Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/29

It's Monday! What are you reading? --From Picture Books to YA--is a weekly meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.  Head over to their blog for links to many great blogs and a plethora of good book suggestions.

I managed to get through a few books this week even though I was still sick all week.  I went back to the doctor on Friday and got the correct antibiotic to get rid of the sinus infection.  I felt SO much better Saturday and Sunday, but I still spent time relaxing and resting so that I can be fully recovered this week.

Books Finished This Week:

Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz graphic novel was a fun and whimsical adaptation of the classic book.  I enjoyed reading it and would recommend it for middle grades.

Foiled by Jane Yolen is an excellent graphic novel.  I loved the original story and the strong female protagonist.  I will certainly be looking for the other books in the series.  I highly recommend this graphic novel.

I really enjoyed The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau.  It was just as edgy and full of adventure as The Hunger Games.  I would definitely recommend it to teens and adults alike. The only thing I would say is that it was really similar in premise to The Hunger Games so I could see some people not liking it because of that.  See my longer review of this book here.

I decided to request Ghetto Cowboy from my library after reading how much Kellee Moye enjoyed it.  I didn't know anything about the book, but boy am I glad I picked it up!  What an interesting story.  I can't believe that there really are urban cowboys like the ones in this book.  I read this one so quickly and I know that my students will really love it.  I need to buy it soon to add to my library.  I highly recommend this book!

I read Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko in order to be able to discuss it with my husband.  He is taking a vampire literature class this semester and wanted my opinion about the book.  The premise of the book seems promising when you start reading but I did not think the author really delivered on this premise.  If you really enjoy fantasy, you might like this one.  However, I did not enjoy it all that much and neither did my husband.

From Willa, With Love was handed to me by a student.  She and her friend gave it to me and told me I HAD to read this book.  I picked it up and read it in one sitting.  I love Willa and her love of reading.  The quotes the author used at the beginning of each chapter made me smile and some will probably be gracing the walls of my classroom soon.  I didn't know that this one was part of a series until I read the author's notes at the end.  I am absolutely going to seek out the other books so that I can spend more time with Willa and her lovely town in Cape Cod. I can't wait to talk these two students about this book!

Books I am Currently Reading:

I started reading Madhattan Mystery while waiting to see the doctor on Friday.  I will continue that book.  I also am still listening to Days of Blood and Starlight since I haven't been working out and that is the time that I listen to audiobooks.

What's Up Next?

I have One Came Home by Amy Timberlake to read before she comes for an author visit to my school in a couple weeks.  I also bought Mind Games by Kiersten White and I am excited to read that one.  Other than that, I will see how the week shapes up.  I haven't read any nonfiction in a while so I will probably pick one up to read soon.  I also have The Talent Code from the library which needs to be returned soon so I will most likely dig into that one as well.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: The Testing

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Source: Netgalley

Publication: June 4th, 2013

My summary:
Cia Vale is graduating and unsure of her future.  She has been hoping that she would be chosen for The Testing.  Every year the United Commonwealth chooses the best and the brightest to experience The Testing.  Those that pass the test will go on to the university and study to become the next generation of leaders.  When she finds out that she has been chosen for this honor, she is really excited, but her father warns her that it is not necessarily all that it seems and to trust no one.  She soon finds that this endeavor is way more than she bargained for and her survival depends on following her father's advice.

My Thoughts:  If you loved The Hunger Games, you will love this book.  I always find it amazing that authors are able to have so many original ideas about how the world will look in the future.  This book presented another idea of a dystopian world.  I thought the author did an excellent job of really bringing up the moral dilemmas that the characters faced.  Like Hunger Games, there were some young people who chose violence in order to gain an edge in the competition.  In this book the selection to be part of The Testing was presented to the entire country as an honor and a privilege.  Cia is honored to be selected and excited about the opportunity that presents itself.  This makes the book much more dystopian in nature.  Her vision was that the world she lived in was a good place.  I also liked the story with her relationship with Tomas.  In a harrowing situation like the one they were placed in, it is difficult to know how people will react.  The seeds of doubt that Cia has about Tomas are realistic and set the stage for something bigger in the next books.  It really made me think about who can be trusted. The focus on this issue of trust and betrayal will make teens think.  There was also a focus on the question of violence and when it is necessary.  The young people that make up the group that is being tested are divided about this issue.  Some believe that the failure of leaders to choose violence led to some of the destruction of society in history.  Others believe that violence should be a last resort.  The results of this divide are haunting.  Overall, I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to grades 6 and up.

Book Trailer:

Read an excerpt and get access to a free prequel here.

4 out of 5 stars 

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4/22

It's Monday! What are you reading? --From Picture Books to YA--is a weekly meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.  Head over to their blog for links to many great blogs and a plethora of good book suggestions.

This week's post will be short and sweet.  I have been feeling sick for a few weeks and finally got to the doctor on Friday.  What was the diagnosis?  Sinus infection and bronchitis.  No wonder I felt so crappy!  The antibiotic has now cleared out the sinus infection but the bronchitis is still holding on.  So although I had time to read last week, I actually preferred television because I didn't have to think so hard.  (Being a nerd, this is a big sign that I am actually really sick).

Books Finished This Week:

I LOVED Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  It is such an incredible fantasy world with deep and rich characters.  Seraphina is such a likable character and I loved the love story that isn't quite a love story yet.  I will certainly look for any and all books that come next from this author and will anxiously await the sequel to this one.  Thanks again to Cindy Minnich for this bookswap book!

Requiem by Lauren Oliver was a good conclusion to the trilogy.  I read it quickly and was engaged in the story and curious to see how it was all going to turn out.  The only thing I wasn't so thrilled about is the love triangle.  I am kind of frustrated by these young adult books where teenagers act stupid and lie to themselves about their feelings or believe the other person who is lying about their feelings.  Maybe it reads as a realistic situation for teens but I just get annoyed with it.  I would still absolutely recommend this trilogy to fans of dystopian fiction.  It is well thought out and an intriguing world to read about.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell was a fascinating read.  It is really interesting to think about how our definitions of success have developed and how there may be many other factors involved.  I was particularly fascinated by the idea of cultural influences and how they could be affecting our behaviors.  Definitely a book worth reading.

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am reading Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko.  My husband is taking a vampire literature course and this one is on the syllabus.  It is interesting so far.  I am also reading two graphic novels: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Foiled.  Both are really good so far.

I am still listening to Days of Blood and Starlight.  As you might imagine, working out has not been on my schedule this week.  I did listen a little bit yesterday while resting.  This one is definitely as intriguing as the first one and I love this narrator.

What's up Next:

I don't know what I will read next.  I will have to see what I feel like reading this week.

What are you reading?  Have a great reading week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/15

It's Monday! What are you reading? --From Picture Books to YA--is a weekly meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.  Head over to their blog for links to many great blogs and a plethora of good book suggestions.

Since this week was the first week back from break it was a slow reading week for me.  Add into that a baby shower for my sister, and my reading time was quite minimal this week.

Books I finished this week: (It's only odd!)

I enjoyed Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.  It was a fun adventure of the steampunk variety.  It is so fun to think about how airships would be different if engines had not progressed beyond the steam engine variety.  In this one Matt Cruse is the youngest crew member but feels right at home on the ship.  Then some mysterious things happen and between a pirate ship, a discovery, and a shipwreck, the whole ship goes on a big adventure.  I was swept up in the adventure and really intrigued throughout the whole book.  I would absolutely recommend this one to grades 5 and up.

Books I am Currently reading;

I am listening to Days of Blood and Starlight.  It helps me to be motivated to get in a workout.  I also started reading Seraphina, which I received from Cindy Minnich in the book swap.  I am loving the story so far.  My students are also starting literature circles so I am reading the books to be able to participate in discussions as needed.  The titles are: One for the Murphys, Stargirl, Kira-Kira, The Cay (all re-reads) and The Encyclopedia of Me, and No More Dead Dogs (which I am reading for the first time).

Books up next:

I have Requiem from the library.  I also have Outliers, which I would really like to read.  Other than these books, I will play it by ear.  I hope I can read more than last week, but Seraphina is also quite long so I will see what happens.

Happy reading!  What are you reading this week?

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/8

It's Monday! What are you reading? --From Picture Books to YA--is a weekly meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.  Head over to their blog for links to many great blogs and a plethora of good book suggestions.

This was a fabulous reading week because I was on Spring Break and had a cold.  The cold made me not want to leave the couch so a lot of reading transpired.  

Books I Finished This Week:

I really enjoyed Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas.  The characters were well-developed and I found myself really rooting for certain things to happen.  I love that this is a fantasy novel which reads somewhat like historical fiction.  The characters were believable and there was a sense that this kind of magic really could exist in the world.  I also really loved the mystery involved with the story.  It is one that I highly recommend for grades 6 and up.

For some reason it took me a while to pick this one up from my shelf.  I think the blurb on the back did a good job but for some reason it didn't really sell me on the book.  I am so glad I decided to pick up Penny From Heaven by Jennifer Holm.  I was hooked in the first few pages and loved the voice of Penny throughout the book.  What really kept me reading was the mystery behind her father's death.  Why wouldn't anyone talk about it?  It really intrigued me, along with the descriptions of the contrast between her mother's family and her father's Italian family.  When I finally did find out the mystery, I was in awe of this author's way of telling a very important historical story.  This is a book that talks about an important part of our history during WWII and does so in a subtle way by describing the effects on the family years later.  Masterful storytelling and beautiful writing made this book one that I read in one sitting.  I highly recommend it for grades 4 and up.

I finally finished listening to the audiobook of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I am so glad I decided to listen to this one, even though it was really long.  The narrator has such a magical voice and it made me enjoy the magical story that much more.  This is not the type of book that I usually would pick up when it comes to adult books.  However, I found the story fascinating and the writing beautiful.  I loved the descriptions that were sprinkled throughout written in second person and describing what you experience at the circus.  There was just enough mystery and romance to delight in and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I would highly recommend this book to teens and adults alike.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliet is full of amazing language and word play.  It is a tribute to Langston Hughes as much as an adventure and a mystery. When Early's father disappears, the police believe that he just ran out on his family.  But Early and her mother and brother know that is not what happened.  They work to try to figure out what is going on, and through the circumstances they end up in a homeless shelter.  Balliet weaves a portrait of life in the shelter into this mystery and makes this an important book for all kids to read.  I recommend this one for grades 4 and up.

This is a fascinating book that would be good for talking point of view with teens.  The narrator is a boy with Cerebral Palsy that is unable to communicate.  His father has started to hint that he may believe that "putting him out of his misery" is the right thing to do.  I have to say, it was hard for me to read this.  I think this is probably closer to the truth than the conclusion that all people in this state are just "vegetables" or incapable of thinking about things in an age-appropriate way.  I read this one for the NerdPrintz challenge and would recommend it to teens and adults.  See more of my thoughts about this one here.

I enjoyed Tithe by Holly Black more than I thought I would.  I wasn't sure I would enjoy the story about fairies.  However, this was a really good mystery and adventure.   I would recommend it especially to fans of fantasy.  It was a quick read and fun.

The Boyfriend List by E.Lockhart was a very fun read.  It was a nice girly book and I really enjoyed the voice of the protagonist.  I thought the use of footnotes throughout the book was a fun style detail.  I would definitely recommend this one to teens, especially girls.

I really enjoyed reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  It was fun to read through all the 80's references and I thought the premise was really clever. In this book, the real world is pretty ridiculously awful which is why almost everyone escapes into the OASIS, a virtual reality world.  Then, the creator of the OASIS dies and a video announces a hunt for the secret keys that he has left somewhere in the virtual worlds.  The person who finds these things will inherit his fortune and the company. The book sucked me in from page one and I was riveted throughout the action.  I highly recommend this one.

Graphic Novels:

I enjoyed all three of the graphic novels I read this week. I will be looking for copies to add to my classroom library.  I am really interested in finding and reading the rest of the Olympians series.  I learned a thing or two about Athena from this one.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am reading Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.  I love it so far.  This one is for the Steampunk'd challenge and the NerdPrintz challenge.  I also have started listening to Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor.  I enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone so much on audio and I am loving this one so far also. This narrator does such a great job.  

What's Next:  
I don't know what I will decide to pick up next.  I have a pile of books from the library and many shelves of great reads at home as well as multiple books to read on my Kindle.  I would like to get to Code Name Verity sometime soon as well as The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, but I will see what this week brings.  

What are you reading?  Have a great reading week!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Stuck in Neutral

Title: Stuck in Neutral
Author: Terry Trueman

Publication: October 2001

My Summary: 14-year-old Shawn McDonald has severe Cerebral Palsy and is unable to communicate with the world.  This book is told from Shawn's point of view and the reader is given the perspective of what it might be like to be able to hear and comprehend everything but never communicate anything.  Shawn's family is unaware of his abilities and he is unable to change this.  In the course of this book, Shawn becomes aware that his father is thinking about ending his life, which he sees as an act of mercy.

My thoughts: I wasn't sure if I would be able to read this one.  I hesitated picking it up because I thought it would be hard for me to read.  My step-brother, who recently passed away, was very severely handicapped from cerebral palsy as well.  Jeff, my step-brother, could communicate with us through yes and no questions, but we never could know exactly what was going on in his head.  I think if this book had not been written in such an upbeat voice I would not have been able to read it.  What struck me is the way that Shawn spoke in such a teenage voice but was matter-of-fact about his condition.  I wonder if people really feel that way.  What is obvious to me after knowing my step-brother and other people like him is that they definitely can think and feel like anyone.  The other thing that struck me is that Shawn talked about how is mother still talked to him as if he were a baby.  We did this with Jeff, not necessarily baby talk, but we did talk to him like he was younger.  I wonder if that bothered him.  The conflict in the book really disturbed me.  I understand that people feel that maybe living that way is not a great way to live, but I don't understand how people can presume to know whether someone is suffering or not.  I think the author did something great in really bringing up this debate.  Shawn certainly wasn't ready to have someone decide this for him.  I think this is an important book for teens to read and think about.  I think it is a brave book and it is one that I would recommend.

I am wavering between 3 and 4 stars for this book.  It is hard to figure out exactly what I think, and I am really unsure about the ending.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday--Book Crushes

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week's topic:  Top Ten Characters I Would Crush on if I Were Also a Fictional Character

My top ten are listed in no particular order.

Mr. Darcy and many other Jane Austen heroes.  Darcy is particularly endearing to me because I have a huge crush on Colin Firth.  (Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones' Diary is a particularly nice twist to this character)

Ren from the Tiger Saga by Colleen Houck is absolutely dreamy...I was so mad at Kelsey throughout this saga for dragging her feet.  Then I was made at the author for throwing so many twists at them.

Noah Shaw from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer.  He is so devoted to Mara and is just mysterious enough to be super dreamy.

Perry from Under the Never Sky.  I don't remember what exactly I loved about him, but I do remember feeling that book crush feeling and even tweeting about how I was a little in love with Perry.

 Adam from Shatter Me.  He is just so sweet.

 Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables and the rest of the series.  He is so cute and lovable.  (I also loved the actor that played this character in the PBS mini-series)

Po from Graceling is so patient with Katsa.  He is also just so powerful!

This is kind of a weird one, but I really love Meggie's father Mo from Inkheart.  He is such a wonderful man and he does such a good job of raising a daughter who loves books.  I have kind of a schoolgirl crush on Mo.

Both Joe Morelli and Ranger are sexy and mysterious and super hot.  If I lived in Stephanie Plum's world I would be crushing big time on both of these men.

Jack in Blood Red Road is another book crush.  He has more patience than most people would have.  Saba is a brat throughout this book but he is willing to stick with her and is able to see the good in her.

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? (4/1)

It's Monday! What are you reading? --From Picture Books to YA--is a weekly meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.  Head over to their blog for links to many great blogs and a plethora of good book suggestions.

I had a good reading week this week.  It was a short week because we had Friday off and it was the week before break so the activities I planned were a little less involved for me.  We have this amazing partnership with a local theater and they came in to work with my 8th grade classes all week.

Books I finished this week:

I finally finished reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.  Her ideas were not new to me but I was curious about how she would explain it in the book.  I found quite a few excerpts that were quite powerful and would be useful in lessons with students about mindsets.  One quote I found to be especially powerful for teachers came from close to the end of the book: "So, are great teachers born or made?...It starts with the growth mindset---about yourself and about children. Not just lip service to the idea that all children can learn, but a deep desire to reach in and ignite the mind of every child."  I have really been thinking about teaching students about mindsets and now I know I need to spend the time to do this.  I highly recommend this book.

I really liked Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.  I was captivated from the very beginning with the story.  I could absolutely understand how young Clara would be so enchanted with the puppet show.  From the very beginning of this book there was a sense of mystery and magic.  The book is beautifully written and I was sucked into the enchanting world of this story.  This is another one that is absolutely deserving of the Newbery Honor it received this year.

I enjoyed reading Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire by Rafe Esquith.  It is amazing to me how dedicated and creative that teacher is.  I love what he had to say and I agree with many of the fundamental values he has about school and his students.  It was refreshing to read a book about education in which an author did not sidestep the elephant in the room.  There are many dedicated and passionate teachers out there but there are teachers who are not willing to put in any extra effort and it was nice to see him say so.  Although I will probably not be starting a rock band any time soon with my students, there are some ideas I can take away from this book.  The one I found most intriguing is the idea of the 6 levels of moral development that he teaches students.  I think this is a good model to use to talk to students about how they are choosing to live their lives.  Since I work with middle school students, this is the perfect time to help them understand this.  I also appreciated some of the links that he provided for good strategies and ideas in the classroom.  This was a quick read and I would recommend all teachers read it.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a beautiful graphic novel about immigration.  I love how the story portrays the immigrant experience so well and helps readers to see what it must feel like to be in a new place and not understand the language.  This is a wordless book and would be a great one for introducing inferences.

The Great Fire by Jim Murphy is a wonderful history book.  It was really fascinating to read about the fire that consumed Chicago and all the mistakes that were made during those first crucial hours.  I am glad I finally read this one.

What I am currently reading:

I have about 2 hours left to listen to on The Night Circus.  My plans for working out were foiled by this awful cold that settled in because I am on break.  I hope I will feel better soon so that I can work out and listen to the book.  I also am reading Throne of Glass and enjoying it so far.

What's Next:
I don't know what I will be reading next.  I have a ton of books that I want to read so it will depend on my mood this week.  Since I am on break, I expect that there will be quite a few books finished this week.