Monthly Archives: December 2014

Echo Could Kick Katniss Everdeen’s Butt

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Every year I show True Grit (2010) to my high school sophomores during our unit on the hero. It is a very popular activity. Charles Portis is from our state, and we are only an hour away from Fort Smith and Oklahoma where the story takes place, so it is a setting our students connect with. There is even an old man up on the mountain outside of our town named Rooster Cogburn, which I always have to explain is just a coincidence. They rarely believe me.
Every year, kids want to read the book and then they ask me what to read next. My answer? Ride the River by Louis L’Amour. It is the fifth in the Sacketts series, but it can absolutely stand alone. It has a strong, determined, and smart female protagonist, and she is a delight to read. She could take on Katniss Everdeen and win. This country girl can survive!

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Ride the River Louis L’Amour
Paperback, 192 pages Available in print and for Kindle
Published June 1st 1983 by Bantam

Goodreads Summary
In Ride the River, Louis L’Amour spins the tale of a young woman who has to protect her family fortune from a murderous thief and teach him what it means to be a Sackett. Sixteen-year-old Echo Sackett had never been far from her Tennessee home—until she made the long trek to Philadelphia to collect an inheritance. Echo could take care of herself as well as any Sackett man, but James White, a sharp city lawyer, figured that cheating the money from the young girl would be like taking candy from a baby. If he couldn’t hoodwink Echo out of the cash, he’d just steal it from her outright. And if she put up a fight? There were plenty of accidents that could happen to a country girl on her first trip to the big city.

What? You haven’t read True Grit?!

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The Goose Girl Gets A Fabulous Update And Leaves Me With A Case of Book Hangover

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The Goose Girl Gets A Fabulous Update And Leaves Me With A Case of Book Hangover

A princess story that drew me in and spit me out, leaving me with book hangover just a few hours after the fun began! Betrayed by a childhood enemy, the princess becomes the servant in a foreign land. Vivid and foreign setting. Real threats to the protagonist and friends. Some serious theme building about equality and justice. Ideas about courage and bravery in their purest forms. I enjoyed every second of this book. If you like Sara J. Maas or Robin LeFevers, I think you will like this.

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Thorn Intisar Khanani
Kindle Edition, 246 pages $3.99
Published May 30th 2012 by Intisar Khanani (first published May 25th 2012)

Goodreads Summary
For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she’s never had … until she’s betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

Thorn has received a Badge of Approval from Awesome Indies.

Suspicion has a lot of atmosphere, but not much else. Try to resist that cover, though!

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Suspicion has a lot of atmosphere, but not much else. Try to resist that cover, though!

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir was a bit of a disappointment. It promised Downton Abbey meets something else I adored, but it really didn’t deliver that. Instead, it was more Rebecca meets The Princess Diaries with a magical element I hadn’t bargained for. Which still sounds good, right? Well . . . I think if you are a discerning reader, you could pass this one up, but most of us are not able to resist such a pretty cover, so prepare yourself for a lukewarm suspense in a nicely developed atmosphere. I rated it four out of five stars because I think that it is a well paced, light YA suspense that many of my high school students will enjoy, but most adult readers will probably find it lackluster and silly.

SuspicionSuspicion by Alexandra Monir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

In 2007, a tragedy took Imogene far from the life of nobility she was born into; in 2014, a tragedy brings her back home as the new Duchess. As she wrestles with her new station, Imogene also struggles with powers that seem to come alive when she sets foot on her new estate. Questions about her cousin’s death haunt her as she works to uncover the mysteries surrounding the origins of her powers. The strength of this novel is really the atmosphere, which manages to be lightly dark and menacing. Readers will understand why Imogene is troubled by what she encounters in her new home, but it seems perfectly reasonable that she doesn’t feel overwhelmingly threatened and seek out help. It evoked memories of one of my favorite British suspense reads, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (which I can never get any of my high school students to read, even when I promise them it is going to rock their world). The plot is far-fetched, even for a book with supernatural elements, and most of the twists were predictable, but it moves along at a nice pace. Imogene is a fairly well developed protagonist, though the other characters are rather one dimensional. I enjoyed reading Suspicion and I think my high school students will as well. Though I didn’t think this was a perfect read, none of the flaws diminished my enjoyment. This is a YA thriller, written for a YA audience, so the intensity is dialed down. It is a light read with a haunted note that I enjoyed curling up with for a few hours of escapism on a cold and rainy afternoon. Language and light sensuality appropriate for 13+.

 

This book is available in the MHS library.

 

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Someone deserves a raise for this cover art!

Princess of Thorns Lives Up To And Beyond The Hype

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Princess of Thorns Lives Up To And Beyond The Hype

Stacey Jay’s Princess of Thorns is my favorite of all the books publishing today and one of my top picks for 2014. Aurora is Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, and things did not turn out happily ever after. This is her journey to put things right. If you want a retelling, look somewhere else, but if you want some wonderfully flawed characters and a Grim-like fairy tale setting, this is what you are looking for.

Princess of ThornsPrincess of Thorns by Stacey Jay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m very, very grateful to have received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Princess Aurora knows the time has come to take her stand against the evil that destroyed her family. She knows that the fate of humanity and her kingdom hangs on a delicate balance that she can so easily tip. Determined to raise an army to her side, she impulsively sets out and finds her only ally is a overly charming prince with his own ticking curse who doesn’t even realize she is a girl. I adored this book. The plot was original without betraying its origins, and the characters were real and flawed in such wonderful ways. The pacing was strong and moved the story, the character development, and the romance along at a satisfying pace. The suspense was sustained throughout, and I honestly had no idea if or how the writer was going to resolve the conflicts that developed. I am so excited for this book to come out because my high school readers are going to fight over every copy I can procure! The language is appropriate and the sensuality is tasteful, so I would recommend it for seventh grade and up, but adult readers will find it engaging and satisfying as well.  

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Available in our classroom library on March 18, 2015!

For Real is for real fun

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For Real is for real fun

For Real by Allison Cherry is being released tomorrow, and it is a funny, engaging contemporary YA read. There is a reality show component, but don’t let that turn you off. I might have read this book instead of grading a pile of essays at work one day. I tried to resist its siren call, but I just gave in and gorged on it. (Don’t worry, I got them graded eventually). The author also responded to my review on Goodreads, which I always think is very cool.

For RealFor Real by Alison Cherry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this ARC from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Two sisters decide to get revenge on a cheating ex boyfriend by getting cast on the same reality tv show as him. Things don’t go exactly as planned when they learn the show has a romantic element that will separate Team Revenge and put them in some situations they hadn’t bargained for. It was funny, it was fast paced, and I was rooting for the narrator. Claire is so hopeful and naive, and she is a part of who we all are when we first let ourselves believe in love. Her loyalty to her sister is nicely contrasted with her justified baby sister resentments. While there are some messages about looking beyond initial impressions, this is ultimately a lighthearted contemporary YA read. Even if you hate reality TV, this is still worth sampling. The language, sensuality, and situations are appropriate for high school students, and I am adding it to my high school classroom library wish list.

This book is available in the MHS library.

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In which the female protagonist doesn’t have to marry or breed in a YA dystopian. For once.

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In which the female protagonist doesn’t have to marry or breed in a YA dystopian. For once.

Under My Skin is releasing on Tuesday, December 9. It is up against several good books releasing that day, so it might not be on your radar yet, but it should be. I know that the dystopian bubble is bursting right now, but Under My Skin reads as more science fiction than teen dystopian romance. No one has to get married or knocked up — this one goes in a different direction, with much more horrifying results. Big Brother hasn’t got anything on these people when it comes to invading personal privacy! The cover screams The Selection, but don’t be fooled — Tate is a character much more likely to study The Art of War than an Emily Post book on manners.
Under My SkinUnder My Skin by Shawntelle Madison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Tate has plans for her future. When she unexpectedly passes the mandatory test to be apprenticed to the Water Bearers, everything changes. She never wanted the pampered life promised to a Water Bearer. She never asked to be swept into the privileged life of the ruling class. She never could have anticipated the true horrors that come with passing that simple little test. I was quite surprised by the direction this book went. This was a new twist on dystopia that I have not seen before. Engaging and mysterious, suspenseful and tense, this book kept me guessing all the way to the end. The writing stumbled a little bit in the scenes following the test — I found myself overwhelmed with character names and unclear pronouns for a few pages, but it quickly righted itself and was consistently strong through the rest of the novel. I also felt like the light romance was a misstep. It was a very minor subplot, but when it did crop up, it felt like it came out of nowhere and was based on nothing. Please alert the media that every ya book doesn’t have to have romance, especially one that has such an interesting major conflict. I am adding this to my high school classroom library wish list. I think many of my students will be drawn to the cover and the premise. Language and light romance make this appropriate for all ages.

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Ruby Rose is part Cher Horowitz and part Veronica Mars, and it is a winning combination

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Ruby Rose is part Cher Horowitz and part Veronica Mars, and it is a winning combination

Ruby Rose has a few obsessions:  Her collection of designer shoes, her GPA, and tracking the worst criminals LA has to offer.  Engaging characters, twisty plot lines, and lots of action.  Both books in the series, Killing Ruby Rose and Resisting Ruby Rose are fast paced and exciting reads. I think fans of Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick will enjoy these, and if you are a Veronica Mars fan, these might be just what you are looking for.

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Killing Ruby Rose Jessie Humphries
Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Skyscape

Goodreads Summary
In sunny Southern California, seventeen-year-old Ruby Rose is known for her killer looks and her killer SAT scores. But ever since her dad, an LAPD SWAT sergeant, died, she’s also got a few killer secrets.

To cope, Ruby has been trying to stay focused on school (the top spot in her class is on the line) and spending time with friends (her Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks are nothing if not loyal). But after six months of therapy and pathetic parenting by her mom, the District Attorney, Ruby decides to pick up where her dad left off and starts going after the bad guys herself.

When Ruby ends up killing a murderer to save his intended victim, she discovers that she’s gone from being the huntress to the hunted. There’s a sick mastermind at play, and he has Ruby in his sights. Ruby must discover who’s using her to implement twisted justice before she ends up swapping Valentino red for prison orange.

With a gun named Smith, a talent for martial arts, and a boyfriend with eyes to die for, Ruby is ready to face the worst. And if a girl’s forced to kill, won’t the guilt sit more easily in a pair of Prada peep-toe pumps?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHcwzN69gNM

In which our hero and heroine battle prejudices, zombies, corrupt government officials, and malevolent nuns. Yes, really.

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In which our hero and heroine battle prejudices, zombies, corrupt government officials, and malevolent nuns. Yes, really.

A Town Called Dust promised zombies, misfits finding their way in the world, an enigmatic prophecy, and some sinister nuns. This is more than just a romp in zombie land. The characters are well developed and the themes are meaningful. If you liked the Rot and Ruin series, add this one to your wish list. It is only available as an ebook (under $4 on Amazon), but I really hope there is a print version available soon because it would be a great addition to my classroom library.

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A Town Called Dust Justin Woolley
ebook, 248 pages
Published November 2014 by Momentum (Pan Macmillan)

My Review: 4 out of 5 stars
I received this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a fair review.

Two misfits find friendship and purpose as they fight prejudices, a corrupt ruling system, and zombies. This is a well written and engaging book. The author developed two protagonists that are worthy of your time — readers will relate to them and cheer them on throughout. The plot is well planned and paced to lead up to maximum suspense, and the twists are revealed with exceptional timing. There was a lull for me — it felt like a lot of time was spent introducing the second protagonist, but it picks up again quickly after that. I felt like there was such heart in these characters, and even if you don’t like zombie books, I think this can still be an enjoyable read. I love zombie books, and I found these were a well played threat in the book– readers are given a glimpse at the beginning, but then they are used as an ominous but mostly unseen force for a good chunk of the story. There is a great zombie battle near the end, and I could not put the book down until it played out in full. YA readers of both genders will enjoy this book, especially fans of the Rot and Ruin series or The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy. I will add it to my classroom library wish list because I can think of at least twenty reluctant male readers who would stop everything and read this book. Language and gore are appropriate for all ages

Goodreads Summary

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Leave Young World to the Young

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Leave Young World to the Young

Young World is a big hit among my high school readers. The premise is that two years ago, a virus wiped out the young and old, leaving teens (13-17 yr olds) in New York to fight for survival in a world with no future. Jefferson inherits the leadership of his community when his older brother reaches adulthood and, as expected, dies. In a bid to put off the necessary decisions that come with leading, he decides to go on a scavenging expedition for a scientific journal that might be the answer to the virus. While the concept was interesting, I didn’t care for the execution. If you are old enough to have died from this virus, you can probably skip this one. It seemed like adult readers felt this had all been done before. If, however you would have survived to roam the streets of New York letting your freak flag fly, this is a book you might want to check out.

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Young World Chris Weitz
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary
After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.

The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park…and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

The Young World (The Young World, #1)The Young World by Chris Weitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I gave this book four stars because every high school student, male and female, who has picked it up has recommended it to me, so it is engaging its target audience. The action is non stop, and the characters are recognizeable stereotypes of every teen you have ever known. It was funny and shocking and a new horror was around every corner. There was even a lot to think about in regard to current social issues, which are highlighted by the ideologies that the different tribes adopt. While my students had no complaints, I have to say that I was really turned off by one of the narrators — she drove me crazy for a while, but her narrative voice does become more readable after the first few chapters. Jefferson was also a problem for me because he felt under developed and flat — there was no growth for him as a character. Why is he a major character, much less a narrator, if the reader isn’t going to be privy to those thoughts and feelings that show he is getting something out of all he experiences? I am still thinking about the ending. It was so unexpected and inexplicable that I feel cheated. There is a lot of mature language and a lot of mature situations, so this is a grade 10 and up read.

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In Which I consider dropping everything to become a member of a Pro Gaming Team despite the fact that I never once, not ever, saved Princess Peach.

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In Which I consider dropping everything to become a member of a Pro Gaming Team despite the fact that I never once, not ever, saved Princess Peach.

Sometimes I feel like I have to read a guy book just to be fair to my male students, and I usually drag my feet because they are just not my thing. In Real Life by Lawrence Tabak was no exception to this process, and I can’t believe I almost let this one slip past me! This book completely drew me in. Engaging character, interesting situations, and a narrative voice that reads as genuine teen guy. I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to get a copy in my classroom library. The author actually commented on my Goodreads review and said he wrote this for his son, a gamer guy, because he had a hard time finding engaging books. Well, he did his son a solid with this book! If you enjoyed The Silence of Six or Ready Player One, this is definitely a book to add to your TBR list.
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In Real Life Lawrence Tabak
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 11th 2014 by Tuttle Publishing

Goodreads Summary
Fifteen-year-old math prodigy Seth Gordon knows exactly what he wants to do with his life—play video games. Every spare minute is devoted to honing his skills at Starfare, the world’s most popular computer game. His goal: South Korea, where the top pros are rich and famous. But the best players train all day, while Seth has school and a job and divorced parents who agree on only one thing: “Get off that damn computer.” Plus there’s a new distraction named Hannah, an aspiring photographer who actually seems to understand his obsession.

While Seth mopes about his tournament results and mixed signals from Hannah, Team Anaconda, one of the leading Korean pro squads, sees something special. Before he knows it, it’s goodbye Kansas, goodbye Hannah, and hello to the strange new world of Korea. But the reality is more complicated than the fantasy, as he faces cultural shock, disgruntled teammates, and giant pots of sour-smelling kimchi.

What happens next surprises Seth. Slowly, he comes to make new friends, and discovers what might be a breakthrough, mathematical solution to the challenges of Starcraft. Delving deeper into the formulas takes him in an unexpected direction, one that might just give him a new focus—and reunite him with Hannah.

In Real LifeIn Real Life by Lawrence Tabak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I am so glad I got a chance to read this! Don’t ignore this book because it is about gaming — it was easy to follow and even interesting to read about in this context. Don’t ignore this book because there is a male protagonist — this character is appealing to both male and female readers. Seth reads as a genuine teen, and there is a depth to his growth that is very engaging. This is a Bildungsroman, so the real goal in this book is to see the character grow and mature as a human. While there is some action in this story, there is a lot of thinking, too, so don’t expect the book to read like a video game. I gave this book five stars, not because I thought it was perfect, because it wasn’t, but it had soul and depth to it, something that is often found in ya books with female protagonists, but more elusive in ya books with male protagonists. The topic will draw high school boys to the book, and I think they will stick with it because it is genuinely good. Language and light sensuality are appropriate for ages 13+. Interest level is high school and beyond. I added it to my classroom library wish list and I have already recommended it to our school librarian.

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