June 27, 2013

Ramona Quimby giveaway

Today is my birthday, and to celebrate I am going to have a giveaway!

Last week I cleaned up my study and found all kinds of bookish items that I have collected over the last few years. When I was in library school, I held on to everything for when I get my very own school library. Well…I am still on the hunt and my collection of items is still there, so…I’ve decided to hold random giveaways throughout the summer and the fall to pass these items on to those of you who will put them to better use.

Up first…a Ramona Quimby giveaway.

Here’s what I have: a copy of ‘Ramona’s World’ and a ‘Ramona and Beezus’ nylon pullstring backpack for the little reader in your life.

Or if you are a librarian, it would be a great “summer reading” prize as well.

Summary of ‘Ramona’s World’ from Goodreads:

The best year ever!

That's what Ramona thought the fourth grade was going to be, but things aren't turning out as she hoped. Sure, she has a new best friend named Daisy. But how can she improve her spelling as her teacher insists, or be the role model for her baby sister, Roberta, that Mrs. Quimby expects? Fourth-grade life is full of adventure and challenges, and at the end of it all—a "zeroteenth" birthday to celebrate!

Now all you have to do is enter the giveaway below.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

Review: Notes to Self

Title: ‘Notes to Self’
Author: Avery Sawyer
Pages: 168 (Kindle edition)
Available: NOW for your eReader or local bookstore/library
Source: The author

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two climbed up. Two fell down.

One woke up.

Robin Saunders is a high school sophomore with an awesome best friend, a hard-working single mom, and a complicated relationship with a sweet guy named Reno. She's coasting along, trying to get through yet another tedious year of high school, when Em suggests something daring. They live in Florida-- tourist central--and Emily wants to sneak into a theme park after midnight and see what they're made of.

When things get out of control, Robin wakes up in a hospital bed and Emily doesn't wake up at all. Just getting dressed becomes an ordeal as Robin tries to heal and piece together the details of that terrible night. Racing to remember everything in the hopes of saving Emily, Robin writes a series of notes to herself to discover the truth.

My Thoughts:

This book was a surprise—not because I wasn’t expecting it to be great but because I was expecting this to be a lot like ‘The Pact’ with the “two fell and one woke up” scenario.

Instead, I had a story of friendship, heartache, and truth.

As the story opens, Robin and Emily have fallen five stories, but only Robin wakes up. She has a brain injury, but she is able to heal while her best friend Emily slips into a coma. Robin experiences turmoil as she struggles to remember the events of that night. All she can remember is “I fell.” 

That phrase is repeated throughout the first half of the novel, and I thought it was interesting because it showed that while Robin felt she was fine and able to go about her daily life, the one thing she was clinging to was, “I fell.”

The plot of the novel is nicely paced, centered on Robin trying to remember that night while healing from her brain injury. Instead of going deep into how the brain heals, the author chooses another route. We get snapshots of Robin’s past and how it ties into her present. We see her friendship with Emily develop from the start and how she pulled away from another friend, the one whose unconditional friendship made me want to jump on the page and hug him—Reno.

The notes themselves weren’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be more of a diary entry type of novel with Emily writing in a diary to help jog her memory. Instead, it’s random notes of things she wants and needs to remember, like how to take a shower. I felt that notes to herself could have been a great addition to the story instead a snippet here and there. For that reason, I find the title of the novel to be a little misleading. Unless you include her flashbacks to be a note to herself. After all, she is exploring what led her to that night in the first place. In that way, the title ties in, but I felt a different title would serve more justice to the novel itself.

As for characters, I absolutely love Robin. She is trying to pick up the pieces of her life while her best friend is in a coma. And Robin isn’t living for herself; she’s living for Emily, to find the truth of what happened that night. As a result, she experiences bullying when she returns to school. Her new nickname is “short bus” and she deals with taunts from resident bad girl Josie, who blames Robin for what happened to Emily.

I have to tell you that as a teacher, I was horrified to read of Robin’s treatment, but when I step back and really think about it, teens can be vicious, even to those who are suffering so much heartache. While some may be a bit offended that the kids called her “short bus,” this is a reality. Teens make up nicknames for each other, and many times those nicknames are there to taunt and humiliate.

As for Robin’s mom, bravo to the author for giving us an involved parent. She is there for Robin, encourages her. I notice in a lot of novels aimed at teens parents are absent. I realize that a lot of times that is necessary because parents just “get in the way” of the storytelling. That is not the case with this novel. Robin needed a parent, and she had one.

And of course Reno. That boy. Throughout Robin’s memories and her quest to learn the truth, Reno is by her side. He isn’t the typical “swoon-worthy” on the page. He is what Robin needs in her life: stability. He is her constant, and I loved him. There is one scene in the novel that really made me want to hug him and tell him what a good soul he is—and it deals with Robin seeing her dad at a bar. That is all I will say. If you’ve read this book, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you will understand once you do.

There is family drama mixed in with teen angst and love, all while Robin is trying to heal her brain and put the pieces of the puzzle together.

I recommend this to readers of ‘If I Stay’ and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why.’ The feel of the novels is the same as is the pace. I would say this is appropriate for readers age 12+.

What is your favorite “teen in crisis” novel?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

June 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

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.

My pick this week is one I am hoping I can tie into my classroom. I am always on the hunt for YA novels that I can bring into what I teach, and I am hoping to use this one to make a connection to John Steinbeck.

Title: 'Dead Ends’
Author: Erin Jade Lange
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 336
Release Date: 3 Sept. 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search.

A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping.

As a journalist, Erin Jade Lange is inspired by hot button issues like bullying, but it is her honest characters and breakneck plotting that make Dead Ends a must-read.

How interesting does this book sound?! The plot is reminiscent of Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’—I just hope it does not have the same ending. Even the cover reminds me of George and Lennie.

What are you waiting for this week?

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator

June 22, 2013

Happenings in Hodgensville - Summer Reading...so far

Happenings in Hodgensville is me sharing myself with you - not reviewing a book or discussing what I am reading, but sharing what I am doing in my classroom and/or in my life.

I decided I wanted to spend a good portion of my summer time reading. I usually spend a good portion of it training and preparing for the upcoming school year. This year I still have training and will teach a group of teachers in August, but I also have flexibility in my training schedule for the first summer in five years.

The school year is always go, go, go, and pleasure reading is usually saved for my time on the elliptical/treadmill/bike.

My goal this summer was to read 35 books. This morning I was writing in my journal to prepare for this blog entry and learned that I have already read 30 books. Yep, that’s right—30!

I am shocked—and also excited because it has been a long time since I have been able to sit back and just read, all day if I want. And it has been glorious. I still have other things to do, and have been doing them, but I love that I have been able to read a book a day with a day off here and there.

I’ve been setting up my reading with a tween/YA novel followed by a mystery. This has worked well for me because it gives me a chance to let my brain rest, especially if I read a heart-wrenching novel.

I have loved all of my reads (two were audio but they still count, right?), but the one I enjoyed the least was ‘The Spindlers’ by Lauren Oliver. I was a bit disappointed with it—I don’t know what I was expecting, and I still enjoyed it, but of the 30 reads, it was my least favorite.

·         ‘Going Vintage’ (Leavitt)
·         ‘Tempest in the Tea Leaves’ (Townsend)
·         ‘The 5th Wave’ (Yancey)
·         ‘Books Can Be Deceiving’ (McKinlay)
·         ‘Shadow of Night’ (Harkness) (audio)
·         ‘Ashes, Ashes’ (Treggiari)
·         ‘Call Me Zelda’ (Robuck)
·         ‘Perfect Scoundrels’ (Carter)
·         ‘Trouble in Paradise’ (Parker)
·         ‘The Year of the Book’ (Cheng)
·         ‘Burning’ (Arnold)
·         ‘Bookmarked for Death’ (Barrett)
·         ‘Eleanor & Park’ (Rowell)
·         ‘Bookplate Special’ (Barrett)
·         ‘The Dancing Pancake’ (Spinelli)
·         ‘Witch Twins’ (Griffin)
·         ‘Trouble in the Tarot’ (Townsend)
·         ‘The School for Good and Evil’ (Chainani)
·         ‘Death in Paradise’ (Parker)
·         ‘Ask the Passengers’ (King)
·         ‘Due or Die’ (McKinlay)
·         ‘The Boyfriend App’ (Sise)
·         ‘Shadow and Bone’ (Bardugo) (audio)
·         ‘What’s a Witch to Do?’ (Harlow)
·         ‘Witch’s Sister’ (Naylor)
·         ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ (Saenz)
·         ‘Book, Line, and Sinker’ (McKinlay)
·         ‘Private Peaceful’ (Morpurgo)
·         ‘The Spindlers’ (Oliver)
·         ‘Corpse in the Crystal Ball’ (Townsend)

What have you read this summer? Do you have a favorite/least favorite?

Comment below and join the conversation.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

June 19, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (7)

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.

I am really excited about my pick for this week.

Title: 'A Question of Magic’
Author: E.D. Baker
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 272
Release Date: 1 Oct. 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

Serafina was living the normal life of a village girl, when she gets a mysterious letter--her first letter ever, in fact--from a great aunt she's never heard of in another village. Little does 'Fina know, her great aunt is actually a Baba Yaga, a magical witch who lives in an even more magical cottage.

Summoned to the cottage, Serafina's life takes an amazing turn as she finds herself becoming the new Baba Yaga. But leaving behind home and the boy she loves isn't easy, and as Serafina grows into her new and magical role answering the first question any stranger might ask her with the truth, she also learns about the person she's meant to be, and that telling the future doesn't always mean knowing the right answers.

In her inimitable and bestselling way, ED Baker has crafted a funny and romantic story that combines some fabulous details from the original Slavic tale, with an all new spin!

May I squee about this book?! I fell in love with Baba Yaga stories when I did a unit on them for my children’s literature class in Grad school. And of course, October is the perfect month for a new witchy tale, my favorite. Squee!

What are you waiting for this week?

Happy Reading!

     - The Hodgenator