Summer Break Reading Challenge (4)

Today's assignment for the Summer Break Reading Challenge asks participants (there's still time to join!) to embark upon a scavenger hunt. How fun is that? And, it's going to be a great way for book bloggers to learn about new reads, authors, and blogs.

Here are the items on the list and my *findings*:

1. A blog that is new to you that focuses on the same type of literature you do (ex: I read YA so the blog would need to focus on YA).

I just stumbled across the Chick Lit Teens book blog a couple days ago. I found this blog and decided to become a follower for two reasons: It is a great blog with a variety of posts and I am the adviser for the Chick Lit Book Club at my school. So, I love books that are written for chicks! 

2. A book that is new to you that another blogger reviewed.

I've been thinking about purchasing Rage by Julie Anne Peters for some time. I have some Buzz Bucks at Random Teens and this option has been looking like a good use for those bucks. I was unsure as to whether this was a smart decision, though, because I'd not heard much about this title. Turns out that Rae of In the Forest loved it and highly recommends it. I think I'm going to go for it!

3. A book set in Africa (in your preferred age category, if possible).

Actually, I have a book sitting on my TBR shelf that fits this category. It's called The Bite of the Mango, and it's set in Sierra Leone. I'm interested in reading this book because I teach a book called A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah, which is also set in Sierra Leone. I like to find companion books for the ones I teach in case some of my students are inspired to read more on a given subject. SMS Book Reviews gives this read 4 1/2 stars. Sounds like I won't be disappointed!

4. A book about a human/animal bond (in your preferred age category, if possible).

Maybe this will sound too easy, but I'm going to choose Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater for this one. I'm not the biggest fan of paranormal lit (and especially paranormal romance) but I LOVED Shiver. I mean, I had read the Twilight series and rooted for Jacob at times, but I was never super into the whole paranormal genre. Shiver made a convert out of me, so Linger is definitely at the top of my wishlist right now!
5. A book trailer for a book you want to read.

Well, to piggyback on my last answer, the book trailer for Maggie Stiefvater's Linger is absolutely gorgeous. It's breathtaking. And it must have taken forever to create. I can't wait for July 20th!
 6. A book with a color in the title.

One of my favorite historical YA fiction books of all time is Copper Sun by Sharon Draper.  It is an epic tale of a young girl's forced journey from Africa to the United States via the slave trade. It is beautiful and painful all at the same time. I've had several students read it and love it. It's a story that will not soon leave you. 
7. A blog that is new to you that is dedicated to a certain genre (ex: only books about vampires, only historical fiction, only urban fantasy, etc.)

Parajunkee's View is not necessarily new to me, but it is new-ish to me. I've been following for a few months and really, really enjoy it. I find that the information on this blog is well-organized and the reviews are well-written. It's a go-to blog for all of your paranormal activities! 
8. A book blog maintained by a librarian. 
The first librarian blogger that comes to my mind is Karin the Librarian (nice ring, eh?), but given the fact that she's hosting this challenge, most readers will probably already know of her blogs. So, the next librarian that pops into my mind is Kristen from Bookworming in the 21st Century. What a fabulous and well-maintained blog she has! You should totally check it out. Another librarian whose site(s) I frequent is Kathy from Inside of a Dog. Awesomeness.
9. A book blog maintained by a teacher.
So, I'm going to mention more than one teacher blog. I think that we teacher/bloggers need all the props that we can get and choosing just one teacher blog would be like choosing just one favorite student. I'm just not that kinda gal! Here are some of my all-time favorites, in no particular order:
10. The title of an upcoming book by an author you like.
One of my most anticipated new releases for this year is Grace by Elizabeth Scott I am so excited to read this book that I almost can't stand it. Sure, I (like everyone else in the world) am waiting impatiently for the release of Mockingjay, but I love a good realistic read, and love to learn about other cultures. 
Grace was selected from a young age to be a suicide bomber. This is just about all that I know about this book right now. I have heard lots of great reviews about this book, so I know that it's not going to let me down. I think that this book will be great for discussions with teens about the US's role in the middle east and the feelings of those who have been affected by the was in Iraq/ Afghanistan. I cannot wait to read this one!

  This was awesome! I can't wait to publish this post and go look at all of the others!

Book Review: Free? Stories About Human Rights from Amnesty International

Whenever I go into Barnes and Noble, or some other such bigger bookstore, I make sure to pick up at least one guilty pleasure book and one book that absolves me of guilt altogether. On my last trip to B & N, this book is the one that I just knew would take away any of the guilty pleasures I had enjoyed that day.

It's been awhile since I've done anything to promote awareness about social causes (outside of lessons I teach in the classroom), and it feels good to think about organizations like Amnesty International again. Aside from being a great inspiration, this collection of shorts stories and poetry was a great read. I am not a huge fan of short stories (hence my stalled attempt at finishing Pretty Monsters, which has been collecting dust on my bedside table for months).  But this is more than a group of tales pieced together: It is the story of universal human rights.

In fact, each of the stories in this collection is paired with an actual Article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There are thirty such articles expressed in this document, but there are millions of people who have lived their lives without enjoying the simple freedoms that this document seeks to protect. 

Here are synopses of my favorite stories/ poems from this collection with the Article from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the story illustrates:

"Klaus Vogel and the Bad Lads" by David Almond: A group of neighborhood boys are bullied into discriminatory acts by the leader of their "gang". It takes a new boy, who has survived unspeakable trauma, to show the boys that peace and truth takes more patience and courage than violence and lies.

Article 1: We are born free and equal. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.

"School Slave" by Theresa Brelsin: A young boy named Ryan, always in trouble at school, finds a mysterious message written on a piece of trash on his way home from school. In an act of extreme courage and daring, Ryan finds an illegal sweatshop, where a group of young children have been locked in. This is a thoughtful story that exposes a violent underground movement that uses children as slaves.

Article 4: Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone else our slave.

"After the Hurricane" by Rita Williams-Garcia: This short story is written in verse. It is about the hours and days directly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In this story, a group of boys searches the city for clean drinking water to bring to their families. They find themselves blockaded and kept from the water trucks. Guns are trained on them and police actually open fire when the boys attempt to walk toward the water truck. Incredibly powerful, especially given the brevity and cadence of the lines in this poem.

Article 13: We all have the right to go where we want to in our own country and to travel abroad as we wish.

And this is just the beginning. There are so many more moving stories in this collection. I did not absolutely love every one of the fourteen stories in this book, but I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose when reading it. I think that I need to share these stories and the issues that are raised in this collection with my students in the fall. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in civil and human rights.

Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere

Lennie (named after John Lennon) is seventeen when her older sister, Bailey, dies of a heart problem. Bailey was never sick: In fact, she was full of life. These sisters shared a relationship that was close and full of amazing memories. Raised by their grandmother after their reckless hippy of a mother left them there when they were toddlers, the girls bonded together even more closely than they might have under normal circumstances.

To put it mildly, Lennie is crushed by her sister's death. I, myself, have never lost anyone who was super close to me, but I can imagine that I would feel just as lost and depressed and angry as Lennie does. Because of her grief, Lennie is more cold and distant to those around her. That is, until her sister's boyfriend, Toby, starts spending more and more time with Lennie. Though Lennie knows that she should not feel attracted to her dead sister's boyfriend, she cannot help but feel more connected to her sister when she's with Toby.

And then a cute boy moves to town. Lennie finds a great release in hanging out with the ultra-positive and happy Joey. Like Lennie, he's a talented musician and writes beautiful music. He never met her sister, so Lennie is not filled with memories of Bailey when he's around. But, for all of his charm and good looks and affirmations of love, Joey cannot strip Lennie of her pain.

Lennie tries to keep Toby out of her life, but she is magnetically attracted to him. The more she pushes away from Toby and toward Joey, the more her body leads her back. Of course, Joey suspects that something is going on between Toby and Lennie, but this love triangle would stay a secret forever.

What I loved most about this novel was the inclusion of poems at the start of each chapter. There are dozens of poems scattered throughout, and each one lists where the poem was "found." For me, this increased the mystery level in the plot--Who is finding the poems? Why is Lennie leaving her innermost thoughts and fears and memories all around town for strangers to find?

This book is well-written and is definitely a realistic read. I cannot imagine losing my sister, but I do imagine that it would feel as horrible and desperate and hopeless as Lennie is shown to feel in this novel. This is an amazing first book from author Jandy Nelson. I look forward to reading more by her.

* * *

Karin the Librarian's Summer Break Reading Challenge has inspired me to write some of my *overdue* book reviews. I've written two already, and this review will make three! Feels good to catch up!

Book Review: Along for the Ride

I've now read more Sarah Dessen novels than any other YA author. I've never been disappointed by a Sarah Dessen novel, and I'm happy to report that her newest title, Along for the Ride, does not break this trend.

This is a perfect summer read. I read it from my picnic table while getting a bit of a tan. It was a near-perfect experience. I felt like I was truly transported to the setting of the novel, which is a small seaside community. Far, far away from my driveway and the mountainous region I live in.

This story focuses on a summer in the life of a teen girl named Auden. Weird name, huh? Not for the child prodigy of two university professors and published authors. Auden is named after the poet W. H. Auden, and this fact is only the beginning of her isolation and awkwardness with her peers. She is closest to her mother, a negative and condescending person who uses Auden to get info about her ex-husband.

And then there's Auden's father. Almost as soon as she arrives at his beach cottage for a summer visit, he disappears into his office to finish the novel he's been working on for a decade. In almost every situation in the book, Auden's father is childish and self-absorbed.

A surprising brightness in Auden's life comes in the form of her young, chipper stepmother. Auden (and I) don't expect to care about this woman, but she is one of the most sympathetic characters in this novel. She is a new, overwhelmed mother and a business woman. And her husband, Auden's father is an overgrown child. I feel for her.

It's not long before Auden, normally a driven-to-study recluse, starts to change her patterns and opens up her mind and heart to the people around her. I love that she makes friends, but not easily. She is very socially awkward and seems to not understand the normal rules of engagement. Despite this fact, she finds that she has more in common with the people of this small town than she ever thought possible.

And, yes, there is a romance. And heartbreak. And friendship. And Auden is not the same after her summer at the beach.

A perfect read for a day at the beach, the lake, or at your picnic table. It's summer in a book!

Check out a video where Sarah Dessen explains her inspiration for this novel.

Book Review: Glass by Ellen Hopkins

Here's the problem that I have with every one of the Ellen Hopkins books I've read: I take on the feelings of the main character. I'm sure that this is considered a wonderful thing, right? An author who can make you identify with the main character so much that you forget that you are not, in fact, a meth addict? I picked up this book before bed one night last week and finished it the next day. Kinda like the main character of this book whenever she scored a large quantity of crank.

Glass is the second book in the Crank series. If you're not familiar with Ellen Hopkins's books or writing, then you probably don't know that she writes entirely in verse, that her books are pretty thick, and that she takes on serious social issues and does not hold back in her narrative.

In Glass, Kristina is back in Reno and living with her mother, stepfather, and her infant son, Hunter.  She has been off of drugs for the duration of her pregnancy, but is feeling a sort of postpartum depression. Of course, her alter ego and cravings for what she calls "the monster" kick in and it's not long before Kristina is letting her alter ego Bree and the monster control her life once again.

With drugs come bad boys. And it isn't long before Kristina in entangled with some of the baddest boys in Nevada. With her baby son at home and her mother and stepfather getting more and more worried and angry at her lack of responsibility, the pressure for Kristina to leave the monster grows, but so does her reliance on it. The question is, as I'm sure it is with every drug user: How far does Kristina need to fall before she hits bottom? And, will this fall serve as a wake up or will it kill her?

In each of the Crank books, Ms. Hopkins has offered a little blurb about the fact that her daughter's drug use and the influence that has on her writing. And, though I've never used methamphetamine, I'm sure that Hopkins is accurate in her description of the wonderful highs and the horrific lows it brings. I could not help but feel Kristina's pain and sadness and confusion and her want to be a good mother and a responsible daughter. I'll not say how this book ends, but there is a third book in this series, so the story is not completely over with.

I try to keep a stock of Hokpins's books on my free reading shelves for students. Always, they are checked out within minutes and are devoured by students. I know that they books are gritty and real, but some students need to hear about the all-too-real reality of what can happen when you lose yourself to drugs or a relationship.

This binge reading event will take a while to leave my system, but I hope to be clean and sober enough to pick up Fallout, the third book in the series, when it comes out in September.

In My Mailbox (7)

This meme is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's awesome, so feel free to join in!

This week, I received four books in my mailbox. I think that the post lady is getting a little tired of driving up my driveway and delivering these books to my door. Most days, I come home to a mailbox with stuff shoved into it. I don't want her to "go postal" on us, so maybe we'd better invest in a bigger box.

So, the four books I received are:

Madapple by Christina Meldrum: I used some Buzz Bucks at Random Buzz to purchase this book. So,it was free! I love the cover and think that the story, which involves mysterious deaths, pregnancy, religion, and is a suspenseful read should be a good one.

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare by James Shapiro:  I purchased this book online. I love reading about Shakespeare--I think that the more I know about this controversy, the better I am able to teach the plays written by this mysterious man--or whoever wrote them!

The Lighter Side of Life and Death by C.K. Kelly Martin: This book is an ARC and it was sent to me for review from Teens@Random. I love the cover because it looks like a good summer romance read. Romance is not my favorite, but I have more tolerance for it in the summertime. Maybe it's all of the pretty flowers and butterflies and such. I don't know.

How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend by Janette Rallison: This book is signed! I won it from Holly at Good Golly Miss Holly. I love this blog, and the book looks like a great beach read.

This week, I saw a few posts somewhere (I forget where--feel free to tell me if you know) where bloggers snapped a pic of their favorite spot to blog. I thought that it would be nice to snap a pic of my favorite spot, which is my picnic table. I love reading and writing here. This table sits at the top of our property in front of our house. My view is of our immense lawn, flower gardens, and if the wind if blowing just right, I can see two major mountain ranges. Western Maine is one of the most gorgeous places on Earth, and my yard is like Eden in the summertime. (It's a bit like Siberia in the winter.)

While I 'm reading or writing at my favorite spot, Shady and my gardens (both
food and flower) are competing for my attention. Every time I get to an emotional or a dull spot in a novel, I pay attention to one of these (welcome) distractions. The gardens are always in need of weeding, and Shady likes for me to throw his new favorite friend, Petey the Peg Leg Pirate Duck. I love summer!

Summer Break Reading Challenge (2)

There's still time to join in Karin the Librarian's Summer Break Reading Challenge. Head to her site to join in the fun! We're on our second assignment, which asks us to:

1. Choose a book or book series.
2. Locate either the book reviews you've written or the publisher's book descriptions for the book(s) you chose.
4. Click on CREATE your own.
5. Copy and Paste the text of the reviews or synopses in the first box on the page.
6. Click Go.
7. Play with the Font, Layout, and Color until you get a look you like.
8. Click on Save To Public Gallery at the bottom right of the page.
9. Fill out the information for the Title and click on Save.
10. Find a way to save the picture or copy the HTML code to paste into your blog post and display it on your blog post for this activity.
11. Tell us what book(s) you used for the Wordle picture in the post.

For my wordle, I chose the Pretty Little Liars series. I have not read any of the books in this series, but have the first one on my nightstand and am going to purchase the boxed set soon. This set includes books 1 through 4 in this series of 8.

Why am I choosing a series that I've never read? Well, I wasn't sure that I would like this storyline at all, so I held off. Then the TV show came out and I am absolutely hooked. Now, I want to read as much as I can before I watch too much of the show. (I'm a reader that likes to have the book version first, then movies and shows and such.)

And, just look at the covers. Aren't they darling?

I love the whole Barbie-gone-bad approach to the series. I totally makes sense after watching a couple of the TV shows and reading reviews about this series. Truly, this seems like a perfect summer series. 

Here's my wordle, for which I used reviews from each of the 8 books in this series. Thanks, amazon!

Book To Book (3)

The purpose of this feature, Book to Book, is to pair a YA title with a classic text. Some of you might be teachers looking to form a solid bridge for your students, others may be readers looking for an interesting reading combination. Either way, I can't help but pair books as I'm reading. It's an English teacher disease.

Teaching Charles Dickens is pretty interesting in itself. I find that students come in to a course where Dickens is being taught with a working knowledge of Tiny Tim and Scrooge. Maybe they've heard of Oliver Twist, but they definitely do not associate David Copperfield with anything other than a few Vegas-style magic tricks. Beyond this, there's not too much to draw on.

Nor is there an understanding of the Victorian Era, which started in the 1830's and lasted until 1901. It is an extremely interesting period in history (can you tell I'm a superdork?), and the issues that most interest me are highlighted in both of the books I'm pairing in this post. Here's the pair I'm suggesting:

Marthe Jocelyn's new historical fiction called Folly is a modern look-back at the issues facing poor young women who found themselves in less-than-desirable positions in Victorian England. The main character, Mary, is basically kicked out of her home by an evil stepmother, only to find that she can barely survive as a servant in a wealthy London home. She has no training, other than what she's learned around the farm. More dangerous is the fact that she has no street smarts, and boy does she need them in inner-city London, where every chap seems bent on taking her innocence from her.

When Mary becomes pregnant, it is no surprise that she has no means with which to care for her child. What is shocking is the treatment that she receives as an unwed pregnant teenager. She and her child could die in the street, for all her former employers and coworkers would care. Luckily, there is an orphanage that takes in young children, as long as the mother meets a variety of qualifiers. Mary did and had to abandon her child to the care of the state.

Along with Mary's story, we hear one from a young orphan boy named James. He is a smart young boy, but is feeling the pains of life at the orphanage. The food is disgusting and there is a little too much discipline, but he has a roof over his head and clothes on his back. And, in this time period, he was a lot better off than most lower class children. There are shady characters abound in both novels, so there are a lot of discussions to be had there. There are also some sympathetic adult characters. Lots of connections.

This story has obvious parallels to Dicken's classic Oliver Twist. There is the whole orphan connection, the time period (which is about 50 years removed from Folly's), and the depictions of the social structure of Victorian England. But, what most helps me to recommend this pair is that the perspective of the mother in Oliver Twist is almost entirely left out of the narrative. Here, with Folly, the voice of the unwed mother in dire straights is born. With this pair, a more complete study of the politics, reforms, child welfare/ abuses, and the social expectations and realities for women could be explored.

This *almost* makes me wish that school were in session so that I could try this out.  Better to wait for September, I think. It's good to look forward to the start of school, even if it is only the first week of summer break!

Summer Break Reading Challenge (1)

The first assignment in the Summer Break Reading Challenge is to list the books that I hope to read this summer. This is a toughie, because my TBR list keeps getting longer and longer with every great book review I read online. Here are some of the titles that have risen to the top of my list:

Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Hold Still by Nina LaCour

The Bite of the Mango by Mariatu Kamara

The Pace by Shelena Shorts

And there are many, many more that I hope to get to. Un/fortunately, I am taking  two graduate courses and will need to read all kinds and sorts of stuff for these classes. But, I know that I cannot read what's assigned alone. I am a master procrastinator, and will read all sorts of YA!

Book Review: Jumping Off Swings

Jo Knowles' Jumping Off Swings is a well-crafted, realistic, and engaging read. Often, young adult books that deal with teen pregnancy seem to play into stereotypes about teens and don't really get into the underlying issues of why teen pregnancy happens. Also, I find that a ton of books that focus on teen parenthood do not represent the feelings of the teen father. Not true with this book.

This story is told from four points of view. They are:

Ellie: Quiet and kind of lost, Ellie feels like she needs to sleep with boys to get their attention. She realizes too late that the attention she craves will not last past the "hook-up" at the party. Her parents are present, but not. Ellie relies heavily on the advice and understanding of her best friend Corinne.

Corinne: Lots of YA books feature best friendships that are shallow and ultimately not very friendly. Corinne is the opposite of the catty, immature friend that we've all read about. She is intelligent and supportive and sticks with Ellie throughout Ellie's pregnancy. More than this, she even helps Ellie to reach out to adults and to make some important decisions regarding her pregnancy and her habit of seeking attention through sex. She's a great character.

Josh: The father of the baby doesn't know that he's the father until his "relationship" with Ellie is so awkward that he cannot approach her. Josh slept with Ellie because he was feeling pressure to have sex, but did not want to hurt her. This unintended hurt leads to Josh feeling like he has no say in the life of his unborn child. His own childhood was miserable--filled with his father's drinking and his mother's absence. I really felt for this kid. He was sensitive and kind and wanted to do the right thing, but had no idea what that was.

Caleb: Probably the most mature and grounded of the the four, Caleb has a loving mother and is a supportive friend. He has had a crush on Ellie ever since they were little kids, and he turns this love into a friendship when Ellie needs it the most. Caleb's mother is awesome in a way that most YA parents (and actual parents) are not. She allows the kids to hang out at her house and talks with them about their problems and gives advice, but gives them room to breathe and make their own decisions.

This book needs to be in the hands of teens. It has appeal for both male and female readers, I believe, because the male and female characters are so strong and real-feeling. This controversial and all-too-real topic is dealt with in a mature, gentle fashion and the voices that Knowles creates for her characters make them feel like they are kids you know. I cannot recommend this book with more conviction!

Join in the Summer Break Reading Challenge

I have to admit that I love reading challenges and read-a-thons. As it turns out, I am a better reader and blogger when I have deadlines and assignments and such to keep me reading. I get so much more done when I know that I need to. That's how it was in college, and that's how it is with my blog.

Not that I would ever classify reading or blogging as homework. Believe me, this is what I do to escape my actual graduate homework and my correcting for school. This is my escape, but I just work more effectively with a plan. I also find that reading challenges ask me to think differently about the books I'm reading. When I'm asked ot design a new cover or write a poem about a character, I process the book in a different way. It's fun.

If you're like me and would like to join a summer reading challenge, I highly recommend Karin the Librarian's Summer Break Reading Challenge. Karin's challenges are always thoughtful and interesting and it's an awesome way to meet new bloggers. If you're interested, visit her site, follow the blog, and join in the fun!

On My Wishlist: The Last Summer of the Death Warriors

Ever since I devoured Marcello in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork, I have become more interested in reading everything that he has written. This desire happens to coincide with a really positive review that I read for his book The Last Summer of the Death Warriors. Here is a review that I found on amazon:

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—Orphaned Pancho's 20-year-old mentally disabled sister is found dead in a New Mexico motel room. He meets D.Q., dying of a rare cancer, at a home for boys. D.Q.'s mother, Helen, forces him to undergo experimental chemotherapy, despite the gruesome side effects. Pancho cares for D.Q. during his stay at a Ronald McDonald-type residence. The one bright spot is Marisol, who works there. D.Q. knows that Pancho plans to find and destroy Rosa's killer. He tries to teach his new friend the way of the Death Warrior: only when you love do you truly live. Though Pancho plots the murder methodically, his plan is never believable. This derails the novel considerably and cancels any mystery that might have quickened the pace of the story. However, the New Mexico landscape is vivid and the author explores Anglo/Mexican relations subtly. Stork's characterizations are solid, from D.Q.'s probing intensity to Pancho's silent rage. Female characters are vivid as well, from Helen's passive aggression to Marisol, who displays a soulful intelligence. The narrative is dialogue heavy, but even philosophical conversations between steely Pancho and effusive D.Q. are natural, and often funny.—Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library

I don't know that I love this description of the book, but I so loved Marcello in the Real World that I can't help but think that this writer is probably a genius.  Therefore, I am feeling the need to buy this book ASAP and test my theory. 

Book Review: The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

Because I haven't had internet service for about five days, I have read a ton of books and am therefore super behind in my reviews. I don't really want to pump put a bunch of reviews just-because, so I may do one-ish a day until I'm caught up. There are a bunch of books that I am excited to review, and this is certainly one of them.

I did not exactly love this book. I'm not going to rave about it here, but I'm also not going to rant. I've read a few reviews online where other bloggers seem upset that this book was even written. I don't know that the writing was as good as it could have been, but I think that it was a pretty cool idea on Ms. Meyer's part to go back and develop a majorly minor character for her readers.

Truthfully, I didn't really remember Bree Tanner at all from the series. I realized who she was toward the end of the book, when her life crossed paths with Bella. Part of what made this read intriguing for me was that intersection, and I wish that there had been more of it. I also wish that Bree's first life had been develop more--maybe starting the book before she turned into a vampire, but I guess that Meyer probably wanted to write a short novella and not another epic. Which is fine.

Compared to the rest of the series, this read is a bit like a breakfast bar next to a trucker's special. Rather than being disappointed, though, I think that I was happy to have read a Twilight-type text in just a couple of hours. It was fairly light, had a lot of action, and I got to move on to another book in no time. For all of these reasons, it was worth my while!

The HUGE TBR Readathon: Finish Line

Okay, so I did not read five books. I did not accomplish all of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of this challenge. But, I did read three books and I lived a whole lot of life in the past three glorious sunny summer days.

Honestly, when my internet router stopped working on Thursday, I had a bit of a what-am-I-ever-going-to-do-without-tech meltdown. That lasted for about three or four hours before I decided to just go with it and live like it was 1985 all over again. I had done everything that I could do: called the cable company, spent an hour on the phone, arranged for a new modem to arrive early this week.

So, I lived life for the entire weekend without any internet. I did have moments of lack-of-tech frustration, like wanting a phone number to order take-out and needing directions, but other than this there were no significant problems. In fact, there were several bonuses: I spent the weekend with friends and family and traveled and gardened and read and never felt the need to update my status, so to speak. It was wonderful.

I read three of my TBR books, all of which were entertaining and fabulous in their own way:

1. Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles
2. Marcello in the Real World by Francisco Stork
3. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

I also started another TBR book:

1. Folly by Marthe Jocelyn

Hopefully, I'll be able to write some of these reviews soon. I won't have internet service for another day or two, so maybe I'll just enjoy a couple more of these sunny summer days.

The HUGE TBR Readathon: Update (Day 3)

Day three allowed for some sustained reading of Jo Knowles' Jumping Off Swings. I was still reading at 11pm, which is deadly when you have to get up at quarter of six to administer and correct finals. But, trooper that I am, I managed to almost finish this ah-mazing book. I cannot wait to write the review for this book and share my thoughts!

Now, I am officially done with regular school (I start summer school next week). I should have lots of time this weekend to read and relax! Happy readings, readathon-ers.

On My Wishlist: Bella Should Have Dumped Edward

One of the best aspects of the whole Twilight debate, in my opinion, is that there is a debate at all. Whether you think that the Bella/ Edward affair was a great romance or puke-worthy, I think that it is awesome that people care enough to feel passionately one way or the other. Because, in between arguments, people are reading. Thousands of pages. An English teacher's blissful dream!

I've read the entire series. Was I entertained? Yes. Did I think that these books were brilliant literature? Hardly. Do I think that Edward's dominance and control over Bella has influenced a generation of young adults to engage in risky relationships? I certainly hope not!

It is interesting that most of my students read this entire series last year during our SSR time (Silent Sustained Reading), yet not a single student read any of these books this year during SSR. Is that because most of them have already read the series? Maybe. I think, though, that as the movies have come out, the popularity of the series has decreased. It's like the opposite of the Harry Potter series. Those books seemed to gain in popularity with each movie release.

I am excited to read a variety of opinions from other bloggers--even though I've read a ton online already--in book format. Interesting topic and a great debate!

The HUGE TBR Readathon: Update (Day 2)

Due to some unexpected (but welcome) dinner guests, I did not have time to read last night. I did, though, have time to write a review for Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. I've been meaning to write this review (and several others) for about a week now. I still have a few more to write, so we'll see how much I can get accomplished this week.

Okay, back to grading finals and entering grades!

Book Review: Hush, Hush

I don't know what it is about the state of Maine that has inspired some creepy, paranormal YA plots as of late. Actually, maybe I do know. Unnaturally cold temperatures, days-longs snowstorms, and unpredictable weather may add some mystique and room for weather-driven plot twists. Add to this the typical stand-offish Maine population, and you might just have the perfect recipe for a paranormal romance.

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick is just plain awesome. The writing is engaging and the setting feels real (I can attest to this from firsthand experience!). The main character, Nora, is not a suffering damsel in distress. She is feisty and adventure-seeking and more than a little headstrong. I love this about her.

At first, when Nora meets Patch, the story feels like it's going to be a Twilight-remake. Not true. Quickly, you start to wonder if Patch really does have Nora's best interests in mind. And, there's this other boy who seems too sweet and too pushy all at the same time. 

I have read some really, really bad reviews of this book. As in, a lot of people really didn't like it. Most of these reviews are on amazon. I do read a lot of reader reviews before purchasing books and sometimes these reviews sway my purchases. I just cannot afford to be too wrong too often about books, because I already spend so much on books. There are only so many beans and rice dinners my husband will eat before he questions my spending habits.

But, if you're thinking of not reading or buying this book because of the negative reviews you've read, please consider that I absolutely loved this one. And, I am not a huge sucker (forgive the pun) for paranormal romances. It's not my favorite genre of YA. This was incredibly entertaining. I read it in less than two days. No regrets!

The HUGE TBR Readathon: Update (Day 1)

I'm going to *attempt* to give a daily update concerning my progress in the HUGE TBR Readathon (hosted by Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century). As I've said before, this is finals week for me, so there's a whole lot of assessment and goodbyes and craziness to be had. And, I'm moving classrooms. Not just because it's fun to move (because it's not) but because the little outbuilding that I teach in is getting demolished as soon as school gets out. Sad, but necessary in order for our new, shiny school to be built!

In and amongst the chaos, I plan to read 5 books from my TBR list/ book shelves. I am not going to pre-plan these titles; I'd rather just see where my reading interests take me.  Last night, I started my first title for this readathon. It's called Jumping Off Swings and it's written by Jo Knowles. And, it's amazing. I am incredibly hooked and saddened and in love with this book. And, that's only after reading about 75 pages.

So, I haven't read a ton for this challenge, but I will be able to put in more time as the week progresses (and school ends) I should be able to reach my goal!

The HUGE TBR Readathon!

Kristen at Bookworming in the 21t Century is hosting a week-long readathon. The focus of this readathon is to whittle down those TBR piles, of which I have several. This week is one of the busiest times of the year for me, as we're finishing the school year, grading finals, saying goodbye to students, and I'm moving my classroom (yikes!) after being in it for a comfortable six years. And, this all has to be done by Thursday.

So, I don't know that I will be able to devote a ton of time to this readathon, but I would like to try and read about 5 titles this week. With a day off on Friday, I should be able to spend some time catching up on the mountainous TBR piles that have appeared all over my house! I also need to write a few reviews, and am feeling pretty far behind in this area. I've got at least 4 that are weighing on my mind. Time to get them off of my mind and onto my blog!

Come and join in the readathon fun at Bookworming in the 21st Century. No matter what you have for a goa, it's a fun way to network and get in some reading.

In My Mailbox (6)

This meme is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's awesome, so feel free to join in!

This week, I got a whole ton of books! I'm only showing the ones that I received from sources other than my own pocketbook (which took up a whole book bag). These are the ones that truly came to me In My Mailbox, so I'll just be showing these ones off.

Once again, my amazing niece Sophia spent the weekend. We had lots and lots of great times, including a bonfire (her first ever), the roasting of gigantic marshmallows, and sparklers. Good summer fun!

This morning, Sophie and Shady helped me to truck my week's worth of books back to my mailbox. Sophie was excited to help with this meme again, and happily enlisted the help of Baby Bop (thank goodness we don't watch Barney anymore!). 

Here's a list of what I found in my mailbox:

Shamra Divided by Barry Hoffman: This title came to me from the author for review. It looks really engaging and features a strong female lead character. We need more of these!

Split by Swati Avasthi: I received this ARC for review from Random House. I've been looking at it for some time, so I started reading it right away. I actually finished it in less than three days, which is awesome considering that I've been writing finals and going to graduations, and finalizing my grades. It is an amazing book. I should be able to finish the review soon.

Folly by Marthe Jocelyn: This is another title that I received from Random House. Thanks, Random Buzz! I haven't started it yet, but it is a historical fiction set in Victorian London. I've read that it intertwines the lives of three characters. I love this type of structure, especially in historical fiction, because I get to learn about different roles and expectations in a past society. 

Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson: I won this from the YA Addict! I am so excited to read this title. I love the cover and am having a bit of a werewolf fetish right now. Maybe it's the cycle of the moon? Or the fact that Linger is coming out soon? I don't know. Either way, I cannot wait to read this one! Thanks Jami!

The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter: I won this book as part of a contest to rename a section of My submission was "Readers React" but I'm not sure what the winning entry was. Either way, it looks like I got an awesome book for free! And, I love the teenreads site. I've been a member for about ten years. It's a great place for information and they have lots of reviews and such. It's a great site for all of your YA needs.

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

What's better than reading a book by one of your favorite authors? How's about reading a book by two of your favorites? I couldn't believe it when I heard that David Levithan and John Green had teamed up to write a book. How incredible, I thought. This is going to be genius.

And then I panicked that the book would not live up to my expectations. I had visions of disappointment. I stalled in buying Will Grayson, Will Grayson, lest I have to write a bad review connected with my favorite YA author, John Green. Finally, I decided to just go ahead and read the darn book. And now I can't stop thinking about it.

I don't really know why I was worried, because it's not like two amazing authors are going to not going to be able to write and revise and produce something incredible. I mean, talk about peer editing!

Okay, on to the review.

Meet Will Grayson. He's a little overshadowed by the leading man in his life, his larger-than-life best friend Tiny. Will is really straight and thinking about maybe being attracted to a girl that he's been hanging out with, but he's not outgoing like Tiny and is unsure of his emotions. Will is tired of playing Tiny's sidekick but doesn't know how to become the lead in his own life.


Meet the other Will Grayson. He is living a lie. His best friend is not really his friend at all. When he meets a boy who finally seems to understand him (and who sounds super cute), he can think of no one and nothing else. Internet chat rooms and IMs and emails are not enough anymore. He wants to meet Isaac, wants to fall further in love and be loved.


The Will Graysons collide. Not really meet, but have a collision of sorts. And once they do, their worlds will change forever.

This is an excellent read. And, lucky for you, I'm giving it away in my Lucky YOU! Giveaway. Enter to win and enjoy this read as much as I did! I don't think that you'll regret reading this one. Let's hope for more collaborations in the future.

Cover Love: Which Side of the "Pond" Are You On?

The Cover Love meme is hosted by Linna at 21 Pages. Normally, I choose all of the versions of a book title and talk about which ones I like best and why. Today, I'm going to look at the covers of the Hunger Games series books. Maybe it'd be fun to check out other series and compare the US to the UK versions. Hm.

The new UK version of the Mockingjay cover was just recently released. I can't help but notice that the entire series of covers for the Hunger Games series is much, much different from the US series. Which do you prefer? Why?

On My Wishlist

"On My Wishlist" is a variation on several memes I've seen in the blogosphere. What makes this one different is that I take a screenshot of an item on my actual amazon wishlist every week. Usually, I end up buying the items that I post about after I write about them for this post. All of the thought that goes into these weekly posts makes for an argument that my checking account cannot refute.

This week's pick is a new graphic novel that is going to be part of a series. It's called Resistance: Book One and it was written by Carla Jablonski. I've never read anything by this author, but need to create a list of materials for a course I'm teaching next year. The subject of the course is the Holocaust, and the central text I'm using is The Book Thief. That should keep us busy for some time, but I like to immerse myself in other works while teaching a particular unit of study. Hopefully, this graphic novel will broaden my understanding of the events of the resistance movement in France during WWII.

I'll let you all know what I think after I read it!

Book To Book (2)

Lately, I've been reading a lot of dystopian novels. The pair of books that I am going to talk about in this post both fit this genre. Usually, when I'm reading a YA novel, I find plots and characters that make me think of classic texts that I've read. In the English teacher world, pairing a classic with a YA novel for students would be called "bridging". Using a YA text to help students move from a modern, often simpler text to a classic can be an effective method of teaching. I use this all the time in my classroom. The purpose of this feature is to highlight some pairs that I see as useful in the classroom setting.

This pair happened a little backwards for me. I had already read Scott Westerfield's The Uglies (first in a series of dystopic novels) and enjoyed it very much. Then, a mentee of mine took a job in a new school district. Being the nerd that I am, I agreed to read all of the books that she was going to teach at her new placement and help her (if I could) brainstorm teaching ideas. This is why I read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

I think that there are probably other books that could pair with either of these titles. This is the beauty of bridging; it is in the eye of the reader. In my mind, these two texts are connected in several ways. Here's a short list of the connections I see. In both texts:

-Children are separated from their parents before a bond can form
-Drugs are used in each to keep teens and adults sedated
-Sedation is used by the government to control
-There is a huge focus on material goods, creating a superficial want & need ideal
-Sexual promiscuity is encouraged
-Technology is advanced and is used to control the masses
-There exists an "otherworld" full of rebels and outcasts (the "savages" in Brave New World and the "rusties" in The Uglies)

I like there is a male lead in the classic and a female one in the YA novel. I think that there are a lot of additional choices made on the part of the author because of the differences in gender. There is a huge amount of room from both texts to talk and think about gender roles, hierarchies, government controls, censorship, and materialism in our modern society.

Lastly, I've already received one reader's suggestion for a future Book to Book feature. I am delighted! I do, though, have to confess that I have not read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which is the classic that this reader suggested I pair with Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl. I am super familiar with Stargirl, and from what I know about Jane Eyre, this sounds like a great connection. I plan to read Jane Eyre this summer and will hopefully profile it on this blog in the fall.

I welcome other suggestions for future Book to Book posts. Let me know what you think!

Book Review: We Were Here

As it turns out, I've had Matt de la Pena's book We Were Here on my To Be Read shelf for far too long. I think that I knew that it was going to be an amazing book with all sorts of tragic characters and gritty truths about life. I think that this is why I put it off. I didn't want to be heartbroken, to care about a main character that I could not save or help.

As it turns out, I was right and wrong. I was right that I would care about the main characters and that this book would be filled with all sorts of crazy truth. But, they did not need my help. Each of the three main characters figured out his path in his own way.

The central character, Miguel, is placed in a group home for teen boys who have done something criminally wrong. We don't know exactly what Miguel has done, but I think that we know the entire time that he is not a criminal. Whatever he did, he did not mean to cause harm.

Miguel does not fit in at the group home. He purposefully distances himself from the other boys, and spends much of his time reading great literary classics. It is interesting that each of the classics he reads seem to be incorporated in this novel. Here are the books that reads and the way that I see them fitting into the plot/ structure/ characters of the novel:

The Color Purple by Alice Walker: This classic (which I've seen on Broadway and hold close to my literary heart) is told in a series of journal entries, which is also the style in which We Were Here is narrated. Because of the structure, the book is only as revealing and honest as the main character (writer of the journal) is with herself. Very true of We Were Here.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: I didn't much see the connection between these two texts until later in the book. There's a bit of a road trip, an escape, and a quest for love or meaning. I think that this a parallel between the two books. Also, I think that the character Mong might have been Miguel's Teacake, in a way. This probably will make no sense to anyone but me.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Not told in journal format, but might as well have been. Catcher is a crazy whirlwind of a novel, as is We Were Here. There's also that underlying insanity and reflective quality of Catcher that shows up in We Were Here. I think that Holden Caulfield and Miguel would have a lot in common if they were to meet. Neither characters are "phonies" by any stretch of the imagination!

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: This is probably the most heartbreaking connection for me. To me, Miguel is George and the third central character, Rondell, is like Lennie. The ending does not turn out the same way in We Were Here, but the patience and frustration that Miguel feels toward Rondell totally reminds me of how George feels and treats Lennie.

This was a great read. I plan to read other books by this author, but I think that I need some time to digest this one first. This is definitely a modern classic. It's well-written and heartbreaking and real all at once. Sigh.

48 Hour Book Challenge: The Finish Line

I'm sad to say that my time is up in the 48 Hours Book Challenge (hosted by the Mother Reader blog). I had a great time, survived a huge thunderstorm, a tornado, and a birthday party at my mother-in-law's house. (Kidding! It was totally fun!)

Here's a tally of how I spent my time during this challenge:

I read three YA books, start to finish.

I finished one book that I had already started.

I started my June book club selection, but did not finish it.

I started reading a book aloud with my husband.

I wrote two book reviews.

I read 100 pages of literacy-based standards craziness for a grad class. 

I wrote several "update" posts. 

I met many new bloggers and commented on lots of blogs.

I gave $10 to a Donors Choose project from my state.

Total Hours/ Minutes: 18 hours, 40 minutes (not bad!)

End Time: 9:30pm EST.

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update (13 Hours 10 Mins. Total)

Good morning! This is my last day of reading and writing and such for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I've read a lot and have had a ton of fun in this challenge, especially given the fact that the weather has been so yucky all weekend long. Thanks to Mother Reader for hosting this event!

My plan today is to spend some more time reading the following books:

We Were Here by Matt de la Pena=Page 19. I Started this book last night before bed and am already loving it. It's gritty and realistic and the voice of the main character is spot-on. I'm going to love this one.

Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg=Page 50. Not the most cheery book in the world, but a true story and I need to have it read for a book club. I'm going to read some more and try to keep my composure. It's not a sunshine-y tale.

I have to go to my mother-in-law's birthday party today, so I will need to take an afternoon break for cake and ice cream. I hope to get another 4 or 5 hours in today. I also have a ton of reviews to write and could really use some time to catch up on all of that. I'll post once my end time (9:30 pm) is nearing.

PS. It's 9:00am EST. Silly Blogger!

In My Mailbox (5)

 In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren. Check out her site!

This week was an awesome week for books. I received way more than could actually fit back into my mailbox. The ones that I decided to truck back down there are those that I won from online bloggers or writers.

And, it was pouring outside this morning! Good for the 48 Hour Book Challenge, because there's absolutely no temptation to spend time outdoors, but bad for book who don't want to get rained on!

In my mailbox this week, I received:

An ARC of Faithful by Janet Fox: This title came to me from YA author Holly Cupala. I've never traveled to the great North West, so this book intrigues me. It takes place in Yellowstone, so the title is probably related to Old Faithful, the geyser. From reading the back of the book, though, I have a feeling that the meaning of the title goes much deeper. There's love and coming-of-age story and betrayal and perhaps a little violence. This is a 2010 debut author and the book sounds like it's a great read! Thanks Holly Cupala!

A Two Chapter Preview of Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala: Ms. Cupala kindly sent me a preview of her book Tell Me a Secret. What did I do when I opened my mailbox and found it there? Why, I stood there reading it until I was finished! (Luckily, I live on a dead end road.) I was mesmerized by the first two chapters of this book. It's about a teen girl whose sister died five years before the novel starts. This sister was pretty wild and a bit of a mystery. In her attempt to be more like her sister and to figure out her sister's secrets, Miranda ends up with a secret that will change her life forever.  I can't wait to read the entire book.

Gorgeous Bookmarks from Tara at 25 Hour Books: I won these bookmarks as part of the 25 Hour Books Read-A-Thon. They are gorgeous! I've already started using them. It's fun to match them with the books I'm reading. Thanks again!

And, there's Shady. He's not at all impressed with the rain. Not that he really cares about getting wet. He just notices a dramatic lack of fun whenever it starts raining. Plus, there was some pretty severe weather yesterday--An actual tornado and thunder and lightning. He shivered and shook all day long. Maybe this is why he wouldn't even walk with me to the mailbox this morning?