Sunday, July 31, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (29)

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

For Review


THE SOULKEEPERS by GP Ching
The second book in this series is coming out in the fall, and GP (a 2011 debut author) was looking for bloggers to review it. This one had good reviews, so I thought I'd give it a try. She sent me a copy of the first book so that I can read it first.


 
GLOW (Sky Chasers #1) by Amy Kathleen Ryan
ARC - Book releases September 13th. Thanks St. Martin's Griffin!







DUST & DECAY (ARC) by Jonathan Maberry
Sequel to ROT & RUIN releases August 30th. Thanks Simon & Schuster!





Bought


WILDEFIRE by Karsten Knight
Had to buy it on the release day after seeing so many strong reviews of it + it sounds so unique and good!







SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White
Of course I had to get the sequel to PARANORMALCY!




THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger
I've heard really good things about this humorous middle grade (with boy appeal) and the sequel is out soon, so I wanted to check it out.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

Title: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Number of Pages: 420
Source of Book: ARC borrowed from Tara @ Fiction Folio
Author's Website: www.lainitaylor.com

Goodreads Summary:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

*************************
Laini Taylor's writing is beautiful, but in that way that it doesn't jump out at you and take you out of the story, it is just woven subtly in as part of the story and you don't realize how beautiful it is until you get to a stopping point and heave a deep sigh of relaxation from having enjoyed the writing and been lost and wrapped up completely in the world she created. The artistry with which she weaves storylines together between the two different main characters and between the present with flashbacks of backstory is enticing. There is a twist in the plot about two-thirds of the way through that almost changes the books into a different story, but it's of utmost importance to our understanding and works so well the way Laini has written it.

And the setting...the book mainly takes pace in Prague and in Laini's deft hand, the mystery, history, and beauty of this city lives and breathes its own life into the novel. There are exotic settings around the world (and in fantasy realms) throughout, and each one is written to evoke its own individual mood for the reader and the characters situations.

Karou is a kick-butt girl, but is struggling with feeling lonely as she discovers that the world with the "monsters" she thought she understood is not what she was led to believe. As she interacts with Akiva, the angel she encounters on one of her errands, it becomes obvious that she has some kind of pull toward him, and he to her. Little does she know that even as he tries to destroy all she holds dear, he might actually hold the key to her figuring out who (or what) she really is - what she's been seeking to find out for awhile. Toward the end as we discover, along with Karou, what has really happened, it is shocking in the best possible way for a novel.

This is definitely a fantasy book for fans of fantasy. It has a unique take on the angel mythology and the backstory and world Laini has created is entrancing. Pre-order it now so you can escape into Karou's world in September! I know I'll be anxiously waiting for the next book indicated by the "...to be continued" ending to delve back into the artistry and uniqueness of the story Laini Taylor has created.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater Review

Title: FOREVER (Wolves of Mercy Falls #3)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Number of Pages:
Source of Book: Bought the trilogy hardcover boxset when it came out (for going to author signing!)
Author's Website: http://m-stiefvater.livejournal.com/

Goodreads Summary:
The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stiefvater
then.
When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from a curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.
now.
That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.
forever.
Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

*************************
First I have to talk about the whole series, as I reread the first two books right before starting FOREVER. I fell in love with Maggie Stiefvater's writing when I read SHIVER, the first book in the trilogy. It was the first book of hers that I read, and I got it because I had received an ARC of LINGER, the second book in the series, at the ALAN Workshop 2009 and it sounded so good that I had to get SHIVER. Of course, the fact that I had heard Maggie speak at the conference, and her personality engaged and entertained me from the start, helped me realize that I needed to read her writing. As soon as I read it, I knew I loved it - and promoted it to all of my students as better than Twilight (and for 8th grade girls, that was a big deal!)

The things that I loved most about the start of the series was the unique mythology of the wolves, the plotting of the building tension of the book, and the beautifully lyrical way in which Maggie writes - along with the sweet honesty of the love between Grace and Sam. However, I've now waited a long time for FOREVER because I read both of the first two in the series back in November 2009! (I did bide my time by reading LAMENT and BALLAD, her faerie books, which are also good,) I was even more thrilled about getting FOREVER when I found out that Maggie was doing her road trip book tour, and one of the stops was in Madison, WI. Definitely worth the hour-and-a-half drive to go see one of my favorite (and one of the most entertaining) young adult authors!!! Since my books had been read so many times by my students, they were starting to fall apart, so I had to buy myself a new set to get signed so I could keep a nice set for myself of the signed ones (and because the art of the covers is so beautiful!).

So...enough about my journey to FOREVER, and on to my thoughts about the book (which will be a little bit shorter than normal because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone!):
I feel as if this is a bittersweet review for me because I've so loved living in the world of The Wolves of Mercy Falls, so I'm sad to leave them, but I feel good about where things were left in the end. However, I do have to say, the end of the book is a little open-ended. Things are all wrapped up, but it's not necessarily a happy ending for all, nor is their entire future certain. The overwhelming feeling I had at the end of this final book was one of peace with each main character's place in the world and satisfaction with the choices they had made to get to where they were. And hope for their futures. There was a sense of each character knowing themselves better by the end - who they wanted to be and who they really were and how they could be happy.

There were twists in this book and with certain characters who acted differently than expected, but in a good way. It's ultimately a love story - a sweet, tragic, complicated, deep, meant-to-be love between Sam and Grace. It's a love between Sam and his adoptive father Beck. It's a love between Cole and his bandmates. It's about these characters fighting for their loved ones and struggling to find a way out of the mess that is the wolf hunt, in order to save those they love - all written in Maggie's beautiful, lyrical writing. There is a subtleness to the story, in the everyday descriptions and events taking place within the bigger context of the plot. There is also a ticking clock in the back of the reader's mind as the hunt gets closer. I have to say that I think Cole is one of my favorite characters, mostly in his interactions with Isabel, but also for the journey he makes to become the person he is at the end. There is a sense of redemption to this story for all of the characters as they face up to their mistakes in the past and figure out a way to face the future head on. The plot keeps moving and kept me turning pages. When I saw Maggie at her signing she said that she started writing in order to make her reader's cry, and you might just shed a few tears over certain characters, and the ending of this beautiful series. If you haven't read any of it yet, go get the books now, and if you haven't read this final one, do so soon!

Monday, July 25, 2011

WOLFSBANE by Andrea Cremer

Title: WOLFSBANE (NIGHTSHADE Book 2)
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Philomel (a Penguin Teen imprint)
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Number of Pages: 400
Source of Book: ARC sent by publisher
Author's Website:  http://blurredhistory.blogspot.com
Book Series Website: www.nightshadebook.com

Goodreads Summary:

This thrilling sequel to the much-talked-about Nightshade begins just where it ended-Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she's certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer-one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack-and the man-she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive
*************************
I was beyond excited to get an advanced review copy of this book because NIGHTSHADE was my book obsession of last year (read my review). I love Andrea Cremer's writing and the characters and world she has created in this series. And now you can get your hands on WOLFSBANE - tomorrow! (I'm trying to be careful about not spoiling anything-there is a lot that happens!) I was instantly drawn back into the world Andrea created for Calla and her pack. Although, all is definitely not how it seemed as Calla learns more from the Searchers and realizes the extent of the lies that created her life, she again has to pull on her strength as an Alpha to do what needs to be done and save those she loves. Calla is a strong, kick-butt girl character and I totally want to be friends with her. Her strength is part of what makes these books so entertaining to read. As she struggles with her feelings for Shay and Ren within the bigger context of the continuing battles between the two sides, she seems to be a genuine character. She's not infallible, and she struggles, but at her core she has her beliefs of what is right and wrong and she hurts from others' actions as much as the next person.  She's trying to find her place and figure out what to do about all she learns.

There are some long stretches of exposition in this one (which highlight again the knowledge Andrea has for the background of The Witches' War and this history), but we as readers, along with Calla have a lot to learn about the lies we've been told. It does feel like a middle novel to a trilogy and ends hopeful, yet resigned and determined, and with me dreading the long wait for the next one-it's quite a cliffhanger of an ending. However, it still has exciting battles, pack relationships, and heart-wrenching moments. Most of all I loved the new characters who were introduced. The Searchers were like family from the start, especially Connor's comic relief. Connor is probably my favorite thing about this book - I hope you like him too! The war is just beginning and I know which side I'm on! WOLFSBANE is a story of struggling to be one's true self and do what is right for those you love. But also, trying to figure out who those people really are at their core and if they are loyal or not. There are some surprising choices made by some characters, and I'm intrigued to find out where the relationships end up in the third book. I will definitely be in line to get BLOODROSE on February 21st! If you read and loved NIGHTSHADE, you'll definitely want to get your hands on WOLFSBANE tomorrow, and if you haven't, what are you waiting for?!?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (28)

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

Won 


SASS & SERENDIPITY (ARC) by Jennifer Ziegler
From PJ Hoover, author of SOLSTICE, from a giveaway on her blog. She sent it to me with a bunh of bookmarks and trading cards for her book. Thanks PJ!





(All the rest are from the awesome authors of The Contemps Challenge - have you visited them yet? If not, go...now...I'll wait.)


SMALL TOWN SINNERS by Melissa Walker
Hearing good things about this one. Thanks Melissa!




SHARKS & BOYS by Kristen Tracy
Signed hardcover with personalized note - Thanks Kristen!




THE DAY BEFORE by Lisa Schroeder
It's a free verse novel! Personalized signed hardcover - Thanks Lisa!




The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Signed paperback - Thanks Kody!







Traded


ABANDON (ARC) by Meg Cabot
Traded for from Katie at Katie's Book Blog - Thanks Katie!








Bought
THE WOLVES OF MERCY FALLS Box Set (SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER) by Maggie Stiefvater
Since I was going to Maggie's signing, and I needed to get the newest final book in the series (FOREVER), and my copies of the first two were falling apart from so many students reading them in my classroom, and the covers are some of the most beautiful that I've ever seen, I decided to just get the box set so I could have my own personalized set to keep nice for myself. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

YA Bloggers Best Overlooked Book Battle 2011

I discovered the YA Bloggers Book Battle hosted by Alyssa at The Shady Glade a few months ago. For 2011, the theme for the book battle was Best Overlooked Book.
I thought it sounded like fun, so I was going to follow along with the brackets, then I saw that she still needed some bloggers to judge. I was excited to participate and was assigned a round 3 bracket to judge, which meant I was dependent on some choices from those who came before me. One of the titles I thought sounded good, didn't make it past an earlier round, but as I read my books I came to see that these were not exactly easy decisions.

The decision was made especially difficult when you have two very different feeling books like I did-one contemporary teen and the other more middle grade fantasy. Luckily, Cait over at Escape Through the Pages, was my co-judge and she and I both agreed on the book we chose.

and the winner is...
This book was the winner because it built a fantasy/historical world beautifully. It takes place in Venice, and it made me want to go visit! The descriptions throughout the book are colorful and real. The characters feel real for their world. There was twisty suspense in the political intrigue of the courts of the day and wondering whether it would all be figured out and what would happen in the present day, and the time travel element was interesting (having recently read HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire which also deals with time travel, I'm very intrigued by this topic/theme right now).

Goodreads Summary:
Lucien is seriously ill but his life is transformed when an old Italian notebook gives him the power to become a stravagante, a time traveller with access to 16th century Italy. He wakes up in Bellezza (Venice) during carnival time and meets Arianna, a girl his own age who is disguised as a boy in the hope of being selected as one of the Duchessa's mandoliers. Arianna gives Lucien her boy's clothing and he is selected as a mandolier himself, becoming a friend of fellow-stravagante Rodolfo, the Duchessa's lover, and saving the Duchessa's life when she is threatened by an assassin hired by the powerful di Chimici family. For state occasions the Duchessa uses her maid Giuliana as a body-double but Guiliana commits the fatal mistake of revealing the secret to her fiance Enrico and a sequence of devastating consequences unravels. Meanwhile Lucien has met the original stravagante, the Elizabethan alchemist William Dethridge, and he begins to understand that he may be called to follow in his footsteps.


Eliminated this round was STORK by Wendy Desol

Goodreads Summary:
Family secrets. Lost memories. And the arrival of an ancient magical ability that will reveal everything.
Sixteen-year-old Katla LeBlanc has just moved from Los Angeles to Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, Katla soon finds out that she’s a Stork, a member of a mysterious order of women tasked with a very unique duty. But Katla’s biggest challenge may be finding her flock at a new school. Between being ignored by Wade, the arrogant jock she stupidly fooled around with, and constantly arguing with gorgeous farm boy and editor-in-chief Jack, Katla is relieved when her assignment as the school paper’s fashion columnist brings with it some much-needed friendship. But as Homecoming approaches, Katla uncovers a shocking secret about her past — a secret that binds her fate to Jack’s in a way neither could have ever anticipated. With a nod to Hans Christian Andersen and inspired by Norse lore, Wendy Delsol’s debut novel introduces a hip and witty heroine who finds herself tail-feathers deep in small-town life.


You can follow along with the rest of the battle to determine the Best Overlooked Book from YA Bloggers over at The Shady Glade.

Monday, July 18, 2011

ORIGINAL SIN by Lisa Desrochers

Title: ORIGINAL SIN (PERSONAL DEMONS #2)
Author: Lisa Desrochers
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: July 5, 2011
Number of Pages: 398
Source of Book: Bought it the week it released because I loved the first one
Author's Website: http://lisadesrochers.blogspot.com

Goodreads Summary:

Luc Cain was born and raised in Hell, but he isn’t feeling as demonic as usual lately—thanks to Frannie Cavanaugh and the unique power she never realized she had. But you can’t desert Hell without consequences, and suddenly Frannie and Luc find themselves targeted by the same demons who used to be Luc’s allies.

Left with few options, Frannie and Luc accept the protection of Heaven and one of its most powerful angels, Gabe. Unfortunately, Luc isn’t the only one affected by Frannie, and it isn’t long before Gabe realizes that being around her is too…tempting. Rather than risk losing his wings, he leaves Frannie and Luc under the protection of her recently-acquired guardian angel.

Which would be fine, but Gabe is barely out the door before an assortment of demons appears—and they’re not leaving without dragging Luc back to Hell with them. Hell won’t give up and Heaven won’t give in. Frannie’s guardian exercises all the power he has to keep them away, but the demons are willing to hurt anyone close to Frannie in order to get what they want. It will take everything she has and then some to stay out of Hell’s grasp.

And not everyone will get out of it alive.

*************************
Since reading PERSONAL DEMONS (the first book in the series) back in January, I was really looking forward to the sequel to find out what would happen next with Luc, Frannie, and Gabe. The thing I like most about these books is the way that Lisa Desrochers has built this world with heaven/hell dynamics, rules, and hierarchies and the intriguing characters she's put in these places. Along with that, she infuses sarcasm and humor through the various characters, language, and situations that leave me smiling to myself throughout the entire book. And she definitely knows how to write steamy romances. There is a bit of a love triangle continuing in this book, but Gabe is absent for most of the book, until something happens and Frannie needs him (but I can't tell you what it is-you'll have to read for yourself!).

This time the book is again told through three character's perspectives, but we get Frannie, Luc, and Matt's unique voices in this one. Matt is now Frannie's guardian angel, but since he's so new to the job, we aren't sure if he'll be able to handle it. A new character is introduced in this book, and if you've read any other stories with angels/fallen angels mythology, you may figure out who she really is before the character's in the book do. I actually liked Frannie better in this book than I did in the first one. She had more to do and grew on me.  However, in my personal opinion, these books have always been about Luc. I feel it's actually about Luc's journey to find what he really wants after an existence without love or any concrete reason to keep going. He's the ultimate bad boy figure (hello - he's a demon!), who has found someone who is worth giving up his immortal being and turning human for in Frannie. Since that happened in the first book, he's trying to adjust in this book which leads to some entertaining scenes. But in this book again, like in the first, Luc's internal struggle is the part I responded to the most. Yes, there are bigger plot points going on, and yes, Matt's story is intriguing in this book, and yes, Frannie has things to deal with and figure out, but it all goes back to Luc for me.

Lisa writes page-turning books with emotion, entertainment, and action all within the constraints of an overarching storyline about Frannie and the heaven vs. hell battle that will guide the entire series. I'm definitely looking forward to the final book to find out where Luc and Frannie and Gabe all end up (and therefore, the worlds of heaven and hell) especially since the ending of ORIGINAL SIN was shocking and gave a twist that could be a major game-changer for the series - my jaw literally dropped at the end, so be prepared!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Diversify Your Reading Summer Challenge

Diversity in YA Fiction is a fantastic website (and book tour) created by two authors, Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo, to celebrate diverse stories in YA. They always have wonderful information on their site, and it's a great go-to for YA titles with diverse characters that you may not hear about otherwise.

This summer they created The Summer 2011 Diversify Your Reading Challenge
From the website:
"This summer, we’re challenging readers to read books that feature a diverse world, to read beyond their comfort zones, and to just plain dive into some wonderful stories."

I think this it's always a good idea to push ourselves to read more diverse characters and stories because you just never know which books are going to be the ones that speak to you. Especially for me as a teacher, I feel it's important to read these so that I know what's out there for my students that may need/want to read about various themes.

I hope you'll consider joining the challenge!

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (27)

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.



WON
AU REVOIR, CRAZY EUROPEAN CHICK (ARC) by Joe Schreiber
This one's coming out in October and it sounds like it will be an action-packed, funny, quick read. Probably a good one to promote to boys-billed as Ferris Bueller meets La Femme Nikita.

Won this from Dawn Metcalf, author of LUMINOUS (released July 7th), from a contest on her blog. She sent along lots of fun swag with the book - bookmarks (signed ones are on the right) and two fun pins from Gae Polisner's THE PULL OF GRAVITY (a May debut author release this year) another book I'm anxious to read because I've heard lots of positive reviews of it.
Thanks Dawn!



A LONG, LONG SLEEP (ARC) by Anna Sheehan
This is a debut author book releasing on August 9th. It's another dystopian, so I'm really interested to read it. Won from a giveaway hosted by Meredith over at Mint Tea and a Good Book.





BORROWED
I did a swap loan with the lovely @TaraMQ of www.fictionfolio.com who had some great BEA books she was willing to loan out in exchange for borrowing my ARCs of Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer and Shine by Lauren Myracle. I love the book blogging community sharing the love of books! :)


DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE (ARC) by Laini Taylor
This book is coming September 27th and I've heard nothing but fabulous things about it, so I'm looking forward to getting into this new fantasy book.



SHATTER ME (ARC) by Tahereh Mafi
This is another one that everyone was talking about after BEA and the cover was revealed this week so the book blogs and twitter (and MTV!) were all abuzz on Thursday. So glad I'm getting to read it early as you know I love a good dystopian! Releases November 15th.


Thank you so much Tara!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (26)

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.


Bought


ORIGINAL SIN by Lisa Desrochers
Sequel to PERSONAL DEMONS, which I loved (read my review here), so couldn't wait to get this one and read more about Luc's story!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Re-Post: Why Young Adult Lit?

With all of the drama about YA lit in the news lately, I decided to re-post this perspective I wrote back in January inspired by an article by an adolescent psychiatrist and his view on teens reactions to these books and reasons for them. As I read it again, it reminded me why I am so passionate about the importance of these books.
 
Last week, Dr. Harold Koplewicz, an adolescent psychiatrist, posted an article in The Huffington Post titled "'Hunger Games': Why Kids Love Disaster, Distress, & Dystopia" which addresses a question/concern I hear quite often about young adult books and the choices students are making. It seems to be a common theme lately with people questioning why teens are choosing and obsessing over the books or genres that are most popular or most commonly talked about. His statements share many similarities with the things I share with parents myself. Teens sometimes need a safe outlet in which to deal with their ever-changing emotions during adolescence - books can provide that safe place in which to figure out how one can or would deal with difficult situations of their own. It's called imaginative rehearsal. Adolescence is all about discovering who oneself is and what one's dreams and desires are for the future - all while dealing with the drama of the middle and high school years when living in that microcosm of a social hierarchy can make every little decision feel like it could change one's life (and sometimes it can). Sure, in the future they may look back at those years with fondness or cringe-inducing mortification, but at that time, everything seems like the most important decision ever because it truly is a time when they're expected to make choices that could impact their entire future (no pressure there!). Teens are at a time in their lives when they're experiencing massive amounts of changes, and they need to know they're not the only ones to have ever gone through that. All of this while building an identity for themselves of what kind of person they want to be for the future.

Teenagers today are living in a very different world than I experienced fifteen years ago. Technology allows immediate access to a world-wide audience and perspectives that I never would have known about when I was their age. Teens need to gain perspectives on the world outside their own little sphere of self-awareness, and to realize that there is a really big world out there where people may deal with different situations and difficulties than they themselves have in their own lives. In addition, teens may find books that help them deal with things that they can't talk to anyone about, but an author may have been able to create a character who speaks to teens and can help them in a way that no one around them could, especially during adolescence where they all feel alone at times. I think the growth in the young adult publishing world only exemplifies the fact that today's teens need access to books that help them discover their own identities, beliefs, feelings, and ideals, and the broad range of topics out there is helping build the next generation into more socially aware citizens of a 21st century global society. Ultimately, I think it comes down to one thing - if they can't grapple with these issues safely in their own heads through reading a book, how else might they choose to experience them or how will they know how they want to handle them? I'd much rather have teens reading about things that may help them to gain perspective on their world and discover ways to make better choices within the safe confines of the pages of a book. That is the true benefit of young adult literature today and why it's so important for teens to have access to a large variety of books to choose from to find the ones that speak to them and open their eyes to the "real" world (whether that be through contemporary-realistic-fiction, fantasy, science-fiction, romance, paranormal, or dystopian genres). This is why young adult literature.

So THANK YOU...
to the authors who keep writing about these topics that engage teens and help them grow,
to the aspiring writers who keep striving to get their stories heard and books published,
to the publishers who keep getting these books out there to be read,
to the bloggers who keep helping to build buzz and support the industry,
to the librarians who keep putting these books into teens' hands,
to the teachers who keep promoting YA lit trying to get students engaged in reading,
and
to all in the YA Lit community for remembering who your audience is and why these books are so important.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire

Title: HOURGLASS
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 397
Source of Book: Bought the hardcover in it's release month (had to go to three different stores to find it in stock!)
Author's Website: http://myramcentire.blogspot.com/

Goodreads Summary:

One hour to rewrite the past . . .
 
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.


So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.


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I really, really loved HOURGLASS. It reads like a contemporary with science-fiction (and somewhat supernatural) elements, but also has a little mystery and a little suspense and a little romance and a little bit of family stories thrown in. It's a well-rounded story, and hard to describe or pinpoint exactly what the main focus is because all of the parts are so enjoyable. There's just a good feeling to this story - the setting and vision elements are well described - and I love the little town they're living in.

I liked the main character, Emerson, a lot. She's not in a good place because of the traumatic events of her past and the visions she's seeing, but she's working through it. She's tough and strong and earnest and looking to feel like she's not crazy. Once she learns about and meets other people who have "abilities" she starts to find a place for herself where she can feel she belongs and is somewhat normal. Who can't relate to wanting to feel like you belong?

The whole time travel aspect of the story is really interesting and unique. The Hourglass is mysterious - in fact I want to know more about it - I'm still not sure I understand the organization after the first book. The author did a good job of explaining the physics and the elements of time travel without confusing me and in a little bit at a time way that helped me to absorb it, just as Emerson needed to. Towards the end, there was lots of action and unexpected twists and turns; however, I did feel that it almost went a little too fast at the end (there were so many game changer type things that happened) - I didn't have time to soak in each thing that happened before the next twist - maybe because I was reading it too fast because I wanted to know what would happen?

And, of course, there is romance. There's Michael and then there's Kaleb. I don't want to say too much about them or what their abilities are, but I can say, I can see Emerson's draw toward both of them. One seems way more obvious than the other to just be the good friend, but with the time travel elements, it seems we never know what is going to happen, and both boys are looking out for Emerson.

Secondary characters were great in this book. I loved the relationship Emerson has with her older brother Thomas who has basically had to take care of her, and his wife Dru is one of my favorite characters in the whole story. I'm also waiting for the sequel for Emerson's best friend Lilly to be fleshed out a little bit more - I know there's something we haven't learned about her yet that is going to be important.

Overall, I wanted to jump into this book and live with these characters. I liked them all that much. And the writing made it easy for me to spend a little time with them, although I did feel some parts were a little rushed, but I think because I wanted to savor this story a little longer. I should also mention, it has pretty short chapters, so it is easy to find stopping points, although you won't want to put it down! Overall, I really liked it, but it did feel like a first book to a series, so I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series in 2012!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

THE LATTE REBELLION by Sarah Jamila Stevenson

Title: THE LATTE REBELLION
Author: Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 327
Source of Book: Bought the paperback
Author's Website: www.sarahjamilastevenson.com

Goodreads Summary:

Our philosophy is simple: Promote a latte-colored world! —from the Latte Rebellion Manifesto
When high school senior Asha Jamison gets called a "towel head" at a pool party, the racist insult gives Asha and her best friend Carey a great money-making idea for a post-graduation trip. They'll sell T-shirts promoting the Latte Rebellion, a club that raises awareness of mixed-race students.

Seemingly overnight, their "cause" goes viral and the T-shirts become a nationwide fad. As new chapters spring up from coast to coast, Asha realizes that her simple marketing plan has taken on a life of its own-and it's starting to ruin hers. Asha's once-stellar grades begin to slip, threatening her Ivy League dreams, and her friendship with Carey is hanging by a thread. And when the peaceful underground movement turns militant, Asha's school launches a disciplinary hearing.Facing expulsion, Asha must decide how much she's willing to risk for something she truly believes in.
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I'm feeling a little bit mixed about this book. There are things I liked. I liked the premise with the social action elements related to mixed race students wanting others to be more accepting of them and acknowledging their uniqueness. I liked the strength of character Asha gains through the course of her senior year as she learns more about becoming involved in causes and staying true to oneself. I liked that she learned to speak for herself and be strong in her own ideals outside of what others may think of her. I liked that she learned the importance of having her own voice heard. I liked the elements of dealing with the realities of friendships at the end of high school-how they start to change based on what people want to do with their lives, as their priorities change, as they grow apart into their own people. I also liked the way the author chose to set up the story with telling chronologically what was happening, but having flash-forward moments to the disciplinary hearing that occurs at the end of the story, helping add tension and building suspense throughout.

Then there are some things I didn't like as much. I felt that the pacing just dragged on a little bit. At times I was trying to get through the book just to get to the end and on to the next one - which is unfortunate because I think there were strong messages in this book. However, I did feel like it read long. Asha narrates this story, so we're very much in her head as the reader. At times, that is helpful, but at times it got a little bit monotonous. Basically, I just wanted more action to be happening faster. The major events were good and I cared what would happen, I just wanted it all told to me sooner. I also felt that it wasn't as descriptive and engaging as I would like. In addition, there was a romantic interest subplot, but it fell a little flat for me. Overall, it is an okay book with a good message that I would recommend, just not needing to be moved to the top of your to be read pile.
Book 12 of 12 for DAC2011 ~ Challenge Completed!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (25)

In My Mailbox is a posting idea run by Kristi at The Story Siren (read all about it here: In My Mailbox) for bloggers to share the books they've gotten that week to help publicize as many titles as possible. It's a little preview on what book reviews to anticipate along with a way to build excitement about new titles coming out. All titles link to goodreads so you can add books to your "to-read" list.

Bought


STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini
This is the more mythological/paranormal option that I've been hearing positive things about.






TEN THINGS WE DID (and Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
I've heard great things about this one, loved her last book GIMMIE A CALL (you should read it if you haven't!), and this seems like a perfect light, fun summer read.




HOURGLASS by Myra McEntire
I've seen awesome reviews for this one - and look at that cover! Had to go to three stores until I found it in stock, but I wanted it for my holiday weekend read.






WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE by Sarah Dessen
Newest Sara Dessen book - had to get it - and it will be the first one I've read!  All of her books are so popular with my students, but I haven't read any yet.

Friday, July 1, 2011

THE LIAR SOCIETY by Lisa & Laura Roecker

Author: Sisters Lisa & Laura Roecker
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 358
Source of Book: Bought the paperback when it came out
Author's Website: www.lisa-laura.blogspot.com

Goodreads Summary:
Kate Lowry didn’t think dead best friends could send e-mails. But when she gets an e-mail from Grace, who died mysteriously a year before, she’s not so sure. When the emails continue, Kate is forced to confront her school’s resident druggie, a sketchy administrator, and even her own demons.

As Kate moves closer and closer to the truth, she teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not so)shining armor–the dangerously attractive, bad boy, Liam and her love-struck neighbor, Seth. The three uncover an ancient secret lurking in the halls of their elite private school with the power to destroy them all.

But the truth doesn’t always set you free. Sometimes it’s only the beginning.

Author Summary:
Best friends don't send emails once they're dead. With her dead best friend's pearls and skirts tiny enough to make Nancy Drew blush, Kate's on the trail to prove once and for all that Grace’s death was more than just a tragic accident. But secrets haunt the halls of her elite private school. Secrets people will do anything to protect. Even if it means getting rid of the girl trying to solve a murder... 
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THE LIAR SOCIETY is a fun, quick romp of a mystery story. Fifteen-year-old Kate is trying to get over her grief from her best friend's death the year before. She has always been convinced that it wasn't an accident, and when she gets an email from Grace's account hinting that she's right, Kate knows she needs to solve the mystery of who is responsible. Secrets abound at Pemberly-Brown Academy, the private school Kate attends, and even she doesn't know how far she'll have to go or where she'll have to search to find out the truth of what happened that night.

This was a quick read (I read it in one day) with great suspenseful pacing of discovering clues and new twists at exactly the right times while also seeing parts of Kate getting through her grief. Kate narrates the action, and she also flashes back to give us glimpses of what she was doing the night Grace died. By the end, we find out the whole story from multiple people's roles in it as Kate does, and it comes together in an intriguing way. It's a nice balance between the mystery and the plain reality of Kate's story. 

The book deals with secret societies and power, perseverance in the face of fear, relying on those who you trust, social status in the elite prep school world, and friendship changes and secrets. There is a large cast of characters around the school that all play a role in unraveling the mystery of what happened. All led by pink-haired Kate with her pearls and notebook forging the way to finding out the truth. The Roecker sisters have created a fantastic and engaging teen voice with Kate's character. She's sassy, determined, and real - she's a modern day Nancy Drew with Veronica Mars spunk (and if you don't know that TV reference, you should!). I enjoyed reading Kate's character and her interactions with those around her - although her parents seemed to be pretty MIA for the majority of the novel - especially Liam. There is a boy subplot of course, and it's fun, but really this book is about Kate finding her way, finding answers, finding out the truth and finding herself again after the devastation she went through the year before. You'll enjoy reading Kate's story and rooting for her throughout.

This book kind of reminded me a little bit of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by e. Lockhart in it's secret society, kick-butt girl character, and trying to find answers aspects. If you like one, I think you'll like the other. There is a sequel to THE LIAR SOCIETY coming (thank goodness), and based on the ending, Kate is going to rock the next story too. I'll definitely be reading book #2, THE LIES THAT BIND in 2012.


Book 11 of 12 for DAC2011

 
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