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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan {Review}

Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}:
Henry “Biggie” Abbott is the son of one of Finch, Iowa’s most famous athletes. His father was a baseball legend and his step-dad is a close second. At an obese 300+ pounds though, Biggie himself prefers classroom success to sports. As a perfectionist, he doesn’t understand why someone would be happy getting two hits in five trips to the plate. “Forty percent, that’s an F in any class,” he would say. As Biggie’s junior year begins, the girl of his dreams, Annabelle Rivers, starts to flirt with him. Hundreds of people have told him to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play ball, but Annabelle might be the one to actually convince him to try. What happens when a boy who has spent his life since fourth grade trying to remain invisible is suddenly thrust into the harsh glare of the high school spotlight?
I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
When one is perusing for a newly released title to add to the queue, usually you look to the books that you’re interested in, and those you think will give the most “bang for your buck”. I liked the synopsis of this particular titled, I LOVED that the main character was male, and that the author was tackling an issue that is plaguing our young people today: Obesity.
I truly thought that this story would be a relatively simple one: A boy, feeling sorry for himself about his weight. Chastised by peers, his parents, etc.
But it’s SO much more.
In my opinion, there are about 5 storylines going on at once: A boy trapped in the body that he created himself, and realizing that he desperately wants to fix it, and his journey TO fixing it. A young man who grew up not knowing his all-star teenaged father, who essentially gave him up to pursue his own dreams. A son of a stepdad that seemingly doesn’t care about him. A pubescent teenager, who is desperately looking for love from the wrong places. And… a social outcast desperately trying to fit in.
I’m not going to waste your time with a synopsis, but all you have to know is that this story is GUTWRENCHING at times. I’m a big believer in crying when the mood strikes, and there were many times during this novel when I just broke down in tears. Many times about his struggles with his weight {I am ALL too familiar with sitting in a flimsy gown and getting ready for the steady barrage about how much weight I gained as a teen}.
Was this Mr. Sullivan’s intention? Maybe not. But there were some one-liners in this book that had me gut-wrenchingly sad.
Another facet that I adored about this book is that there were a lot of VERY bittersweet moments between main character Biggie {Henry}, and his stepdad, Laser. But unlike so many other YA books—it wasn’t at all forced. The scenarios were incredibly real & raw. No calculating needed.
It also wasn’t your typical “jock” book, either. It had a much more sophisticated presentation than similar titles that I’ve encountered.
Bravo Derek Sullivan! Bravo!
{Where can I buy this?}:
B & N:
{What would I rate it?}: 4.95/5::: my only complaint is that I would’ve liked to see the mom developed a little more.
{Who would I recommend this book to?}:

Anyone who enjoys YA literature, young men especially, people who enjoy baseball, anyone looking for one of those books you pick up at 9AM on a Sunday afternoon, and only stop reading to pee and grab something to eat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rumble {Ellen Hopkins}

Synopsis: {courtesy of amazon.com}:
Does it get better? The New York Times bestselling author of Crank and Tricks explores the highly charged landscapes of bullying and forgiveness with brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance.

Matthew Turner knows it doesn’t get better.
His younger brother Luke was bullied mercilessly after one of Matt’s friends outed Luke to the whole school, and when Luke called Matt—on the brink of suicide—Matt was too wrapped up in his new girlfriend to answer the phone. Now Luke is gone, and Matt’s family is falling apart.
No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting those he blames off the hook—including himself. As Matt spirals further into bitterness, he risks losing Hayden, the love of his life. But when her father begins to pressure the school board into banning books because of their homosexual content, he begins to wonder if he and Hayden ever had anything in common.
With brilliant sensitivity and emotional resonance, bestselling author Ellen Hopkins’s Rumble explores bullying and suicide in a story that explores the worth of forgiveness and reconciliation.

{Review}: Ellen Hopkins was my first TRUE YA love.
I’ll set the scene for you: I was in my local B & N a number of years ago {I want to say 2-3 ish?}, and I noticed her book “Crank” on the shelves. It looked intriguing, and I took a peek inside, and knew I’d be through it in no time flat {for those who haven’t had the pleasure, Hopkins does an amazing job of  writing in prose—short, sweet verses, that although don’t rhyme, almost feel like you’re reading a collection of immensely moving short stories, which are all really intertwined. By the end of the weekend, I’d hibernated, and read every one of the series {including Glass & Fallout}. I’ve picked up almost every one since, and I’ve really enjoyed every single one.
Including Rumble.

We meet Matt, a highschooler who has just recently lost his brother to suicide. His brother is a homosexual, and you realize throughout the novel that he was bullied into making the decision to end his life.
Matt also just happens to have an ultra-conservative girlfriend {who is a bit of a Jesus freak}, and who seems supportive at the beginning of this tale, but you have a feeling (even from the first couple of pages), that it’s all going to end badly between them.
Matt’s parents are also mid-relationship breakdown during this story.

I enjoyed this book for so many reasons. Least of all that Ellen Hopkins isn’t afraid of tackling the vital  issues of today’s teens—teenage suicide, depression, divorce, cheating, bullying, PTSD, alcoholism, you name it… it’s in this masterfully created YA novel.

And like most EH stories...this one went from TBR to finished in less than a day {3-4 hours to be exact}. 
I couldn't put it away. 

{Where can I buy this?}:

{What would I rate it?}: 4.9/5. Masterfully done.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}: Anyone who is handling any of the above issues in their own lives, and any/all teens. It’s a great book not only about the issues, but also about forgiveness and acceptance of the hand you’re dealt in life.
I would also suggest ANY of Hopkins' tales for young reluctant readers. She has a way of completely captivating you, and with the short verses...I feel as though this audience would be entranced at first glance.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How We Fall by Kate Brauning {Review}

{release date: November 3rd at Amazon & B&N: November 11: Nationwide Retailers}
Synopsis: {courtesy of amazon.com}:
Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus.
Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left for...no one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus--and deepens Jackie's despair.
Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

So, for those of you who don’t know me: I really enjoy my sleep. Being a reading specialist for k-5th grade, takes it out of me during the day, and at night, I really just like to sleep. I try to get in bed BY 8PM, and am usually asleep the minute my head hits the pillows.
I started this e-book {an ARC courtesy of Edelweiss}, last Sunday night at 9:45PM. I finally put it down at 10:40… simply dying to find out what happened next. The next day, I took it to school and read it on my lunch break, and then Monday night, from 9:45-12:57am EXACTLY…I finished it.
Because it’s just that good.
I’m a hoarder of ARC’s. I picked this one because I liked the charm bracelet cover, and I really liked the colors. I very rarely read the synopsis, and in this case, I’m glad I didn’t. I went in not knowing anything but that this “looked” like a great read.

We’re first introduced to the main characters: Jackie and Marcus, at a roadside farm stand, in a very rural backdrop. You can tell off the bat that there is a definite chemistry between the two of them. It becomes BLATANT when they start making out in his pickup truck after they close up shop for the day on a private/dirt-esqe road. You’ll find your fingers start to burn while you’re reading it, because you can tell there is an undeniable heat emanating from the two of them. The masterful way it’s written, you almost feel like a voyeur, looking in on these kids, who are obviously head over heels in love with one another, and can’t contain themselves.

And then, she hits you with it.

As in sucker-punches-you-right-in-the-gut/smacks-you-palm-open-across-the-face with it:

They’re first cousins.

I’ll admit, I may have dropped my kindle and had a little “What the HELL?” moment/fit.
But once I got my bearings, and read about 20% of the way in, I realized that this was way deeper than just a case of “kissing cousins”... even though they had made it clear that they hadn't consummated their love quite yet...

And then…
you just…
When we meet Jackie, she’s incredibly concerned about a friend, Ellie {great name, right?}, who has abruptly gone missing. She moved away last school year, and they really lost touch {and to her defense, it was mainly because she was so enamored and engrossed with her love affair with Marcus that she lost touch with her friend}. She’s incredibly upset over it, and is trying to solve this mystery, while continuing to attempt to maintain this forbidden relationship with her cousin and best friend.
You feel guilty FOR her, because you can tell this fear over her former best friend is so real, you feel incredibly sad when Marcus starts fawning over a new gal in town, and begins dating her (in an attempt to provide an air of normalcy to his life), and if you’re anything like me, you may start to cry because when the love of your life as a teenager starts showing interest in someone else—it breaks your heart. It’s also incredibly sobering because in addition to all of this, you’re getting a first-hand glimpse into the horrible guilt they’re feeling over potentially giving into their desires, and ultimately breaking up their family in the process.
By the end of this amazing tale… {and much to your own surprise}
You find yourself championing for their love.
It was literally about halfway through that I took a hot tea break, and as I’m watching the pot boil and thinking about what I’m reading, I’m thinking to myself: “I really hope this works out for them.”
Does it?
Pick up this PHENOMENAL read, and find out.

{Where can I buy this?}:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/How-We-Fall-Kate-Brauning/dp/1440581797/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414967642&sr=8-1&keywords=how+we+fall

B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-we-fall-kate-brauning/1119045650?ean=9781440581793
{What would I rate it?}: 
5/5. One of the most masterful story lines since We Were Liars  {according to moi}.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}:
 Grade 8 plus. The make-out sections are steamy, but not too-terrible… I’m just not sure that any kids younger would understand the turmoil that this puts on the shoulders of these young characters.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Review {The Fourteenth Goldfish}

Synopsis & cover photo: {courtesy of amazon.com}:
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.

{I received a digital copy of this book VIA Netgalley in return for an honest review}
I LOVED this book.
I had a feeling before I even started that it was going to be about more than goldfish…and it definitely was.
Ellie’s world turns upside down when her grandfather comes to stay with them. Except, unlike most grandparents, her grandfather {Melvin}…isn’t just some old man who wear slippers around the house and does crossword puzzles—he’s a scientist. Who has discovered a cure for aging.
And turns himself into an adolescent boy.
And the story unfolds from this beginning.
I enjoyed this book for a few reasons: It reminded me a little bit of Back To The Future. With a little more Doc Brown.
I also loved the message that this story had. It was sweet, pretty profound, and I definitely had tears in my eyes when I finished it.
It took me all of about 2.5 summer hours to read {my summer hours are definitely much easier to “read straight through” in}.
I also liked that some of this book was given away piece by piece. I definitely am going to look into it and see what guided reading level it is to possibly use it with one of my groups this school year: I really enjoyed the message within the pages. I also liked that Holm took the time to place resources in the back of the book to further look into some of the scientific matters {an excellent resource for educators looking to squeeze potential out of this fantastic book!}
{Where can I buy this?}:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fourteenth-Goldfish-Jennifer-L-Holm/dp/0375870644/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414367664&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fourteenth+goldfish
B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fourteenth-goldfish-jennifer-holm/1117541921?ean=9780375870644
{What would I rate it?}: 4.9/5. I really, REALLY liked it.
{Who would I recommend this book to?}:

Anyone with an interest in science, pre-teen girls AND boys, basically…pretty much any kiddo out there!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Depth of Field {Review}

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}:
Two weeks in New York City should be the time of Pippa’s life: she’s attending the prestigious Tisch Photography Camp, her boyfriend, Dylan McCutter (two months and counting!) is coming with her, and their parents are 500 miles away. Talk about lights, camera, (swoony, unchaperoned) action! But what should be 14 unforgettable days of bliss turns into chaos when her one and only nemesis, Ben Baxter, proves to be surprisingly more complex than she could’ve ever imagined, and her Tisch mentor, a renowned photographer, seems to have a lot more to do with her parents’ past than anyone wants her to know. Is Pippa out of her depth?

Picking up where she left off in The Rule of Thirds, Pippa Greene returns in Depth of Field, in a story full of the same heart, comedic touches, and romance that made readers fall in love with Chantel Guertin’s charming YA series.
Any story about photography will absolutely get my attention.
My full attention.
Knowing this ahead of time, I knew I had to request this story from netgalley, and I did a happy dance when I was finally chosen as the recipient of an ARC. I also DID NOT read book 1. I’m now going to go back and read book 1, to see what I missed… but it didn’t “take away” from reading this novel.
Pippa is a sweet girl, who lost her father who just happened to be a local photographer. You get the feeling that Pippa “does photography” for two reasons: she’s predisposed to being artsy, but she also seems to have a knack for it, as well. She enters a competition, and it seems that another local boy has, as well—with HER work. They both have different motives, as to why they want to go to Tisch photography camp, but both reasons are absolutely legitimate, and make you love the characters even more.
This read was incredibly quick—I read it in about 3 hours cover to cover…perfect summer sunshine read. And the twist at the end, is absolutely marvelous, and makes the whole book so much more meaningful as a whole.
I also liked how this book started off as a traditional “sweet love story” where the protagonist had to leave her boyfriend for summer camp, but they would be reunited again soon, and then quickly became a book that was so much more than just the clich├ęd YA drama-fest.
{Where can I buy this?}:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Depth-Field-Pippa-Greene-Novel/dp/1770411836/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413937252&sr=8-1&keywords=depth+of+field
B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/depth-of-field-chantel-guertin/1117926086?ean=9781770411838
{What would I rate it?}: 4.7/5. I really enjoyed the way this book was written, and I absolutely fell in love with Pippa as a character. However, I felt as though some of the minor characters {especially some of her classmates} were rushed while developing, and I felt like some of them didn’t need to necessarily be in there at all.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}: Anyone who enjoys an in-depth book that deals with so much more than teenage love and YA subjects.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Elixir by Ted Galdi {Review}

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: Meet 14-year-old Sean Malone. He has an IQ above 200, a full-ride scholarship to one of the country’s top universities, and more than one million dollars from his winning streak on Jeopardy. However, Sean wishes he could just be normal. 

But his life is anything but normal. The US government manipulates him, using him as a code breaker in pursuit of a drug lord and killing innocent people along the way. 
For reasons related to his personal security, Sean finds himself in Rome, building a new life under a new name, abandoning academics, and hiding his genius from everyone. When he’s 18 he falls in love. The thrills begin again when he learns that his girlfriend is critically ill and it’s up to him to use his intellect to find a cure, a battle pitting him against a multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical company and the demons of his past. 
Elixir is a story about identity, secrets, and above all, love.

received this title courtesy of Netgalley. 
I’ve been reading far too many girl-themed YA… all drama and boys, and while well written, I was excited for a change of pace.
When I began this book, I didn’t love protagonist Sean Malone.
I mean, he was kind of a pompous kid, who knew everything in the world there is to know. However, when reading this book, even though you might not be rooting for him to begin with {again, because he’s portrayed as that snobby jeopardy kid}, the author weaves a story that’s impossibly good: you literally cannot put it down.
I really enjoyed that the character of Sean, was an outcast not because of how he looked, or how he dressed…but because he was so insanely smart. I feel like there aren’t many authors that take that risk, and in this case, it definitely took.
I maybe put it down for meals, and bathroom breaks, but it was incredibly good. While the plot might seem a little unrealistic, I promise you that it’s incredibly exciting (and actually seems as though it could happen) and well written, especially appealing to the YA men out there. Bravo Ted Galdi!
{Where can I buy this?}:
Amazon: Buy from Amazon

{What would I rate it?}: 4.5/5. A solid novel, especially appealing to those YA kids who aren’t wanting the Dystopian society/love at first sight/someone’s dying types of YA we’ve been reading as of late.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}: YA males, especially those who are smart, and might feel disconnected because they’re different.

Friday, August 8, 2014

{Review} Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose

Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose
{image from amazon.com}

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: 
Go Ask Alice was a hoax. But Dear Nobody is a true teen diary so raw and so edgy its authenticity rings off every page
"I am a freak."
The words and drawings of Mary Rose present a gritty, powerful, no-holds-barred true experience of a teen girl so desperate to be loved, so eager to fit in that she'll go to extremes that could cost her her life.
This is not a story about addiction. Or sexual promiscuity. Or cystic fibrosis. It's the story of a young woman with a powerful will to live, who more than anything wants to be heard...and loved.
This compelling, emotional account ensures her voice will not be forgotten.

{Review}:   I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I started this book off not sure what to expect. After reading the synopsis, I was intrigued, so I started reading.
It’s an incredible true-life journey of what a teen’s life is. At some places, you’re reading along, and you think… “Ugh…that sounds so childish…”
Well DUH!
It’s her.
Unparalleled, unbiased, completely true to life-teenage angst.
Much of the book reads like a similar diary of mine {not the alcohol and drug use, or the sex, but much of the back and forth “I love him, I hate him, he loves someone else”}… it was like going back in time. That should be one of the biggest draws for a novel like this: that it WILL take you back… to when you thought your world was crumbling and imploding around you {and in Mary Rose’s case, many times, it truly is}.
I also {because I’m ALWAYS doing this…} saw a teaching opportunity to tie this into another fiction book, and do some sort of analysis. Possibly another book where the protagonist dies, and do a comparison of the main characters. It intrigued me how strong willed Mary Rose is. And I think struggling adolescents could learn a thing or two from her.
{Where can I buy this?}:
{What would I rate it?}: 4.5/5. I liked it. I probably wouldn’t read it again, but it was pretty darn great.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}:  Any adolescent that could use a good read.