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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fire & Flood {by Victoria Scott}

{Image courtesy of goodreads.com}

{Synopsis (courtesy of amazon.com)}
Time is slipping away. . . .

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to the middle of nowhere for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying--and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Victoria Scott's breathtaking novel grabs readers by the throat and doesn't let go.

{I received this book as an ARC courtesy of Netgalley.com}
It took me a whole 4 days to really get into this book. I read the first few chapters kind of hap-hazardly. I truly thought that this book was just “another one of those dystopian novels, and exactly like the rest of them.”
This story is of main character, Tella… who receives an awkward invitation to the “Brimstone Bleed”… a contest comprised of people who are all vying for a cure for a loved one. Some people are playing to save distant loved ones—others are playing to save brothers, sisters, or even their own children.

Things get super interesting when author Scott, brought forth the beginning of the race, with the Pandora’s (genetically engineered animals that are used as companions for the contestants). From then on, I was absolutely hooked, and from about chapters 10 to the end, I finished in about a day and a half (that’s also working full time, planning for school, etc.)…. It was a SUPER quick read.
I will say that any/all trepidation's about the book slowing down in any way, went away after the first 6 chapters. The rest of the book is QUICK. SO quick in fact, that you might find a need to take some notes. The final 15% of the book (I read it on a kindle), your jaw will be dropping on the floor of whatever room you’re in. Scott has purposefully left parts of this story in the dark for an incredibly masterful ending to this first book. It’s absolutely brilliant, and the concept is “not just another dystopian novel.” It is SO much more than that!

The ONLY downfall to this story---- there are a plethora of “semi-important” characters in this story—which makes my ADD mind squirm, but they’re easy to keep track of, because Scott does a nice job of introducing them slowly, and making sure you understand the relationship they have to Tella. I understand why most were put in the story, but there were a lot of characters to keep track of. But that’s my only qualm about this absolutely masterful piece of Young Adult Fiction.  

{Where can I buy this?}:

Barnes and Noble:
{What would I rate it?}: 
4.8/5 stars

{Who would like to read it?}:
 Any person who likes a hint of dystopian society, with a hint of controversy, sprinkled in with some amazing writing and characterization. *There were some scenes/language used that I would NOT recommend anyone under the age of 13 to read this—young love and some f-bombs…*
{Social Media Links}:


Monday, April 21, 2014

Countdown by Deborah Wiles

{image courtesy of goodreads.com & google image search}

Got this gem at the scholastic book sale for $2.50 (HARDCOVER!). I had heard from a 5th grader that it was a REALLY awesome book. The comment that she made was, "It's the format that's the coolest part." 

{Yep, a 5th grader said that!}

And the format is one of the coolest parts! 

This book is like none other that I've ever read. Not only because it's a realistic historical fiction piece, but because it talks about the Cuban missile crisis, and that's something that I, myself... don't know much about. I've heard my parents talk about duck and cover drills, but really I never understood (before reading this book), how often the occurred, and how impossibly scared the kids of this day and age were.

We meet Franny (the main character), and through her eyes, we see her complex family (she's a military brat, with her father in the military, an uncle who is suffering from PTSD from his own military experience, a mother who is the quintessential housewife, a (much older), older sister who is trying to fight for change on the side of racial relations while attending university, and a younger brother who is beyond obsessed with Burt the turtle, and becoming an astronaut someday. 

Franny has a hard road ahead of her...she's trying desperately to fit in at school, and dealing with the challenges of the day and age she's growing up in, while just growing up...is difficult for her. Ms. Wiles takes us on an amazing journey of her trying to figure out her life.

Again, one of the most endearing qualities of this book is it's format. Ms. Wiles uses many non-fiction elements while she tells Franny's story (using excerpts from speeches, advertisements, etc), which all fit in nicely with the text before and after it. I loved that portion of the book, because it so seamlessly makes the book tie into non-fiction, and you don't have to go searching everywhere for your answers to "what is she talking about here?" and "who is that person again, and why are they important?"

As far as teachability is concerned, there are so many directions that this book could take you. You could obviously tie it nicely into social studies, and a non-fiction project on what it was like to grow up during the early 60's, you could absolutely interview someone who was alive back then, and ask them what they knew, and you could also make some personal connections to how Franny's life is similar to their own, growing up in a post 9/11 world.

I very much enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to teachers, parents, and the like.
Where can I buy this?: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Countdown-1st-first-Wiles-Deborah/dp/B00BTM0TSQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398117782&sr=1-2&keywords=countdown+by+deborah+wiles

Barnes and Nobel: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/countdown-deborah-wiles/1100162030?ean=9780545106054

What I think of it: 4.5/5 

Who would like to read it: Kiddos, teachers, parents...or anyone who lived in the sixties.

AND--- it's part of a trilogy!! That's one of the most endearing qualities about it-- That it sucked me in, and makes me want to read the rest of them!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Words Wound by Justin Patchin & Sameer Hinduja

I received an ARC of Words Wound courtesy of Netgalley. I was very interested in what this book had to say about cyberbullying. Working my days in a school with kindergarten through 5th graders, I (thankfully) don’t usually have many instances to use knowledge of cyberbullying, primarily because my students aren’t old enough to really use a lot of social networking. Many students have Instagram, but very few have Facebook or twitter at this stage in the game. However, being aligned with many students who were a little older, the book was of interest to me, and I really wanted to see what it had to offer.

I DID very much feel the entire time reading this book, that while its intended audience might be of the teenage variety, it really was written as if it was directed more toward their parents and educators. This isn’t to say that the whole book is a wash—there were some awesome suggestions to be made to students who are bullying and/or witness bullying of others, but the book was filled with a lot of facts and figures—things I’m not sure would appeal to a reading audience of teens. The book definitely had instances of teens giving feedback as to experiences that they had had with cyberbullying, which was refreshing to hear the “real life” stories of teens standing up to bullies, and standing up for their friends--- it was sometimes hard to get through with the hypotheticals, and I personally wished that there would've been more feedback from teens throughout the book.

The book dealt with some very real situations that students don’t think about. I personally, know of a teen whose Facebook account was hacked because he gave his password to an ex-girlfriend, and he dealt with the repercussions of a night of completely inappropriate musings--- he got into trouble at school, with family members, and with friends.

I felt as if the most important chapter of the book (how to bring cyberbullying down in your school by forming groups/making pledges to stop cyberbullying), were very well written, and provided a ton of great ideas to begin something in your own school district.

One piece of the book that I definitely LIKED, was that the book outlined some court cases involving cyberbullying, and how even online behavior off campus (or outside of school), can still definitely affect you INSIDE the walls of a school. It's important that students and teens understand what could happen because of their online behaviors, and that there still are consequences within the four walls of the schoolhouse, for things that might have been said in the heat of the moment online.

Where can I buy this?: Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Words-Wound-Delete-Cyberbullying-Kindness/dp/1575424517
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/words-wound-justin-patchin/1114971564?ean=9781575426020

What I think of it: 4/5 (again, if it was written more for a teenaged audience, this would’ve been a clear 4.5/5)

Who would like to read it: I think EVERY parent of a teenager in this day and age should definitely read this book. Educators who work with teens should definitely look into it as well.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wordswound

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

I judged a book by its cover.
I simply HAVE to stop doing that.

I had seen the cover to the book a gazillion times.
I had been turned onto J. Spinelli, after reading Wringer (another amazing tale!). I read this book because I wanted to teach it to my 5th grade guided reading group, so because of this, I had to make sure that I read it ahead of time.

We meet Stargirl (Susan), through the narrator Leo. He's awestruck at this bohemian, larger-than-life girl with a heart of gold. She is constantly doing for others--whether it's sending a birthday card, providing people with small tokens on their desks... she's always looking to please other people.

For nothing in return.

And because of this SO out of the ordinary behavior--she gets totally shunned by the entire student body. People absolutely DESPISE her. 
And for what? 
Being who she IS.

Before I took the books to my classroom, a fellow teacher said to me: "You're going to be amazed at the conversation this book elicits from these kids, even in 5th grade. They'll begin to look at themselves differently, they'll look at each other differently, and they'll be able to see things from a whole new perspective once they finish this book."

He was right. I'm an adult, and it absolutely changed mine.

Where can I buy this? Anywhere books are sold--I saw some in my local B & N 
OR Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stargirl-Jerry-Spinelli-ebook/dp/B000QCSAIQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396727980&sr=8-1&keywords=stargirl

What I think of it: 5/5 stars

Who would like to read it: People of all ages. I think the male perspective brings it to many more males than it would if it were written from a fellow female, and I also think that the story itself is happening around our country every day. In every school. In every town.