February 28, 2012

Book Review: May B by Caroline Starr Rose

Title: May B
Author: Caroline Starr Rose
Published: January 2012

I've known it since last night:It's been too long to expect them to return. Something's happened.
May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again. Caroline Starr Rose's fast-paced novel, written in beautiful and riveting verse, gives readers a strong new heroine to love.

My Thoughts

You know how once in a while you read a book that really touches your heart?  May B did that.  In its seemingly simpleness (notice I said “seemingly” – more on that in a moment) May B reached out and wrapped itself –herself – around my heart.  As a girl that grew up loving Little House on the Prairie – reading and rereading them countless times, reading May B was almost like getting together with an old friend.  Not so much the writing style but more the character of May and how much she reminded me of the character of Laura.  Both stubborn and tough.  Smart and resourceful.  I honestly believe they could’ve been friends had they ever met.  The number of times I reread about Laura put her firmly in my heart, but May – she was put there in one reading.  Her courage and determination nestled its way in without taking no for an answer! Not that I would’ve said no to her mind you.  Here was a young girl left alone with no way of knowing when anyone would ever return.  Yet she never panicked and never gave up.  She just let her natural stubbornness come in and help! I just loved her.  I guess you should know that my family has always said that I’m extremely stubborn.  Maybe that’s why I loved May so – because I saw some of me in her.  Although I do not thing I would’ve been as brave as her. 

Now about that “seemingly” part.  Caroline Rose Starr put May so firmly in my heart using verse.  Yes if you didn’t know May B is a novel told in verse.  So she didn’t use long descriptive passages or lots of inter-musings of May’s.  Instead Caroline Rose Starr painted her in the purest of lines and in the fewest of words.  It seemed effortless.  It seemed simple. But I know that when working within verse every word was placed so precisely with complete care and thought.  And I knew this to be true because it never once faltered or stuttered.  Instead it flowed out and into the reader grasping them with its charm and May’s quiet determination.  What an amazing book. 

I guess I could say more – but I feel like spewing word after word about it would almost take away from the simple beauty of it.  Instead I encourage you to read it and see for yourself.

Final thought: Simplicity at its best
Best stick with you image: the vastness of the land around her
Best for readers who: are willing to read verse and who love strong girl characters
Best for ages: 11+

For the guys? yes if you can get them to read verse

February 27, 2012

Cover Crush: Tiger Lily

I love book covers.  Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me.  I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

Jodi Lynn Anderson

Wow! Just wow! I love love love love love this cover.  The color is completely different from anything else I've seen lately.  Yes it's got that "big dress" look, but at the same time you see the actual flower.  Then to top it off I love the hand written font for the title.  Just perfection.

February 24, 2012

Book Review: Variant by Robison Wells

On Fridays I like step back and make sure that I am addressing boy readers.  It's so easy to review and highlight books for girls, but I also teach boys, so I need to make sure to find books for them!

Today I have a book review.

Title: Variant
Author: Robison Wells
Published: 10/4/2011
Book Obtained: Purchased
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive. 
Where breaking the rules equals death. 
But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

My Thoughts

I went into this book with high hopes because the premise sounded so promising.  I’m happy to report it didn’t disappoint.  There were a few weaknesses, but over-all I really liked this book. 

Plot:  the action starts pretty much right away from the time Benson walks into the school.  There was definitely no lag time there.  For readers who need something fast paced this book is perfect for them! Not only does the action start, but the tension is there right away too, because you see right away how the kids are in groups with an uneasy alliance.  It’s clear that they’ve worked through things, but it feels like it could all fall apart pretty quickly.  From that start the tension and mystery continues to build.  Benson can’t help himself from snooping around and questioning things he should leave alone.  What I liked what that he found answers, but those answers also brought more questions and an increasing uneasiness.  So many times I wanted to tell him to stop and leave it alone! But of course I also wanted to know what was happening. Who was keeping them there? Why? How long had it been happening?  I was kept guessing and wondering right up to the very end.

Characters: I liked Benson, but sometimes his actions seemed a little out of the blue.  Although I liked how quick the tension started and how much Benson pushed to know the truth it sometimes felt a little too quick.  He immediately wanted out without hardly knowing anything.  I guess a bit more of a settle-in period would’ve made his determination seem less forced.  The cast of other characters were good.  I could picture the different groups – how they dressed and acted – each was distinct which was good.  With as many different characters as there were it could’ve gotten confusing.  What I also liked was the strong girl characters.  It was a great balance between the boys and them.

Final Thought:  Lots of tension, clues and questions.
Best stick-with-you image:  Benson with Jane outside at the dance. Can’t say any more than that!
Best for readers who: Liked books like The Maze Runner
Best for Ages: 11+

For the Guys? Ab. So. Lutely! 

February 23, 2012

Book Review: Pretty Crooked

Title:  Pretty Crooked
Author:  Elisa Ludwig
Published:  March 13, 2012
Copy Obtained:  NetGalley

Willa's secret plan seems all too simple. 
Take from the rich kids at valley prep and give to the poor ones. 
Yet Willa's turn as Robin Hood at her new high school is anything but. Bilking her "friends"—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to break into lockers and Beemers is as hard as she'd thought it would be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are bullied just for being different, is more fun than she'd expected. 
The complication Willa didn't expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, VP's most notorious ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her—evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There's no time for flirting, especially with conceited trust-funders like Aidan. But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

My Thoughts
When I picked this book up to read I thought it sounded fun, light and interesting.  It was all three.
The book starts with Willa starting at a new private school after her mother sells some art work.  Willa and her mom haven’t lived one place very long, so Willa has learned to be very independent and self assured – at least it seemed that way at first. I loved how she had this really cool bike she rode and wasn’t into name brands.  Really made her a unique character.  The sad part – not barely a day into her new school and she flips completely.  She becomes very into dressing a certain way and following the crowd.  I’ll admit that disappointed me!  She listens to these girls say really mean things, but instead of speaking up she lets it go.  Now I get that for the first time in her life she feels part of “in” group, and she likes that, but I was hoping for more after how she seemed at first.  Now once she decides to do something the plot’s tension deepens.  Watching her steal things made me nervous!  And about that stealing – I got her rationale for it I really did, but it did kinda bother me.  It was suppose to be a light hearted story and it was but the stealing did bother me some! It also bothered me that she did it to buy these girls “nice” clothes so they could feel “special” like she did when she got them.  I didn’t like that logic especially because if she had paid attention she would’ve seen that these girls she was trying to help were actually pretty strong and self confident!
Now if that wasn’t enough for Willa she also has the issue of this cute boy Aidan and his mystery.  AND her mother acting weird!  Lots and lots going on with this girl.  In the end some things were wrapped up, but HUGE questions still remain.  If you don’t like cliff hangers – stay clear because this one has a dozy!
Now I did like it – it was fun and Willa was a great character.  I just had a few issues and maybe I just shouldn’t have taken it so seriously!
Final Thought: A fun twist on Robin Hood.
Best-stick-with you image: The first time she steals something.
Best for readers who: Take things as fun and not over analyze them
Best for ages: 12+
For the Guys? No not really.  Willa is fun, but I don’t think they’d be amused.

February 21, 2012

Cover Crush: Dead To You

I love book covers.  Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me.  I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

Lisa McMann

I just love this cover.  The close up of the face, eyes closed.  I guess I could assume the person is sleeping, but because of the title I automatically assuming it's more than that.  Then the little while flakes! What are they?  Why are they?  What do they have to do with the story???
Just love it all.  So eye catching.

February 17, 2012

N.E.R.D.S. #1 and #2: Audio Book Review

On Fridays I like step back and make sure that I am addressing boy readers.  It's so easy to review and highlight books for girls, but I also teach boys, so I need to make sure to find books for them! 
Today I'm reviewing the audio books for the N.E.R.D.S. series. 

Title: N.E.R.D.S.
Author: Michael Buckley

Combining all the excitement of international espionage and all the awkwardness of elementary school, NERDS, featuring a group of unpopular students who run a spy network from inside their school, hits the mark. With the help of cutting-edge science, their nerdy qualities are enhanced and transformed into incredible abilities! They battle the Hyena, a former junior beauty pageant contestant turned assassin, and an array of James Bond–style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical and more ridiculous than the last.

NERDS #2 M is for Mama's Boy
Led by Duncan "Gluestick" Dewey, the NERDS team uses brain power and courage rather than gadgets when they face off against supervillian Simon, his band of savage squirrels, and Albert, a middle-aged computer genius who lives with his mother.

My Thoughts

What a fun series!!! We've (my 3 kids and I) listened to both on our way to and from school, and we all enjoyed them.

First my thoughts on the books (plot, characters): Each book lets one of the NERD team take the staring role in the story.  The first book features Jackson who is just entering the team.  We liked Jackson, but my daughter and I were a little annoyed at how long to "get it".  You see Jackson was a nerd before.  He was cool - popular.  Now he can't quite figure out how come the other members of the team are still mad at him for what he did.   It took a bit!  There wasn't anything like that in the second book which featured Duncan.  We really enjoyed him.

As for the plot of each book - great! Perfect for kids who need a fast paced story full of action and laughs.  Oh the laughs - we giggled a lot through the book.  In the second book there are these squirrels that really made us giggle.  It's so rare to find a book that really does make me laugh.  I think kids will like it.  I know mine did.  Both stories have some nice plot twists - especially book #1.  Didn't see that coming!

The other characters are great.  I love each team member.  They are each unique, and I love the diversity in them.  It's also really cool how they take their "nerdiness" and turn it into a power.  It's cool to turn it around like that. I wish I could have some weakness of mine turned into a power! I can't wait to here more about the rest of the team - especially Matilda who looks to be the star in book #3.

Now for the Narrator:  He was great. Did a nice job getting all the voices.  There are a lot of different voices he had to do with the team members, their adult leaders and the villains!  Each one was distinct and really fit the character.  I liked him a lot and would definitely listen to him again.

I have to note that there is always one way I know my 10 year old son is liking the story - when he gets in the car if it isn't playing he'll say "why isn't the book on?".  That tells me he's enjoying it.  And let me tell you, that's high praise if he likes it!

AND! Elton John's Rocket Pictures has bought the rites to the books to make them into a movie! Read more HERE.

Final Thought: Fun fun fun series that lets the "nerds" be cool and take the lead
Best stick-with-you image:  The squirrels in book #2
Best for readers who: Like action and laughing
Best for ages: 9-12

For the guys?  YES!!!! They'll love it!

February 16, 2012

Kinda Tween Tuesday (On Thurs) : Review - Hailey Twitch

A little while ago I was was offered Hailey Twitch and the Wedding Glitch for review.  Now I know that this book is way to young for the kids I teach, but always wanting to know about all kinds of books I took it for review.  So I now offer it up as Tween Tuesday although it's on the very young end of it!  Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen.

Title: Hailey Twitch and the Wedding Glitch
Author Lauren Barnholdt

The next installment in this hilarious and heartwarming series featuring a seven-year-old mastermind who tries really hard not to blame her invisible friend for getting her into heaps of delicious trouble. Hailey's magic sprite, Maybelle, has finally gotten control of her magic Does that mean that Maybelle no longer needs Hailey? As if that's not enough to worry Hailey, now she's got her hands full being a flower girl in her aunt's wedding.

My Thoughts
What a cute fun book for young readers! I can see so many young girls just enjoying the craziness of Hailey.  In this story Hailey is doing everything possible to make sure she is the best flower girl ever! Never mind this means she ends up getting into trouble several times and making a lot of people mad at her.  She's spunky enough to dig in and keep going. Stubborn I guess you'd say!  I can relate to that because I was a pretty stubborn kid.  Although no where at all like Hailey!

The story itself is simple and for us old folk Hailey could drive us a little nuts - especially if you're a parent.  But a young girl reading it would just be amused and laugh at her.  She is funny.  I love how she rationalized everything.  It, of course, all made sense to her, and she couldn't understand how anyone would see any different!  Loved it.

If you have a young girl look for a series to read, check this one out. Especially if that girl is a little mischievous :)

February 15, 2012

My Sister's Birthday - And the Books She Loves

Today is my sister's birthday.  Happy birthday big sis!  
So in honor of her, I thought I'd share the books she loves.  Now this is an awesome thing for me because she is was my "non reading" sister.  A few years back she  really started reading and enjoy it!  Now she reads quit a bit.  Here are the books she has loved.

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones
City of Ashes
City of Glass
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls (out May 8th)

She absolutely loves this series and tore through the books.  Funny tho - she wasn't fond of Clockwork Angel.

Need Series by Carrie Jones

Endure (out May 8th)

The Hunger Games Series  by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

The Wake Series by Lisa McMann


And I thank Twilight because that's the series that started her wanting and willing to read!

Again happy birthday big sis! And Happy Reading!!!

February 14, 2012

2k12 Guest Post: AC Gaughen Author of Scarlet

A long while back I was approached by Caroline Starr Rose to help promote the fantastic group of authors in the Class of 2k12.  These are a group of authors being published in 2012.  I jumped at the chance to help out.  
What we came up with was a series of guest posts.  The topic: 
 Since I teach 7th grade I live and breath middle school (ok some of you can stop shuddering now). 

So over the course of 2012 you will get to hear from some the the 2k12 authors and their memories/thoughts about that time in their life.  I thank each of them for jumping in a tackling the subject!
To learn about all the 2k12 authors check out their site: Class of 2k12: Fiction that Rocks

Today our 2k12-er is:

AC Gaughen

Title: Scarlet
Release Date: February 14th (today!)
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. 
Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.  
It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

 It sounds fantastic!!! 

Today AC Gaughen is sharing a piece she wrote for Chicken Soup for the Middle Grade Soul.  I love this piece! How perfect is that!

Letter to a Younger Self

Ten years after I was thirteen, one of my old teachers mailed me a letter I had written to my 23 year old self.  The letter was full of silly things like who I had a crush on (much to big of a secret to reveal here) and how much I totally hated my brothers.  I wished I could write back to her and say these thirteen things.
1. Your Beanie Babies will end up in a box in your closet.  (Except for the elephant.  You seem to really like the elephant).  They are not a financial investment, I’m sorry. 

2.  Similarly, don’t get too attached to your Tamagotchi.  It will get confiscated by a teacher who doesn’t understand that without you pressing buttons your digital picture of a turtle will die. 

3.  I know this whole changing schools thing is tough, and you’re leaving your friends behind, but life has some amazing surprises in store for you in terms of friendship.  One of your friends from your old school will be your best friend ten years from now, and it’s definitely not the one you expect. 

4.  When everyone’s giving you grief because you’re holed up in your room writing stories, don’t pay attention.  It will work out pretty good for you.  I know you’re only doing it because sometimes, your characters are the only ones you can count on to always be there when you need them, and that’s perfectly ok.

5.  Both your brothers cease to be so annoying after you all make it through puberty alive.

6.  You aren’t going to marry your crush (or even date him), but that doesn’t mean you have to stop crushing. 

7.  This divorce thing isn’t going to get easier for a really long time, and I’m sorry about that.  I wish I could be there with you, but it doesn’t work like that unfortunately.  You’re going to go through a lot of this feeling completely alone.  You have to keep believing that it will get better.  Its going to get a little worse, and then, little by little, its going to get a lot better.  You’ll all figure out how to be a family again. 

8.  It’s ok that you’re hurting.  It doesn’t mean that you aren’t strong enough.  It doesn’t mean that you aren’t there for your family.  It just means that you’re hurt, and that’s ok.  You deserve to feel hurt.  Your family just broke and splintered—it’s when you pretend that you’re fine that it will hurt the worst, and you will feel the most alone.

9.  You know how you’re 99% positive that you know everything there is to know about the world?  You’re wrong.  (Now you just know 97%). 

10.   Everyone’s going to tell you that the blue mascara is stupid, and when you’re my age you’ll laugh with your best friend about how unfashionable you were, but secretly I love that you wore blue mascara.  I like that you aren’t afraid of color.

11.   Just clean up your room already.  It’s going to drive Mum nuts for like, ten years.

12.  You’ve got a lot of incredible adventures coming your way.  You’re going to climb up a snow covered-mountain, walk through a rainforest, and tiptoe carefully on an active volcano crater.  You’re going fall in love and out of love and have crushes and kisses.  You’re going to get through almost ten more years of school and when its over, you’re going to miss it (shocking, I know).  You’ll go to Paris, Florence, Scotland, London, and countless more beautiful, wondrous places, and you’ll meet more friends than I can count.  Ten years from now, you’ll have a life that you’re in love with.

13.  The whole thing with middle school is that you really are in the middle right now.  In the middle of your parents’ divorce.  You’re the middle child.  You’re in between childhood and a tentative adulthood.  Grade school was left behind when you had to transfer, and you’ll switch again to go to a different high school.  You are right in the thick of pain, and heartbreak, and disappointment, but it was happier in the past and you, my love, will be so happy in the future.  So hold on tight.  There are some more obstacles in your way, some more difficulties ahead.  It sounds unfair, I know, but from where I’m looking, the hardest stuff you go through makes the good stuff even better. 

You are so much stronger, and more loved, than you could ever understand right now.  So just trust me.  You’ll get through.

I soooooo love this piece! And I need to share it with my 12 year old daughter!!!

Thank you AC for sharing it with us!

February 13, 2012

Cover Crush: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I love book covers.  Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me.  I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

Benjamin Alire Saenz

There is just something about this cover that draws me in.  I love the font of the title.  It makes me think of of the past when people wrote fancy letters to each other sealed with wax.  Now I don't think that has anything to do with the story, but it makes me curious!  I also love the scroll work (for lack of a better word) that surrounds the title.  Now juxtapose that with the old truck in a simple field! Why the difference???? Oh just love it!!!

February 11, 2012

7's UP! In the Spotlight

I love teaching 7th grade, and I love hearing their thoughts on reading.  And I really don't care if the thoughts are the good, the bad or the ugly! I can deal with them all.  Well Saturday's are now the day I'll be highlighting them - the real reason I run this blog.  Bi-weekly I'll be feature a MG reader.  These are the kids that are really out there reading MG and YA books.  And these are their thoughts on reading.  For the spotlight they answer a bunch of questions about their reading.

Today Our Spotlight Focuses On:

A.K.: a 7th grade girl

What book are you currently reading (or JUST finished). AND in one sentence tell what you thought of it.
I am reading Id Tell You I Love You But Then Id Have To Kill You. I am enjoying it so far.

What are your favorite kinds of books/authors?
I enjoy fanticy and historical fiction.

On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your love of reading? 

For a bookmark you use.......
Whatever is handy

If you could only take one book with you on a deserted island what book would it be???
Little Women

When I'm not reading I'm.........
Doing homework

If a kid didn't really like reading - what book would you recommend that you think would get them reading?

When someone says reading is dumb or stupid you say..........
I bet if you counted all the words you read so far today it would be alot.

When someone bugs me while reading I...........
Glare at them til they stop

When I'm looking for a book to read I find one by........
Asking friends or family

I prefer hardcover or paperbacks.

I cheat and read the end of the book first or before I get to it....
Gasp no! Never! That's horrible!

I think Mrs. F is obsessed with books and reading?????
YES!!! She's crazy! But a good crazy :)

I like to read because...........
I like getting sucked into a book and it passes time.

I hope you learned a little about A.K. today! She's a great girl that got me to read The Wide Awake Princess!!! Stay tuned for more 7th grade readers!

February 9, 2012

Book Review: Under The Never Sky

Title: Under The Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Release Date: January 3, 2012

Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim.  
Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive. 
If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers.
My Thoughts
I’ll be honest. When I first started this book I wasn’t thrilled. I’d heard really good things about, so I was really expecting it to wow me right off the bat. The first few pages were great. Lots of action – some mystery thrown in. But then it skidded to a halt! And for a good 50 (if not more) pages I was wondering if I was missing something! It just seemed to go nowhere! Aria and Perry seemed to just wander around. Yes, yes he knew where they were going, but to the reader (me!) I felt it was going nowhere. I even went on Twitter and asked people if it got better. They assured me it would, so I stuck with it. And I’m glad I did.

I can’t tell you exactly where it got better again. I just realized that my interest had been grabbed again. Maybe when Aria began to change and step up more and stop whining less. Maybe it was when they finally reached a place of more safety. At this point I felt more a sense of purpose within the story, and this purpose was surrounded by tension. This tension came from the world they lived in – strange storms that could easily kill them, dangerous people pursuing them across dangerous terrain and mixed in Aria’s struggle with being in a place she was raised to fear. Now she was getting stronger and more confident, but she still lacked the kind of street smart she needed to be safe. The tension also came from the growing attraction between Aria and Perry. Neither wanted to admit it and neither wanted to accept it, but they were beginning to care about each other in a way they never thought an Outsider and a Dweller could. Although I get tired of romance always sneaking it’s way in – I found theirs real and enduring especially from Perry because he’s suppose to be such a tough guy and to see him be so caring was completely amazing. It rounded him so well as a characters and gave him a depth I appreciated. And then what was so hard and heart breaking was the fact they couldn’t be together!

So anyways – somewhere within all that I fell in love with the characters and the story again! I’m glad I stuck it out during those slow pages because in the end I found two characters I really enjoyed and grew to care about. I’m really looking forward to hear more about their story.

Final thought: Love the depth that appeared in the characters. Really brought them to life.
Best stick-with-you image: The description of the storms. Wow!
Best for readers who:
can keep reading if a story slows down
Best for ages
: 12+

For the Guys? I think so! Aria and Perry tell the story in alternating chapters, so it’s not just from girl’s perspective. 

February 8, 2012

Book Review: On the Bright Side

Title: On the Bright Side
Author: S.R. Johannes
Release Date: January 31, 2012

As if the devil’s food cake at her wake and the white fat pants she’s stuck wearing for eternity weren’t bad enough, fourteen year-old Gabby is quick to discover that Cirrus, the main rung of Heaven, is a far cry from the Pearly Gates. Here, SkyFones and InnerNets are all the rage. At her first Bright ceremony, G.O.D., the automated assignment system, spits out Angela Black, Gabby’s arch nemesis and longtime fencing rival. As a Bright, Gabby has to protect Angela, her assigned mortal, in order to move up through the training levels of heaven. 
Back on earth, Angela starts hitting on Michael, Gabby’s crush and should-have-been boyfriend. Gabby’s pranks to quell the love are harmless at first until the school dance sabotage gets completely out of control. Then, Celestial Sky Agent, Lawrence, who happens to have anger management issues of his own, steps into reveal that Angela has big problems, and what she really needs is Gabby’s help. 
Determined to right her wrong and ease her mother’s grief, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to earth for just one day. But if Gabby’s not careful, her well-meaning mission just might shift the very foundation of Heaven, Earth, and every place in between, causing the danger of the dark side to roam free. 

My Thoughts

Sometimes when I read a MG book I know right off that it isn't a book I can recommend to my 7th graders.  And usually that's because of one of two reasons - it's waaaaaay to little kidish or it's kinda quirky and they just won't get it.  I'm please to say that this book fit NEITHER! This is a book that I could easily recommend to my 7th graders - well the girls.  The main reason - I think they could really relate to Gabby.  She's such a typical middle school girl.  She just wants to fix things, but doesn't at all look at the big picture.  Oh do I know kids like that!

Ok let's look at some of the elements of the story.  The plot first - well done there.  It moved along very well without lagging too much.  I liked that Gabby had to guard her her old rival. That added some great tension and really helped Gabby take a good look at herself.  And I liked how the author made this play out.  Gabby did what a lot of girls that age would've done in that situation, so it seemed very realistic even when I was frustrated with her behavior.  And I guess an adult being frustrated with Gabby's behavior was also realistic! But what I liked was that the plot wasn't just the straight forward story.  There was always a hint at more.  I could tell that something bigger was going on, but I wasn't sure what.  That kept me reading as well.   And whoa the ending! Lots that I didn't see coming! Great stuff there.

Now about Gabby.  Like I said - she was a super realistic girl.  Her actions were not so far out of line that I couldn't believe a girl her age would do them.  I liked that.  I did, however, get frustrated with those actions. Now you have to remember I'm a mom to a 12 year old, so I was coming at them from that perspecitve.  I'm not so sure the intended audience would feel the same way! I liked the growth I saw in her too.  By the end she had changed, but it was also a realistic change.  She didn't go from being more immature to completely adult-like.  That I would NOT have been able to buy!  In all Gabby was fun and likeable.  And yes I agree with her - having to spend enternity in white pleated pants would stink!

One thing that I was confused about.  There was a lot of talk about being selfless, the Brights (what Gabby is now) helping their assigned mortal with building character - that kind of stuff. But then it seemed that a lot of emphasis in Cirrus was on looks - pretty dresses, the way the current woman in charge looked, being able to change your clothes, the prettiness of the wings - all that seemed to go against what Gabby is being told, as a Bright, she needs to do and think.  I just found this confusing sometimes.  It wasn't a big issue in the enjoyment of the book, but I did think about it off and on.

Final thought: Likable character put in a tough situation
Best stick-with-you image: at the dance - yikes!
Best for readers who: can relate to being forced to work with your worst enemy!
Best for ages: 11-14

For the Guys? No not really.  This really is a girl book.

February 7, 2012

Book Tour: On The Bright Side Guest Post

Today I'm excited to welcome S.R. Johannes author of On the Bright Side.  She's here today to talk about the challenge of writing for tweens.  This is something, as a teacher of tweens, that I'm super curious about.

First though here's a bit about the book:
As if the devil’s food cake at her wake and the white fat pants she’s stuck wearing for eternity weren’t bad enough, fourteen year-old Gabby is quick to discover that Cirrus, the main rung of Heaven, is a far cry from the Pearly Gates. Here, SkyFones and InnerNets are all the rage. At her first Bright ceremony, G.O.D., the automated assignment system, spits out Angela Black, Gabby’s arch nemesis and longtime fencing rival. As a Bright, Gabby has to protect Angela, her assigned mortal, in order to move up through the training levels of heaven. 
Back on earth, Angela starts hitting on Michael, Gabby’s crush and should-have-been boyfriend. Gabby’s pranks to quell the love are harmless at first until the school dance sabotage gets completely out of control. Then, Celestial Sky Agent, Lawrence, who happens to have anger management issues of his own, steps into reveal that Angela has big problems, and what she really needs is Gabby’s help. 
Determined to right her wrong and ease her mother’s grief, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to earth for just one day. But if Gabby’s not careful, her well-meaning mission just might shift the very foundation of Heaven, Earth, and every place in between, causing the danger of the dark side to roam free. 
Be looking for my review tomorrow!!!

Now Welcome S.R.!

The Challenge in Writing for Tweens 

Tweens are a special group of girls.

They hold that space in between middle graders and teens. Usually 12, 13 and 14.

To me, writing tween is hard because you have to squeeze somewhere in the middle. Middle grade plots are simpler that young adult. Romance does not exist in middle grade. Yet tweens want more complicated books with some talk of boys.

Lets look at MG vs Teen books. Clementine is a middle grade books vs. Twilight is a young adult.

Middle Grade
· Simpler plots – more one dimensional
· No romance
· Internal motivation – “all about me”

Young Adult
· Complicated plots – layered with sub plots
· Romance galore J
· How they fit into the world

Tweens don’t want to read middle grade books for a couple of reasons. 1) They are not advanced enough so a book appropriate for a 9 year old seems “babyish” to a 14 year old. and 2) they don’t want to be caught browsing into the kids section at a bookstore.

However, YA addresses more mature issues a tween may not be ready for. Not to mention, YA is closer to the adult section. Parents don’t want kids reading young adult because of subject matter combined with romance and violence.

So tweens are caught in the middle.

Middle Grade assumes an 8 year old and a 13 year old can read the same books because they think the same. Young Adult books target teen issues that tweens haven’t even thought about yet. There is a hidden space in this range of 8 to 18. The tweens who have outgrown Middle Grade books but who aren’t ready for the mature “young adult” series.

Making Gabby a tween was tough. She has those moments of childlike behavior yet the issues of a tween. Wanting to grow up to fast yet still under the wing of her mom. Adding in her snarky humor while balancing likability was hard. It is hard to write a lovable character that is selfish in motivation – but that is where a tween focuses more.

In OTBS, Gabby starts out with an internal motivation. About a girl winning a boy she wanted and refusing to let someone else she hates take him away. But as the story moves along, her motive becomes about something more. About something bigger than her. It becomes about what is right and wrong, about growth, and about acceptance. In the end, her actions have larger consequences than she imagined. And she begins to see how her place fits into a larger picture. A little MG with a little YA.

So hopefully, OTBS finds that sweet spot in the middle and keeps people laughing yet teaches the core message about acceptance and moving on.

February 6, 2012

Follower Love Giveaway Hop

Because I love my followers especially after sticking around after basically taking two months off.  You need to be rewarded! For that I have hopped onto the Followers Love Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not a Writer and Rachael Renee Anderson

For US Followers You're Reward Is:

Two of the following books:

The Dark Divine (ARC)
The Lost Saint (ARC)
Before I Fall (ARC)
Cinder (ARC)

For International Followers  You're Reward Is:

A book of your choice from The Book Depository up to $20. Sorry tho it's only if TBD delivers to you for free!

There will only be one winner - not one for each.

Fill out the Rafflecopter form to enter!  Oh and yes this time you must be a follower since this is to celebrate my followers! But do me a favor - if you are new please only follow if you think my blog has something to offer! Take a look around and decide :)

Cover Crush: Preloved

I love book covers.  Love love love them! I've been known to drag my sister around Barnes and Noble and show her all the covers I like. I'll hunt down certain students in the morning because I know they'll love a cover as much as me.  I really think I develop a crush on certain covers!

Today I'm crushing on:

Preloved by Shirley Marr

Isn't it fantastic?? I love the kind of washed out colors of it.  And I wonder why this girl is in a pretty dress but yet she doesn't seem happy.  Although I'm not sure how I can tell that since I can't see her face.  I guess just because of where she's sitting.  And to top it all off - she's got on Converse! Love that.  I own literally 8 pairs, so I'm kinda drawn to any cover with them.  Anyway just love this cover.  Oh and BTW the summary sounds good took. Click the title to see it.

Your thoughts???

February 5, 2012

I'm Back!!!

Hey all I'm back to blogging full time! The time off (even tho I did pop in now and again) was very good for me.  I was able to read more and just de-stress.  I did miss blogging, so coming back is definitely the right thing.  I was fully prepared to give it up if the thought of coming back stressed me.  It didn't! 

But I have made some decisions.

The biggest: I will take none-to very few books for review.  I have done a lot of thinking about and have decided that I will take very very very very few books for review.  To help with this I will no long accept books for review when approached by the author.  Nothing against those authors at all!!!! It's just an easy way to draw the line for me.  I hope all you fantastic authors out there understand! I am still open to featuring these books and authors through interviews or guest posts, but I will not accept any books for review.  I will warn you though that even though I'm open to it - those too will be limited to only a few a month just to keep my stress down on planning and doing those. You see when I have all these posts that HAVE to go on a certain day I begin to fill stressed! Plus that gets into my reading time.

Next: I'm want to feature my middle schoolers more.  Their reviews and their thoughts.  I don't see a lot of blogs that get the opinions of the real MG or YA reader (except of course those blogs written by teens which I LOVE!).  I am going to bi-weekly feature an actual middle school reader, so you can all hear from them and their real reading habits!  Plus I'm going to have them write reviews as much as I can.  They may not be the best reviews, but they'll be honest thoughts!

Last:  I'm going to just have fun and let my love of books take center stage regardless if it isn't fancy and perfect.  After all that's what this blog is all about! :)

A Few Things Coming Up!

*March is going to be The March of the Middle Grade.  I've got lots of stuff planned for the entire month to celebrate middle grade books.  Lots of authors are on board, other bloggers and I've gotten lots of books for giveaways.  It's gonna be fun.  (and yes I realize that goes against my whole non-scheduling thing for stress!) IF you offered to help and haven't replied to the big email I send out, please do so quickly :)

*I'm doing the Followers Love Hope starting tomorrow so watch for that! I figure I should reward all the followers that have stuck with me!

*And lots of reviews of books I've been reading!

It's good to be back.  I missed you all!!!

February 4, 2012


I have a few winners to announce.

YA Giveaway Hop

Katie who email starts with ka*****@yahoo****

Signed The Book of Wonders

Natalie A.

The Fault in Our Stars

Samantha M.

All winner have been emailed! Congrats!