Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trilogy Talk: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

I first discovered Veronica Rossi and Under the Never Sky when I was getting ready to go to RT Teen Day back in 2012, which was in Chicago (and really that long ago? Wow!). The night before Teen Day, Anderson's in Naperville had a Spring into the Future tour stop, featuring Rossi, Cynthia Hand, Tahereh Mafi, and Anna Carey. I got UTNS signed, thinking it was a book I'd love...

Then I tried reading it a month or two later and HATED it. I gave up after 100 pages, completely confused about everything and feeling very meh. Fast forward to January this year: on one of our bazillion snow and/or cold days off from school, I was stuck at home and had just finished the only book I'd brought home from my classroom library, not expecting a day off. I was looking through my books at home (which is surprisingly not many) and saw the tossed-aside UTNS. For whatever reason, I decided to give it another try and miraculously, I really enjoyed it. I pushed through the confusing parts at the beginning and everything started to come together and become a really enjoyable book.

I didn't like TTEN and ITSB as much as UTNS, but they were still interesting and I felt pretty satisfied by the end of the series despite giving the last two books only 3 stars each. Sometimes's Rossi's writing style was too much for me and it's for that reason that I never wanted to just sit and read without stopping. I'd read a chapter or two, then do something else, then go back to the book. She did a nice job of recapping events and characters in TTEN and ITSB without being obvious, so that was nice for people like me who have a hard time remembering events in series books.

Right now, this series is not popular at school but it should be, so I plan on pushing it on students who like science fiction and dystopias. The dual narration is a great way to get students invested, although the covers are not. Man, do I not like these covers! Talk about cheese! Good thing we don't just books by covers, right?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor

Publish date: May 2014
Source: Conference
Format: ARC
Length: 288 pages
"Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all." (Goodreads)

I had never heard of Searching for Sky until I was given some books from a conference to put in my classroom library (which I am incredibly grateful for!). Of course, I brought a couple stacks home to read over the summer (plus the library, plus my kindle, plus I buy books...oops) and read Searching for Sky on my recent camping trip. I liked it!

Basically Sky and River have spent their whole lives on Island until they are taken away back to California. Sky lives with her grandmother and has to learn about our lives here in the US while trying to figure out what happened to her, why she was on the island, and why she was taken from it.

The plot is intriguing in itself--how can it not be? It was interesting to watch Sky learn how to do basic things here, like use a fork, and I was curious the whole time about her family's backstory. The book is a quick read and I was completely sucked in until about 75% through, when things started to get a bit too dramatic for me. Before that point, it was a 4 star read for sure.

I think my students will like this one a lot, especially those that like dystopian stories. Has anyone else read this? Thoughts?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom library
Format: Paperback
Length: 324 pages
"Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
" (Goodreads)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a strange book. It sounded really intriguing to me, almost like a Gone Girl-esque novel, but it was very different. I ultimately gave it 3.5 stars rounded to 4 on Goodreads.

It was very readable because of the different narrative formats. There are conversations between characters, musings of a few, and letters/emails from one character to another. The different types kept the story moving and kept me intrigued the whole time.

I didn't give it a higher rating than 3.5 because I felt like most of the action happened right at the end. There was a lot of build up to Bernadette's disappearance and I wanted it to happen earlier so I could read more about Bee looking for her mom. The ending seemed a bit abrupt because of that but it was still entertaining.

You should check out Where'd You Go, Bernadette if you are looking for a quirky mystery or something different from the usual. I'm not sure if I would call it YA, but it definitely has YA appeal and I'm looking forward to recommending it to students this fall.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Publish date: 2009
Source: library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 290 pages
"According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.
" (Goodreads)

I don't remember why I had Twenty Boy Summer on my TBR list. It doesn't really seem like a me book, especially since I am not into beach books as much as the typical YA fan. Don't hate me, but I start to feel like they are all the same after a while. Anyway though, I've been on a contemp kick lately and was going through my TBR list on Goodreads and seeing what my library had and thus...Twenty Boy Summer.

First of all, ignore the title. Yes, it's part of the book, but I think it's really misleading to use that phrase as the title. You know immediately by getting to know Anna (who I liked) that the title doesn't fit with her and I wish they had picked something else. I liked the beach setting more than usual, although I thought there was a little too much description of it, but not a huge deal.

I appreciated that this was more than a summer at the beach story. It was about dealing with grief and friendship with the convenient backdrop of a California beach and local boys. I also liked some aspects of the ending and if you've read it, you probably know what I am talking about. While I didn't love the book, I did like it and would recommend to contemp fans.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

Publish date: 2013
Source: Library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 388 pages
"It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. 

As Anna sets out to find her friend's killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine...
" (Goodreads)

Over the past year, I saw one or two reviews of Dangerous Girls, but never thought much about it until my friend Elizabeth read it and really liked it. I was able to get it through my state's inter-library loan system (which is very useful! Thanks MeLCat!) and devoured it in two days. I easily could have read it in one day because it was THAT addicting!

I don't want to say too much about the plot because you get the basics in the blurb and I don't want to give anything else away. Essentially, Anna goes to Aruba for spring break with her BFF Elise, her bf Tate, and some other friends. They are all having fun until Elise is found murdered and Anna is a suspect. I was completely sucked in by the plot and never wanted to put it down so I could keep reading and find out what actually happened. I felt completely anxious and just needed to keep reading to see if my suspicions were correct (and I'm not telling if they were!).

If you are looking for a page-turner or something to pull you out of a slump, I highly recommend Dangerous Girls. It reminded me of Gone Girl in terms of my general anxiety and need to keep reading, so if that appeals to you, go for it! Definitely one of the best books I've read this year.