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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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Undone by Cat Clarke {Review}

{obviously: cover from amazon.com: link below}

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: Jem Halliday is in love with her best friend. It doesn't matter that Kai is gay, or that he'll never look at her the way she looks at him. Jem is okay with that. But when Kai is outed online by one of their classmates, he does the unthinkable and commits suicide.

Jem is left to pick up the pieces of her broken life. Before he died, Kai left her twelve letters—one for each month of the year—and those letters are all Jem has left. That, and revenge.

Although Kai's letters beg her not to investigate what happened, Jem can't let it go. She needs to know who did this, and she'll stop at nothing to find the person responsible for Kai's death. One way or another, someone is going down. Someone is going to pay.

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: Jem Halliday is in love with her best friend. It doesn't matter that Kai is gay, or that he'll never look at her the way she looks at him. Jem is okay with that. But when Kai is outed online by one of their classmates, he does the unthinkable and commits suicide.

Jem is left to pick up the pieces of her broken life. Before he died, Kai left her twelve letters—one for each month of the year—and those letters are all Jem has left. That, and revenge.

Although Kai's letters beg her not to investigate what happened, Jem can't let it go. She needs to know who did this, and she'll stop at nothing to find the person responsible for Kai's death. One way or another, someone is going down. Someone is going to pay.

{Review}: I received this book as an ARC from netgalley.com.
A few years ago, Thirteen Reasons Why was added to the syllabus of the school that I work for’s 9th grade required reading list. Many parents were urged to read the book, as it is a story about teen suicide, where the protagonist left behind 13 audio tapes that basically explained her thought processes in her last days.
I IMMEDIATELY went back to this book when I read Undone. Now, with that said, really the only similarities that exist are that they both deal with teenage suicide, as well as people speaking from beyond the grave. They are also both impeccably written YA books that you literally just melt into. The book becomes a part of you while you’re reading it, and you can’t eat, sleep, or anything until you’re done with it.
We start by meeting Jem, a sweet lost soul who has just had to bury her teenaged best friend. He’s committed suicide (it isn’t a secret), but what is, is really why he felt the need to end his life, as well as who was behind the “straw that broke the camel’s back?” I don’t want to give it away, but Jem is gay, and there was social media involved.
It’s a mystery, but Jem decides to “get back” at whomever she thinks might have done this to him. Meanwhile, she starts to get these letters from Kai. All well-meaning and good letters about her moving on with her life, and attempting to better herself, while she’s in the midst of trying to punish those that she thinks are responsible for her best friend’s death.
You’ll be blindsided by the ending to this book. Really, you’ll be staring with your mouth open at around 85% completion… and your jaw will continue to slacken throughout the ending of the book. And you also might cry.
It’s masterful.
Brilliant, even.
One of the best of 2014 {Right now, this book is tied for 1st place IMO, with Oblivion & We Were Liars}.
And the length, at first glance…kind of scared me. I don’t love any YA read that’s over 300 pages…but this FLEW by. I finished it in a day and a half at the beach. It was WONDERFUL!
I also enjoyed the fact that Cat Clarke brought the ills of social media into it. It’s very interesting to see what could happen at a get together, that could then end up all over the internet.
{Where can I buy this?}:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Undone-Cat-Clarke-ebook/dp/B00IJEVN9Q/ref=la_B005XPT5CQ_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404846608&sr=1-1
B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/undone-cat-clarke/1113965658?ean=9781402292248
{What would I rate it?}: 4.99999999/5 stars. It was practically perfect.
{Who would I recommend this book to?}: Anyone who enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why or We Were Liars. It was a good combination of those two. I received this book as an ARC from netgalley.com.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: When Mr. Dog Bites {by Brian Conaghan}

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: 
All Dylan Mint has ever wanted is to keep his Tourette’s in check and live life as a “normal” teenager. The swearing, the tics, the howling “dog” that escapes when things are at their worst—nothing about Tourette’s makes it easy to meet cute girls or have normal friends (or many friends at all). But a routine hospital visit changes everything—Dylan overhears that he's going to die. In an attempt to claim the life he’s always wanted, he decides to grant himself parting wishes, or “Cool Things To Do Before I Cack It”. In an intimate portrayal of life with Tourette’s, Dylan’s journey to come to terms with the disorder that has defined his life and his preconceptions about the world around him is hilarious, painful and, ultimately, utterly masterful.

I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley.com, in exchange for an honest review.
So, honestly… this book was really great.
Really, REALLY great.
Multiple times I had to remind myself to quiet down my laughter, because I wasn’t sure that it was “appropriate” to laugh at some certain things.
We see this story told from Dylan Mint’s perspective….all about this impending March date—where he assumes that he overhears that he’s going to die. What actually happens is very predictable, but I think that this story is more about the innocence of this kid who is dealing with run-of-the-mill teenaged things, but also has to function with tourette’s. It gives the reader a glimpse into what it’s like to function with a syndrome such as tourette’s, and from what I know about it, Conaghan has nailed writing a student with tourettes.

It’s also interesting to see a first person account of what it’s like to be labeled as “different”, and attend a different school than your peers. It was a very refreshing read. Obviously, there is some more “adult” themed humor, but I think any kiddo over the age of 15 could handle it.

{Where can I buy this?}: 
Anywhere books are sold—but I’d download it to my kindle OR Nook—it’s on sale for 99 pennies {as of this moment in the universe}.
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/When-Dog-Bites-Brian-Conaghan-ebook/dp/B00K0DRO0Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404769500&sr=1-1&keywords=when+mr+dog+bites
B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-mr-dog-bites-brian-conaghan/1117011735?ean=9781619633469

{What would I rate it?}: 
4.8/5. I loved the character of Dylan, and other more minor characters, but I felt as though the “impending doom” was entirely too predictable…. But it doesn’t take away from the story as a whole.

OH—and I’m not sure how I missed this, but much of this book also has Scottish slang in it, because that’s where the characters are from. Just a forewarning. J

{Who would I recommend this book to?}:
Anyone who may have a child with tourette’s, a child with tourette’s, and anyone who wants a good read.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Oblivion by Sasha Dawn {Review}

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: 
Lisa McMann's Dead to You meets Kate Ellison's The Butterfly Clues in a psychological thriller full of romance, intrigue, and mystery. 

One year ago, Callie was found in an abandoned apartment, scrawling words on the wall: "I KILLED HIM. His blood is on my hands. His heart is in my soul. I KILLED HIM." But she remembers nothing of that night or of the previous thirty-six hours. All she knows is that her father, the reverend at the Church of the Holy Promise, is missing, as is Hannah, a young girl from the parish. Their disappearances have to be connected and Callie knows that her father was not a righteous man.

Since that fateful night, she's been plagued by graphomania -- an unending and debilitating compulsion to write. The words that flow from Callie's mind and through her pen don't seem to make sense -- until now. 

As the anniversary of Hannah's vanishing approaches, more words and memories bubble to the surface and a new guy in school might be the key to Callie putting together the puzzle. But digging up the secrets she's buried for so long might be her biggest mistake.

I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley.
Just wow.
I haven’t read a book like this since I went through my Ellen Hopkins binge phase last year, where I literally read every book she ever published.
Sasha Dawn has done an amazing job of putting us right in the thick of Callie’s thoughts, fears, and the incredible journey of someone who suffers with graphomania {a compulsion to write}. The book is written in a way where you’re not 100% sure where the next turn is going to take you, but I promise it’s all resolved at the end. Callie’s thoughts are leading her to figure out the events that happened a year ago: when she was found in the apartment she lived in with her mother, with muddy footprints with the words “I killed him” all over the walls, written in red felt-tip marker.
There is obviously more of a storyline than just the graphomania that is gripping poor Callie. There’s some romance, some drama with her foster sister over said romance… but it’s all very natural and doesn’t feel at all forced {where I think some of the newer YA books DO feel forced}. I did feel at times that I was waiting for the book to finally come to a close, or finally come to the conclusion that we, as readers,  needed to come to, but I’m a VERY impatient person. It’s worth the wait to see the ending to this one. Absolutely 100% worth it.
There were two things I adored in this book: 1. The romance. It wasn’t “overly” done. There are also some mentions of rape/molestation, but it’s never blatantly put out there as far as what they’re doing… readers need to do a lot of inferencing about what is happening.
2. That this is a story not only that’s interesting and a good read, but is also about a compulsion. SO many young adult readers struggle with different compulsions: OCD behaviors, cutting, etc…. that I am enjoying more and more that there are books out there that make these kids feel as though they have a voice, and that they aren’t alone.

{Where can I buy this?}: 
I’ll bet your local bookstore may have it in stock.


B & N:


{What would I rate it?}:
 4.9/5. Practically Perfect in Every Way.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}: 
 I think that kiddos in grade 8+ would be okay with this book. Or anyone who wants to read an awesome-sauce book!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Blog Tour! {Branded: by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki}

It's my very first blog tour, friends!! Whoop Whoop!!!! Thanks Abi & Missy for allowing me to be a part of your beautiful creation! :-)

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: 
Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best. Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home. Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain. Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win. The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me. I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

Lexi Hamilton has recently been “branded”…with the brand “lust”. We don’t learn the reason behind this until well into the novel, which makes it a very quick read: you’re always looking for more answers.
You’re transported to the world of the “Hole”… a place where Sinners are branded and kept: a place kind of like a prison, but with more death, dilapidation, and destruction. The plight and grotesqueness of this place is very adequately depicted within the pages of this book: it is definitely a place that you don’t want to ever come to.
Lexi is branded and is strangely {at least for a sinner…} “protected” by guard Cole, who is picturesquely handsome, and their part of her story is inevitable: She’s a cute little lady, he’s a very handsome man…and sparks are a flying. BUT, rules make it impossible for them to have a relationship: Guards aren’t supposed to fall for/be into sinners. They’re on opposite sides. Although you think this might be the "main" storyline for this fabulous novel... it really isn't. Keep on reading, friends. :-)

I really enjoyed a few things about this book.

1.      Despite its length, it went by very quickly. Many books I’ve read as of late take far too much time to get into the thick of the story. Branded jumped directly in, and you were off and running, wondering what was going to happen to this poor girl next.

2.      The characters were realistic enough, and well developed, that you were enthralled in them, and I felt connected to many of the minor characters, as well.

3.      Abi and Missy have done a nice job of weaving this story, so that you think you’ve got it figured out—and then BAM, you’re hit with another blow to the face.

4.      One of the most appealing parts to this book is it’s descriptiveness. You’re literally transported there, something that many newer authors are not on point with—but they hit it out of the park.

5.      This book isn’t even really about the budding romance, or the fact that this girl is branded at all, it’s about forbidden love, governmental restraints, familial relationships, trust…it has it all.

Before you read this, understand that I adored this book, but knowing that the young adult genre can be read by kiddos as young as 5th grade, I felt the need to explain this: I absolutely have to say that there was one part of this book that I was surprised with, only for the fact that it did not seem “young adult” at all. It was a sexual scene, and while there wasn’t any horribly foul/offensive language used, it was INCREDIBLY descriptive. It’s a physically small part of the book, but an important part to the entire storyline, so it really can’t be “glanced over”… this scene affected my recommendation age below…

That said though, the entirety of the book shouldn’t be missed. The storyline is incredible, and I’m downloading the next in the series when I have more time {and fewer TBR’s }, but I cannot wait to see what’s next and in store for the characters! 

{Where can I buy this?}:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0989527417/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d1_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0M3762NGGE0E3MEB85R4&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846
{What would I rate it?}: 
4.8/5: It's definitely a book I would recommend to older YA readers.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}
I would recommend this book to kiddos in grades 10+. Although I think readability wise it could be appropriate for younger children, I truly don’t believe it’s appropriate for kiddos below grade 10. In addition to the above scene, there is a lot of violence, and I feel as though the seven deadly sins reference would be lost on kids that are younger than 10th grade.

All in all though, a wonderful read! :-)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Flashback Friday {Review: Signal by Cynthia DeFelice}

(photo courtesy of google image search)

{Synopsis: courtesy of amazon.com}: 

One day while running on the trail near his house in upstate New York, Owen McGuire meets a girl with startling green eyes and bloody cuts all over her body who seems to be utterly alone. Her name is Campion, after the wildflower that is an alien species in the area—alien meaning “from someplace else”—and Campion claims to come from someplace else entirely, a planet called Home. She plans to signal her parents to come pick her up in their spaceship. Owen agrees to help, and as he does, he feels happier than he has in a long time: His mother died a year and a half ago, and now he and his workaholic father live together like two planets on separate orbits, in a new house far from his friends. What will he do when Campion asks him to come with her into outer space, away from his lonely life on Earth?


There are a few things that I love about this book.
1.      It takes place on the shores of a finger lake in Upstate NY—where I’ve grown and spent all of my 29 years on this Earth.
2.      Cynthia DeFelice is behind this great piece of fiction.
3.      The cover is interesting and appealing, before you ever open the book to read it.
Cynthia DeFelice again paints a very realistic picture of an adolescent who is going through some pretty serious changes in his life. His mother has died, his father is very consumed with his life, and doesn’t necessarily have everything together himself, let alone getting himself together for his son.
And then we meet Campion: this poor scared alien-girl who mysteriously ended up near Owen’s home, and has no family to speak of, except the family from another planet. There is also a man—Ray, who is looking for her. Ray is a bit of a tough guy, and you’re never quite sure what the connection is. Until the ending, which will tear your heart out and stomp it on the floor.
I bought this selection from a scholastic book fair, because I knew that my guided reading students would love it. I could see {from a teaching perspective} that this would be a great addition to any child’s library, but especially to children who have already read Weasel by C. DeFelice--- there are a multitude of similarities of the story outlines, and it would be interesting for a middle-grade level to take these texts and really dive deeply into them. Cynthia DeFelice is also just a good author “to know”…as she has written a LOT of awesome books that appeal to young readers. My fifth grade students—upon receiving this book said the following:
Student 1: “Signal… the cover looks pretty cool…”
Student 2: “OMG! It’s by Cynthia DeFelice!”
Student 1: “That’s awesome. After we read Under The Same Sky, I tried to read all of our libraries books by her…”
{that’s super powerful stuff, peeps!}

{Where can I buy this?}:

Like I said, I bought mine at the last scholastic book fair we had, but you should be able to pick this up wherever books are sold.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Signal-Cynthia-DeFelice/dp/0312617763/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400961886&sr=8-1&keywords=signal+by+cynthia+defelice

B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/signal-cynthia-defelice/1100357585?ean=9780312617769

{What would I rate it?}: 

4.8/5: I REALLY enjoyed this book, and it was an incredibly quick read. My students thought the same, and were intrigued by the story the entire time.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}: 

Anyone with an advanced reading 4th grader/ 5th grader (on or above level) who is looking for something quick, and a good all-around read. Her stuff is really amazing, and once you've read one DeFelice, you really yearn to read at least 3+ more.... if not everything she's ever published. :-) 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We Were Liars {E Lockhart}

Photo courtesy of Google image search:

{Synopsis: courtesy of Amazon.com}:
A beautiful and distinguished family.

A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


Just Woah.
I’d heard buzz about this book from the minute I attempted to snatch it up from my netgalley.com account. I never in a million, gazillion years thought that Penguin Books would EVER choose me to get an ARC, but I did.
And am I EVER thankful for that.
This book is a masterful piece of young adult literature. In fact, it’s unlike any book I’ve really ever read. It reminds me a bit of The Great Gatsby {because of the idyllic money situation, and living near the ocean… plus some of the adults act a bit Tom Buchanan-esque}, throw in a little Gone Girl {in the mystery….}, and a dash of the camaraderie and friendship you see in a novel like The Outsiders…and you’ve kind of got a sliver of what you’re in for.
Main character Cadence is a trust-fund grandbaby {the oldest, but only by three weeks}. She’s the only child in her nuclear family, and her parents are pretty recently divorced. She has 2 cousin’s with whom she’s very close, and another “family” friend, Gat {who is really the son of the man who is dating her aunt}. 
They together, make up the liars.
While reading this book, you’re transported into a world of tennis playing, ultra rich kids, who really DON’T have it all together, or have it all…period. It’s an incredibly enthralling tale {primarily because it’s about a culture of which I don’t really know}…but more than that, Lockhart has done an absolutely amazing job of making this a can’t-put-it-down type of summer read. This is the book you tell all of your friends about, and practically throw in their beach bag for them.
I will say at the beginning, there’s a TON of information to take in all at once. Aunts names, cousin’s names…it was a little overwhelming, and I actually had to diagram it all. But it’s super important to know.
And the ending?

The ending is the best possible part of the entire book.

And it’s masterful. 
And you NEVER see it coming.
And no….I won’t tell.

{Where can I buy this?}:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/we-were-liars-e-lockhart/1116530632?ean=9780385741262
{What would I rate it?}:
 5/5. Solid 5 star book.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}
Anyone really. I’d say anyone who is interested in the book and can read it, should. Anyone 12+ probably, if not 10+ {provided they can handle some of the smootches, and there is some talk of “sexual intercourse”, some light boozing…among other things : - )