June 30, 2011

Guest Post: How to Write a Review by Paul K. of Launch Pad

A bit back I was contacted by a website named Launch Pad, so I checked it out.  I was very excited by what I found.  What I'm trying to do more of is getting my students to write for real audiences.  One way to do that is to have them write reviews for my blog.  Another way is finding places for them to publish there works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  Launch Pad is a place for all of that!  Their tag line is: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off.  I hope you check out Launch Pad and if you're a teacher for ages 6-14 use it as a place to send your students if they want to try being published.

Paul, my contact there who is an editor and publisher also offered to write a guest post about a topic that even I still need help with - writing reviews.  I plan on using it with my students - hope you learn something too!

How to Write a Book Review: Tips from an Editor and Publisher

As an editor and independent publisher, I am always looking for good book reviews written by children and teens from their own perspective. Book reviews are important, because they encourage other young people to read. Good book reviews tell potential readers about a book, without retelling the book. The best book reviews, in addition to addressing scope and literary elements, also offer opinions and insights about a book. Book reviews don’t always have to be favorable, but any opinion- favorable or not- should be supported by a reason. Book reviews can vary in length and style, and here are some tips and guidelines that will help you to write a useful review:

Read the book carefully so that you are able to give a thoughtful and thorough review. As you read, consider using sticky notes to keep track of topics to mention in the review.

The first sentence can “hook” the readers by mentioning the best qualities of the book, for example, “Anyone who likes action-packed adventures and fantasy should read this this book!”

Include a citation, with the author, title, and publisher, at the top or foot of the review. Other elements that are important include the illustrator, series title, if part of a series, date of publication, publisher, number of pages, and price.

The “scope” of the book describes the book without too much summary. To describe a book, include:
  • The genre (adventure, romance, horror, comedy, etc.)
  • A summary of only two to three sentences. Don’t give anything away that will ruin the enjoyment for readers. Adjectives evaluating the book are useful, i.e. “this exciting adventure tells the story of a twelve-year-old hero’s quest…”
  • A sentence or two describing the main character, and if appropriate, supporting characters. Did you empathize with the character? Why or why not?
  • The intended audience (young adult, boys, girls, people who like sports, etc.)
  • The point of view of this book
  • The message or theme of this book, for example, “the main character demonstrates by trying hard enough, anything is possible.”
The review describes your opinion about the book, and should answer some or all of these questions:
  • Why did you like the book?
  • To whom would you recommend the book, and why?
  • Is it well written? Give an example if you can.
  • What would have made the book better?
  • What did you learn about yourself or about the world from this book?
  • Did you change your mind about anything after reading this book? What?
In the last paragraph, or Conclusion, include:
  • What is your overall recommendation? For example, do you recommend this book highly, to only certain types of readers, with reservations, etc.?
  • If the book or its author have won any awards, they can be mentioned in the conclusion.
  • You can include a fact or two about the author in the conclusion.
Keep in mind that you may find it easier to write a review about a book that you really enjoyed. Our best book reviews go beyond the summary or events of the book and tell what the reader really thinks and feels about the book.
Launch Pad: Where Young Authors and Illustrators Take Off!
 
Publishes book reviews written by kids ages six through fourteen. Read our book reviews at
http://www.launchpadmag.com.

June 29, 2011

Interview: David Stahler Jr. Author of Spinning Out +GIVEAWAY

I'm very excited today to host a stop on tour for Spinning Out by David Stahler Jr.  I was  lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions!

A bit about the book:
High school senior Frenchy has little ambition beyond hanging out at the smoking rock until his best friend, the ever-witty and conniving Stewart, gets him to try out for Man of la Mancha. To everyone's surprise, the guys are a hit. But when Stewart's antics begin to grow more obsessive he wears his costume 24/7, freaks out about little details, and displays an incessant hatred of the high-tech windmills outside of town Frenchy worries that there's something deeper going on. Is Stewart spiraling into madness, just like Don Quixote? And can Frenchy battle through his own demons in time to save his friend from self-destruction before it's too late?
So today I welcome David Stahler Jr to The O.W.L.!

 
In Spinning Out- what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

I think I took my game to the next level in general on this book. Richness, texture is at the heart of good fiction—how many balls can you juggle in the air and still have it work? There’s a lot going on the novel, lots of different layers and story elements. This is not to say that there aren’t flaws, of course, but I think in general it all works pretty well. In terms of one single aspect I’m most proud of, I’d say it’s the narrative voice of Frenchy, particularly the dialogue.

It always amazes me how authors can keep all the story lines plotted out so well! All the different threads coming together.

Tell us about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!

I came up with the concept for the novel back in 2004, wrote the first draft in 2008-2009, and now it’s finally being released in 2011, so it’s had quite a journey. In terms of my process, I teach high school English, so it’s catch as catch can sometimes. The year I wrote the rough draft, I was only teaching in the morning, so I used the afternoons to write. The schedule makes for long days, but it allows me to provide a stable income for my family and still be able to publish. Last year was occupied with revisions. The novel went through extensive rewrites—several chapters were added, others were completely rewritten, and a few were just plain cut. I was very fortunate that the book ended up with Julie Romeis at Chronicle Books. She had a very clear sense of what I was trying to do with the story, shared my passion for it, and most of all was willing to really push me to get the most out of it. The growth that I experienced as a writer—despite having already published five novels—was mostly due to her diligence.

I teach too so it's awesome to see another teacher being published! I think my students would be amazed to know how long it can take for a novel to come together.  And to hear you cut entire chapters would just floor them!

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

Not specifically. The whole controversy over putting 300’ wind turbines on ridges where I live in northern Vermont was in full swing as I began to write the novel, and it seemed like a perfect fit with a story about a production of Man of La Mancha. And the story is set in my own stomping grounds, so there’s some inspiration there. The characters in Spinning Out, as well as my other Vermont novel A Gathering of Shades, aren’t based on particular people, but rather composites—a little bit of this person, a little bit of that person. I suppose every writer does this.

So the old saying "write what you know" didn't really apply here.  I wish my students would get that as well.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Publishers have their own design teams who are professionals and very good at what they do, so I generally trust their talent. For this book, my editor Julie Romeis was very good about keeping me in the loop, showing me proofs, soliciting feedback. The final cover—which is different from the ARC you probably read—is very striking. Bright red and silver with foil paper. Very cool looking. It features the wind turbines, which I was glad about. They’re very strange, alien looking things. I always loved the cover to the YA novel Godless with that foreboding, looming image of a water tower, and I always imagined something similar for this book with a wind tower, so it was neat to see them go in that direction.

I saw that the final copy had a different cover. I like them both for different reasons.

What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

I was precocious as a youth, so school was never hard, but as a result I didn’t develop the best study habits, which caught up with me later when I went to college. English was always my favorite subject. I wrote some as a kid, but not as much as a lot of kids do. I was mostly a reader. I always had a book tucked away in my desk or under my pillow. In fact, I wish I read as much now as I did when I was a kid. There are so many things competing for my energies these days—children, work, chores, music, the internet…I could go on and on—so ironically I rarely sit down to read a good old-fashioned novel. How embarrassing is that coming from a novelist?

Ok, not so sure I want students to hear that last part :)

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

One of my favorite authors in terms of fiction and influencing my own work is Ray Bradbury. It’s a strange case—he’s widely read and everyone knows who he is, yet I can’t help but feel that he’s underrated and overlooked as one of the great contemporary fiction writers. I love his prose style—artful yet unpretentious—and the fact that his work transcends genre. Much of it is traditional sci-fi, but a lot isn’t. He just tells a great story and manages to combine interesting ideas with very moving characters and situations. I also love Ursula LeGuin and Margaret Atwood. When I was growing up, I loved Tolkien. Beyond that, I didn’t have a favorite author per se—I just read whatever came my way.

We read Ray Bradbury every year in my classroom.  I try to impress upon the students how important he is, but I'm not so sure they believe me.  Maybe they'll believe you!

Thank you so much for joining us today!!!! It's always fun to hear what authors have to say.

Now for the giveaway
To enter for a copy of Spinning Away:
Must be US resident
Must be 13 at least
Must fill out the form (+1 for a thoughtful comment to the interview)
Ends July 6th midnight CST

FILL OUT THIS FORM!!

 

June 28, 2011

WoW (early) & tween Tues: Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to NOT Reading

Due to other scheduled posts, today I'm combining my WoW (hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine) and Tween Tuesday (hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen).


Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not ReadingI'm Waiting On:

An awesome sounding Tween Book!

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading
by Tommy Greenwald
Release: July 5th

Summary


Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.This is the hilarious story of an avid non-reader and the extreme lengths to which he’ll go to get out of reading a book.

Why I Like the Sound of It
Why wouldn't I be???? I'm a 7th grade English teacher that has to fight with kids to read.  I know tons of kids that could relate to this book!!! And maybe, just maybe I could get them to read it :)

June 27, 2011

Cover Crush: Everneath

I love book covers.  LOVE LOVE LOVE them!  Just yesterday I was in Barnes in Noble walking with my sister back to the little kids books so my 4 year old could look.  I of course took the path through the Teen section.  I had to stop and tap a book and show her the cover!  I truly do have cover crushes!

Today I'm crushing on:


Now I know this has been all over the web since Friday and normally I like to highlight a cover that others may have not seen, but this cover is just WOW!  What I really like is that if you just look at the top half you're just taken in by that dress (yes I want it!), and that gives you one idea about the book.  Then your eye pan down and you see this dark swirl of clouds like a bad storm brewing.  The (ok get ready for big word here) juxtaposition of the two is so cool!  The beauty of the dress is even more so against the darkness, and the darkness is even more so against that dress.  It's so beautiful and it makes me want to know what it's all about!!!

Thoughts?????

June 25, 2011

Take a Quick Poll on My Blog Design

I changed to a plain yellow background.  Thoughts?????

Hey all!! I've been toying with getting a new blog design.  The owls would stay OF COURSE, but I've had this one for almost two years, so I'm thinking of an update.  I kinda want to simplify it a little.  Sometimes I feel it's a bit much on the screen.
Could you help me out by taking the very quick poll on the right?

If you vote:

YUP: you think I should look into something completely new
NO!: You like the design just as it is!
KEEP MOST: you think I should keep most but maybe trim down some or just get like rating owls

Feel free to comment on this post if you have ideas or thoughts :)

Thanks!!!!!

June 22, 2011

Book/Magazine Review and GIVEAWAY: Discovery Girls

Today I have something a bit different.  Instead of reviewing a book, I'm reviewing a magazine.  That magazine would be Discovery Girls.  The publishers of Discovery Girls asked if I would be interested in reviewing the magazine and hosting a giveaway.  At first I was hesitant, but then I realized that my goal is to get kids reading.  And if I can get them reading a magazine that's awesome!!!! So I said yes.  A bit later I got some copies of issues to look at.  I realized that I knew this magazine from our school library, but I had never really looked at it before.  I wish I had!


What is Discovery Girls?
Discovery Girls, an award-winning magazine aimed at tween girls, has produced four books packed with real-world practical advice. The books deliver their best strategies so girls can successfully deal with friendship troubles, embarrassing moments, life's toughest problems (like death and divorce), body issues, crushes on buys, school pressures and more. The set includes: Friendship Hardships - Making friends who respect and understand you. Sticky Situations - How to bounce back from almost anything. Getting Through Tough Times - Handling life's toughest challenges. Getting Your Questions Answered - Advice on family, friendships, boys and more. All of the books reinforce the power of girls to overcome disappointment, develop postive images about themselves, seek the right kind of help, talk to their parents and learn how to grow from failures.

What I Thought:

Discovery Girls is a great magazine for the tween set because it shows REAL girls.  Even the covers are read girls of all shapes and sizes.  I love that!  I'm not saying other magazines are bad, but it's frustrating to have all these teen magazine staring at you covered with "perfect" actresses, singers etc.  I have a daughter, and I've worried about her comparing herself to those images.  What a great relief to see a magazine that shows what real girls look like, and they really do look like real girls.  I teach in a middle school with almost 900 students grades 5-8.  I know what girls this age look like!  This cover is a mirror to what a typical girl would see around them.  Love it!

Ok, so that's the cover, but we all know we can't judge a book by it's cover.  Upon looking through the pages I learned that what you see on the cover is just what you'll see inside.  Real girls, real issues, real problems.  Loved that too! In the issues I saw there were pieces about zits, baking cupcakes, lying to parents, envy and cell phones in schools.  My favorite though was a whole piece from older girls telling what they wish they had known when they were younger.  They were all things I would tell my daughter, but because they came from mom she didn't want to hear them!  Maybe she'll listen to older girls. 

I wish I had know about this magazine when my daughter was younger.  She's 12 now, and pretty much on the upper end of the target audience.  Although I will say she nabbed my copies and pretty much read them cover to cover :)

Now to go with the magazine, they also sent me a book titled Fab Girls Guide to Getting Through Tough Times.  This book presented a bunch of tough situations a young girl might find herself in, and advice on how to deal with it.  Some topics included: cyber bullying, admitting being wrong, being "left" by friends, being part of different culture, parent losing a job and many more.  The advice was very sound and well done.  I could see a young girl turning to this book to get some advice when she's a bit to scared to ask a parent.  Very well done.

For the Guys?  Nope.  It's Discovery Girls :)

Final thought:  A great way to get girls reading and not putting unrealistic expectations in front of them
Best for readers:  Who aren't readers and are intimidated by books
Best for ages: 8-11

Now for the giveaway

Discovery Girls is giving away two copies of their 10 Year Collector's Edition.  They sent me a copy and it's great!

To enter:

Must be a US Resident
Must be at least 13 or is younger supply a parent email
Must fill out the form
Ends June 30

Waiting on Wed: The Jewel and The Key

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared.

I'm Waiting On:

The Jewel and the Key
by Louise Spiegler

Summary

An earthquake and the discovery of a mysterious antique mirror unleash forces that jolt sixteen-year-old Addie McNeal back to 1917 Seattle, just as the United States is entering World War I. Addie finds herself shuttling back and forth between past and present, drawn in both times to the grand Jewel Theater. In both decades the existence of the Jewel is threatened and war is looming . . . and someone she cares about is determined to fight.

Eventually, Addie realizes that only she has the key to saving the Jewel—and the lives of her friends. But will she figure out how to manipulate the intricately woven threads of time and truly set things right?

Why I'm Waiting
More time travel! It's exciting to see how time travel in YA is just taking off.  I also like that it's set in WWI which is a part of history not always used.  We usually see WWII instead.  Lastly I like that it doesn't seem to be romance focused.  Those three aspects push it to the top of my "want" pile!

June 21, 2011

Tween Tuesday: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland +GIVEAWAY!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen.  In it we celebrate, review and share books perfect for the tween set. 

Today I'd like to share a bit about the book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. (wow that's a long title!)  This book look just adorable and perfect for tween readers. 

Here's a bit about it:
"Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn?t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful."
Now check out the trailer!



I've heard some good things!

Some other links for the book:

Macmillan page for the book & author:
http://us.macmillan.com/thegirlwhocircumnavigatedfairylandinashipofherownmaking

Author's website & blog:
http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/
http://blog.catherynnemvalente.com/


Now for the giveaway.
To enter:
Must be a US or Canadian resident
Must be 13
Must fill out the form
Ends June 28th


June 20, 2011

Cover Crush: Juliet Immortal

I love book covers.  Love love love them! I'll often show and reshow my favorite to the people around me.  My students get very use to it!  And yes, it is a cover crush!

Today I'm crushing on:


by Stacey Jay

Why??

The bright red of the dress is such a contrast to the rest of the scene that I'm just drawn to it.  The sea is restless, so it's clear that the girl isn't at peace.  And to top that you just get such a complete sense of sadness from the picture.  I just want to know what would make her so sad!

Love it!



June 17, 2011

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth

Summary

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

My Review

I'm not completely sure how to even start this review.  My fear is that this review will just fall into gushing and nothing else!  To put it in the simple form: I LOVED this book.  It has been the first book in a long time that I didn't want to put down - where I was pulled completely into the story.  I tore through it having to force myself to put it away to sleep!  That hasn't happened with a book in a very long time. 

Why did I love it? First of all I really liked Tris/Beatrice.  She was smart, strong, brave, funny (just because of how she thought about things), loyal.  And she was so clueless about things that it made her a complete under-dog.  I love cheering for the under-dog, and she was definitely one I could cheer for.  What really helped with this was the thoughts that Veronica Roth let us hear inside Tris.  They way she tried to work through things - her almost complete inability to admit defeat, her willingness to step in and fight for others, her willingness to question who is she and why she is.  I loved it all.  Roth made Tris thoughts so clear and such an important part of the story that I felt I truly knew Tris by the end.  She became utterly real.  And can I let you in on a secret?  I like her better than Katniss <insert gasp here>.  I just did. 

As for the plot - the main focus of this book is really Tris trying to make it through initiation.  Can she do this?  Does she have it in her?  How does she deal with others making fun of her or wanting her gone. This made the plot much more character driven, but that doesn't mean dull!  There is action.  Fights between the initiates, daring acts - things like that.  They definitely add a thrill and tension to the story, but the real conflict is the one inside Tris.  It just happens to be played out in a very physical way.  There is the whole tension you see brewing between the fractions, and it's very clear that this will play a huge role in the next book, but this book seems to be setting that up more than anything.  Towards the end of the book, the conflict does switch to outside of Tris, and you really see the set up for further books.

Ok I have to talk about Four, the trainer working with Tris.  He's fantastic.  And the relationship between him and Tris is great.  For once it wasn't forced or instant!  I won't say much more at the risk of giving all things away, but I really did like this part of the story.  I also liked Four's back story.  It definitely added to his depth and sets up some later events in this book and I'm sure later books. 

I do want to comment about the world they now life in.  The idea of dividing people into fractions that focus on one part of our personalities, or really what makes us human, is a very unique idea.  In the book you can see how this isn't the best idea - that it's very hard to take all our natural tendencies and only let one through.  They way I saw it, each aspect of the different fractions should work together in one person.  Even from the start of the book, it's hinted at that this system is beginning to fall apart around them.  That was once set up on strong ideals have morphed over time into warped beliefs.  At one point Tris reads a part of her fractions manifesto and it talks about courage being brave in everyday acts.  I really think this idea is at the heart of the book - what is courage.  I'm curious to see how it plays out in the rest of the series.

Ok <GUSH ALEART> I love this book.  It was thrilling, sweet, strong, daring, funny, scary and nonstop.  It is the first book in forever that still has me thinking about it after finishing it.  I remember all the character names (ok I'm really bad at that usually), I feel connected to Tris and Four.  I want to know  NEED TO KNOW what is going to happen to them, to the world they live in, to some of the more minor characters that I even grew to care about.  I want to go back into Veronica Roth's world and feel Tris's strength and courage.  Four told her she's so awake when she's being brave.  I could feel that come through the pages, and I want to read more of it!

For the Guys? YES!!!!!!! Like Hunger Games it should appeal to the boys just as much.

Final thought:  Um, I loved it! :)
Best stick-with-you image:  Train jumping
Best for readers who: Like dystopia, strong female characters and cheering for the under-dog
Best for ages: 12+

June 16, 2011

Book Review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Title: Hereafter
Author: Tara Hudson
Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary
Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live.
Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.
My Thoughts

I don't normally do this, but I have to start this by commenting on the cover.  WOW! I remember the first time I saw it.  I loved it then, and I love it now.  It's just so pretty, but yet there is this starkness about it - an almost sadness. Now that I know the story - I see how this cover fits it.

This story starts out with Amelia who is lost.  She had died, but she doesn't remember anything about how or why.  She just drifts through her afterlife.  I was struck by how sad this would be.  To be left literally adrift alone and lost.  I've read a lot of books about people who have died and ended up in some sort of afterlife, but this is the first time they've been left in almost a mystery.  I really felt for Amelia during this.  I mean, there's the pain of missing someone, but how hard would it be to not even know who you should be missing!

Then along comes Joshua.  He can see her, and things begin to change.  She is less adrift and actually more alive.  But of course this brings it's one set of complications.  The relationship between Joshua and Amelia was sweet.  I did have to let go that the "immediate attraction" issue again.  I wasn't as frustrated by it this time.  I think that had to do with the situation Amelia was in - so alone until Josh, so I could buy the attraction easier.  And maybe it had to do with her being a ghost!  I don't for sure, but I could buy it a bit better than in other stories I've read.

About the plot - it's pretty slow moving.  At times it dragged.  This is a 400 page book, so it covers a lot.  Sometimes I think it could've skipped a bit, but it wasn't enough to drag the entire book down.  The mystery of Amelia's past did keep me intrigued.  I wanted to know too what had happened to her and why was she where she was now.  That mystery was nice since it didn't make it entirely a romance book.  Maybe that's why the quick attraction didn't bother me so much!  Anyway - the unanswered questions kept me reading.

In the end I enjoyed the story.  I didn't LOVE it, but it did hold my attention and it had enough uniqueness to make it stand out. 

For the Guys? Nope. Yes yes some boys would like it, but most of my boys would not be interested.

Final thought:  Not what I expected.
Best stick-with-you image:  Can't say or I'll give something away
Best for readers who:  Like a ghost story with romance and mystery
Best for ages: 12+

June 15, 2011

Book Review: Something Deadly This Way Comes by Kim Harrison

Title: Something Deadly Comes This Way (Madison Avery #3)
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper

Summary
I'm Madison Avery, in charge of heaven's hit squad . . . and fighting it all the way.
When Madison died the night of her prom, she knew her life would never be the same. Now she has a powerful amulet, a team of rogue angels by her side, and the ability to flash forward into the future to see the shape of destiny. And of course, now she's finally with Josh—a perfect boyfriend who doesn't even mind that she's dead.
But being dead has its disadvantages, too. Madison feels caught between the light and the dark, and between her real life and her timekeeper status. When Madison has the opportunity to get her body back—to be alive again—she faces her most difficult decision yet. If she claims it, she could return to being a normal girl—and have a chance at a real relationship with Josh. But would having the one thing she wants most in the world also mean giving up everything she's worked so hard for?
My Review (could contain spoilers)

I liked this book.  I liked that it was filled with hope - the hope that people can change if we give them the chance.

For those that haven't read this series you need to know that Madison is trying to change the way heaven has done thing for thousands of years! Not an easy feat.  She has succeeded in her plan once, but no one believes it really possible.  She is definitely fighting an up hill batter.  But one worth fighting for.  Heaven is all about saving souls at all cost.  Madison sees a new way to save them, but it involves some risk too.  Thankfully she has some of heaven on her side - Barnabas and Nakita who use to fight each other are now fighting with Madison.

Ok about Madison - I liked her.  How can you not like a girl that wants to save your soul without killing you! She's had a lot shoved upon her, but instead of giving up and just doing what the seraphs want she stands up to them and fights.  I loved that about her.  She carried such hope within herself that I think others could latch into it and go with it. 

Barnabus and Nakita were great as usual.  We get to learn a lot more about Barnabus this time around, and that really does add depth to him.  At least you know more why he does what he does.  And Nakita - she was a lot of fun this time around.  She was also growing and learning more about herself and her cause.  Her whole discussion of having a soul was pretty interesting.  It was also interesting to watch her become almost more human - something from the first book I'd never thought possible.

The plot of the story was pretty simple - save the girl and change her life.  At first I thought the girl they were trying to save, Tammy, couldn't be the only focus but it was.  Of course there are thing mixed in, but her life is what Madison's success or failure hinges on.  The fight for Tammy's life moved the plot along not in action but in thought.  The events that happen in trying to help her present all the questions that Madison needs to answer and all the people she needs to unite.  The plot is much less action based and much more problem based.  Madison, Nakita and Barnabas are hit with problem after problem and how they solve them will either change the ways things have been done or solidify they even more.  That tension was very clear!

One problem - once again I had to remind myself over and over the difference between a dark reaper and a light reaper.  I think I finally got it in the end but I did struggle!!  I think the problem was that I always thought that titles should be reversed.

For the Guys? Maybe.  Not much romance.  If I guy could get into the idea of how is it best to save a soul.

Final thought:  I enjoyed the book.
Best stick-with-you image:  The black wings with Tammy in the hospital
Best for readers who: Don't need constant action
Best for ages: 13+

CymLowell

June 13, 2011

Book Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

Title: Die For Me
Author: Amy Plum
Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary
My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.
Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.


Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.


While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family's—in jeopardy for a chance at love?
My Review

Ok let me start by saying that I didn't dislike this book.  That said - I didn't love it.  I wanted to - I really really wanted to.

Why didn't I love it?  I just felt like I had read the story before.  I DON'T like comparing books to Twilight, but I couldn't help it with this book because there were actual scenes and details that reminded me so much of Twilight.  From the "family" that Vincent lives with to the fact he doesn't sleep to when he was born.  It just felt like I had read it before.  Not that the writing was bad - I didn't find that at all.  The story flowed.  The dialogue was fine - not clunky or anything - it wasn't that at all.  It just didn't seem overly original.

The romance?  I had a hard time buying into it.  Vincent and Kate saw each other once, and they were completely "drawn" to each other.  Yes yes this happens a lot in books and usually I can over look it, but this time it seemed even more to come out of nowhere.  This made it real hard for me to feel attached to. 

What did I like?  I loved the setting.  That part was very unique because not many YA books are set in Paris.  I really did like that.  It was neat to see how that played into the story.  I also liked the character of Charlotte.  She seemed the most realistic of all the characters (kind of like Alice in Twilight my fav character LOL! Sorry to keep comparing!!!!).  I also liked the realism in how Kate is responding to the death of her parents.  My heart went out to her in that regard over and over.  I think the author hit her reaction right in that regard.

Who do I think will like it?  My 7th grade girls will LOVE it.  And after all aren't they more the target audience??  Actually I had a couple of girls pick it up before school got out and they really liked it. 

Again, I didn't hate this book.  I think I just had higher hopes for it that weren't reached.  If you love romance books with some action you will love it.

For the Guys?  Nope.  Even with the touch of action they'll still find it to romancey.

Final thought:  Not for me but others will love it.
Best stick-with-you image:  Paris lit up
Best for readers: Who love paranormal romance
Best for ages: 12+

June 12, 2011

Book Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre


Title: Enclave
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends

Summary


In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups–Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear—to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

My Review

This book started out with a ton of action - within the first few pages there is blood and branding! I was cringing.  And for the most part that pace keeps up throughout the rest of the book.  From fighting the freaks, to fighting other dangers Fade and Deuce battle and battle.  I started to feel physically tired for them!  I mean within a few days the whole world Deuce has ever known what turned completely upside down, and she is on the run.

Deuce was raised to follow the rules of the enclave (her underground tribe) - to never question them.  She fully believes that the rules are there to help them survivor and live even if it's a meager existence.  She proudly becomes a Huntress, so she can protect those rules and the people in her enclave.  And I guess if I grew up where she did I would feel the same.  They know nothing else - except Fade.  Fade didn't grow up in the Enclave, but he now lives there as a Hunter.  Deuce's unease around Fade is completely understandable knowing what she believes and how he is an "outsider".  As the reader I found it interesting to see how and why this feeling begins to change.  I get very frustrated when a character seems to make these huge leaps and changes in beliefs based on nothing.  Enclave doesn't do that.  You can see and understand Deuce's rationale.  It seems logical and grounded.

The pace of the plot maintains pretty good throughout the story - even as more characters come in.  What helps is the ever constant presencee of the Freaks.  Freaks are a zombie-like creatures, but they don't infect others. There is never the fear of being bit like in zombie books.  The Freaks keep the tension high because you never know if they are going to show up, how many there will be and whether they will be smarter Freaks.  At times when Fade and Deuce should feel safe they quickly learn they aren't.  Very seldom could they completely rest - and as the reader I felt like I couldn't either.  And when the Freaks arrive so does the fear, blood and action. As other fears come and go throughout the book, the fear of the Freaks remains right up until the end. 

A couple of complaints about the book - I know that in most dystopic stories how far into the feature the story is set is kept pretty vague, and they usually doesn't bother me.  But in this book the number of years into the future confused me.  Sometimes it felt like generations, but other times it seemed like it hadn't been that long.  At points this confused me, and I found myself trying to figure that out instead of following the story.  Not a huge problem but not one I encounter much when reading dystopia.

The other was the ending.  It just kind of ended with tons of stuff hanging out there.  Now I know there is going to be another, but it still ended pretty abruptly to me.  I have a ton of questions that I felt could've been answered and still left enough uncertainty open for the next book.  It a way this book felt like just a set up for the rest of the series.

Guy Rating:  Four Thumbs up!  Yes there is a bit of romance, but I honestly think a guy could "ignore" that in favor of the blood, fighting gore and action :)

Final thought:  Lots of action and freaky Freaks
Best stick-with-you image: The smell of the Freaks
Best for readers who: Can handle tension and blood
Best for ages: 13+


CymLowell

Winner of EVERLASTING!


The winner of EVERLASTING is:

Brooke S.
email starting with ajd.....

Please get your address, so I can pass it on to the publisher! (themgowl at gmail dot com)

June 10, 2011

Friday's For the Guys


Friday's For the Guys!   
Everything Friday I highlight books and authors that are ones boys might really enjoy. I'm not saying girls wouldn't read these books, but they are clearly "guy" books.

This Friday I'm highlighting:

THE CALL FOR HELP!!!! No that's not the title for a book :)

I follow a ton of blogs and they all rock.  But what do I see missing?  Posts about books that boy readers might enjoy.  I teach 7th graders, and I have no problems finding books for my girl readers, but when it comes to boys - it can be a struggle at times. 
I know, I know I've posted about this before but I need more help!!!!! Boy readers need help!!!

So today I'm committing to making a stronger focus on boy books regardless of whether my blog readers leave replies to these post, whether it's something that will get me more readers or if only a small part of my followers will find it useful. I'm doing it because just maybe it will help some of my blog readers, boy readers and my students.
I hope that doesn't sound bad, but I need to do this! :)

I'm looking for help promoting boy's books.  How you ask? 
  • Do a post about boy's books for MG or YA (most YA!!!) readers
  • Be an author or publisher and that would like to do a guest post, giveaway etc for a boy's book.
  • Offer to do a guest review or post about boy's books.
  • Link your boy posts under my weekly Friday's For the Guys
Either EMAIL me (themgowl at gmail dot com) or fill out the form if interested.

Thanks in advance!!!

June 9, 2011

Book Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Title: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont USA

Summary

One hour to rewrite the past . . .  For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back. 
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. 
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?
My Review
I havent' read a book in a loooooong that hooked me this much.  I found myself doing what I do when I'm really liking the book.  I kept setting it down and repicking it up.  Now that may sound like I don't like it, but really it means I love it.  I do that (I believe) because I want the story to last, and if I kept reading I'd tear through it and be done with it's goodness way too soon!

Why did I enjoy it so much?  It kept me so intrigued.  What was really happening with Emerson? Who was Michael and could I trust him?  What was Hourglass and could it be trusted?? And then as the story went on - I was completely kept on my toes from understanding what Emerson really could do to how would it all turn out!  And even though I had the "paranormal" part it was done in a way that was new and refreshing.  It didn't seem like the same old story just told with new characters.

About those characters: Emerson was great.  Wow did that girl have a lot to deal with! And she keeps thinking she hasn't or that she's crazy.  What she doesn't realize is she's amazingly strong having dealt with everything and still be there kicking and fighting.  Even though she built up a huge wall around herself, she's still caring enough to step up and do what she knows needs to be done in order to help people she's never met.  Over and over her strength screamed through, but in such a realistic way because mixed within that strength was fear and sadness and loneliness.  Without the full package she would not have been as likable.

Michael was great too, but I will admit that he was a bit more one dimensional.  I liked him, but we were kept in the dark more with him, so I found it harder to connect to him.  He was so focused on wanting to do the right thing for the right reasons that sometimes I wanted to kick him and say lighten up!  I will say that by the end of the story he had fleshed out a ton more for me as he let go allowing himself to seem more human.

As for the plot:  Be prepared for tons and tons of twists and turns!  It's one of those books that you never know how much you can trust.  I love that! And I love how all the pieces came together.  The plot and explanation could have easily fallen apart because there were so many pieces - complicated pieces!, but Myra McEntire did a fantastic job bringing the thread together.  I don't want to say much more about the plot for fear of giving anything away.  There are so many tiny things that bring a-ha moments, and I'm afraid I'll ruin some for future readers!  Just be prepared to have what you think turned around on you!

Side note on a favorite minor character:  I loved Kaleb! Loved him! Him personality just jumped off the page and walked around the room.  And trust me he'd be happy to hear that.  I do hope to see more of him in future books.

*********************************
Ok after rereading my review I don't think I was clear enough.  I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK! It has kept me thinking about the plot and the characters after I've finished.  That speaks volumes for me.  I want to know more - I want to go back into the world of the book.  I want to see what happens in the relationship between Emerson and Michael.  I want to see more how Myra McEntire skillfully pulls together a technically difficult plot.  Ok that's says it better :)

Final thought: A great "time" that was a refreshing and an on-your-toes read
Best stick-with-you image:  The description of Kabel
Best for readers who:  Are looking for something new
Best for ages: 13+

Be sure to check out my author interview with Myra McEntire.

Author Interview: Myra McEntire Author of Hourglass

Today I'm so very excited to welcome Myra McEntire to The O.W.L.  Myra is the author the soo-to-be released Hourglass.  I just finished up Hourglass and will be posting my review later today (pssst - I haven't been that hooked by a book in long time!)

With that Welcome Myra and thanks for hanging out at
The O.W.L.!

For your most current book - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

A sci-fi aspect that I’m actually in the process of fleshing out. This book isn’t set in the HOURGLASS world, and it’s darker in an off-balance kind of way. Maybe Tim Burton-esque. I have no idea what I’m doing/where it’s going, which means I have the freedom to write whatever I want! Fun!
Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can! It took me almost two years of writing from idea to between the pages (realize the book has been finished since last October.) Being willing to revise is the very best thing a writer can do. My editor told me that writers who are willing to revise are the writers who have long careers. That’s what I want!

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

The character of Dru is based on two of my girlfriends. They both do stylist work for a lot of musical artists (I live in Nashville) and one is a makeup artist, the other a hairstylist. That author photo? They did that. Most of the time I forget to brush my hair.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

I had NO say at all! And I’m so glad! I would have never come up with something as gorgeous as what I have. I will tell you that the photographer is seventeen years old, and she took the picture that’s on the cover OF HERSELF. That’s some inspiration, right there!

What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

When my mind was engaged I was a great student. For me the best kind of learning happened not in one class, but when my classes were connected. That worked better in college than any other time. Say for example you’r

e studying Abraham Lincoln in history, and your English class is reading ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. (Yes, that’s really a book. Crazy, right?)

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I admire J.K. Rowling, for the conventional reasons, but also for some personal ones. Once you finish your book and get it out in the world to promote, writing is no longer a solitary process. It’s not really your book anymore; it belongs to the world. I admire the way J.K. has managed to keep herself apart and keep writing. You have to be in a certain frame of mind to really dig deep into your story, and sometimes that means you have to be really, really alone.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

And thank you Myra!  I can't believe the cover picture was taken by a 17 year old! That makes me like it even more.  Side note about the cover - it took me FOREVER to realize she was walking on the wall!  I just thought the hardwood floor was a door.  Once I figured that out the cover was even cooler for me!

Make sure to check out Myra's Website to learn more about her and Hourglass.

June 8, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Passion

This is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. In this post I talk about books yet to be released that I'm excited about OR already published book's I've seen that I'm really wanting to read. I also like to try and find books other bloggers aren't sharing so that more books are shared.
I'm Waiting On:

Passion (Fallen #3)
by Lauren Kate
Release Date: June 15

I'm just excited to finish out this series.  Ok, ok so I haven't read Torment yet (summer reading list), but I really did enjoy Fallen, so I want to know more.

Book Summary
"Every single lifetime, I'll choose you. Just as you have chosen me. Forever." 
Luce would die for Daniel. And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . . . 
Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last. 
Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history. 
Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever. 

June 7, 2011

Tween Tuesday: Tween Books on My Summer Reading List

I Sunday posted a pic of my summer reading list, but today for Tween Tuesday I thought I'd share what tween (or MG) books I'm planning on reading.  

They are:

Reckless by Cornelia Funke
The Rivalry by John Feinstein
Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkey
Tomorrow Girls by Eva Gray
Both Sides of Time by Caroline B. Cooney

I'm mostly excited for Both Sides of Time. I read this a looooooong time ago and really enjoyed the time travel aspect of it. I want to read it again to see if it holds up.  It also has several books after it that I plan to reread if the first book goes good!

Tween Tuesday was started by the Green Bean Teen Queen!

June 6, 2011

Book Trailer and GIVEAWAY for Ruby Red!

I'm very excited to be able to share with you the book trailer for Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red  AND offer a giveaway for the book.

First a bit about the book:
Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Check out the trailer
'
Now for the GIVEAWAY

Requirements
Must be a resident of the US or Canada
Must be 13
Must fill out the form
Ends Jnne14th



Cover Crush: Prized (Birthmarked #2)

I love book covers.  I really really do.  Even my students know how much I love them.  I'll share a new book and go on and on about the cover.  Or I'll search out a few students in the morning to show it to them.  They laugh at me but they get it.  They also get that a "bad" cover is - well just bad! I truly do get a crush on certain covers.

Currently I'm crushing on:


Prized (Birthmarked #2) by Caragh M. O'Brien
Coming out November 2011

I'm not completely sure what it is about this cover that I love, but I do really love it!  I think it's a combination of the colors and the swirls - and the way the title swirls in with all the other artwork.  I'm just very drawn to it.  It seems like if I saw it in person there would be little pieces that would be found each time I looked at it.  
Interestingly I haven't read Birthmarked yet, but it is on my summer reading list!!

What do you think of it???



June 5, 2011

Summer Reading List Starting Line and Two Read-a-Thons I'm Joining!

Ok tomorrow summer vacation officially starts for me.  I've compiled my summer reading list.  It has a grand total of 37 books on it NOT counting the ones on my Nook.  This is a big leap forward considering last summer I only read 25.  Last summer tho, I feel I slacked in the reading department, so I think I should be able to do this! Below is a pic of my summer reads.




To help with this I have decided to participate in two read-a-thons.  

They are:


 Spring Into Summer Read-a-thon hosted by Squeaky Books.  This will be held June 17-18.  Check out the details HERE.


Once Upon a Read-a-Thon hosted by Pure Imagination.  This one is July 11-13th.  Check out the details HERE.

Wish me luck and good luck to everyone else with their summer reading lists!!

June 4, 2011

Book Trailer and Giveaway of EVERLASTING by Alyson Noel

I'm very excited to share the book trailer and host a giveaway for Everlasting, the last in The Immortals series by Alyson Noel!

Here's just a bit about the final book as well as the trailer.

The sixth and final installment of the epic love story that has enchanted readers across the world. Ever and Damen have spent centuries facing down bitter rivals, jealous friends and their own worst fears—all in the hope of being together forever. Now in Everlasting, their destiny is finally within reach.
Will they be united—or torn apart forever? Readers will finally discover the truth in this anxiously awaited conclusion!


Alyson Noel's Immortals Website:
http://www.alysonnoel.com/immortals/
Macmillan Publishing's Alyson Noel site:
http://us.macmillan.com/author/alysonnoel

Giveaway Requirements
Must be a US or Canadian resident
Must be 13
Fill out the form
Ends June 11th at midnight CST