Tuesday, April 30, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY: The Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Pick Up a Book

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Pick Up a Book.

History   (Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly; Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein)
I loved history growing up (ok, I still love it… I was a history teacher for 5 years!) and much of what I learned came from historical fiction. I feel like many historical fiction books try too hard, but there are some that are just excellent!

Maps   (Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien; Graceling by Kristin Cashore)
If there is any indication that there is a map in the book or maps will be referred to I love it. I may get lost when I actually try to find a place using a map, but I like looking that them and planning my adventures.

Strange Creatures   (Iron King by Julie Kagawa; Paranormalcy by Kiersten White)
Oh, those adorable fantasy creatures who help main characters and/or create havoc. Gotta love them!

Magic   (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; The Alchemyst by Michael Scott)
Magic is just so…. magical! It is especially fun when characters use their magic for good and totally surprise the bad guy.

Orphans   (The Graveyard Book by Neil Gailman; Trash by Andy Mulligan)
I have a heart for orphans so perhaps that is why I am drawn to these books. Or perhaps it is because these kids learn to become self-sufficient as they tackle the world around them.

Changes happen to character X   (Shiver by Maggie Steifvater; Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs)
There are lots of books where characters, for whatever reason, turn into vampires, werewolves, goddesses, witches, etc. It is interesting to read how they adapt, especially while trying to live a normal life in the everyday world.

Teens   (Fault in Our Stars by John Green; Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson)
I am a librarian who serves teens. I spend much of every day with teens so naturally I gravitate toward books about teens in order to see what my students might like and, also, because they are just enjoyable books.

Post-apocalypse   (Divergent by Veronica Roth; Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky)
Dystopian novels are popular right now and many of them are quite good. It is interesting to see (read) how so many different writers portray what the future might be like after a majority of the humans have messed the world up.

“In the kingdoms…”   (The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot; Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson)
Princes and princesses and kings and queens and courts hook me all the time. Those romantic notions of royalty are enchanting.

World Travel   (13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson; Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard)
I love travelling and wish I could do it more. There is something about the characters discovering things about themselves as they experience new cultures that is inspiring and makes me love yet another part of the world and the people who live there.

Monday, April 29, 2013

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

This is What Happy Looks Like
By Jennifer E. Smith
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
404 pages (hardcover)

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.
Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs? (from barnesandnoble.com)

I enjoy Jennifer E. Smith’s books. They are light-hearted, fun to read, and the plot moves along. She creates memorable characters who are likeable, yet have flaws as we all do. This is What Happy Looks Like, like her other books I have read, sets up a sweet meeting between two semi-complicated characters and then the reader sits back and reads what happens. This book isn’t the best piece of literature I have ever read, but it was enjoyable with some unique twists.

The one thing that annoyed me in this book is that in the emails between the teen characters, their grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. is great. I mean, there is little to no text speak and they use complete sentences. With all the somewhat unlikely scenarios in this book, no text speak seems the most unlikely and unrealistic (really!).

This is a good summer read when you want something enjoyable but not something that will make you think too hard. Plus, as many Jennifer E. Smith books are, this is a quick read… you just can’t put it down!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Forever
By Beverly Cleary
Published by HarperCollins Publishers, 1995
208 pages (paperback)

From the minute that Howie Kemp's rich Uncle Hobart arrives from Saudi Arabia, things are off to a rousing start. There are new beginnings and discoveries and two very special surprises - one surprise is big and one is very little.
It's a time of change for all the Quimbys; a time of new joys and little sadnesses, too. There are new worries - Mr Quimby is worried about finding a teaching job, Ramona is worried they may have to move if he does, and Beezus is worried about her teenage complexion.
And through it all Ramona, a grown up third-grader, remains a sometimes pesty, sometimes brave, sometimes blunderful, but always wonderful Ramona - forever! (from barnesandnoble.com)

This book was about how a girl finds adventure with her family. How her hated person gets married to her aunt. One of my favorite books I’ve read! This book was good. It’s a lot of adventure and I think it is a good book for my age and younger. This book will always be a child’s favorite. I don’t think anything could be improved in this book because it always is interesting. Yes, [I would recommend this book to middle schoolers]. This book should be read by a lot of people and more people to come to the world. READ THIS BOOK!
--Alejandro C.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

TOP TEN TUESDAY- The Top Ten Books I Thought I Would Like More/Less Than I Did

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the Top Ten Books I Thought I Would Like More/Less Than I Did.

  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – So many twists and turns and secrets. Loved it!
  • Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson – A refreshingly unique heroine and plot.
  • How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg – It is gross, but also interesting. One of the best nonfiction books I have read in a while!
  • Wonder by RJ Palacio – I was afraid it would be sad, but really it was an inspiring book that gave some fresh perspectives on people who are different.
  • Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa – I wasn’t really in the mood for yet another vampire book, but this was something completely different. Kind of gory, but good!
  • Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs – I thought it would be dark and dreary or just fluff. Instead it was intelligent and sassy and a book I couldn’t put down.

  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – The whole “are they or aren’t they siblings” thing weirded me out.
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick – It was like Twilight only with fallen angels. The plotline was obvious from the start.
  • Planet Tad by Tim Carvell – I thought it would be funnier then it actually was.
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver – First, I LOVE Lauren Oliver’s writing. However, I had recently read The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched so I think I was burnt out on the “girls in a dystopian society saving the world” thing. Perhaps I will give it another try soon since it is being turned into a TV show.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Freshman: Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations, and Other Nonsense by Corinne Mucha

Freshman: Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations, and Other Nonsense
By Corinne Mucha
Published by Zest Books, 2011
112 pages (paperback)

Annie has just started high school and she’s a mess. Her older brother has told her that her freshman year will strongly affect the rest of her life, and if that’s true her future is looking grim: She’s a loser at sports, is jealous of everyone, and has totally fallen in love with her best friend’s older brother. When she gets cast as a moaning, hunched-over old lady in the school play, she starts to forget about the rest of her life. Now she just wants to make it through freshman year. (from barnesandnoble.com)

It’s almost time for UMS 8th graders to be 9th graders!!! Don’t worry, most of you will be just fine, but if you want a bit of perspective, go ahead and pick up this book. Sure, this graphic novel about freshman year was pretty predictable (do all books about freshmen have a school musical/play?), but it was light-hearted and enjoyable.

I think what I liked best was that the illustrations weren’t that great. I mean, they are MUCH better than what I could do, but the people were shaped awkwardly… kind of like how freshman year is often awkward.

This book does give some good advice when it comes to starting a new grade or a new school… be open to meeting new people, trying new things, and having new experiences. You never know what might happen if you do.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- Dark Days by Derek Landy

Dark Days (Skulduggery Pleasant #4)
By Derek Landy
Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2010
414 pages (paperback)

It's the fourth Skulduggery Pleasant adventure! only Skulduggery Pleasant himself is lost on the other side of a portal, with only some evil gods for company. Can he possible survive? (Yes, all right, he's already dead. But still.) What can we say, without giving too much away? Not much, is the answer. But what we CAN say is that this book is hilarious, it's tense, and it's packed with all the eye-popping action, crackling one liners and imaginative set pieces you've come to expect. There's a new threat to our plucky heroine, of course. But that's not all. There's also the little fact of the Big Bad, the uber-baddy who's going to come along and really, really destroy the world. (Really.) And what we learn about that villain in this book will literally make your jaw fall off and your hair go white with shock. (Not really.) Will Skulduggery make it out of the Faceless Ones' dimension? Who knows. The problem is, he may not have much to come back to.
(from goodreads.com)

It was descriptive and long. The characters are hilarious and the storyline is really rich. [I would improve this book by] making the books come out faster! I would [recommend this book to others] because it has a long series that is easy to understand with extreme cliff-hangers.
--Lillian H.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Published by Penguin Group, 2011
352 pages (paperback

Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life—until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?
This powerful tale of heartbreak and hope is sure to haunt readers long after they finish the last page. (from barnesandnoble.com)

[I liked] to see what the past was like. In the beginning of the book it was a little boring. Yes, this book would be good to learn your history.
--Makayla C.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth
By Norton Juster
Published by Random House Children's Books, 1988
272 pages (hardcover)

This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth's gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked "Which," Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the "impossible" mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom. (from barnesandnoble.com)

Do you know what a dodecahedron is? I didn’t until I read this book when I was a kid (and if you want to know… you can read the book too!).

The Phantom Tollbooth is a classic, but it is an intelligent classic. This book is uses all sorts of odd math and English info to create memorable characters and situations. Honestly, I am excited to read this book to my son one day because I know he will love it!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Swim the Fly
By Don Calame
Published by Candlewick Press, 2010
352 pages (hardcover)

Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Sean and Coop, always set themselves a summer-time goal. This year’s? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time. As far as Matt is concerned, they’d have better luck finding the lost city of Atlantis. But seeing a girl in the buff starts to seem like child’s play compared to the other summertime goal Matt sets for himself: to swim the 100-yard butterfly (the hardest stroke known to God or man) in order to impress Kelly West, the hot new girl. So what if he can’t manage a single lap, let alone four? He’s got the whole summer to perfect his technique. What could possibly go wrong? (from barnesandnoble.com)

[I liked this book because] it was very funny. There was a good lesson: telling the truth is usually better. [This book is]maybe a little offensive for girls to read. Overall Swim the Fly was a very good book. I think Swim the Fly is a very good book that I would recommend to my friends, but a little offensive for girls.
--Ethan C.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2)
By Maureen Johnson
Published by Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013
304 pages (hardcover)

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late. (from barnesandnoble.com)

I’ve been waiting for this book for a while because I really enjoyed The Name of the Star and I Maureen Johnson’s writing is engaging and fun. While this book isn’t my favorite Maureen Johnson book, it was an entertaining read with equal parts sarcasm, mystery, humor, deadly ghosts, and romance.

Overall, what I liked best about this book was the details Johnson gave. Unlike when I read The Secret Garden and skipped over all those detailed paragraphs about flowers and such, The Madness Underneath gave London and Rory’s world life with beautiful details. On the other hand, Rory kind of annoyed me with her (sometimes) lazy attitude and running away from her problems. She makes some stupid decisions throughout the book that do move the plot along, but seem a bit too impulsive for Rory (or most teens in general).

Also, folks, don’t take treats from strangers.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty
By Libba Bray
Published by Random House Children’s Books, 2005
432 pages (hardcover)

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to? (from barnesandnoble.com)

I liked it, I didn’t love it. I mean, it was good and mysterious and fantastical, but I think I was expecting something a bit… more.
One of my biggest frustrations was the (lack of) world-building. The culture and quirks of the 1890s was not explained well and I think that was a lost opportunity. Victorian England can be such an enchanting period with which to work and I felt confused and let down in parts. Additionally, I would have liked more vivid descriptions of the alternate realm. It was described as such a lovely and addicting place to be, but I didn’t catch that in the details.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading A Great and Terrible Beauty. The characters leapt off the page and there were plenty of cliff-hangers to keep me turning the pages. There are two books after this one and it will be interesting to see what the characters choose to do (and not do) in their worlds.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

By Raina Telgemeier
Published by Scholastic, Inc., 2012
240 pages (paperback)

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's a terrible singer. Instead she's the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama! (from barnesandnoble.com)

Raina Tegemeier is quickly becoming one of my favorite author/artists. Her books are creative and reflect the thoughts and emotions of teens. Any time a new book of her’s comes out I have students (and staff) beg for copies and her books are all almost always checked out.

Overall, this book is about finding friends outside your comfort zone and how amazing things can happen when you are simply YOU. Sure, there were some unexpected plot twists and it is a great story, but really this book is just a fun read that girls and guys will enjoy.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

STUDENT REVIEW- The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

The Boy Who Dared
By Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Published by Scholastic, Inc., 2008
192 pages (paperback)

Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, HITLER YOUTH, and fleshed it out into thought-provoking novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he's tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut's story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times , to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself. (from barnesandnoble.com)

This is a very fantastic book. I would read this book at least 3 times before I get sick of it. I like how Helmuth sticks up to the Nazis and the Gestapo. [I would improve] how they treated brother Worbs. It was very harsh what they did. Yes, [I would recommend this book]. It shows you about World War 2 and what happened.
--Alejandro C.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

Turtle in Paradise
By Jennifer L. Holm
Published by Random House Children’s BooksPenguin Group, 2011
208 pages (paperback)

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.
Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways. (from barnesandnoble.com)

I like that it was a descriptive book and things were funny. The boys were always fighting and that was funny.
--Rachel G.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: My Top Ten Book-Boy Crushes

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is My Top Ten Fictional Character Crushes.

I am happily married, but I also have some book-boy crushes (some date back a decade or two). And I don’t feel like I need to explain any of these choices.... they seem rather obvious to me!

  • Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride & Prejudice
  • Gale from The Hunger Games
  • Jacob from Twilight
  • Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables
  • Calvin O’Keefe from A Wrinkle in Time
  • Justin from Awaken
  • Puck from The Iron King
  • William "Will" Herondale from Clockwork Angel
  • Samwise Gamgee from The Hobbit
  • Logan from The Baby-Sitter’s Club

Monday, April 1, 2013

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices #3)
By Cassandra Clare
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
592 pages (hardcover)

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.
Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.
As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?
Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy. (from barnesandnoble.com)

Ahhhh! So I HAD to get this the day it came out. I was so excited to find out what would happen. And, of course, I needed to know if Tessa would marry Jem or Will or neither.

Now, I don’t want to give away anything, especially since this is the 3rd book in the series, but below are my thoughts…
·         Don’t look at the inside of the dust jacket. It kind of gives things away (there are still some surprises coming your way even if you do look). HOWEVER, after I read Clockwork Princess I looked at the inside of the dust jacket and read summaries of the Mortal Instruments series. It all comes together, folks.
·        The beginning chapters are quite intense. Cassandra Clare doesn’t waste any time getting you hooked.
·         The few flashbacks of Young Will & Young Jem are tooooooooo cute.
·         The relationship(s) between Jem, Will & Tessa are amazing, heartbreaking, and inspiring.
·         I want to be Charlotte. She is awesome. I mean, she can kick some butt WHILE being pregnant!
·         Family love and loyalty are definitely a theme… but not a preachy theme. Just a refreshing & heart-felt theme.
·         Magnus Bane is a fabulous character. He definitely steps up in this book.
·         I wish the Epilogue would have gone on in time for a few more months or years. I wanted to see, um, things play out.

That is all, for now. If you haven’t started reading this trilogy yet, get on it! I don’t think you will be disappointed.