Celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day!

April 29th is Poem In Your Pocket Day. On this day, you are encouraged to keep a poem in your pocket, ready to share with someone special or to keep to yourself. Your poem can be an old favorite or a newly discovered gem. You can copy a poem out on paper or print one that's already in the shape of a pocket.

Here are some additional tips on how you can celebrate this day from poets.org:

And, a promotional video for the Poem In Your Pocket Anthology, of which I am a huge fan:

Book Review: The Forst of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a zombie book, yes, but it is so much more! I am not one to seek out books about zombies, so I was a little wary of this book at first. I ended up purchasing it for my classroom shelf with money raised by the Chick Lit Book Club. What ultimately broke down my inhibitions? Some awesome online reviews, the provocative cover, and the fact that this title is now out in paperback. (Though I now own two copies; one paperback and one hardcover!)

The main character, Mary, loses both of her parents to the Unconsecrated (the zombies) that surround her village. There are fences that separate the Unconsecrated from the villagers, but these zombies have ways of braking these fences down. Basically, the Unconsecrated moan and groan and push at the fence surrounding the village most of the day, hungry for human flesh. The villagers are used to seeing the Unconsecrated, which is hard for them to bear. All of these zombies were once their friends and relatives. Now, they're reduced to rotting flesh and vacant eyes, constantly roaming and searching out their next human victim.

Once Mary has no parents, she's forced to rely on the Sisterhood, a religious group who controls the village, for shelter and protection. Quickly, Mary understands that the Sisters have been keeping secrets from the townspeople. This revelation is spurred on by the appearance of a unknown girl from outside. Mary only speaks to this girl through the wall of the room in which the girl is held captive. The girl says her name is Gabrielle and she leaves a cryptic message for Mary to decipher. This code leaves Mary to more questions than answers. Is there a way out of the village? Are there other villages beyond Mary's? What are the Sisters hiding from the villagers?

This is an action-packed read that will interest zombie lovers and those who love dystopian series books. I've already started on the next book in the series, The Dead-Tossed Waves. I'll let you know what I think about it soon!

Book Review: Ashes of Roses

Our April title for the Chick Lit Book Club is called Ashes of Roses and it was written by Mary Jane Auch. I have to admit that I was not super excited to read this book at first, but my anticipation grew as Chick after Chick approached me in our school's hallways telling me how much they loved it. So, After reading eight or nine other titles this week, I decided it was high time to get started. (Our meeting is in four days, so my procrastination had to end sometime!)

What I did not see coming is me wanting to read this book in one sitting. There was something about the voice and persona of the main character, Rose. Rose and her family ventured to America from Ireland in the steerage section of a huge ship in the year 1911. Rose is sixteen and has no idea of the conditions waiting for her in New York City.

After part of her family is sent back to Ireland due to contagious disease, Rose works to become a caretaker for herself and her family. She seeks out several jobs, but is only truly successful in landing a job at the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. I don't want to give away the ending of this story, but if you're interested in learning more about the tragedy that occurred in this sweatshop, this is a great site.

Readers who are interested in historical fiction may like this book. I don't know how, but the main character is interesting and dynamic. This is a great book for us Chicks to talk about and I can't wait for the meeting!

Contest and Giveaways Alert!

I love that Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century has a weekly meme devoted to promoting contests and giveaways. She calls this meme Link a Contest Thursday. Basically, anyone who has a contest or a giveaway that they'd like to promote can link there and spread the word very quickly. If you're looking to enter a contest or to post one, I'd totally recommend using this platform. I'm going to create a giveaway sometime this spring, and I know that I'll be linking my announcement to Kristen's page.

Here are two contests/ giveaways I'm entering this week:

Win a copy of The Carrie Diaries by Candice Bushnell: This book is being given away at the Only Sexy Books Allowed blog. As I've mentioned before, I love this cover and really want to read this book. I've seen all of the episodes of Sex in the City, the first movie, and I plan to watch the new movie coming out this May. I think that I'm not alone in my love for this series, and I would love to read this prequel to the whole Carrie story.

Win a signed copy of The Naughty List by Suzanne Young: This cover is sure to pull in a lot of readers! And, who doesn't like the idea of a novel where a cheerleader character breaks stereotypes and becomes a bit of a spunky sleuth? (Almost reminds me of Quinn Fabray from Glee. Except that she's pretty evil!)

Book to Movie: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is not exactly a YA novel, but it is an adult read that could cross over to some teen readers and YA lit lovers. It's a super gritty read and has some serious adult themes, but it is oh-so-good.

So, I'm going to review it here. Though I try to keep this blog filled with YA reads, this movie and this book are so powerful that I wanted to share them. And, I think that a lot of people have either read this novel or are going to see the movie.

As many of you probably already know, the author of this book died shortly after turning in the three manuscripts for this series. All of the books in this series were published posthumuously in 2006. Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004. I guess that this fact made me want to read the novels more because I knew that this is it. The author is dead, so there will be no cheesy extensions of his characters and his work will not get "soft" after receiving all sorts of cash and praise.

Back to the book and the movie. Basically, the plot of this book is that there is a huge conspiracy among a hugely rich family called the Vangers. You should know that the original title of this novel was "Men Who Hate Women", which actually sums up the book quite nicely. Despite the fact that there is a ton of information, including a complete family history of the Vangers, this is a gripping and suspenseful read. Plus, I totally enjoyed learning about Swedish culture, which is very different than American culture and extremely different from the way that I pictured it. (My picture was based on just about nothing; maybe an Oprah show and Swedish Fish. Not much, indeed!)

The movie differs fairly significantly from the book in lots of small details and a few major plot points, but it was fairly well adapted to the screen. I'm sure that making a film script from a novel is challenging and I like to give script writers a lot of room for interpretation, especially when the author of the original text is no longer with us.

This movie was not playing at our local theater, so I had a round-trip drive of about three hours to see it. It was totally worth the time and the gas money. It was hard to watch and I don't recommend that everyone see it--Some parts were extremely violent and disturbing. But, if you loved this novel, I don't think that you'll be disappointed in the movie version. Let me know if you are and we can debate or something.

Please note me trying to look like the title character. I don't pull off angst very well!

Book Review: Two Books That I Did Not Care For

I have been putting off writing reviews for two books for about a week now. Why? Because I didn't really like either of them and I haven't had to write a review of a book (let alone two books) that I didn't like in a long time. Usually, I can find something redeeming about a book and focus on that during the reading/ reviewing process, but these two had some serious flaws, in my opinion.

The thought of not reviewing them even crossed my mind. But, I then realized that maybe a less-than-positive review would prevent someone from spending money on a title that would disappoint. Or, I'd hear from someone who disagreed with my review and thought one (or both) of these titles were better than I thought. Feel free to speak up if you're one of those people!

Today, I came up with a compromise. I'd combine the two offending books into one review and call it good. I have some perfectly amazing books to review and would like to get to them, so once these reviews are done I can move on toward a happier place. And who doesn't want to be happy, especially during an April vacation?

Okay, here goes.

Planet Pregnancy by Linda Oatman High. As I've mentioned in several posts, I love novels told in verse. I think that these reads lend themselves to a larger audience and appeal to a variety of readers. Sometimes, though, it is hard for me to read poems that are simply not well-written. This book is full of them.

I can deal with some poems that are lacking or need revision or seem flawed, but this book is almost disrespectful to its speakers and the topic with its canned diction and forced rhymes. At one point, the speaker (who a pregnant teen) says: "I wonder where/ you go to get WIC?/ I'm not a hick./ I don't pick my nose./ I'm not toothless" (page 114). I had an extremely adverse reaction to these lines. I have several teen mothers in my classes and live in an area where "hick" is a common descriptor that most of the student population adopts with great pride. These lines made me cringe.

There are other problems that I had with the plot of this book. (Like the speaker pretending that she was raped so that she wouldn't have to confess having consensual sex with a boy)(and the mother doesn't care when she finds out that her daughter lied!)(Uggh!).

So, I didn't like this book. But, I'm going to put it on my free reading shelves at school. You never know which book will connect with an uninspired reader.

Bleed by Laurie Faria Stolarz. For me, the plot of this book was very slow and I couldn't pinpoint the actual story or problem or conflict in the story that I was supposed to care about. And, it was filled with some fairly graphic sex scenes, which kinda turned my stomach. There seemed to be no real reason to include such detailed, descriptive scenes in the book. And, I'm no prude. This was way over the top of my comfort zone when it comes to reading about teen sex. Waaay over.

But, aside from the sex scenes, not much was really happening. There were ten teen voices in this book. They did not intertwine enough for me and some were just plain confusing. I really didn't know who to care about or what the purpose of some of the characters actually was. I've read some great reviews for this book (which is why I bought it) and I simply don't get it.

Let me know if you disagree with any of this. Or, tell me how you deal with reviewing books that you truly do not care for. I could use the advice!

On My Wishlist: Shark Girl

I love novels told in verse, and this one sounds particularly gripping. Apparently, this is a fictional account of a scenario that plays out at least once or twice a year: A young person is attacked by a shark and survives, but requires prosthetic limbs to carry on a "normal" life. Although, in this age of reality TV and media supervision, is there ever a "real" life after something as drastic as a shark attack? This book (according to reviews on amazon) included news clips and letters of support from other amputees.

I can imagine this novel in verse hitting my free reading shelves and being promptly snatched up by all of my hungry little teen readers. A feeding frenzy!

Promote Green Week On Your Blog

Kirthi, of the blog Pages, is hosting an excellent giveaway/ blogging challenge. Here is what she has to say about this awesome challenge:

Happy 40th Earth Day! (week!)
I hope you all are recycling, picking up trash and litter, and are turning off your electricity! Everyday this week I'll be posting fun "green" posts to promote Earth Week!

40 tips for 40th Earth Day for some cool tips
Earth 911
Complete List of Environmental Organizations!

So, join me in signing up for this challenge. I'm going to cross-post this on my classroom blog in case some of my more studious students are checking our class blog during break (doubtful, but I'm hopeful!) and decide to engage in this challenge!

Plus, Kirthi is giving away a choice of two reads:

Book Review: All Unquiet Things

I've been wanting to read All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab for some time. When I received a grant to purchase some new books for my classroom's free reading shelves, I couldn't help myself! This was one of the first I bought and one of the first (of 18!!) that I read.

And, I wasn't at all disappointed. This is one of the most suspenseful, thriller-type books that I've read in a long time. In fact, I can't even think of a comparison read to tell you how suspenseful and gripping this book actually was. Part of the suspense was created through the back and forth narration of the two main characters, Neily and Audrey.

The basic plot is this: Carly was murdered one year ago. Her uncle was named as her killer. Apparently, Carly inherited money that her uncle felt entitled to and he couldn't let her live knowing that he should have had that share of the inheritance. This motive is believed by police, the prosecution, and the judge. Carly's uncle goes to jail and the rest of Carly's friends and family are free to move on.

Except, Audrey (Carly's cousin and daughter of the supposed killer) isn't buying it. She wants to set out to prove that her father is innocent and that the real killer is still at large. She cannot let go of the evidence she's found, but she needs help. So, Audrey enlists Neily, Carly's ex-boyfriend to help prove her father's innocence and out Carly's actual killer behind bars before someone else dies.

This is a hugely entertaining read. I finished it in one afternoon--My bored husband and lonely dog can attest to the fact that I ignored them for a whole day! And, I'm not trying to get away from them. This read will interest boys and girls alike. I can't wait to see what other titles Anna Jarzab writes!

We Made It! Readergirlz Mentions The Chick Lit Book Club

One of my favorite blogs/ sites ever is readergirlz. I love the book reviews, author interviews, and the way that they pair awesome songs with books. when I first read about Operation Teen Book Drop on this site, I knew that the Chicks in our local Chick Lit Book Club needed to get involved. And did they ever! In a few short weeks, the Chicks raised money (about $60) and used that money to purchase six new titles for a variety of classroom, local, and school libraries. We trekked all the way to Barnes and Noble (about an hour's drive) and had a great time reading backs of books and deciding how to best spend our loot. And, we ate lunch and consumed lots of good coffee. It was pretty darn exciting!

Without further rambling, here is a link to the readergirlz site where you can see our Chick Lit Book Club info and picks and such! I need to go pinch myself to make sure that this is all real!

Giveaway: Simone Elkeles Books!!

La Femme Readers is offering an awesome giveaway: Two books and bookmarks from author Simone Elkeles. I have not read Perfect Chemistry or The Rules of Attraction, but have read many positive reviews of each book. Check out La Femme Readers for more information about this giveaway and an interview with Simone Elkeles, who has apparently had some experience with bad boys herself!

Book Review: Tyrell

After reading Coe Booth's Tyrell, I know that it will haunt me for some time to come. The characters and the situations that the characters are facing are so real that this book almost reads like nonfiction.

Tyrell is a fifteen year-old African American teen who is trying to keep what's left of his family together. After his father is arrested and put in jail, his mother falls apart and stops paying the rent. Tyrell is forced to figure out ways to provide for himself, his mother, and his younger brother Troy. This is not the first time that Tyrell has had to step up and be the man of the family, but this time he has had to drop out of school and it doesn't look like he's ever going to be able to go back.

To complicate matters, Tyrell's mother was convicted of welfare fraud during a previous bout of homlessness, and the welfare system will not grant them the same level of aid as they'll need to find a place to live and get back on their feet. Because of this situation, Tyrell and his family are forced to accept the only housing that's offered: Temporary shelter at a roach-infested motel in a horrible section of the city.

Fortunately for Tyrell, he is young and creative and he cares about his future. He could easily earn some extra cash selling drugs, but he does not want to end up in prison like his father. Unfortunately for Tyrell, there is not a lot of legal jobs for homeless fifteen year-old black males in the city. Will he manage to find safe shelter for his family? Or, will he give in to the pressures of those around him who assure him that he can make a whole lot more money illegally than legally?

This is a high-interest read for anyone who is interested in inner-city lit. I can tell that the author, Coe Booth has seen some horrible sights in her life because there is no way that this is not at all based on reality. It's well-written and gripping. You will not soon forget Tyrell or his friends and his little brother. These are real people, not characters!

HarperTeen Prize Pack Giveaway

The Book Pixie is offering up four awesome titles as part of a HarperTeen giveaway. The four titles that are being awarded are:
Wouldn't you just love to have these books! I've read a lot of reviews about these titles and they're at the top of my YA wishlist. Join me in entering this awesome giveaway!

Cover Love (Part One)

Cover Love is a weekly meme that I first saw on 21 Pages. I love looking at book covers, and sometimes go to LibraryThing just to view all of the great covers in my collection. Covers are like great pieces of artwork to me and I have definitely been known to not read a book simply because I didn't like the cover. I also find myself staring at the cover of a book during the process of reading it. I don't know why this is, but I just love a great cover!

I don't know that I'll be able to participate in this meme every week, but I'm on vacation right now and I have a bunch of extra time, so here goes!

Here are some of the intriguing new covers I've seen in the last couple of weeks:

I chose these two covers because I found the people/ characters on the covers striking or interesting. Both covers intrigued me enough to place the titles on my wishlist!

These covers had exciting color/ font patterns. I've been admiring Will Grayson, Will Grayson for some time (two of my favorite authors collaborated to write it!) and The Carrie Diaries just looks awesome!

Huge Giveaway: 30+ Books and Counting! Plus, Enter To Win "Hush, Hush"

Linna at 21 Pages is offering a huge-mungous giveaway. For every 50 followers she gets between now and May 1st, she will add to the pile of winners. For every 25 followers, she'll add to the pile of books. And, all of the titles she's listed are awesome. (Check my screenshot of her current list, which has already been added to!)

I hope that you'll join me in entering this giveaway and spend a little time surfing around this blog!

Linna at 21 Pages is also hosting a giveaway for Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I am in love with the cover for this title and would love to read it. Another great good vs. evil read--I love them!

Book Drop Rocked!

Today is the day! After months and months of waiting, Operation Teen Book Drop is in full effect! Our school's Chick Lit Book Club raised money and purchased six young adult novels to "drop" in our local, school, and classroom libraries. Here are a couple of the chicks "dropping" their books on our library shelves. Also included is a picture of the books that we purchased. It was super fun!

Book Review: Jumped

In the last few years of teaching I've noticed a bit of an increase in the amount of "girl" fights at my school. Not that they're out of control or anything, but there's definitely been more bullying, both at school and cell phones and online.

When writing a grant to purchase some good titles for teen girls, Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia stood out to me. I think that there is no better way to talk about issues of bullying, harassment, and violence than to present them in a realistic YA book. And, this book is totally realistic.

Jumped is narrated by three teen girls and the story goes back and forth between the three voices. Here is a breakdown of the three personalities:

Trina: Thinks she's all that. Is so wrapped up in herself and her good looks that she doesn't notice how her attitude affects other students.

Dominique: Is angry. Plays sports, but has been benched because of her grades. Dominique is looking for someone to take out her anger on. Trina cuts her off in front of her friends and that's all she needs. Trina has no idea what's going to happen after school.

Leticia: Finds herself in the middle of the fight between Trina and Dominique. She sees and hears Dominique's threat to Trina and knows that Trina is oblivious. One friend says that she should tell Trina so that the fight will be more fair. Leticia doesn't want to get involved, though, especially where Dominique is involved. What is her responsibility as a bystander?

This is a gripping read. I read it in one sitting because I absolutely had to find out how this story ended. No wonder it was a finalist for the National Book Award. I look forward to reading more from this author!

On My Wishlist: Poetry Speaks Who I Am

What's better than a cool collection of amazing poems? Why, one that comes with a CD of course! There are a mix of poems and poets in this collection, from modern to classic to young to old. Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Bishop, Julia Alvarez. These are some of my favorite authors ever. I can just imagine the undiscovered goodies that I'll find in this group of poems/ poets. Plus, it looks hip and dynamic. There are over 100 poems included in this collection. I cannot wait to read it!

And, Donna at Bites is giving away three copies of this title. Thanks, Donna, for commenting on this post and letting us know!

Giveaway: Harry Potter Box Set

The entire Harry Potter series is out on paperback! And, Pop Culture Junkie is giving it away for free to one luck winner! I have to admit that I have not read a single sentence of any of the series, but I have seen the way that these books have influenced my students. I am a bit of a reformed reader in the sense that I used to gravitate toward realistic reads more than fantasy or sci fi. Now, I am a much more eclectic reader and love fantasy novels. (Sci fi is still a little rough for me.)

The Harry Potter series is really the first (since I've been a teacher) that has moved students to read hundreds and hundreds of pages in a series. Now, I've been through a couple of popular series, but these have dropped by the wayside and did not necessarily have the universal appeal of the Harry Potter series. Sure, some of my male students read the Twilight series, but more have read the Harry Potter one.

Join me in entering this awesome giveaway!

Book Review: Deadline

I haven't read a ton of books by Chris Crutcher, but I know that he has written quite a few. I picked up Deadline when a grant that I had written was funded. I wrote the grant to add a new selection of books that would appeal to a male audience to my free reading shelves. Deadline seemed like an entertaining read, and it absolutely was.

First off, it was interesting reading this book alongside Libba Bray's Going Bovine. Both are about teen boys who find out rather suddenly that they have terminal illnesses. In Deadline, you never find out what the illness is, but you know that there is no way that the main character, Ben, will survive without any treatment.

Rather than freak out and seek some sort of crazy last minute adventure, Ben leads a fairly normal existence for his final year of life. He does a few "Bucket List"-type activities, but he does not go sky diving or travel too far from home. He does, though, become a more outspoken person and is actually more connected to his community and relatives after he finds out his diagnosis.

Ben is an interesting teen in that he chooses not to tell anyone, not even his parents, that he has a terminal illness. They do not know that their son is dying until it is too late. I'm not sure that I love this idea for any of the teens that I teach, but I do like the idea that Ben was in control of his own path. He made choices and got to see the result of his actions.

I loved this book. It's not super flashy or crazy, like Going Bovine (which I also loved, but for different reasons) but it has a quiet sensibility to it. I am actually considering teaching this book in a senior course with a focus on "journeys". I think that it'd fit right in and lead to lots of awesome discussions.

Clear Away the Clutter Read-A-Thon: The Final Day

Today is the final day of the Clear Away the Clutter Read-A-Thon. For Activity #7, there are two ways to participate. Here are the options for participants:

Activity #7 Choice 1:

As book lovers we know the value of a good book recommendation. As part of my Recommend Me meme, I have started a list called Neverending Reads. On this page you will find two categories: Stand Along Books and Books in a Series. Both of these links will lead you to a listing of novels that I have enjoyed and would recommend to other readers.

For this activity, all you need to do is visit my Neverending Reads page and recommend a title by submitting the book's information to my form. It can be a Stand Along Book or a Book in a Series... or if you are feeling generous, one of each. Once you have completed this activity, please leave a comment on this post. Since the form does not ask for the name of the submitter, every one is on the honor system.

Activity #7 Choice 2:

What is a Read-A-Thon without a wrap-up post? So, since this is the final day of the Read-A-Thon, all you need to do for this option is create a post telling us how you did. You can include how many books you read, any blogs that you were introduced to, how you cleaned away the clutter... the choice is yours. Once the post as been completed, just leave a link to your actual post in Mr. Linky.

I chose to complete the second activity rather than the first because I like the idea of a wrap-up post. Here's what I accomplished during this challenge:

Books Read: 7 (I'm currently in the middle of three more)
Reviews Completed: 5
New Blogs Found/ Followed: La Femme Readers, Red House Books, Escape in a Book, A Good Addiction

Awesome Connection: Krithi from Pages and Dreamer asked if anyone would like her to make blog buttons for free, and I asked her to help with mine. She's awesome and talented and creative and I can't wait to show my students her blog! Check out my new button for this blog on my sidebar. I'm going to create a longer post about this later on my literacy blog. Thanks Krithi!

All in all, this was a successful week. I cleaned up some of my TBR shelf just in time to stuff it full of eighteen new YA titles I received as part of a grant for my classroom. So, I have tons and tons of books to read now--BUT--they're mostly new titles and not ones I've had hanging around too long! Thanks to the Neverending Shelf for inspiring all of this De-Cluttering and spring cleaning!

The Top Six of 2010 (So Far)

Today's mini assignment for the Clear Away the Clutter Read-A-Thon is to choose the top six books that I've read so far in 2010. The books don't need to have been published in 2010; I just need to have read them in 2010. This mini challenge is being sponsored by the La Femme Readers blog. There is a chance to win two ARCs: Possessed by Kate Cann and Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison if you complete this mini assignment and link back to the La Femme Readers blog page.

Here goes (in no particular order):

After by Amy Efaw. This book astounded me in its ability to take such a difficult subject (a baby abandoned in a trash can by a teen mother) and turn it into a lesson for us all. I took away a greater understanding of what it means to hide from the truth and to avoid reality. I also think that this book developed one of the most realistic characters I've ever read in any book. I can't wait to read more from this new author.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I'm not a fan of humorous novels, but this one is fantastic. There is a wonderful absurdity to this novel that I've not read in any other. It's like this giant road trip adventure read, but nothing about this plot it trite or predictable. It's laugh-out-loud funny (it's not easy to make me laugh out loud while reading) and well-crafted. A must-read.

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown. Like After by Amy Efaw, The Hate List tackles a hugely disturbing topic in a realistic, respectful manner. In this case, the topic being explored is a deadly school shooting and the aftermath of the shooting. I felt like the teens I met in this book could exist in my school. There are no stock characters in this book and the plot is suspenseful but not overdone. I think that all educators and teens should have access to this book.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. More and more, I have begun to open my mind to reading titles like The Graveyard Book. Normally, I might have passed this title by because I tend to go for heavier fare. But, I have found that I actually enjoy a more fantastical, whimsical plot line. The Graveyard Book is nothing if not fantastical. Despite the element of fantasy, I feel in love with little "Nobody", or "Bod" as he's nicknamed. I was rooting for him and I read certain chapters in an absolute panic. A great read!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. I read the Twilight series. It was okay and I found myself turning pages rather quickly to find out what happened, but all the while I was reading I knew that the quality of the writing did not warrant the obsessive sort of attention that the series was getting. Not true with Shiver. Shiver was an engrossing, well written, thoughtful book. I am not a huge fan of werewolf stories, but I loved this book. Loved. And, I can't wait to read the sequel!

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. This book solidified the fact that John Green is the J.D. Salinger of this generation. (For me anyway.) Salinger was a linguist genius. Green is too. The plot, the characters, the humor, the double entendres all work. Like Bray's Going Bovine, this is a road trip story. And, also like Going Bovine, there is nothing predictable about this road trip. I knew that Green was brilliant after reading both Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns, but this book being awesome turned my love for him into a sort of groupie obsession. While reading it, I found myself looking at his picture. The more I read, the handsomer he got. And I'm happily married! I will read anything this man writes. He's a brilliant man.

De-Cluttering My Blog

Casey at A Passion for Books is hosting today's assignment for the Clear Away the Clutter Read-A-Thon. The assignment asks participants to think about/ list/ start de-cluttering and organizing our blogs. This is an important task and it's great that this challenge is being offered during spring, because this is when I feel most like organizing and clearing away stuff.

Here are my goals for de-cluttering my blog/ work pile associated with my blog:

1. Write book reviews (I have several that need to be written)

2. Write posts in advance for the rest of the National Poetry Month-related activities/ sites/ book reviews

3. Check on the commitments I've made to other challenges and see whether or not I'm in line for successfully completing said challenges by the end of the year

Phew. That's a ton of work. At least it's Friday and I am now on my own time and not supposed to be doing school work!

Clearing Out The To Be Read Pile

Thursday's questions for the Clear Away the Clutter Read-A-Thon comes from the Teens Read and Write site. The Neverending Shelf is sponsoring this week-long event, but other blog are pitching in and asking questions to help us with our blogs and our reading piles.

Here are today's questions and my answers:

1.) Is there at least one book on your growing TBR that has been there forever and (if you were honest) you could give up without to much trauma?

Um, yes. There are probably several books on my TBR shelves that will continue to be put off for quite a while. My problem is this: The YA books I read end up on the Free Reading Shelves in my classroom. There is always a student for a book, no matter how poorly written or uninteresting that book may be to me personally. I'd hate to miss catching the interest of a struggling or bored reader because I was not liking the subject of a book. So, I will read just about anything for my students. It's a complex I have.

2.) What is your latest "Gotta Have It" book? (that you can get once you've given up that one in question #1)

Wow. There are a ton of "gotta have it" books on my list. Probably Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers is topping this list because I just read an awesome book by her called Cracked Up To Be. It was my first, but it definitely won't be my last!

3.) What are your classics - you're 'comfort books' that you never want to give up?

Another great question. It's kinda weird, but I have a couple of favorite authors who have just about nothing in common with one another, except maybe that they're all American authors. They are: Toni Morrison, Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Steinbeck. Pretty diverse. I have tons and tons of books from these four authors, some of which I haven't read since college. But, I'll never part with them! They hold too many memories, as weird as that sounds.

4.) What are your best tips for keeping that TBR in check?

My best tip is that I often read a TBR that I've been looking forward to and then I'll follow it up with one I have been dreading or putting off. It's kinda like Mary Poppins and the whole "Spoon Full of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down" philosophy.

So, that's it for now. My prep period is over and it's back to the grind for me!

Book Review: Hurricane Song

This year, I started a book club with a fellow teacher. I teach at our local high school and my friend teaches at the middle school in our district. We had often remarked that it was weird that English teachers in our district had little interaction with one another. So, we started a book club! (There's an online version of this club on the English Companion Ning.)

This month's title was Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi. I am a huge fan of Volponi's work. I've only read three of his novels, but have found each of them to be engaging and realistic. Also, he does an amazing job of creating and developing characters that kids (boys especially) can sympathize with and understand. Hurricane Song is no exception to this rule.

The other Volponi titles I've read have taken place in inner cities and dealt with issues specific to urban teen life. This novel takes place in the hours and days immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In this novel, Volponi slices through the stereotypes and horrific images portrayed in the news and portrays (with accuracy, I'm sure) what it was like to be evacuated from your home, your life, and penned up in an arena with little to no protection or sustenance.

It is interesting how one book can often relate to another, completely different book. I have been reading TheArt of Happiness in a Troubled World by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. Seemingly, these two books would be completely different. But, in the Happiness book, Cutler talks specifically about the media portrayal of Hurricane Katrina victims. Specifically, he talks about the racist lens the media sent to the general public about black "refugees" versus white "survivors" of this tragic storm. Volponi talks about the same issue in his novel.

I think that it is extremely important to expose teens to realistic literature like the novels that Volponi writes. He does not "dumb-down" his characters or his plots; he writes about reality in an observant, thought-provoking manner. With news of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, there are certainly ways to connect these natural disasters to Hurricane Katrina. Most importantly, though, is the fact that Volponi writes interesting YA lit that rasie serious questions and thoughts about justice and equity in our country. I can't wait to read more from him!

Giveaway: The Body Finder

I'm a new follower of the blog Escape in a Book. Enter to win an awesome giveaway of either The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting or Rising Shadow by Jacquelyn Wheeler. I've heard/ read all kinds of great reviews of The Body Finder. Help this blog reach 300 followers and take a chance at winning a great read!

Three Blogs I Love, Love, Love

Today's challenge for the Neverending Bookshelf asks us to give a shout out to blogs that we love. I follow a bunch of blogs and look forward to checking them every day. In fact, I am sad when I go to see updates for my favorite blogs and no one has posted in a while. Here are three of the ones I check regularly (in no particular order):

Good Golly Miss Holly
I love this blog because it's organized and interesting and has cool memes. I often am inspired to read books or agree with book reviews written by Miss Holly. Plus, there are lots of cool contests offered on Miss Holly's blog. I've entered a bunch and have yet to win--But, participating is the most fun!

The Book Jacket
Karin the Librarian is awesome. I kinda started my love of reading YA book review blogs with Karin's site. She has a bunch of blogs, so make sure that you search around and check them all out. Each one is great in its own right, but I usually find myself checking this blog first. I don't know how Karin keeps her blogs so fresh and full of information and such. I think maybe she's cracked the time/space continuum code or some such science-y thing.

Bookworming in the 21st Century
This site bring everything together for me. There is a ton of information and it's kinda like a meeting place. This is where I go to learn about a wide variety of YA lit, challenges, events and ideas. This site is full of links and interviews. Check out it, but plan to spend some time there because there's a ton of good stuff available!

On My Wishlist: Essential Pleasures

This month is National Poetry Month, so I am going to try and choose collections of poetry and/or novels written in verse during the month of April. This week, I chose to profile a collection of poems that I really want.It's called Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud and it's edited by Robert Pinsky.

I love to read poems, but not all are great to read aloud. In fact, some are powerful in a visual sense and not in an aural sense. Also, I have undertaken a huge task this year: To find a poem that's related to whatever book I'm teaching every Friday. To me, this sounded easy at first, but quickly became challenging. It has forced me to look at the books I teach in new ways and to seek out a huge amount of poetry and poets. I have learned more about poetry this year than in college and my first six years of teaching combined!

But, I need more poems, specifically those that are great when read aloud. As the title this text promises great read-aloud poems, I should be able to find a number of gems inside this collection!

Book Review: Hate List

Hate List by Jennifer Brown is one of the best YA books I've read in a long time. Well, I should temper this by saying that it's one of the best realistic YA books I've read for a long time (because I'm currently reading Libba Bray's Going Bovine and I adore it!) I really, really want to the girls in the Chick Lit Book Club to read this title next year because it will provoke some great discussion.

This book is centered around a school shooting. The story is narrated by Valerie, who survived the shooting, but whose boyfriend was the shooter. He committed suicide after killing several classmates and a teacher. One of the worst parts of this situation for Valerie is that she (somewhat) inspired the killings with her "Hate List"--A list of peers and teachers whom she "hated" because of the way that they had bullied and treated her and her boyfriend.

Now, Valerie is without her boyfriend/ best friend and is hated by most everyone in the school. For a variety of reasons, she chooses to go back to her high school and face her classmates and teachers. Some treat her as if she pulled the trigger, but there are a couple of surprising people who come to her defense.

This is an emotional and realistic read, but important in this post-Columbine world. There is no way, in my opinion, to understand violence and hatred, but if we talk about it openly, there may be room for a variety of viewpoints and life experiences to come through. And, the book is well-written and could serve as a great vehicle for book club discussions!

Bookshelves Upon Bookshelves

I have a lot of books. Between the books I teach, the ones on the free reading shelves in my classroom, the ones crammed into the three bookcases in my tiny office, and the ones I have at home, I must have thousands of books. Sometimes, I feel like all I'm doing is shuffling books back and forth between school and home. I have a bit of a hard time getting rid of books for once and for all, but I have been getting better about this lately. (I've had to--I'm running out of space!)

So, for part one of the Clean Away the Clutter Reading Challenge, I'm going to post a series of pictures of my bookcases. I did not take pictures of all of my shelves because I literally could not get enough of an angle to snap a picture of the ones in my office. It's super teeny-tiny, but I love it! I did manage to snap a couple of pics, but not of the entire setup. Maybe I'll work on this.

Here we go. Let's start at home. Here are my two downstairs bookcases.

These shelves are located in my little reading nook. About half of these are unread and a little more than half have been read. Most of the unread books are young adult titles. I never put a book on my free reading shelf that I have not read, so I can get a little backed up from time to time. (Now is one of those times-Hopefully this challenge will help me out!)

These books have made it to my upstairs beside bookshelf. This is where I keep all of the books that I am working on. I like to have a lot of books going at once, as you can see. I have a hard time reading just one book!

These are the free reading and assigned reading shelves in my classroom. I've read all of these books and love matching excited teen readers with books I know they'll love. It's a pretty exciting time to be an English teacher with so much great YA lit to offer students!

Part two of this challenge asks me to make a plan to read and review ten books during this challenge. Lucky for me, I have quite a few books that I'm partially or mostly finished reading. I read like crazy this past weekend, but did not finish many books (I actually only finished one, which is weird for me.) Plus, I have quite a few shorter reads on my list. I should be able to knock a few of the shorter titles on my list soon!

Part three of this challenge asks that I implement this plan, which I have started by selecting out some of the shorter titles I need to read to lessen the amount of books on my TBR shelves. (Currently about 110 books. But, many of these are a result of a book grant that was funded to provide more books for the free reading shelves in my classroom. I'd be great to get some in the hands of my teen readers!)

Book Review: When You Reach Me

I put off reading Rebecca Stead's When You reach Me for one (unfortunate) reason: I hated the cover. To me, the cover looks washed out and boring. I thought that the book would read this way, but I was wrong.

I had read a bunch of rave reviews from blogs I trust, but I was having a hard time believing that this pastel, surreal-looking cover was going to lead to any sort of excitement. And, it's kinda based on a book I (don't kill me!) hated--A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I hated that book. Of course, I haven't read it since I was a preteen, so I might want to revisit it at some point, but I don't truly know that I ever will.

But, When You reach Me is all good. It's about a sixth grader named Miranda, who has just lost her best friend Sal for mysterious reasons. He didn't die or anything--He just stopped talking to her. She doesn't understand why Sal, who's known her since they were little, would ignore her. Eventually, she starts to meet others and make new friends. But, when she starts receiving bizarre letters predicting the future, she's not sure what to believe anymore.

Who could be leaving these letters for her? How did this person get in her bedroom? How can anyone know what will happen in the future?

Though this story takes place in the 1970's, it reads smoothly and holds universal appeal. I think that girls would love this book, and those interested in books like A Wrinkle In Time will find it appealing as well. After reading it in two sittings, I'd definitely classify it as a page-turner.

Join the Random Reading Activity Challenge!

Yay! I love Karin the Librarian's challenges. I've participated in two now (her Winter Break Challenge was actually my first ever) and love, love, love it. I like the part where you might win a prize, but (really and truly) I actually love the creativity and experimental nature of the challenges she poses.

So, if you're looking to *randomly* participate in a blogging challenge, this may be a great one to sign up for! What a great way to share blogs and ideas!

I NEED This Book!

I've been wanting to read Need by Carrie Jones for a while now. When I first read the synopsis for this series, I knew that it would fit my reading tastes, but when I found out that Carrie Jones was a Maine author I KNEW I needed to get my hands on a copy of the book!

Now, Red House Books is offering this title and the sequel, Captivate as part of a giveaway that ends on April 16th. So, there's still plenty of time for you to enter!

Book Review: Legacy

I bought this book because I thought that it would be good for the guys in my classroom. I am not the best at keeping my YA reads gender-neutral, and I felt like I needed to beef-up my free reading selections for my male students. I couldn't expect them to read Sarah Dessen and Ellin Hopkins picks all the time!

Tom Sniegoski's Legacy is a guy pick. For sure. It's about an eighteen year-old drop out named Lucas. Lucas works at a local mechanic shop and is living in a trailer park with his mother. This is until his perfectly average life is interrupted by a man he never expected to meet--His father. And, it turns out that his father is a wealthy, crime-fighting superhero. Though Lucas is not initially excited to meet him, he doesn't have too much time to hate his father because evil murderers descend upon the trailer park and destroy it. Now, Luca must train to use his own super powers to take the place of his ailing super father.

This is an action-packed read. I can't say that it I was totally enthralled with it, but I can think of some guys who will be!

Guerrilla Poetry Attack: One Line at a Time

Later this month, I'm taking my mother to a Maya Angelou reading at the Augusta Civic Center. It's pretty darn exciting. Or, I'm excited. My mother doesn't know that we're going because it's an early Mother's Day gift to her.

To keep her in the dark but to get her thinking, I decided that I would send her a post card every day for the next few weeks with a line or two from Maya Angelou's famous poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings". This way, she'll get all hyped up about our outing without knowing exactly what's happening. I've included a snaphsot of some of the postcards that I've written out in advance for this project.

I also sent a warning to her on a postcard. She called me yesterday to confirm that she had, in fact, received this warning. I bet she'll be paying closer attention to her mailbox for the next few weeks!