December 31, 2010

Advice you seek? Yoda is your man!

Are you a Star Wars fan? Have you even seen a Star Wars film?! Do you at least know who Yoda is and his role in The Force? If not (or even if so), this book is for you! Actually, this adorable book is for everyone, no matter age or interests (or disinterests with a certain franchise).

The premise of this novel revolves around a middle school boy trying to survive, well, middle school. Since he is only 11, it is important that he not make his own decisions. Enter one Origami Yoda. He is real after all. I mean, his advice always pans out, so that can be the only reason. It cannot be that a young, 11-year-old boy simply lacks the confidence of his own decision making, right?

The novel itself chronicles the proof that Origami Yoda is real and gives great advice. If you don't believe me, read the book. Origami Yoda really is real! Take my word for it...or you can read the case file in the book and decide for yourself.

At the end, the author provides a step-by-step instruction manual on how you too can own your very own Origami Yoda. How can you survive in life without one? I mean, it is Yoda after all.

This novel is perfect for anyone looking for a light read, anyone looking for a light giggle, or anyone looking for a book that appeals to boys (or Star Wars fans). Don't think I'm not going to book talk this bad boy to my high school students. Who says childrens books are just for children? We all need a little lightheartedness in our lives.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda will make believer out of you too. Read it today!

Who knew Jenny Cooper was this interesting?!

I am a Jane Austen fan, but not because of Pride and Prejudice. No, I introduced myself to Austen through the likes of one Gwyneth Paltrow. She was so charming in Emma, and who can resist the coupling of Emma and Mr. Knightly? So, I read the book. And to this day, it is my favorite Austen novel. I find myself attracted to Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy as well...but not like my love for Mr. Knightly. And yet, I am always looking for books about Jane, not just by her. I do not like reading those who try to imitate her style; it just does not work. But I do love when authors are able to take this remarkable woman and create story-telling about her through her surroundings.

This leads me to this wonderful shelf find. Yes, I found this simply by browsing the shelf at B&N and knew instantly I must read it. I had high hopes for this novel, after all, can you imagine Jane Austen at 15?! After all, she is Jane Austen.

The premise of this YA novel is simple: Jenny Cooper and Jane Austen are cousins. Ages are changed to accommodate the plot (the author divulges this at the end), and the two are at boarding school together. Jane falls ill and it is not the Head Mistress that is her savior but Jenny! Jenny risks everything, but more importantly her reputation, to send a letter to Jane's mother at the fear that Jane will not survive this illness.

And thus we are thrown into the world of Jane Austen, but through the eyes (and diary entries) of Jenny Cooper, cousin-extraordinaire. The two are rescued by Mama and Papa Austen and taken back to Jane's home; they spend a splendid year together - balls, walks, talks, and of course men. But there is one man who has caught Jenny's eye, and she has caught his. BUT, he is the keeper of a very important secret...will he "spill the beans" and reveal all, completely ruining Jenny's reputation and any prospects of marriage? Or, will he take her in his arms and promise to devote himself to her as his husband? After all, even though the story is from Jenny's point of view, this is an Austen novel.

I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend will not disappoint, whether you are a fan of Austen's or not. If you've never read an Austen novel, well, what are you waiting for?! No, this novel is a nice introduction into the fifteen-year-old destined to be immortalized through the guise of books forever.  It is well-researched and presents the Austen family in a realistic light. They are a struggling family who love one another deeply, but ultimately they must all marry money...just like Miss Jenny Cooper.

I give this novel an enthusiastic two thumbs up!!!

December 27, 2010

A Yummy Read!

I am a browsing shopper. While I appreciate suggestions from others, ultimately I enjoy visiting the book store/library and browsing for myself. The covers attract me as do the titles. And sometimes I pick up a book and it just feels right. (After all, sometimes covers are deceiving.) It is as if the book whispers to me, "Buy me Crys. You will enjoy me!" Eggs over Evie is one of my "whisper" finds.

This book has it all: a thirteen-year-old heroine, divorced parents, a cat, a dog, and a cooking class. I was unsure how the author would intertwine to make these work, but she does.

The characters are fun, dealing with everyday struggles in a lighthearted way. Evie in particular is struggling with the fact that her dad will now be dad to twins, twins that will be born to another woman (AKA stepmother; it does have to be G-rated here). While in many novels this type of plot consumes the life of the character and eats at him/her, Evie keeps the part of her dad she loves the most, cooking. Her dad is a famous television chef, and she has a knack for it as well. So much so, she decides to take a cooking class one evening a week during her summer break so she can learn the ropes of it all. 

Evie is able to keep that part of herself and of her dad and make it into a positive. Many of us could take a page from Evie's book - she is a delightful, vulnerable character who really just wants her family back, but she accepts that life is continually changing, and she moves forward. This is refreshing to read...and it makes the book one I would recommend to anyone ages 10-13 who is dealing with divorce.

Another clever element to the book: Evie leaves you the recipe of what she is cooking within that chapter at its end, offering a nice cooking tip as well. 

If you love childrens literature, if you love food, and if you love a happy ending, Eggs over Evie is a definite read for you!

December 25, 2010

The Books of Elsewhere...a mysterious beginning

The purchase of this book was sealed with the promise of the dusk jacket: "For fans of Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman comes a tale at turns haunting, moving, and darkly funny (and best if read with a flashlight  under the bed sheets--shhh!)." And the dust jacket did not disappoint. This was a lucky, browsing find.

And thus began my journey with Olive, an eleven-year-old who moves into a spooky old mansion on Linden Street. Olive feels as if she doesn't belong, as if she's ignored, as if she doesn't matter. Until a mysterious pair of old-fashioned spectacles changes her perception of all things Olive. These spectacles allow her to step into another world, Elsewhere, a world that is being preserved until...

Elsewhere is the creation of one man - the mean man, the dark man, the scary man - through paintings. Yes, that is correct. He has created an alternate world with his paint brush, a world he controls and a world he hopes to return to one day. At every turn Olive is being "tricked," a master plan to bring back an old master and a claim to what he believes his rightfully his, the mansion (who cares that he's been dead for a while). Can Olive learn to trust in herself in order to save the world? Okay, not literally the world, but at least the spooky old mansion she and her parents call home. 

Jacqueline West's book one, The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows, will leave readers hungry for more Olive, more Morton, and more reading "with a flashlight under the bed sheets." But be very quiet, HE is waiting, HE is watching, HE is listening - for you.

December 19, 2010

A Reading Festival (AKA avoiding grading papers)

Okay, it's not really a ready festival, but I have read three books this weekend. Okay, that's not really true either. I've read two books and finished a third...but still. It all counts in the greater world of reading, right?

My first finish is Linger, the sequel to Shiver. I read Shiver a few weeks ago, but I have not had time to do a review; therefore, I will do both in one.

Stiefvater brings to YA the Wolves of Mercy Falls series with a tale of forbidden love, because in the world of teens, all love is forbidden. But, in this series you have love between two souls, one human and one wolf. That, of course, is metaphorical because Grace and Sam are both human and wolf.

The author presents readers the story of Shiver through the alternating viewpoints of Grace and Sam. We learn the truth of their love and devotion to one another both in the human world and in the wolf world. In this case, Grace is fighting and searching for a way to keep Sam from the woods and in human forever. Stiefvater leaves of with just the right ending, leaving the reader craving more.

Linger introduces us to a new character, Cole. And through the points of view of Grace, Sam, Isabelle, and Cole, the reader is thrown into another dimension of  the Wolves of Mercy Falls. We learn that things are not always as they appear, and sometimes they are. Steifvater takes a different approach and leaves Sam fighting and searching for a way to keep Grace with him, presenting a cliffhanger that fits smoothly into the world of waiting for Forever. What will be the fate of Grace and Sam? Can one live while the other survives?

This series will appeal to all kinds of readers, but especially to those who have grown tired of supernatural novels. The author offers a fresh new idea in the world of the supernatural, an idea that has long been needed.

My second devoured novel is one that is true to its writer, Clements' The Last Holiday Concert. In this "school situation" novel, Clements introduces readers to Hart Evans, the most popular boy in sixth grade.

Hart's popularity lands him as the director of the Christmas concert, the last for his school due to budget cuts. But soon Hart learns that popularity does not mean organization and comradeship. It means headaches and enemies, but only when others do not get their way. Hart is an adorable character who just wants to please everyone, and who really does NOT want to be in charge of this concert. But democracy rules, and he must move forward and find solutions to the many problems his classmates keep presenting. Can Hart balance his life, his school work, and the choral Christmas concert?

Clements presents readers with a tight plot, rife with just enough drama to keep the reader turning the page and ending with the same sweet note to which Clements readers are accustomed. This is a must read for the holidays.

And my final read of the weekend, Word after Word after Word, is a fast, inspirational read. Anyone who loves to write, anyone who teaches writing, or anyone who loves words will devour this book. It is meant for readers 8-12, but we all can learn a lesson with it. After all, words are the most powerful when on paper.

The fourth graders get a life-lesson in this novel, "What is the writer's tool in all of this? Making people laugh, or cry, or be angry, or think? Words, yes, magical words." This novel is a reminder that we all have a story to tell, and that those stories are worth more than we could know. We own the power of words, own them because they are ours. We own them because we are "we" together.

An absolute must read for English teachers, writers, lovers of words - Word after Word after Word is worth the hour and a half it will take for you to devour, to appreciate, to love.

October 31, 2010

Spotlight on a few of my favorite...

Happy Halloween all! This week's spotlight shares a few of my favorite witch books - enjoy!

Cabot does not disappoint with this teen book. Jean (AKA Jinx) comes to stay with her wealthy aunt and uncle in NYC to escape her past, but her cousin Tory does not accept her with open arms. Cabot reminds readers how dangerous jealousy truly is. Although I found most of the plot predictable, I still loved taking the journey with Jean. This novel is a bit different for is a cross between The Craft and The Princess Diaries. But Cabot makes the transition flawlessly.

Nell was conceived on May Morning, making her a merrybegot. Nell is being raised as a healer; combine this with her wild nature in 1645, and you have a "witch". Grace is the Puritan minister's daughter - full of beauty, grace, and secrets. The merrybegot and the minister's daughter, a dangerous combination.. But when Grace and her younger sister begin to have "fits", the heat is on to find the witch that is causing it all, Nell. This is an amazing historical fiction novel. I could not put it down. Hearn has conducted thorough research, including the fact that Puritans believed in faeries, one of many reasons they feared the woods. 

17-year-old Sarah moves from California to a small town in Missouri. While adjusting to a new high school is tough enough, the most popular (and handsome) boy in schools asks her to pose as a fortune teller at the school's Halloween carnival. Sarah reluctantly agrees, but her performance is too convincing, and she is asked to continue the charade off campus as well. Then Sarah's predictions begin to come true, and her classmates label her as a witch. To top it off, she is having disturbing dreams about the Salem Witch Trials. What's a girl to do? Luckily she has one friend, Charlie, who, like her, is a misfit (and is also having the dreams).This novel is wrapped in mystery - is Sarah an accuser from the witch trials? Are her currently classmates her victims? Is reincarnation real? Duncan jumps right into the plot, leaving you turning page after page until the end; however, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. It seemed as if Duncan realized she needed to end the book and just did. But the book is so well put together that the ending is just a small mistake that is easily forgivable.

Others I recommend for this Halloween:

Bras and Broomsticks: Magic in Manhattan series
The Everyday Witch
The Worst Witch
Witch Child
Beyond the Burning Time
The Witche's Supermarket
The Lace Reader 
The Graveyard Book
Diary of a Fairy Godmother
Salem Falls
The Widow's Broom
Wee Witches' Halloween
The House of Seven Gables

The list could go on and on and on - what are YOUR favorite Halloween reads?

October 29, 2010

Enchanted by Once a Witch

I love witch children and YA novels. I always have. Ever since I was young and watched Bewitched, I wanted to be a part of a magical world. Harry Potter, my favorite childrens series, allows its readers to do just that - one of the reasons it is so popular. Once a Witch accomplish the task of allowing me, as a reader, to be a part of a magical world that MacCullough has created and that is protected by the Greene family.

Tamsin Greene is a stereotypical 17-year-old, except she was expected to be the most talented witch in her family. There is only one problem - Tamsin does not have a Talent. And while she struggles with being 17 (isn't that enough?) she also struggles with being a part of a powerful family and not being able to participate. Her beautiful, Talented, older sister steals all the glory, set to "take over" the family with the grandmother's passing.

And then one day - the opening of a single door - changes everything for our young heroine. While working in her grandmother's bookstore, Tamsin is mistaken for her older sister. Instead of correcting a stranger in need of help, Tamsin agrees to take on the task. The task is simple - find an old family heirloom. How dangerous can the task (and its seeker, a NYU professor) be?

The author spins a tale of mystery wrapped around and rooted deep within the Greene family. You will fall in love with this quirky family, a family that contains secrets Tamsin must uncover. You will be treated to a new take on the witch lifestyle (it's not all broomsticks and potions you know). And you will love Tamsin, a young woman who wants to be accepted, who wants to be loved, and who wants to be Talented.

Through a fast-paced plot, MacCullough conjures up a fantastical creation of self-discovery, teen angst,  family secrets, and all things witchy.

This book receives an enthusiastic two thumbs up. All lovers of YA should add this read to their collection.

October 24, 2010

Spotlight on Salem Witch Tryouts

I love reading anything to do with Salem, and I love reading young adult witch books. This book did not disappoint.

Prudence Stewart, the "it" girl of Beverly Hills High School. She has it all, including a family secret that lands her and her family in Salem, Massachusetts. See, Prudence comes from a long line of witches, a secret she was very aware of...but now it is necessary for her to attend a high school designed for her "kind." Enter Agatha's Day School, the one place Prudence cannot seem to grasp. As a "mortal" she was perfectly fine in Beverly Hills, but now that she is allowed to be herself, she cannot seem to come to grips with how to survive - her classes, her classmates, her new

Now that Prudence is allowed to be a full-time witch, she has to trade in her Beverly Hills pom-poms and tryout for Agatha's cheer squad via a broomstick. Easier said than done, especially by this witch, who is currently failing Witchcraft 101.

Will Prudence be able to cast a spell at her new school and be as successful as she was in her old school?

October 17, 2010

Spotlight on Hex Hall

Debut author Rachel Hawkins takes the supernatural teen genre to a new level. She incorporates the usual - witches, vampires, faeries, werewolves - and puts a new spin on their world.

Just when you thought your teen life sucked, we are introduced to Sophie Mercer, witch extraordinaire. Only, there really isn't anything extraordinaire about her, unless, of course, being a witch falls into that category. She attends public high school, moves around quite a bit, and happens to cast spells that go awry. After one such spell causes chaos at prom, Sophie's public school days are over. Her father has her whisked away to Hex Hall, reform school for those like Sophie, you know, the "freaks" of society - witches/warlocks, faeries, shape-shifters, and a vampire. Her first day is more eventful that her prom fiasco, and she racks up enemies even before she enters the doors. Ah, so it goes when you're a teen witch. The question is, can she survive her classmates as well as the ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her? From page one Hawkins will have you hooked with this world she has created, a world that is not unlike your own.

While Hawkins brings a new, witty approach to this genre, she also captures the dynamics that are typical in high schools - the queen bee, her followers, crushing on queen bee's boyfriend, friendship, misunderstanding, trust, self-discovery. This book is like Pretty in Pink meets Prodigium. (Now, isn't that a visual?)

I am a sucker for a great witch story, and Sophie's character fulfills my love of all things witches. I enjoyed taking this journey with Sophie, moving from a normal life to one at the reform school in GA. (Who knew GA could be this cool?) Hawkins really captures the experiences and frustrations of being a teen girl, you know, because there is a bit of Sophie in all of us. Sophie's character brings a breathe of fresh air where witches are concerned, and her vamp roommate, Jenna, is definitely worthy of more page time. And lets not forget the hotness that is Archer, a character that will cause hearts to skip and readers to swoon.

And did I mention the plot twist will leave many of you gasping out loud? Seriously, she is a sneak, that Rachel Hawkins.

October 13, 2010

Team Zombie OR Team Unicorn?!

Have you read the latest, greatest in YA yet? If not, what are you waiting for?! Zombies vs. Unicorns is one of the most creative YA novels I have read in a while. The concept is fabulous, the stories are devourable, and the authors are some of the best in the business.

You will be delighted with learning how to care for a baby killer unicorn, which is necessary in today's uncertain times. You'll read how to outsmart the adults and escape into a world that has been over-taken with zombies. You will be treated to a tale of love and devotion, zombie-style. And, you'll experience the pressure of trying to keep a town safe from zombies, even when those zombies are your family and friends.

A few of my personal favorites:
"The Care of Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn" - Diana Peterfreund
"Inoculata" - Scott Westerfeld
"Princess Prettypants" - Meg Cabot
"Cold Hands" - Cassandra Clare
"Prom Night" - Libba Bray

And the best part of this anthology? While you're asked as a reader to pick a side, the truth is, all of the stories warrant their own level of awesomeness, cleverness, and devourness. In other words--read this book! It is worth your time.

Now, are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn? They're both vicious in their own ways, and all authors make a strong case for their team. For me, it's a draw!

October 7, 2010

Spotlight on Never Slow Dance with Zombies

In the spirit of Haunted Happenings kicking off today in Salem, MA, I thought a teen zombie novel would be appropriate.

Lowe has delivered a zombie book for girls. The premise is simple: Margot & Sybil return to school one morning to discover the student population has become zombies. Instead of running away screaming, the two girls set out to make themselves the "queen bees" of the school. Margot wants to be the most popular girl while Sybil simply wants everyone to get along. So desperate for a boyfriend, Margot decides the zombied school jock will just have to do, even if he wants to eat her family. With the help of Mr. Taft, the school principal, the girls spend seven weeks with zombie classmates, trying to keep themselves from becoming zombies while trying to discover how their classmates became zombies in the first place.

This was a fun read, and I would recommend saving it for a time when you just want to read a bit of light fluff.

October 6, 2010

Let the debate begin - zombies OR unicorns?!?!

Zombies, unicorns, ya authors, oh my! Oh yes! The world of YA has now met its match in the guise of an age-old argument...which is better, zombies or unicorns?

This anthology takes on two teams: One for zombies and one guessed it, unicorns! Each team offers a convincing argument through short stories, clever plots, and all things zombies & unicorns. That's right ladies and're getting a two-for-one deal with this clever novel.

Each corner contains the best in YA literature right now. Everyone from Cassandra Clare to Meg Cabot provide you with an ever-clever list of short stories that will surely keep this debate going. While the ultimate goal is to pick sides, all authors provide such convincing arguments as to which is better, that I believe it is safe for me as a reader to conclude--it's a draw!

With zombie short stories such as "Love Will Tear Us Apart," "Cold Hands" and "Prom Night," zombie lovers will be intrigued to continue shifting through, first reading the zombie stories and then being lured into the unicorns. But do not be fooled, these aren't your mama's unicorns! Readers will be pleased with Meg Cabot's "Princess Prettypants," Naomi Novik's "Purity Test" and Diana Peterfreund's "The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn."

The anthology also includes a delightful introduction on which is better (zombies or unicorns) by the creators, Justine Larbalestier (team zombie) and Holly Black (team unicorn). "If you're strong enough to read through all the stories, you will know by the end of this anthology which is better: zombies or unicorns."

Whether you've read the book or not, let the debate begin here...which team are you on and why?

October 5, 2010

Just in time for the Halloween season...

Victor Godwin, budding scientist, is not too thrilled with his mom's new tenant. Who is he? Where are his references? And why does he look like Benjamin Franklin, who's been dead for 200 years?

After 200 years of peaceful sleep, Ben is back! And he's lost - "I am simply an old man, lost in time" - or is he? Believing he may be the last of the Prometheans, Ben does not give up. He inspires Victor to trust and to matter the results. While Ben is running around town eating as much electricity as he can (oh, the irony), Victor remains faithful and searches for answers, not just for Ben, but for himself. And with the science fair just around the corner, a ruined project, and one of the greatest minds available for consultation, the results are fantastic...or disastrous. You decide! 

This short novel packs a lot of punch. While the idea seems a little far-fetched, it is no more so than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. As a matter of fact, I think this idea is more original. McElligott and Tuxbury present a fun tale for boys (girl readers are welcome) of science, fun, and the importance of letting life happen.

Enthusiastic two thumbs up! Definitely worth adding to your shelf.

A new tradition

Washington D.C. is one of my favorite cities to visit. Everyone should visit the awesomeness that D.C. has to offer at least once within his/her lifetime. I felt it was important to bring my son, and it was half-way to Salem, MA. Little did I know that this visit would create a new tradition for our family, the Will pics. That's right, the one souvenir my son wanted was a Shakespeare action figure, which we've simply named "Will." This is the first of Will's pics...stay tuned to see "Where in the world is Will..." He's already done a tone of cool things...lets see where the day will take him next.

And the adventure continues...

After spending two days in D.C. viewing all things American, I have shifted my focus to all things Haunted! That's right, I'm in Salem, MA spending four days enjoying all things wicked. And let me tell you, this is THE place to be this time of year. The enthusiasm from the residents is contagious, and if Halloween is your cup of tea, take a trip here to get your "season" on! They have it all - including a Hello Kitty witch:

That's right - you know you've landed some place "cool" when you're able to purchase Hello Kitty in either a witch costume, which I did, or as a sparkly vampire, which I passed.

While I've visited this enchanting city before, it is another world to visit in the time of Haunted Happenings, and haunted it is. Every turn encompasses history. You never know what you'll find. My recommendation: get in your car, visit here without a plan, and discover all that there is to discover in this magical place - Salem, MA.

Stay tuned to see what happens next; after all, I will be here for four full days!

October 2, 2010

Spotlight on What They Always Tell Us

With the sad news of bullying leading to yet another teen suicide, I thought this was an appropriate choice.

James - he's the older, confident brother. He's popular, smart, and an athlete. So why didn't his brother come to him instead of...

Alex - he's a high school junior trying to figure out his life. His friends have abandoned him and all for a reason he cannot figure out...or can he?

Wilson's debut novel is of two brothers trying to figure things out - life, love, each other. Wilson is a new author, but there is a lot of promise in his honest story-telling. He presents the reader with a tender representation of a teen questioning his sexuality and what that could mean to his family, but especially to his relationship with his brother.

Welcome Infernal Devices series

Cassie Clare returns, and boy does she know how to make an entrance! Her loyal fans will not be disappointed with this prequel to the series that made her famous, The Mortal Instruments.

Magic turns dangerous in this new series, and Tessa Gray seems to be its most intriguing weapon. From the start Clare does not give our new heroine a break. She grapples with her missing brother, the Dark Sisters, the Magister’s want of her, and a boy who will love her unconditionally versus a boy who cannot seem to love. Through it all Tessa is an endearing character that loyal Clare followers will enjoy; she has just as much spunk (if not more) as Clary Fray. Although Clare has already established the Shadowhunter world for readers, this prequel paints a fresh picture, one the reader will not soon forget. Think you know the Downworlders? Think again.

Oh yeah, and there are vampires, warlocks, demons, and…well, you get the picture.

I give this book three loved its—Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!

Three characters to watch and love: There is an echo of fan-favorite Jace with Clare’s new character, Will Herrondale, as well as the introduction of Henry and Charlotte Branwell, a married couple in charge of running the Institute.

September 25, 2010

Spotlight on Speak

In celebration of Banned Book Week, Speak is this week's spotlight. This novel has been on shelves for ten years, and it continues to be a staple in classrooms and on teen bookshelves. Over the last week I have witnessed those on Twitter as well as in the blogging world speak loudly against one who finds this book as a representation of soft pornography.

This book is a must-read for every teen, male and female. The topic explored makes many uncomfortable, which means there is a need for this novel. The author addresses the topic of rape with tenderness and brings to reality the effects of the actions of others. The torment that our heroine (and yes, Melinda is a heroine in my eyes) endures throughout will stop your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

Everyone knows Melinda, and in a lot of ways, Melinda lives inside each of us. She is a reminder to those who do not speak for what is right, even when they've been wronged. The power of words is sometimes forgotten, but in the pages of this book, we are reminded that that power lies in the hands and on the lips of each and every one of us. Remember not to just speak, but to SPEAK LOUDLY.

This is a novel I wish were available to me when I was a teenager, and I am proud to place it in the hands of the teens I teach today and to discuss it with those who have read it. While I do not teach this novel, many of my juniors read it as a freshman. And they praise it. And they are grateful to have it. And they too know, or are, a Melinda. Thank you Laurie Halse Anderson for providing an honest work on a subject that leaves its victim feelings ashamed and silenced.

Novels such as this are the reason we should fight against the banning of books. People have the freedom to read, and every story deserves to be told. Stories that we ourselves may not personally experience but are able to develop empathy toward those who do. You have a right not to read those stories, but you do not have the right to tell others they cannot. By banning stories such as Speak, you are telling others they are alone and should feel ashamed.

September 19, 2010

Spotlight on The Lonely Hearts Club

Each week I shall "spotlight" a YA book I've read in the past. While these books are not new to YA, I hope to continue an interest in reading them because they are worth it! My first selection: The Lonely Hearts Club.

Penny Lane is an adorable heroine, and I wish I knew her when I was in high school. The plot itself is very clever, and Eulberg even weaves The Beatles (as well as their music) into side characters in this novel of teen angst.

After having her heart-broken one too many times, Penny Lane decides to begin a club for herself (and others like her), swearing off boys until after high school. As word gets out, other girls begin to share their stories of love-woes, and membership grows. The boys are left scratching their heads as the girls decide to no longer lose themselves in relationships. The only it truly plausible to swear off guys until after high school, especially when some are nice guys?

A Lovely Surprise

Bray's sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty has it all - drama, suspense, romance, friendship, fear, coming-of-age - and ties it into this fast-moving plot. Gemma Doyle is the one - she is the only one who can stop Circe and restore order in the realms. With the help of her two friends, the three set off to discover the location of the Temple within the realms, an absolute must-find before it is too late. Torn between her life and her destiny, Gemma embarks on a quest that could cost her both.

As a YA lover, I am always looking for something interesting to read; I love finding books that my students have not read - or even know exist - and hold book talks. Every now and again the opposite will happen, my students will surprise me with a book I did not know existed...and thus Rebel Angels stepped into my life. I absolutely loved this book! Due to my current grueling schedule, I have not had a chance to read for pleasure in the way I am accustomed, and it is killing me. This is where audio books help me with my "fix". I found this at the library in audio, popped it in, and was hooked from the moment the reader began reading until the novel's conclusion.

September 10, 2010

The know you have one (we all do)

I have a mound...a mound of books. And I do mean mound. See, my hubby works for B&N, which means I get to enjoy his employee discount. Come payday (mine and his) I make a visit. This visit results in purchases of books for myself as well as for my classroom. I cannot help it...I LOVE books!

The only problem is...I teach 173 teenagers, have a 5-year-old, am interning, and am taking my final two classes in Graduate school. This leaves me thirsty for books I just don't have time to read. So, when I visit B&N, I shop for books I know I will read as time allows; but the mound continues to grow. I'll make an impressive dent, and then payday rolls around. Currently, my mound looks like this,

which isn't too it? Nah, I mean, is there a such thing as too many books? NEVER! Although, every now and again my hubby will say it is necessary to place me on a book diet until I make another noticeable dent. But then I use my "go to" excuse to buy books: "These aren't for me. These are for my students." See, I really can quit any time I want - I just choose not to quit. And at this point, my mound is full of such a variety of books, from old Hollywood bios to supernatural mysteries to YA yumminess, I feel over-whelmed at selecting my next read.

You know, the more I look at my mound, the more I realize it isn't really a mound. It is a stack of possibilities; a stack of escapism; a stack of dreams waiting to come true; a stack of laughter and of tears; a stack of hard-work and dedication. After all, "A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend." - Anonymous

So, I want to know...what's in your mound?

September 8, 2010

What I've Read Recently...and LOVED!

Caution! Some of these books might be on your "I've never heard of these" on at your own peril :-)

I shall share a few of my favorite reads that I've recently completed. After viewing the list you might ask yourself, "What is wrong with this lady?" But, if you know me, you already ask yourself that question.

Water for Elephants (S. Gruen) Loved every bit of this book. The narration is well-planned...we follow Jacob Jankowsi, a would-be vet with his father until his parents are killed in a car crash. Jacob hits the road, and one night jumps on a train. Little does he know that that one jump will change his life forever--for the better and the worst. Gruen delights readers with circus life during the depression, with strong character development and a strong plot. You root for the animals, who are heinously mistreated by the ringmaster, and you root for the workers. Basically, this books makes you "root"!

Fly on the Wall (E. Lockhart) AUDIO! (That's right; I listen to books in the car, go me!) Lockhart brings an interesting concept into YA literature through the character of Gretchen, a high school sophomore who has a best friend and a crush, Titus. Gretchen struggles with the opposite sex and makes a random comment, "I wish I could be a fly on the wall in the locker room." Little does she know that that singular comment will change her life, forever.Loved this book! The audio reader really brought out the character of Gretchen and enhanced Lockhart's plot.

Countdown (D. Wiles) This documentary novel takes its reader in 1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis. By using an adorable main character, fifth grader Franny Chapman, Wiles spins an authentic tale of friendship, family, and fear.The reader will be captivated with Franny's family, which is sometimes a bit on the "nutty" side, as well as the print material that is cleverly woven throughout the book between chapters.This is an absolute must-read for anyone who loves history, the 1960s, or children literature.

Suddenly Supernatural 4: Crossing Over (E. C. Kimmel) My favorite in the series! Kat Roberts is an ordinary middle schooler with one exception, she's a medium. This can cause a bit of trouble for her at times, but with best friend Jac at her side, anything is possible. In the fourth installment, Kat is headed to Canada for a few days with her classmates. There's one major problem--her bus keeps "collecting" ghosts. Can Kat help the ghosts cross over without embarrassing herself in front on her crush, Ben? Kimmell hits a home run with this installment in Kat's world. The writing is right on target, and she truly captures the awkwardness of first crushes.

Sincerely (C. Sheinmel) A cute novel - two books in one - about the pangs of growing up (and apart from your best friend). Sheinmel uses Sophie and Katie in an interesting way, presenting one story through two sets of eyes. Sophie's story is first, and the reader laughs and cries with her as she loses her best friend, experiences her parent's divorce, and tries to find her own way. Sophie's story really focuses on her school and home life. Her only friend seems to be in a pen pal all the way across the country, Katie. Katie's story is different from Sophie's - hers is centered on her home life and the trouble she experiences with her mother. Both are adorable, likable characters the reader will enjoy.

Insatiable (M. Cabot)  Cabot has stepped into the world of vampires...and added a nice twist of comedic relief to go with it. Meena Harper is your typical New York single girl, if by typical you consider being a writer for the #2 rated soap on television and living with her unemployed brother. But, Meena has a gift that many men cannot handle, a gift that seems to attract another sort of man--being able to predict people's death. Speaking of death, while walking her dog early one morning Meena just about meets her own after a colony of bats attack her. But a talk, dark, handsome stranger saves her...and falls in love with her. There's only one problem--this talk, dark, handsome stranger is the prince of darkness. Can Meena save herself while trying to fight her urge to love the unattainable? Cabot gives readers a fun read in her vamp tale. Meena is a fun character that readers will pull for, and Lucien is the vampire with a soul (unlike his father or his brother). With a nice mix of drama, romance, and comedy, Cabot spins a tale that will keep chick lit lovers turning the pages.

Hush, Hush (B. Fitzpatrick) Fitzpatrick brings a new heroine to the forefront for teens...Nora Grey. Nora is a regular sophomore with a fiercely-loyal best friend who finds her world rocked one day when her Biology teacher has the class switch partners. Enter Patch - a fallen angel who seems mysteriously drawn to Nora...and Nora is drawn to him. This is a case of the book jacket not doing justice to the novel. Fitzpatrick's story is fast-paced, allowing readers just the right amount of action, of love, and of family. On a special note, I chose this novel as the FIRST pick for the new YA Teacher Book Club for my fellow teachers. The meeting is not until next week, but the feedback has been positive. Many papers have gone ungraded and many minutes/hours of sleep have been lost because the teachers could NOT put this book down.

Please Note: I read all the time; I'm always reading something. The above books are ones that have been read within the last four weeks. These are books that I read, loved, and recommend to others. This is not my complete list; it is abridged. Please watch for future posts where I list book recommendations.

What am I currently reading? Clockwork Angel by Cassandra for my review of this awesome book!!! Because it is awesome, and it will have its own review.

September 6, 2010

Decatur Book Festival & Cassandra Clare

This past weekend was the Decatur Book Festival in GA. I planned to attend the festival with my cousin, a fellow-lover of all things Cassandra Clare. Cassandra was appearing on Sunday, and the two of us did happy dances at the thought of meeting the goddess of Shadowhunters and Downworlders; however, life got in the way. My cousin was not able to attend, and my grading stack for the weekend was ever-increasing. A decision had to be four hours alone to meet Cassandra or grade? Hmmm...that seems to be an easy one, except the idea of traveling alone four hours from home was not ideal for me. Initially I decided not to attend. That was Friday (I was suppose to leave Saturday morning).

Saturday morning arrived and I really wanted to go to meet Cassandra. Not only do I love her books but also my students love her books as well. I had to make it, I coerced my hubby to tag along with our five-year-old. This would mean a great sacrifice on his part, having to keep up with said five-year-old while I got my Cassandra love on! And so we were off: 7PM Saturday night.

A lovely four-hour trip in the dark, arriving in GA around 1AM their time, and a nice, comfy hotel bed. Sunday morning arrived and we were off! Arriving at the Decatur Book Festival around 11 or so, we walked around in, meeting up with a friend, and began exploring. Lets just say the Decatur Book Festival was full of delicious smells, sales, and everything in between.

Cassandra Clare spoke for 45 minutes (1:15-2PM) and did NOT disappoint. She was amazing! She was greeted by a cheer from her fans; she was rewarded with gasps and claps from the audience when she announced she was reading from City of Fallen Angels, and she was pelted with a variety of questions. She handled all of those questions with grace - she is just a natural with her fans. If anyone was born to write and meet/greet fans, it is Cassandra!

One fan asked what advice Cassandra had for aspiring writers: READ! Read to write. Read outside of your preferred genre. Read ten books a week (okay, not really her advice, she was quoting Stephen King). Just...READ! Reading is the best way to write.

At the conclusion of her speaking engagement it was time for the signing. Many of her avid fans rushed to the doors and raced across the street. Other avid fans, like myself, weren't too sure where she was signing and stood for a moment trying to figure it out. MISTAKE! This one precious mistake resulted in a 2-hour wait in line. Of course it was worth it. I mean, I traveled four hours to just see and meet her!

While in line I meet two women that were also teachers (and, as it turns out, faux Edward fans). I knew I was in good company when one of them took out a 6" faux Edward doll to take pictures of. YES, that is correct. They were taking pics of faux Edward waiting in the massive line. As we crept along in line, we spoke about all the awesomeness that is reading. All the awesomeness that is sharing what we read with our students. Kindred spirits while waiting for Cassandra Clare - you betcha!

The reason the wait was two hours (besides the fact that Cassandra is AWESOMENESS!): she spoke to every fan, posed for pics, etc. By the time I reached her, literally two hours later, she was still smiling, still cordial, still willing to take a moment and speak to fans. That long line did not seem to frazzle her for a moment, even though she too was dripping with sweat.

She seemed genuinely surprised to know that I have many male students that are fans of her books. I told her it was a male student, Corey Morelli, who encouraged me to read her books. She wanted me to say hello to those male students. Too cool!!! I did forget to mention to her, you know, because I was so excited to finally be in her presence, that my husband too is a fan of her books! He seemed a little bummed that I forgot to tell her. Oh well, that's what Twitter is for ;-)

The result of my trip to the Decatur Book Festival: three new reading t-shirts and hearing/seeing/meeting Cassandra Clare. Decatur Book Festival, I cannot wait to visit again next year.