July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

How fast this week has gone by, and now we're off for another IMM post. This week is a small haul because I've been at workshops for four days. Although my haul is small, I am excited about the addition.

From B&N

Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough - I'm really excited about this one. I loved Once a Witch so much, so I cannot wait to see where the author takes us for her sequel.

That's it - that's all I've added this week. A very small haul for me.

What did you get this week?

The wind is lonely...

Victoria Schwab. The Near Witch. Hyperion Books. 2011

The trees all whisper, leaves gossiping. The stones are heavy thinkers, the sullen silent types. If the moor wind ever sings, you mustn't listen, not with all of your ears. Use only the edges. Listen the way you'd look out the corner of your eyes. The wind is lonely, love, and always looking for company.

The town of Near is full of suspicion due to a haunting past. One night, many claim to see the smoky image of a man outside their homes, a man they dub as "stranger." The next night, a child disappears from his bed without a trace. The next night, another. Thus begins this tale of trust, loyalty, and love. 

Lexie is the novel's heroine, a tracker who refuses to give in so easily to suspicion. She understands that the moor carries many secrets, and if one is willing to listen, the moor is willing to reveal them. Lexis has a simple mission - to find the missing children and return them safely to their homes; however, in order to do so, she must defy her uncle, her family, her town, herself. The only ones willing to listen and help Lexie look beyond the suspicion and into the heart of the cause are two old sisters and the stranger.

The author is a gifted storyteller, creating a delightfully frightening fairy tale and love story. From the characters to the legend of the Near Witch, she develops the plot carefully and completely, adding a few twists and turns that make it almost impossible to put this novel down. The novel's conclusion is also nicely developed, and with only pages left for readers, does not feel rushed but purposed and complete, making this one of my favorite reads of 2011.

Victoria Schwab's debut novel is going to make a strong showing in YA literature, and with tales such as this, she is going to be a force to reckon with.

The Near Witch will make its debut on bookshelves Tuesday, August 2. Go out and get a copy; you will not be disappointed.

This copy for review was provided by NetGalley. A thousand thank yous to them.

July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

How fast this week has gone by, and now we're off for another IMM post. It is amazing how many books one can collect in a week's time without even realizing it. I am quite excited about quite a few of the books I've collected over the next week, and with school ticking ever so closer, I better get a move on reading these before it's too late.

From the library:

Come to the Edge by Christina Haag - one of my AP students read this for her final outside reading project, and through her review I decided I definitely wanted to add it to my "please read" pile, especially since I love biographies, especially ones told in unique ways.

From B&N:

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine - I loved Ella Enchanted so much that I thought I would give this one a try. Cannot wait to read about Elodie's adventures 

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker - I have been waiting patiently for this one to arrive in stores. I've read nothing but strong reviews, and this seems like my cup of tea. Reminds me a little of Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature 

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - I teach Hemingway (briefly), so I am curious to see how the author approaches this novel. I'm always looking for contemporary novels about the authors/pieces I teach to try to give students a real-world approach. You know, like now I can say, "Hey guys, did you know there is a book just published about Hemingway and his wife?" 

The Other Countess by Eve Edwards - Again, this one looks right up my reading preferences. I love Queen Elizabeth I and researching that period, and this year I am going to teach a class of senior English, all Brit lit (yeah). See, here we go again with that real-world approach.

From NetGalley:

First, let me say that I am so grateful that I figured out how to get these books on my Nook and iPad. I was struggling with reading on the computer screen since I have awful eyesight.

Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison - I've read so many mixed reviews of this novel, which was disheartening since I have been looking forward to reading it, but I'm still looking forward to reading it.

Ditched by Robin Mellom - This novel looks so amazingly cute. I cannot wait to read it.

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey - I saw this in a lot of mailboxes last week so I researched it. It really looks like something I would enjoy. I think my students will enjoy it as well.

Witches by Cheryl Christian - I love a great witch story, and I collect children's witch books. I cannot wait to read it. The cover alone makes this seem like it will be (1) worth my time and (2) worth an add to my collection.

 That's what I've got in my mailbox this week. What's in yours?

July 17, 2011

Goodbye to a remarkable time?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II opened to a record-breaking midnight show, and I want to share why the end of this series saddens my heart.

Do you see this picture? This picture is of me and a complete stranger. Yep, I have no idea who this girl is, but I can tell you one thing: she loves Harry Potter. Look at that costume! Look at the detail, the time it took her to create, build, and wear it.

There is something about the Harry Potter series that has not been seen before and may not be seen again in my lifetime. There is heart and soul found not just on the pages of the books but also with the fans. I have attended several midnight release parties for this novel, and the creativity, the time, the heart, the energy that fills the air is only experienced at these release parties. It's why I go - to see all of this over a book series is just as magical as the books themselves.

This is the reason I am so sadden to see it come to an end. I loved the books, I loved the films, but I LOVE the excitement that the two create. And I LOVE that Harry Potter has allowed me to connect not only with my cousin but also with my students. There is no better feeling than connecting over a book, much less a series such as this, especially at midnight when we all should be tucked safely in our beds. Instead, we are celebrating our passion for reading...even if we look a bit unorthodox while doing it.

There will be other books; there will be other series; but will they match the magic that this particular series has conjured? That is the question. 

These two questions I pose to you.

What does this mean for the generation who grew up with Harry and company, who grew up attending book release parties and midnight movie premieres? What happens next for these readers?  

I would love to hear your thoughts. You don't have to be a member to comment. HP fans and non-fans are welcome.

Spotlight on: No Cream Puffs

While at the Harry Potter movie release party, a friend and I were discussing shopping for books based on covers. Then we started talking about covers that do not do the books justice, and I brought up No Cream Puffs, and so I thought I would "spotlight" the tween read this week.

Do NOT let the cover nor the title fool you!

It is 1980, and Madison simply wants to play baseball with a local team. The problem? She's a girl...and the team is all male. With just wanting to play because she is the strongest player in the area, Madison opens the door for other girls to play as well...a responsibility Madison does not want. 

On top of wanting to simply just play, Madison is also dealing with being 12...and all that comes with it.

It was an absolute wonderful story, and I couldn't put it down! For those of us who grew up in the 1980's, and for those who love tween reads, this book is worthy of your reading time. 

If you can clearly remember either of the above from your childhood, you have to read this book!

The face of poverty in America changed with a single click of a camera...

Don Nardo. Migrant Mother: How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression. Compass Point Books. 2011.

It is March 1936 and America is in the grips of The Great Depression. Dorothea Lange, a professional photographer for the Farm Security Administration, takes six photos in ten minutes that forever change the face of poverty in this country. As a result, her subject, Florence Owens Thompson, will forever be known as Migrant Mother.

This snapshot of history is an engaging way to interest the youth in one of America's most  economically trying times. It includes a plethora of information in its sixty-six pages. Background information on the Depression, the Dust Bowl, Lange herself, and Thompson are all a part of what makes this a strong historical addition to juvenile literature. The book includes the six photos of Thompson (one never previously published) as well as several other beautiful photographs that truly capture the truth of the time.

The power and relevance of this piece is the story behind the story. Nardo reveals interesting tidbits of several of the photos taken to document The Depression, including Thompson's feelings of being known and seen as the face of poverty.

The author's repetitive writing style will appeal to young readers, and the photos can be used in a variety of classrooms - English, history, art, etc. - at a variety of levels. The photographs alone make this book worthy of one's time, and the historical information enhances the book as a whole.

I recommend this book to all lovers of photography, historical juvenile literature, history/English/art teachers, students conducting research or wanting to read and learn more about The Great Depression.

The author, Don Nardo, is a historical writer who covers a wide-range of historical topics. For a list of his other writings, click here.

This copy for review was provided by NetGalley - a thousand thank yous to them.

In My Mailbox (5)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

It has been a slow reading week for me for a variety of reasons, but I am excited about adding these three books to my "mound" of reads. 

From B&N:
The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai - The books on the cover drew me to pick up this book, but what made me purchase it was the opening line on the dust jacket: "Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home." It looks like a great adult read about accepting and loving our children just as they are.

The Book of Elsewhere: Spellbound by Jacqueline West - I love the magic of a great children's series, and I really enjoyed the first novel,  The Shadows

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater - one of the most anticipated releases this summer, especially because of the way Linger ended, and I am curious to see how Maggie ends the story of Sam and Grace.

What did you get this week? Have you read any of these novels and loved/liked/hated them?

Happy reading to all!

July 10, 2011

In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme sponsored by The Story Siren.  It is a way for bloggers to network and share what books they are reviewing, borrowing, and/or buying.

This week's haul is a little larger, but I was looking for a week of various reads. While I need to tackle books that I have purchased and are collecting dust, I still enjoy adding to that pile from visits to B&N and the library. 

From B&N: 
Wither by Lauren DeStefano - this was on a lot of IMM posts last week and after researching it, it looks exactly like something I am going to LOVE 

From the library this week: 
Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck - read The Teacher's Funeral because I'm a teacher, and now that I'm hunting for a librarian position, I thought this would be worth my time as well

Trolls on Vacation by Alan MacDonald - just looks really cute; something I can read aloud to my six-year-old, especially since his father likes to pretend he is a troll while we are out on family walks

The Goodbye Time by Celeste Conway - looks like a great tween read about friendship (and the loss of)

Crank by Ellen Hopkins - just because I love Hopkins' writing; a re-read

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone (audio) - love listening to audios while cleaning, laying out, driving; I received this novel as a gift but haven't gotten around to reading it, so I'm giving the audio a try

For Review from NetGalley:
Migrant Mother by Don Nardo - I enjoy great historical novels, especially ones aimed at younger readers; love finding books I can incorporate into my classroom curriculum

Prince William and Kate: A Royal Romance by Matt Doeden - excited about this one because I love William and Kate!

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab - as stated a bazillion times before, I love witchy stories

July 9, 2011

This novel has cast its spell on me...

I am always looking for a great, witchy tale. I was excited about this novel because (1) it was about witches and (2) it is going to be a series. After I bought the novel it was immediately on my "next to read" list. It took me a few days to get into the novel - not because it was not a great read but because I seemed to be in a reading slump. I just could not concentrate, and this novel deserved my undivided attention. After three days, the slump was broken and I raced to devour every single word.

Book jacket summary
The three Beauchamp women--Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid--live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful lives. But they are harboring a mighty secret--they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there's Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache.

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hid her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it's time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.

My thoughts
Wow - great storytelling! That is the first thing that comes to mind about this novel.  I would love to work in a library with Ingrid and live in a town like North Hampton.

Here's why I loved this novel: (1) Joanna, Ingrid, and Freya; (2) Killian Gardiner; (3) strong, fresh, clever plot; (4) minor characters; (5) setting.

I want to first address our three heroines in the novel: Joanna, Ingrid, and Freya. What can I say? They each bring a strength to the story that kept me wanting more. I enjoyed the narrative style of the novel where I was treated to each of their stories, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes not. Each of these women bring a fresh perspective to the witchy world of literature that really worked for me. Joanna, the mother who maybe cares too much but still allows her daughters space. Ingrid, who hides behind her work in the library while pinning away, ignoring her own needs. Freya, the spicy one who brings a bit of heated romance to the tale in a variety of ways. I loved all three of them and look forward to having their tale unfold in the next novel.

And then there's Killian Gardiner. What a H-O-T character; spicy hot! While Freya has promised herself to Bran, she cannot seem to keep away from Killian. While he seems to be a minor character, he plays into the plot in a surprising and clever way. One I definitely did not see coming.

The strong, fresh plot I will not say much about for one reason: spoilers! I am so afraid of revealing something, so all I will say is this - if you read a lot of witchy lit like myself, you will enjoy fresh take de la Cruz takes with this novel. This was not just a novel about three witches, it was an unfolding mystery that needed solving. I also enjoyed the way she wrapped up the mystery. It was not in a cheesy way - it was well-done.

The minor characters that are scattered throughout only add to my love of this novel. From those who work with Ingrid in the library to the little boy who steals Joanna's heart to those Freya encounters while working in a bar, it is clear that de la Cruz understands how important minor characters are to strong storytelling. There was not one single character where I thought, "What was the point of that one?" Every character was needed to move the plot forward.

Finally the setting - North Hampton, NY. The creation of this setting really worked for me. It acted as the perfect background for what de la Cruz was trying to accomplish with novel. I had this quaint island in my mind while I read with a town not unlike Salem, MA (which happens to be alluded to throughout), with just as much mystery to it as its inhabitants. This is a town I could see myself living in.

I look forward to the continuation of this series, one I expect mighty things from...after all, after that ending, it can only get better.

July 3, 2011

In My Mailbox (3)

The weekly In My Mailbox post is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. This is my third week participating, and I have really enjoyed visiting other blogs and seeing what others are buying/receiving/checking out to read.  

This week I've acquired four new reads from Barnes & Noble, my favorite place to purchase books. I have had my eye on three of these, so I'm excited to add them to my shelf. Here's what I've bought:

Entwined by Heather Dixon - the cover drew me in to this one; something about it reminded me of the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray. I have high hopes for this one.
Enclave by Ann Aguire - this one comes recommended by my favorite teen bookseller, Emily. I bought Divergent first because it was highly recommended, and this one seemed okay. Now I've added this to my shelf because I really am a sucker for dystopian lit.
Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz - I love a good witch story. No, I take that back, I worship a good witch story. I especially love witch series, so I am very excited about this one. If you know of other great witchy reads, leave suggestions in my comments below. Thanks!
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz - because my life would not be complete without Harry Potter. I've had my eye on this book for a while; a long, long while. Every time I go in to B&N and see it I tell my husband, "This would make a great present." To date, I have not received it as a gift, so I took matters into my own hands. And yes, there are real recipes that look yummy! Can't wait to give them a try.

What did you get this week?

July 2, 2011

Awaken, before it's too late

Amazing cover - love it!
I am a cover shopper, like many of you. I looked at this book during several trips to B&N, and I finally I gave in. After reading the jacket I thought, "Okay, I'll bite. Let's see if this is worth my time." Then I read the opening entry. I was hooked.

What will 2060 be like for the younger generation? Will you be asleep behind a world of technology, or will you awaken and be a part of the world? This is the basic premise for Kacvinsky's debut novel. 

Maddie is seventeen, the heiress to Digital School, and living a normal, technology-driven life. With all the tragedy that has befallen the country, school is now only through digital means. It is the only way to keep the children safe while they learn. But is this the really the ideal way to learn, to live? 

Enter Justin. He is the opposite of Maddie. He prefers the company of others and for fighting what he believes in - a world that coexists with technology, not one that solely lives through it. Justin opens Maddie's eyes in more than one way, but are they really so different? 

Maddie is a strong heroine. We experience Maddie's awakening to the world around her courtesy of Justin. His character is not as developed as Maddie's; he is much more guarded. I expect that reveal to happen in the next novel. But all the same, he is still a great character. He is the picture of selflessness, and while he helps Maddie try to embrace the world around her, she tries to help him do the same.

When I started reading this novel, I was listening to Matched as well. This was a mistake because both books have similarities. I found myself having to take a break from both to collect my thoughts and to keep the premises separate.Then, chapter fourteen happened. When I read that chapter, I could not put this book down - at all. I realized that Kacvinsky was spending the first thirteen chapters to prepare me for this one. The way she pushes the plot forward really worked for me. If you're reading it going, "Okay, where is she going with this?" Hang on for that chapter. That is when it all came to fruition for me. That is when I decided I love this book. 

There, I said it. I love this book. I love the chemistry between Maddie and Justin. I love the premise of the novel. I love the development of the bigger picture, one that steps beyond Maddie and Justin. I shudder at the fact that the society that has been created is one that could be our future. This alone makes this a great YA read, a great discussion piece in the classroom. 

What draws me into this book is how applicable it is to today's society with so many already living behind a screen. I am anxiously awaiting the sequel to this novel, Middle Ground, to see where Kacvinsky takes me next. Will we move forward as a society and re-embrace a life of socialization, or will we continue to live life through technology?

On a final note, I want to share this quote with you. It solidifies what made me (1) buy this book and (2) why I love it. This quote means more now that I've read the novel. I recommend that when you finish the book, go back and read the opening entry one more time.  Enjoy!

Maddie is discussing the fact that her mother has given her a blank journal to write long hand: 

"Why should I take the time to write down my thoughts when no one else can even read them? I'm used to millions of people having access to everything about me. I'm used to a fountain of feedback and comments trailing every entry I type, every thought I expose.That makes me feel justified. It shows that people genuinely care about me. It reminds me that I'm real and I exist.Why try to hide it all in a book? Besides, there are no secrets. Sooner or later, the truth always leaks out. That's one thing I've learned in this life." 

 Does this sound familiar?

TGIF, hosted by GReads (2)

GRead's question for this week's first TGIF: Mr. & Mrs.: Who are your favorite book couples?
Wow! The gauntlet has really been thrown down for this week's question. I read so many novels, especially series, that I don't like picking. I love them all. But since this is this week's question, I've decided to share five of my favorite book couples.
The choices below reflect a variety of books that I have read and loved. These are couples that were fun, fascinating, and all-around made my heart go thump, thump, thump.
My #1 choice is simple: Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley (Jane Austen's Emma)
Emma & Knightley FOREVER!
I know everyone is about Elizabeth and Darcy, but I never bought them the same way I bought Emma and Knightley. For me, these two characters embrace all that it means to be a truly happy, in-love couple. Knightley has known Emma since she was born, the two have always been a part of each other's lives in some fashion. The love I feel coming from Knightley as he chastises, guides, and celebrates Emma's character is one from the heart. He says these things because he loves her, unconditionally, and he wants her to be the best woman she can be, not what society dictates. For me, it is Emma & Knightley FOREVER! 
My #2: Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy (Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary & The Edge of Reason)
My favorite fun, chick lit couple. I love that they represent a modern Elizabeth and Darcy, both fighting against the obvious - they are made for each other. This was my first introduction into chick lit, and I continue to enjoy them as a book couple. Their banter is so clever and fun, I could not resist adding them to my list of book couples. Besides, I figured many would forget about our heroine Everywoman searching for love in the world, and finding it unconditionally in the guise of a modern Mr. Darcy. 
My #3: Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (sorry Nichole) (JK Rowling's Harry Potter series)
From the first book it was obvious Rowling had a plan for these two, one that did not include Harry. These two spend so many books arguing with one another that by the time the Yule Ball comes around, Rowling solidifies what readers suspect: these two have a thing for each other but neither will admit it. Their relationship is one of the many reasons the series holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. Okay, I admit it - I'm a HP nut! BUT, I never bought Harry and Ginny as a couple, so I'm glad Rowling gave me one that I could believe in.
My #4: Mia Thermopolis and Michael Moscovitz (Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries)
There are so many books in this series that it seems almost impossible not to invest in this couple. I mean, Mia is trying to be the best princess she can, but it seems she can never satisfy everyone. Then there's Michael, her best friend's brother, who admires and watches from the sidelines in several of the books. When these two finally get together it is like fireworks, and Mia's character has a transformation for the better. Michael makes Mia a better person as well as a better princess. 
My #5: Gemma Doyle and Kartik (Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy)
Talk about a hot book couple. These two are it! Forbidden love? Another realm? Secrets? Deceit? Destiny? All of these are reasons I love these two. I read this series via audio, and I could not wait for these two to get together, kiss, whatever. Either way, I wanted Gemma and Kartik together. I will not reveal whether or not Bray makes that happen in the series, but I will say that these two are almost a compilation of the book couples I've listed above. 
What do you think of my list? Who would you add/remove?