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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brian Selznick Fun

I just LOOOOOOVE Brian Selznick, and just LOOOOOOOOVE this resource from Scholastic.

Virtual Tour of the American Museum of Natural History


Annnnd the Hugo movie trailer. Can I tell you how happy it makes me that Martin Scorsese directed this one? I love (most) of his work.




And the trailer for Wonderstruck


Saturday, December 3, 2011

YA Book Challenge

Something to consider...


This probably isn't fair of me. I mean, I am a librarian at a high school, so I'm literally surrounded by YA Books. But, if nothing else, I'll enjoy keeping up with just how much I really do read. It'll be fun.

For more info checkout the challenge post at The Eclectic Bookshelf.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Beginnings

This week, my book at work is Misfit, by Jon Skovron. It was in the stack of returns I pulled out of the book drop this week, so I snagged it. Light reading, a little mythology, and demons....what's not to love?




Jael Thompson looks at her reflection in the bathroom mirror and frowns. She pushes back her curly black hair and stares into her green eyes so hard that the rest of her features blur.


"You know what I heard?" she says.. "That what you see in the mirror isn't what you really look like. That since mirrors flip everything, you're looking at a flipped version of your face. Like, the exact opposite."





I have to admit, the bit about the mirror makes me wonder what Jael means, but honestly, I can't say that even the first page prompted me to keep reading. The book jacket has done more of that for me--wanting to know how the demon fits in to the story. It's still early, and the reading is light. Watch for my review soon.

**Opting to participate in a weekly meme, mostly to help myself be a little more fruitful over here.


Hosted by A Few More Pages


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Groundbreaking YA Books into Movies.

No guys...it's not just Breaking Dawn and The Hunger Games that have made it to the big screen. Several other books have, as well. Check it out!

Top 15 Favorite YA-Books-Turned-Movies


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sites to See, Nov. 8





The Exploratorium
http://www.exploratorium.edu
As museum websites go—This. Is. The. BEST. I  spent hours at home this weekend playing with the different online exhibits available. Billed as the “museum of science, art and human perception,” it is just amazing. Whether you’re an educator (awesome demos for a class), just curious, or a Sheldon Cooper-esque Geek, you’ll love this site.


Could you pass a US Citizenship Test?
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0104/Could-you-pass-a-US-citizenship-test/Who-signs-bills
With it being election day, this is always an interesting one to share. You have to get 58 of the 96 questions correct. WARNING: This site is SLOW…it’s the design. Just bear with it.


Royal Society Publishing Archive
http://royalsocietypublishing.org/search
Beginning in 1665, this is the world’s oldest scientific publisher. Recently, they opened the archive of 60,000+ historical scientific papers published more than 70 years ago. You’ll discover research findings of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Benjamin Franklin, to name a few.



The Beloit College Mindset List
http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2015/
While written to describe this year’s college freshman, I think it’s also telling about the students we are graduating this year. Can you imagine….Ferris Bueller could be their father?

New Tech Toys Always Make Me Happy

Today....I am picking up this....

iPad
By Yagan Kiely, CC BY-SA 2.0


Granted, it may not be a 64GB, but it will be my first iPad. I'm beyond excited. I love new gadgets and tech toys and can't wait to see how quickly I will become dependent on it. Speaking from the experience of the first time I turned on Phoebe (my iPhone...the smartest little smart phone in the world)...I'm thinking it'll take about 10 minutes to completely and totally hook me.

I've got a handful of apps I know I'll immediately load, to prepare myself for upcoming tasks and activities. But I'm curious...what are YOU using?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sites to See, October 28


Copyright Free & Public Domain Media Sources
http://people.euwec.edu/koroghcm/public_domain.htm
List of media collections with materials students and teachers can use without copyright considerations. This is a very important concept to teach our students.

WeatherTrends360
http://www.weathertrends360.com
Bill Kirk has developed a new way of forecasting the weather, that’s accurate up to a year in advance. (Weather Channel is only 71% accurate up to 10 days in advance).

Rover’s Eye View of Three-Year Trek on Mars
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=114782241
Amazing still image video of the 309 pictures of Rover’s 13 mile trek from Victoria crater to Endeavor crater.

What’s the Most Important Thing You Learned from a Teacher?
http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2011/10/05/whats-the-most-important-lesson-you-learned-from-a-teacher/
We all hear the stories about how inspiring a teacher was in the life of a student who had no inspiration. I think we ALL need to be reminded how much of an impact we have, especially when content is the last thing on our students’ minds.


From Kathy Schrock:
FREE apps for use on Android devices or iPad categorized by Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Bloomin’ Android
http://kathyschrock.net/androidblooms/
Bloomin’ iPad http://kathyschrock.net/ipadblooms/

Also, Google Apps (which are FREE) http://kathyschrock.net/googleblooms/

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This has been on my mind quite a bit recently. Understandably, I'm sure. But there's great stuff here, not just for graduates, but for everyone.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sites to See---Website Round-up

WallWisher
http://www.wallwisher.com
Interactive bulletin board hosted online. Use this for an interactive word wall or to review before a test. Students could respond via sticky note to a question posted for discussion, or you could use this to frame a lesson. To view a WallWisher in action visit mine http://www.wallwisher.com/wall/oct511

105 Classroom Uses for WallWisher
http://seanbanville.com/2010/06/26/wallwisher-105-classroom-ideas/
Jump start your thinking about the possibilities.


Teenage Brain
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/10/teenage-brains/dobbs-text/1
National Geographic October 2011 article about the ins and outs of the teenage brain…and just why they do what they do


Budding Scientist

http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/30148632?access_key=key-qibej5dj1812q1u51yl
A new blog from Scientific American aimed at interesting science for curious children—and their teachers and parents!


Food in Every Country
http://www.foodbycountry.com/
Includes recipes and a cultural history of foods in different countries and groups. The food alone is interesting, but all the other information makes it a valuable tool.


Eyewitness to History
http://eyewitnesstohistory.com/
Primary Source type articles from the ancient world through World War II.


Documentary Heaven
http://documentaryheaven.com/
More than 1600 documentary films from across the Internet. Find something on just about every topic you could think of.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

30 Book Challenge


It's long been weighing on my little librarian heart that high school kids, by and large, don't read for pleasure. At least at my campus. They're so burnt out after leaving 8th grade and "The Reading Program That Shall Remain Nameless" (but might just start with an "A") that they've forgotten that reading can be fun, if you don't have to work towards a point goal that could make or break your report card average.

I know I have several teachers that read, quite a bit, on their own. I know many kids who are single-handedly keeping my circulation statistics high.

I also know that "if you feed them, they will come." (I'm a Presbyterian, this is only a notch or two behind the Golden Rule for scriptural truths in my book. *grin*)

So this year, I'm starting the 30-Book Challenge on my campus.



It's EASY. Just read 30 books by May 18th. EEEEEEEAAAAASSSSSYYYYY!

If you make your.....a catered lunch is on me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amazing Things

One of my favorite former debate students--actually, he's part of the reason I coached debate. He's doing amazing things with his life and in a path I don't think he expected to be on when he graduated from Angleton. I absolutely could not be any prouder of him.

We The Readers is starting in DC, but I see this being bigger than even Austin can dream one day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Exploring

Today, I'm exploring. I'm supposed to be pulling together some resources for an impromptu science project, and that's happening, I'm just scattered today.

I've stopped in at CNN Student News. I know my economics teacher uses this as a warm-up every day. It's just a 10-minute covering of headlines in the day's news. The video clips used are all from CNN. There's a daily discussion guide and a newsquiz for each episode. There's also some extra resources (like PDF maps for yesterday's shows) . I think it's just good info, and I appreciate that there's an archive.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Heir to the Everlasting, by Janice Daugharty

The Pulitzer-nominated author of EARL IN THE YELLOW SHIRT turns her acclaimed talents to an epic story of three generations of Southern women at Big Eddy, the home place they love. HEIR TO THE EVERLASTING begins at the turn of the last century with the beautiful, determined Pinkie Alexander, strong-willed matron of the Alexander clan. Come Hell or the high water of the south Georgia river which gave Big Eddy its name, Pinkie will ensure the survival of her family on their beloved land--a place where the family cemetery guards the spirit of the past, and where secrets, as well as the dearly departed, are buried.

Follow the lives, loves, mysteries, deadly feuds and steely courage of the Alexander women through a full century of joys and sorrows. HEIR TO THE EVERLASTING showcases the culture, language and daily travails of their time and place with vivid storytelling skills and Janice Daugharty's love for "the working words."



A quintessential Southern home, but not the genteel South. The Alexanders from Big Eddy, are from the rural South. This part of Georgia was very likely never a place that Scarlett (a la Gone with the Wind) ever visited. Because of the deaths and young ages of the "men folk," this is a matriarchal society on the plantation. Pinkie is the declared leader of all things at Big Eddy, including it's trials.

Heir to the Everlasting is the story of a family as they work to maintain their home and existence without being dragged too far into the rest of the world. It's Pinkie's story of being the matriarch. It's May's story of growing up under the tutelage of a strong woman whose primary focus was family and keeping the family home. And it's Sara Ann's story, another granddaughter learning what home and family really entail. It's the story of family, relationships, and triumph in spite of it all.

It's not "easy" reading, but it's meaningful reading. It's rich and delicious in the way that it catches you up and satisfies you. I hated to have it end, and it has stuck with me for days. Truly a classic from an inspiring author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Bell Bridge Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Goddess Test, by Aimee Carter

EVERY GIRL who has taken the test has DIED.



Not it's KATE'S TURN.

It’s always been just Kate and her mom—and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld—and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he’s crazy—until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails...

I love anything that brings mythology into the modern world. And Carter has accomplished this beautifully. I never doubted that the Greek god Hades was looking for a new queen. It made perfect sense and the mythological world was seamlessly tied into Kate's world.

Appropriately fantastical, just realistic enough. This is a fun and really well done first novel. I'm impressed with how believable it all was, and that I was sad when the story ended--not that the ending wasn't happy, but that, sigh, it was over (until February).

The characters are strong, all of them. These aren't thin developments, you know the characters and their personalities. There's minimal teen angst, which is good. Not every book needs to be angsty, and this book wouldn't be nearly as good if Kate was falling apart.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from HarlequinTEEN through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Girl's Guide to Homelessness, by Brianna Karp

“If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t assume I live in a parking lot. I am just like you, except without the convenience of a permanent address.”

Brianna Karp entered the workforce at age ten, supporting her mother and sister through out her teen years in Southern California. Although her young life was scarred by violence and abuse, Karp stayed focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own. By age twenty-two her dream became reality. Karp loved her job as an executive assistant and signed the lease on a tiny cottage near the beach.

And then the Great Recession hit. Karp, like millions of others, lost her job. In the six months between the day she was laid off and the day she was forced out onto the street, Karp scrambled for temp work and filed hundreds of job applications, only to find all doors closed. When she inherited a thirty-foot travel trailer after her father’s suicide, Karp parked it in a Walmart parking lot and began to blog about her search for work and a way back.

Karp began her journey as a home less person terrified and ashamed. Fear turned to awe as she con nect ed with other homeless people whose remarkable stories inspired her to be come an activist for the homeless community.

Deeply compassionate and darkly funny, this unforgettable memoir celebrates the courage and creativity of lives society would otherwise stigmatize.

I really can't find the words to describe how much this book amazed me. I've always been one to make assumptions about the lives of homeless people, even though my compassionate and Christian heart kept telling me I didn't know the whole story. We all know that there's a backstory, something we don't understand, but we don't always internalize that knowledge in our dealings with people.

This isn't a "fluff" read. It's not a literal guidebook. It's the reality of going from solvency to living day to day in a WalMart parking lot (because WalMart doesn't charge for overnight stays). Karp has shared a no holds barred telling of her daily life. It's gritty. It's dirty. It's unpleasant. And it made me hurt to read it. But it's a book that so many, not just those who find themselves suddenly homeless, can relate to.

This book isn't about adversity. It isn't about merely surviving in tough economic times. It's about living boldly. It's about thriving because of your circumstances--not letting your circumstances thrive.

I've never read a book and thought that everyone should read it. Until this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Harlequin NonFiction through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Restorer, by Amanda Stevens

NEVER ACKNOWLEDGE THE DEAD.


NEVER STRAY FROM HALLOWED GROUND.

NEVER GET CLOSE TO THE HAUNTED.

NEVER, EVER TEMPT FATE.

My father’s rules.


I’ve never broken them…until now.

My name is Amelia Gray. I’m a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. In order to protect myself from the parasitic nature of the dead, I’ve always held fast to the rules passed down from my father. But now a haunted police detective has entered my world and everything is changing, including the rules that have always kept me safe.


It started with the discovery of a young woman’s brutalized body in an old Charleston graveyard I’ve been hired to restore. The clues to the killer—and to his other victims— lie in the headstone symbolism that only I can interpret. Devlin needs my help, but his ghosts shadow his every move, feeding off his warmth, sustaining their presence with his energy. To warn him would be to invite them into my life. I’ve vowed to keep my distance, but the pull of his magnetism grows ever stronger even as the symbols lead me closer to the killer and to the gossamer veil that separates this world from the next.

Amelia's father's rules aren't difficult ones. But under these circumstances, it's impossible to have a "normal" life. You can't get too close to anyone, and certainly not anyone being followed by ghosts. And your work as a cemetary restorer and historian can itself put you in some danger.

Amelia is an amazing character. She's interesting, she's intellectual, she's inspiring in a way. She's not creepy or spooky by any means, regardless of her line of work or history. She's just....interesting. There's so many dimensions, that I hope to see explored in the upcoming books in the series.

Again, the story isn't just in Charleston. Charleston and its history and culture are vital to the story. (Why do so many authors fail to do this? It's not enough to just mention a famous location.) There's twists, and turns, and details you have to have caught or the next few pages make no sense.

It's a great start to a series I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment of--November can't get here fast enough!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Harlequin through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Blind Hope: an Unwanted Dog and the Woman She Rescued, by Kim Meeder & Laurie Sacher

An unwanted dog. An emotional rescue. Two lives forever changed. 

Laurie's dreams had been shattered before she came to work at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch—the ranch of rescued dreams—where broken horses and broken children encounter healing every day. In an attempt to soothe her aching soul, Laurie reached out to save a dog in need. And she soon began to realize that the dog was rescuing her.

An inspiring true story told through the engaging voice of Kim Meeder, Blind Hope reveals poignant life lessons Laurie experienced from her ailing, yet courageous canine friend. Despite the blindness of her dog—and her own heart—Laurie uncovered what she really needed most: authentic love, unconditional trust, and true acceptance, faults and all.

As Laurie and her dog, Mia, both learned to follow the lead of a master they couldn’t see, Laurie discovered the transforming power of God’s grace even for imperfect and selfish people—and she experienced a greater love than she had ever known.

“Love is a bridge that stands firm through difficulties and connects one heart directly to another, not because of how it looks, but because of what it is.” --Kim Meeder, Blind Hope


Abused animals are rescued daily, desperately searching for basic love and care. Rarely do we expect to find that the human rescuer is, in fact, "rescued" by the animal they have saved. It's the same idea as realizing that our "pet" is truly a family member that can never be replaced.

Laurie and Mia are a pair that cannot be separated. After rescuing Mia from a home that had so many problems that an under-nourished dog was the mildest of them, Laurie carefully nurses Mia back to health and life. Only as time went on and Mia was faced with new challenges, did Laurie realize that Mia was teaching her about life and nursing her back to emotional and spiritual health.


Mia is amazing, teaching not only Laurie but others to trust in your unseen Master, for a loving one never steers you wrong. It's a story of a woman in need of rescuing finding her self in God's love as she saves a dog. Acceptance and pure love are at the heart of Laurie and Mia's story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this galley from Waterbrook Multnomah through the Blogging for Books program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Confessions of April Grace: In Front of God and Everybody, by KD McCrite

Cover art from the Thomas Nelson website
From the publisher's website:

If God wanted April Grace to be kind to her neighbors, He should have made them nicer!



Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny—especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone’s patience. From disastrous dye jobs to forced apologies and elderly date tagalongs, you’ll laugh ‘til you cry as you read the Confessions of April Grace!


Here are just a couple of April's thoughts: On her sister, Myra Sue: "How anyone can be that dumb and still be able to eat with a fork is beyond me." On senior citizen lovebirds: "What if they started smooching right at the table in front of God and everybody?"


In spite of all the loony characters in her life, April Grace is able to learn from her parents as they share the love of God—to even the craziest of characters!

Can I just say, I love April Grace? She's no fool. She knows things aren't always as they seem. And she refuses to except nonsense--like the new neighbors who've moved into her dirt road community from glitzy California. She's the girl I would've loved to have been at her age! Resilient and a little mouthy, but with good intentions.

The story is fabulous, and full of setting/scenic detail that Ozark Mountain native KD McCrite knows well. I got lost in this story, easily connecting with April Grace and realizing that I had the same emotional responses to the other characters that she did. (I rarely connect that well with characters, since I don't often "internalize" books.) This is a rare blend of a coming of age story (for April Grace) and facing reality story (for others)--clearly the 2 story lines are intertwined, but it's not April Grace who must face reality.

This is McCrite's first book, and I can't wait to see another.
 
McCrite, KD. The Confessions of April Grace: In Front of God and Everybody. Thomas Nelson Publishers, May 2011.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Thomas Nelson Publishers through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Promises She Keeps, by Erin Healy


It's her destiny to die young. The man who loves her can't live with that.

Promise, a talented young vocalist with a terminal illness, is counting on fame to keep her memory alive after she dies. Porta is an aging witch and art collector in search of the goddess who will grant her immortality.

When Promise inexplicably survives a series of freak accidents, Porta believes that Promise is the one she seeks. But Chase, an autistic artist who falls in love with Promise and opposes Porta, comes between the women with his mysterious visions and drawings, and plunges everyone into a flesh-and-blood confrontation over the true meaning of eternal life.


Rather a dark story, Healy's The Promises She Keeps is oddly filled with hope and whimsy. The story reveals the lives of three lead characters, with very different backgrounds and stories. At first, I couldn't determine what the three had in common or why they were even in the same novel.


Chase is the example of the basic and simple side of all people--focused and wanting what only makes sense to want. His simpleness is the whimsy in the story (Why shouldn't things be the way he sees them?) Promise is looking for the one thing that her life as it is will never be able to give her. The one thing that her well-meaning and well-off parents can never give her. Promise's story is the hope. And Porta is the painful reality, the one who turns the beautiful into the ugly.

It's not an easy read, and you do have to pay attention to what's going on. It's haunting and painful, yet beautiful. It is, quite simply, lovely.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Thomas Nelson Publishers through the BookSneeze reader/reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Ninth Wife, by Amy Stolls

Thirty-five-year-old folklorist and amateur martial artist Bess Gray is a single woman living in Washington, D.C. who falls in love with Rory, a charming Irish musician with a secret.  When Rory asks her to marry him, Bess, who had nearly given up hope of marrying at all, is horrified to find that he has eight ex-wives.  She sets out on a cross-country journey with the intention, unbeknownst to Rory, of seeking them out. In alternating chapters, Rory ruminates about each of his ex-wives and how he became a serial spouse. 

Along for the ride are Bess's grandparents who've been married 65 years and fight constantly, her gay neighbor (himself an utter mystery), a Shar-Pei named Stella, and a mannequin named Peace.  Will Bess say yes to Rory?  Would a sane woman really consider becoming any man's ninth wife? 



Okay, I obviously picked this up thinking it was yet another fundamentalist Mormon book. It's not my background by any means, but it's an interesting culture to me. This story isn't about that.

It's a love story, yes. But a convoluted one. Rory has been married 8 times before meeting and ultimately proposing to Bess. 8 times. Who does that? And why is Bess supposed to not be rather obsessed and bothered by the notion of being some man's 9th wife when he will be only her 1st husband? 
I really like Bess, and can honestly see myself making very similar decisions in my life and once she learns about Rory's marital past. Rory's likeable, heck, loveable. But he's delusional about what good and right reasons are. Having valid reasons for a decision doesn't mean you have to follow through with the decision. 

This story doesn't catch you right away. But, once you get threw the first few chapters, the story is interesting and you are driven to find out Bess's ultimate decision. Keep up and pay attention, as you flit between Rory's back story and his and Bess's reality.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Harper Paperbacks (HarperCollins) through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 9, 2011

Phantom Evil, by Heather Graham

From the back of the book:
A secret government unit is formed under the oversight of Adam Harrison, famed paranormal investigator. The six members he's gathered know a little of the otherworldly—each has honed a psychic talent of their own.
 Jackson Crow, part English, part Cheyenne, heads the group. Haunted by his experience with an ancestral ghost who saved his life as a child, and the recent murders of two previous teammates, Jackson can't tell if Adam's demoted him or given him an extraordinary opportunity. Despite his link to the realm of spirits, he's well aware that the living commit the most heinous crimes, with spiritualist charlatans existing merely to fool and seduce the unwary.
 To counterbalance Jackson's careful skepticism, Adam Harrison has paired him with Angela Hawkins, a young woman who learned the painful lesson of loss at an early age. A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition in Virginia, she already has her hands full. But Adam's call to New Orleans is strong.
 The case: In a historic mansion in New Orleans' French Quarter, a senator's wife falls to her death from a balcony. Most think she jumped, distraught over the loss of her young son. Some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits that inhabit the house—once the site of a serial killer's grisly work.


Whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion, greed and desire will cast the pair into danger of losing their lives…and their immortal souls.

My personal "fluff" reading is paranormal fiction. So, to be able to pick this up in pre-publication was a win for me.

The story is interesting and the lead characters (Jackson Crow and Angela Hawkins) are well-developed. It's rare that I find enough believable backstory to bring a character to life. Graham, once again, delivers that wonderful character development I know her for.

The story is well-done. Graham does more than just randomly set her story in New Orleans, she includes New Orleans in the story. There's so much to draw from in New Orleans for paranormal/supernatural stories, but she also does a little history work. Overall, the story is good.

However, some of the character stuff bothers me. There's 6 on the team, and 3 involved in the case. That's 9 primary/secondary characters that are through out the story. A bit busy. Also, the romance between Crow and Hawkins. While it's believable that there would be some attraction, it all moves much too quickly. Much, much too quickly.

Overall, it's a good story, I just wouldn't give it 4 or 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Harlequin through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Raising the Dead, by Mara Purnhage (bridge book in the After Midnight series)



As the daughter of the famous Silver Spirits paranormal investigators, Charlotte Silver is used to all things weird. But when coffins start floating down her street during a flood, life turns extra strange. And wonderful, when her friend and crush Noah signs on to help Charlotte and her folks in the aftermath. Cemetery cleanup might not sound exciting, but as shocking discoveries and a lurking stranger come to light, Charlotte learns that sometimes, raising the dead can bring unexpected rewards.


As high school lives go, Charlotte's is anything but normal. It's hard to be with parents like hers.

Another good one from Purnhagen. While the paranormal aspect is certainly present, this novella is heavier on the teenage love and general craziness of growing up.  Charlotte's focus is torn between either making sure Noah knows she's interested, to trying to pretend she's not (because he certainly isn't), to trying to help William with the mystery of the family burial grounds behind his house. Any one of those would wear a girl out!

It's nice to have a little extra in this series. You can tell between book one and book two that there are a few months missing, so it's nice to catch up with the characters. The paranormal story in Raising the Dead is just as intense as that in the other After Midnight books.  There's a distinctly evil feel this time, what with the mystery, and events in the story.

As I've come to expect, the writing is approachable and easy to get caught up in. It's escapist, with a creepy, scary side. Just the way I like it!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This book is part of the library collection for the school library I work in. I was not solicited to write a review, nor am I receiving any compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Past Midnight, by Mara Purnhagen (Book One in the After Midnight Series)



Let me set the record straight. My name is Charlotte Silver and I'm not one of those paranormal-obsessed freaks you see on TV…no, those would be my parents, who have their own ghost-hunting reality show. And while I'm usually roped into the behind-the-scenes work, it turns out that I haven't gone unnoticed. Something happened on my parents' research trip in Charleston—and now I'm being stalked by some truly frightening other beings.

Trying to fit into a new school and keeping my parents' creepy occupation a secret from my friends—and potential boyfriends—is hard enough without having angry spirits whispering in my ear.

All I ever wanted was to be normal, but with ghosts of my past and present colliding, now I just want to make it out of high school alive….


(From the back of the book)
 
Charlotte's always been a partial member of the family paranormal research team. She's not the "sensitive" daughter, like her older sister, able to tell before the investigation begins that they'll be successful. She's sound crew. But that all changes while visiting and investigating in her sister's college town, Charleston.
 
Paranormal fiction can be really well done or it can be cheesy as all get out--in my opinion there is no gray area. Purnhagen does it well, because the After Midnight series isn't just a paranormal series. She includes a secondary focus on Charlotte just being a high school student, dealing with the usual angsty things as well as coming in to her own as a young adult in high school.

The characters are approachable, believable. You've got the down to earth ones, the slightly nerdy guy, and that one girl driven to succeed, even if it means stepping on the ones trying to help her. The only bit that just doesn't work well for me is that Charlotte's friends seem rather unphased by her sudden "outing" as the daughter of the famous ghost hunters. With just a minor bauble, they seem to take it in stride. I'd expect a little more, I don't know...teenage behavior.


Regardless, it's a good read. Believable for the most part, and page turning for those who love a good "ghost story."

Purnhagen, Mara. Past Midnight. HarlequinTEEN. September, 2010.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This book is part of the library collection for the school library I work in. I was not solicited to write a review, nor am I receiving any compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”







The LightKeeper's Ball, by Colleen Coble

From the publisher's site:

At the elegant Mercy Falls masquerade ball, Olivia's hidden identity will be revealed.

It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred—those considered the wealthiest and most distinquished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon the Stewart daughters' marrying well.
 Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died. Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiancé. Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage. There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident. And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be.
 When Mercy Falls holds a charity masquerade ball to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets—and truths long hidden—will be revealed. But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity? Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing—not money, family, or romance—will ever compare to God's unconditional love?

Olivia's lost her sister, but the circumstances just do not make any sense. Despite family members and friends telling her ot let things alone, Olivia just isn't satisfied with a pat answer. Particularly when she receives a letter her sister wrote before her death. And now, Olivia's life is in danger.
 
Light, easy read with plenty intrigue and simple romance. I really don't read a lot of traditional religious fiction, though I do enjoy the thoughtful and well-written piece. But The Lightkeeper's Ball, with some religious undertones, (note, I said "under" not "over") is just a good story. It doesn't move overly quickly, but doesn't draaaaaaag you into boredom either.
 
Olivia is, simply put, believable. You can't help but love her for "bucking" the trend of the typical turn of the century young woman, who was married off for possible societal and often financial connections rather than love. Coble has created a town--Mercy Falls--that is filled with people that you want to know and support. You cheer for the good guy and are heartbroken when tragedy befalls someone. All in all, Mercy Falls is a likeable place to visit and escape to for a while.
 
The Lightkeeper's Ball isn't a challenging read. It is escapist, but the message cannot be missed. Ultimately, in order to be true to yourself, you must be real with God. Everything else will fall into place.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Thomas Nelson Publishers through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Coming soon....

Watch this space (or well...this page. *grin*). Reviews for the following titles are on their way!





Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jane Austen: a Life Revealed, by Catherine Reef

Jane Austen's popularity never seems to fade. She has hordes of devoted fans, and there have been numerous adaptations of her life and work. But who was Jane Austen? The writer herself has long remained a mystery. And despite the resonance her work continues to have for teens, there has never been a young adult trade biography on Austen.


Catherine Reef changes that with this highly readable account. She takes an intimate peek at Austen's life and innermost feelings, interweaving her narrative with well-crafted digests of each of Austen's published novels. The end result is a book that is almost as much fun to read as Jane's own work—and truly a life revealed. Includes bibliography and index.
(from the marketing material)



I'm a fan of Jane Austen's work, but really don't know much about her beyond the fact that she stayed single all her life and died fairly young. There isn't a lot of primary source information about her available, because after she died her family destroyed most personal letters and doesn't seem to have agreed on too many things about her.

Regardless, this book reads more like a novelization of her life than a traditional biography. It's a comfortable read (because calling it an "easy" read doesn't do it justice). The book follows Jane's life, from birth to her death. Reef shares not only information about Jane's particular story, but also about members of her family, with whom she was very close. Each of her novels is summarized during the telling of the story, which seems a bit tedious at times for a biography. However, you soon realize that each novel is part of Jane's story. Her characters developed as grew older and experienced life.

Reef's book provides an approachable look at an author who can seem rather daunting to a young adult. I mean, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice aren't exactly light reading for today's high school student. It's a wonderful read, and adds to the understanding of not only who Jane Austen is, but how much her daily life influenced her writing.

Reef, Catherine. Jane Austen: a life revealed. Clarion Books. April, 2011.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Hougton Mifflin Harcourt/Clarion Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




One Hundred Candles, by Mara Purnhagen (Book 2 in the After Midnight Series)

I’ve opened a door that cannot be closed.

It’s taken a long time for me to feel like a normal teenager. But now that I’m settled in a new school, where people know me as more than Charlotte Silver of the infamous Silver family paranormal investigators, it feels like everything is falling into place. And what better way to be normal than to go on a date with a popular football star like Harris Abbott? After all, it’s not as if Noah is anything more than a friend...

But my new life takes a disturbing turn when Harris brings me to a party and we play a game called One Hundred Candles. It seems like harmless, ghostly fun. Until spirits unleashed by the game start showing up at school. Now my friends and family are in very real danger, and the door that I’ve opened into another realm may yield deadly consequences.

As if being a high school student is hard enough...

Charlotte has lived with the paranormal all her life. Her parents are famous (infamous) for being paranormal researchers, but in the "Ghost Hunters" tradition of debunking the events rather than blind acceptance. Charlotte has almost always been involved in the family business, though only recently has she experienced some things for herself.

It seems that something has sought her out. Strange things are happening at school that seem to be recreating the stories told at the party that. Charlotte can explain away many of them, but there's just some things that no one has an answer for. To top it off, someone else has heard the same ghostly voice talking about pushing back a curtain.

Things are heating up. People are getting physically hurt, and what happens in a few months time really will change Charlotte's life, forever.

I'm a sucker for a good paranormal story that doesn't include glittery vampires or hunky werewolves. And the whole "debunking" aspect of this family appeals to me. Purnhagen's story is just good. She doesn't go for the unbelievable, and the fact that Charlotte is a bit skeptical about everything just makes everything that much more realistic.

With the growing interest in all things supernatural, this second book in the After Midnight series continues the story that's just fun..and captivating...and scarily believable. ;)

Purnhage, Mara. One Hundred Candles. Harlequin (Harlequin TEEN). February, 2011.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Harlequin TEEN through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

They say that the cure for love will make me happy and safe forever. And I’ve always believed them.

Until now.
 Now everything has changed. Now, I’d rather be infected with love for the tiniest sliver of a second than live a hundred years smothered by a lie.
(from the book jacket)

(From the front cover flap:)
Ninety-five days, and then I'll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It's hard to be patient. It's hard not to be afraid while I'm still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn't touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don't.


Imagine a world where the simple (and oh, so complex) emotion of love is outlawed. And not just outlawed, but eliminated. It's dystopian, to say the least.

The world, right down to the Bible, has been rewritten. "Uncured" boys and girls cannot mingle. The "cured" are told what life will bring, or at least the highpoints. Those who cannot conform are dead or imprisoned, or delivered to mental institutions.

Lena's marked--her mother couldn't conform. The time for her to be cured is fast-approaching, and though she's always been certain that the prescribed way is the way (if only to avoid being like her mother), suddenly she's not so sure.

Lauren Oliver has delivered a page-turner. Literally. It took me all of 4 hours to read this book because I couldn't put it down. I love Lena, her insecurity even when she is certain of the direction she should go. Her innocence and her passion when she realizes how things should really be, at least for her. This story has no slow moments, no time you wish things would pick up a bit. It's a coming of age-love and adventure story. The best part is that it's the first in a trilogy. The worst part is that I have to wait until next February to read the next installment. :(




Oliver, Lauren. Delirium. Harper Collins, February 2011.


Disclosure of Material Connection: This book is part of the library collection for the school library I work in. I was not solicited to write a review, nor am I receiving any compensation. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Origins, by Sean Hayden


Cover art from Echelon Press
 From the publisher's site

Ashlyn Thorn was born different. Born with all the characteristics of a vampire, she lives in a world where vampires, elves, and werewolves work, play, and die side by side with normal humans. But everyone knows vampires aren’t born, they’re made. The only thing she wants is to know her true origins.


Ashlyn’s quest to discover the truth of her differences is all that matters. But with every answer, she uncovers more uncertainties. To make things worse she has found herself an enemy of the most powerful vampires of the city who fear her powers are too dangerous to let go unchecked.

Salvation comes at the hands of the government, or does it, who trains her in the ways that best serve their purposes. Ashlyn is torn between two worlds. She can either be a monster, or she can help destroy the monsters.


Fun story (in the sense that it's a fun/quick read). Ashlyn is a walking dysfunction. She's sorta a vampire, she's not really a vampire. She's orphaned suddenly, after never having had anything interaction with the outside world--yet she somehow manages to be recruited by a government agency (that has lots of other "sups"--super humans--working for it).

The action picks up almost immediately, and runs through out the story. It's a page turner (well, would be if it was offered in print). Characters are likeable, but no one but Ashlyn is very well-developed. There's a few loose ends as you go that I would've liked tied up. The story development is just too neat and tidy, although it is a short-ish novel, so there's not a lot of room for messiness.

If I had to rate it out of 5, I'd give it a 3.


Hayden, Sean. Origins. Echelon Press, February, 2011. (eBook only)
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook free from Echelon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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