Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections on eReading, audio books and 'real' books

Over the last week and a bit I've had a chance to read on many different devices and I got thinking about the different ways I read and how reading has changed, but also stayed the same.
I picked up a Kindle this summer and I used it all summer for my adult reading. I love having the books right there when I want it. The books are often much cheaper (thanks in part to a high Canadian dollar)in electronic format and I also love not having books that I won't read again kicking around my house. There are enough books lying around to make my house seem homey anyway. I'm looking forward to not packing my bag full of books when I fly in March- and worrying that I don't have enough books with me. Having the ability to buy books where ever I am is a huge bonus. When I went to my mom's for Christmas I took several 'real' books with me. Since I buy all of my young adult books in paper to take to my classroom, I had to pack about 8 books. I finished them all one night and wasn't really in the mood to start an adult book that was sitting on my Kindle so I ordered the Lost Saint:A Dark Divine. I had read the first one in the fall and wanted to read the sequel. I didn't realize that I had read the first one on my Kindle. When I started the Lost Saint, I was a bit well...lost because I couldn't remember where the story left off. My first thought was to go to my blog and see what I wrote- and I was shocked that I hadn't written about it. Then I looked on my Kindle and there it was- I had purchased and read the first one electronically. The great thing was I went back and reread the last few chapters and got myself caught up with the story. I really liked that aspect.

There are however a few problems with reading on the Kindle. One you can't really share books on the Kindle (even though Amazon just announced you could do this- it is pretty lame if you ask me.) unless I give up my Kindle to a friend or student. That takes a bit of trust. The second problem is that I don't think I consider reading on my Kindle to be really reading. I don't know why- it is fast, it is a story and it is reading. I do a ton of reading online through twitter, blogs and facebook- but when I finish reading a ebook- I feel a lack of connection to the book. I've wondered before if it is because I can't see the cover and I'm not holding it in my hands. The thing is I really like reading on my Kindle- a lot! Maybe I just need to force myself to reflect (and blog!) a bit more after reading an electronic version.

We also downloaded a Percy Jackson book to listen to over our holiday travels. We were in the car driving a lot and so the boys (ages 9 and 11) decided we should listen to the next Percy Jackson- we are on book three having listened to book two this summer while driving. The boys really like it- they are content to sit without electronics and look out the window while listening. We were 10 minutes from finishing the book when we pulled into my mom's house on Christmas Day and the boys wanted to keep driving just to finish out the story. I really like that- my 11 year old is a real reader, but my 9 year old isn't- but he loves listening as well. The first thing they said to me as we were leaving yesterday is that we needed to get book four.
For me however, if I am driving it is great. I know the boys are happy and I am content to listen to the story- even if it is one I don't know. When I am the passenger though, I find it hard to follow. I tend to fall asleep in the car and I know I missed a bit of the story. Trying to go back and find your place on an audio book is a bit challenging. I enjoy the story while I am listening to it, but once it is finished, I don't really give it another thought. Yet the boys talk about it all the time. I wonder if it is because I like traditional reading and that is what I am use to- seeing the words and the cover and feeling the pages. Yet the boys are being exposed to all sorts of reading- ereading, audio books and paper books. I wonder what they think of this all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

13 to Life by Shannon Delany

A while ago I read that one of the biggest trends in publishing for young adult readers is romance novels with a supernatural creature (think Twilight) In the last several months, I've read many books that fit this theme: Fallen, Crescendo, Hush, Hush ,and Shiver In continuing this thread- I read 13 to Life today (gotta love the holidays!)
After her mother's death a few months ago, Jessie's life has been very different. Her father and her younger sister have been trying to hold onto her mother's dream of having a successful horse farm. Things are difficult, but Jessie is managing to move on with her life.
When Pietr Rusakova moves into town, Jessie is assigned to show him around school. At first, she finds him frustrating and annoying, but she is slowly drawn into his mysterious ways. As they start spending more and more time together, the two of them find themselves attracted to each other. However, there is a problem of Pietr's family and Jessie's best friend Sarah who really likes him. Jessie trusts Pietr even when all signs are pushing her away, but that trust is pushed to the limit when Pietr reveals a secret that the rest of his family wants kept secret.

This book follows the same formula as many of the other romance novels. There is always an absent (or dead) parent, an attraction, a secret and many many complications. I liked the character of Jessie and also Pietr- both are individuals who are strong and real. I found there were a few unexplained issues in the story. The character of Sarah and the relationship to Jessie was explained, but not really developed. There was also a new love interest for Jessie's father that seemed odd and ended up unresolved as well. Of course in February the sequel comes out and will hopefully answer many of these questions.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix

I am a HUGE Peterson Haddix fan- I love her Shadow Children series. I've written about her books here, here, and here

She is such a talented writer- she often creates a world that is similar to ours, but with a real twist to it. In Claim to Fame, the world is just like our current reality, but the main character Lindsay has a special talent. Lindsay has the ability to hear anything anyone ever says about her- around the world. Now for most people, this wouldn't be a really big thing- sure it wouldn't be easy hearing what people you know really think about you, but Lindsay is different. She was a child actress and the show she starred in plays in constant reruns. For Lindsay, while this means lots of money, it also means that each and every day she hears random thoughts from people watching the show. Everything from adults to children and what they really think.

The only safe place for Lindsay is inside her house. For some reason her house 'blocks' the thoughts and opinions and when inside, Lindsay has complete silence. While she isn't happy living only inside her house, she has made peace with her situation. All of this changes when one night she is 'kidnapped' by two boys trying to rescue her. What follows is Lindsay learning about herself, her talent, her home, her town and the people who live there.

I think kids who like Peterson Haddix will also like this one. I enjoyed it, although I did feel that her problem of always hearing peoples opinions of her went on a little long. I also felt that the end of the story wrapped up very quickly. Haddix seem to just want to tie up all the lose ends and wrap the story up. It will be interesting to see if there are any takers when I get back to school.

Trance by Linda Gerber

Ashlyn is a typical 17 year old. She is doing well in school and is a great runner on the school track team. Her and her sister are quite close. But there is one thing that makes Ashlyn different from everyone else- every once in a while she slips into a trance. While in these trances, Ashlyn sees terrible things that are about to happen to people she knows. The only clue she is left with at the end of the trance is a series of numbers written by her, but not in her handwriting. Her sister Kayla also experiences the same thing- and together they try to figure out what the message is trying to tell them.
When the story starts, Ashlyn is on her own because Kayla has disappeared. After the last trance the girls experienced an event that shook the whole family and Kayla wants to have nothing more to do with Ashlyn. While Ashlyn is dealing with her grief and her guilt, she is also trying to live. She is pulled through her life by her best friend Michelle and trying to hang onto a job. While working at her job, she meets Jake- a boy who it seems like she could trust, but trusting anyone is very difficult. Then her trances start coming quicker and quicker leaving Ashlyn more and more confused.
I’ve not read anything by Linda Gerber before- I like this book. The element of the trances and some trace of super natural power is quite interesting. Ashlyn is a very real character and I felt really sorry for her throughout the book. Watching her try to deal with her grief and her guilt was really interesting. I also really liked the other two characters that were important to Ashlyn- Jake and Gina. Both of them were very different people who offered Ashlyn a chance to learn what made her different.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Sapphique is the sequel to the New York Times bestseller (so read it first!) Incarceron
I admit that I am not much of a fantasy reader, but the basis of both of these books are pretty cool.

There were two stories in Incarceron - Finn who is trapped in a horrible prison and Claudia the daughter of the Warden is trapped in her own prison in the 'free' world. At the end of Incarceron, Finn and Claudia's two worlds meet and that is where the story of Sapphique takes up.

Claudia believes that Finn is the prince who is destined to become the king and her husband. Finn however isn't so sure. He has no memories of his life before Incarceron and he is filled with guilt over the two friends he left behind when he came out of the prison. Claudia and Finn must deal with the politics and games that take place at court where they are desperately trying to prove that Finn is the prince. Meanwhile, in Incarceron, Keiro and Attia are trying to reach the outside world. Keiro is filled with anger at Finn for leaving him behind and Attia is trying to believe that Finn hasn't left them to suffer.

With both books, Fisher has a very well developed story. It is obvious from the quotes that begin each chapter that there is a back story that was very well thought out even though we only catch glimpses of this story. I found all of the clues these quotes offered to be a bit frustrating- I want to know the whole story and see it develop from start to finish. Fisher leaves the reader at the end of many chapters wondering what will happen to the main characters and I think that is what keeps kids reading these books.
While these books aren't my favourite- I found them hard to get through- I am glad to have read them and have them to offer to my real fantasy buffs in my classroom.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hunger Games Fans

Hey you Hunger Games Fans- have you seen this blog?

You can follow all the news on the making of the Hunger Games movie- kind of cool!

Not Suitable for Family Viewing by Vicki Grant

This is another Red Maple selection for 2011. Not Suitable for Family Viewing is not a typical book that makes the list. Vicki Grant is a new author for me- and I really like her stuff. She reminds me a lot of Sarah Dessen- the characters are real girls who have real problems.

In this story, Robin is a 17 year old daughter of a very famous talk show host (think Oprah). Robin has been raised by her nanny/housekeeper and has a very distant relationship with her mother. When Robin finds a class ring and a couple of photographs that seem to indicate that her mother is not who she thinks she embarks on an adventure to discover the mystery behind her mother's past. What follows is Robin learning about herself in a small town in Nova Scotia. Robin meets some unusual characters who take her in and slowly they spin the story of what growing up in small town Nova Scotia was like.

I think lots of girls will like this book- there is romance and adventure. Robin seems have this perfect life that most girls would dream of- lots of money and a famous mother, yet she isn't happy. In her search for happiness she learns some important lessons. Anyone who likes Sarah Dessen books will love this book too!

Here's Vicki Grant's website:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ghost Ride by Marina Cohen

I stopped by the school library last night on my way out the door and grabbed a few of the new Red Maple books ( and this morning I picked up Ghost Ride. It was a quick, spooky, exciting read. The main character is a typical teenage boy- surly, wanting independence and fighting his parents at every step.

When Sam's parents decide to leave Toronto and return to Sleepy Hollow where his dad grew up. Sam is less than pleased. He reacts in ways that most teens would when leaving behind everything familiar. Sam is leaving behind his best friend and he is worried that he won't fit in or find any friends. When Sam starts his first day of high school, he meets two boys who seem very cool- Cody and Javon. These boys are thrill seekers, they are constantly looking for the next dangerous stunt to post on their blog. Sam is immediately drawn to these boys, even though his instincts tell him they are trouble.

Cody and Javon invite Sam to their next prank and Sam believes this is his way into the cool crowd. As Sam defies his parents, he is left alone when the stunt goes very wrong. Sam's father starts acting very strange and Sam starts believing some of the ghost stories he hears around town. Sam is left alone to deal with his guilt and his fear.

I think this book will appeal to a lot of kids- the creepy factor is quite high- with lots of connections to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman. Sam is a very believable character, although I found myself a bit frustrated with how overly protective his parents were. Cody and Javon are two boys that I hope I never meet, teach or have my own two boys bring home!