Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: Cut

Author: Patricia McCormick
Publish date: 2000
Source: Classroom Library
"A tingle arced across my scalp. The floor tipped up at me and my body spiraled away. Then I was on the ceiling looking down, waiting to see what would happen next.

Callie cuts herself. Never too deep, never enough to die. But enough to feel the pain. Enough to feel the scream inside.

Now she's at Sea Pines, a "residential treatment facility" filled with girls struggling with problems of their own. Callie doesn't want to have anything to do with them. She doesn't want to have anything to do with anyone. She won't even speak.

But Callie can only stay silent for so long....
" (Goodreads)

We ordered Cut for our classroom libraries and I was intrigued by two things right away: the cover and the length. After reading the back, I knew I wanted to read it, especially being a big fan of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I did enjoy the book, but didn't love it.

I actually enjoy reading books about topics that I can't relate to because they help me to try to understand why someone might do something like Callie did: cut herself. I try to read about a wide variety of topics so I can recommend books to students and more importantly, so I can relate to them and be a better teacher because of that. I definitely know more now and hope that other teachers read books like this and Speak. Cut was sad, but ultimately hopeful. I like that Patricia McCormick actually spoke to girls like Callie at treatment facilities to ask their opinion on her portrayal of Callie and the other characters. The author's note at the end in which she detailed that was pretty interesting.

Like I said, I liked the book, but I wish it was longer. 150 pages is not a lot of time to get to know a character, especially one like Callie, and I want to know more about her. It was nice to read a quick book, but I wasn't satisfied at the end. I will still recommend Cut to my students, especially for those who liked Speak.

We have purchased other books by McCormick and I'm looking forward to reading more by her, particularly Sold, which is a verse novel. Any other recommendations?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated 2013 Reads

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

Top Ten Most Anticipated Reads of 2013

So many great books coming out in 2013! I'll try to contain the list to ten. 

1. Shades of Earth by Beth Revis: I am dying to read this one! I absolutely love this series and Beth!!

2. Requiem by Lauren Oliver: Must know what happens!

3. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare: I surprisingly loved Angel and Prince--so good!

4. Boundless by Cynthia Hand: Never though I'd like angel books, but I completely fell for Unearthly and Hallowed!

5. Unravel Me by Taherah Mafi: Yes please.

6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer: I flat out loved Cinder and am so excited for Scarlet!!

7. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins: Yesssss, more Stephanie Perkins!

8. The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen: Who doesn't love a good Sarah Dessen?

9. The Archived by Victoria Schwab: I didn't love The Near Witch, but The Archived sounds really cool.

10. The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson: MJ. That's all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review: Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Author: Robin Brande
Publish date: 2007
Source: Classroom library
"Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.

All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.

And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.
" (Goodreads)

This is another example of a book I'd never heard of until we ordered it for school. It caught my eye as I was putting it on the shelf, mostly because of the cool cover. It was a pretty quick read, although I'm not sure if I necessarily liked it.

I liked Mena a lot as a main character and actually enjoyed most of the other characters. Casey seemed adorably nerdy and pretty awesome. Also puppies! I was disappointed in how Mena's parents treated her; I didn't think it was quite justified, despite what Mena "did." Ms. Shepherd was pretty kick ass, which I loved. Nice to see a teacher portrayed like that.

I guess my issue is that I didn't think the book would revolve so much around religion. I mean, yes, I knew it had something to do with religion since the blurb says that Mena has been kicked out a church, but I didn't realize what a pivotal role it would play. Had I been aware of that, I probably would have read the book differently. I felt like the author made the religious characters pretty typical (thinking LOTR promotes witchcraft?) and it seemed overdone in some parts.

That all said, I didn't dislike the book and think it will be popular in my room, especially with 9th grade students since Mena is that age. She grew as a character and it was nice to see her realize some things about herself. I look forward to book talking this in a few weeks when I get new students!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Thankful

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

Top Ten books/authors I'm thankful for

There are so many, but I'll try to come up with just ten! These are not in order!

1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: My 8th grade language arts teacher recommended this book to me (through book orders!) and I can't be thankful enough for it, LHA, and my teacher. I devoured Speak and immediately told my mom to read it because I liked it so much.

2. Sarah Dessen: I loved everything by Sarah Dessen in high school and credit her as one of the reasons I loved reading so much in high school!

3. The Baby-sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin: This was the first series that I adored and is totally one of the reasons I was a huge reader as a kid. I ate these up like candy.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: The reason so many of my students love reading.

5. JK Rowling: Do I even have to explain? Magic. Just plain magic.

6. Judy Blume: I really connected with a few of her books as a kid and appreciated her honest and frank writing style.

7. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Another series that made me fall in love with reading, history, and books about history. Love her and them.

8. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: I am thankful for this book because it opened up a whole new side of history I knew nothing about. Powerful book and makes me wonder what else I don't know about and still need to learn.

9. Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor: This was one of the first books I loved that was required reading in school. Promptly asked for the sequels when finished. I'm thankful for liking it and for its content.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: One of the first books that really affected me in a big way. So thankful to Harper Lee for writing it and for allowing me to enjoy rereading over and over.

Lastly, I am thankful for book blogging and twitter because of all the wonderful people I have "met" and friends I have made this way! In the last year, I've really felt like I've found my people. You guys get me. I get you. What more can I ask for?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Skinny

Author: Donna Cooner
Publish date: October 2012
Source: Classroom library
"Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it.

But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own.
" (Goodreads)

I heard about Skinny awhile ago, but never read any early reviews for it, which made me even more curious about how it was. We bought it for our classroom libraries at school and after a student read it, I borrowed it for last weekend...which ended up being my sick weekend, so lots of time to read! I liked it, but did have some issues with it by the end.

I think it's necessary that we have books with an overweight main character, but I'm not sure that Ever from Skinny is the right kind of character to be reading about. I actually found Ever to be pretty funny and I liked her relationship with her friend Rat a lot. It was painful to read about how Ever's classmates treated her aka not like a human being. I found Ever to be in an interesting person, but I had a problem with her choices.

My problem was that she went straight to gastric bypass surgery. At the initial appointment, all she did was tell the doctor that she tried diet and exercise, but it didn't work and then it was over. No more talk of making lifestyle changes or keeping a food diary or anything. To me, that was unrealistic. Not that I've had this surgery, so maybe I am not one to talk, but I know you don't just immediately go to surgery without more discussion of other methods. I don't want young people reading this to think that surgery is the only answer. I also wish there was more counseling follow up after Ever's surgery. There were clearly issues that needed to be worked out with professional help.

My issues with the book aside, I think this will be popular with female students. I already book talked it and expect it to be checked out pretty frequently. I did like Skinny and its overall message and would tentatively recommend it if you are interested in this subject matter.

One more thing: I really want to know why her parents named her Ever!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: Life As We Knew It

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publish date: 2006
Source: Classroom library
"Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all--hope--in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.
" (Goodreads)

I had sadly not heard of this book until we purchased it for our classroom libraries. I of course read the back of all the books I don't know as I catalog them (aka stick a card and pocket in them) and this one seemed awesome. I took it home last weekend, thinking I might get to it, then I got the flu (yuck) and read a few books while I was holed up in bed. I really liked it and have already recommended it to my students.

One of the things I liked most about Life As We Knew It is that it seems almost realistic, especially after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. When I read about cities being flooded, it wasn't shocking or hard to imagine because it happened! Now I don't know if a meteor could actually hit the moon and knock it out of orbit, but it was scary to think about all of those natural disasters happening at the same time: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, you name it. I feel like I need to have food and water stored in the basement...just in case.

I also really liked that this was an epistolary novel (woo look at my obnoxious English teacher lingo), or told through journal entries. It was easy to believe that a teenager was just writing about her life as it was happening. Because it was told in that format, though, it wasn't necessarily action packed, but that didn't bother me. I think it was a great format for the story and really helped you to feel what Miranda was feeling. Like I said before, I already book talked it in class and I think it will be popular, especially given recent events.

Life As We Knew It is the first in a trilogy and I am really looking forward to seeing where the series goes!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Review: Gilt

Author: Katherine Longshore
Publish date: May 2012
Source: Library
"When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head." (Goodreads)

I remember hearing about Gilt back in May when it came out and I figured I would just find it at the library at some point...which is exactly what I did. Went in to find an audiobook and came out with two plus Gilt. Common occurrence when I go to the library. ANYWAY. I liked Gilt, even though it's not my favorite historical fiction.

One of the things I liked the most about Gilt is that it's told from a point of view that is not normally used when reading about King Henry VIII. I also really enjoyed reading the author's note at the end, in which she explained that Kitty was actually a real person, but not much is known about her, so thus...Gilt was born. The "how" of creating historical fiction is so interesting to me and it was just fun to read Gilt from Kitty's POV while still getting that inside look at court and Cat.

I enjoyed the writing style quite a bit as well. It was a bit flowery and slightly poetic, but seemed to mesh well with the subject matter and setting. Character wise, Katherine Longshore did a great job at making Cat annoying, but also in making you feel a teensy bit sorry for her toward the end of the book. Still though, it's crazy how obsessed some of those people were with royalty and THINGS.

All of that said, I didn't adore this book. I liked it, but I didn't love it. I would recommend it if you're in the mood for historical fiction or enjoy reading about Henry VIII.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Review: Lark

Author: Tracey Porter
Publish date: 2011
Source: Classroom library
"When sixteen-year-old Lark Austin is kidnapped from her Virginia hometown and left to die in a snowy forest, she leaves behind two friends who are stunned by the loss. As Lark's former best friend, Eve can't shake the guilt that this tragedy was somehow her fault. Meanwhile, Nyetta is haunted each night by Lark's ghost, who comes through the bedroom window and begs Nyetta to set her soul free. Eve and Nyetta realize that Lark is trapped in limbo, and only by coming together to heal themselves will they discover why." (Goodreads)

I had never heard of Lark until we ordered it for our classroom libraries and my coworker took it home one night and read it in one sitting. She told me about it the next day and since it was a short book and I was jonesing for one of those "read in one sittings" kind of books, I took it home and shockingly, read it all that night. It's a short book and I enjoyed it, although I don't think it's for everybody.

This book is told from the point of view of all three main characters, Lark, Eve, and Nyetta. I normally don't like that many narrators, but I think it really worked for this book, mostly because of the length. There was a LOT packed into less than 200 pages, but I don't think the book would have been as good if it were longer. I do wish there was more of an ending, though--I felt like Porter could have gone a bit further with the characters.

The writing in this book is beautiful, almost poetic, and I really enjoyed reading it. There is one chapter in particular toward the end, told from Lark's POV, that I thought was amazing and an interesting choice in the narration. If you've read the book, you know which one I'm talking about.

This book isn't for everyone, but if you are looking for a short, sad book, mostly based on character development, Lark will work for you. Expect to read it in one sitting!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #2)

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publish date: October 2012
Source: Purchased
"Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.
She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.

They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.

She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?
" (Goodreads)

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was one of my favorite books last year and I've been eagerly anticipating the sequel since, oh, the last page of Unbecoming. That cliffhanger about killed me! Usually when I read a sequel a year after the first book came out, I have to either reread book one or find a detailed recap, but I actually remember mostly everything that happened in Unbecoming (this does not happen often!). I devoured The Evolution of Mara Dyer and am happy to report that it did not disappoint.

This book picks up soon after Unbecoming ends and rather nicely recaps events from book one, but not in an obvious or annoying way. I loved learning more about Mara as she did and for probably the first time, found myself enjoying an unreliable narrator. I usually can't handle them, but Michelle Hodkin must be magical or something.

The only issue I had with this book had nothing to do with the actual story. I was cruising right along, inhaling the story when all of the sudden noticed that my book went from page 436 to 469. It was missing 33 pages!! I was angry, mostly because the story was so good and I needed to finish it! It was actually really easy to return to Amazon and I have zero complaints about the process, to be honest. I read the last 80 or so pages as soon I got a new copy from them and NOW I NEED BOOK 3. NOW.

Really, though, I loved the developments in Mara's story and can't wait to see how everything works out! I highly recommend this series and don't be put off by the length: the pages fly by!

Friday, November 2, 2012

October in Review

October was a busy month for school--lots going on and I went through a bit of a reading/blogging slump. I've been pretty tired once I get home from work and lately, sleep/rest has sounded better than reading or writing reviews. I hope that I'll get back into the swing of things in November, especially with a few days off work coming up.

I only reviewed 6 books this month:

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Unwind by Neal Schusterman (audiobook)
The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Safekeeping by Karen Hesse
Forever by Judy Blume
Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

4 of those books were read during the readathon, which shows how little reading I did otherwise this month. My favorite was The Boyfriend List--I love Ruby!

I am almost finished with The Evolution of Mara Dyer (had to send it back due to missing pages) and need to write a review of Lark by Tracey Porter. Look for those soon!

Favorite book in October?