A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

A Guy, a Girl, and a Teen Book Blog

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

She Picks Her 2013 Favorites

It's that time of year again! That's right. It's time to tell you my top 10 favorite books I read in 2013. You can click on the title to go to the Goodreads link for more info. Happy New Year, and here's to another great year of reading! :)

Here we go...in no particular order:

1. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

2. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

3. The Archived by Victoria Schwab

4. The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger

5. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

8. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

9. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

10. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

Title: Let It Snow
Authors: John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
Pages: 352
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: October 2, 2008
AR Levels: Book Level - 4.7; Interest Level - 9th-12th; Points - 10.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6883008-let-it-snow

In a nutshell: On a snowy Christmas Eve in Gracetown, North Carolina, six unsuspecting teens will find love in the strangest places. Three of YA lit's biggest hitters each compose a short-ish story that blends beautifully into the plots of the other two. This trio of intertwined holiday novellas is a Christmas miracle!

I'd recommend it to grades: 8 and up

I'd recommend it to: anyone in need of a good old-fashioned Christmas romance, fans of non-sappy, laugh-out-loud romances...and Nerdfighters ;)

What I liked most about this book: Let me break it down this way. John Green's is my favorite (of course), but I liked the other two too. Maureen Johnson's story gets the medal for best character (Jubilee), John's wins for cutest couple, and Lauren Myracle's story gets the cutest teacup pig award. Overall, it's the perfect blend of laugh-out-loud humor and not-too-sappy-sweet romance.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): As someone who grew up in the Deep South, currently lives in North Carolina, and is terrible at driving in the snow, I got more than a giggle out of the scene where Tobin, JP, and The Duke are trying to get the car up the snow-covered hill and out of the neighborhood.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars
(the gold kind that go on top of Christmas trees!)*

*Individually, I'd rank the novellas this way: John Green - 5 stars, Maureen Johnson - 5 stars, Lauren Myracle - 3 stars

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald

Title: Odette's Secrets
Author: Maryann Macdonald
Pages: 240
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12969636-odette-s-secrets?ac=1

In a nutshell: Odette is a young French girl of Jewish decent who lives in Paris during World War II. After her father joins the French army and the persecution of the Jews worsens in Paris, Odette's mother sends her to live in the French countryside to pose as a Christian in order to protect her. This verse novel fictionalizes the true story of Odette Meyer, one of many of France's hidden Jewish children.

I'd recommend it to grades: 4 to 7

I'd recommend it to: poetry lovers, historical fiction fans, and students who aren't quite ready for Anne Frank's diary (or as a complement to her diary)

What I liked most about this book: The language is beautiful yet age-appropriate/childlike, and the breadth of emotion is both realistic and stunning for such a young girl. Many of the adults in Odette's life stand as excellent role models for her and for readers, especially her neighbor/godmother, Madame Marie, who as a Christian helps protect Odette and her mother. It's a thought-provoking and emotionally powerful read that's also a quick read due to its verse novel format, so even struggling readers could enjoy it. 

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): It saddened me to find out that Jews were banned from many public places including libraries in Paris during that time, but Odette and her cousins find a loophole and end up spending an afternoon in the library trying to retain some normalcy in the midst of the chaos around them, illustrating how books can be tools of peace and joy even on the darkest days. Books, stories, and poetry all play key roles in Odette's readjustment to her new life.

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

Title: Perfect Ruin
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Pages: 356
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level - 4.9, Interest Level - 6th and up, Points - 13.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17339241-perfect-ruin

In a nutshell: Morgan lives on Internment, a floating city that seems perfect, but when a girl turns up murdered, she finds herself wondering if there's a better world out there. Yet, even contemplating such things could brand her a traitor in a place where change is frowned upon and leaving is impossible.

I'd recommend it to grades: 8 and up

I'd recommend it to: fans of The Giver, The Hunger Games, the Matched series, the Lunar Chronicles, and the Delirium series

What I liked most about this book: This is a sci-fi fairytale in which everything is beautifully dark - the characters, the plot, the language, THE GORGEOUS COVER! It nods to The Giver and other recent books featuring strictly planned societies, but it's fresh enough that it's not a copy. It's this wonderful roller coaster of light airiness and dark underbelly, and I loved it. Give me book 2! ;)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): On Internment, marriages are planned before babies are even born, and young children are given clear betrothal bands to wear on necklaces around their necks. When becoming teens, they begin to wear their bands on their hands, and when they get married, they fill their bands with the blood of their spouses, forever bonding them to one another, which is just another telling example of how this book is both beautiful and dark...and creepy in a good way.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars. I'd have given this 5 stars, but the cliffhanger at the end left me wanting more, and something about the pacing of this one was a bit off. It was rushed in places and slow in others, but overall, it's definitely a page-turner.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Heroes Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy

Title:  The Heroes Guide to Storming the Castle
Author: Christopher Healy
Pages: 477
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level--4.9 , Interest Level--4th-8th, Points -13.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16248123-the-hero-s-guide-to-storming-the-castle?from_search=true

In a nutshell:  Everyone's favorite band of misfit princes is back for another series of sordid events.  This time, they're trying to save Prince Liam from his not-so-nice bride-to-be, but that escapade turns into a quest for the Sword of Erinthia, which is being held in the Bandit King's castle.  This journey involves trolls, giants, snakes, Darians, and much much more!  Can they be successful again?  Can they overcome their own blunders to get the job done?

I'd recommend it for:  Grades 5+.  Adults would love this one, too!

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who loves fairy tales and new spins on them.  Also, anyone who appreciates a little bit of "cheesy" every now and then.

What I liked most about this book:  Healy makes sure you never know what might happen next.  The events of this book are so random and hilarious that you never want to put it down!  Once you've started reading a book in this series, you're hooked must find out what the princes will do next.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y):  There are a few interactions between a geriatric giant and a tenacious troll that make you laugh until you cry.

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

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jane, the Fox & Me by Fanny Britt

Title: Jane, the Fox & Me
Author: Fanny Britt (translated by Christine Morelli and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault)
Pages: 104
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Publication Date: September 1, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level - 4.1, Interest Level - K to 3rd (although I disagree), Points - 0.5
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17214302-jane-the-fox-and-me

In a nutshell: When Helene's friends turn their backs on her and begin to ruthlessly make fun of her, she escapes into Jane Eyre and finds hope and solace in its tale of an outcast like herself.

I'd recommend it for grades: 3 to 7

I'd recommend it to: tween girls, anyone who's ever used literature as an escape, and anyone who's ever felt like an outcast

What I liked most about this book: It's hard to find a book that deals with bullying, low self-esteem, and weight issues that's realistic and doesn't shy away from the issues while still being uplifting in a creative way. From page one, I could relate to Helene, and I enjoyed this immensely. The use of black and white and color is genius. In Helene's world, everything is black and white, and everything in Jane's world is in color, but as Helene begins to come out of her fog, color begins to bleed into her world, ushered in by a new friendship. It's beautiful.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): In one scene, Helene goes swimsuit shopping with her mother and sees herself as a sausage in a cute suit; the illustration is of a personified sausage in a bathing suit and not of Helene looking plump in any way, and by illustrating it that way, it shows what Helene is seeing and not what's really reflected in the mirror. It's an incredibly realistic scene that I completely related to, and I'm sure many other girls will too.

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger

Title: The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett
Author: Tom Angleberger
Pages: 224
Publisher: Amulet Books
ISBN: 9781419708589
Publication Date: August 6, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level - 4.9, Interest Level - 4th-8th grades, Points: 4.0
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17802191-the-surprise-attack-of-jabba-the-puppett

In a nutshell: Things at McQuarrie Middle School have never been worse. After failing to pass their standardized tests the previous school year, the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders must all be subjected to the torturous educational videos known as FunTime, and p.s. all their electives have been cancelled. In order to foil the school board's plot to bore them to tears and ruin their favorite classes, students from all grades come together to form a Rebel Alliance, and it's all hands (and finger puppets) on deck.

I'd recommend it for grades: 4 to 8

I'd recommend it to: Star Wars fans, Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans, and teachers/educators (who will love the central conflict in this one)

What I liked most about this book: This one is definitely my favorite in the series so far because of the sheer volume of new Star Wars origami puppets. Most of the key players in the Alliance have brand-new puppets that will not disappoint you. The surprise plot twist at the end is pretty amazing too. The book does a good job of showing both the students' and teachers'/administrators' perspectives on the standardized testing debate, and in true Origami Yoda style adds a healthy dose of humor into the situation. You'll finish this one wishing you could read the next one immediately.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): any of the parts with Padme Origamidala because she has the best Star Wars origami puppet name (and because she's one of my favorite Star Wars characters!)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 fully-operational Death Stars ;)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

Title: Shadow on the Mountain
Author: Margi Preus
Pages: 304
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
ISBN: 9781419704246
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.0; Interest Level - 6th and up; Points: 8.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13591179-shadow-on-the-mountain

In a nutshell: Espen (code name Odin) begins his life as a spy in Norway by smuggling illegal newspapers at the age of 14. Follow Espen's ascent to full-fledged teenaged spy over the course of 1940 to 1945 as Norway becomes more and more overpowered by Germany. It's an inspiring tale of bravery and friendship that will chill and thrill you.

I'd recommend it for grades: 5 to 8 (There's only one part that's kind of violent.)

I'd recommend it to: James Bond and Sound of Music fans, spy novel lovers, WWII historical fiction fans

What I liked most about this book: It's another of those historical fiction books that's about WWII but focuses on a part of the war that doesn't get as much attention. I enjoyed it, but something about the speed of the novel was off. Parts felt rushed, and other parts felt long, and I wasn't thrilled with how it ended so abruptly. However, I love how evident it was that this has been heavily researched. The end matter in this book rocks; it includes a timeline of the German occupation in Norway, pictures of the real man Espen's character is based on, some spy-related activities, and other cool stuff.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): When they're in their early teens, Espen and his friends build a weapons storage facility that's camouflaged in the mountain. It's a poignant moment when you think about how much life changes in the middle of a war. Most teenage boys build forts in the woods; these boys had to build a place to hide weapons to protect themselves from Nazi soldiers. Chilling.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

Monday, September 23, 2013

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, adapted by Nancy Butler

Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Jane Austen (adapted by Nancy Butler)
Pages: 112
Publisher: Marvel
ISBN: 9780785164401
Publication Date: September 19, 2012
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12828567-northanger-abbey

In a nutshell: Catherine Morland lives a life of adventure but only vicariously through her cherished gothic novels, so when she gets a chance to go to Bath to accompany some wealthy family friends, she jumps at the hope of a real adventure of her own. Adventure does indeed find Catherine, and the biggest adventures come in the form of Henry Tilney, a charming young clergyman, and John and Isabella Thorpe, a brother and sister pair who take a quick liking to Catherine. Can sweet, imaginative Catherine push past her childish naivete, find her way in the world, and maybe fall in love along the way? Austen's most satirical (and I'd say funniest), novel is beautifully illustrated in this graphic novel adaptation.

I'd recommend it for grades: 8 and up

I'd recommend it to: Jane Austen fans, romance fans, and graphic novel fans

What I liked most about this book: I've mentioned before how much I love graphic novels, but this is a particularly good example of how a beloved classic can easily and artfully translate to graphic format. This is sure to introduce new generations to Austen. It's my second favorite Austen Marvel adaptation (Pride and Prejudice still holds the top spot.).

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Catherine's gothic romance notions get the best of her, and she goes exploring in the Abbey and happens upon a mysterious paper, which turns out to be...a packing list. I love that Jane really pumps up the comedy in this novel. Catherine's overactive imagination is hilarious at times.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg

Title: Serafina's Promise
Author: Ann E. Burg
Pages: 304
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN: 9780545535649
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17270515-serafina-s-promise

In a nutshell: Serafina lives in a rural village in Haiti. She longs to go to school so she can pursue her dream of being a doctor. Her family cannot afford to send her to school, but a natural disaster changes their fate, and through adversity, Serafina may find a way to make her dream come true.

I'd recommend it for grades: 3 to 6

I'd recommend it to: fans of a feel-good story and students who enjoy learning about other cultures

What I liked most about this book: This verse novel is a quick, sweet read that features a charming main character. The descriptions of the setting are so vivid, you'll feel like you're walking the streets of her village with Serafina. Her passion for learning is contagious, and I think it could open the eyes of some first world kids and show them just how much of a blessing education really is. There's also a really nifty guide to Creole words and pronunciations at the end of the book.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): This line: "The only unbreakable home is one made from love." :)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

*I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Skinny by Donna Cooner

Title: Skinny
Author: Donna Cooner
Pages: 272
Publisher: Point
ISBN: 9780545427630
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
AR Levels: Book Level - 4.2, Interest Level - 6th and up, Points - 8.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11958583-skinny

In a nutshell: After Ever Davies' mother dies, she begins using food to ease the pain, and soon she feels like a prisoner in her own body. A toxic voice, whom she names "Skinny," haunts her thoughts with hateful words of discouragement that she'll never amount to anything and that she'll always be alone. But through the process of gastric bypass surgery, this obese teen discovers that she's not as alone as she thinks, that her dreams aren't impossible to obtain, and that her worth is not determined by her weight.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th and up. I'd say it's written for high schoolers, but middle schoolers will enjoy it too, and it's appropriate content-wise for them as well. I wish I'd had this book in middle school!

I'd recommend it to: fans of contemporary realistic fiction and anyone who has struggled with worrying about what other people think of them or feeling unhappy in their own skin

What I liked most about this book: This is a superbly written novel about a subject that rarely gets tackled in teen lit. I've never read another book about gastric bypass surgery in YA lit, and even if you've never struggled with weight issues, there are important lessons about looking beyond yourself to be learned here, and I think every teen would benefit from reading it. The Cinderella references in this book are fun (if a bit over-used), and I love all the references to Broadway songs (Ever uses a Broadway playlist to help her through her post-surgery life.).

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I don't want to give away too much, so I'll just tell you that Rat is by far my favorite character. He's mature yet nerdy and adorable, and he's one of the best examples of true friendship I've seen in a book in a while.

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

Friday, August 30, 2013

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

Title: William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope
Author: Ian Doescher
Pages: 176
Publisher: Quirk Books
ISBN: 9781594746376
Publication Date: July 2, 2013
AR Levels: N/A
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17262540-william-shakespeare-s-star-wars

In a nutshell: What if Shakespeare had written Star Wars? You may think this is a silly mash-up, but I assure you it is pure genius! This one details the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, and I sure hope there are more to come! (I'd go to a theatrical performance of this too!)

I'd recommend it for grades: 6th and up. This book's actually written for adults, but it's clean enough content-wise that even middle schoolers will love it! It may be tough for younger readers to understand the Shakespearean language, but it might also be a gateway to Shakespeare since many of them know the plot of Star Wars already.

I'd recommend it to: Shakespeare fans and Star Wars fans of course

What I liked most about this book: This is every bit as awesome as I'd hoped! Not only do you get some laughable Shakespearean interpretations of classic Star Wars lines, but you also get even more character development through the soliloquies (especially with Han...who is also my favorite). Perhaps the best part is that we finally get to hear R2's voice (only in asides...but still!)!!! You'll find many borrowed and adapted lines from many of Shakespeare's plays, including a pep talk from Luke to the rebels beginning, "Friends, rebels, starfighters, lend me your ears" (Julius Caesar) and a Hamlet-like reflection ("Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not."). If you like Star Wars and Shakespeare, you'll kick yourself if you don't read this.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): This line Han delivers after the shoot-out with Greedo: "And whether I shot first, I'll ne'er confess." Love it.

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

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Title: The Name of This Book Is Secret
Author: Pseudonymous Bosch
Pages: 364
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316113663
Publication Date: October 1, 2007
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.6; Interest Level - 4th-8th grades; Points: 9.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1099301.The_Name_of_This_Book_Is_Secret

In a nutshell: When two curious 11 year-olds come across a strange box full of vials with various smells and a coded notebook hidden in an underground house, they embark on an adventure to find a long-lost person, to save a classmate, and to possibly prevent unspeakable horrors from being unleashed on the world. Follow Cass and Max-Ernest on this riddle-filled thrill ride that's sure to make you laugh and exercise your brain.

I'd recommend it for grades: 5 to 8

I'd recommend it to: fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society or Adam Gidwitz's Grimm series, mystery lovers, anyone who enjoys a good riddle, Neil Gaiman fans, and Blue Balliett fans

What I liked most about this book: Told by an interactive and hilarious narrator who is constantly asking if you, as the reader, should really continue considering how dangerous he has deemed it, this book seems to be an excellent read-aloud for a 5th grade classroom. It's equally funny and clever although easier to solve and follow than Balliett's books and The Mysterious Benedict Society series. I also enjoyed the footnotes and appendix with additional information (including historical facts, magic tricks, science experiments, and more). There's something in this book for everyone, and I can't wait to read the other four books in the series!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I think I can safely tell you that at one point Cass and Max-Ernest find themselves in a library full of fancy old books, which the narrator describes as "a treasure trove of books, hoarded by pirate librarians." Be still my librarian heart. Also, there is a blind basset hound in this book named Sebastian, and you know how much I love basset hounds. :)

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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Pages: 368
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
ISBN: 9781423176374
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13514612-all-our-yesterdays

In a nutshell: Em has top secret information that's so world-changing that it's landed her and the boy in the cell next to her in a top secret military prison. In order to save the world, she must follow instructions written in a note hidden in her cell and written in her own handwriting, which she can't remember writing. It reads: "You must kill him." Thus begins a whirlwind time travel adventure and romance that is sure to leave you breathless. 

I'd recommend it for grades: 10 and up (for language and mild romantic content)

I'd recommend it to: sci-fi fans, romance fans, mystery fans, and Doctor Who fans

What I liked most about this book: I'm so afraid I'm going to give something away, so I can't say much except that calling this a page-turner is a huge understatement and that I absolutely fell in love with the characters. I was stoked to find out that there will be a second book (as the author says on her FAQ page on her website), but I'm also a little scared because this ended so perfectly that I can't imagine there being more! If you enjoy time travel and mysteries and romances, you just need to take my word and read this one! It's one of the best books I've read this year and one of the best time travel books I have ever read.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There's so little I can tell you about this book, but one of my favorite moments is when a female character uses "Elizabeth Bennet" as an alias. Nice little Pride and Prejudice shout-out there. ;)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): If I had a time machine, I'd give this 5 stars then go back in time and give it 5 stars again...and again...and again... ;)

*I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Pages: 402
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
ISBN: 9780062006141
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.4, Interest Level - 6th and up, Points: 14.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8306761-for-darkness-shows-the-stars

In a nutshell: Four years ago, Elliot North gave up her chance at love and freedom when she refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, Kai, a servant on her family's crumbling estate. Now, Kai's come back into her life, and he's made quite a life for himself as an explorer, renaming himself Captain Malakai Wentforth. Unfortunately for Elliot, all hopes of rekindling their romance is dashed when Captain Wentforth makes it clear that he still harbors anger and resentment toward her, but maybe all is not as Elliot sees. Can Elliot save her family's estate from ruin, protect all the servants she's known and loved her whole life, and find a way to heal her broken heart when the source of her pain is living in her grandfather's home just down the road? Based loosely on Jane Austen's Persuasion, this novel asks thought-provoking questions about love, honor, duty, envy, pride, second chances, forgiveness, technology, and class in a post-apocalyptic setting.

I'd recommend it for grades: 7th and up (quite clean for a teen romance)

I'd recommend it to: Jane Austen fans, tween girls wanting to ease into teen romances, Hunger Games fans (something about Eliot and Kai reminds me of Katniss and Gale), and fans of the Lunar Chronicles

What I liked most about this book: As a huge Jane Austen fan, I'm a little embarrassed to say that I only read Persuasion just a few days before this book, but I loved it. After finishing it, I did wish I could have seen more of what Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth's relationship had been like before she refused him. This book does a great job of filling in those gaps in Kai and Elliot's relationship prior to the action of the book by interspersing letters they wrote back and forth throughout their childhood. It's sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time, but it helps you see just how much they lost when they separated.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): This book may appear on the surface to be just another teen romance, but there are some deep thoughts lurking just below the surface, such as this gem: "Envy hurt exponentially more than heartbreak because your soul was torn in two, half soaring with happiness for another person, half mired in a well of self-pity and pain." I think Jane Austen would be proud of this ambitious retelling with nuggets of truth like that.

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

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ode to Graphic Novels: A Word to Parents and Teachers

It's no secret that I love graphic novels. Honestly, they are some of my favorite books to read, but I'm aware that some parents and teachers have their concerns about the format. Far too many times I've seen a child in my library thrilled to check out a stack of graphic novels only to be told by a parent to put them back and get a "real book." After discussing the merits of graphic novels with co-workers and parents two or three times in the last week or so, I thought it might be helpful to give you the short version of why I think it's more than okay for your child or your student to read and love graphic novels.

1. Anything that gets them reading is a good thing.
If your child can find something they enjoy reading that is age-appropriate, then please don't take it away from them. I'm convinced that one of the biggest hurdles a child faces in their education is the learning-to-like-reading hurdle. If they find a graphic novel they love, they just might take the first step into become a lifelong reader. Should you only let your child read graphic novels? Probably not (Do you let your child eat only ice cream?), but the range of content in this format will probably surprise you, which leads me to...

2. There are some high quality graphic novels in all genres out there. 
Graphic novels are a format...not a genre. You can find well-reviewed and well-loved graphic novels about anything under the sun, and I don't just mean fiction. Some of my favorite graphic novels are non-fiction titles and biographies (such as Satrapi's Persepolis and To Dance by Siena Siegel), and I adore reading graphic adaptations of classic novels (like Marvel's Jane Austen series). These classic books adaptations are especially great for reluctant readers because they are getting exposed to the original work (often with the original text) in a way that's fun for them. It's a wonderful way to ease them into a love of classic literature. If you give a reluctant reader a copy of Pride and Prejudice, he or she may initially get too bogged down in the language to like it, but give a reluctant reader a graphic novel of Pride and Prejudice, and he or she may like it. And once they like it, they will probably want to read the original, and since they're already familiar with the plot and the characters and a lot of the original dialogue, they may like that too...and they'll probably want a cookie to go with it (couldn't resist the Numeroff joke). ;)

3. Contrary to popular belief, graphic novels are "real books" and can actually make your kids smarter. 
Okay...I say that a bit cheekily, but graphic novels do include many higher-level vocabulary words, and they help kids develop visual literacy. What is this "visual literacy" I speak of? It's the ability to "read" images. It's how we follow movies and television shows. By using images in comic strip format, graphic novels teach us how to create narratives frame by frame and understand what's happening in the story when there aren't any words. The old adage is still true; a picture can be worth 1,000 words, and in our increasingly-digital and visual society, it's important for students to be able to interpret and comprehend visual arts as well as the written word, and graphic novels allow them to do both! One of my absolute favorite examples of this is a book that's a quasi-graphic novel - Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. This tale alternates between a boy's perspective told in words and a girl's perspective told entirely in beautiful charcoal illustrations, and when the stories begin to intersect, it blows your mind! 

So that's my two cents on the subject, and I'll leave you with a short list of a few more of my favorite graphic novels with the Goodreads links:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

Title: Mary Poppins
Author: P.L. Travers
Pages: 224
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780152058104
Publication Date: this edition published June 1, 2006 (originally published in 1934)
AR Levels: Book Level - 6.1, Interest Level - 4th-8th grades, Points: 6.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/152380.Mary_Poppins

In a nutshell: When the Banks family loses a nanny, another one drops out of the sky, onto their doorstep, and into their lives. But Mary Poppins is no ordinary nanny, and life will never be the same at 17 Cherry Tree Lane...at least not until the West Wind comes.

I'd recommend it for grades: 3 to 5

I'd recommend it to: fans of the movie (obviously), Narnia fans, those who like books set in our world but with a dash of magic, and anyone who likes sassy nannies :)

What I liked most about this book: I'm always hesitant when people ask me what my favorite movie is, but I can say with confidence that Mary Poppins is one of my absolute favorite children's movies. Mary Poppins was my role model as a child. If I'm honest, I think she still is, and so that's why it's odd that I had never read this series. I think I may have been afraid it would ruin the movie for me, but it didn't! *sigh of relief* While this book isn't "practically perfect in every way," I did enjoy it. The prose is delightful and would make for a great read-aloud. Travers' Mary Poppins is a bit sassier (and a teeny bit colder) than Julie Andrews' portrayal, but she's just as charming, and I still love her. I can't wait to read the rest of the books before Saving Mr. Banks comes out in December (I CANNOT WAIT!!!)

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I don't want to give away too much, but let's just say the relationship between Mary Poppins and Bert is absolutely adorable even more so than in the movie, and my favorite part happens when they go into his chalk painting. (I also had a crush on Dick Van Dyke as a girl.) ;)

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


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Title: Sugar
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Pages: 288
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316043052
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level - 2.9; Interest Level - 4th-8th grades; Points: 4.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15790805-sugar

In a nutshell: Ten-year-old orphan Sugar lives and works on a Louisiana River Road sugar cane plantation in the years following the Civil War. She's no longer a slave, but little about her life has changed, and she longs to leave the only home she's ever known to explore the world. However, when Sugar befriends the white plantation owner's son, Billy, and the Chinese men hired to help harvest this year's sugar crop, everything will change, and Sugar will feel like the world is at her doorstep.

I'd recommend it to grades: 3 to 6

I'd recommend it to: historical fiction fans or anyone who enjoys a story that will warm your heart

What I liked most about this book: I loved Ninth Ward, and after reading this one, I am officially a Jewell Parker Rhodes fan. You fall in love with Sugar from the first chapter. She's funny and playful with an incredible streak of bravery and adventure. The book also captures an interesting tidbit of history by featuring Chinese workers in the post-Civil War South. It was something I knew little about, and it makes for a fascinating blend of three cultures living side-by-side and learning to adapt to a changing way of life.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Sugar and Billy spend an afternoon floating down the Mississippi River on a raft pretending to be pirates. I confess...I have always wanted to do that, and it's a sweet picture of how imagination unites us all no matter our skin color.

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

Island Eyes, Island Skies by Richard Levine

Title: Island Eyes, Island Skies
Author: Richard Levine
Pages: 268
Publisher: Feathered Tale Books
ISBN: 9780982926901
Publication Date: January 5, 2011
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13824887-island-eyes-island-skies

In a nutshell: Rob and D.C. are just two normal teens who meet at a party and find that spark between them, but when family tragedy strikes each of them separately, their flame is cut short. Fortunately, Rob and D.C. get a second chance at love and help each other process their grief.

I'd recommend it to grades: 6th and up

I'd recommend it to: younger teens and tweens struggling through first love and/or tragedy

What I liked most about this book: I enjoyed hearing this story told from the perspectives of both Rob and D.C. It's interesting to see what's going on in their heads while experiencing the same events. It makes their characters easy for tweens to relate to as well.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): The dance/party scene in the beginning rings so true for awkward tween gatherings. It's both funny and painful to read!

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 3 stars

*I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Pages: 452
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
ISBN: 9780312642969
Publication Date: February 5, 2013
AR Levels: Book Level - 5.8, Interest Level - 6th and up, Points: 16.0
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13206760-scarlet

In a nutshell: Scarlet Benoit's grandmother has been missing for far too long, so she takes matters into her own hands, and with the help of street fighter, Wolf, she goes in search of her. Her investigation will not only uncover her grandmother's secrets but also Wolf's, and along the way she meets a girl on the run who may just be the key to the whole mystery.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 and up

I'd recommend it to: fairy tale fans, sci-fi lovers, and adrenaline junkies (this one moves fast!)

What I liked most about this book: This is the complete polar opposite of a sophomore slump if I ever read one. Wow! It's definitely better than the first one, Cinder, which I loved! (Go back and read it first if you haven't yet!) There's just something about the blending of fairy tale and science fiction in this series that is completely unique and impossible to put down. This second book is a perfect mix of fast-paced action and deep characterization. I worried with this one that the introduction of so many new characters would take away from the first book's characters, but the expansion only adds flavor to the universe of the series. I am beyond stoked about the third and fourth books! I read the sneak peek of the first chapter of Cress, book three, and it's amazing. I can't wait to see what Meyer does with the Rapunzel adaptation.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I've always seen the traditional Little Red Riding Hood as a bit of a naive, silly pushover, but in the opening chapters of this book, it's clear that Scarlet is going to be a firecracker of a second female protagonist for the series. She's a force to be reckoned with, and after reading the first few chapters, I knew she would be my favorite character in the series thus far. Wolf isn't so bad either. ;)

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni

Title: The Caged Graves
Author: Dianne Salerni
Pages: 329
Publisher: Clarion Books
ISBN: 9780547868530
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12394044-the-caged-graves

In a nutshell: 17-year-old Verity Boone is returning to her hometown of Catawissa, Pennsylvania after being sent to live with relatives following the death of her mother. It's been 15 years since she left, and Verity is looking forward to seeing her father and to meeting her fiance, Nathaniel, in person since they've only been exchanging letters to this point, but Verity's arrival in town stirs up an old mystery surrounding her mother's and aunt's deaths. She is horrified to learn that their graves are caged in and interred outside the churchyard, and she is determined to find out why. The real question is whether the graves have cages to keep the living out or to keep the dead in. 

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

I'd recommend it to: historical mystery/romance fans

What I liked most about this book: I confess I picked up this book because when it came across my desk I was intrigued by both the title and the cover and immediately wanted to know why those graves had cages myself. Once I read the blurb in the book jacket, I knew I had to read it. Apparently the author stumbled across these real-live caged graves in Pennsylvania and did some research on them. She found out who the two women were but could find no evidence of the reasoning behind the cages, so she wrote this book as an imaginative, fictional explanation. Fun fact: the cover image is taken by the author's husband and shows the actual graves. Way cool. As for the story itself, it's definitely a page turner full of suspense and mini cliffhangers, and there's a love triangle too (not the best, but okay). It's a quick, intriguing, and entertaining read.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): I won't say too much, but Verity's first encounter with her pen pal fiance doesn't go exactly as planned, and he's not quite who she imagined him to be. If only she'd had eHarmony, right? ;)

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 4 stars (would be 5 if the romantic parts were a bit less cheesy)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Title: The Fifth Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Pages: 457
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
ISBN: 9780399162411
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
AR Levels: TBD
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16101128-the-5th-wave

In a nutshell: After surviving four waves of a deadly alien invasion that has wiped out the majority of the world's population through lack of power, tidal waves, and a plague, Cassie is determined to stay alive and rescue her kid brother Sammy, but waiting for the fifth wave is like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and Cassie can trust no one...can she?

I'd recommend this for grades: 10 and up (strong language and lots of death and violence obviously)

I'd recommend it to: science fiction fans (especially Doctor Who and X-Files fans), Hunger Games and I Am Number Four fans, and conspiracy theorists ;)

What I liked most about this book: This book has everything you could want in a great young adult novel: aliens, love, sarcastic humor, cute boys, a strong female lead, thrilling mystery, plot twists, government secrets, angst, interesting/loveable/hateable characters, and most of all excellent writing! This one exceeded my already high expectations based on all the hype it's getting! Read it!

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): When Cassie's describing what she's got packed in her survival kit, she pokes fun at herself about including a toothbrush and toothpaste. She's determined that if she's going to be murdered by aliens, she's at least going to go out with clean teeth. Haha! Cassie's snarky comments are part of my favorite thing about her character and this book. She's like Katniss but sassier.

Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious): 5 stars!!! I can hardly wait for the next one! 

Follow our authors on Twitter...

I've gotten a lot of information on Twitter about new books and updates from authors we've reviewed.  So, I thought some of you might be interested in following them, too.

R.J. Palacio (Wonder):  @RJPalacio
Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod):  @heatherbrewer
Chris Crutcher (Deadline; Ironman; Period.8):  @ChrisCrutcher
Adam Gidwitz (A Tale Dark and Grimm):  @AdamGidwitz
K.M. Walton (Cracked):  @KMWalton1
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars):  @realjohngreen
Ridley Pearson (Disney After Dark):  @RidleyPearson
A.C. Gaughen (Scarlet):  @ACGaughen
Nic Sheff (Tweak):  @nic_sheff
Deborah Wiles (Countdown):  @deborahwiles
Lindsay Eland (Scones and Sensibility):  @lindsayeland
Jennifer E. Smith (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight; This Is What Happy Looks Like):  @JenESmith
Michelle Muto (The Book of Lost Souls):  @MichWritesBooks
Tom Angleberger (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda):  @TomAngleberger
Paul Volponi (Hurricane Song):  @paul_volponi
Jodi Lynn Anderson (Tiger Lily):  @jodilynna
Christopher Healy (The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom):  @ChristophrHealy
50 Cent (Playground):  @50cent
John Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back): @corey_whaley
Rick Riordan (The Mark of Athena):  @camphalfblood
Nyrae Dawn (What a Boy Wants):  @NyraeDawn
Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity):  @EWein2412
Gabrielle Zevin (Because It Is My Blood):  @gabriellezevin
Dan Poblocki (The Ghost of Graylock):  @DanPoblocki
Lauren Oliver (The Spindlers):  @OliverBooks
Jenny Lundquist (Seeing Cinderella):  @Jenny_Lundquist
Maureen Johnson (The Name of the Star):  @maureenjohnson
Annabel Pitcher (My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece; Ketchup Clouds): @APitcherAuthor
Libba Bray (The Diviners):  @libbabray
Obert Skye (Wonkenstein):  @obertskye
Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm (Extreme Babymouse):  @mattholm
Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan):  @kaaauthor
Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz (Colin Fischer):  @ashmasterzero  @MuseZack
Cal Armistead (Being Henry David):  @CalArmistead
James Patterson (The Dangerous Days of Daniel X):  @JP_Books
Ruta Sepetys (Out of the Easy; Between Shades of Gray):  @RutaSepetys
Peter Lerangis (The Colossus Rises):  @PeterLerangis
Victoria Schwab (The Archived):  @veschwab
Kenneth Oppel (Half Brother):  @kennethoppel

Friday, June 21, 2013

Luminescence by Who Mee

This is an interesting review to write.  The author is 16 and requested that we review her book.  I'll be honest:  I didn't have high expectations for the book.  My mistake!  This one had me hooked by Page 10 and the character development was amazing.  The main character's relationship with her band-of-misfits friends reminded me of Wendy and The Lost Boys in Peter Pan (my favorite book).  The author has done a great job at weaving together life in the Caribbean, drug smuggling, zombies, voodoo, and teen angst.

Title:  Luminescence
Author:  Who Mee
Pages: Available only as an eBook (the PDF form is 213 pages)
Publisher:  Smashwords
ISBN:  9781301861187
Publication Date:  June 7, 2013
AR Levels: N/A
Goodreads link:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18078102-luminescence

In a nutshell:  Nyx is a teenage girl who moves with her family to the Caribbean.  There, she meets a group of boys who are pretty much raising themselves.  Tourists on the island are disappearing and the boys know the secret and have been secretly fighting the forces behind it.  Additionally, Nyx learns about the history her family has with this island and how what happened in the past is affecting her future.  Can she help the boys stop what's happening? Or will she even survive the evil that jeopardizes her, her family, and her friends?

I'd recommend it for grades:  7th and up.  Mild language and violence

I'd recommend it to:  Anyone who loves a good adventure.  If you're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Indiana Jones, Peter Pan, or any others like these, this book is for you!!

What I like most about this book:  The character development was wonderful!  I actually cared about these characters and knew their stories.

Single favorite moment (Without getting spoiler-y):  At one point, the boys are in a prank war and one character references Peter Pan, referring to not growing up.  I'm a sucker for a well-placed reference to my favorite book.

Star rating (Where 5 stars is awesome and 0 stars is atrocious):  4 stars; If I could give 4 1/2 stars, I would!  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Title: Ketchup Clouds
Author: Annabel Pitcher
Pages: 272
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316246767
Publication Date: November 12, 2013 (in America...originally released in the UK in November 2012)
AR Levels: unavailable
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17242447-ketchup-clouds

In a nutshell: Zoe has a secret, a secret so terrible she can't tell anyone, but she has to tell someone what she's done or the guilt may consume her. Zoe's solution? Become pen pals with an inmate on Death Row in Texas. Through this series of letters, "Zoe" (who does not reveal her real name) begins to process her grief and intense guilt over murdering a boy in her life. Who is this boy? What could have caused a nerdy teenage girl to murder him? "Zoe" answers these questions and creates more for readers in this dark yet romantic novel that is sure to keep you guessing.

I'd recommend it for grades: 9 and up (mature content and mild language)

I'd recommend it to: mystery lovers and dark humor fans

What I liked most about this book: It's a backwards whodunnit with a lot of heart too. I laughed, I got a little misty-eyed, and I could not put this one down. It's a tough thing to introduce your main character as a murderer in the first chapter, but "Zoe" immediately draws your sympathy with her vulnerability and humor. I've never read another book like this one, and I mean that in the best of ways.

Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): There is so much I can't give away in this one, but let's just say "Zoe" works part-time shelving books in a library, and there's some sweet nerdy flirting in the stacks that made my librarian heart happy. Also...any moment with "Zoe's" deaf little sister Dot is my favorite. She's adorable.

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