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Thursday, December 27, 2012

REVIEW: Splintered, by A.G. Howard

Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers-precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother's mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice's tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice's mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

What if Alice's story was true? IS true? What if...what we know is altogether a too....pretty version of her story?

Splintered uses the Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass stories and gives you a completely new and much, much darker story. It's not a continuation or retelling. It is most certainly all it's own.

Psychological problems run in Alyssa's family, all the way back to Alice (yes, that Alice). While trying to grow up as normally as possible when she bear the scars of the episode that put her mother in a psychiatric hospital, Alyssa has her own...issues. She hears voices, from bugs and flowers, all the time. And it only gets worse. Before long, she finds herself being pulled into Wonderland, only it's like no Wonderland she's ever heard of.

Howard's writing and character development is amazing. The are evil and demented, and oddly endearing in both their familiarity and their lack of it. (I'm thinking the White Rabbit in particular...creepy.) I've never been so infatuated with a dark story built around the pleasant one I love.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Abrams through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

REVIEW: Louder Than Words, by Laurie Plissner

Since the snowy night when her family's car slammed into a tree, killing her parents and little sister, Sasha has been unable to speak except through a computer with a robotic voice. Nothing is wrong with her body; that's healed. But, after four years, Sasha's memory, and her spirit, are still broken. Then one day, she's silently cussing out the heavy book she dropped at the library when a gorgeous, dark-haired boy, the kind of boy who considers Sasha a freak or at least invisible, "answers" Sasha's hidden thoughts -- out loud. Yes, Ben can read minds; it's no big deal. He's part of a family with a host of unusual, almost-but-not-quite-supernatural talents. 

Through Ben's love, Sasha makes greater progress than she has with a host of therapists and a prominent psychiatrist. With him to defend her, bullies keep the world from ever understanding Sasha, he pulls away. Determined to win him and prove her courage by facing her past, Sasha confronts her past -- only to learn that her family's death was no accident and that a similar fate may wait for her, in the unlikeliest of disguises.

I honestly can't imagine not being able to speak for myself, literally speak. Sasha, it seems to me, is doing remarkably well for such a horrible tragedy. Sure, she has only one friend, but she attends school, has a support system, and isn't in an institution or considered suicidal. Really, I think she's doing pretty well. Aside from that pesky mutism thing.

I liked the story okay, but it felt like it was just trying to be too many things, have too many elements. There's the mystery surrounding the car accident that killed her family, there's the mind-reading boyfriend, then the "push past the tragedy/heal myself." Two of those would've been great, all 3 was over the top. And Ben is too together, too mature/worldly, too unbelievable to make a good connection with the reader.

I like Alyssa's stubborness and I like that she overcomes her problems and finally achieves closure. It certainly shows that you can overcome crippling tragedy. 

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Merit Press through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's not all books around here.

I'm just proud of this particular project and felt everyone should see it. ;)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

REVIEW: Magisterium, by Jeff Hirsch

Published 2012

On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run---with only one place to go.

Weird book. Just weird.

But, gosh, I like 'em weird.

Okay, so there's the "real world" where Glenn lives. It's "normal," though definitely dystopian from what we would consider normal. Then there's "The Rift," very near her home, and forbidden. Something happened, years ago, causing a literal rift. And her world isn't allowed to be near the rift.

The people on the other side of the Rift never turned loose of magic or imagination. It's a darker side of our usual "fantastical" world idea, but it's more alive somehow than the world Glenn has grown up in.

Glenn and Kevin (her friend turned love interest) are amazing characters. So deep, interesting, vibrant--Hirsch has done a fabulous job of creating them. I'd almost think they were completely real people he just happened to write about. Their relationship-story is perfect: not instantaneous, but full of struggle then a natural shift from platonic to romantic.

The world of Magisterium (on the other side of the Rift) is one of the most real fantasy worlds I can think of. It's not Narnia (which I adore for it's very innocent nature, despite the evil that comes into it). Instead, Magisterium has politics, and danger (REAL danger!), and characters that you don't want to like not because they're a wicked queen, but because they are purely evil and bad.

I think Hirsch has hit the nail on the head with this one.  

What do you think??

Shop Indie BookstoresDisclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Enter Text Here through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sneak Peak: Pantomime by Laura Lam

Soo....I just finished reviewing Pantomime by Laura Lam. That review won't be up for you to read until February, but I do have sneak peak from the publisher, for you.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Enter Text Here through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

A Library is a Library is a Library....

Interesting infographic concerning the relationship between e-books and print books. 

Since ebooks have become so popular (when fiction started being digitized and e-readers became easily attainable), there's long been discussion among the people in the business of reading (teachers, librarians, publishers, etc.) about the future of the 2, and will one eliminate the other. has the infographic below to illustrate that there is no Darwin-like "survival of the fittest" battle going on here. Coexistence IS possible!

E-books Infographic

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Enter Text Here through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

REVIEW: Invisible, by Carla Buckley

Invisible: A Novel
Published 2012
Growing up, Dana Carlson and her older sister, Julie, are inseparable-Dana the impulsive one, Julie calmer and more nurturing. But then a devastating secret compels Dana to flee from home, not to see or speak to her sister for sixteen years.

When she receives the news that Julie is seriously ill, Dana knows that she must return to their hometown of Black Bear, Minnesota, to try and save her sister. Yet she arrives too late, only to discover that Black Bear has changed, and so have the people in it.

Julie has left behind a shattered teenage daughter, Peyton, and a mystery-what killed Julie may be killing others, too. Why is no one talking about it? Dana struggles to uncover the truth, but no one wants to hear it, including Peyton, who can't forgive her aunt's years-long absence. Dana had left to protect her own secrets, but Black Bear has a secret of its own-one that could tear apart Dana's life, her family, and the whole town.

This is NOT a young adult book--hence, the "Adult for YA" label.

Two voices tell this story. Dana, a long-estranged sister who returns home just in time to discover that her sister has died, and she didn't even know she was ill. And Peyton, a teenager trying desperately to determine who she is while grieving the loss of her mother. Dana's is the strong, independent voice of a woman with regrets and determined to fix what she can of them. Peyton's "story" is told through her love of marine biology. She relates every life lesson to marine animals and how the environment for them works. It's just how she thinks.

Each starts on a quest for answers to just what happened to Peyton's mom/Dana's sister, and what is happening to people all through town. While each is on her own journey for an answer, they soon discover that the road is the same. that's the "Jodi Picoult-like" part about the book. Just a good, heart-wrenching read. But there's also a little science fiction/mystery to the story. Nanotechnology is still relatively new to the general public, so to read about ways and places and THINGS it's used in was shocking and a little scary.

As far as the story goes, it's excellently done. You get attached to the characters and need to feel closure for them more than for yourself as a reader. Everything about it is believable, though it was hard to believe that this could really happen--in the "I don't want to believe it could" kind of way.

What do you think??

Shop Indie BookstoresDisclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Random House Publishing Group through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Friday, December 7, 2012

National Gallery of Art-Online Tours




National Gallery of Art--Online Tours

I found this site the other day when one of my Facebook friends shared a link to the NGA's Children's Tour called "Time Travel" It's an online version of an audio tour you can take when you visit the NGA in person. But, realistically, how many of our students will have that opportunity while in school? It's really fascinating to look at the images in the "Time Travel" tour and learn specifically about the painting.

The other tours aren't "videos," but they do address a specific artist, piece, or theme. Really pretty neat to learn more about some of the paintings I've only seen in books or on television. Anytime I can put art in front of my students, I try. Even the ones who fight me on it. :)


What do you think??

Thursday, December 6, 2012

REVIEW: iDrakula, by Bekka Black

Published 2010

18-year-old Jonathan Harker is diagnosed with a rare blood disorder after visiting a Romanian Count. His girlfriend Mina and a pre-med student named Van Helsing team up to investigate the source of the disease. The teenagers discover a horrifying truth: the Count is a vampire. The harrowing events unfold through emails, text messages, web pages, Twitter feeds, and instant messaging—the natural modernization of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, which was written in letters, diary entries, and news clippings.

Much like when I read iFrankenstein a few weeks ago, I wasn't prepared to like a modernized version of Bram Stoker's classic. I'm particular, meaning, I'd rather you didn't futz with classics. But, I forgive Bekka Black, she does a great job.

This isn't intended to be Stoker's Dracula. It's not a perfect retelling/remastering. This is its own story. Simply the style Black opted for--the "literature" of teens today, if you will--doesn't lend itself to the classic.

There's no drawn out colorful prose. It's all quick, meant for easy digestion, not deep contemplation. The characters are about as deep as a text message. You have to spend more time dissecting the words themselves, not the characters intentions or hidden meanings. What is written is what is meant.

I think this is a masterful application of modern communication, to share a personalized version of Dracula. Bekka Black has done an awesome job.

I'm ready for her to tackle Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, my personal favorite horror story.

What do you think??

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Disclosure of Material Connection: This ebook is from my personal collection. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

REVIEW: The Believing Game, by Eireann Corrigan

The Believing Game
Published 2012

A private academy. A cult leader. A girl caught in the middle.

After Greer Cannon discovers that shoplifting can be a sport and sex can be a superpower, her parents pack her up and send her off to McCracken Hill-a cloistered academy for troubled teens. At McCracken, Greer chafes under the elaborate systems and self-help lingo of therapeutic education. Then Greer meets Addison Bradley. A handsome, charismatic local, Addison seems almost as devoted to Greer as he is to the 12 steps. When he introduces Greer to his mentor Joshua, she finds herself captivated by the older man's calm wisdom. Finally, Greer feels understood.

But Greer starts to question: Where has Joshua come from? What does he want in return for his guidance? The more she digs, the more his lies are exposed. When Joshua's influence over Addison edges them all closer to danger, Greer decides to confront them both. Suddenly, she finds herself on the outside of Joshua's circle. And swiftly, she discovers it's not safe there.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Blurb Tour: Sykosa by Justin Ordonez

Author Justin Ordonez is GIVING away copies of his book Sykosa to 3--THREE--lucky commentors during this week's blog tour. Comment here, and comment on the other stops to catch as many chances to win as possible. Tour dates and stops can be found here. 

Sykosa, Part I: Junior Year
Published 2012
Sykosa (that's "sy"-as-in-"my" ko-sa) is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the life of her friends. This process is complicated by her best friend, Niko, a hyper-ambitious, type-A personality who has started to war with other girls for social supremacy of their school, a prestigious preparatory academy in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. To compensate, Sykosa has decided to fall in love with her new boyfriend, Tom, who was involved in the act of violence. Propelled by survivor guilt, an anxiety disorder, and her hunger for Tom and his charms, Sykosa attends a weekend-long, unchaperoned party at Niko's posh vacation cottage, where she will finally confront Niko on their friendship, her indecision about her friends and their involvement in the act of violence, and she will make the biggest decision of her life—whether or not she wants to lose her virginity to Tom. YA fiction for the 18+ crowd.


Everything is too complicated. It should not have to be. She goes behind the chapel. He goes behind the chapel. They make out. Simple, right? It’s not. Regardless, if even that must be complicated, then certainly 

the concept that she wants to go to Prom, thus he should ask her to Prom and then they should go to Prom is simple, right? It’s not. You see, he has this best friend, this confidante, this main focus, this everything—and her name is not Sykosa, but Mackenzie.

Or as you will soon find out: “M.” That’s what he calls her.

So, every day, she faces the fact that they are merely acquaintances. Two pigeons in a flock of nine 
hundred who dress the same, talk the same, and act the same. That’s okay. Pigeons are only pigeons because conformity is only conformity. It’s okay to be like everyone else so long as she is always herself. 

And that is the reason, because there is no other reason, why she makes out with this boy. Other than she likes it. Kissing is fun. She’s lying. There is another reason. Another trivial teenage doodad—when she talks to him, lame as it sounds, she feels like she is being herself.

Sykosa is also available FREE for your Kindle at Amazon this week. WOOHOO!

What do you think??

Thursday, November 29, 2012

REVIEW: The Bar CodeTrilogy

Not my usual M.O., but I decided to review the entire trilogy, not just the recently released third book. I re-read the first 2 because I realized when I started book 3, that it had been far too long since I'd thought about Kayla's story.
Note: these books do not stand alone well. But, that's okay.

The Bar Code Tattoo
Originally published in 2004
 The bar code tattoo. Everybody's getting it. It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity.

But what if you say no? What if you don't want to become a code? For Kayla, this one choice changes everything. She becomes an outcast in her high school. Dangerous things happen to her family. There's no option but to run . . . for her life. Indivuality vs. conformity. . Identity vs. access. Freedom vs. control. The bar code tattoo.

Debut near-future dystopian novel. Interesting premise, not so awesome writing. It's most certainly not Weyn's best work, but it is what got her some attention. There really wasn't a huge amount in this genre at the time and she did well breaking in with something different.

I've read reviews that tell you the story is predictable. It's not. Well, it wasn't for when it was first published. is now, when dystopian YA fiction is all the rage. The characters are all a little weak, and yes, Weyn has some disjointed connections here and there. But the book isn't a lost cause.

The story doesn't wrap up neatly, which is a plus. You want some closure for Kayla and the love triangle she finds herself in while running from the government. pick up the second book.

Monday, November 26, 2012

10 Things Your YA Student Wants to Hear From You

I was reading an article the other day about things kids need to hear from their parents. Specifically, it was directed at parents of "tweens" and was really pretty interesting. (Read it here, if you're interested.) It got me to thinking about the students I work with. I've always called them "my kids--All 1800 of 'em a year." Some of the ideas from the article certainly apply to those kids, too.

So, I started an informal poll. I asked kids I know would give me a straight answer, so yes, it's probably a bit skewed, but I have managed to create a good working relationship with kids from all walks at our school. Some of them are things I would've easily answered. Some of them sparked more conversation and kind of opened my eyes.

  1. "How is your day going?" I heard this from one student, and it stuck with me. He stopped juuuuuuuust short of calling some of his teachers automatons--that just teach without ever really connecting.
  2. "Good job." This one sounds so obvious to me. SOOO obvious. But some of our kids, much like some adults, need to hear it regularly, not just when they do well on a test.
  3. "I had a hard time understanding this, too." It helps kids to know that YOU, the teacher, had a hard time learning how to solve quadratic equations or understanind the language in Beowulf. Not only are you infinitely more human when you admit that you know what they're feeling.
  4. "I promise, it does get better." This one isn't just one that kids today want to hear, I think a lot of formerly struggling high school students wanted to. Needed to. Sometimes they need to hear that the garbage they are going through right now doesn't last, and that life does get better.
  5. "You're smart." Another one that sounded so obvious to me. I get what this student meant, though. She wants to hear that she's smart, and have the statement have no relationship to her grades. 
  6. "I saw your name in the paper/heard it in the announcements/etc. That's awesome!" Provided what you heard is positive news, get them talking about life outside your classroom. It's called "being interested" in what they do.

Homework: What do you think? Tell me below. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sites to See, Nov 8

Two Hands-On Economics Lessons
There’s Captains of Industry, which is a simulation of the business practices of American businessmen in the late 19th century (Think Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.). The 2nd is Life on Minimum Wage is designed to show students how difficult it is to get ahead financially when your only job pays minimum wage and doesn’t offer benefits.

WeSeed Virtual Stock Market Game
The stock market game that we’d used for years stopped being free, but WeSeed appears to have stepped up. There’s a special educators site that shows you how to set up classes for competitions and has free lesson materials

The Smithsonian’s Seriously Amazing Just a fun site with some neat things. Just by clicking a trivia-style question, you can quickly find yourself lost in articles, videos, and pictures  from the Smithsonian magazine website (which is also an awesome website to explore).

Amusement Park Physics
A neat site you can easily use to explain some basic physics concepts. There are interactive games for experimenting with the way different forces interact. Kind of fun.

Spanish Language learning resources from the BBC
Lots of different resources, including games, online tutorials, and a 12-week interactive video drama (with teacher guide)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Something to check out...

Lizzie knows it isn’t right to eavesdrop, but is it really eavesdropping if her neighbor Maura makes all of her phone calls on her parents’ pool deck in easy earshot of Lizzie’s backyard? And of course it’s wrong to go snooping around on someone else’s computer, but is it Lizzie’s fault that Maura keeps her computer turned on (and logged in to Facebook) all the time?

Lizzie Richard’s father has moved the family around every few years to advance his career, so she has never had a chance to develop the kind of “BFF” relationships she thinks most kids have. She’s bracing herself for another lonely year at her third high school when her new neighbor Maura gets sick of watching her little brother when she could be partying. Thanks to Maura’s plotting, Lizzie becomes everyone’s new favorite babysitter. Seeing her opportunity, Lizzie breaks her strict parents’ rules and uses Maura’s computer to create a secret Email address and Facebook account. She is quickly friended by Missy, a fellow transfer student as eager for a friend as she is. Things are looking up for Lizzie until Maura’s ex-boyfriend Paul sets his eye on Missy. Caught between her new best friend and the neighbor whose friendship promises instant popularity, Lizzie doesn’t know what to do—because she’s fallen for Paul, too.

An Excerpt

I like the makeup better when I put it on myself. I apply it more lightly than they had, so it looks more natural. Try as I might, I’m not very handy at hairstyling, though. I can’t seem to tease the roots as Katherine instructed, and I have no luck with the up-dos they showed me. In the end, Katherine produces a small set of scissors and, while I hold my breath, trims some fringy bangs and layers, which we iron flat into a funky style. When we’re done, I don’t look like me, but I look sort of good. And good thing, too, because all the little pieces she cut are never going to fit into a ponytail.

“See,” Maura says. “That wasn’t so hard.”

“Maybe we should come raid your closet and see what we can do with that,” Katherine says, laughing smugly. She has gotten a little friendlier as the day has gone on. When I let her cut my hair, I think that sealed the deal. She is willing to at least consider extending friendship to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UnWholly, by Neal Shusterman

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

     Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

My gosh. This book was simply amazing. I knew it would be, (it's Shusterman--it will be.).

Set shortly after the end of Unwind (my review is here), UnWholly picks up Connor's story. Connor, our hero in Unwind, is now the leader of a rather large AWOL refugee camp, all of kids who are waiting to "age-out" of being unwound.

There are some new faces, and some new challenges. We found out some history, and we find out what some hope unwinding will become--and it's scary.

I loved Unwind because it hit the ground running and Shusterman took a new spin on a controversial topic (frankly, "unwinding" is just abortion, 13-17 years  after birth.). UnWholly, obviously, takes this vein further, but also brings up a "man as Creator" scenario. Wow, heady heady stuff.

I've loved this book. I love the characters and the way they think--and so distinctly think. Each is deeply developed. 

Word is, this may wind up being a trilogy (I hope so, I need to know what happens to Cam). I can't wait for it.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book for my personal collection. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Regine's Book, by Regine Stokke

Regine’s blog about living with Leukemia gained a huge following, and eventually became this book. She writes openly about emotional and physical aspects of her 15-month struggle to recover, and explains how her disease impacts her life. In the course of her illness, Regine has photography exhibits, goes to concerts, enjoys her friends & family, and advocates for registering as a blood and bone marrow donor. 

She was a typical teenager with an amazing will to live; and the lessons she learned have relevance for all of us. She died at home on December 3, 2009 with her family and cat by her side.

This is, easily, one of the toughest books I've ever read.

Regine faced life, rather the end of her life, with amazing poise and beauty. She wrote her thoughts, feelings, personality. She bared her soul, and didn't sugar coat. 

The text is translated from Norwegian, and while very well done, does have a few choppy bits. That could be the translation, that could be Regine. Regardless, it doesn't detract from the story and certainly not from the emotion.

Tough, tough book to read. I will not lie, I cried--sobbed--as I realized I was reaching the end. But I would class it a "must read."

Regine's blog can still be found online, here.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Zest 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.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. 

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. 

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Really good book. I'm the weirdo who wasn't so into The Shiver Trilogy. My students don't understand why I never latched on. They're good, just not me. The Raven Boys is me. It's a mystery with some paranormal mixed in, and a strong female who doesn't know how strong she is. My kind of book.

Blue is VERY quickly caught up in something much bigger than she expected, and it all started when a mysterious "half-aunt" shows up for an extended visit. And that's chapter 1.

I like Stiefvater's writing in this book. The characters are well--developed, and likeable (even the jerk), or not likeable when necessary (even the best guy in the group). They aren't over-written or over-played. It's a slow start, but you need that to get all the back story and get attached to the characters. When it picks up speed, the story doesn't disappoint and definitely surprises.

Another trilogy, it appears. I'm looking forward to it.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Scholastic Press through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Endangered, by Eliot Schrefer

The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sancuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Sophie is half Congolese and half Italian-American. After spending time in the States with her father after her parents divorce, she is "home" in the Congo to visit her mother for the summer.

Sophie's mother started and runs a sanctuary and habitat for bonobos, which are considered little more than a food source by most in the Congo. She has to play by some very strict rules (both the government's and her own) in order to protect the animals she helps. So, Sophie buying one from a street merchant on her way from the airport to the sanctuary causes more trouble than good. There's nothing to be done now, the infant bonobo needs help, and it's up to Sophie to take care of him.

When revolution breaks out, no one is safe, especially a young girl from the "wrong" tribe AND half American and carrying a young bonobo. But Sophie is committed to saving Otto.

I read this book thinking it was non-fiction, then realized at the end that it's not. (The author is male. That should've been a clue.) But it reads that way, which is why even boys will read it.

It's a survival and acceptance story. Sophie is gritty and surprisingly mature for someone about to enter high school. I do wish there was some more research, specifically more about the Congo, its culture, and its political climate. Admittedly, though, Schrefer tells us that the story is the Sophie/Otto story, not the Congo.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Scholastic, Inc. through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

iFrankenstein, by Bekka Black

Homeschooled teenager Victor Frankenstein is determined to write his own ticket to independence: a chatbot to win the prestigious Turing prize and admission to the high tech university of his choice. He codes his creation with a self-extending version of his own online personality and unleashes it upon the internet. But soon he begins to suspect his virtual clone may have developed its own goals, and they are not aligned with Victor’s. The creature has its own plan, fed by a growing desire to win darker and more precious prizes: unfettered power and release from loneliness.

As the creature’s power and sentience grows and its increasingly terrible deeds bleed over from the online world into the real one, Victor must stop his creation before his friends and humanity pay the ultimate price.

Using only text messages, web browsers, tweets, and emails, Bekka Black tells an awesome story. 

The "monster" isn't pieced together from recycled (read "stolen") body parts, but from "recycled" awareness and conversations. While the world is clamoring for artificial "intelligence" that evolves it's own thought processes, I think we all fear that the computer is going to go a little "HAL9000" on us. Black's monster is creepy, super creepy, and not too far removed from what is currently possible with technology. 

It helps if you have even a little prior knowledge about the original story line, so that you grasp the monster concept and catch how masterfully he's been brought into the 21st century. I have secretly been glad that I haven't found a re-mastered Frankenstein that does Mary Shelley's justice. That being said, I think Black appropriately brings Shelley's idea to modern life very well. I could easily see comparing the 2 pieces in order to demonstrate that literature themes are timeless. And Black's done a nice job of mirroring the horror/sci-fi mix from Shelley's novel.

It's a highly unconventional mode (format?) for storytelling, but it's what our YAs know. And while I was a little afraid it would be choppy and difficult to follow, it wasn't at all. Highly readable, and frankly--these are brainy kids who don't use text-speak, so that helps. They text the way us English majors do, with correct spellings and punctuation.

It's captivating...I read it (twice) in one sitting. That second time was because I thought I'd missed some foreshadowing of the end (I didn''s just that darn creepy.)

I realize the HAL9000 reference is one my younger readers may not get---come talk to me, it's time you met Arthur C. Clarke.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book as an ARC from JKSCommunications in connection with their hosted blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Introducing.....Bekka Black

Tomorrow, I'll be reviewing a new monster book..iFrankenstein, by Bekka Black.

As a teaser, Bekka graciously agreed to share her favorite monster stories with you...enjoy!
Happy Halloween! It’s past time to toddle off to the library or the video store,or virtually toddle with your Kindle and Netflix, and collect those stories that will keep you awake Halloween night and long after. To help you in your quest, here are my top 10 favorite monster books and movies.
1.     Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This one has been my obsession for the past year while I worked on iFrankenstein. What do you do when you create a monster? I think that’s something every writer worries about, even if it’s just a book that might go off the rails and smash its way into the world.
2.     Dracula by Bram Stoker. This was my obsession while I was working on iDrakula. How do you deal with an ancient evil in modern times? Are we any more able to deal with being prey now than we ever were?
3.     We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. A beautiful tale, chillingly told. From the moment Merricat starts to tell the story of her murdered family, you can’t look away.
4.     The Shining by Stephen King. I read this tale of a haunted hotel and a writer father who slowly goes mad while I was working cleaning motel rooms in a remote, wooded Alaskan town. I didn’t sleep the entire summer. Terrifying images.
5.     The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. She finds the beautiful conscience inside the monstrous vampire. Lestat knows what he does, but it doesn’t change who he is or the terrible acts that he is driven to perform. Lush, wonderful writing too.
6.     Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. I was scared when I read it, but the movie was even scarier because I lived in Pittsburgh at the time, and some of the scariest scenes were filmed there. There’s no getting out of the city without going through a tunnel, usually the tunnel where Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter escapes.
7.     Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. The fact that it’s true made this one a terrifying read. Realizing what real horror can break into an everyday world enthralled me and scared me in equal measure.
8.     Lovely Bones by Alice Seybold. The teenager girl whose life is stolen from her and the lyrical writing both frightened me and broke my heart. I read the book almost in one sitting; I still have not worked up the courage to see the film.
9.     Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. The idea that we all have a monster inside of us, and it only takes a moment to set it free scared me as a teenager. What does your monster look like?
10.  The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Great writing and a bleak time and place in history left this one sitting in my brain long after I closed the book.

~Bekka Black

After a childhood often spent without electricy and running water, Bekka escaped the beautiful wilderness of Talkeetna, Alaska for indoor plumbing and 24/7 electricity in Berlin, Germany. Used to the cushy lifestyle, she discovered the Internet in college and has been wasting time on it ever since (when not frittering away her time on her iPhone). Somehow, she manages to write novels, including the award-winning Hannah Vogel mystery series set, in all places, 1930s Berlin, and The Blood Gospel series (with James Rollins).

She lives in Berlin with her husband, son, two cats, and too many geckoes to count. iDrakula is her first cell phone novel.


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