Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Odyssey of Falling is What you should be reading now. Seriously. NOW.

Standard

The Odyssey of Falling might be my top read for 2014, and if you like contemporary YA, this would be my first recommendation. The book summary doesn’t do this one justice. This book has soul. I was so glad that I read it! This is a kindle only book, and that makes me sad because I just want to hand out a hundred copies and get my students reading this funny, heartfelt, compelling book that I couldn’t put down. At $3.99, it is a real bargain. You should buy it. Now.

IMG_0130.JPG
The Odyssey of Falling Paige Crutcher
Published Nov. 4, 2014

Goodreads Summary
Meet Odd. Audrey “Odd” Ashworth is an exceptionally bright girl with a sympathetic heart. She’s in the top 4% of her class. She’s obsessed with getting into Manhattan School of Music, committed to following the “signs” the universe delivers, and infatuated with her recently deceased best friend’s boyfriend.

Life is a little strange for Odd.

Until she finds her best friend’s diary in her crush’s car, and decides to do the bucket list tucked inside the pages. As Odd seeks closure and a way to honor her friend, she discovers there’s nothing wrong with being a little strange, especially if it helps you discover who you were meant to be. Along the way, Odd falls into trouble, adventure, and finally love.

The Odyssey of FallingThe Odyssey of Falling by Paige Crutcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Audrey is trying to make sense of her life as she struggles with the death of her best friend. Audrey and her friends are offbeat and relatable and genuinely fun to follow. The plot was entertaining and meaningful but not the predictable teen read. I laughed, and I got that thick crying feeling in my throat, and I truly cared about the outcome in this book. I read it straight through in an afternoon. I will definitely recommend it to my Sarah Dessen and Huntley Fitzpatrick fans. There was some minor language, sensual situations, and drug/alcohol use, but they were not glorified. High school and above readers.

View all my reviews

This girl and her lion can kick your butt and a zombie’s butt At The Same Time!

Standard
This girl and her lion can kick your butt and a zombie’s butt At The Same Time!

Hollowland is an older book, but it is one of my favorites. There is non-stop action and a really tough protagonist. She is working her way across the wasteland of a zombie filled USA to find the military installation where her sick younger brother was evacuated to when their former safe haven is overrun. A solid and reliable pre med student, a fashion conscious preteen, and an incompetent but endearing former rock star make up her unwanted team of traveling companions. Also, there is a lion. This one is full of snark and attitude, which I always enjoy. Many reviewers on Goodreads thought this was an example of bad writing and/or bad plotting, but I loved it, and I read it at least once a year. The students that I can talk into reading it always want the sequel. The narrator isn’t a girly girl, so both male and female readers can find it engaging. It is also usually free on Amazon, so nothing lost if you download it and decide I am fooling myself about the enjoyment it will bring you.

IMG_0097.JPG
Hollowland Amanda Hocking
Paperback, 312 pages
Published October 6th 2010 by Amanda Hocking (first published September 28th 2010)

Goodreads Summary

Hollowland – the first book in the young adult dystopian series The Hollows…

“This is the way the world ends – not with a bang or a whimper, but with zombies breaking down the back door.”

Nineteen-year-old Remy King is on a mission to get across the wasteland left of America, and nothing will stand in her way – not violent marauders, a spoiled rock star, or an army of flesh-eating zombies.

This girl could probably kick your butt (if she weren’t busy making out with her mentor)

Standard
This girl could probably kick your butt (if she weren’t busy making out with her mentor)

Josie’s life is hitting an all time low when she discovers she has a secret ability that requires a lot of intense training and her mentor is a hot guy. It has the potential to make her life pretty awesome if it doesn’t get her killed first. You might guess this is science fiction for the sake of a teen romance. You might be right. Many people liked this book on Goodreads, especially charmed by the fact that the protagonist was a “geek girl,” but every geeky thing they mentioned felt very contrived to me, and I felt like someone was trying too hard to reach a certain demographic. This distracted and annoyed me a lot, so this might be a better book in your mind than mine. The publisher gave it to me in exchange for a fair review, though, so, hey, my opinion.

IMG_0121.JPG
Anomaly Tonya Kuper
Paperback, 301 pages
Published November 25th 2014 by Entangled Publishing

Goodreads Summary
Reality is only an illusion.
Except for those who can control it…
Worst. Birthday. Ever.

My first boyfriend dumped me—happy birthday, Josie!—my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening…

Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it.

When hottily-hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead…

Anomaly (Schrodinger's Consortium, #1)Anomaly by Tonya Kuper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

While Anomaly has a lot of action and an interesting concept, I did not find it very engaging. The female protagonist is high strung and emotional, and yet is strangely detached. The male protagonist fails to ring true to me either, as he is the archetype of a tortured hero knight in shining armor generic hot guy. He would have been a lot more interesting if I hadn’t known what was going on in his mind. The plot is stretched pretty thin as well, acting as a minor backdrop to a budding romance and as an excuse for the two narrators to get close to each other. Though I did not care for the book, I’m sure many teen readers will find the characters likeable and they will enjoy reading about the insecurities both characters face as they begin to feel attraction but are unsure if it is reciprocated. The strong emotions that surge around every single incident in the entire plot will probably seem reasonable to many teenagers, as I do recall feeling that way myself back in the day. If you are a more discerning reader, you can skip this one. Language and situations are appropriate for seventh grade and up

View all my reviews

Meira Can Also Kick Your Butt (If They Would Ever Let Her Show Her Mad Skills!).

Standard
Meira Can Also Kick Your Butt (If They Would Ever Let Her Show Her Mad Skills!).

Snow like Ashes is not a retelling of Snow White. That is not Xena’s chakrum on the cover, nor is the symbol meant to evoke Divergent-like dystopia. This is a fantasy book made for those who aren’t really sure they want to read fantasy. If you like female protagonists who can kill you or me or forces of immortal evil, this is the book for you. I recommend it to fans of the Throne of Glass series by Sara J. Maas who are beginning the long wait for book number three. Again, I haven’t met a perfect book, but this one was certainly enjoyable and had a very likeable love interest — he isn’t Gilbert Blythe, but he is guaranteed to turn the heads of the modern girl. It did cause me Nerdy Book Girl problem #335 (I read the whole thing in one sitting and now I have to wait an entire year for the sequel).
IMG_0120.JPG
Snow Like Ashes Sara Raasch
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Summary
A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
True to the summary given. A strong female protagonist on a heroine’s journey. I predicted a good portion of the surprise ending, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying every minute of it. These folks were too busy fighting to really have more than the most innocent of sensual scenes, and the language was appropriate for all ages. Adding it to my classroom library and recommending it to my fans of the Throne of Glass series and the My Fair Assassins fans. Solid purchase.

View all my reviews

Snow White Can Kick Your Butt in a Cage Fight! Well, this one can, anyway.

Standard
Snow White Can Kick Your Butt in a Cage Fight!  Well, this one can, anyway.

In a YA literary landscape littered with fairytale rewrites, it is hard to decide which ones are worth your time, but this is one of my new favorites. A loose retelling of Snow White, this was nothing like I expected. I could almost picture it as an episode of Firefly. The futuristic setting included worker drones instead of dwarves and a princess laying low as a computer engineering genius. This book wasn’t perfect, but it had enough action, innovation, and heart to keep me engaged. Kids went hungry when this one downloaded onto my kindle (Not really. There were totally pop tarts and goldfish in the pantry, and I was done in about three hours. But someone might have had to wear febreezed jeans the next day.). If you liked The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlett, and Cress )by Marissa Meyer, you will enjoy this — not exactly the same, but a similar vibe, except this gal gets stuff done!

IMG_0094.JPG
Stitching Snow
R.C Lewis
ebook, 338 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion

Goodreads Summary
Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

Stitching SnowStitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Stitching Snow is true to the premise presented. Essie is hiding out on another planet, content to fix her mining android friends and to compete in prize fights at the local bar when she needs a new, pricey component. A stranger crash lands and Essie feels compelled to help him get off planet asap, setting off a chain of events that will draw her back to a life she fled long ago. Strong female protagonist and interesting storyline. Very light sensuality and appropriate language for all ages. This is a darker read. The antagonists are real threats to Essie in different but horrifying ways. It is going in my class library and I can’t wait to start handing it off to my eager readers! Solid purchase.

View all my reviews

One Past Midnight has an intriguing premise that will draw you in

Standard
One Past Midnight has an intriguing premise that will draw you in

I have a “thing” for the idea of parallel lives, even though most books and movies with the premise are hard to follow. This book is one of the few that is actually really easy to read. It wasn’t perfect, but I considered it a good use of a cold, rainy Friday afternoon.

IMG_0061-1.JPGOne Past Midnight by Jessica Shirvington
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 22nd 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Goodreads Summary
Above all else, though I try not to think about it, I know which life I prefer. And every night when I Cinderella myself from one life to the next a very small, but definite, piece of me dies. The hardest part is that nothing about my situation has ever changed. There is no loophole.

Until now, that is…

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she Shifts to her ′other′ life – a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she′s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she′s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments which bring her dangerously close to the life she′s always wanted… But just what – and who – is she really risking?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Every night at midnight Sabine switches between her two lives. In one she is a pampered and adored rich girl, and in the other, she is lower middle class and dealing with a dad who she can never please. When she turns 18, she realizes that something has changed about her shifts and begins a methodical plan to end her strange shifts forever. I read this on the recommendation of one of my high school students who just kept telling me that it had the best ending ever, and it was pretty engaging — I finished in just a few hours. This is such an interesting premise, and when my fourth grader asked me what my book was about, I gave him the basic idea, and he even thought that sounded “pretty cool.” Sabine is a character that most readers can connect and sympathize with. The pacing is tight, and it moves quickly enough that you won’t have time to get bored with one life or the other. There are messages about not rushing into sexual relationships and about appreciating each moment of your life.

While I enjoyed the book, I did think that there were a few problems, most came from a lack of development in secondary characters and relationships with secondary characters. One conflict develops out of thin air, which threw me out of my suspended disbelief. There is also an insta romance, which always irritates me. I don’t think those problems will stop my high school readers from enjoying the book, but a more discerning reader will probably be a little annoyed. The language and situations, which include discussions about suicide, are appropriate for a mature high school reader. It got added to my high school classroom library last week and still hasn’t made it to the shelf — it keeps getting passed from reader to reader, so I think it is going to be pretty popular with my girl readers.

View all my reviews

Fiction That Makes Me a Consider Giving Up My Day Job to Fight Forces of Eternal Evil

Standard

The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite series to recommend to fans of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass books and Marie V. Snyder’s Poison Study books. The Grisha world is unique, with a Russian flair that I haven’t seen in YA before. The female protagonist doesn’t know her own potential and is desperately trying to hold on to a past that can never be regained. The traditional hero’s journey can be traced throughout each book and throughout the series, and the tests, allies, and enemies she encounters on her journey are never what they seem. I enjoyed the first book, but the second book really raises the bar regarding character development and plot complexity. It is exciting and engaging, and I think it is worth your time!

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alina thought she was ordinary and spent most of her days trying to decide if she was jealous of all the girls hanging on her only friend, Mal, until he is truly threatened. Then she unleashes unknown powers to protect him. This book completely captured my imagination! It is in my classroom library and many of my readers are engaged in this series.

Goodreads summary of Shadow and Bone

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alina has escaped and is on the run with Mal, but the Darkling isn’t going to just let her go, and she isn’t sure she will ever really escape the bond he forced between them. This book raised the bar on character development. It also introduced a new character who is a nice foil to Mal. I enjoyed it more than the first. It’s a popular book in my classroom library, and I think it is really the best of the series. Appropriate language and situations for 7th grade and up!

Goodreads summary for Siege and Storm

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. (less)

Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a satisfactory ending to the series. A lot of twists and turns that kept me guessing all the way through the book. The second book raised the bar regarding character complexity and plot development, and this book did the same again. I devoured it in a few hours. Language and sensuality appropriate for tweens and teens. It was an imaginative and exciting series that I proudly display in my classroom library.

Goodreads summary for Ruin and Rising

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Fiction that Made Me Consider Becoming a Part-time Villianess

Standard
Fiction that Made Me Consider Becoming a Part-time Villianess

Sometimes I come across something different; something that leaves me unsettled but intrigued. I found that to be true of The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Here we have the making of a villainess, and it is so easy to see how this could happen to the rest of us bumbling screw-ups who are desperately trying to overcome childhood baggage.

Goodreads Summary:

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1)The Young Elites by Marie Lu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Medieval setting with x-men characters. The double identity of superheroes and the gray spaces of morality. This protagonist was a ball of repressed rage and confusion and she rang really true to me. I loved every flawed inch of her. If you love your knights in shiny white armor, there are some of those; if you like your villains conflicted and tortured, that is covered as well. It wasn’t a perfect book, but it wasn’t meant to be. I liked it a lot. I don’t recall offensive language, but there are sexual insinuations that probably put this on the 15+ list for me. I’ll add it to my classroom library and I’m sure many of my scifi and fantasy readers will debate this book with me.

View all my reviews

Fiction that will loose the dogs of war

Standard

I do try to read books that I think my male students will enjoy, so I picked both of these books with the guys in mind. I found both of these engaging and well worth my time. I also thought they worked well for readers of both genders. In honor of our many brave soldiers, I give you two military based books that piqued my interest and reminded me of all the sacrifices they made.

The Only Thing to FearThe Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Scholastic and Net Galley in exchange for a fair review
In an alternate history, the Nazi’s won WWII and are still running things 80 years later in the USA. The protagonist wants to join the underground rebellion but her uncle forbids her to take part in the dangerous activities or to use the powers she has inherited as a result of nazi engineered genetic alterations inherited from her father. This was a great YA read for all genders. The protagonist is female but she is not girly and easy for a male reader to relate to. The plot is tightly crafted, the pacing is great, and it was full of action. I appreciated the fact that there wasn’t a dreaded love triangle or even a lot of romance — this book was about raising a rebellion and did a good job of staying focused on that. The book wasn’t perfect, but I read it straight through and enjoyed every minute. The language and situations are appropriate for the 13+ crowd, but I was engaged as an adult reader. I will add it to my classroom library and recommend it to my students.

View all my reviews

Walking Wounded (Vietnam, #5)Walking Wounded by Chris Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Scholastic via Net Galley in exchange for a fair review.
This is the fifth book in the series, and it is the first one I have read. I still have some questions about what precisely went down at the end of the 4th book, but I was able to read and enjoy the book as a standalone. The book begins seconds after the death of one of four young men who made a pact to stick together through The Vietnam War. It covers the fallout from that death for the remaining three men. This book reminded me of The Outsiders because the characters seem very real and are carrying very adult concerns and responsibilities on their shoulders. There is the same dismissive attitude towards the authority figures in their lives, and that, too, rings true for young adults. The book was well written and well paced. It balanced action with character development and gave a pretty clear picture of how the war damaged people differently. Underlying themes of loyalty, friendship and duty keep this from driving the reader into depression, but it is a dark chapter in history and that is clearly conveyed. The language and situations manage to present the horror of Vietnam in a way appropriate for teen readers. I have a host of high school boys who enjoy books about war, and I can’t wait to recommend this title to them. The cover looks younger than the actual content, so I don’t expect a high school reader to pick it up without encouragement, but I think they will be hooked after just a couple of chapters. I will add this to my classroom library wish list. I know our high school library carries the series, and I will start recommending it tomorrow. As an adult reader, I was very engaged, and I plan to pick up the others in the series asap. If you enjoyed Band of Brothers, Unbroken, or The Things They Carried, you will probably enjoy this book as well.

View all my reviews

In Which I Grow Bored and Force Myself to Read out of Politeness

Standard

This book, titled The Princess Spy, isn’t about a princess. She also completes a grand total of one spying mission in the entire book. Boo. This is a clear case of bait and switch in my opinion! While there appears to be a fierce adult following of this series on Goodreads, I was bored. I think you will be bored too. I only finished it because I requested it — it’s like asking for a huge helping of your mother-in-law’s dressing and then realizing it tastes like cardboard. You know you gotta eat it, but it isn’t going to be fun.

The Princess SpyThe Princess Spy by Melanie Dickerson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I received this ARC from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an unbiased review.
Margaretha’s resistance to her latest persistent suitor is growing weaker when a stranger shows up in her home and reveals that the man who has been courting her has some pretty unpleasant plans for her family and her people.
The straightforward plotting and simple dialogue make this more suited to younger or struggling readers. Teens and adult YA readers will likely grow bored with the plodding pace of the writing. I would compare it to an American Girls book but with more length and romance. This isn’t a terrible book, but the lack of text complexity definitely made it hard for me to stick with it until the end. Language and light romance are suitable for grades 7+.

View all my reviews