March 31, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Wake by Lisa McMann

Wake by Lisa McMann

Wonderful first book to a great series! What I'm really grateful for with this book is that it showed me, as a writer, that you can write short sentences a paragraphs and tell a great story! If you've never read a book by Lisa McMann you know what I mean.  She writes these really short sentences and paragraphs but they work so well! That's a bit more my style of writing, so I loved seeing that someone wrote that way and was published. 

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. 
She can't tell anybody about what she does they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can’t control.
Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant.

March 28, 2014

Today I'm Guest Posting at Middle Grade March +GIVEAWAY

Very excited because today I have a guest post at the great celebration of middle grade books on the blog Middle Grade March!  

I'm talking about the magic of middle grade books.  

You can find the post HERE
And pssst - there's a giveaway!

March 26, 2014

Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

I've seen a lot about this book (well series), and I have several students who have read it and really liked it, so I decided it was time I read it.  I loved the concept of the book - the fact that Juliette couldn't touch anyone.  It really appealed to me.  The carry-out of this concept was good.  It wasn't exactly what I thought, but it was good.  I liked Juliette a lot.  She was strong, but yet you could see how living like she has had worn her down and really messed with how she saw things.  I felt for her because she didn't really trust anything, and she really didn't trust herself.  This made her actions understandable - not trusting Adam right away and isolating herself.   It was fun watching her grow and become so confident as the story went along.  She changed a lot and that really made the story.

I do have to comment on the crossed off words in the book.  Juliette will think something, but then corrects her thoughts to something else.  In the book this is shown but crossing out the first thoughts and then having the new ones.  At first I thought this was a cool way to show this.  So much of the story is about what's happening in her thoughts and knowing that she continually fought with thinking good about herself.  Showing the thoughts like this really helped get that across.  BUT for me as it continued in the story I started to get a little annoyed by it.  Not enough to stop reading mind you, but it did annoy. Just thought I'd give you a heads up about it.

Finally - good book! From reading reviews I understand there is much more this this Warner guy, so I want to keep reading the series and find out about him!

March 24, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Love this series! Ok so I've only read the first one, but my daughter and several of my students have read all that are out so far and they LOVE them, so I'm sure I will too :) Great series filled with lots of actions and raising lots of questions.  Check it out!

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

March 21, 2014

I Am Grateful for: Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta

I'm not a huge baseball fan.  I like going to games because I like the atmosphere, but I don't entirely understand the complexities of the game.  You hit that ball and run - that's what I know.  This book taught me how much more it is! I learned all about what goes on on the field.  I now can look at baseball in a new way! Another reason I'm grateful for it - it introduced me to a great author right here in my home state! You gotta love that :)

Welcome to Moundville, where it’s been raining for longer than Roy McGuire has been alive. Most people say the town is cursed—right in the middle of their big baseball game against rival town Sinister Bend, black clouds crept across the sky and it started to rain. That was 22 years ago . . . and it’s still pouring.

Baseball camp is over, and Roy knows he’s in for a dreary, soggy summer. But when he returns home, he finds a foster kid named Sturgis sprawled out on his couch. As if this isn’t weird enough, just a few days after Sturgis’s arrival, the sun comes out. No one can explain why the rain has finally stopped, but as far as Roy’s concerned, it’s time to play some baseball. It’s time to get a Moundville team together and finish what was started 22 years ago. It’s time for a rematch.

March 19, 2014

I Am Grateful For: N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley

N.E.R.D.S. by Michael Buckley

I'm grateful for this book for a few reasons.  It's funny.  It has a great message that you can be yourself and be cool and do great things.  You shouldn't give up.  And more.  Plus it's filled with those great spy gadgets! Love it.  I also love that it's the first in a 5 book series, so if you enjoy this one there is plenty more to move on to.

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.

March 18, 2014

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

I really enjoyed this book! Yes it took a bit at the beginning for the set up - but there was a lot of background you needed to know, so you can understand where the story is at now.  Thankfully much of this was done between action sequences, so that helped a lot.  What I really liked about it was the fact I NEVER knew who I could trust and who I couldn't trust! At one point I like "Oh no I can't trust that dude," but then I'm like "Whoa maybe I can?!".  It went like that a lot.  And even at the end I'm still not 100% sure! Fantastic and frustrating all at the same time.  

Loved the characters.  Cassie is great.  Nice strong girl, but yet still realistic - making mistakes, being stubborn and being human.  What's funny is that the whole time being human is something that can't be completely trusted in this book.  She's the kind of girl I'd like to have with me if I was stuck in a post-apocalyptic world! 

There was one part that drove me a bit nuts and that was the descriptions of Evan.  If I had to hear one more time what his eyes looked like, my eyes would have been permanently rolled! Annoying but minor.  

Can't wait for the next book in the series because I have to know what happens to Cassie and the rest of the cast of characters. 

March 17, 2014

I Am Grateful for Defiance by C.J. Redwine

Defiance by C.J. Redwine
One simple reason - One of my students read this and said "This was the best book I ever read." How could I not be grateful for it with that???

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her. 

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared. 

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

March 14, 2014

I Am Grateful for Mary Downing Hahn

Today's post is a bit different because it's focused on an author and not just one book.  Many times I'll get students looking for "spooky" books.  I always turn them to Mary Downing Hahn.  They never fail to please my younger students (5th/6th graders) who like something spooky.  I like that they fit the bill, but they don't go so far that they really really scare the reader.  They walk the line perfectly.  

One of the best:
Wait Till Helen Comes

Twelve-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother, Michael, have never liked their seven-year-old stepsister, Heather. Ever since their parents got married, she's made Molly and Michael's life miserable. Now their parents have moved them all to the country to live in a house that used to be a church, with a cemetery in the backyard. If that's not bad enough, Heather starts talking to a ghost named Helen and warning Molly and Michael that Helen is coming for them. Molly feels certain Heather is in some kind of danger, but every time she tries to help, Heather twists things around to get her into trouble. It seems as if things can't get any worse.

But they do -- when Helen comes.

March 13, 2014

Kinda a Review for Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Going to be honest - I haven't read the book BUT I think this counts as a review as to it's merits with the intended audience.  I've said over and over that as a 43 year old woman I'm not the intended audience for much of what I review (especially MG), so whenever I can give you feedback from those who the book was published for I feel that's a real testiment to that book!

Now about Hollow City.  It started with the first book, Miss Peregrine's Home... I have NEVER seen such an interest in a book.  Kids fell in love with the pictures and it yanked them right into reading the book.  But I never knew how many of them truly ended up liking the book.

Well flash-forward a bit and Hollow City the sequel comes out.  I get a text from my daughter.  It's a picture of the book and she's all YOU MUST BUY THIS FOR ME! You see I usually buy her books because we all know they end up in my classroom library anyways.  I happen to be at a bookstore at the time with it in my hands.  Funny how that works.  So I bought it and gave it to her.  I haven't seen it since.  It has been passed around at the high school from kid to kid.  They all want to read it.  I think that's a testiment to this book and the first one.  Evidently they all liked the first one enough to clamor for the second.  And the fact that kid after kid is reading the second tells me they like it.  Trust me - if word gets out that one kid doesn't like it, interest in it will dwindle.  That hasn't happened.  I have no idea when I'll get it back for the students at my school asking about it.  When I question my daughter she tells me there are more kids in line to read it with her!

So for the intended audience this series is a hit.  That's the audience that matters!

About the book:

The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reacting experience.

March 12, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

I love this series I really do.  If you haven't checked into it you really should.  It's fun, has enough action to keep you involved and has a nice bit of romance.

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

March 11, 2014

Book Review: Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington +GIVEAWAY

Title: Liv, Forever
Author: Amy Talkington

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints.

Everything she could want.

Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.

But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.

Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.

I like mysteries and I like ghost stories, so having them combined into one book was a dream come true so I was super excited to read this book.  As always when I'm that excited to read a book I'm worried it won't hold up.  Thankfully it did.  There was some things I wasn't thrilled with, but the mystery and ghost aspect of the book were great.  

The biggest issue I usually have with mysteries is being able to figure out the "who done-it" part too easily.  I didn't have that issue with this book.  Yes I had guesses, but I didn't have the whole story figured out before the end and that was great.  There were definitely enough twists and turns to keep me paying attention and wondering throughout the whole book.  Even at the very end when the big reveal is over I was hit with another question - another unknown that I didn't see coming! I liked that.  Now the ghost part - I liked that too.  I liked how they were described and the abilities there were and were not given.  Sometimes ghosts are able to whatever they want when they want.  That isn't the case in this book, and I think that added to the tension of the story.  If Liv could do whatever she wanted much tension in the story would've been gone. What I really liked was the uniqueness of each ghost.  They weren't all this lump of ghosts.  Instead each one had her own story.  Actually each was given a chapter in the book to tell her story in her own words.  I really liked that because it made these ghosts into real people.  Without those chapters I don't think I wouldn't cared about them much at all.  

Now I did have a few things that bugged me.  I found the romance between Liv and Malcolm really really fast.  I don't buy into relationships happening that fast, so I had to set that aside and focus on the mystery. And I would've liked to have know a whole lot more about Liv's background.  You know she was bounced around from foster home to foster home before being adopted, but I would've liked to know more.  I think that would've built her character up and made me care about her even more.  Were these major distractions to me?  Not completely. More the fast romance than anything.  But thankfully the mystery was strong enough for me to let these things go.

Over all I really liked the book and if there happens to be a sequel (it's kind of left open for one) I would definitely pick it up.  So if you like mysteries and you like ghosts - give it a try! I'm glad I did.  

Be sure to check out the guest post from Amy Talkington that went up last week.  
She talks about whether she believes in ghosts or not! 
You'll find it HERE!

I somehow got two copies of the book, so I'm passing one along to one of you.  
Enter using the Rafflecopter.  
Must be a US resident and at least 13.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 10, 2014

I Am Grateful For: Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

If you haven't read one of these books you need to - even you have no one in your life the right age for them.  I bought a box set for my 6 year old for Christmas, and they are great! We laugh a lot when we read them, so that makes them wonderful.  What's really fun for us is that we have two black cats, so Bad Kitty reminds us of them sometimes.

From the creator of The New York Times bestseller Boing! comes the riotous story of a cat gone berserk -- four times over an in alphabetical order each time. Kitty is not happy when she's told that her favorite foods are all gone and all that's left are Asparagus, Beets, Cauliflower, Dill...and 22 other equally unappealing vegetables. So she: Ate my homework, Bit grandma, Clawed the curtains, Damaged the dishes, and so on, through Z. Only when tastier things arrive (An Assortment of Anchovies, Buffalo Burritos, Chicken Cheesecake...) does she Apologize to Grandma.

Now, Roaring Brook is proud to introduce a new edition so deliciously funny, someone's already taken a bite out of it. With two die-cut ñbitesî on its side, special endpapers, and a brand new piece of artwork within, this eye-catching novelty edition of a proven best-seller is sure to be . . . devoured!

March 6, 2014

Guest Post: Amy Talkington Author of Liv, Forever

Today I'm very excited to share a guest post with you from Amy Talkington author of Liv Forever. I'm currently reading the book and really enjoying it! (review soon to follow!) 
To see more about the book click the banner above.

Here's a bit about the book:

When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.

Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.

But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.

Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.

I love ghost stories (almost as much as zombie books!), so when I heard about this one I knew I had to read it.  It's a ghost story but with a great twist.  And then when I got Amy's guest post I was even more excited.  It's about whether she believes in ghosts or not!!  

Welcome Amy!!

About Amy

Amy Talkington is an award-winning screenwriter and director living in Los Angeles. Before all that she wrote about music for magazines like Spin, Ray Gun, Interview, and Seventeen (mostly just as a way to get to hang out with rock stars). As a teenager in Dallas, Texas, Amy painted lots of angsty self-portraits, listened to The Velvet Underground and was difficult enough that her parents finally let her go to boarding school on the East Coast. Liv, Forever is her first novel.

And now - does Amy Talkington believe in ghosts??

Because Liv, Forever is—in part—a ghost story, people keep asking me if I believe in ghosts so I thought I’d write a little bit about that.

The short answer is: yes I believe in ghosts. I don’t necessarily imagine they’re as fully formed and interactive as Liv but I do think a spirit might sometimes linger if he/she/it feels the need to. I’ve had this experience—or witnessed it—several times in my life.

When I was in film school one of my professors was making a documentary about a one-hundred year old woman named Gladys. She was so old that when I met her (in the mid- 90s), she was still pretty shocked by my mini-skirt. Like, she was already past-retirement when the mini-skirt was invented! But anyway, he was filming her because she communicated regularly with her dead husband, Walter. She had for years, like forty years (he’d died in 1955). My professor invited me to come have conversations with her on film (and thus be part of the movie). I adored her and I completely believed that she spoke to Walter. She had a uniquely deep love for him. It was palpable. I could feel the truth of their communication. She was entirely lucid and charming. It was fascinating and has always been percolating in my mind.

And there have also been weird moments in my own life. Here’s one story that still gives me chills. My grandmother really wanted great-grandchildren but she didn’t get them while still alive. After she died my mother moved into her house and, after a number of years, I finally married and got pregnant. My mom insisted on hosting a small baby shower in Dallas. On the day of the shower we were (as usual), running late and scrambling to pull things together. My mother hadn’t had time to wrap the presents she’d gotten. She needed a small box for an item and asked me to look in her closet on the shelf where she kept gift-wrapping. It was the same shelf where my grandmother used to keep spare gifts but my mother had emptied it of gifts and turned it into the “gift wrapping shelf.”

I reached up there and there was a box. Right in front. And just the right size. I handed it to my mother and she opened it. Inside was a perfect vintage baby bib that said “Welcome little angel.” My mother had cleaned the shelf ten years before and had been using it for wrapping ever since. Ten years. She’d never seen the box. She was certain it was not there. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe my Grandmother waited until she knew she was going to have a great grandchild and decided she ought to send her a gift.

Wow! So cool! Thanks so much for sharing that story.  My husband I talk a lot about the belief in ghosts mainly because I watch all the ghost hunting shows.  It's stories like these that really make me wonder!

If you want to know more about the book and Amy check out the links below.

March 4, 2014

Join Middle Grade March!!

Middle Grade March

Do you love middle grade books? 
 Do you want to help celebrate them?? 
Then you MUST go check out the fantastic month long celebration of middle grade! 
They have giveaways, author interviews, guests posts - all the fun stuff. 

 Go now and check them out! Middle Grade March

I'm be sharing my thoughts on the "Magic" of Middle Grade on the 28th as well has hosting a giveaway :)

I Am Grateful For: The Godsend by Bernard Taylor

The Godsend by Bernard Taylor

Ok so this one, if I read it now, I'm sure would be horrible but when I was in school (early high school I believe) I LOVED this book. I read it over and over. Now when I think back on it - what horrible book to reread so much! But I've always had a love for horror books and this one fit the bill. Maybe some day I'll reread it.

Bonnie. Born in mystery of an unknown mother. Abandoned the morning of her birth. Adopted by the Marlows, who already have four children of their own.

Once unleashed, where will it end? The ultimate evil. Profound. Shattering. Ask Bonnie - demonic possession is child's play.

At first they are accidents. The crib death of the Marlow's baby. The drowning of their son. Then a third child's neck is broken. And the unspeakable is begun..