Book Review: Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer

In alternating narratives, Sara Bennett Wealer tells the story of two talented teens--Kathryn and Brooke. Both girls are exceptional singers and, though they used to be very close, they have a rivalry that has spiraled out of control.

Brooke seems to have it all. She is the most popular girl in her class, she has talent, money, and people generally look to her to decide who's cool and who's not. Of course, life is not as perfect as it seems. Brooke is lonely and desperately wants her absent father's love and attention. She is surrounded by people who want to be near her so that they can be popular. None of her friends care about her passion for singing; they only care about parties and dances. Brooke finds a true friend in Kathryn during her junior year, but by their senior year their bitter enmity has completely clouded over any friendship they might have had.

Kathryn is more content in the shadows than in the limelight when it comes to being popular. That is, until she gets a taste for the spotlight when Brooke invites her to a sleepover their junior year. After that fateful night, Kathryn is kept busy with parties and activities and shows with all of her new friends. In particular, Brooke seems to want to hang out with Kathryn and talk about music. But, when Kathryn unwittingly betrays Brooke, their friendship crumbles and so does Kathryn's new popularity.

In the end, the only thing these two unlikely friends have in common is their desire to win at the Blackmore--a prestigious singing competition. And, it seems that both girls are willing to crush the other in order to win.

*   *   *

Rival is an excellent debut for Sara Bennett Wealer.  It is always a risky venture to write a book where the main characters are complex and not always sympathetic. There were points in this book where I didn't like either of the main characters, but this dislike was because the girls are presented as real people who make real mistakes and use poor judgment. It would've been much easier for Ms. Bennett Wealer to present one of the girls as "right" and the other as "wrong." It's much more difficult to make each girl complex in their own way. 

In addition to the characters, I loved the format of this book. It alternated between main characters and from their junior to senior years. In all of this, I was not confused in the least by which character was speaking and when the scene was taking place. It was interesting to flip between the girls' senior year, when they hated each other, and their junior year, when they were inseparable. Through the shifting time periods, the relationship and the motives behind the girls' actions becomes much more complex and interesting. 

I loved that this rivalry was based, for the most part, on singing. There were some jealous moments based on boys and beauty, but that was not the crux of the girls' conflict. That story has been played out, in my opinion. In this book, the girls are vying for something real and based on hard work and merit. This focus on singing took away from some of the catty, stereotypical competition over looks that is often portrayed in YA lit. This story was far more serious and interesting than a typical girl-hates-girl story. 

This is an awesome debut novel and I cannot wait to read more from this author. I can imagine that there are several students in my classes, particularly those girls involved in chorus and one of our school's music programs that will understand the richness of this book.

**Thanks to The Teen Book Scene for providing this review copy**

Author Guest Post + Book Giveaway: Savita Kahlan, Author of The Long Weekend

Savita Kahlan is the author of the chilling thriller, The Long Weekend. This book is absolutely terrifying, due to the subject matter and the author's skill at creating a tense, suspenseful situation where the lives of two boys are at stake. Though this book is thoroughly disturbing, I know that it takes a great writer to develop this type of character/ reader connection. I am highly impressed and completely freaked out.

For her tour stop at DeRaps Reads, I asked Ms. Kahlan to share a bit about a nightmare that she's had. As many of you know from previous posts, I have nightmares almost every night. In fact, I just had a horrific one last night, based on a book I'm currently reading. I'm glad to report that it wasn't as terrifying as Ms. Kahlan's, which you can read about here.

My Nightmare
“It’s dark and the streetlamps emit little light. I’m crouched behind a car, hiding. I’m alone. The street is eerily quiet and deserted, the houses on either side are abandoned. I don’t know how I ended up here all by myself with not a single living soul in sight. I’m catching my breath, thinking maybe I’m safe for a while. I’ve been running all night, running and hiding, running and hiding. Am I doomed never to see the light of day breaking over the horizon, the sweet chorus of birdsong, the rattle and clink of the milkman? I can hear a distant rattle and clink, but it’s not the milkman making early deliveries of bottles of milk. This is the rattle and clink of something else, something that may have once been human, but any humanity it once had has been lost for an age and it has no recollection of what it was like to be human.
The dreaded sound is distant, but I won’t be fooled by that. They almost had me before – yes, there is more than one, more than ten, perhaps twenty or more. I did not stop to count each contorted, disfigured being as they defied their stuttering gait, their misshapen limbs, and robot-like seethed across the fast dwindling space that separated them from me. I begin to move, slowly at first using the parked cars as my shield, then quicker as a glimpse of a rotting arm from the other side of the car. I begin to run. They’re closing in on me. Their guttural cries, their agonised moaning, their strange wheezing, the rattle and clink of the chains that once held them dragging across the ground, it all becomes louder. I run into an abandoned house, hoping to find help, but there is no one there, no weapons, nothing I can use to defend myself. I hear the shuffle of footsteps scraping across floorboards. They’ve followed me. I stifle a scream, my hand stuffed in my mouth, my heart beating so fast I think it might explode...”
And this is when I hope to wake up from the nightmare! Sometimes I do, sweating and panting and clutching at the duvet, other times the nightmare continues...
 *  *  *
And that's just a sample of the quality of Ms. Kalhan's terrifically terrifying writing. The Long Weekend is sure to have you feeling disturbed--even the most jaded of readers will have some heightened sense of fear or fright!

Ms. Kalhan is giving away one copy of her book to one lucky commenter. You have one week to enter this INTERNATIONAL giveaway (closes March 4th). Please leave a comment reacting to Ms. Kalhan's nightmare or describe one of your own. Make sure to leave an email where you can be reached if you are the winner.

Winners Announced: Three of 'Em!

Yay! I'm finally feeling well enough to post the winners of my most recent giveaways. Sorry for the delay--It's been a rough couple of weeks. But, I am ready to announce and ship out some prizes to the lucky winners of the Valentine's Giveaway and the Rival book and necklace giveaway. Here we go...

Winner of Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer and necklace:

Ms. Ashley of Bookcase Siren!

Winner of Love is Hell and Dark Heart pendant:

Winner of Love, Love, Love and Heart Pendant:

Congrats, ladies. 

Others, please keep your eye out for a super awesome giveaway coming this week-ish!

Book Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Is it possible that I like Gayle Forman's Where She Went even more than If I Stay? I didn't know that this was possible. I am a little taken aback. But, from the very first chapter, I was captivated by this second book and could not put it down. Now, I did have a difficult time putting down If I Stay, but there was something so compelling about this book, even without the lure of tragedy and melodrama.

**Please don't read this post if you haven't read If I Stay and want to. I'm going to have to SPOIL it for you if you do! There's just no way to talk about Where She Went without revealing what happened in If I Stay.**

Okay. Phew. I don't want to spoil anything about this series for anyone!

This second book is narrated completely from Adam's point of view. I have to admit that I was intrigued by this from the very start. I loved Adam in book one, but I completely fell for him in book two. He just seemed even more real to me in this second installment. Even though he's now famous and touring the world, his feelings and character just ring true to me.

And Mia. Love Mia. In some ways, she's even more complex in this second book than in the first. She, too, has become an accomplished musician, but there's something about her struggle to both move past and remember that fateful night on which If I Stay is based that feels very real to me. If you've ever had any sort of trauma in your life, I think you'll understand what she's going through.

I love that Adam and Mia are not perfect. I love that they are not fixed and that, though they've experienced success, they don't always feel deserving or good about it. All of this rings very true to me. And, Foreman made some great choices with this book. I loved that she start most chapters with lyrics from Adam's hit record, which is actually written about Mia. I found most of the lyrics to be interesting and to add to the narrative. I want to hear his music!

I know that many of you are waiting for this book to come out and that you cannot wait to read it. In my opinion, this is a great second book to a story that could have ended with the first. But, after reading Where She Went, I am happy to know more about Adam and Mia and understand where they'll go from here. I loved it.

**Thanks to Around the World ARC Tours for this reading opportunity**

Audio Book Review: Dark Life by Kat Falls

In the futuristic world of Dark Life, the world is divided. There are those who live "Topside" or above water, and those who dwell deep under water. On land, the Commonwealth Government rules what is left of the overpopulated Earth. Due to many environmental and natural disasters, there is too little space for too many people.

Under water, life is more like the Wild West. Those who choose to farm on the ocean floor are called settlers, and they have no shortage of dangers and dangerous personalities to contend with. Ty, a teenager who was the first to be born and raised under water, loves the freedom and adventure that his life brings. His days are filled with chores, roaming the wide ocean plains, and swimming with dolphins.

Some who live Topside say that the children born under water have develop Dark Gifts, but Ty and the other children deny it. One scientist supposedly discovered a boy named Akai, who could communicate with dolphins via sonar, but this boy's existence has never been verified. Nevertheless, there is definitely a divide between those who grow up Topside and those who live under water.

The peace and thrill of Ty's life changes completely the day that he meets Gemma. Ty comes across her just after she's gotten herself into a tough situation. She went under water to find her missing brother, but didn't really have a solid idea of where she was going or the amount of danger that she could encounter under the sea. Ty saves Gemma, but is quickly drawn into her quest to find her brother, which leads them further and further into the "darker" side of Dark Life.

The reader of this audio book, Keith Nobbs, does an excellent job. He reads for all of the characters, but still managed to highlight their personalities in his reading. I think that some high schoolers, particularly those who love a good dystopia, will enjoy this book. On the whole, though, I think that this is more of a middle grade read. I was entertained by it, and liked that the subject matter got a little dark at times. The was that great middle grade balance present, between edge and innocence. There was enough material to make you think about the world developed in the story and the ethics and morals (or lack thereof), but there was no language or sexual stuff going on. Definitely middle grade.

Narrator: Keith Nobbs
Length: 7 hours and 5 mins 

**This audio book counts toward my participation in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge from Teresa's Reading Corner and Whisper Stories in My Ear Audio Book Challenge**

Book Review: The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Phew. Deep breaths. My breathing is a tad labored right now. I just finished this Carrie Ryan's newest installment of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series and realized that I hadn't taken one deep breath in a couple hours. How can you with action and stress and edge-of-seat (or bed, in this case) plot twists and turns?

Okay. Beyond this first paragraph, I am going to admit that I have no idea of how to review this book without revealing any spoilers at all. Not that I cannot review the book without talking about the plot, but I don't know how to review this book with no spoilers about the entire series. Therefore, if you have not started this series, I suggest that you do. Those of you who have read it know how great it is. I'm making a bit of a leap here, but I think that most of what I've read online points to a fairly high approval rating. If you like zombie apocalypse stories, or if you want to start liking them, read this series. It's a great way to become a lover of zombie lit. It was my first. A gateway drug, if you will.

For those of you who have read the first two books in this series, I'll explain why this third installment is so very good. If you haven't, it's okay to stop reading. I still love you.

Okay. Let's get down to business. This third book is told from the perspective of Annah, the twin sister of Gabry (nee Abigail), who left her sister behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth a dozen years ago. Annah escaped the forest with Elias, and they carved out a bit of a life together, posing as brother and sister, in the Dark City. Now, the Dark City is filled with the Unconsecrated. It is unlivable and the Recruiters have begun to terrorize survivors.

Annah has managed on her own for three years. She's pretty much living just to avoid the Unconsecrated and is waiting for Elias to come back to her. That is her life. No companionship, no love, no fun. Just Annah and her fears and insecurities and longing. She's alive but dead.

Until she sees her sister, her twin sister, from across a crowded platform. That sighting changes her entire life. Seeing her sister leads to Annah's search for the long-lost Abigail. And their reunion changes Annah's life and her life's purpose forever.

*   *   *
I was not disappointed with this newest series books in the least. I am left wanting more, but I think that this is good. I don't feel like I need more answers about the characters or that any topic was not covered, I would just love to see what continues to happen in this world. And I'm sure that's exactly where the author, Carrie Ryan, wanted to leave her readers. 

I am such a fan of this series and have enjoyed lending these books to my students. I have a creating a serious following among my freshmen boys. It's kinda like an infection spread by the Mudo or Unconsecrated. One student reads The Forest of Hands and Teeth, "bites" the brain of a friend, and the books are spread. It's like the most awesome virus ever.

Book Review: Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley

Corrinne lives a charmed life. Her parents own a posh apartment in NYC and a house on Nantucket. She has credit cards galore and goes out for sushi and (illegal) drinks with her best buds almost nightly. She plans to attend an exclusive boarding school in the fall and life is generally wonderful for cynical, whiny Corrinne.

Really, she is a little hard to like at first. But, when her life's station falls dramatically after the collapse of the economy and once her parents find that they've fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme, Corrinne joins the real world and becomes a much more human. But, it doesn't happen quickly. First, her whole life as she knows it has to disintegrate and crumble before her very eyes. This includes: the sale of the apartment, her father moving to Dubai, and Corrinne and her brother moving to Texas in order to live with her very Texan grandparents. Even worse, no more private school, no more sushi, no more credit, no more friends.

What she does find in Texas is lots of hot weather, twangy accents, public schools filled with (gasp!) public school students, and food with lots and lots of carbs. Basically, she's on an alien planet.

With the help of some of the locals, though, Corrinne adjusts. It takes time, but she is nothing if not a survivor. And, the fact that the town is home to a couple of extremely hot guys (see book cover) does not hurt matters.

Corrinne is truly a round character. I love her for this. Even as she's complaining and melting down, she has an endearing quality to her story. We can al identify, I'm sure, with having to change our habits after the recession hit. I know I have. I haven't had to move to Texas, but I have had to give up some of the extras. And I know how hard but ultimately rewarding this has been for me. By the end of the book, I was super proud of Corrinne and respected her as a person.

This is not a heavy book or one that's full of mystery and intrigue. You basically know what's going to happen throughout. But, it doesn't really matter. Because debut author Gwendolyn Heasley isn't really trying to develop an entirely new character, but improving on the existing character archetype. I think it's pretty successful in it's attempt at romance and realistic characters. I can't wait to pass it on to some of my romance-loving, cowboy-wanting teen students!

Author Guest Post: Laura Kreitzer on Human Trafficking

Recently, I received a request from author Laura Kreitzer, who asked if I'd be interested in giving her some room to talk about an important issue: Human trafficking. At the time, I was actually teaching Patricia McCormick's novel in verse Sold to my sophomore students. We've finished that book and are on to another human rights topic now, but I still think about the character Lakshmi in that book and her horrific story. Here is what Ms. Kreitzer has to say about this issue:

Hello Literary-Folk!

My name is Laura Kreitzer, and I’m the author of the Timeless Series and the Summer Chronicles. This week I would like to alert everyone on a colossal crisis that’s gone unnoticed in the world: human trafficking. That’s why I’ve asked hundreds of blogs to be involved with spreading the word on this issue that’s become close to my heart.
As an author, and someone whose life is put in the spotlight, I keep most people at a distance. Only a handful of my friends know the whole me and the events from my past. But this week I’d like to share with you a part of myself that the outside world doesn’t see (and a part of me I don’t like to share). I was emotionally abused for five years by someone I thought loved me, my mind beaten into submission. Though the turmoil I went through doesn’t penetrate as deep as someone forced into slavery on the worldwide market for human trafficking, I can sadly relate in some ways: imprisoned, my life dictated down to what I wore, ate, where I went, whom I spoke to, where I worked, when I slept, bending to his every whim. He did not sway, even when I cried through some of the more traumatic things he had me do. I was a slave in my own home. In my desperation for freedom, I held out a gun and asked him to just end my suffering. I was desperate.

I can’t even imagine how many women (and men) in the world are in a similar situation. What’s even worse, I had it mild compared to the children that are sold for labor or sex. Surprisingly, the good ol’ U.S.A. is reported to be the host to two million slaves. Did you know this? Because I certainly did not; not until I was preparing to write my newest novel: Phantom Universe. The main character, Summer Waverly, was stolen as a child and sold as a slave to the captain of a modern-day pirate ship. From a loved child who only knew “time-out” as punishment, to being whipped into silence was something I knew nothing about. So I researched deeply into human trafficking and the psychological effects of torture of various types that one would endure in these circumstances. I felt shaken at my findings and knew I had to tell Summer’s story. (Read a sneak peek here.)
A storm began to brew in my mind; transforming, morphing, twisting, and expanding into this massive, black cloud. I had to bring this tragic atrocity to the forefront. My own emotional experiences, mixed with the research I did on human trafficking, made me feel an intense connection with Summer, and to all women who’ve been through this kind of brutality. The cloud ruptured and rained all over my computer one day. It took one month to write Phantom Universe, the first in the Summer Chronicles. I was so consumed by the story that I wrote nearly nonstop, only breaking for necessary tasks like eating, showering, and occasionally—very occasionally—sleeping.

Though the book I’ve written would be classified as Science Fiction, or as I’d like to call it, Dystopian, the emotions and psychological aspects are not Science Fiction—they're real. Reviewers have said many amazing things about Summer, this character who is so real in my mind and who I cried along with as the words poured from my soul onto my screen.
“I admired Summer's strength and ability to adapt,” says CiCi’s Theories. “I felt tied to her emotions,” Jennifer Murgia, author or Angel Star admits. And Tahlia Newland, author of Lethal Inheritance, remarks, “Summer is strong and smart in mind [. . .]”
Through her overwhelmingly horrendous past, Summer goes on more than just a physical journey in Phantom Universe, she goes on a psychological one as well; growing beyond her mute state to persevere and survive in a new world beyond the whip she’s so frightened of.

Now that the release date is here, I’m excited and terrified to share this story with everyone. I’m emotionally tied in every way to the words I’ve written, because they’re more than words. More than just a story on a page. Beyond the fictional aspects, there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed: human trafficking must be stopped. We shouldn’t sit idly by while this continues to plague us. Our world’s children—our nation’s children—are being affected. It’s time we take action!

Earlier this month Phantom Universe hit Barnes and Noble’s top 100 Best Selling list. I’ve decided to donate 10% of my sales from Phantom Universe, until the end of February, to the DNA Foundation.
“DNA hopes to help abolish modern day slavery, deter perpetrators, and free the many innocent and exploited victims. We are committed to forcing sex slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom. No one has the right to enslave another person.”
—From DNA Foundation’s Website

I ask that you spread the word to everyone you know. Look around on the DNA Foundation website and find a way to get involved in ending human trafficking. Take action today. Everyone has a voice—you have a voice. Will you have the courage to use it?

Book Review: Memento Nora by Angie Smibert

In a futuristic world, Nora and her family live as sheltered as possible from the terrorists that threaten their safety. Lucky for Nora and her mother,  Nora's father is a wealthy business man with great connections and lots of resources. So, when Nora and her mother witness a horrific terrorist bombing while shopping one afternoon, they are instantly given appointments at the Therapeutic Forgetting Center, or the TFC.

Once there, Nora watches her mother take a little white pill--One that will erase any memory of the terrorist attack. For Nora, this is her first time at the TFC. She doesn't want to he haunted by the memories of the violent explosion, but she also does not want to completely forget them and be "glossy." While in the waiting room of the clinic, she sees a rebellious classmate leaving the doctor's office. He spits out the little white pill right in front of Nora, making a point for her to see him doing so. Nora follows suit, and an unlikely but revolutionary friendship is formed.

This entire novel is narrated by three lead characters: Nora, Micah (the rebel teen), and Micah's friend Winter. These three teens start a small uprising, which has a huge impact on their world. Each of the teens has their own motivation for creating an expose of the real group behind the terrorist attacks and the Therapeutic Forgetting Center. United by this common interest, they work to create a "memento" or a reminder of the events that everyone is supposed to forget in comic book form.

Don't be fooled by this tiny little book. It contains less than 200 pages, and it's small in stature, but it packs a huge punch. I feel like I could have read more about the world that's created in this story, but I was satisfied and left thinking big huge wonderful thoughts once I had finished. I love a book that doesn't answer all questions for me, but allows me to think for myself. Which is probably the point of a story like Nora's. We need to be allowed to interpret and deal with our own memories in a way that works for us.

I can see lots of connections to other books in the dystopian genre, but I still feel like this is a fresh take on the future. Certainly, there are definite links between the world of this book and the one we currently live in: Out of control advertising, gated communities, conspicuous consumerism, the culture of pills, and the use of underground tactics to expose governments. Good, old fashioned protests. Almost like the ones in Egypt. But different.

For all of these reasons and more, I'll definitely purchase a copy of this book for my free reading shelves in my classroom. I know that this story will appeal to some of my up-and-coming revolutionaries and the size will lure more than a few reluctant readers. And, once they're in, they'll want to find out what happens.

**ARC Review Copy Provided by Jen Bigheart of Banned Book Tours**

Want to hear more about the dystopian genre? Check out Presenting Lenore's 

Book Review: Drought by Pam Bachorz

When I first heard that Pam Bachorz had written another dystopian book, I was overjoyed. I absolutely loved Candor and couldn't wait for another book by the same author. At first, I enjoyed this new book and when a bit starry eyed by the possibilities the world of this book held. Unfortunately, though, this love was short lived and was quickly replaced by lots and lots of confusion.

Drought is the story of a sort of cult, the "Congregation," who has lived for hundreds of years in a secluded section of forest.  They first entered the forest as a group of free people, but were imprisoned in it by an evil dictator named Darwin West more than two hundred years ago.

Though the outside world has progressed without them, it's as if Ruby and her brethren are still in the early 1800s. They know nothing of the outside world and are completely focused on the one thing that will keep them alive and spare them from the wrath of Darwin and the overseers--Water. With drought at an all-time high, Darwin is obsessed with the Congregation collecting as much water--single droplet by singe droplet--as they can. Each day, each member of the Congregation stuggles to find a cup fo water. Seems easy enough, but the end of each day finds more and more of the Congregation beaten bloody for their failure to produce.

Why Water? This is not your every day H2O. Darwin thinks the water in this forest, the Water that has sustainned life among the Congregation for so long is magical because of the manner in which it's collected. Little does he know that every night, Ruby's mother Sula sneaks off to the cisterns that contain the magical water to add in the magic ingredient--the blood of the group's prophet.

But, the blood is almost gone and the prophet, Otto, has yet to return after hundreds of years. How will the group survive without the blood of their savior and without magic water to keep the evil Darwin at bay?

Even as I write this summary, the book almost sounds fairly good. In its plot, this book has definite potential. Solid potential, even. In actuality, the promise of the plot is not quite realized. There is a definite underlying story here, an epic one. It might be related to Jesus and those who blindly follow prophets and the blood of Christ and profiteers of religion...But, I'm not exactly sure. Because there is the whole supernatural living-for-hundreds-of years thing thrown in and lots and lots of unanswered questions.

It feels to me (and I'm not saying this as an author, but as a frequent reader of this genre), that there was too big a bite attempted with this book. As in, if there were less issues taken on, there might have been a great book here. I did not hate this book, but I feel like it was never really came together. I am hoping that some of the elements of this story that were not so clean were cleaned up for the final draft. The ARC that I read is rife with errors, more so than many other ARCs I have read. Maybe the published version is cleaner and some of the plot disparities and questions have been cleared up?

I know that I would still read this book even if I had read negative reviews of it beforehand. I love this genre so much that I really and truly can overlook much of the negatives about any book written in this genre. If you're a die hard lover of dystopias, you will probably read this book no matter what people say. It's not perfect, but there's still some great ideas and some interesting moments in this story. If you're  more casual in your approach to dystopias, you may not want to pick this one.

Based on Candor, I will continue to read book written by Pam Bachorz! 

Winner + Additional Contest: Our Alphabet of L-O-V-E, Inspired by David Levithan

Happy Valentine's Day! 

I'm writing to announce the winner of my giveaway of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary AND to encourage a more complete A-Z dictionary of LOVE. Here are your entries so far:

adoration: loving someone not despite their faults but because of them.
amore: Italian for love

amour: A love affair, especially an illicit one.
ardor: passion

biglove: when you have mad love for someone!
blessed: To know that there is someone out there that can share my good times, my bad times and all those wonderful moments in between.
bliss: the feeling of joy that you get sharing amazing moments with those close to you.
butterflies: the feeling you get in your tummy when you realize you are in love, and hopefully continue to feel for as long as you are in love.

cherish: to adore, protect, care for lovingly.
cherish: To hold someone dear to your heart. 
children: there is no greater love than what you feel for your children.
commitment: Realizing your stuck with your partner for life and dealing with it.
commitment: part of love is making a commitment to another person, committing your heart to them, and promising to be there and sticking to it.
companionship: To be by someone's side for the rest of your lives.
companionship: A feeling of bliss and serenity when you realise that not only do you adore your beloved but you also enjoy sharing every moment of your day with him.
compassion: Understanding you're mate and what they may be going through at any given time and understanding when they may feel a bit crabby.
compromise: the ability to understand that you aren't always right.
courtship: The act of dating, or before a couple is married.

devoted: Knowing that there is one person out there that will never have me turning my head to look at someone else and thing "I wonder...." and knowing that he feels the same way to.
devotion: love that is expressed through actions and words
devotion: giving your all for the one you love.
devour: As in "I'm going to devour you"....that's a little sexy, but still full of love.

embrace: An affectionate hug.
empathy: understanding of another's feelings: the ability to identify with and understand somebody else's feelings or difficulties.
enamored: in love, charmed, captivated.
enchanted: utterly delighted or captivated; fascinated; charmed.

faith: The confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing.
faith: Believing that no matter what happens, or how many things don't work out, God always has something better waiting for you.
fearless: To love with all your heart & not be afraid to fall.
*fearless: To be scared out of your mind, but falling in love anyway. Winning Definition!*
fidelity: You can't have a lasting relationship without it.
fond: Having a strong liking, inclination, or affection.
fondness: to like being around someone
forgiveness: the act of choosing not to hold past wrongs against someone ; is a necessity to stay in a long term relationship
forgiveness: as in, forgiving them when they do something really stupid like forgetting your birthday or valentines day.

giggles: A side-affect of falling in love (see Shivers, Groans, Gasps and Happy Dances) As in: Ursula found she suffered from the Giggles whenever Thomas was near.

hands: holding someone's hands and feeling butterflies in one's stomach.
heart: The symbol of love; the mascot. What you give to someone when you love them and trust that they'll treasure it always.

helpful: you aren't the only one that feels like everything is crashing down sometimes. be able to share with the one you love...and then be willing to make sure you do what you can to protect them
husband: A man who is loving, honest, fair, generous, empathetic, caring, affectionate, nonjudgemental and respectful of his wife. eg. My husband!

idolize: to love or admire too much.
infatuation: an extravagant passion for something. 
infatuation: A crush. An object of extravagant, short-lived passion.
infatuation: the can't hardly breathe, how am i going to make it through the day feeling
inspiration: the person who gives you all your best ideas/feelings/encouragements. Your love inspiration.
intimacy: Being close to your lover. Something that makes a relationship stronger.

lavish: you can never have too much much love.
love v.
1: willing the absolute good of another and
2: desiring good for yourself in return.
3: a constant exchange of affection and/or support between two people
(see also heroic and charity)
love: /lʌv/ Show Spelled [luhv] Show IPA noun, verb, loved, lov·ing.
–noun 1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for books.

Mother/Mom/Mommy: a mother is loved the longest - from the time you are born. Mother will also love you longest, as she likely loved you before you were born!
Mother: no love on earth compares to that of a mother for her child.
Move: on over Bleep! He's mine!

nurture: nur·ture /ˈnɜrtʃər/ v. To care for another person and bring out the best in him/her; To satisfy one's craving for another person's love.

passion: A powerful emotion, such as love or joy.
passion: kindness and love together. 
passion: That love where your heart aches because you're so in love that it's hard to hold it in - you want to tell the world and you don't want it to ever stop.
power: having the support of the person allows you to have power and do things that you wouldn't normally.
precious: love is precious. It is valuable, and should be cherished.

rapture: An expression of ecstatic feeling.

sex: the showing of love between a husband and wife or partners.
share: Giving of oneself to another.
snookie: (NOT a reference to the Jersey Shore) - an affectionate term of endearment made in reference to a cherished loved one.
soulmate: The magical connection between two people that lasts a lifetime and beyond.
squishy: my niece's nickname, because she loves hugs
support: n. 1) the act of showing encouragement 2) Giving aid to one financially

tenderness: loving someone with affection, honesty, and caution to their feelings.
treasure: Something you find that is of high value or priceless. Your significant other is a treasure.
trust: To hand over your heart, the most fragile yet vital part of you body, to a guy, expecting him NOT to break it. 

unconditional: When you love someone its no matter what. You accept flaws and all.
understanding: To be able to comprehend one's actions and thoughts.
union: The combining of two spirits, two souls.

worship: so much love that you would worship and do anything for the person.

zeal: A feeling of strong eagerness (usually in favor of a person or cause)
zeal: Great warmth and earnest towards a person.
ziggy: my middle son's nickname, because he reminds me of ziggy and how his days are never just perfect, but I still love him.

The winner of this book is: Shahira 

Congrats! Please email me back with your address within 48 hrs to claim your prize!

*   *   *

In related news...

We're missing entries for the following letters: J, K (really?), O, Q, V, X, Y. 

In the interest of creating a more perfect dictionary, I'm looking for some contributions to our list. I'll send on extra commenter a thank-you gift. Please leave an email. I'll keep this open for a day or two. 
Basically, until we've created a complete A-Z of L-O-V-E.

To enter, leave a comment with an additional entry for our lover's dictionary. 
Please, only US folks for this one.

Books With Love Hop: In Love or Out?

Once Upon a Twilight

Welcome to the Valentine's Day Book With Love Hop at DeRaps Reads!

I have noticed that there are two (at least) types of people in this world: Those who look forward to Valentine's Day and feel a surge of love and joy every February 14th, and those who want to retch just thinking about it. The former are usually blissfully in love and the latter are usually those muttering types who complain about "Hallmark" holidays. 

Well, whether you find yourself in the former or the latter category this Valentine's Day, I have a prize for you! Please feel free to enter one or both of these giveaways, as you may just want to win either prize. To enter, simply fill out the form below and choose which prize you'd like to win. I'll announce the winners of these giveaways on February 17th. Happy Valentine's Day!

Prize #1: In Love
A copy of Love, Love, Love by Deborah Reber

Flying Hearts Pendant

Prize #2: Out of Love
Love is Hell by Scott Westerfeld, Melissa Marr, Justine Larbalestier, 
Gabrielle Zevin, and Laurie Faria Stolarz 

Dark Heart Pendant

This giveaway is for US residents only. Sorry, my international lovelies!

Be sure to check out all of the other giveaways in this hop!

Movie Review: Gnomeo and Juliet

This movie is full of awesome. It's funny and adorable and interesting and even somewhat close to the original Romeo and Juliet, given the complete transformation in, um, actors and setting.

I'm not going to rehash the entire plot for you here because, well, you can kinda tell what it's all about from the commercials and from your working knowledge of Romeo and Juliet. Star-crossed lovers, feuding families, mixed messages leading to confusion and tragedy. It's all there. Shakespeare himself even makes an appearance.

But, if you have any reservations about seeing this and you're not completely uptight and against changing the Bard's original texts, go for it. I loved it, my teacher friend loved it, and the adorable 5 year-old stranger sitting next to us rolled with laughter and delight throughout. What a superbly excellent introduction to Shakespeare for that little guy, I think!

Author Interview + Book and Necklace Giveaway: Sara Bennett Wealer of Rival

Recently, I had what Oprah would most likely deem an "Aha" moment. It came after I watched and listened to an amazing performance by our school’s concert band. It was held in our school's gym, with about 800 people watching. As I listened to the music, I looked around at the crowd and saw dozens of students playing air drums and other instruments. This got me thinking about the number of students who could benefit from music education. But, with shrinking budgets, this will not happen any time soon.

I knew that Ms. Sara Bennett Wealer was going to drop by DeRaps Reads for a guest post and knew that her book dealt with two former friends who compete musically. So, I figured Ms. Bennett Wealer might have an opinion or two about the state of music education in our schools. And, I was right!

When people talk about cutting back on music in public education, I often feel like they’re speaking a foreign language. Music was such an important part of my own educational experience that the idea of curtailing or eliminating it just doesn’t compute. Music gave me confidence. It opened new worlds. It made me excited to go to school and kept me motivated when other subjects had me discouraged. 

I often think that the people who want to cut music from public education aren’t thinking about it the right way. They act like music is an “extra” when, really, music can be an integral part of the learning experience.

In fact, you could create an entire curriculum with music as the glue that holds each subject together: 

Languages – How many of us learned French by singing Frere Jacques? I remember my German lessons because our teacher taught us “Du, du liegst mir im hertzen.” Heck, music is its own language, and one that few people end up regretting having learned. 

Literature/Poetry – From lyrics and librettos to symphonies and operas based on myth, legend and classic literature, your lesson plan is almost written for you!

History/Cultures – You can explore everything from daily living, religion and folklore to major historical events by looking at the music people were singing with and for one another.

Science – How do the parts of the body work together to give you your voice? What are the physics of pitch? The mechanics of how a trombone works? How do animals in nature use musical sounds to communicate?

Math – This is a biggie for me. A friend of mine told me his daughter’s school was teaching math by having the children stomp out rhyhms on the floor, and I was so jealous! If someone had taught me that way I might not have grown up terrified of numbers. 

I remember the first time I really, truly understood math – it happened when I was singing Bach’s B-Minor Mass with a symphony chorus. When rehearsals first started, I HATED the piece. It was painful and tedious and hard, with all sorts of changing rhythms, byzantine fugues and harmonies, just a brick wall that I couldn’t get my brain around. I tried to fake it – tried to follow the people next to me, tried to limp along, and I ended up with a headache, a sore throat and a tongue-lashing from my director.

I was forced to face the music – I HAD to count. I had to do the math. I had to work the problem, no shortcuts. So I coaxed my brain into really analyzing and reading, and…

…Seriously? It got way trippy. After a couple more rehearsals, things suddenly clicked! And I felt like I had literally walked into the music. The music took on three dimensions, like I was inside of it – almost like being in an architectural geometric structure. I could feel and hear and see and understand what the numbers were creating, and it was so much more than just digits on a page. It was a gorgeous masterpiece that I love to this day.

Why, oh why couldn’t I have had that experience at age15? 

With today’s focus on standardized testing, I worry that this kind of creative thinking just isn’t being done when it comes to music in public schools. But perhaps we need it more than ever.

Music can get test-weary kids out of their seats. It can help them experience what they’re learning, not just memorize it. It can bring concepts to life. 

Perhaps, instead of putting music in a separate classroom, we should make every classroom musical. Maybe then we’d see that it’s not an “extra” at all!

Find Sara Online: 

And, now for the giveaway. I am so very jealous that one of you is going to win this amazing prize pack. One lucky commenter with a US address will win:

 A copy of Rival 


 This cute necklace!

How awesome is that?! To enter, simply comment with an answer to this question:

How has music been important or influential in your life?


Open to US entrants only
Contest Ends 2/20/2011
Please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win!

Book Review: Forget You by Jennifer Echols

Zoey Commander's life is a mess. Her father is running off with is twenty-something girlfriend to marry in Hawaii, her normally "together" mother just attempted suicide, and Zoey just slept with her best friend, Brandon. But, the biggest of frustrations is that she had a horrible car accident that could have killed her and a couple of her friends. But, she doesn't remember it or any of the events leading up to it.

Now, Zoey is kinda dating Brandon, her best friend. Brandon has had many conquests, and loves to tell Zoey all about them. And, it appears that he's not really all that concerned about Zoey's accident. Or anything really. Zoey wants for him to want to be her boyfriend, but just never there. 

Worst of all for controlling and (slightly) obsessive Zoey is that the only person who seems to know all of the answers to what happened the night of her car crash is badboy Doug. He went away to juvie when they were younger and his reputation has been forever changed. Sure he's handsome and smart, but he's been to juvie. So he must be crazy. 

Honestly, this book was a fun read. I love Jennifer Echols for romantic-ish, light-ish books. I know when I read her work that it's going to be a bit of the top and filled with heat-of-the-moment scenes. I just know this.  If she were to write a serious "issue" book for teens, I wouldn't know what to do with it. (It would probably be good, because she's an awesome writer. It would just be like drinking soda when you're expecting water. Weird at first, but then good.)

So, when I read criticism of her work that her that knocks her down a little for writing steamy scenes and not being all that serious, I don't take them seriously. I know what Echols is all about. And, my teen girls LOVE her books. In fact, this book was loaned to me by one of my juniors girls who told me that I HAD to read it. How could I resist?

Again, if you're looking for seriousness and a hefty plot that will change your life, this probably isn't it. But, it's a quick, fun read and Echols is a talented writer. I cannot wait to read her next book, Love Story, which is due out in July.

Winner: Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos

Time to announce the winner of Marina Budhos's Tell Us We're Home!

Congrats to Tara of Taming the Bookshelf

Please return my email within 48 hrs to claim your prize!

Follower Love Giveaway Hop: Welcome to DeRaps Reads, Where It's All About the LOVE < 3

Hello and happy love month to all of you! I don't know about you, but I get very excited about this particular holiday. I have been married to my handsome husband for just over three years, and have never felt more happy in my life! We love Valentine's Day and take it as a chance to reconnect and celebrate every year. In this spirit, I am offering up David Levithan's new book The Lover's Dictionary for one lucky commenter!

I have not yet read this book, but have read wildly positive reviews. I have read many, many books by Mr. Leviathan and am a huge fan. He's a great author of YA lit, but this book is more of an adult book, I hear. Hopefully, this does not discourage all of you YA fans from entering this giveaway.

In this book, I am told that Levithan goes through the dictionary and starts each of the 26 segments with a word for love. With this in mind, I'd like you to choose a letter from the (English) alphabet and come up with a love-word for that letter. Then, please write your own definition for that word. This is all you need to do to enter. Oh, please leave your email address so that I can contact you if you win.

You may enter more than once if you like. Just choose a different letter / word each time. This giveaway is open to everyone in the world (as long as the Book Depository ships to you).

In the end, I'll compile my favorite alphabetical list of words/ definitions and arrange an alphabet of love. How fun. And, Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Author Guest Post: Michael Northrop of Trapped

Michael Northrop, the author of the snowy survival tale, Trapped, stopped by to give his Top Ten Wintry Movies. I haven't seen all of these, but in some (The Shining and Fargo) I can see where he got some gruesome inspiration for his book. Here is Mr. Northrop's list:

The Shining


Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Thing

Pale Rider

The Dead (based on a brilliant story by James Joyce)

A Simple Plan

Slap Shot

Winter’s Bone

 What are your favorite wintry movies??

Book Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Evie isn't your average every day girl. She's not even an average paranormal girl. Everything about her--from her birth to her teen years--is mysterious and interesting. Only, Evie doesn't quite see her life this way. She think it's pretty boring, not going to high school and having a locker like all other "normal" teens. Her life is anything but normal. And that's never really been enough for her.

She works and lives at the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA for short). She came to the IPCA when she was just eight years old, after she was discovered. You see, Evie can see through the glamours that most paranormals (vampires, werewolves, zombies, mermaids, faeries, etc) use when trying convince humans that they are regular people. So they can kill them. Evie sees what no one else can--the truth behind the lie.

But Evie's truth is that she'd rather have the every day problems of the teens she sees on TV than the ones she has. She has a sort of ex-boyfriend faerie man who is stalking her a little bit, a best friend who's a mermaid in a glass case, and no family that she's ever met. As far as she knows, she's entirely alone in the world. That is, until she catches a mysterious paranormal sneaking around the IPCA center after hours. Of course, she tazers him, but after that she realizes that he's cute and that they have a lot in common. By the time that she's figuring out who he is, she and all of the other humans and paranormals at the IPCA are in trouble. Because there's a serial killer going after paranormals. And it's just arrived at the IPCA.

I'm not even doing the plot justice by summarizing it here, so I'll just switch to gushing about how awesome it is. I really, really wish that I had read this book when it first came out, but I never really saw how great it was. I read the summaries and reviews and wanted to read it, but never got around to buying it.  Until Ms. Kai from Fiction State of Mind sent me this awesome book. I've been wanting to read it for some time and am so glad I did. Thanks, Kai!

What did I love about it? Well, it's funny and light and interesting and there is some suspense, but most of all, it's original. I felt like I was reading something totally new and fresh, which is awesome because I've read an awful lot of paranormal in the past year and I think it takes a great plot and cast of characters to seem "new" and "fresh" in this saturated genre.

I loved that it was funny, too. So often paranormal lacks a bit of the humor because it can take itself a little too seriously. Sure, the world and all of humanity is going to perish in a paranormal-induced whirlwind of fire and craziness, but there is room for a few laughs here and there, no? Best of all, the humor wasn't forced, but felt natural coming from Evie and a couple of the other characters. Not everyone was funny. Evie was because it is part of her personality. Love her!

And the relationships were interesting. I love thinking of this girl who has these powers and can use them to better the world, but who still sees her life as boring. Is any teenager every satisfied with their life? Doesn't every teenager claim to be bored most of the time? Even if they are chasing vampires and werewolves, I think that it's just the nature of the teen years to feel like they're missing out.

I cannot wait to read more of this series. I've read that it's going to be a three-part series, which is delightful. I haven't heard any info about the title/ cover for book two, but I will be on the lookout!

Book Review: Grace by Elizabeth Scott

In a futuristic or fictional present, Grace is an Angel of Death. She, along with many other girls of the "People," has trained to become a suicide bomber for years. Unlike many of her Angel sisters, she is not completely successful in her mission. She returns to her encampment in shame, and then flees. To an unknown future.

Her companion in flight, Kerr, is attempting to escape demons of his own. He has ties on the other side of this insane war, the side that Grace has been trained to kill.

Now, this unlikely pair is traveling across their desert landscape, attempting to avoid discovery by the many of Keran Berj, a totalitarian dictator without a conscience or a care for his citizens. He wants absolute power, and people like Grace and Kerr are standing in his way. Which cannot go unpunished.

*   *   *

That was one of the more difficult plot summaries I've written. Not because I didn't understand or appreciate the book, because that could not be farther from the truth. I loved it. I was moved by the spareness of the language in this book, by the beautiful brevity of this story.

And the language is not all that I loved. I could not stop thinking about this book after I finished reading it. It only took a couple of hours to read (devour) but since I turned the last page, I have had several hours of contemplation about the author's intent and the message that these two teens are sending with their story. 

With this book, I see how corrupt all causes--even those who seem tied to protecting people and earth and freedom--can be. That when the mission becomes death and destruction of an "enemy," no matter how common or evil, that those who are fighting will never be the same. That followers and fighters will live and die for a cause, never having lived for themselves. That no matter how successful you are in aiming at your target, it will always move and new enemies will pop up as soon as one falls. It is the nature of evil, to reappear.

In the positive, I can see that there are ways to live in peace. But, this starts with an appreciation for life. Not just your own, but the lives that you don't know exist. I don't know that Grace exists, but I'm sure that there are girls like her, waiting to be sacrificed for a war that will forget them soon after they perish. That there are people everywhere and all of them desire to have access to life without fear. But, I am going to understand that fear causes some people to want to hurt others. I don't know that we can stop this cycle of fear and control and a lack of appreciation for the lives of others, but I do know that the first step in any change is thought and conversation.

Books like Grace are a way to start that conversation.

Thanks to Elizabeth Scott for allowing me this train of thought. I'm going to stay on for a while.

Audio Book Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Little Red Riding Hood wishes she had the Marsh sisters on her side. Scarlett and Rosie, deadly wolf-hunting teens, are more than capable of taking on the evil, sneering Fenris (werewolves) that prowl the streets looking for easy female prey. When these two hunters pair up, there are no Fenris left alive.

Unfortunately for Scarlett and Rosie, there is no shortage of Fenris. Every day it seems, there are more and more. And, more and more girls have gone missing or are found dead. Worse, it appears that the Fenris are gathering to create a new recruit. With the help of their hunting partner, Silas, the handsome woodsman, the sisters leave their quaint small town in search of Fenris in the city.

Though both sisters are committed to hunting the Fenris, only Scarlett lives and breathes the hunt. When she was eleven, she was horribly scarred and lost an eye in a Fenris attack that also took her grandmother. Just a girl, Scarlett would not have been disfigured if she had not shielded her younger sister Rosie from the Fenris. Now, Scarlett hunts with an unquenchable vengeance and Rosie is used as bait to lure in unsuspecting Fenris. But, Rosie has other things on her mind. Namely, a romance with Silas.

From the start, the readers of this story lured me in. I am sure that I would've enjoyed this book if I'd read it, but listening to it is a special experience, I think. The three readers of this story did an incredible job, so well that my husband even listened in now and again. (He's not easily lured into fairy tales retold.) All of the voices are perfect and distinct to their characters. With this reading, the narrative comes alive and the action is made real.

Fast and entertaining, I think that those who love fairy tales and paranormal stories will fall in love with this creative, well-written story. I did!

Readers: Erin Moon, Michael Friedman, Suzanne Toren
Length: 9 hrs, 41 minutes

**This audio book counts toward my participation in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge from Teresa's Reading Corner and Whisper Stories in My Ear Audio Book Challenge**

I'm Off!

I'm so excited. Last June, I purchased tickets to see The Blue Man Group in Portland, Maine. (Our *big* city that's hours away from where I live.) Now that it's February 5th, we're finally off to go see this performance!

And this is where we're eating lunch today.

And we have dinner reservations here.

And we're staying at this hotel.

For most of you, a trip to a city might be an every day thing. Or maybe you live in one. The town I live in barely crests the 1, 000 person mark. And, my husband is a "plow guy." So we never get away in the winter months, which are most of the months of the year where I live.

So, I thought I'd share my excitement with all of you. Hope you all have a great day!

Author Guest Post: A Playlist for Pam Bachorz's Drought

 The only art that I love to study *almost* as much as my precious books are songs. To me, song lyrics are a special type of poetry and the vocals and instruments work together to create atsounding meaning. Love music. And, I love connecting the songs I love to book plots. 

Here are Pam Bachorz's picks for a soundtrack to her new book, Drought.

--THE OLD APARTMENT (Barenaked Ladies): A song about an abusive relationship about a man and a woman, which we see between DROUGHT's villain (Darwin West) and my main character's mother (Ruby). The rage and sorrow in this song played a major part in my development of Darwin West.

--LOOK AFTER YOU (The Fray): While I was writing DROUGHT, I tweeted asking for people's favorite love songs, and this was one of the suggestions. The song is sung by a dude, obviously, but it makes me think of how Ruby's allegiance starts to shift from her family to her new love, Ford: "You've begun to feel like home...what's mine is yours to leave or take..."

--DARK BLUE (Jack's Mannequin): This was another suggestion from Twitter. When I listen to this song, I picture Ruby and Ford, alone together. They're both overwhelmed by the feelings they've got for each other: "this flood is slowly rising up, swallowing the ground beneath my feet... tell me how anybody thinks under this condition..."

--FALLING SLOWLY (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova): I love the tentative, beautiful sound of this love song. Perfect for falling in love the first time, like Ruby is. I also hear Ford's voice in here, urging Ruby: "Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice..."

--IF THERE WAS NO YOU (Brandi Carlile): Brandi C. is a major muse for me. There are some lyrics in here that make me think of the climax of the story. But I won't ruin it for everyone!

*  *  *
Because this is one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, here's a video for Falling Slowly. If you've never seen the movie Once, then you're missing something great. Really and truly. 

Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Okay, so pretty much everyone in the book blogosphere has either posted a review of this book or read a dozen or so reviews. I know that I am coming to the game a little late. But, that is not going to stop me from adding my thoughts to the mix!

I will spare you a lengthy summary, because I'm sure that most of you have already heard of this book and pretty much know what it's about. Here's a little bit, in case you've been stuck on a spaceship for the past three months:

This book opens with a teen girl, Amy, standing in line for a cryogenic freezing. If all goes well, she won't wake up for three hundred years. 300. Years.

The one hundred people who have agreed to be frozen are meant to be settlers of a new planet. The spaceship Godspeed will take them to this planet, but it'll take a long, long time to get there. And once they land, there's no telling what they'll find.

Apparently, being frozen is not like being dead. (Not that I know what that's like...just guessin'.) It's more like a combination of being asleep with lots of dreams and thoughts and like being awake in bed with lots of energy, but not being able to open your eyes. But, when Amy does open her eyes, she realizes that the Godspeed has not landed and her parents are still frozen. Even worse, the person who "thawed" her might have been trying to kill her.

And that's where I'll stop my summary. There is so much more that I could go into, but I have a sneaking suspicion that you can find more info elsewhere if you're dying for a more complete summary. Plus, I kinda want to gush about how much I loved this book.

I've been looking forward to reading this book for a long, long time. I love the cover(s) (reversible) and the descriptions of the plot. I actually waited to read this book because I did not want to be disappointed with it. I wanted to temper my anticipation with some reviews by fellow bloggers. But, as the hype grew and grew, I had to give in and read it. And I'm completely ecstatic with the way that they book turned out.

For me, this book is taking the place of The Hunger Games series in the "next great dystopian series" category. I have long held up the characters and world of The Hunger Games as the best ever, but this new series has come out of the gate strong and is nosing up on that series. I am not a fair weather fan of Suzanne Collins's genius, but I do have to move on at some point and stop hoping for a fourth book. Now, I have another great series to get all fangirl-y about. And it feels good.

I loved the world of this book, the characters, the layers of the ship and the implications of the ideas that are presented in this book for the world that we currently live in. I love dystopias for this very reason; they make me think. I am sure that I will be thinking about our society and difference and change and leadership and power and all of it for some time to come.

Audio Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Like most of you, I've already read The Hunger Games series. Several times. In fact, I'm gearing up (with my new student teacher) to read it again--this time for an extremely excited group of juniors. To get ready, I often prepare myself to teach books I've already taught by listening to the audio version. And, is having a sale on this book (and others that are firsts in series--sale ends 2/8). It was meant to be. Kismet.

I do love this story, as evidenced by my choice to teach it for three years and to read the entire series. I've know of the audio version for some time, but never purchased it because I do not love the voice of the reader. Her name is Carolyn McCormick and I have nothing against her personally. I'm sure that her voice would be great for any number of characters, but it just doesn't fit for Katniss. Or Haymitch. Or Peeta. She's okay for Rue, though, which was surprising to me.

That said, once the narrative got going, I didn't notice anymore. So, I either got used to Ms. McCormick's reading style and voice or I just got so caught up in the story that my brain no longer cared. There is one particular part that I really enjoyed, and this was unexpected. It's something that I often have trouble with when I read to myself alone (or in front of my students). It's music.

I am not a great singer. I am horribly bad. People cringe. So, when there's music or a song in a book, I don't know how to perform that part without ruining the entire scene. When Katniss sings to Rue her mournful dirge, I read it like a poem to my students. Or I ask for a volunteer to sing. But it always takes away from the moment. In this audio version, Ms. McCormick does a very nice job of singing and keeping the tone of the scene. I thank her for this and actually wrote down the time in the reading so that I can play it for students. It's worth the $5 I paid for this recording!

Overall, I wouldn't urge you to rush out and buy this reading, but it is not bad. It's not even kinda bad. I loved listening to this story while doing laundry and dishes and cooking dinner. It was great to be immersed in this story once more. Can't get enough of the Girl on Fire!

Reader: Carolyn McCormick
Length: 11 hrs 10 minutes

**This audio book counts toward my participation in the 2011 Audio Book Challenge from Teresa's Reading Corner and Whisper Stories in My Ear Audio Book Challenge**

Blogiversary Winners Announced

It looks like I won't have school tomorrow due to a humongous snowstorm...Hopefully. Because rather than planning for teaching, I've been tallying blogiversary entries all night long. (Don't worry about the state of education in our schools--I'm sorta just kidding. I could teach tomorrow if I had to!)

Without further ado, here are the winnings and the winners of my most recent blogiversary giveaways:

2011 Debut Giveaway
Justine from A Bookful of Thoughts chose Wither

XVI Giveaway

Zombie Girrrl from Rating Reads won this book

Re-Gift Giveaway

Lynossa of Deranged Book Lovers chose Mockingjay

Thanks to all who entered and all of you who have stuck with me for this first year. I truly consider all you regulars and new followers to be an integral part of my life now. You inspire me to read great books and I always look forward to your feedback. Thanks for a great year! Cheers to many more!

And, stay tuned for two Valentine's Day Blog Hop-style giveaways this month. I'm pumped!