Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 352 pages
"Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . .
" (Goodreads)

Let me start by saying that this cover is weird! It's creepy and so white and the 2 colored eyes just weird me out. I know they redid the covers for Enders and I don't think they're any better. Just had to get that off my chest!

I read Starters because it's been popular in my classes. One of my students gave a book talk on it and when I asked how many others had read it, a lot of hands went up. Whenever my students really like a book and I haven't read, I always make a point to get to it soon. I read it over a couple days and enjoyed it, although it wasn't my favorite.

In a time with a lot of similar sounding science fiction/futuristic novels, I thought this plot was pretty original. Callie rents her body out to Enders so they can kind of relive their youths in younger bodies. I was entertained throughout most of the book, but felt like the writing started to falter a little toward the end. It was basically just an ok book for me; nothing outstanding but still a fairly fun book. I would say read it if you like the genre!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Publish date: 2005
Source: Classroom Library
Format: Paperback
Length: 377 pages
"Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves
." (Goodreads)

I feel like Percy Jackson might be the younger generation's Harry Potter. There will always only be Harry Potter for me, but Percy Jackson is a good second place. I vaguely knew about this series but never paid much attention to them since they came out at the end of my high school years and while I was in college, when I didn't read much and definitely was not keeping up on YA/MG lit. Rick Riordan's books are VERY popular with my students though, particularly this year's freshmen, so I figured I needed to read them. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked The Lightning Thief!

I don't know much about mythology, so I was a little worried going into the book, but I had no problem getting sucked into Percy's world! Percy is new to all of it too, so we get to learn with him and if you're like me, it's a nice introduction to the topic. I liked all of the side characters, especially Grover, and found it fun to follow their adventures. I'm definitely planning on reading the next book, The Sea of Monsters, although I'm told the Heroes of Olympus series is even better!

If you are looking for a fun adventure series with some heart, check out The Lightning Thief! Or am I the last person who hadn't read it until now?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being a Reader

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. I haven't taken part in a while, but I love this week's topic!

Not in order, of course. I love being a reader because...

1. Reading relaxes me! After a long day I work, I love coming home to unwind with a book. I would much rather read than watch TV or surf the internet.

2. Reading makes you better at EVERYTHING. Seriously. Makes you a better writer, increases vocabulary, teaches you about new topics, increases concentration in general, better critical thinking skills, etc.

3. I love seeing how creative authors are. I don't consider myself to be a creative person, so my mind sometimes is blown at crazy plot twists or intricately created fantasy worlds.

4. Going to author events at bookstore and libraries is really fun. My go to bookstore for events has had some great ones, most recently Marissa Meyer. I've also met Meg Cabot and the Smart Chicks Kick It ladies a few years ago and plan on seeing Shannon Hale there in March!

5. Having favorite books in common with someone is a great way to bond. Automatic conversations there!

6. I know how awesome my local library is. My library system has a great YA section and impressive collection of audiobooks and graphic novels.

7. I can help my students become readers. Being a reader yourself is absolutely crucial if you want your students to become readers. Let them see you as an example. I think I need a post about this.

8. I am always entertained at a moment's notice, with either a book I have with me or with one on my kindle app on my phone. Never bored!

9. I can be in whatever kind of world I want: a Wisconsin dairy farm, the prairie, a spaceship, Hogwarts, the Congo, post-Civil War, anything.

10. With blogs and twitter, my reading community has exploded and I couldn't be more grateful. I love that some people I've bonded with over books have become real life friends :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Publish date: 2012
Source: Classroom library
Format: Hardcover
Length: 272 pages
"The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sanctuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.
" (Goodreads)

Endangered is a great example of a book that seems totally not for me. The setting, the storyline, the cover, all of it just screams a great book for someone, but that someone isn't me. Obviously, though, I did read it. I kept seeing it on my shelf at school and saw that a few Goodreads friends had given it good reviews, so I brought it home and read it over a few days last December. To my surprise, I liked it!

Even though I didn't absolutely love Endangered, I did like it, and can think of students I would recommend it to. It's a great example of a survival story: Sophie has to survive in a jungle by herself with a group of bonobos and no other humans for the most part. I wouldn't have made it, that's for sure, but I still like reading survival stories (apparently they teach me I wouldn't make it). It was interesting to learn about bonobos and animal sanctuaries, two things I know very little about.

Just like my Under the Never Sky lesson last week (right book, right time), this book gave me a another mini-lesson for my students (and me): leaving your reading comfort zone can be scary and uncomfortable, but is often really rewarding. I'm definitely glad I read Endangered and expanded my world a bit. I'm looking forward to exploring Schrefer's other work!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Publish date: 2012
Source: Purchased
Format: Hardcover
Length: 374 pages
"Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland--known as The Death Shop--are slim. If the cannibals don't get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She's been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He's wild--a savage--and her only hope of staying alive. 

A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile--everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria's help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.
" (Goodreads)

Under the Never Sky and I have a history. I bought it from Anderson's when I went to the Spring into the Future signing the night before RT Teen Day in Chicago. It was in 2012, but I swear it was just last year! Anyway, I bought it and had Veronica Rossi sign it without having read it, just assuming I'd like it. I tried reading it for the first time during a readathon and quit after 100 pages. I was completely lost and just wasn't getting into it at all. I was especially bummed because I loved meeting Veronica and thought she was hilarious and fun to listen to.

Fast forward to last month when we had a two snow days to start the week and I'd run out of books to read, having brought home and read Starters and The Caged Graves from my classroom library. Nothing sounded good on my kindle, so I was looking through my own books, hoping something would jump out at me, when I decided to give UTNS another shot. Amazingly, I got really into it and loved it!

The beginning of Under the Never Sky is really confusing, to me at least, and if you are thinking about reading it, just push through and keep going. Once you get about a third in, things really click and it becomes hard to put down. I read it over 2 days and was happy I picked it up when I didn't have to work--it would have been hard to stop reading! I was sucked into the story and found it to be a fresh take on the dystopian/futuristic science fiction genre. I still have a lot of questions about the world building, but I'm hoping they will be answered in Through the Ever Night (which I am currently reading).

I used my experience with Under the Never Sky as an example to my students of reading the right book at the right time. The first time I tried to read it, it didn't work out at all, either due to readathon burn out or just not feeling the genre. After a long break and needing a new book though, UTNS clicked! I definitely am wondering now if I should go back to any books I DNFed to try again...