Friday, December 21, 2012

Review: This is Not a Test

Author: Courtney Summers
Publish date: June 2012
Source: Classroom library
"It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually wantto live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?" (Goodreads)

Well, I have discovered a new favorite author! I've been meaning to read a book by Courtney Summers for a long time and this was the first of hers that we got at school, so I borrowed it and absolutely LOVED it. I cannot praise this book highly enough!

One of the things I loved most about This is Not a Test is that even though there are zombies in it, it's not a zombie book. In fact, I don't think they were even called zombies--just the infected. This book was much more about Sloane and her choices. At the beginning of the book, she has decided to kill herself, but after people became infected, she had to make a choice: give up or fight to stay alive. I really love that the book was more about that and the group dynamics at school than the zombies themselves.

I also really loved Courtney Summers's writing style. At some points it was like a punch to the gut: so real. I'm around teenagers a lot and was one not too long ago and I think her dialogue was spot on (not that I've been in a zombie apocalypse though). Her words were just full of fear and angst with a dose of hopelessness. I basically was just completely captivated and didn't want to stop reading.

I've book talked this one and it's been borrowed already! I hope my students love it as much as I did. What Summers book should I read next?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Best of 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is:

Top Ten Books of 2012

My plan is to fill out Jamie's end of the year survey, but to basically wait until the last minute so I can get in more reading! Thirteen days left in 2012 and most of them are no work days! My plan is book a day, but we'll see how that goes :)

Anyway, here are my top ten books of 2012, NOT in order, AS OF DECEMBER 18.

1. A Million Suns by Beth Revis

2. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

3. The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

4. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

5. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

6. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

7. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

8. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

9. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

10. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Books I still want to read before 2013: Seraphina, The Diviners, Reached, Water for Elephants, something by Robin McKinley, The Sea of Tranquility, The Language of Flowers, Mudbound, The Compound, Beautiful Creatures...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Author: Mary Pearson
Publish date: 2008
Source: Classroom library
"Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox has just awoken from a year-long coma - so she's been told - and she is still recovering from the terrible accident that caused it. But what happened before that? She's been given home movies chronicling her entire life, which spark memories to surface. But are the memories really hers? And why won't anyone in her family talk about the accident? Jenna is becoming more curious. But she is also afraid of what she might find out if she ever gets up the courage to ask her questions.

What happened to Jenna Fox? And who is she really?
" (Goodreads)

Well, here I am again, reading a book I'd never heard of until we got it at work for our classroom libraries. What a rough job, adding more books to my TBR and reading them as soon as I can! Anyway, after I read this book, I was looking up the series on Goodreads and saw the second book is called The Fox Inheritance, which I have actually heard of. After finishing The Adoration of Jenna Fox, I can't wait to read the rest of the series!

Based on summary of the book (above and on the back of the paperback), I had no idea that the story takes place in the future when medicine is more advanced. I was expecting more of a contemporary read about a girl recovering from amnesia, but was pleasantly surprised at the story. I really enjoyed the story and can't believe the book isn't more popular...but maybe I am just 3 years late to the party?

Sometimes in "person can't remember past books," it's annoying to learn things along with the main character, but I didn't mind at all only knowing what Jenna knew. In Jennifer Echols's Forget You, for example, you learn things along with Zoey, but I was so annoyed with her by the end! I wasn't annoyed with Jenna and was even scared for her at some points.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox also made me think a lot about medical ethics and family secrets and the implications of both. Basically the book made me think and I enjoyed it, which is win win! It's easily one of my favorites of 2012 and I can't wait to recommend it to my students!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Song of the Sparrow

Author: Lisa Ann Sandell
Publish date: 2007
Source: Classroom library
"The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur's supporters, lives with her father on Arthur's base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine's only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur's older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur's second-in-command. However, when yet another girl -- the lovely Gwynivere-- joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry. But can her love for Lancelot survive the birth of an empire?" (Goodreads)

I'll be honest here: I had never heard of this book until I was unpacking it and putting on my bookshelves in my classroom. I looked it up on Goodreads and found that I'd actually marked another of Sandell's books for my TBR list, A Map of the Known World. Being a fan of verse novels AND historical fiction, I figured I'd give this one a try.

Basically this is a retelling of the story of Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, but told in verse. I don't really know much about the legend of King Arthur, really, other than what I've seen in a couple movies. I've been meaning to read The Mists of Avalon, but we all know how that goes, so I was pleased to grab this book from my class. It was an interesting story, especially the fact that Elaine was one of the few women living with her father, brothers, and other men at the camp.

Most of the time I liked the writing style, which was verse. It made the book seem much shorter, like Ellen Hopkins's novels, although sometimes I thought the line breaks were odd. I prefer Ellen's books with the shorter poems/stanzas. Song of the Sparrow had full chapters and some of the parts just seemed to go on and on.

I would tentatively recommend Song of the Sparrow if you like both historical fiction and verse novels. I enjoyed the opportunity to try another round at poetry and learn a bit more about the Arthurian legend.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: New Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is:

Top Ten New to Me Authors in 2012 (NOT in order)

1. E. Lockhart (Ruby Oliver series)

2. Beth Revis (Across the Universe series)

3. Marissa Meyer (Cinder)

4. Shannon Hale (Princess Academy, The Goose Girl, Austenland)

5. Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Glass, Burned)

6. Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl)

7. Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy)

8. Jessica Spotswood (Born Wicked)

9. Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go and A Monster Calls)

10. Cynthia Hand (Unearthly, Hallowed)

It was so hard to narrow it down to 10 authors! Honorable mentions include Donna Cooner, Neal Shusterman, and Trish Doller.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

Author: Diana Peterfreund
Publish date: June 2012
Source: Library
"It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen's persuasion, "For Darkness Shows the Stars" is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
" (Goodreads)

I feel that For Darkness Shows the Stars has been all over the internet in the last few months and the general consensus is that it's an amazing book. Well, I have to admit: it seems like a Kyle book. Futuristic, love story, secrets....however, I did not love it. I am honestly still trying to figure out if I like it.

First of all, I have not read Persuasion, but I don't think that's necessary to read For Darkness Shows the Stars. I understood the basic plot of the story, but I don't think Diana Peterfreund explained the world enough. I wanted to know more about what actually happened to cause the Reduction and more about the Luddites rather than just the little snippets we got. I'm curious, dang it! Tell me more!

I did like the characters, especially Elliot. She was such a good person, always advocating for the Reduced servants at the estate and trying to do what was best for everyone. I liked most of the other characters as well except for Kai. I don't understand why Elliot loved him. I know he was supposed to seem cold and angry, but he never changed from that for me.

The letters throughout the novel were just meh. I found myself skimming them except for the end as they became closer to the current time of the book. I guess honestly...I was just bored most of the time except for maybe the last 30 pages. I felt like nothing really happened. I probably would have DNFed except I'd read such glowing reviews that I figured I'd just keep reading and wait for the amazing part. Alas, this book and I were just not meant to be.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November in Review

November is over! Meaning it is almost 2013! Whoa! I swear this year has flown by, especially since September and the beginning of the school year. November wasn't bad in terms of how much I read, since I actually reviewed 8 books. It helped that we had a few days off school for Thanksgiving, allowing me more reading (and family!) time. I am really looking forward to winter break--my goal is to read a book a day. Cannot. Wait.

November Reviews
The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Lark by Tracey Porter
Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Life as We Knew it by Susan Beth Pfeiffer
Skinny by Donna Cooner
Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
Cut by Patricia McCormick

I also did two Top Ten Tuesdays: Books/Authors I'm thankful for and Most Anticipated 2013 Reads. I am looking forward to so many books next year!!

I read a couple books this month that I didn't review: The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Book Love by Penny Kittle. Both are about teaching reading and incorporating choice reading into the ELA classroom. I absolutely love Penny Kittle. She is an amazing English teacher and I highly recommend both of her books that I have read and refer to regularly: Write Beside Them and Book Love.

The blog will be quiet this week, as it's the last week of our trimester at school and I have a big group project due for my grad class. I'm about halfway through For Darkness Shows the Stars, so I might review it this week depending on when I finish it. I'm also listening to Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margie Stohl and it is taking FOREVER! I've been listening to it for weeks when I drive and I'm not even halfway through yet. I hope it's worth the time!