August 28, 2011

In My Mailbox (11)

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 was quite light until yesterday. I made a visit to my local used bookstore and hit a YA jackpot for my classroom library. I am quite excited about my finds there because (1) they are all hardback and (2) I did not pay more than $4 PER book (squee).

From the library:

Forgotten by Cat Patrick (audio) - I love a great YA audio book. I hope the reader does not disappoint.

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard - I waited for several weeks for this to come in at the library. I saw her interview and cannot wait to read her book.

Entwined by Heather Dixon (audio) - I have the book, but I am now so bogged down with grading that I don't have as much free time to read, so I decided to give the audio a try. I'm listening to it right now and am really enjoying it.

From Booklegger:

I am excited about these finds. Once again, found them all in hardback for $4 or less. I cannot wait to add them to my classroom library. We are two weeks in and already my kids are looking for fresh reads.

Sovay by Celia Rees
The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eleventh Grade Burns by Heather Brewer
Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti
Igraine the Brave by Cornelia Funke
The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

From NetGalley:

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe - I actually received this two weeks ago but forgot to add it to my IMM list. Can't wait to read it; sounds like an interesting dystopian novel.

That's what I've got in my mailbox this week - what's in yours? Have you read any of these novels? Do you have any other recommendations?

Happy Reading!

And be sure to return next weekend. I am attending the Decatur Book Festival, so there is no telling what I will have for the IMM post. Anyone else going next weekend?

August 27, 2011

Haunting, memorable

I saw Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children on several IMM posts, so I decided to investigate to see what the "hype" was all about. What I discovered what that every person who read this novel was in love with it. I was worried; I tend to have different interpretations of novels. If everyone loves a book, it tends to be the one I do not enjoy. This was NOT the case with this novel.

Summary (from cover):
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very peculiar photographs.

It all awaits the be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow--impossible though it seems--they may still be alive.

My thoughts:
First let me say that this is one of the most amazing novels I have ever read. The reason is not because the story is so incredible (it is nonetheless) but because the author so cleverly weaves the plot to fit the pictures. I would read a section and think, "I wonder what the point of that was?" Chapters later it would become quite clear, with a photograph to illustrate, leaving me in awe.

The story of the novel is an absolute page-turner. From the moment the tragedy occurs to the final page, Riggs leaves his readers guessing. On more than several occasions I found myself discussing his twists and turns throughout the pages with others who had read the novel, simply so surprised at how much (1) I was enjoying the novel and (2) at how high the creep factor was. While many parts of this novel left me wanting to sleep with the lights on at night, I simply could not put it down.

Jacob was quite a character himself. I never seemed to know where I stood with him and his curiosity to learn more about his grandfather. That is all I can say. If you've read the novel, you know what I mean. While he seems to be the heart of this novel, it is the supporting characters who steal the show. Without them, this novel would not be the page-turner it was for me. The worst part? I cannot go into any more detail than that because it would ruin this novel for you.

The heart and soul of this novel lies with the photographs. They are haunting, but they are an intricate part of the experience of reading this novel. Because of the photographs, I say do NOT read this on your eReader. The experience will just not be the same.

Why I loved this novel: The plot combined with the pictures; the supporting characters; the guess factor; the creep factor

Who should read it: If you love YA, if you love Neil Gaiman, if you love a great read, if you are into photography, read this novel!

Bray brings heart to Beauty Queens

I read Beauty Queens shortly after its publication, anxious to dive into another great Bray read. I was not at all prepared for the awesomeness that this book gave me - straight satire I could chew on for hours. While at the library a couple of weeks ago I was searching for a great YA audio book to listen to and from work. I saw Beauty Queens and noticed that Bray was the reader. I promptly checked it out, curious to see if hearing her read it would enhance my experience with the novel. IT DID (and then some)!

In June I wrote a review of my thoughts on the novel. What I want to focus on is how Bray's interpretation fit mine to a T. I get it, she wrote it, so of course she was magnificent at reading it. What Bray brought to my second experience with this novel is more empathy for the characters, characters I over-looked while reading the novel.

Through her reading, she truly captures the element of satire that I fear many readers will miss while reading the novel. The sound effects enhance the statement she is trying to make with how much our lives are dictated to us through commercialism, beauty, self-absorption, etc.

But what she truly brought to the novel as a reader was heart. While I read the novel I found myself laughing at the many statements, but while hearing her read, those statements truly sank in on another level. It truly brought the entire book together as a whole piece in a way that I missed while reading the novel.

And if that is not enough, she gives an interview at the novel's conclusion. This interview will stay with me for a long time. She discusses having to make a tough choice at the age of eighteen, being thrust into adulthood before she might have been ready. It is a tale that brings a new respect to her as a writer and as a woman. While I have always loved the stories she has created, while I have found myself giggling at many of her tweets, I know find myself respecting her not only as a writer but as a woman, one who does not go "gently into that good night" but fights to do what she loves. This makes me even more nervous to hear and meet her next weekend at the Decatur Book Festival, but I cannot WAIT!

My original review of the novel: These aren't your mama's beauty queens

And FYI: Taylor is STILL my favorite character! Bray really brought her to life on the audio. 

A magical read for a magical romance

Title and author: Prince William and Kate: A Royal Romance  by Matt Doeden
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Date: Sept. 1, 2011
ISBN: 9780761380290
Source: NetGalley


This is a juvenile biography of Prince William and Kate Middleton - their romance and their wedding.

My Thoughts:

This nonfiction piece serves as a biographical sketch of the Royal couple. The information was presented in a delightful, age appropriate way.

The author takes great care in explaining the complicated life of Prince William in terms that young readers can understand. The biographical information on the Prince and on Kate was quite interesting and the writing had a nice flow.  

What I enjoyed most about the novel was how the author wove the lives of these two together. He first focuses on William, revealing information on Will's life before and after the death of his mother. He then transitions into Kate's world, allowing readers a glimpse into the life of a woman that little is known about, with exception to her being "Will's girlfriend." The biography then concludes with the two joining as husband and wife.

With plenty of colorful photographs to enhance the information provided, this biographical sketch is a “must read” for any young reader doing research on the royal family or just interested in learning about Prince William and Kate.

The information is insightful, making the information quite accessible to juvenile readers. 

A modern take on an old tale

Title and author: Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison
Publisher: Egmont
Date: Oct. 11, 2011
ISBN: 978-1606841730
Source: NetGalley

Summary (Goodreads):

A modern retelling of the German fairy tale "Tristan and Isolde," Tris and Izzie is about a young witch named Izzie who is dating Mark King, the captain of the basketball team and thinks her life is going swimmingly well. Until -- she makes a love potion for her best friend Brangane and then ends up taking it herself accidentally, and falling in love with Tristan, the new guy at school.

My thoughts:

First, let me make a statement about the cover – it’s beautiful. At first glance this appears to be a love story, and I have read comments that say the cover was misleading; however,  having read the novel and looked at the cover once more, it becomes clear to me that the cover does not depict a love story so much as a story about love. It is important that at the novel's conclusion you look to the cover again; the pieces of the puzzle should fall together.

This is a simple tale with a complex plot – what defines love? Can a “love” potion really be just that, a potion, or does free will have more to do with the situation? This is what Izzie is gripping with as the novel’s plot begins to unfold. While her head belongs to Mark, it seems that her heart and soul belong to Tris, but that is just because she drank the potion (by accident, of course), right? 

Dealing with mixed feelings is not all Izzie must deal with in the novel. There is a terrible monster awaiting her death. One that wants to steal her magic, magic she does not believe she has, magic that she must do all in her power to preserve. A monster that sends others to "sniff" her out; to find and kill her. There are two people in Izzie's life who seem to know about this monster, two people who want to keep Izzie as safe as possible. After all, could be their last hope.

The writing of this novel does start off with a strong, solid plot idea. As a matter of fact, for most of the novel the author sets a clean pace for readers; however, as the end comes closer, it becomes clear that a deadline was looming and that an ending was needed. The ending is rushed, harsh, and not developed along the same pace as the rest of the novel. This makes the novel’s writing seem disjointed, as if there was no true direction for the novel’s conclusion.

With that said, I enjoyed this novel as a whole. I have read other reviews that were dissatisfied; however, I did not step away from this novel dissatisfied at all. Even with an ending that did not fully work for me, I felt that this novel was worth my time. I wanted to turn the page to see what kind of “mess” Izzie would find herself in next. It has been a while since I have read a character who is able to cause herself so much trouble so fast in such a comical way, whether it was meant to be comical or not. I found her character fun but a bit dense.

What I liked: (1) Izzie as a character; she was the most well-developed, the most even of all of the characters. While it is true she is the star of the plot and should be center stage, not all "stars" of novels are developed in a way that satisfies me. As a whole, I did enjoy her character and her evolution throughout the novel. (2) Izzie and her mom; loved their dynamic of holding one another accountable for everything and nothing at the same time. It seems these two have the stereotypical parent/teen relationship rife with secrets. (3) The magical element; I love a good witch story, one full of magic and intrigue. This one qualifies just as that for me.

What I disliked: The ending was a harsh reminder of Bella’s character in Breaking Dawn. Izzie had no idea for most of the novel how to work her power and then all of a sudden she could. Did not buy it for Bella and not buying it for Izzie.

Why you should read it: If you enjoy YA, if you enjoy magical reads, if you enjoy fairy tales, you should give this novel a fair shot. This author has a lot of potential to write another, more solid novel. The idea is there. The execution is there. She just needs to refine the pacing of bringing a conclusion to her writing.

August 23, 2011

Could you handle the magic of Grimm?

I taught a Myths, Monsters, & Shakespeare class for nine years, so I am always looking for great reads that go along with that class. This was recommended to me by my favorite bookseller at B&N. She is usually right about what I like, and this novel is no exception. 

Summary (Goodreads):
Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library, a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That's where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White's stepmother's sinister mirror that talks in riddles.

When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime, or captured by the thief.

Polly Shulman has created a contemporary fantasy with a fascinating setting and premise, starring an ordinary girl whose after-school job is far from ordinary, and leads to a world of excitement, romance and magical intrigue.

My thoughts:
The plot of this novel really speaks to me. As someone who has just completed an MLIS degree, the idea of working in a specialized library that houses the objects from Grimm tales sounds like a dream job. Not only that, but to have a chance to check those items out? Oh my! For this reason alone I loved, loved, loved this book.

The strength with this novel is the cleverness in not only the developing of the plot but also the characters. From  Elizabeth's trusting in others made her endearing for me because that is the hardest gift to give, and she was a character who willingly wanted to trust those around her. Whether or not that was a wise decision, well, I'll leave that to the reader to decide. 

The adventure element of this story sold me wholeheartedly. It made this novel worth every page I devoured. And reader, beware - trust nothing that you read while reading the novel. As with all great fairy tales, things are not as they appear to be. Okay, now I'm just being melodramatic, but it was fun, even for a moment. In truth, buckle your seat belt because this will be a bumpy ride - magic carpet and all. Okay, the magic carpet ride isn't really bumpy, but you get the point, right?

This book is a great read for anyone who enjoys fairy tales, fractured tales, and/or adventure stories. A great book for reluctant male readers.

Have you read this novel? If so, I would love to hear what you thought. Other fractured tale suggestions?

August 21, 2011

In My Mailbox (10)

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.

I have survived the first week of school, but my reading has suffered badly. Since my reading has suffered, so has looking for new, great reads. My husband says, "You already have too much to read already." I've tried to explain to him that there is no such thing as too much to read, but alas, here is what I was able to get my hands on this week.

 Won from JD Nichols Writes: 

My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff - I was so excited to win this. It's my first win on Twitter, and I have been working hard. I have several students that I know would love this book, so I am excited to gave a chance to share it with them.

Received in the mail:

Signed bookmarks from Lisa Schroeder - Lisa was very generous with the signed bookmarks. I have a YA book club for teachers in my school as well as lots of Schroeder readers, so I wanted to surprise them with their first piece of book "swag". I am excited to hand these out at our first book club meeting in September. Oops, I hope I didn't just ruin the surprise.

Purchased from B&N: 

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay - after speaking with my favorite B&N bookseller about this book, I decided I had to give it a try. Romeo & Juliet is taught to our freshmen, but I am always looking for Shakespearean retellings to help students connect with what they have been taught. I can't wait to dive into this and then share it with my students. 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by C. M. Valente - I have had my eye on this novel for a while. Last school year I was hoping to find a librarian job, so I handed over my Mythology class to someone I thought would do a great job with it. This book would have been perfect to advertise to that class, but I love stories such as this anyway, so I can't wait to give it a try. A big bonus is the blurb on the cover by Gaiman (swoon). That had me sold on the novel as well.

An exciting one in my mailbox! Have you read any of the above? Any suggestions as to what I should add next?

That's it for my IMM - what's in yours? Comment and leave me a link. 

Happy reading everyone!

August 14, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Thanks to Juliet @ The Attic Reviews for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award! The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers with less than 200 followers.

The rules of the award are: 

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and past the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all- have bloggity-blog fun!
It was difficult to pass this along because there are so many great bloggers out there, but I think I've made my decision.

My nominations are:
1. Alaiel @ Librarian Mouse
2. Leanne@ YA Forever
3. Hannah @ Once Upon a Time
Congrats guys and enjoy! 

In My Mailbox (9)

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 past week I have been busy with workshops, preparing my classroom, and open house. It is now officially the start of the school year, and I will welcome students back into my classroom tomorrow (yikes). Where did the summer go? 

While I didn't have a lot of time to read, I was able to get my hands on four great books. Here they are!


This week I am a winner - yes, you read that correctly. I never win, so when I learned that I was one of twenty people Barry Lyga picked from the "Be A Superhero" Archvillain contest, I was ecstatic! I love Lyga and I love that he thought my superhero costume was awesome. So what did I win? A signed copy of Archvillain, which I've been dying to read.

From B&N

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz - First I noticed that this novel was on quite a few IMM posts over the last few weeks, so I was anxious to find it in the book store. Then I saw that Rachel Hawkins had a blurb on the cover. Since I love Rachel and so many seemed to enjoy it, I thought I would give it a shot. And now it is in my ever-growing "to be read" pile.

Between by Jessica Warman - The cover drew me to this novel as well as seeing it on a few IMM posts last weekend. After reading the first chapter I was hooked. Cannot wait to really get into this one.

The Lady if the Rivers by Philippa Gregory (advanced reader) - My husband works for B&N, and every now and again they get ARCs. If he sees one he thinks I will enjoy, he grabs it for me. I love that man! I cannot wait to read Gregory's latest. While her writing can be dense, I learn so many interesting tidbits to bring into my classroom.

That's it for this week. Have you read any of the above books? Care to share what you thought? Comment and leave your link. I love seeing what others have received mainly because it helps my own reading list. It also gives me suggestions to make to my high school juniors and seniors.

Happy reading everyone!

August 7, 2011

In My Mailbox (8)

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 is my final IMM post before the school year starts for me (sigh). I am excited about my finds this week; of course, I'm always excited about my finds, but you get what I'm saying. Book lovers unite!

From the Library
Beauty Queens audio by Libba Bray 
During the school year I prefer to listen to audio books on my way to school instead of listening to the radio. I find it calms me. I usually pick a YA novel, but every now and again I'll pick up a mystery. This week, I found Beauty Queens. I read this novel the week it came out, but I noticed that Bray is the I HAD to give it a try. I like to do this sometimes, listen to the audio after I've read the book. Sometimes it changes the experience with the book for me - Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book is an example.

From B&N
Falling for Hamlet by Michelle Ray 
I have taught eleventh graders for eleven years. I am always looking for contemporary novels that bring to life what I teach to my students. Anything dealing with Hamlet is an example. While I no longer teach the play because now I teach AP, I still love reading modern re-tellings. I had my eye on this novel for a while now, so I thought I would go ahead and go for it.

From NetGalley 
Eve by Anna Carey - This looks like an intriguing dystopian novel. I'm curious to read the author's vision of things in the year 2032. 

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver - I am a huge fan of Oliver's, so I am excited to read this.  

Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon - Fractured fairy tale? Yes, please  

Alice-Miranda on Vacation by Jacqueline Harvey - The first novel was cute, so I am interested in seeing where Harvey takes the character next  

The Lacey Chronicles #2: The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards - Absolutely loved the first novel! I cannot wait to read what becomes of Lady Jane

That's what I've added this week. What have you added? Have you read any of the above books? Do you have suggestions? I would love to hear them.

August 6, 2011

Philippa Gregory for Teens

I love history, especially the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. When I saw this novel at B&N, I decided to give it a try. After all, who doesn't enjoy a love story every now and again?

Book jacket summary

Ellie—Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, Countess of San Jaime—possesses a worthless title, but her feisty spirit captivates the elite of the Queen's court—especially the dashing new Earl of Dorset.

William Lacey, Earl of Dorset, has inherited his father's title—and his financial ruin. Now Will must seek a wealthy bride and restore his family's fortune. If only he hadn't fallen for the beautiful but penniless Ellie . . .

Sparks fly whenever Ellie and Will are together, but circumstances—and the conniving interference of others—threaten to keep them apart.

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. While it took me a few days to read, it was worth the time. The characters were likable, the plot was intriguing, and the time period was well-researched.

The one thing I enjoyed the most in this novel was the presentation of Elizabethan England. While many novels from this time period revolve around the Queen herself (or her ladies), this one does not. Instead, readers are treated to an intriguing story of forbidden love.

Ellie was a delightful character. Throughout the novel I felt her character's spirit was a direct link to the Queen. The way she presented herself, her scholarship, her tenacity all channel that of the Queen's. I believe that had Ellie's circumstances been a bit different, she and the Queen would have been best friends.

The Earl of Dorset, however, does not gain the same type of affection from me (nor from Ellie) at the novel's start. Destitute and trying to make amends for the loss of his family's fortune, Dorset sets his sights and punishment on the wrong lots, casting Ellie and her father out like dogs in the night. To say that the change in his character four years later was much needed is an understatement. The author took care to show the maturity of this character and his handling of his duties.

The love story between Ellie and Dorset develops nicely, but there are many other matters at play that affect them both. For me, it is the supporting characters and their sub plots that kept this novel as a page-turner. In addition to the love story, the novel deals with courtly love, political intrigue, religious difference, the lowly status of women, etc. 

All of these dealings are wrapped up in a nice package labeled "The Lacey Chronicles." I am anxious to continue this series to see what is in store next...

Cold Kiss Warmed My Heart

Title and author: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date: September 20, 2011
ISBN: 978-0061996221

Summary (Goodreads):
When her boyfriend, Danny, is killed in a car accident, Wren can’t imagine living without him. Wild with grief, she uses the untamed powers she’s inherited to bring him back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy she once loved. 

Wren has spent four months keeping Danny hidden, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school and somehow, inexplicably, he can sense her secret. Wren finds herself drawn to Gabriel, who is so much more alive than the ghost of the boy she loved. But Wren can’t turn her back on Danny or the choice she made for him—and she realizes she must find a way to make things right, even if it means breaking her own heart.

My Thoughts
"Regardless of fairy tales, love doesn't always mean a happy ending."

What happens when Wren loses the one she loves the most? She has the power to bring him back to life, so she does. This is what our main character, Wren, is dealing with as this memorable novel opens. The main inquiry the author is dealing with in this novel is how can Wren move on in her life and find love again when she is still holding on to the past.

Wren is an intriguing character, bringing the idea of teen angst to a new level. She represents everything that is wrong with being sixteen with a bit more baggage—powers her mother will not explain to her, bringing back to life her dead boyfriend. 

The Prologue of the novel had me hooked, and the plot continued to build until the touching conclusion, leaving me wanting to continue to turn the page long after the story's end. The strength of the novel does not solely lie in the hands of Wren. It is the strong supporting characters that add to the power of this novel. It seems that their presence and purpose in the novel serves as a strong reminder that no matter how alone we believe we are in the world, we truly can face anything with the support of family and friends (even if that includes how to rid our lives of our zombified boyfriend).

For me, the author reinvents the wheel in the world of YA zombie literature with this novel. This “my girlfriend couldn’t live without me so she brought me back from the dead” tale might be ideal for those who tend to lean away from zombie tales. This novel allows readers to know and understand that the fascination of zombie stories do take on another level that does not end in bites and brain eating. 

Look for it in stores September 20, 2011 

This copy is courtesy of NetGalley - a thousand thank yous for the opportunity to read this novel.