April 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Topics That Make Me Grab a Book

I’ve got to be honest, I am a cover shopper. Period. It has to be something about the cover for me to consider picking it up in a book store or library, but there are always topics I am searching for as well.

I usually love to find books that deal with something I teach so I can help my students (1) connect beyond the classroom and (2) pick up a book for fun.

With that said, I also just love to read and learn myself. The list below comprises mostly of what I love to read, which is what leads me to grab a book off the shelf in the first place.

My list below is in no particular order, other than my thinking about the topic.


1.    Witches and Magic

I love a good witchy tale, and I am always on the lookout for children/tween/YA reads on this subject. I especially love witchy series novels, and I have discovered a few witchy mysteries, which I love. Also titles with magic—I’m going to pick it up. Even if I don’t purchase/check it out, I am still going to check out the novel. Especially anything dealing with the Salem Witch Trials. I love reading about them.

2.    Cupcakes

I blame Lisa Schroeder for this. Because of her novel ‘It’s Raining Cupcakes,’ I now find myself reading other novels related to cupcakes. My favorite right now is ‘The Cupcake Diaries,’ which is such a great series of friendship and growing up. And of course, cupcakes.

3.    Friendship

This is something I am always looking for in tween novels. While I teach high schoolers, I find that it is important to remember where they are coming from, not just where they are now. So, I love reading tween friendship novels that discuss the trials and tribulations of growing up and holding on to friendships. Lauren Myracle’s ‘Winnie series’ is great for this.

4.    Supernatural

So, since I love all things witchy, I am sure this is no surprise. I love a good supernatural tale. Series are big since studies have shown that younger readers prefer them, so I have recently found myself a lot of great supernatural series reads.

5.    Dystopian

With ‘The Hunger Games’ helping this topic take off, you can imagine how much a love a great dystopian tale. I know this is not really a “topic,” but there are so many elements covered under dystopia, and I love seeing this grow.

6.    Fallen Angels

I know this goes under supernatural, but I am putting it separately. I love a good fallen angel tale, and I am always willing to pick up a book that deals with the topic.

7.    Shakespeare

Some students find him unreadable—for a plethora of reasons. I am aways looking for novels to bring him into the classroom in an approachable way. I’ve even found a pop-up book I use when I introduce him to my kids.

I have taught Hamlet for twelve years, and I love to find all of the “takes” on it. I have read several, and at the play’s conclusion, I always reference these novels and the take the authors have on what happened within the plot. I love it because there are so many unanswered questions that allow students to critically think about the text as well as discuss, and I love finding novels to tie to it.

8.    Elizabethan England

I love historical fiction, especially novels dealing with this time period. I am always looking for something new and intriguing to read, so I would love suggestions if you have any.

9.    Marilyn Monroe

I collect Monroe biographies, so any book about her is going to get picked up by me. I don’t always buy them. I usually check them out of the library to see if they are worth my time.

10. Social Issues

Rape, suicide, anything ethically questionable. It’s one of the reasons I love Jodi Picoult. She seems to have the pulse on society and what we should discuss versus what we are discussing. I especially love YA novels that tie social issues into their plots. It’s a great discussion with my students, for those who love to read.

So…that’s my list. What’s on yours?

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

April 29, 2013

Review: Rotten

I read ‘Trapped’ by Northrop a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. I was excited to see he had a new book, and it was about a dog.

I love dogs. I have two myself, and they are so spoiled, and I would not trade them in for the world. I was pleased to see a YA novel that brings the love of dogs to a new level.

Title: Rotten
Author: Michael Northrop
ISBN: 9780545495875
Pages: 256
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Available: NOW at your local book store or library
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jimmer "JD" Dobbs is back in town after spending the summer "upstate." No one believes his story about visiting his aunt, and it's pretty clear that he has something to hide. It's also pretty clear that his mom made a new friend while he was away---a rescued Rottweiler that JD immediately renames Johnny Rotten (yes, after that guy in the Sex Pistols). Both tough but damaged, JD and Johnny slowly learn to trust each other, but their newfound bond is threatened by a treacherous friend and one snap of Johnny's powerful jaws. As the secrets JD has tried so hard to keep under wraps start to unravel, he suddenly has something much bigger to worry about: saving his dog.

My Thoughts:

I loved this book. I absolutely loved it.


Because I love a story about a boy and his dog. I love a story about a boy, his dog, and fighting for its right to live.

That is what Northrop delivers in this novel.

I knew from the moment JD returned from “upstate” and met the dog that this was going to be a symbolic story of redemption, for both of them.

And it was.

The author has paced the plot of this novel nicely, introducing JD as he is returning from “upstate,” which leaves readers with questions on what he was really doing during his summer vacation. Let me just say that JD won’t be writing about his activities in his English essay.

But there is more to the story than JD. There is Johnny (Johnny Rotten) (JR). He is the real star of this novel, for me. He helps JD learn responsibility, love, friendship, and loyalty. All the things a boy should learn from taking care of his dog.

What JD learns the most in this novel is how to remain true to himself, his family, his friends. He has to fight for himself as well as for Johnny. After all, there is another who is out to “get” them both.

There were moments of this book when I was upset. I know in a lot of dog stories the animal dies. It’s a fact and I’ve come to terms with it. But, while reading this book I cannot count the number of times I said to my husband, “The author better not kill this dog.”

And I meant it.

I became that invested in Johnny. I will write no more so that I do not give away an important plot point.

The title ‘Rotten’ really speaks volumes. Both JD and Johnny are cast aside in their worlds for being just that, rotten, when they are anything but. What they need is for someone to take a chance to trust and care about them. This is what ties them together and makes them perfect characters for one another.

Let me not forget JD’s mom. Usually I find that parents as characters get in the way of the plot of YA novels. That was not the case here. She needed to be here, and she enhanced the story. Actually, all of the adult characters did.

The secondary characters in the novel are there to help enhance JD. None of them steal the spotlight. That’s Johnny’s job. But they do allow JD to grow as a character. They hold him responsible for his actions, past and present, and they offer guidance and friendship when he needs it most.

The author has presented a best-case scenario about a boy, his dog, and the friendship they develop together. Have I mentioned how much I loved this book?

I don’t recommend it to just male readers. This is a great book for anyone who loves dogs or loves a good boy and his dog story.

What is your favorite pet tale? Share below. I am always looking for more to add to my TBR pile.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator
My pups, Katniss & Knightley

April 24, 2013

Waiting On Wednesday (5)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

This week my choice is one that I know many of you are anxiously awaiting as well, the next piece of the Raven Cycle. I have so much love for ‘The Raven Boys’ and cannot wait to see where Steifvater takes us next.

I LOVE the cover!!!
Title: 'The Dream Thieves’
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: 17 September 2013

Summary (from

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

I am sad that this is the only glimpse we have so far into the plot. I get it—it helps build the hype of the book as well as doesn’t spoil anything within the plot. But still…I can be a bit greedy when anxiously awaiting a novel to hit the shelves.

What are you waiting for this week?

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator