..whoa. It picked up fast. Through a series of flashbacks and kind of cryptic story lines, Gonzalez tells a story that captured my attention. I think I may have actually hung up on my boyfriend so I could finish what I was doing.

It's about peer pressure that seriously goes too far. Lives change quickly when you succumb to it, and Conner figures that out the hard way.

From the publisher's blurb...

When his best friend is killed in a game with a loaded gun, fifteen-year-old Conner finds his perceptions of himself and his relationships with his family, friends, and other people in his life changed in more profound ways than he could have imagined.

Being, by Kevin Brooks

All I can say is WOW. I've been watching this book at the bookstore since it came out. Wanting to buy it, making myself wait and see if the publisher is going to send it. Well, I got it last week..and OH MY GOSH. I read it in one night.

From the publisher's blurb...

It was just supposed to be a routine exam. But when the doctors snake the fiber-optic tube down Robert Smith's throat, what they discover doesn't make medical sense. Plastic casings. Silver filaments. Moving metal parts. In his naked, anesthetized state on the operating table, Robert hears the surgeons' shocked comments: "What the hell is that?" "It's me," Robert thinks, "and I've got to get out of here." Armed with a stolen automatic and the videotape of his strange organs, he manages to escape, and to embark on an orphan's violent odyssey to find out exactly who--exactly what--he is.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

Alright, I'm rather anti-graphic novel. I have nothing against them really. I just personally don't like them. But let me say...WOW.

I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this one. What a great story line (all 3 really). I loved how it all came together and how the message was one that isn't specific to one culture in the least.

From the publisher's blurb...

All Jin Wang wants is to fit in...

When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl...

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god...

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a basketball player, a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse...

These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax - and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.

You, Maybe: The Profound Asymmetry of Love by Rachel Vail

Alright, I can't help it. As an adult reading as an adult...this book bothers me. I'm not naive, but I sure don't like the idea of teenagers being this sexual. At all.

As an adult reading like a teenager, I don't know. She seems so defeatist. Yes, I know some student somewhere will relate spot on with Josie. But so much of it seems a little far-fetched.

From the publisher's blurb...

Careful what you love

Josie is independent, fierce, and does not care what anyone thinks about her, especially where guys are concerned. She may flirt with them, and even kiss them, but it doesn't mean anything, not even with Michael. He's more like a friend-with-benefits.

So who can explain what happens when Carson Gold decides he's interested in her? Carson Gold, the hottest senior, the one everyone secretly watches. At first Josie treats him the same way she treats everybody else. But something about him gets to her. Maybe it's the same thing that causes everyone to watch him. Maybe it's something between them, something just he and Josie share.

Can you blame her for what happens? Could you resist? Neither can Josie -- not for lack of trying, and despite her better sense. It's too much, that first time love finds you and sucks you under. It's too much, even for Josie.

Love is a brat.

Sins of the Fathers, by Chris Lynch

Overall, this is a good book. You really get the concept of a "tribe" and how it's, somehow, more than just a family.

But, the sins of the fathers (as in priests) are altogether to vague. I mean, one's pretty clear. But he's the only priest who's a well-developed character. I can actually hear some of my students wondering what's going on.

From the publisher's blurb...

It's your team or your family or your neighborhood or your church, or maybe just yourself and two other guys. But you have to be able to count on each other, or you can't count on anything at all.

My guys are Skitz Fitzsimmons, who's daffy as a box of frogs, and Hector Fossas, who could pass for Jesus' stronger, tougher, holier brother. I'd stack my guys against anybody's.

The tribe that runs everything in my parish is the Franchise: Fathers Blarney, Mullarkey, and Shenanigan. One's an old blowhard, one's a nasty piece of work, and one's the coolest priest on wheels. Except as soon as you think you know all that, you find out you don't know anything.

They're in charge of right and wrong, but it seems like they make it up as they go along.

They want to break us apart, because of what we see and what we say. So I guess the question is, can the rest of the tribe wait when one guy's falling behind?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Harlem Hustle, by Janet McDonald

Okay, this one redeemed itself. I don't much enjoy 'gangsta rap' (or whatever we call it now) and the culture that seems to go with it. But, this one was okay. I actually found "Hustle" likable and the message worked. Is it terribly believable, um, probably not. But it's a quick read.

From the publisher's blurb...

Hustle's personal Harlem was sorely in need of a renaissance. For him, it was the place where a scared kid named Eric Samson had been ditched by druggy parents and dismissed by frustrated teachers.

Abandoned to the streets to raise himself, Eric Samson knows life won't be easy, beginning with the choices he must make. The fast cash of the streets still tempts him, but the threat of getting locked up - again - is daunting. Maybe Eric's way out is as Harlem Hustle, the rapper he dreams of being. At his side is Manley "Ride" Freeman, surrogate brother and best friend. And Jeannette Simpson, the college-bound "round-the-way" girl he hopes will be more than a friend. But does Eric have the strength to leave the familiar street life behind and the courage to reach for his dream?

In her companion to Brother Hood, Janet McDonald once again captures the rhythms of Harlem in this fast, funny story of a restless teenager who uses the power of words to rise above it all.

Notes from the Midnight Driver, by Jordan Sonnenblick

You know, I was worried about this one. Not in the since that I was concerned about content in general, but I was judging the cover. It's goofy, and totally (to me) doesn't do the story justice.

But then, I liked the story. I even cried at the end. I think this one's important, in a way.

From the publisher's blurb...

16-year-old Alex decides to get even. His parents are separated, his father is dating his former third-grade teacher, and being 16 isn't easy, especially when it comes to girls. Instead of revenge though, Alex ends up in trouble with the law and is ordered to do community service at a senior center where he is assigned to Solomon Lewis, a "difficult" senior with a lot of gusto, advice for Alex, and a puzzling (yet colorful) Yiddish vocabulary. Eventually, the pair learn to deal with their past and each other in ways that are humorous, entertaining, and life changing.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ricochet, by Sandra Brown

We all have our own "trash" books, right? I don't read paperback romance novels because I just can't let my mind vegetate on those (I spend too much time in mocking analysis.).

My trash books are stories like this one. Fairly quick reads, predictable characters you can care about without getting involved. It's fair, as they go. I'm not jumping up and down about it and can't think of anyone I think has to read this book. Would YAs like it? Eh, probably. It does fit right in with crime dramas so popular on TV these days.

From the publisher's blurb...


When Detective Sergeant Duncan Hatcher is summoned to the home of Judge Cato Laird in the middle of the night to investigate a fatal shooting, he knows that discretion and kid-glove treatment are the keys to staying in the judge's good graces and keeping his job.

At first glance, the case appears open-and-shut: Elise, the judge's trophy wife, interrupted a burglary in progress and killed the intruder in self-defense. But Duncan is immediately suspicious of Elise's innocent act. His gut feeling is that her account of the shooting is only partially true -- and it's the parts she's leaving out that bother him.

Determined to learn the dead man's connection to the Lairds and get at the truth, Duncan investigates further and quickly finds his career, as well as his integrity, in jeopardy -- because he can't deny his increasing attraction to Elise Laird, even if she is a married woman, a proven liar, and a murder suspect.

When Elise seeks Duncan out privately and makes an incredible allegation, he initially dismisses it as the manipulative lie of a guilty woman. But what if she's telling the truth? Then that single fatal gunshot at her home takes on even more sinister significance, possibly involving Duncan's nemesis, the brutal crime lord Robert Savich.

And then Elise goes missing . . .

Ricochet's plot twists -- as only Sandra Brown can write them -- and palpable suspense combine to create this grippingthriller, in which a decent cop's worst enemy may be his own conscience, and trusting the wrong person could mean the difference between life and death.

The Weight of the Sky, by Lisa Ann Sandell

Again, I'm all about form sometimes. This is one of those "prose-poetry" books. I enjoyed the story, though I think the form didn't really add to it. I just don't think you should use that particular form just because you can, it needs to add something to the story.

I like this one. Sarah's believable, though it's a little odd to small-town me to imagine a 17-year-old jetting off to live on a kibbutz in Israel, but okay. Despite the obvious differences (Israel, being Jewish, etc.), teenagers will identify with her. She's struggling to figure out who she is, in a world she doesn't fit into. What teenager isn't feeling that?

From the publisher's blurb..

Sarah, like every college-bound junior, deals with constant pressure from teachers, friends, and parents. Besides that, she’s a marching band geek and the only Jew in her class. So when she gets a chance to spend the summer on a kibbutz in Israel, Sarah jumps at the opportunity to escape her world. But living in Israel brings new complications, and when the idyllic world Sarah creates suddenly shatters, she finds herself longing for the home she thought she’d outgrown.

This lyrical novel beautifully captures the experience of leaving behind a life that’s too small, and the freedom of searching for a place with a perfect fit.

Monster Blood Tatoo: Foundling, vol. 1, by D.M. Cornish

Okay, I don't usually like fantasy stories with a historical bend to them. Really don't. Okay, mostly I just don't like fantasy much (I admit it, I have neither read nor watched the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.). But I LIKE THIS ONE. I really can't wait for the rest of the series..dang it..wonder when that will be.

My only complaint was that this really left me hanging too much. Unlike, say, Harry Potter books--the book is in itself a story. It's nice to know the backstory, but you don't have to. This one leaves me feeling like something's not finished.

From the publisher's blurb...

Set in the world of the Half-Continent-a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols-the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl's name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters-and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully.

Complete with appendices, maps, illustrations, and a glossary, Monster Blood Tattoo grabs readers from the first sentence and immerses them in an entirely original fantasy world with its own language and lore.

The Night My Sister Went Missing, by Carol Plum-Ucci

I don't care. I don't care about these characters, I don't care about the story line. (Okay, that's a little abrupt.)

This didn't even feel realistic to me. In talking with some students about it (yes, a book talk) and they didn't think it sounded believable.

On the upside, it's a quick-quick read (I think it took me a little more than an hour, but I am a speed reader) and it's a Hi-Lo book.

From the publisher's blurb...

A tiny pistol, passed from friend to friend at a party on an abandoned pier, suddenly fires, and Casey Carmody falls into the water below. Kurt, Casey's older brother, endures a seemingly endless night at the police station while the coast guard searches for his sister and his friends are questioned, one by one. Who was foolish enough to pull the trigger? Was the gunfire accidental or deliberate? Or was the whole drama one of Casey's practical jokes? And where is Casey--or her body--now? Dark secrets are revealed and petty jealousies rear their ugly heads as each eyewitness comes to the questioning room with his or her own version of "the truth."

Set in Stone, by Linda Newbery

Hm..a weird kinda Victorian romancey feel when you first get started. Then there's scandal right out of a soap opera. It's an engaging read, though I have to admit that I wish the change in voices was more apparent. I got confused a couple of times.

I didn't like the cover when I picked up the ARC for this book. But, having read it and internalized it, the cover works.

From the publisher's blurb...

When Samuel Godwin, a young and naive art tutor, accepts a job with the Farrow family at their majestic home, little does he expect to come across a place containing such secrets and lies. His two tutees are as different as can be--younger sister Marianne, full of flightiness and nervous imagination, and Juliana, sensible and controlled. Helped by their governess, Charlotte Agnew, Samuel begins to uncover slowly why Marianne is so emotionally fragile, and in doing so uncovers a web of intrigue. But his discoveries lead to revenge and betrayal--and lives all around are turned upside down.

Linda Newbery has written a novel in diary style, combining different voices and a different century with her usual brilliance and ease. These are characters full of the same passions as our own today, while living in an unfamiliar and fascinating time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Golden, by Cameron Dokey

This was a good one. It's not on the nomination list (too old for this year), but it's a neat little book. I don't think I've ever come across a retelling of the Rapunzel story before. And this one's pretty good--a whole "build your own destiny" kind of story.

From the publisher's blurb...

"One so fair, let down your hair. Let us go from here to there."

Before Rapunzel's birth, her mother made a dangerous deal with the sorceress Melisande: If she could not love newborn Rapunzel just as she appeared, she would surrender the child to Melisande. When Rapunzel was born completely bald and without hope of ever growing hair, her horrified mother sent her away with the sorceress to an uncertain future.

After sixteen years of raising Rapunzel as her own child, Melisande reveals that she has another daughter, Rue. She was cursed by a wizard years ago and needs Rapunzel's help. Rue and Rapunzel have precisely "two nights and the day that falls between" to break the enchantment. But bitterness and envy come between the girls, and if they fail to work together, Rue will remain cursed . . . forever.

Raider's Night, by Robert Lipsyte

This is definitely a boy book. One of my girls started to read it and suggested I just watch "Remember the Titans" and cuss a lot more. She was quite a bit off on the connection, but, it's still a boy story.

The publisher says it's a "hard-hitting look" at high school sports. Sure, it's a harder look than I think most books would provide, but I still don't think it's quite hard enough. The kind of "hazing" that goes on in this story is felonious. It just is.

Then again, if you get too hard on this subject, I can see it turning off readers. No one wants to read about high schoolers going to prison, least of all high schoolers. I don't know.

I did like the story. Just wish it was a little meatier.

From the publisher's blurb...

At Nearmont High School, football stars are treated like royalty, and Matt Rydek has just ascended to the throne. As co-captain of the Raiders, he's got it all, or so it seems: hot girls, all the right friends, plenty of juice to make him strong, and a winning team poised to go all the way. If he can keep his eye on the ball now, his future will be set, with a full ride to a Division One school, a shot at the pros, and-most important-his dad off his back. But when the team turns on one of its own, should Matt play by Raiders rules, or should he go long alone?

Robert Lipsyte, an award-winning journalist, in consultation with Dr. Michael J. Miletic, a leading sports psychiatrist, takes a hard-hitting look at the world of competitive high school sports in a novel straight from today's headlines.

Devilish, by Maureen Johnson

You know, the publisher's blurb likens this to Faust--in a 21st century YA kinda way. I didn't read that until just now, when I pulled it up at Barnes & Noble, but I've got to agree. As I read it I was thinking about that. Of course, I just reread Faust back during the summer.

This is a really a fun story. I enjoyed it quite a bit more than I thought I would. I identified with Jane--not because I pushed the envelope at school growing up, but (as Mom will attest) I pushed it at home. Jane's just a rebel who isn't prepared to be completely rebellious (hm..I'm like that, I think.)

From the publisher's blurb...

The only thing that makes St. Teresa's Preparatory School for Girls bearable for Jane is her best friend Ally. But when Ally changes into a whole different person literally overnight the fall of their senior year, Jane's suddenly alone--and very confused.

Turns out, Ally has sold her soul in exchange for popularity--to a devil masquerading as a sophomore at St. Teresa's! Now it's up to Jane to put it all on the line to save her friend from this ponytail-wearing, cupcakenibbling demon . . . without losing her own soul in the process.

This YA take on Faust in a Catholic girls' high school is clever, fun, and full of tasty surprises.

Incantation, by Alice Hoffman

This is another quick read. And really, a fascinating little story. I actually read it through, cover to cover twice yesterday (yes, it's that quick a read, for me at least) because I wanted to catch the extra nuances I just knew I'd missed the first time.

I can't say as I can remember reading a story about what happened to Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. Ironically, I'm trying to read The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak) right now, as well. Interesting how I paired those up..and in my mind I'm making the connections. I'm probably going to come back to this post and add some more, I want to dig in the book a bit more too.

From the publisher's blurb...

Estrella is a Marrano: During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, she is one of a community of Spanish Jews living double lives as Catholics. And she is living in a house of secrets, raised by a family who practices underground the ancient and mysterious way of wisdom known as kabbalah. When Estrella discovers her family's true identity - and her family's secrets are made public - she confronts a world she's never imagined, where new love burns and where friendship ends in flame and ash, where trust is all but vanquished and betrayal has tragic and bitter consequences.

The Braid, by Helen Frost

This one was...different. Really it didn't touch me one way or the other. Short read. It's about the connection between two sisters who are separated by an ocean--the life they live apart and the things that connect them despite the distance and the lack of communication.

I can see my romantic girls reading this. But my outspoken, not-so-girly-girl student worker would probably not appreciate it.

From the publisher's blurb...

Two sisters, Jeannie and Sarah, tell their separate yet tightly interwoven stories in alternating narrative poems. Each sister - Jeannie, who leaves Scotland during the Highland Clearances with her father, mother, and the younger children, and Sarah, who hides so she can stay behind with her grandmother - carries a length of the other's hair braided with her own. The braid binds them together when they are worlds apart and reminds them of who they used to be before they were evicted from the Western Isles, where their family had lived for many generations.

The award-winning poet Helen Frost eloquently twists strand over strand of language, braiding the words at the edges of the poems to bring new poetic forms to life while intertwining the destinies of two young girls and the people who cross their paths in this unforgettable novel. An author's note describes the inventive poetic form in detail.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

I wasn't sure about this book at first. Seemed a little Victoria Holt-ish for my taste. Just too Victorian romance feeling.

But then, I realized it's a pretty finely crafted mystery story. Just when I thought I had it figured out, suddenly some other piece of information pops up that changes EVERYTHING! I wouldn't say I loved the book, but it was good. (For me to love a book, I'd have to be willing to read it again this month.)

From the publisher's blurb...

All children mythologize their birth...So begins the prologue of reclusive author Vida Winter's collection of stories, which are as famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale as they are for the delight and enchantment of the twelve that do exist.

The enigmatic Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself -- all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

The Thirteenth Tale is a love letter to reading, a book for the feral reader in all of us, a return to that rich vein of storytelling that our parents loved and that we loved as children. Diane Setterfield will keep you guessing, make you wonder, move you to tears and laughter and, in the end, deposit you breathless yet satisfied back upon the shore of your everyday life.

Dark Water Rising, by Marian Hale

As I read this book, I could picture everything in my head. In fact, I could picture the streets and areas (Like St. Mary's Orphanage, John Sealy Hospital, etc.). In fact, from the description of where Seth and his family live, I think he lived on the same street my great-aunt has a house on today!

I really enjoyed this one. It's a quick read, and just fascinating. I can't think of another book built around the 1900 storm written for YAs that is so interesting and well done.

From the publisher's blurb...

A poignant coming-of-age novel set during the Galveston Storm of 1900. I looked south toward the gulf, trying to keep an eye on the stalking sea. Wild waves rose up like a great hand and wrenched loose the Pagoda's long staircase, sending planks tumbling through the air. With horror I watched the end of one twin building sway and dip into the surf.

I yelled at Josiah, but my words disappeared on the wind. I grabbed his arm, pointed, and we stood together, shoulder to shoulder, mouths gaping, watching the impossible.

Like a wounded Goliath, the great bathhouse shuddered, folded in on its long legs, and collapsed into the sea. Galveston, Texas, may be the booming city of the twentieth century, but to Seth it is the end of a dream. He wants to be a carpenter like his father, but the family has moved so Seth can become a doctor.

Just as things begin to look up for Seth, a storm warning is raised one sweltering afternoon. A north wind always brings change, but no one could have imagined anything like this.

The acclaimed author of The Truth About Sparrows has crafted an unforgettable story set during the Galveston Storm of 1900.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt

This was a good story, well done, interesting..and certainly a different take.


I mean, really, falling in love with Death? After cheating him out of not one, not two, but 3 extra days of life? And exacting a promise to let you live if you just complete one task?

But I suppose the idea is that one should always be true to one self, and committ selfless acts. That I get. I can see my artsy, in love with the idea of love kids falling for this book. It's got the historical feel and romance-y thing going on big.

From the publisher's blurb...

Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and high romance. Keturah follows a legendary hart into the king's forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near. Little does she know that he is a young, handsome lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and thereby gain a reprieve -- but only for twenty-four hours. She must find her one true love within that time, or all is lost. Keturah searches desperately while the village prepares for an unexpected visit from the king, and Keturah is thrust into a prominent role as mysterious happenings alarm her friends and neighbors. Lord Death's presence hovers over all until Keturah confronts him one last time in the harrowing climax.

Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine

I love a good, believable fairy tale. I don't particularly like those that seem entirely too far-fetched. But then, I tend to read the kinds of things that I write (realistic type stuff.).

Anyway, Fairest is the Snow White story...only believable. It's honesty at some of its finest. I love it when the message is finely woven in. The message here is that physical beauty is only skin deep and it is fleeting when you aren't true to yourself.

Will teenager's get that? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, it's a wonderful story.

From the publisher's blurb...

I sang an aria.

Or so I believe. I have no one to tell me the truth of it. I was abandoned when I was a month old, left at the Featherbed Inn in the Ayorthaian village of Amonta. It was January 12th of the year of Thunder Songs.

The fairy Lucinda has once again given a dreadful gift. This time it's a mysterious magical mirror.

The gift is disastrous when it falls into the hands of Aza, who never looks in a mirror if she can help it. In the Kingdom of Ayortha, Aza is most definitely not the fairest of them all. Many spurn her. Many scoff at her. She keeps out of sight.

But in a land of singers, Aza has her own gift, one she's come by without fairy intervention: a voice that can do almost anything, a voice that captivates all who hear it. In Ontio Castle, merry Prince Ijori is drawn to it, and vain Queen Ivi wants to use it for her own ends. Queen Ivi would do anything to remain the fairest in the land.

In this spellbinding tale filled with humor, adventure, romance, and song, Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine invites you to join Aza as she discovers how exquisite she truly is.

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga

Hm..this one was...different. I didn't expect to like it. Still not sure if I do or not. It feels like a fairly typical teenage-angsty kind of book, kinda drama queen meets outcast loser boy. Only, I'm I don't think Goth Girl's the drama queen. It's just weird.

I can pick out the characters in the hallways here. That definitely helps the appeal factor.

From the publisher's blurb...

Fanboy has never had it good, but lately his sophomore year is turning out to be its own special hell. The bullies have made him their favorite target, his best (and only) friend seems headed for the dark side (sports and popularity), and his pregnant mother and the step-fascist are eagerly awaiting the birth of the alien life form known as Fanboy's new little brother or sister. Fanboy, though, has a secret: a graphic novel he's been working on without telling anyone, a graphic novel that he is convinced will lead to publication, fame, and- most important of all- a way out of the crappy little town he lives in and all the people that make it hell for him. When Fanboy meets Kyra, a.k.a. Goth Girl, he finds an outrageous, cynical girl who shares his love of comics as well as his hatred for jocks and bullies. Fanboy can't resist someone who actually seems to understand him, and soon he finds himself willing to heed her advice- to ignore or crush anyone who stands in his way.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thieves Like Us, by Stephen Cole

I can see why this book would appeal to teenagers. There's action. Kids are getting to do really cool things (like drive sweeeeet cars, like drink, like save the world and make big money doing it). There's some mystery. Thinly veiled sexual innuendos (from the kid I think is 13 or 14). Everybody's so freakin' cool. There's no parents, no school, no one telling them no. Geez, I can see why teenagers would love the book. Mostly boys, but some girls too.

But I didn't like it. It was alright, I guess, if you're into that kind of story. It was mindless read for me. I like books that make me think a little bit, stick with me. Heck..I finished this one 5 minutes ago and I'm already forgetting enough of it that I'm having to thumb back through it. Oh well.

From the publisher's blurb...

Jonah Wish, a brilliant computer hacker, is the newest addition to an elite group of teen outlaws all hired by the same mysterious benefactor, Nathaniel Coldhardt. Each of them offers a unique talent: Patch is a one-eyed locksmith; Motti can dismantle any electrical system; Con's charm is truly mesmerizing; and Tye can detect a lie with more precision than a polygraph. Under Coldhart's watchful eye, this motley crew races from a high-tech underground conference centre to exotic locations where they hunt for priceless ancient artefacts that may bring riches . . . or the secret to eternal life.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Star-Crossed, by Linda Collison

I didn't put this one down. I even felt compelled to share a few lines with the darling boyfriend while he cleaned his house last night. I rarely "share" until I'm done with the book.

I'm not usually one for "adventure girl" stories, but this is the second one I've read recently that I just loved (the other being "Hattie Big Sky"). Patricia is a strong, strong character who manages to be a lady, even though she's doing a lot of distinctly not ladylike things. Doing things I couldn't imagine doing even at 30. I got all caught up, wanting her to win. And, in a way, she did.

From the publisher's blurb...

Patricia Kelley has been raised a proper British lady--but she's become a stowaway. Her father is dead, and her future in peril. To claim the estate that is rightfully hers, she must travel across the seas to Barbados, hidden in the belly of merchant ship.

It is a daring escapade, and the plan works--for a time. But before she knows it, Patricia's secret is revealed, and she is torn between two worlds. During the day, she wears petticoats, inhabits the dignified realm of ship's officers, and trains as a surgeon's mate with the gentle Aeneas MacPherson; at night she dons pants and climbs the rigging in the rough company of sailors. And it is there, alongside boson's mate John Dalton, that she feels stunningly alive.

In this mesmerizing novel of daring, adventure, tragedy, and romance, Patricia must cross the threshold between night and day, lady and surgeon, and even woman and man. She must be bold in ways beyond her wildest dreams and take risks she never imagined possible. And she must fight for her life--and her love.

Saint Iggy, by K.L. Going

I love it when I can pick up a book and know exactly who I'd recommend it to. Five pages into it, I was planning "the sell" to one of my TAs. That sell amounted to "I couldn't stop thinking about you while I read this. You ARE this kid."

Iggy's a special case. His home life, quite frankly, sucks. He just wants to make a positive difference, somehow, somewhere. And he does, but not quite the way he expects. I give this 2 big thumbs up..and maybe even a toe.

From the publisher blurb...

'I am not so bad a person once you get to know me.'

When Iggy Corso gets kicked out of high school, there's no one for him to tell. His mother has gone off, his father is stoned on the couch, and the phone's been disconnected, so even the social worker can't get through. Leaving his public housing behind, Iggy ventures into the world to make something of his life. It's not easy when you're sixteen, have no skills, and your only friend is mixed up with the dealer who got your mom hooked. But Iggy is . . . Iggy, and he has the kind of wisdom that lets him see what no one else can. K. L. Going's third novel is a haunting achievement about a young man's tragic search for meaning in a world that to him makes no sense.

Just in Case, by Meg Rosoff

Odd story. Very odd. Just (nee' David) has decided to hide from Fate, because he beleives Fate's out to get him. And maybe Fate is. I think it's a coming of age story, with a twist. I think it's coming of age in one's own mind, not just merely (!) in the ways that people think we must grow up. I also happen to think he's got some serious psychological issues. But a REALLY good story. REALLY good.

From the publisher blurb...

Justin Case is convinced fate has in for him.
And he's right.

After finding his younger brother teetering on the edge of his balcony, fifteen-year-old David Case realizes the fragility of life and senses impending doom. Without looking back, he changes his name to Justin and assumes a new identity, new clothing and new friends, and dares to fall in love with the seductive Agnes Day. With his imaginary dog Boy in tow, Justin struggles to fit into his new role and above all, to survive in a world where tragedy is around every corner. He's got to be prepared, just in case.

Hattie Big Sky, by Kirby Larson

WOW! Loved it. Easy to read and get lost in. The POV of a girl on her own, during World War 1, trying to save a land claim. Just amazing. I've handed this one to several people lately. I just love it.

From the publisher blurb...

Alone in the world, teen-aged Hattie is driven to prove up on her uncle's homesteading claim.

For years, sixteen-year-old Hattie's been shuttled between relatives. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she courageously leaves Iowa to prove up on her late uncle's homestead claim near Vida, Montana. With a stubborn stick-to-itiveness, Hattie faces frost, drought and blizzards. Despite many hardships, Hattie forges ahead, sharing her adventures with her friends--especially Charlie, fighting in France--through letters and articles for her hometown paper.

Her backbreaking quest for a home is lightened by her neighbors, the Muellers. But she feels threatened by pressure to be a "Loyal" American, forbidding friendships with folks of German descent. Despite everything, Hattie's determined to stay until a tragedy causes her to discover the true meaning of home.

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You, by Hanna Jansen

WONDERFUL story. I really, really enjoyed this one. The POV of the young girl, and how she literally transformed from the innocent to the "know-to-much" personality. It's a limited interest, especially since high school students won't remember the Rwandan tragedies in the 90s, but there will be those who are very intrigued.

From the publisher's blurb...

Before one fateful April day, Jeanne lived the life of a typical Rwandan girl. She fought with her little sister, went to school, and teased her brother. Then, in one horrifying night, everything changed. Political troubles unleashed a torrent of violence upon the Tutsi ethnic group. Jeanne’s family, all Tutsis, fled their home and tried desperately to reach safety. They -- along with nearly 1 million others -- did not survive. The only survivor of her family’s massacre, Jeanne witnessed unspeakable acts. But through courage, wits, and sheer force of will, she survived. Based on a true story, this haunting novel by Jeanne’s adoptive mother makes unforgettably real the events of the 1994 Rwandan genocide as one family experienced it. Jeanne’s story is a tribute to the human spirit and its capacity to heal.

The Girl from Charnelle, by K.L.Cook

Now, let me be clear. I really, really enjoyed this book. However, I'm waiting for the consequences. I think my moral compass is spinning, trying desperately to find something to learn from this story line. I mean--nothing happens? We just go on? Daddy still loves you, and he never ever knows what you've done? And excuse me--your older brother and sister know what you're up to, and don't tell your dad? Sure, this stuff happens, it's realistic fiction. But come on.

From the publisher's blurb...

It's 1960 in the Panhandle town of Charnelle, Texas -- a year and a half since sixteen-year-old Laura Tate's mother boarded a bus and mysteriously disappeared. Assuming responsibility for the Tate household, Laura cares for her father and three brothers and outwardly maintains a sense of calm. But her balance is upset and the repercussions of her family's struggles are revealed when a chance encounter with a married man leads Laura into a complicated relationship for which she is unprepared. As Kennedy battles Nixon for the White House, Laura must navigate complex emotional terrain and choose whether she, too, will flee Charnelle. Dramatizing the tension between desire and familial responsibility, The Girl from Charnelle delivers a heartfelt portrait of a young woman's reckoning with the paradoxes of love. Eloquent, tender, and heart-wrenching, K. L. Cook's unforgettable debut novel marks the arrival of a significant new voice in American fiction.

Defining Dulcie, by Paul Acampora

Not the typical "teen underdog" story. I mean, what high school student would be willing to be a school janitor (for a co-op position). But, it would appeal to the quirky set.

From the publisher's blurb

After Dulcie’s dad dies, her mom decides that the two of them shouldreinvent themselves in California. Dulcie’s decision? To steal her dad’s ’68 Chevy and head back home to Connecticut. Once Dulcie gets there she meets Roxanne, a girl whose scary home life makes Dulcie think that she just might have landed in the right spot at the right time. Luckily for Roxanne, Dulcie Morrigan Jones is a girl with a storehouse of strength and generosity of spirit that stretches on for miles.

Quirky, uplifting, and written in a spare prose, Defining Dulcie is about the connections we make, the resilience of the human spirit, and the absurdities that keep life interesting. It is a debut not to be missed.

Promise Me, by Harlan Coben

This is an interesting story. I'm not sure many high schoolers that I know would be interested in it. But, it is rather timely and "newsy." Nice study in how things can very suddenly go terribly wrong.

From the publisher's blurb...

It has been six years since entertainment agent Myron Bolitar last played superhero. In six years he hasn't thrown a punch. He hasn't held, much less fired, a gun. He hasn't threatened or been threatened. He hasn't called his friend Win, still the scariest man he knows, to back him up or get him out of trouble. In the past six years, none of his clients have been murdered-a real positive for his business.

But all that is about to change. Because of the simple urge to protect two neighborhood high-school girls from the all-too-dangerous and all-too-common mistake of getting in a car with a drunk driver, Myron has them make him a promise: If they are ever in a bind but are afraid to call their parents, they should call him rather than get in a car with someone who's been drinking. Several nights later, the call comes at 2:00 am, and true to his word, Myron picks up one of the girls in midtown Manhattan and drives her to a quiet cul-de-sac in New Jersey where she says her friend lives.

The next day, the girl's parents discover that their daughter is missing. And that Myron was the last person to see her. Now, in a desperate attempt to fulfill a well-intentioned promise gone nightmarishly wrong, Myron must become a hero again to save a young girl's life.

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