Monday, August 30, 2010

The Total Tragedy of a Girl named Hamlet by Erin Dionne

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for a while. After having a class of mostly boys last year, I didn't read too many "girly" type books. This one definitely falls into that category.

Hamlet Kennedy is just starting grade 8- it is suppose to be her best year yet. She has a group of great friends- she isn't in the popular group- but that is OK with her. Hamlet just wants to blend in with the crowd. At home, her parents have an over-the-top passion with all things Shakespeare, and it is just too much for Hamlet. Then, there is her younger sister- Desdemona. Dezzie is gifted- at age 7 she is academically ready for college, but socially not quite. Hamlet feels that at home her parent's total focus is on Dezzie, but that is OK with her too. She becomes very good at hiding anything that would make her stand out.

The start of grade 8 brings whole new changes for Hamlet. Her sister is being enrolled in her grade and it will be Hamlet's job to escort her from class to class. When Dezzie becomes the math tutor for grade 8's- it becomes a bit too much for Hamlet to take. Then, the first day of school, her mother arrives at school in full on Shakespearian clothes. Everything about her demands attention, which is exactly what Hamlet is trying to avoid. With the start of the year like this, Hamlet worries that the rest of the year will only get worse. Add in a mysterious person leaving pigs in her locker, a rift between her and her best friend, the study of Shakespeare in both English and History, and two popular girls who have befriended Dezzie- Hamlet has a grade 8 year she will never forget.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I cringed along with Hamlet when her mother showed up at school- I can't imagine anything worse for kids in grade 8. The conflict Hamlet feels about her sister is very interesting too. While Hamlet wants to protect her sister, she also feels like she is losing herself and her own freedom. I think many girls would like and relate to this book. There is also lots to talk about throughout the story.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

At long last, Mockingjay was released on Tuesday! For those of you who don't know this book, this is the third in the Hunger Games series. If you haven't read the first two- go out and get them right now (and stop reading here!)

Mockingjay takes up where Catching Fire left off. With Katniss being rescued from the Hunger Games and Peeta- the boy she was instructed to love left behind. Katniss isn't sure she loves Peeta, but she does care for him greatly and worries constantly about what is being done to him. Distict 12- Katniss' home has been destroyed by the Capitol and the surviving citizens were led by Gale- Katniss' childhood friend to District 13.

Inside District 13, Gale and Katniss reconnect and rediscover their friendship. With Peeta out of the picture, Gale is able to be there for Katniss to help her in the fight against the Capitol and President Snow. As the rebels fight against President Snow and the horrific army that has been created, Katniss finds herself once again draw into a situation where she has no choice but to be the pawn of the people in charge. Katniss struggles to give up her own fate into the hands of those in power. She has trouble believing or trusting anyone. But in order to take down those in power in the Capitol, she must trust herself.

This third book was just as good as the first two. The ending was satisfying and rewarding. I can't wait to see what Collins comes out with next!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron is the first novel I've read by Catherine Fisher. At first, Incarceron reminded me a lot of the book The Maze where people are kept inside a different world. However, Incarceron has many more things happening.

Incarceron is a place that was created years ago for society to get rid of criminals. Incarceron is above all else a prison, but it is also a place where no guards are needed. There is a Warden whose job it is to manage Incarceron, but this Warden doesn't ever go into Incarceron.
There are really two stories taking place in this book. One is of some of the people inside Incarceron. Finn- who believes he is from the outside because he has memories of a different time and his 'family' that he has created. Very few people within Incarceron believe there is even an outside, Finn keeps his thoughts to himself because he knows they won't be well received.
The other story is of Claudia. She lives outside of Incarceron. Claudia is the daughter of the Warden and she has grown up believing that Incarceron is a perfect place. That is what all of society has been told, that the experiment of Incarceron was so successful and created such a beautiful society that nobody wants to leave it. Claudia is very curious about Incarceron, she doesn't trust anything her father says because she has been taught by her tutor Jared that life isn't what it seems.
As the stories of Claudia and Finn are told, their stories start to run together. They each have one main goal- to escape the world they know and live in.
While I found it hard to follow the story all the time, the strange names and different threads that were all being pulled together, I really liked the story and the characters. I look forward to the sequel coming out in December. Check out the website here:,,9780803733961,00.html

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Flush by Carl Hiaasen

I have to admit, I've never read a book by Hiaasen before. My kids love the movie Hoot, but we have never read the book. In trying to get my younger son to read, I picked up Hoot for him and Flush for me. I like the fact that Hiaasen writes with such passion about environmental issues and his characters are great too. His setting is always Florida and he is able to paint a great picture of the landscape and culture of the oceans and surrounding lakes in Florida.

In Flush, Hiaasen deals with the issue of illegal dumping of raw sewage into the ocean and it certainly makes me wonder how often this happens. The book starts out with Noah visiting his father in jail. His dad is in jail for sinking a floating casino that was dumping the raw sewage. The man running the casino has friends in high places and Noah's dad is forced to realize that there is nothing he can do to clear his name, or stop the environmental damage that is being caused.

Noah and his sister soon decide that they can't stand to let that happen, they are compelled to clear their dad's name and stop the casino from ruining their swimming and fishing spots. Hiaasen writes some interesting characters into the story to help Noah and Abbey- not your typical characters for children's stories, but characters with flaws and faults. It is very interesting to read how they develop as well.

I was hoping this book would be a good read aloud to tie in with my first science unit on ecosystems, but I think it is a bit young for a read aloud. Having said that, I'm sure I will be happy to recommend this book to kids in my class this year.

Check out this fan created website:

Kathy Reichs

Having spent a great deal of my summer watching 5 seasons of the TV show Bones- I'm pretty addicted to Kathy Reichs stuff right now. She has always been one of my favourite authors to read as an adult. I'm looking forward to her newest novel that comes out the same day as Mockingjay- I'm not sure what I'll read first. When I went to her website to check out her book- I discovered she has a new book coming out in November for young adults- you can check it out here:

I'm putting it on order today! I really like when my favourite authors write for kids- it's a nice way to share authors I love with kids.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

By the Time You Read This I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

I thought this book was going to be a little like 13 Reasons Why, ( explaining what lead up to a suicide, but this book looks at suicide in a different way.
Daelyn is a very sad young women. She has been bullied her whole life and has decided that the only way out is suicide. When she finds a website aimed at helping people commit suicide, she learns how to do it right. But the website has a catch, you must wait 24 days. As Daelyn waits and plans for her final act, she spends time blogging on the website about her life and it is through these blog entries that we learn of the repeated bullying that she has endured. As we learn about her past, we also learn about what is happening now. Daelyn meets a boy, the first person who really treats her normally and seems to want a friendship and yet she is very hesitant to trust anyone. As her 24 days slip by, Daelyn must decide how it will all end for her.
When I started reading this book, I found it very depressing and hard to read, but as I continued, Daelyn's story became very compelling and I was drawn into her life, both past and present. I am hesitant to have it in my classroom though. Daelyn's story is important, but I would worry that a child might not have the proper perspective to understand the messages. I would strongly suggest that anyone giving this book to a child to read it first and discuss it along side of the reader.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Sea is a beautiful story that deals with loss, love, sorrow and joy. It is set in Indonesia just after the Tsunami in 2004. Kling is able to paint a picture of life for the people who survived the Tsunami, and the people who came to help restore the land and the people.

Sienna is a 15 year old girl who has dealt with her own loss and sorrow when her mother's plane went missing three years ago. Everyone but her believes her mother is dead, and Sienna has stopped living her life in the past three years. Her dad tries to force her back to life, by inviting her to travel with his team of experts who are travelling to Indonesia to help children in an orphanage.

Once in Indonesia, Sienna quickly realizes that she isn't the only one who has suffered a loss. She meets children who have lost their whole family. Through the sharing of their experiences and helping others, Sienna is able to start the healing process. But, when she meets Deni, a handsome, mysterious orphan, she gets drawn into his life and his quest to find his family. The two take great risks to learn what happened to Deni's family and at the same time, Sienna learns a great deal about herself as well.

The romance aspect of this book would make it more appealing to girls I think. It would be a nice suggestion to read for those girls who are so crazy about Twilight- however, this book is much deeper than a romance novel.
You can check out Kling's website here: - be sure to also look at the book trailer on YouTube here:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

After a few false starts with some books for kids- two books that were highly recommended but I didn't like them- and one huge adult book- I sat down today and read Sarah Dessen's newest book Along for the Ride. I'm a huge Dessen fan. She writes so well for teen girls- her characters have so much depth to them, and the story is so engaging that you cannot put her books down.
In Along for the Ride, Auden has just finished high school and is heading off to college. Her whole school career has been focussed on studying and working hard. She hasn't had time for things like friends, dates and proms. Her parents are divorced and while she lives with her mom, it is expected that she fends for herself most of the time.
The summer before she heads off to college, Auden makes the unexpected decision to spend the summer with her father, his new wife and new baby sister. Auden figures she will just spend the summer studying and getting ready for the new school year. However, things don't turn out the way she plans. She quickly gets drawn into the lives of the other kids living in the small town. Auden learns about what she has been missing, but it is hard for her to change. Watching Auden struggle to become a more rounded person is a very interesting journey to say the least!

Check out her website here: and - you can download Chapter one of her book here: