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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 : - )

Monday, May 5, 2014

{The Fault In Our Stars} by John Green

{Synopsis- from amazon.com}:
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
I’m not even sure where to begin. This was an impulse purchase at my local Wegman’s. It was on an end-cap, I’d heard amazing things in the halls of the school that I teach {by the teachers…we only go up to 5th grade}, and in the blogosphere.
Now, with that said…. I don’t typically love hyped-up books. I thought The Hunger Games trilogy ended with Suzanne Collin’s drinking the JK Rowling kool-aid to try and prolong her series into “just one more  book”… but unlike JK…failing miserably in the attempt {I STRUGGLED THROUGH book 3 of the series).
But I figured I would give this one a chance.
We are taken through a modern day fairytale. Except Cinderella has cancer, and has to lug a portable oxygen tank with her everywhere. Oh, and prince charming? He only has one leg. Throughout the novel, we’re taken through the journey of Hazel and Augustus—all of the awkwardness of a first love, complete with the C-word being a third wheel.
There were some parts of this book that I while I was reading, I thought, “Why is all of this time being wasted on this seemingly uninteresting part?” Trust in Mr. Green. He knows what he’s doing. It’ll all come full circle. Promise.
There were four things I absolutely adored about this book:
1.      I read it in 2 days. I love any 300+ page book that I can read quickly, especially starting it at night on a Sunday, and finishing it before dinner on a Monday night, when I’ve worked all day. It was incredibly easy to “get into”.
2.      John Green writes teenaged girls incredibly well. You almost have to remind yourself as you’re reading that this is a grown man, writing this incredibly poignant stuff.
3.      The father in the book. He is one of the best characters in the entire book. I absolutely adored him from the minute I met him.
4.      Where the book ends up. You never *really* see the end coming. I mean, yes…you kind of do…but not in the way it’s delivered. I was ugly crying on and off from around page 170 until the end of the book. You’re always reading this story, knowing that there is a finality lurking in the horizon of this perfectly crafted piece of writing. You’re reading this incredibly personal story of these two kids, and your heart is breaking for them. Every line, you think about your own mortality.

And every line becomes that much more poignant.

{Where can I buy this?}:
Anywhere that sells books, basically.

B & N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fault-in-our-stars-john-green/1104045488?ean=9780525478812&itm=1&usri=9780525478812&cm_mmc=bing-_-Children%27s%20Books-_-John%20Green%20-%20The%20Fault%20in%20Our%20Stars-_-Fault%20in%20Our%20Stars&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_term=Fault

{What would I rate it?}:
 5/5. Easily the best book of 2014 I’ve read thus far.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}: 
Adults. Anyone over the age of 15. They can handle it. There is some sex, and the subject matter just might be too much for younger children to handle.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dust of Eden by Mariko Nagai {Review}

{Synopsis (courtesy of Goodreads.com)}:
We lived under a sky so blue in Idaho right near the towns of Hunt and Eden but we were not welcomed there.

In early 1942, thirteen-year-old Mina Masako Tagawa and her Japanese American family are sent from their home in Seattle to an internment camp in Idaho. What do you do when your home country treats you like an enemy? This memorable and powerful novel in verse, written by award-winning author Mariko Nagai, explores the nature of fear, the value of acceptance, and the beauty of life. As thought-provoking as it is uplifting, Dust of Eden is told with an honesty that is both heart-wrenching and inspirational.

{I received an ARC digital copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley.com}
I REALLY don’t enjoy historical books. Come to think of it, I don’t enjoy history very much to begin with. I feel like my present is so filled up, why should I worry about the past? After reading this book though—I’ll definitely embrace it, that’s for sure.
I will also admit {with a heavy heart}, that I did not know much about the internment camp situation in America. If anything, it was one of those parts of history that your teacher only gave a day or so to, if that. It was rarely mentioned. Which is absolutely horrible, and saddens my soul.
We meet our narrator: Mina Tagawa, an adorable 13-year old soul who is quite possibly going through the hardest time in her life. On the tails of Pearl Harbor anyone who even RESEMBLED someone of Japanese descent was chastised for what had happened (even though they had nothing to do with it). People around the town put up signs in their shops, and as a group they’re taken on a horrible journey to a camp.
Nagai does an excellent job of developing many of the characters, Mina especially. She captures the essence of a young lady, who is already dealing with being a teenager in a changing time, but is also going through this incredibly hard time with the world around her. We also see, in a secondary character (Mina’s big brother Nick), the incredible struggle of a young man who is torn between two ideologies: Does he fight for the country he’s called home? Or does he embrace his blood and heritage?
This book was incredibly well written. It took me about 45 minutes to read cover to cover. It kept my attention the entire time, and was a wonderfully written book. I also learned a lot about that era (which is saying something coming from a 29 year old!)
{Where can I buy this?}:
Barnes & Noble:
{What would I rate it?}: 
4.7/5 stars – I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even learned something! If anything—I thought it could be a little bit longer.

{Who would I recommend this book to?}:
 Anyone who would like a quick read, and anyone looking to incorporate some non-fiction primary source documents in their teaching during guided reading {I’m always looking for ways to TEACH the book, and not just “read” it}. I could definitely see how you could do an entire unit on this book, and might be able to do some projects with it, as well.