A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken

Title: A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Number of CDs (I listened to the audiobook, and you should too!): 5
Publisher: Listening Library and Disney Lucasfilm
ISBN: 9781101891971
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.7, Interest Level - 4th-8th grades, Points - 7.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22716524-a-new-hope

In a nutshell: A long time ago, in a galaxy, far, far away...yeah, you know what this is about. Do I really need to summarize it? Okay, fine. This is the tale of a girl and two guys. The girl is trying to save the galaxy from an evil regime, one guy is pirating his way through the stars and accidentally winds up aiding a rebellion, and the other guy is discovering that his destiny lies far beyond his desert home planet. When these three characters' tales intersect, the galaxy will never be the same again. *cue John Williams music*

I'd recommend it to grades: 3 and up (Let's be honest...all ages will love this.)

I'd recommend it to: Star Wars fans (obviously), adventure junkies, and those who like character-driven novels with plenty of action splashed in

What I liked most about this book: First off...I listened to the audiobook of this, and I'm so glad I did. I think I would have enjoyed the book, but the Star Wars music and sound effects and incredible voice talents on this are AMAZING! Huge props to Marc Thompson and Rebecca Soler. As for the content, I loved the insight you get into each of these three main characters. Like many people, I've been a ginormous Star Wars fan for longer than I can remember, and I thought I knew these characters pretty well. However, this delved even more into the minds of Leia, Han, and Luke. You hear Leia's inner struggle to prove herself to the Senate and the Rebellion and mourn with her after she loses her home planet, you laugh at Han's inner playboy yet realize that he's more than just a smug smuggler, and you follow Luke's journey from naive moisture farmer to confident and selfless Rebellion pilot and Jedi-in-training. Plus, much of the dialogue is straight from the movie! I may or may not have quoted it along with the book as I listened to it. Yeah, I definitely did. ;) I laughed, I teared up (Yes, in the car! Haha!), I nerded out, and I applauded Alexandra Bracken for writing a worthy Star Wars retelling that lives up to the original. Brava, Ms. Bracken, brava!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I'm not sure it's even possible to give Star Wars spoilers. I mean, unless you've been living under a rock or are under a year old or something (In which case, I doubt you're reading this review. You'd be super genius smart!), you've heard or seen this tale in one way or another. If you haven't, then this is the perfect time to start, but I digress. It's hard to pick a favorite moment in this because it's all so fantastic, but the trash compacter scene is probably at the top of my list. Our three heroes are in danger of being flattened alive in a giant garbage disposal, and you really get to see how each reacts under pressure and how they interact with each other. Plus, trash monster!

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): All the stars in a galaxy far, far away! (plus 3 stars for the second book, The Empire Strikes Back: So You Want to Be a Jedi? by Adam Gidwitz, and 5 stars for the third book, Return of the Jedi: Beware the Power of the Dark Side! by Tom Angleberger)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Hello, everyone!  To the newer readers of the blog, I'm "the guy" from the title of the blog.  To the more long-term readers, I still exist.  I've spent the last 20ish months in a rigorous Ph.D. program, and I can happily say I'm over halfway finished!  For the past few days, I've been lucky to enjoy a much-needed Spring Break, during which I actually got to read a book with characters and plot and humor.  And because it was so great, I had to share my review of it with you all.

Title: Better Nate Than Ever
Author: Tim Federle
Pages: 275
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442446915 
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.9, Interest Level - 4th-8th grades, Points - 9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13414183-better-nate-than-ever

In a nutshell:  Nate Foster, a 13-year old misfit from unexciting Jankburg, PA, decides to leave behind his lackluster bully-filled life and run away to The Big Apple in search of stardom.  With his best friend Libby covering for him, Nate takes his passion for Broadway to the Great White Way itself, where he plans to try out for E.T.: The Musical.  Along the way, he learns about the realities of showbiz, reconnects with a long lost relative, makes some new friends, and has an adventure that changes his life.  But...Will he get the role he's waited a lifetime for, or is he destined for the role he's played for a lifetime?  Is E.T.: The Musical his ticket to fame or his ticket back to Jankburg?  Read to find out!

I'd recommend it to grades:  This book was written with middle school students in mind, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, as well (and I haven't been a middle school student for quite some time).

I'd recommend it to:  First and foremost, I'd recommend this book to all the Nate Fosters out there--the young guys and gals struggling to fit in where you are because you're obviously destined for bigger things.  Secondly, the book features a main character who's still coming to terms with whether he's gay, straight, or somewhere in between (and even what those really mean); as such, this book might be refreshing to those tweens and teens in the same boat, wishing that young adult literature featured more characters like you.  Thirdly, Broadway nerds will love this book.

What I liked most about this book:  This. Book. Is. Hilarious.  If there was a Tony category for "Funniest YA Novel About Broadway," Tim Federle would be a shoo-in.   

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Nate and his best friend Libby rehearsed a monologue to deliver any time someone questions whether he is traveling alone.  Let's just say it involves a hypothetical mother and digestive issues, and it comes in handy quite a few unexpected times.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5++!  I'm looking forward to reading the sequel Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al Mansour

Title: The Green Bicycle
Author: Haifaa Al Mansour
Pages: 352
Publisher: Dial Books
ISBN: 9780525428060
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.6, Interest Level - 4th-8th grades, Points - 11.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24611690-the-green-bicycle

In a nutshell: What Wadjda wants more than anything in the world is something many 11 year old girls want - a bike. But as a girl growing up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wadjda will face challenges aplenty on her quest for bike ownership.

I'd recommend it to grades: 4 to 7

I'd recommend it to: those who enjoy coming-of-age stories, fans of The Higher Power of Lucky and the Ramona series, and anyone who enjoys learning about other cultures

What I liked most about this book: This book and Wadjda herself both have a lot of heart. From page one, you'll find yourself rooting for her, and at times, she'll have you laughing out loud at her money-making schemes and joking jabs at her friend Abdullah. I also loved that I learned so much about Saudi culture, especially the treatment of women. The book doesn't shy away from discussing those issues, but it does so in a way that is hopeful and lighthearted. Wadjda is equally strong and spunky, and she's not without her flaws either, making her as relatable as the girl next door even if she lives thousands of miles away in a culture that's vastly different from yours. She's one of those characters that you'll miss after you close the cover. 

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): One of Wadjda's most successful entrepreneurial schemes is her mixtape business. The way she discovers a way to record banned music from an antenna on her house and sell the mixtapes to her classmates is both dangerous and clever, and it reminds me of the mixtapes and CDs we used to make in middle school. Oh, Spice Girls. I miss you. ;)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Title: Walk on Earth a Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Pages: 432
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 9780062242914
Publication Date: September 22, 2015*
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17564519-walk-on-earth-a-stranger

In a nutshell: After Leah Westfall's parents are brutally murdered, she decides to run from their murderer and follow her friend to California and try her luck in the Gold Rush, but Leah won't need luck to find gold in California. She can sense when gold is near; it sings to her from inside the earth, and this magical talent could mean a rich life for her, but it's also a dangerous secret she must keep. Disguised as a boy, Leah sets off in pursuit of a fresh start, but there's danger at every turn. 

I'd recommend it to grades: 8 and up

I'd recommend it to: historical fiction lovers, students who grew up on Little House books, and those who like survival stories

What I liked most about this book: This is my first Rae Carson book, and boy, did I love it. As a child of the 90s, I grew up on the Oregon Trail (well, not literally...I grew up on the pixelated version on our ancient computers at school.), so this survivor story immediately struck a chord in me. Add to that a dash of magic, and I was sold. To top it all off, the cast of characters is robust; there are some you love and some you hate and some you love to hate. Leah, the heroine, rivals Katniss, Tris, and other YA heroines for her strength, compassion, and sheer nerve. I immediately liked her. Overall, this one is a cross-country race to the finish, and I loved every mile of it. P.S.: That cover might be the most beautiful cover I've seen all year. Shiny! (Oh, I miss you, Firefly.)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Leah's reaction to her parents' murders is achingly gripping and suspenseful. She's completely broken up over it but realizes she has to be strong in order to move on and survive. It's the perfect jumping-off point for the journey, which apparently will be a trilogy. Yay!

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars

*I read a digital ARC of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pages: 400
Publisher: Philomel Books
ISBN: 9780399160301
Publication Date: February 2, 2016*
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25614492-salt-to-the-sea

In a nutshell: Sepetys returns to the setting of World War II in her new book that's told from the perspective of four young adults from various countries, including Lithuanian nurse Joana, runaway Prussian soldier Florian, Polish refugee Emilia, and Nazi sailor Alfred, each of whom has a secret to hide. It highlights yet another historical event I was unaware of - the tragic maritime disaster of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ship carrying wounded soldiers and civilian refugees that was attacked and sunk by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea, claiming what was probably over 10,000 lives.

I'd recommend it to grades: 9 and up

I'd recommend it to: historical fiction readers, fans of The Book Thief or Titanic, and anyone who likes a good survival story

What I liked most about this book: After reading this third book by Ruta Sepetys, I'm officially adding her to my list of favorite historical fiction authors. I could wax poetic for days about her gorgeous writing and genius way of revealing the plot without telling it outright, but I'll keep this short and sweet. I adored Between Shades of Gray, and I didn't immediately realize that this was a companion novel of sorts. Yet again Sepetys manages to tell a horrific tale in a way that is hauntingly beautiful and hopeful. It's full of bravery, romance, pain, love, and sacrifice, and I loved every page of it.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I promised not to go on and on about the beautiful language, but I'll just leave this sentence here: "War had bled color from everything, leaving nothing but a storm of gray."

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars

*I read an ARC from the publisher thanks to an awesome co-worker who got it at ALA this year. Thanks, Janis!!! :)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Title: Roller Girl
Author: Victoria Jamieson
Pages: 240
Publisher: Dial Books
ISBN: 9780525429678
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
AR Levels: Book Level - 3.2, Interest Level - 4th-8th, Points - 2.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23493697-roller-girl

In a nutshell: Best friends Astrid and Nicole were attached at the hip until the summer Astrid discovered a passion for roller derby that Nicole doesn't share. Feeling abandoned after Nicole signs up for summer dance camp, Astrid enrolls in a roller derby camp and quickly realizes her abilities don't quite live up to her passion. But Astrid throws herself into her new dream of being a derby star, and though there are bumps and bruises along the way (literally!), her summer is definitely a game-changer.

I'd recommend it to grades: 3 to 7

I'd recommend this book to: graphic novel readers and roller derby enthusiasts (obviously) but really anyone who's experienced a curve ball in a friendship or discovered a hobby you adore. Fans of Smile by Raina Telgemeier will also eat this up and so might Wimpy Kid readers.

What I liked most about this book: Sometimes it takes a whole lot of courage to try learning something new...especially when you're trying alone. Astrid discovers that if you are brave enough to stick with something that makes you happy even when none of your friends want to and even if you're not so great at it, you just might find some rocking new friends and develop some mad awesome skills too. It's a wonderful lesson that's taught with rainbow socks, roller skates, and blue hair, and the emotional depth may surprise you. It's my new favorite graphic novel.
Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I can't say too much, but it takes Astrid a while to figure out what her roller derby name should be, and when she does, it's fantastic and perfect.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher

Title: A Little in Love 
Author: Susan Fletcher
Pages: 288
Publisher: Chicken House
ISBN: 9780545829601
Publication Date: August 25, 2015*
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24612579-a-little-in-love

In a nutshell: One of Les Miserables' most endearing characters tells you her side of this epic classic, and it's a quiet but powerfully emotional one. See the world through the eyes of Eponine.

I'd recommend this book to grades: 8 and up

I'd recommend this book to: fans of Les Miserables (book, musical, or movies), high school English teachers, and historical fiction lovers

What I liked most about this book: Oh, y'all...this book will warm your heart and also break it into little pieces. I've been waiting for something like this since I first became familiar with Les Miserables (I'm more familiar with the musical and movies than the book.). Eponine is by far my favorite character, and this little book tells her story beautifully. It's a tale about how a little girl who was never loved learns what love looks like and learns to love herself. Even if you're completely unfamiliar with the story of Les Mis, you might find yourself relating to Eponine's search for love anyway. There are plenty of universal themes woven into this sweet, heartbreaking, and heroic tale of unrequited love and friendship. And just look at that cover! She's begging to be loved. Quite clever and beautiful. Read it on a rainy day while listening to the Les Mis soundtrack. Now where is the Enjolras book?

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): "Even the dirtiest things can be lovely, underneath." -Eponine to Marius. This book is full of thought-provoking gems like that, and the writing style is gorgeous.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars...This I swear by the staaaaaars!!! (You didn't think I'd get all the way through this post without at least one musical reference, did you?) ;)

*Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for a digital ARC.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

March: Book Two by John Lewis

Title: March: Book Two
Author: John Lewis (with Andrew Aydin) & illustrated by Nate Powell
Pages: 160
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
ISBN: 9781603094009
Publication Date: January 27, 2015
AR Levels: TBA
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22487952-march

In a nutshell: Picking up where book one left off, book two follows John Lewis' work as a Freedom Rider and as an organizer of the March on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement.

I'd recommend it to grades: 9 and up

I'd recommend it to: teachers for Black History Month reading lists, fans of biographies, and budding activists

What I liked most about this book: This second installment of the graphic memoir trilogy took the series to a whole new level. The way Lewis' presence at Obama's inauguration is weaved into his memories of his work with SNCC on the Freedom Rides and the March on Washington is pure genius. Some of the single panel artwork nearly broke my heart it was so gripping, particularly a darkly sinister one of a group of Klansmen. I was so moved by this book, and it taught me more about the Civil Rights Movement than anything else ever has. Lewis' insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of the movement is fascinating. This is the perfect format for this true story, and I can't wait for book three.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's another single panel that made me tear up. During a protest, a police officer asks a small African-American girl what it is that she wants, and she simply and innocently replies, "f'eedom." It's a quiet yet powerful moment that perfectly sums up the book's themes and tone.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: Gone Crazy in Alabama
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Pages: 304
Publisher: Amistad
ISBN: 9780062215901
Publication Date: April 21, 2015*
AR Levels: TBA
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22836574-gone-crazy-in-alabama

In a nutshell: In this final installment of the trilogy, the Gaither sisters travel south to visit their daddy's family in Alabama, and, as per usual, hijinks ensue. Join Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern one last time as they learn all about milking cows, stir up a decades-long feud between sisters, discover family secrets, and more. 

I'd recommend it to grades: 5th to 8th

I'd recommend it to: teachers looking for a great Black History Month read-aloud, those who like comedy and family drama, and anyone with a sister

What I liked most about this book: I have loved this sassy trio of sisters from the first pages of One Crazy Summer, and this third book did not disappoint. Set in the South in the summer of 1969, it tackles historically significant topics such as the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Ku Klux Klan, the relationship between African Americans and Native Americans, and more...all with equal doses of gravity and comedy. This heartfelt and laugh-out-loud funny finale is sure to satisfy fans of the first two books and find new fans as well. I'm surely going to miss the Gaither sisters. Surely am! ;)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): The Southern-isms in this one are dead on. My favorite one is how Delphine describes how Southern goodbyes go on forever and ever with plenty of hugs. So true.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars, yes ma'am

*I read a digital ARC of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss.

Friday, February 6, 2015

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

Title: How I Discovered Poetry
Author: Marilyn Nelson
Pages: 112
Publisher: Dial
ISBN: 9780803733046
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.2, Interest Level - 4th to 8th grades, Points: 1.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18079805-how-i-discovered-poetry

In a nutshell: Join young Marilyn Nelson's journey from air base to air base as she and her African-American family experience the blessings of home, family, friendship, and art and the struggles of being a family on the move in a country that wasn't always welcoming. This memoir told in verse recently won the Coretta Scott King Author Honor.

I'd recommend it to grades: 4th to 8th

I'd recommend it to: fans of historical fiction, poetry, and biography and teachers and students looking for an excellent Black History Month read

What I liked most about this book: As an African-American woman who grew up in the 1950's on various Air Force bases across the country, Marilyn Nelson has a unique perspective on what it was like to be an African American during that hostile era. This memoir written entirely in verse is told in a child's voice that is equally full of wonder, innocence, wisdom, and fear. Kids, teens, and adults alike will connect with this heartfelt book of poetry. It's a great read for Black History Month.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Early on in the book, Marilyn attends church and mishears a sermon on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, thinking that Lot and his wife have a pet "flea" instead of how they had to "flee." Her imagination then runs away with ideas of giant pet fleas big enough to ride. It sets the tone for a character who's funny and charming and sure to steal your heart as poetry helps her find her voice.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars