Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I love a good high fantasy. This is a pretty decent start to what I hope will turn out to be a fantastic series. Let me start by saying I loved Legend. I also thought that the series got better as it went on. This gives me high hopes for future installments in The Young Elites series. The premise of this fantasy is great: medieval, strange illness, kids with super powers! That's like a trifecta of awesome! The characters themselves are also fantastic, flawed, and questionably placed on the number line of good vs. Evil. I would have liked more time to explore the world of this fantasy and not had to jump right into the action, however, there is still time for this in future volumes.  And of that ending! Seriously, it haunted me for days after I finished it!
Final recommendations: if you like high fantasy, super kids, flawed but lovable heroines, flawed yet hot boys (I mean don't we all?!)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

GAH...400 pages and we are no closer to finding the damn Kindred than we were in the 1st book!  Talk about a filler novel!  I'm not saying that I will not read the next installment, cause I totally will.  But come on, there better be some Kindred finding, magic wielding and clear romantic partner picking (cause I am old and need concrete answers as to whom I am supposed to ship, stop thinking everyone is hot and every kiss is magical!).   Overall, my biggest disappointment with this book was that while lots of things happened (I mean Morgan Rhodes is NOT afraid of killing characters off).  Nothing actually HAPPENED.  We are no closer in this book to discovering anything or getting anywhere (like actually, that road isn't anywhere close to finished).

Final Recommendations: if you like high fantasy, explosive magic, vaguely bad guys, truly bad guys, a whole lot of blood & if you were invested enough in the first book to continue on regardless of whether anything happens til the 3rd or 4th installment.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Eh.  That's kinda how I felt about this one.  It had all the trappings of a good high fantasy: mysterious assassins guilds, magical cat creatures, a girl with above average abilities that make her pretty kick-ass.  But it also fell prey to many of things I do not care for in a high fantasy novel: too many characters (none of which are really developed to a point where I actually care about them), a world which is both too big and too small at the same time (basically, there is a bigger, brighter world alluded to out there, however, we are not privy to much of this info in this book installment.  Keeping fingers crossed for the future, that is if I decide to read on), love triangles (blech.  On a positive note, it's not much of a love triangle. On a sad note, I didn't care enough to like either of the love interests to begin with).

Final Recommendations:  if you like magical creatures, girls who kick butt, jerky class systems (which by the way, there was totally a palace but no mention of any royalty?), sneaky assassin stuff.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Frankly, Andrew Smith can do no wrong in my book.  From Winger to Grasshopper Jungle, The Marbury Lense and Stick, he writes characters that are both quirky and believable.  He weaves a wonderful story full of heart, history and of course teenage angst.  But it's not your normal teenage angst, well maybe it is, "normal."  It is not cliche, too over the top, too whiny, too unrealistic.  It's perfect, and sad, true and funny.  I loved the main character Finn, and I loved the analogy that he was was quite literally and possibly figuratively stuck inside a book (don't we all feel that way sometimes).  The only qualm I had with this book was that I felt that it ended too soon.

Final Recommendations: if you like contemporary YA, quirky characters, angsty teenage boys, awkward situations, real-life magic

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

I am late to this party, I know.  But Falling Kingdoms is a great, classic, high fantasy adventure.  It has all the things I enjoy in a high fantasy: tons of characters, a little romance, evil kings, questionable morals, actual deaths, fight scenes, and MAGIC people!!!  There was real magic in this novel (hopefully more in the future installments of this series).    I really enjoyed this book, although at 400+ pages, it was a lot of reading for basically the set-up portion to the rest of the series.  I would definitely recommend this one and think it would be well received by both my male and female students alike.

Final Recommendations:  if you like princesses/princes, magic, adventure, clear-cut bad guys, questionably good guys

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

You had me at Steampunk faeries! Let me preface this review with the fact that I love Shadowhunters. If you can't get with me on this then you may not enjoy this wonderful little fantasy as much as I did. I really enjoyed both the characters and setting of this period novel. The main character, Aleana was both flawed and strong. The action was not overwhelming but fast paced and fun. The mythological beings were fantastical and unique. And the boys were both comical and super-swoony! All in all a very fun read that I would definitely recommend to readers of the genre.

Final Recommendations: if you like shadowhunters (especially the Clockwork Angel type), butt-kicking heroins, hot faeries, humorous pixies, steampunk

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

This one gets 2 stars for the 1st 300 SLOW pages and 5 stars for the last 200, high-speed, awesome pages.  That evens itself out to a three right?  I would still totally recommend this book and will still most likely read the sequel.  I loved the description of the vagabond camp, the chase across the continent, the development of strength and realization of power from the lead character in the 2nd half of the book.  I did not like the slow, plodding build-up that preceded it however.  The escape at the beginning was just far too convenient, the giggling between the two girls was superfluous, the change from princess to peasant too easy, the love triangle too (hurl).  Laos, while I understand the vague mysteriousness behind the Kaden/Rafe/Lia/Assassin/Prince/Princess love triangle, it was just too much, clever no doubt, but too much.

Also, I'm calling it now.  This book is set in a post-apocolyptic North America (not a completely made-up fantasy world).  If this is the big reveal in book 2 or 3, someone owes me some skittles!

Final Recommendations: if you like high fantasy, love-triangles, baby-mama drama, the development of strong characters over the length of a book, interesting (if not confusing) world set-up

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

I would probably bump this book up to 3.5 stars.  It earns bonus points for making me cry and for forcing me to stay up way past my bedtime on a school night (definite anomaly for a teacher at this time of year).  I really did like this slow unraveling of this story and while some parts were very predictable, I was actually surprised that there were some really original points that I did NOT see coming.  I bumped the overall review down to a 3 mostly because I did not connect to all of the multiple narrators in this story.  While I LOVED the chapters narrated by Kelsie and Kurt (oh the raw pain of the Kelsie chapters), I did not feel like the Elaine chapters were super-realistic nor did I feel the need for the Josh chapters at all.  I would, however, definitely still recommend this book to my students.

Final Recommendations: if you like realistic fiction, bad things happening to good people, high school drama, some mature content, small towns, more high school drama

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

After I got over the 3rd person present tense (like seriously, that's a point of view now a days?), I actually did begin to enjoy this book.  And while I never quite connected to the main character, Sing, the fantasy aspects of this book were too magical for me not to want to finish it.  This book is written in alternating chapters from the point of view of a young girl attending a prestigious music school (while also trying to get out of the shadow of her brilliant, but dead, mother) and a mythological sky-cat that can either grant you wishes or rip your throat out (good options).  I LOVED the unique mythology created behind the cat figure.  I loved the descriptive language during these chapters.  I loved the use of color.  I did not, however, feel engaged in the actual chapters about actual people I was supposed to care about.  In general, this was a mixed bag.

Final Recommendations: if you like music, mythological creatures, impossible romance.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

It took me a while to get into this book.  I am not sure why?  Maybe I've found myself in the midst of the dreaded reading drought?  Or maybe it was the drop-off at the beginning of another school year.  It could have also possibly been the fact that beginning of this book is slightly confusing.  The author purposefully starts the reader blind, and slowly reveals cryptic bits and pieces in order to keep the reader constantly in the dark.  SPOILER...THIS IS NOT A MEDIEVAL TALE OF KINGS AND QUEENS BUT IN FACT A DYSTOPIAN ALT-HISTORY?!  And here is where it loses a few stars.  I really did enjoy the bits of magic, the characters were interesting, Kelsea (our leading lady & queen) was both likable and not too cliche, BUT the setting was infuriating.  I did enjoy the fact that the author slowly revealed that the world was post-apocalyptic England? I still am not 100% sure on that one, but that's definitely a problem.  Why is the reader never really given a clear understanding of where and why the Tear exists?  I think it's a cool way to reveal a setting and all but I still feel a bit confused as to where and why this kingdom exists in the first place?  Also, while the evilness of the enemy (the Red Queen) is often times eluded to, we never spend enough time with her to know the extent of her cruelty or her powers.  She answers to some evil shadow force...but that evil shadow force is rooting for the good queen Kelsea?  Huh?  I guess my final assessment is that I liked the story, I enjoyed seeing the heroin evolve throughout, I just felt like the world-building and conflict could have used a clearer path.

Final Recommendations: if you like queens, knights in shining armor, magic, evil queens, mysterious rogues

Monday, September 1, 2014

Of Neptune by Anna Banks

Was this book enjoyable? In parts. Was this book necessary?  Nope.  I could have been happy with the ending of the 2nd book in this trilogy.  I felt as if this third novel was just excessive and tried way too hard to be a mystery novel in a world of fantasy.  In addition to the lack of continuity with the other books in this series, the fact that most of the characters were not together throughout the book or even in the book at all (sad face for the total lack of Toraf and Rayna in this installment) made put on my crazy question face.  Like why?  Why not continue to develop the world you started?  Or the character relationships?  Why invent a whole new place?  I just didn't get it and didn't enjoy it at all.

Final Recommendations: if you like underwater fantasy that never even dips a toe in, if you like strange, nonsensical mystery, and you know mermaids and such

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Ring and The Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

I am a firm believer in the fact that not every novel need be a trilogy (I'm looking at you Mockingjay).  But here is an excellent example of where more is not more, more is confusing and a bit of a let down.  In theory, I loved the set up of this story, an alt-history where magic has ensured the life-long power of the Franco-British Empire.  However, due to the jam-packed race to the end of this book, neither the world nor the magic were really developed into anything very interesting.  In addition, I guess I'm kinda old-school in the fact that I enjoy a book with a main character and ancillary supporting characters.  Unfortunately, this book attempted to include ALL the characters which again left it as a whole with no one particular character that I much cared for (and where an additional novel could have maybe been useful in creating more depth).  On a whole I found the writing interesting and the events intriguing but then the book just ended.  It was sort of like the author realized it was getting a bit to lengthy and decided to shove all the climactic plot point within a span of maybe 30 pages (mind you many of these plot points were not even ones I saw coming, most of the book was rather bland).  Over all, I felt as if it had good intentions but fell a little short.

Final Recommendations: if you like royal intrigue, a boat load of characters, a sprinkling of inconsequential magic

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sekret by Lindsay Smith

Sekrets, and espionage and teens with super telekinetic powers (wow I just spelled telekinetic correctly on the 1st try, let's pause for a round of applause).  Unfortunately, that's about all the applause this book is going to receive from me.  The synopsis sounded good, it includes lots of things I like but with a new, unique world, 1960's alt-reality cold-war Russia where the spy kids just happen to have super-powers.  But good summaries don't always end in good novels.  This one lacked cohesion.  I felt like there was a lot of jumping around with little to no explanation.  The main character, Yulia, goes from a poor "ration-rat" to expert spy-kid in what seems like an over-night transformation.  The missions were really never explained (as far as why they were needed or why I really cared).  In the end, I found myself skimming just to make sure what I expected to happen did (no big surprises, it did).

Final Recommendations: spy-kids, super-powers, if you can figure this one out, please explain it to me!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This is one of those books that I would never have put down if I didn't have, you know, like responsibilities and such.  If I didn't know that my kids were gonna rouse me from my blissful "I just finished this awesome book" sleep at like 6 blahblahblah AM, I totally would have powered through and finished it last night.  But, alas, I have a life, and therefor I had to wait to find out what happens.  It was a great wait though.  This book was suspenseful and dramatic, descriptive and imaginative in a way that kinda made me wish it were longer.  I would have liked more story, but alas, I think that would have screwed up the point, the whole idea of being liars and all.

Final Recommendations: if you like a quick-paced mysteries, affluent families and their copious problems, idealistic youth

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I don't know why I didn't love this?  It had all the elements of a book that I would love: magic, magical creatures, fantastical worlds, mysterious identities, blazing-hot angels!  But something in it just did not click for me?  It was a very fractured tale.  Because the reader (and I guess Karou, the main protagonist, as well) are a bit in the dark about what is going on in the story, it is at times quite confusing.  I am not saying I did not like this story.  There were elements that I found fascinating: the magicians shop, the use of wishes, the historical background of the epic war between angel and beast.  I found myself very invested in Karou's un-extraordinary life and her plight to find herself.  Unfortunately, the twist in the ending was kind of predictable and left me a bit sad, and actually not very interested.  I will continue to read this series.  It is definitely not one that I am planning to abandon, especially since I have high hopes of learning more about the monster universe.

Final Recommendations: if you like magic, slow-burn mystery unraveling, hot-angels (cause really who doesn't), fantastical creatures, epic wars.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

I think the key with this one is to get through the 1/4 mark.  The beginning is a bit laborious especially due to obscure mythological references (this part probably took me longer due to the constant back and forth between the book and Wikipedia, although I actually did not have a problem with this, I found out a lot about obscure mythological beings).  Once the characters traveled into the mortal realm, that's where a lot of the action, suspense and relationshippy stuff goes down (and this is my favorite part of any book right?).  I enjoyed Ireland's main character, although I wasn't wholly convinced of her turn from nobody failure to complete bad-ass (but then I don't think Zephyr was either, and maybe that's why I liked her more).  There were a few parts where stuff was just too convenient, too fast paced or too foreshadowy without much of an "aha" moment.  But for the most part I really did like the creative spin on this mythological based tale.

Final Recommendation: If you like mythology (all of it, it's quite the jumble), super-powers, super-villains, awesome girls, awesomely hot guys.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Let me preface this review with a few of my random reading preferences.  I traditionally prefer contemporary YA written by dudes with a male narrator.  I think I have realized why...female narrators hit too close to home.  That being said, this book made me super-uncomfortable and wonderful all at the same time.  The raw, beautiful narration captured so many of the true emotions of being a teenager, that I could not put it down (I actually finished it in less than 24 hours).  All of the characters were so well written, I wish they were my friends!  This is a definite addition to my classroom library!

Final Recommendations: if you like contemporary YA, great characters, angsty teens, or fabulous music.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Of Triton by Anna Banks

You know what's the best part of a book about mermaids?  The mermaids!  This second installment in Anna Banks' Syrena Trilogy was far batter than the original (which is not the usual fair with a trilogy I find).  I enjoyed it more because as a reader I really enjoy the background and build-up of a fantasy world.  In the original book, Of Poseidon, the main characters spent far too much time on land and we did not get to experience the true underwater world of the Syrena.  In this book, however, much of the mystery, conflict and intrigue occur in the deep blue sea!  I also enjoyed the development of Banks' characters and their relationships from the 1st book to the 2nd.  There is a 3rd book (which I will totally read) and I am interested to see where it goes since I felt as if Of Triton really tied up a lot of the story.

Final Recommendations: if you like mythology, mysterious sea creatures, underwater romance, a quick/short fun read!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

I didn't know if I would like this book from the beginning.  I was put off by the present tense of the narrative (I guess I read a lot of past tense).  I also had trouble transitioning between the chapters written in 1st person narrated by our main character Emma and those written in 3rd person detailing Galen's story (I am still not quite convinced as to why the author didn't just write both narratives in 1st person?).  Overall, however, I liked the story.  There was a lot of good set up, a little mystery, and a nice touch of romance.  Still, the inconsistencies in narration, along with several gaps in the story (I felt in jumped time-wise a bit and few of the ancillary characters were a bit unbelievable and too convenient), I would continue to read the story (it's a trilogy, are we surprised?).

Final Recommendations: A light, fun, quick read; if you like mythological creatures, the ocean, romance, a bit of mystery.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

This series is great!  Imaginative, adventurous, romantic and just great.  You know the mark of a good series when you feel like you want more (and rumor has it that Bardugo has another book set in the same universe coming out in the future).  I loved the first book in this series and I feel like this book matched it grandeur and wonder. The world building is good (it's so fast paced however that you don't get to spend very much time in any one location).  The characters are likable (even the evil ones).  The only qualm I had with it was in the end, the big showdown was less epic than I had hoped for.

Final Recommendation: FINISH THE SERIES!!  If you love fantasy, awesome creatures, wickedly good bad-guys, super-sweet romance, fluffy coats & hats...start this series immediately!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Raging Star by Moira Young

I loved this series.  I loved the characters.  I LOVED the landscape.  I loved dialect (and I especially loved that I kept on keepin' on despite the awkwardness of the dialect at first).  I have started several students on this series and while it is not for everyone, you would be surprised how many students really cleave to Saba and her gang despite the difficult reading material and odd sentence structure.  It's a GREAT story!  There were a few things I was unhappy about but only because I wanted more of them (more Emmi, more traveling, more conflict with DeMalo, more JACK, never enough Jack).  On the whole though, I loved the message and the follow through in the trilogy, it did not let me down as many often do.

Final Recommendation: Obviously your gonna finish the series, if you like kick-butt heroins, super-cool dystopian landscapes, adventure & a sprinklin' of romance

Thursday, July 3, 2014

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Was it long?  Totally!  Was it worth it?  Mostly. It wasn't like I was just gonna stop @ #5, although I will admit that I felt City of Fallen Angels felt mostly like angsty filler material before the big showdown. I liked City of Heavenly Fire. I would have liked it to have been oh let's say 300 pages shorter but beggars can't be choosers. I loved the development of friendships that carried out through this series and really solidified in this final edition. I liked the message that love is important and that it can carry you through loss. I liked the introduction of the next Shadowhunter series with Emma Carstairs as the lead (I will obviously read that). I just wanted more epic baddy fights, a better end for Maureen Brown and some other stuff that I will not share due to it's spoileryness. 

Final Recommendations: You are going to read this regardless of my recommendation because you love Shadowhunters and you have read a collective 10,000 pages to get to this part where Clary & Jace finally make out (which is NOT a spoiler, you knew it was coming, how sad would have been if it had not)

The One by Kiera Cass

Finishing a series is always hard. You have so many expectations, things you want to see happen, things you expect to see happen. There are characters you have grown to love and admire and you hate to see them go. There is also the problem of finishing a series in real time. I read The Elite over a year ago and it was hard for me to remember all that happened throughout the series, especially with my penchant for loving YA dystopians (they all begin to blend together after a while). I had to do a quick review to get myself back on track with this one (may I suggest http://recaptains.blogspot.com/ ). I must say I was a little underwhelmed. This was not one of my favorite series overall. It lacked in the depth of a lot of current YA dystopians. There was very loose world building overall. May of the events in America's life seemed to easy, they all just fell so nicely into place. And there were a lot of ends left unexplained (like the Southern Rebels, did they just give up? & Illea's Diary, whatever happened with that?). I can see how my middle school students would LOVE it. 

Final Recommendations: If you love LOVE, and romance, if you are a fan of a slightly irrational but strong female lead, if you read all the other books (come one you at least have to finish the series), it's a great series for teens, the content is fun but not too in depth

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

The book was a slow burn, but once it started going, I could NOT put it down. It had all of the things that I like in a fantasy: magic, mythical beasts (like super awesome ones: giant Thunderbirds, acid-spitting Death Worms, & zombie-esq Shadow Stalkers), and super-awesome female leads. That's right TWINS!! Cause what makes a kick-ass main character kick-assier? Two of 'em! Plus when you have two great main characters, you also get two HOT love interests (this is a YA novel after all, why not)! 

Final Recommendations: if you like fantasy, a little bit of magic, unique mythical creatures, animal companions, epic treks, sassy female heroins, a little bit o romance

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

I had high hopes for this one.  I love weird contemporaries.  But for some reason I just did not connect with this story.  I liked the narrator and I understood the thought behind this novel.  What would it be like to come back 5 years after you died?  It's a great premise with lots of opportunity for great emotional revelations.  But, much like his previous release, Where Things Come Back, I feel like there was not enough substance for the amount of book.  There were some good vignettes, but that could not carry the whole book.

Final recommendations: if you like slightly weird contemporary, unrequited love, impossible circumstances

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Not a Book Review, More Of A Pat on the Back & A Request

YAY!!!  I have reached "Side-Kick" status over @ the Recaptains!  If you are not familiar with this wonderful resource yet, you should totally go check them out!  The Recaptains pride themselves on "saving series one book at a time."  Remember how you read book two of that series a year and a half ago?  And then you had to painfully wait for the next in the series to be released?  You've picked it up from your local bookstore only to realize that YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST BOOK!!!  Enter the Recaptains.  They have a whole slew of reviews that break down what happened step by step in your favorite books.  Don't like spoilers?  This site is not for you.  But if you are like me and are either a) getting too old or b) read too much, this site is the perfect place to go to jog your failing memory.  And if you are so inclined, you can read a few reviews that I wrote my very own self!  Enjoy & you're welcome :)


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

What did I think?  You know how sometimes there are books that are so wholly sad and filled with all the feels you could ever feel and it makes it too hard to to really funnel your thoughts into actual critical ideas about the book?  This is that book for me.  It was all just too full for me as a mom, and a teacher, and a sister and a former teenager, I felt it all.  This book had many beautiful moments and many wonderful quotable quotes.  I guess this isn't really a review but more so a lack of a review and a recommendation for you to read it yourself and come to your own conclusions.

My favorite quote: "And maybe what growing up really means is knowing that you don't have to be just the character, going whichever way the story says.  It's knowing that you could be the author instead."

Final Recommendations: if you enjoy the feels (all of them), lovers of contemporary, a good "next read" if you enjoyed: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Eleanor & Park or Looking for Alaska.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Death Sworn by Leah Cypess

Disclaimer:  This book is a dystopian vaguely veiled in the pretty prom dress that is fantasy.  Now don't get me wrong, I really liked this book.  Clearly outlined in my Goodreads "read" list is a long history of loving both fantasy and dystopian, so this is no surprise.  I was, however, surprised that the description of this book did not meet my expectations (but again, not in a bad way).  This book was nice in that it slowly enveloped you in the story as well as the atmosphere of the fantasy setting.  I look forward to read future installments and hope that the world building expands out of the dark cave (literally, the majority of this novel takes place in a dark cave).  Ileni, our main heroine, is both likable and realistic with just enough sass and toughness.  The male lead is aloof in a way that you are drawn to him (but also disconnected enough that the romantic tension can continue into future books).

Final recommendations: lovers of fantasy, lovers of dystopian, strained romance, sassy girls, "magic"

Monday, May 26, 2014

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Full disclosure, Speak by  Laurie Halse Anderson is one of my favorite books of all time.  I read it at a time when things like rape were not discussed in Young Adult literature...ever.  I was unique and fresh and raw and sad and it touched something in me that I think is inherent in all young girls, the pain, fear and self-loathing of just being young.  Courtney C. Stevens' Faking Normal reminds me that these types of contemporary stories written by women for the young adult crowd are still relevant and still very much needed.  I am glad that the market is still open and that girls still have the opportunity to read these stories (even though it does make me sad that they are still necessary).  I have read this story before, but that does not mean that my students have and I will be glad to share this with those who still need it.

Recommended for: fans of contemporary YA, you like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak (and if you have not read this novel, go out and get it NOW), romance, girls who find their voices, if you are searching for your own

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green

I was pleasantly surprised by this wonderful book.  The protagonist, Nathan, was such an interesting, likable character.  Likable isn't even the right word but I really cannot come up with a better one.  He grows into you.  Like you have known him all you life, like he is a part of your family, like he is you.  You want him to succeed, you wonder what he's going to do at each turn, you ache when he realizes that the things he has always wanted in life may not be attainable.  The magical element to this book was subtle but well explained and believable.  The world building is a slow-burn but makes sense as you, the reader, basically learn at the same pace Nathan does.  I really enjoyed the characters, the magic and the feeling of this book and definitely would continue reading this series.

Final recommendation: if you like magic, endearing-moody boys, for fans of both the Harry Potter series and Mortal Instruments, stories where the "good guys" may not be all that good and the "bad guys" may just be a little better

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

This one probably averages out to 3.5 stars but I'll bump it to 4 because the 2nd half was too good.  Amy's transition from poor Kansas nobody to girl in Oz is a little awkward but maybe that just sets up the change that comes over her.  I found the author's writing style very readable so getting through the initial trip to Oz and escape from evil Dorothy's prison bearable.  This book really picks up once Amy is enlisted by a group of "wicked" witches known as the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.  It's your average plain girl turns bad-ass build-up (which I happen to really enjoy).  I realized though that by the end, my favorite part of this story is how the author uses Frank L. Baum's fantasy landscape and makes it her own.  The possibilities in Oz are endless and it has been a while since I have a read such an open-ended fantasy tale.  I feel like this book really came into it's own in the end and actually am really excited about future installments.  This book and the world it is built into have a lot potential to be an awesome fantasy series.

Final recommendations: if you love the original Wizard of Oz (I realize it's totally different but I feel it definitely stays true to the spirit of wonder), fantasy, sassy protagonists, good-girl gone bad/gone good/maybe gone bad again, mysterious happenings, magic (lots of magic)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

I think I would give this one a 2 1/2 if possible.  Not that it was a bad read, it just wasn't a book for me.  I love Oliver's writing style and have enjoyed her previous YA books but this one just didn't capture my enthusiasm.  I did not feel connected to the main characters Heather or Dodge.  I unfortunately felt that it was rather predictable and at points found that I was "skim-reading" through till I found the good bits.  "Panic" (the game played by recent high school graduates to prove their fearlessness and win a big pot of money) did not seem very realistic.  I don't know, I just felt like a lot of the action was forced and a lot of the background was lacking.  The resolution of the story was also very convenient, predictable and kind of anticlimactic for a novel set on the premise of taking huge risks.

In the end, recommended for: fast-paced action crowd, fans of Oliver, tiger-lovers?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I realize I am a late arrival to the Jellicoe Road party, but there was an Amazon deal for $1.99 ebook and I am a sucker for a Printz Award winner.  This novel did not disappoint on both counts (worth way more than the price I paid and definitely prize-worthy).  The story blended dream sequences with a flash-back story and the story of a girl trying find herself in the modern day.  Now normally, this would have annoyed and confused me, even writing it out, I found myself confused.   While I do agree that the style does take some getting used to, I found myself trying to constantly piece things together in my head.  It was unique, novel and engaging.  The main protagonist, Taylor, is both likeable and sad at the same time (great combo for many younger readers).  And, if you can get past the initial confusion of where the story is coming from, it is a totally worthy read.  I loved it and will be buying a copy for my classroom!

My favorite quote: "Because being part of him isn't just anything. It's kind of everything."

Recommended if you love: contemporary fiction, angsty teen drama, real-life stories, a bit of magic (the real kind), great characters, a little mystery

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

If the kids in the breakfast club were all in trouble for being potential murderers this would be that book. I must say I liked the Part 2 much better than the first half of the book. This was due primary to my own person dislike of anxiety-causing, mistaken identity, no way out situations like the one Davy is thrust into after her diagnosis with HTS. I did enjoy the interactions she has with other "carriers." I did not like her winy self-loathing.
Part 2, once she makes it to the internment camp for "special" murderous-teens is much more in the vein of my preferred post-apocalyptic/dystopian story: girl gets beat up, girl grows stronger (mentally & physically, girl kicks-ass. And while I did like the male lead,Sean, he was kind of annoying in that he felt he constantly needed to save Davy. 
Lastly, I understand that this was the first in a series, however, I felt as if it ended abruptly. There was a small climactic point towards the end of the book but not enough for carry the remainder of the novel. I would, though, read another installment!

Recommended if you like: dystopian, action, romance, child-murders (that's a genre right? I'm totally gonna start a bookshelf on Goodreads 4 books about child-murders, there are surprisingly quite a few)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fallen by Lauren Kate

I don't read 1 star books.  I pride myself on being able to give it up if it's just not happening for me.  I have generously gifted this review with two stars when in reality it was probably more of a 1.5 star read.  I don't know what it was that propelled me through this snoozer?  Maybe it was the promising tag-lines on the cover: "sexy" "ultimate romance" "New York Times best seller?"  I started to realize around page 250 that I was not really reading but mostly skimming for good stuff.  I was on page 250 for goodness sake, the good stuff had to show up eventually, right...RIGHT?!  Spoiler Alert, it did not show up...ever :(  And now I am left feeling cheated out of good book-reading time.
Problems I had with this book:
1.  It was boring.  There was no real action until the last 100 pages.
2.  There was no exposition.  It's the 1st book in a series.  I at least expect some sort of explanation for the set-up of this fantasy world.  Like what's the deal with angels, how do fallen angels work, why does Luce see shadows, WHAT THE HECK ARE THE SHADOWS?  I like the explainy parts of books.  It helps me feel more involved and invested in the story world.
3. Many tings are left unexplained.  Not just limited to the lack of world building, major plot points are left unexplained (I won't spoil them for you in the event that you actually DO want to read this book, I mean each book has it's audience, needless to say, for this book that is not me).  Perhaps (and I sincerely hope)they will be discussed in more detail in future books, but I guess I will never know since I don't expect to continue on in this series.
4.  The romance, which was supposed to be awesome and ultimate, felt dull and boring.  Daniel's a jerk, which I totally get and am not faulting him for.  I actually often enjoy the "hot, elusive jerk turns sexy romantic partner" story line in many books, but this one seemed forced.  We were supposed to assume that Luce & Daniel new each other in previous timelines but were not given enough background pieces to really understand their bond.

I don't know.  I am sure there are kids out there who will love this.  I just didn't.

To sum up, you might like this book if you enjoy: sappy, unrealistic romance, paranormal/fantasy themes, teenage drama.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Apparently I'm on a "weird books about boys" streak.  I don't quite know what I thought about this book (I guess I'm still processing).  The story is told in two parts: that of an average small-town boy, Cullen Witter, and that of a lonely missionary Benton Sage (and later Cabot Searcy). The parts do eventually come back together.  Two strange events converge the summer after Cullen's Junior year in high school, the illusive (possibly imaginary) Lazarus woodpecker is spotted in Cullen's hometown and his younger brother Gabriel goes missing.  The story weaves between the emotions of losing a sibling and the strangeness of being 17.

I just don't know if it worked...for me.  I understand what the author was trying to go for, but I never really grew attached to any of the characters.  It was only a little over 200 pages, so maybe the lack of depth was what had me looking for more?

I would recommend this to: mystery seekers, those who like contemporary fiction, stories of friendship, stories about siblings.

May you enjoy it more than I.  Hey it won a Printz for goodness sake, someone obviously liked it!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

This book was so weird it bordered on wonderful.  That's a thing right?  You know like a pint of some odd ice cream flavor that you try just one spoonful of but keep going back to just to make sure you still don't quite like it and then you've managed to eat the entire pint?  That's not just me...right?  Right?!
So back to books and not weird ice cream flavors, Grasshopper Jungle reminded me a lot of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (but with 6 foot tall man-eating bugs, you know cause that makes any book infinitely better).  It is the story of a young Polish boy, Austin Szcerba and his attempts to test fate by living a "normal" life in the tiny Iowa town of Ealing, Iowa. This is not going to happen for poor, confused Austin.  He is definitely pre-destined for awesomer, weirder things. There are crazy giant bugs (but not til later).  There is a quasi-love-triangle (but not til later).  What there is a lot of is a boy, trying to figure out who he is, how he effects the world around him and how his history effects him, always.  The history sections were randomly interspersed throughout the tale but they were wonderfully written and terribly interesting (that may just be the history teacher in me talking...you be your own judge).

I really feel like I could put this on the contemporary/realistic fiction shelf in my classroom.  It is so realistic to the hormone-fueled, confused, lost teenage boy.  Oh, except for those 6 ft tall man-eating bugs...at least I hope that parts not real!

Final recommendation: if you like history, contemporary fiction, teenagers, small-town drama, cursing, alien invasions.

P.S. I totally want my own Eden, to run around, wear jumpsuits, bounce on beds and listen to the Stones (again minus the bug-pocalypse above).

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I liked this book. It was a quick and engaging read.  Unlike many books where you are dropped into a world you know nothing about to fend for yourself, the environment in this book did not leave me totally confused.  The slow build helped acclimate the reader to the greco-roman-esq world where conquered people serve their newly established masters.  The mystery and intrigue kept me reading late into the night.

I really liked Rutkoski's female lead, Kestrel.  I thought she was likable in a realistic and believable manner.  Her desire to please her father while at the same time trying to be her own person is a very relatable quality for many teenage girls.  I also appreciated how Kestrel did not possess super-human strength, ridiculous assassin skills or some other type of ninja-esq quality.  She excelled instead because of her awesome BRAIN!  I know, crazy right?  I loved it.  Nerd-warriors unite, we have found a new leader!

The only qualm I had with this novel was that due to the secretive nature of both of the main characters, we did not get a really good look into their thoughts, feeling, emotions.  This did benefit the romantic tension but left me wanting more.  I guess that worked since I WANT MORE.  I definitely will read any follow-ups to The Winner's Curse.

The short and sweet:  read it if you like tension both romantic and actual war, historical fiction/period pieces, strong female characters.

Oh and if you are looking for a new book-boyfriend, may I make a case for Arin. .

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Unbound Victoria Schwab

In life, rarely does the 2nd book ever live up to the first. And don't even get me started on trilogies! But this books exceed all my expectations. This book uses a very interesting and unique fantasy premise, a world where the after-life consists of memories shelved like books in a library. It is a premise that I just did not quite get in the first book, why have people's memories kept in a library when no one can be checked out? But I believe that this installment fleshed out not only the fantastical premise but also added great depth to many of the characters. There were actually long stretches as Mackenzie's lack of sleep and post traumatic stress spiral her life out of control that I forgot I was reading a fantasy novel. Many of the descriptions of Mackenzie's mental state were so true to being an anxious, troubled teenager that I was aching for her sadness and despair.

And did I mention Wesley Ayers?! Oh Wesley, to fall asleep to your steady bass drum...New Book Boyfriend!

Highly recommended if you like: fantasy, action/adventure, hot boys, high school drama, strong female characters, or kicking butt!

It is unique, refreshing, creative, (romantic), & just plain stupendous, go, get it, now!

Cress by Marissa Meyer

At over 500 pages long, can I say that this book was not long enough? Seriously this book could have been twice the size and I still don't think we would have gotten into each and every character as fully as I would have liked. That being said, what we did get was pretty amazing. The best part of the Lunar Chronicle series, in my humble opinion, is the friendships. Don't you feel like you are a member of the Rampion's crew? Star Pilot Katie Fatiga reporting for duty! Each one of the members of this ever-expanding rag-tag bunch of misfits is endearing in his or her own way. In this book, we got to know the inside depths of Thorne's character in a very clever way (thanks to his sudden dependence on Cress). And oh Cress, sweet, sweet nerdy Cress. I feel like she is the reader's character in all her obsessive nerdy, gleeful goodness. What a great addition. I also enjoyed that we got back to more Cinder scenes (thank you to the last 10 pages especially). And less Scarlet scenes (whom I never really connected with anyway). 
The short and sweet: great story, action packed, romantic, and fabulous engaging characters. You should really read this series!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Why I teach

When you meet new people, they always end up asking you what you do for a living.  I could say I was a therapist, a story teller, a cheerleader, a prison guard or even a wild animal tamer, all of which would be 100% true, but I always end up giving them my real title, I am an 8th grade teacher.  To which the natural response of any normal human being is, “Oh really?  Good for you.”  Please read the aforementioned statement with a strong note of sympathy, pity and a dash of appall.  My response though, is always the same, clear, and straight to the point, “Yes.  I love them.”
“Yes. I love them,” is exactly why I teach.  I teach because if I did not love them, who would?  They certainly don’t love themselves.  They are awkward and moody, tiresome and troublesome, angry for no reason, sad and lonely.  If I did not teach, if I did not care, they would get lost, swallowed up into the vast black hole that middle school can become. 
I teach because I love them.  I love their awkward phases and seeing what they become after they leave.  I love telling them that this too shall pass and the future is littered with opportunities.  I love how kind they can be to each other when something goes horribly wrong.  I love knowing that they are sorry when I tell them how disappointed I am in them.  I love it when they succeed in places they never have before.  I love sharing with them my stories and listening to theirs.  I love laughing at their goofy antics for in no other profession can you use phrases like, “stop rolling around on the floor,” or “why are the two of you taped together?”  But it also makes me feel needed to know they can come to me when life is pulling them down. 
I became a middle school teacher because I love them and remember how hard it was for me to love myself when I was in their shoes.  I wanted to help make their experiences better.  And I am lucky because I think, in truth; I am the one who is enriched each day by the love I get back in return.  It may not be perfect or profound or screaming from the rooftops, but it’s love none the less, and I couldn’t do my job without it. 

So do not pity me or condescend me, I don’t even need a thank you.  I don’t do it for you.  I do it because I love them.  


I teach YA (middle school) and also love reading it myself. I thought there might be a market out there for teachers and parents who not only want to know what their kids are reading but are also interested in reading something great themselves (remember YA is for the young at heart, not just the young in body).