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Friday, November 15, 2013

Sometimes...

I love the author Matt de la Pena (and right now I'm hating that I can't remember how to put the little squiggle over the 'n' in his name). 

He speaks to my harshest kids in his writing so many times. I've really had kids say "Miss, he knows me." Because, he does.

Read his NPR piece here. You won't be sorry.

Sometimes the "Tough Teen" is Quietly Writing Stories

What do you think??


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sites to See--November 11

Kahoot  https://getkahoot.com
A new service for delivering online quizzes and surveys to your students. On any device that has a web browser (and I’d say 90% of their phones do), your students can respond to quizzes or surveys that you create and show on your presentation station. Sure, this sounds like other tools we’ve looked at, but the big difference here is that it Kahoot sets it up as a competition with students earning points for correct answers and how quickly the enter the correct answer. There’s a lot of research that shows that a game-based approach helps cement learning.

Creating & Sharing Google Calendars http://goo.gl/sFjyv1
Google calendars are super easy to use and share. AND a great way to make a calendar available on your school webpage or allow parents and students to see what things are coming up on the horizon. This tutorial will show you how to create one, and share it online.

Resources related to JFK and the 50th anniversary of his deathJohn F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum http://jfklibrary.org
Several lessons are available, about things specific to JFK’s presidency, as well as some newly digitized materials. Also, this library houses the largest Hemingway archive, with a media gallery.Infotopia’s JFK Assassination Resources http://www.infotopia.info/kennedy_assassination.html
Lots of different things, including documents from the police and public records, PBS, and Jim Lehrer’s memories courtesy of the Dallas News.

I can probably name the teachers who would most enjoy this site. MindCipher is a social brain teaser/logic puzzle/mental challenge collection. Use these to fill a few minutes at the end of class to keep the kids thinking, even if it’s not about your subject area.

Writing Prompts http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/
While this is called “Writing Prompts,” lots of them could be used to spark discussion about things that maybe aren’t all that important, but get our kids thinking in different ways.


What do you think??



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

REVIEW: The Caged Graves, by Dianne K. Salerni

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17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.



I'm a sucker for good historical fiction, and this is GOOD historical fiction. It's...atmospheric, in that it pulls you in to the setting because of the many layers to the story and the characters. It's hard to step away from and come back to "reality." The characters are well-defined and the relationships (even the love triangle) are so easily written that nothing doesn't make sense or work perfectly.

The historical side is important but not the entire driving force and not overly done. The paranormal side is important, but again...not the entire driving force (and not overly done). There's enough in the story to keep you enthralled and wanting more. The love triangle, while it added to the story, was a bit typical YA for me, but it worked for Verity.

It's not too too much any one genre or aspect to turn off the average reader (meaning, the ones who don't want any one specific genre). 

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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

REVIEW: 17 & Gone, by Nova Ren Suma

Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common—they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these waking nightmares, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? And . . . is she next? As Lauren searches for clues, everything begins to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth emerges, changing everything. 

This was a really interesting tale. I love the premise--missing 17 year olds making a connection with a soon-to-be 17 year old. 

It's really pretty spellbinding. I made quick work of reading this one because I was so caught up in it. THIS is what a first person point of view should read like---so incredibly "in the head" of the narrator that you forget yourself for a bit. The atmosphere in the story is amazing...so dark, creepy, and thrilling. 

Lauren is completely obsessed with these teen girls, and what it means that they're contacting her. Nothing in the story was so far-fetched that I couldn't believe that it was happening, or (at the very least) that Lauren thought it was. I still don't know if she was truly experiencing the "ghosts" or if she was working through some psychological issues. This partially comes from Lauren reading as a completely empty "shell" unless one of these girls reaches out to her.

Amazing story and a great read.

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, October 29, 2013

REVIEW: Divergent, by Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

I have to tell you, I'm pretty surprised by the massive number of low ratings on Amazon. So many seem to be stuck on the ending--get over it. It had to happen. (In fact, Roth addresses this in her blog post from Monday, Oct. 28th. WARNING: There are spoilers.)

This time, the story is told from two perspectives, Tris's and Tobias's (a.k.a. Four). It was interesting to get a feel for what someone else was thinking and feeling in this story, even if I do have to admit that I had to stop and double-check WHO was speaking a couple of times. The delineation of the voices could have been a bit better. 

The characters have teenage reactions and emotions because...gasp!..they're teenagers. Even if they're living in a vastly different world/society and have behaved in very adult ways...they're still kids. ANd it's okay. 

Roth wrapped up her story line quite well. I enjoyed the struggles and growing that went on as Tris and her friends not only made decisions about leaving their city, but also worked to figure out the world outside the wall and their places in it. Or not in it, as the case might be. We had closure even if it wasn't closure we were happy with, but closure doesn't have to be sunshine and daisies, you know? I've read several reviews blasting the ending for not offering any hope. But, that's just silly. There IS hope, a deeper meaning than easy to see hope. You have to pick apart relationships and actions, but it IS there. YA readers can see it....and that's really what matters.

All in all...I'm sorry to see this trilogy end. I'm attached to these characters, and who couldn't be? I can't wait to see what Veronica Roth does next.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself. I was neither asked nor required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

REVIEW: Backward Glass, by David Lomax

Crack your head, knock you dead, then Prince Harming's hunger's fed.
It's 1977, and Kenny Maxwell is dreading the move away from his friends. But then, behind the walls of his family's new falling-apart Victorian home, he finds something incredible—a mummified baby and a note: "Help me make it not happen, Kenny. Help me stop him."
Shortly afterwards, a beautiful girl named Luka shows up. She introduces Kenny to the backward glass, a mirror that allows them to travel through time. Meeting other "mirror kids" in the past and future is exciting, but there's also danger. The urban legend of Prince Harming, who kidnaps and kills children, is true—and he's hunting them. When Kenny gets stranded in the past, he must find the courage to answer a call for help, change the fate of a baby—and confront his own destiny.

Seven Rules that must be followed...and a letter begging Kenny to help save the baby. But there's a mummified baby in the wall..wait..what?

This one hits the ground running and is an amazingly unique story. I've never read anything that feels like this one. And I would never have imagined this was a debut novel, if I hadn't read that it is! Each of the characters are real--tangible to an extent. They are amazingly mature and handle time-traveling mirrors and all of the craziness that goes with them in a much more adult manner than I probably would. The story itself is a deep read--you can't skim this and do the book (or Lomax..or yourself) justice. Pay attention, get lost in it, and enjoy being lost.

There's a mystery, time travel, teenage angst, and the need for an unlikely hero. Kenny makes mistakes, is a little too good for his own good, and still manages to be an awesome protagonist (despite my description.)

What do you think??


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Flux 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.

Monday, September 23, 2013

REVIEW: Stained, by Cheryl Rainfield





Sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for "normal." Born with a port wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.

I may have mentioned once or twice that I love Cheryl Rainfield's books (Parallel Visions and Scars). I just think she's a phenomenal author, who isn't getting enough recognition in the mainstream YA market. 

But that's okay. She's as she will tell you, writing the books that she needed as a teen and couldn't find. Probably because no one was willing to be that blunt and honest, and well...real...about really tough topics.

This is the story of Sarah, told from both her and her friend Nick's point of view. Sarah isn't popular. She is, unfortunately, the subject of ridicule because of a large port win stain on her face. She's supposed to start treatments to lighten it significantly, but that's not going to happen now.

Nick's been in love with Sarah for years, yet Sarah has never seen it (really, who could love her the way she is and besides...it's Nick.). Nick turns out to be not only Sarah's rock, but a strong support for her family while she is missing.

When she's abducted, Sarah becomes the strongest teenager I've read about in any work of fiction. She is starved, raped, tortured (mentally and psychologically), and left to save herself...because her abductor is the last person any one would suspect. She, very literally, must become her own hero. And she does it beautifully.

Cheryl takes characters and drops them in situations that it would be so much easier to give in to, to give up in. In a very real, and amazing way, they flourish instead. They blossom into being not only more than we could expect, but more than they ever imagined they could be--because the alternative is unmentionable.

This book is a "thriller" and intense read. I read it in a sitting (much to my puppy dogs' chagrin since I ignored them) and was haunted for several days. In the end, there is hope and inspiration--just like I imagine we could easily take from Cheryl Rainfield's life story.

****BY THE WAY--This post is part of a blog tour, check out what others have to say about Stained .

ALSO...I've got a GIVE AWAY!  If you comment here, you'll get eBooks of Cheryl's books  Hunted, Parallel Visions, and Scars.  If you share or tweet this post, I'll throw your name in the hat an additional time--just mention it with a link in your comment.


What do you think??


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book 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.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

REVIEW: Twigs, by Alison Ashley Formento


One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.

They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her: Dad’s an absentee drunk; Mom’s obsessed with her new deaf boyfriend (and Twigs can’t tell what they’re saying to each other). Little sister Marlee is trying to date her way through the entire high school; Twigs’ true love may be a long-distance loser after a single week away at college, and suddenly, older brother Matt is missing in Iraq. It all comes together when a couple of thugs in a drugstore aisle lash out, and Twigs must fight to save the life of the father who denied her.
Another case of "I want to like this character, but..." There's just not enough to her to take me all the way there.
Twigs is incredibly immature, yet trying so hard to be seen as an adult. She's just not mature-acting enough to make be believe she's 18 years old.
I also just had problems with the story line. Honestly, I felt like Formento had about 6 too many problems for this one girl to deal with. There's the boyfriend, the bullies coming into the store, the brother missing in the Middle East, the failing at community college during the first week, the dad-drama, the difficult mom, the know it all sister, and then the random woman she meets who's going crazy in the midst of her divorce. UGH...pick one or 2....you don't have to use EVERY idea you have.
Yet, even with a million things going on, it felt like it took for-ev-er for anything to happen. 
I will say this...Formento is dead on with some of her descriptions. I could SEE the people, I could FEEL the environment. 
It just wasn't believable or even a good story line. With too many things happening and a main character I'm not sure anyone (even Coop--the new love interest) could like in real life.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from F+W/Adams Media (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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bookmans Does Banned Books


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, September 3, 2013

REVIEW: Believe, by Sarah Aronson

When Janine Collins was six years old, she was the only survivor of a suicide bombing that killed her parents and dozens of others. Media coverage instantly turned her into a symbol of hope, peace, faith—of whatever anyone wanted her to be. Now, on the ten-year anniversary of the bombing, reporters are camped outside her house, eager to revisit the story of the "Soul Survivor." 

Janine doesn't want the fame—or the pressure—of being a walking miracle. But the news cycle isn't the only thing standing between her and a normal life. Everyone wants something from her, expects something of her. Even her closest friends are urging her to use her name-recognition for a "worthy cause." But that's nothing compared to the hopes of Dave Armstrong—the man who, a decade ago, pulled Janine from the rubble. Now he's a religious leader whose followers believe Janine has healing powers. 

The scariest part? They might be right. 

If she's the Soul Survivor, what does she owe the people who believe in her? If she's not the Soul Survivor, who is she?

I really felt for Janice in the beginning of this story. She really wants to believe she is nobody special. It was just chance, ironic and unbelievable chance, that she was the only survivor of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. She just wants as normal a life as she possibly can have after that experience. But the world won't let her. (Soapbox, people who survive under insurmountable odds don't suddenly belong to the rest of us simply because their stories are miraculous and amazing. They're still people, not world-wide possessions.)

I think I snagged this book largely for the "faith healing" aspect that runs through it, and because I came across the ARC after the Boston Marathon events. Janine, while she knows she doesn't want to be famous, doesn't really know what she wants out of her life. She's learning the painful lessons about which friends to trust and believe in and that sheer "want to" isn't a substitute for passion and talent. 

Honestly, I didn't like Janine. She seemed to be more self-centered than many teenagers that I know (and that says a lot, because they're nearly all self-centered as teenagers). She had some redeeming qualities, but not enough for me to care a whole lot about her. She came across as whiney and demanding, but not even really knowing what she was demanding. Just an odd mix.

I also felt like the book began well, but didn't live up to it's beginning. It started to drag, and I had the uncomfortable feeling that it wouldn't resolve and leave me feeling good about it. And it didn't.

One last nit-picky thing. Why is she the "soul" survivor? A lone survivor would be the "sole" survivor. Is there a reason that the pretty un-religious girl is designated in this way? Aronson never tells us.

What do you think??

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

REVIEW: Shallow Pond, by Alissa Grosso

Shallow Pond

Barbara “Babie” Bunting is constantly mistaken for her sisters, but she’s determined not to end up like her family. She doesn’t plan to stick around Shallow Pond after graduation, and she certainly won’t be ruined by a broken heart. That is, until fellow orphan Zach Faraday walks into the picture, and Babie can’t deny their chemistry.


When her oldest sister, Annie, comes down with a mysterious illness—initially dismissed as “love sickness”—Babie and Zach start investigating what exactly killed the girls’ mother and why their late father became so consumed by grief. What they find changes everything.

Really neat premise. I really wasn't expecting the family secret that was delivered. The story line is unique, and really not like anything I've read in the YA realm before. It should attract readers of multiple genres.
The characters, especially the sisters, are so well-defined. A reader can, easily and without much effort, identify emotions and visualize how  a character would appear in different situations (Annie is particularly good for this.).
Relationships are well-defined and have just enough of both the angst of the teenage years, and the more adult connections. The only thing I really felt was improbable was how Babie's interaction with the man she assumed was her father. It was ultimately too neatly wrapped up and put away.
It's really a good story, and left a bit of cliffhanger, making me suspect there's a sequel to come. The writing is approachable, but not too simple or over the average reader's head.

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.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

REVIEW: The Bane, by Keary Taylor (The Eden Trilogy #1)

Before the Evolution there was TorBane: technology that infused human DNA with cybernetic matter.  It had the ability to grow new organs and limbs, to heal the world.  Until it
evolved out of control and spread like the common cold.  The machine took over, the soul vanished, and the Bane were born.  The Bane won't stop until every last person
has been infected. With less than two percent of the human population left, mankind is on the brink of extinction.
Eve knows the stories 
of the Evolution, the time before she wandered into the colony of Eden, unable 
to recall anything but her name.  But she doesn't need memories 
to know this world is her reality.  This is a world that is quickly losing 
its humanity, one Bane at a time.
Fighting to keep one 
of the last remaining human colonies alive, Eve finds herself torn between her 
dedication to the colony, and the discovery of love.  There is Avian and 
West – one a soldier, one a keeper of secrets.  And in the end, Eve will make
a choice that will change the future of mankind.

Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic world that feels a bit like the world in Terminator Salvation? With a strong female main character? Okay...sign me up! The Bane started in an intense moment, and stayed in that feeling through-out. The reasons and situations change, but the intensity held through out.

Eve is amazing. Strong, hard-headed, driven, and despite all she's ever thought before, human (ok, and part robot). Incredibly unique character. Very blunt and emotionless, which can rub a person wrong, but it works so well within the story.

I really enjoyed Taylor's descriptions of the scenes and specific settings. Not over the top, but the very clear details and images depicted put you into the story, rather than sitting outside looking in. I can imagine quite a lot of thought went into how each scene not only played into the bigger story, but into each character's story as well. 

There is, of course, a love triangle, but it resolves itself neatly, though literally, in the end. Rather than distract from this story or even Eve, it helped me to identify with her. After all, she is a teenager. 

Dialogue now and again seemed a bit stiff. Unfortunately, so much of the dialogue is more natural that the stiff bits were obvious. But once you get past them, you get your rhythm back and keep going.

The second book in the trilogy, The Human, was published in early June this year.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Keary Taylor 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.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

REVIEW: Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick

Inner beauty wants out.   When eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s mother dies, she’s summoned from her Missouri trailer park to meet Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer. He makes her an impossible offer: He’ll create three dresses to transform Becky from a nothing special girl into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.   

Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.   

Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue, the new Hollywood darling, and dating celebrities. Then Becky meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca to see the real girl inside. And Becky knows there’s not enough magic in the world. 

Who wouldn't want to live a fairy tale? Especially after living in a run-down trailer and with the mother who is, unfortunately, the object of the town's pity? Becky's life doesn't appear to be changing for the better (or the worse, thankfully) when her mother dies. She's still functioning paycheck to paycheck, though that might be changing.

Enter Tom Kelly....the world's most famous famous person, who has been in seclusion for 20 years while his name as THE foremost designer lives on. Tom can change Becky's life, if she'll let him and agrees to do whatever he says. So....why not? From here, she's on the fast track to fame and a dream life. But is it what she wants? 

Becky's a wonderful character--mature, but still uncertain. Shy, but learning (as Rebecca) to be confident and take hold of what she wants. Most importantly, she learns that being "the most beautiful girl in the world" isn't enough, and Becky is MORE than enough and much better.

Rudnick tells a modern-day fairy tale with skill, combining the "magic" with just a touch of the unbelievable perfectly. His characters are so well-crafted I walked way feeling as though I "knew" them personally. The Prince is the down-to-earth guy who happens to be Royal that you want him to be. Rocher (Becky's best friend) is what you expect of the small country town bumpkin, with the heart of gold, and a fierce loyalty to her friend--and sass like you wouldn't believe.

All in all, it's a modern-day, yet timeless, fairy tale that many will love.

**Note, there is some rather heavy language--4, 5, and even 12 letter words (largley from Rocher)--and some rather pointed sexual language (that's being polite--it's quite clear what's being said). I wouldn't pair this up with junior high or even my 9th or 10th graders. Older teens, would be the better bet.

What do you think??


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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

REVIEW: Frankenstein: A Life Beyond, by Pete Planisek

Ten years after the loss of his entire family to madness and death, Ernest Frankenstein finds himself compelled to return to the city of his birth, Geneva, in order to discover if his elder brother, Victor, might still be alive.  Only Victor can provide the answers to questions, which have long plagued Ernest.  The quest for answers will force Ernest to confront demons, both internal and external, from his past, which refuse to be at peace and which ultimately will endanger both he and his new family. Hunted across Europe their only hope may lie with a French spy, Ernest’s childhood friend, and a mysterious gypsy girl whose people believe that Ernest will lead humanity to its salvation or final destruction.

Frankenstein A Life Beyond by Pete Planisek is the first direct sequel to Mary Shelley’s iconic story, Frankenstein, which examined Victor Frankenstein’s quest to both create and kill an unnamed creature that ultimately destroys all but one member of the Frankenstein family, Victor’s brother, Ernest.  Frankenstein A Life Beyond explores many of the issues left open by the original, while establishing new characters and mysteries.


This is one of my favorite kinds of books--an Adult for YA novel. It's not written from YAs, it's written for adults, BUT because so many YAs are introduced to Shelley's Frankenstein in high school English classes, it's a great "what to read next" title.

This isn't a "re-write" it's a continuation of the story we already know. Where Mary Shelley leaves off, Planisek picks up, answering the what if questions. It's impressive, to say the least.

This book centers around Ernest, the last surviving Frankenstein (well, except for the monster). He has moved away and moved on, building a life as different from Victor's as possible. He has a family, a home, and the life he grew up in is...gone. Until...

The writing is wonderful. Planisek doesn't alter the original Frankenstein mythos and history. Instead, he weaves it into the story he needs to tell. It's not slow, it moves and draws the reader in, just like Shelley's work. The "flashbacks" are a bit long in some places, but gave a small break in the "present day" action.

The creature (the monster) receives the same treatment from Planisek as he did from Shelley...which can't have been easy. Honestly, reading this book is like reading the story Mary Shelley would've told--and it's wonderful.

This is book one of a trilogy...and I can't wait for the second installment.

What do you think??


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Enceladus Literary LLC 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, June 25, 2013

REVIEW: The Twisted Window, by Lois Duncan

The new guy at Tracy's school is handsome, intense, and desperately needs her help--but there's something about him that isn't quite right


High school junior Tracy Lloyd is unsure about the new guy in school. Brad Johnson is attractive, smart, and polite, but Tracy can't help but feel he watches her too closely. Then one day Brad confides in Tracy a horrible secret: His little sister Mindy has been kidnapped by his stepfather, and he needs Tracy's help to get her back. But even as Tracy commits to a plan to help her vulnerable new friend, details emerge that suggest nothing is what it seems.


(Re-release of the same title published in 1987, and again in 1991).

Took me back to my junior high years, reading Lois Duncan books. I'll grant I don't remember this one, but it was a still a bit of nostalgia trip for me.

That being said, while I still stand by my belief that Lois Duncan is an excellent YA writer, the story is a little dated. No one seems to have immediate and constant access to a computer, and they mention phone books several times (I can't even tell you the last time I had a phone book in my house). But then, there's a random mention of a cell phone (in the 80s? Unless your were Zack Morris, you didn't have one).

These days, this book would be good for a reluctant reader who doesn't get caught up in the dated phrases and technology lag. It was VERY predictable, but then, I'm a more mature reader. It'd be find for junior high or early high school.

What do you think??

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

REVIEW: Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death, by Bill Swan

At fourteen, Steve Truscott was a typical teenager in rural Ontario in the fifties, mainly concerned about going fishing, playing football, and racing bikes with his friends. One summer evening, his twelve-year-old classmate, Lynne Harper, asked for a lift to the nearby highway on his bicycle and Steve agreed. Unfortunately, that made Steve the last person known to see Lynne alive.

His world collapsed around him when he was arrested and then convicted of killing Lynne Harper. The penalty at the time was death by hanging. Although the sentence was changed to life in prison, Steve suffered for years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit. When his case gained national attention, the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed the evidence -- and confirmed his conviction.


It took over forty years and a determination to prove his innocence for him to finally clear his name. He has since received an apology and compensation for his ordeal.



The Real Justice series is a really interesting one. All of them tell the story of a teen or young adult in Canada who were accused and convicted of murder. Some were false accusations, some were horrible miscarriages of justice.

Steve Truscott's story is particularly gut-wrenching for me. What was clearly circumstantial evidence, no confession, and gross mismanagement of a case by the police (who stopped looking when it came to light that Steve was the last to see Lynne alive) led to a fourteen year old be sentenced to death by hanging.

This book will appeal to reluctant readers, the "bad boys and girls," and the kids very into shows like CSI. This isn't a "true crime" novel, in that it's not about the crime committed itself, but the aftermath for the accused, and subsequently cleared, Steve Truscott.

Excellent read. Swan does a nice job of reminding us all that we really need to be aware of what our rights are, before they disappear on us.

I reviewed another in the Real Justice series earlier this year: Sentenced to Life at Seventeen.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from James Lorimer & Company 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, June 20, 2013

REVIEW: Kindness for Weakness, by Shawn Goodman

A fifteen-year-old boy from an abusive home desperately seeking his older brother's love and approval starts pushing drugs for him and suffers the consequences.

Really interesting premise. James, in an effort to gain attention and approval from his older brother, finds himself taking the fall for him instead. Even winding up in juvie because his brother abandoned him.

The story is really interesting, a provides a better understanding of what life "inside" is and can be like in a facility like this one. By no means do I think I "get it," but I can see some of the good and the bad in this story.

I think this will make an excellent book for a reluctant reader, or an all boy book club for discussion. James is committed to maintaining his inner self--a good, good guy--while still keeping himself "strong" in the eyes of his companions. It's a delicate balance, and one that his positive mentors see in him.

James is a reader, something you don't quite expect in this situation. And not only that, he reads literature, not just junk stuff. He is a deep thinker, and finds a connection with Jack London's writing, while sitting in a juvenile detention facility.

Ultimately, it's all about the choices you make, and James not only learns this but teaches it as well. 

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Random House Children's Books (Delacorte BFYR) 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, June 19, 2013

Announcement

Nothing big or scary...just a little something that might interest you...

In April, I rolled off of the Texas Maverick Graphic Novel Reading Committee (under the umbrella of the Young Adult Round Table and Texas Library Association). It marked the first time in 6 years I wasn't required (because I chose to serve on the committees) to read things that would appeal to my students. Since then, I've gone "hog wild" reading whatever I want. Which is still a lot of YA literature, but fewer graphic novels. I've also picked up several things that are marketed towards adults that would likely see limited interest in YA collections. For example, I LOVE novels set in Tudor England...but can't name one high school kid at my school who would devour them the way I do.

The thing is, I can't review those books here because they don't fit into the scope that I've put together for Mean Old Library Teacher. So, because I suspect that at least a few of you also read other things, I've started a second review blog. 

The Other Stuff I Read is still in its infancy, but I'll work with it as much as I do this one. Often, books that I label "Adult for YA" or "YA for Adult" because they'd have crossover appeal will be reviewed on both blogs. While it won't always happen, I'll try to make some pointed comments on those crossover books that explain why I'm posting it to each blog (like...why I think that it'd be great for adults but it's a YA book).  

As always, I'm looking for anyone who'd love to review along with me...either here at Mean Old Library Teacher, or on The Other Stuff I read. Feel free to comment here, or contact me at meanoldlibraryteacer at gmail dot com if you'd like to join the team.


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.

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