Saturday, December 22, 2012

Testify by Valerie Sherrard

Testify is on the Red Maple list for this year. I have always loved Valerie Sherrard's books. It is so nice to read a Canadian author who sets her stories in the eastern part of Canada. Sherrard's characters always seem like real people, her female characters are not perfect, but they are very real. Testify is no different. The female characters in this story are pretty typical high school girls. They don't always do what their parents want them to do, but they are pretty good kids. The main character is Shana, she is a good kid who has a great group of girls she hangs around with. Her best friend is Carrie. When Carrie comes to her in trouble because she is afraid of her step father, Shana agrees to do something she knows is wrong for the greater good and Carrie is very grateful to her for helping her. But, just after this, Shana starts to realize that Carrie doesn't always tell the truth and suddenly Shana comes to understand that she may have been a pawn in Carrie's game to get rid of her stepfather. I really liked how in this story Shana has to grapple with not only her friends behaviour but also her own conscience. While this book deals with the issues of child abuse, it is handled in a very simple way that kids can understand. As I was reading this short book, I realized that this book would be great for girls who don't love to read. It dawned on me that while there are lots of books out there for reluctant boy readers (see any of the ORCA books), there aren't as many for girls. I believe this falls under that category. This book is easy to read, short, but has an exciting plot. I can think of many kids who would enjoy reading this book.

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

This is a new author to me, but checking out her website, it seems like I have a few more books to choose from! I really enjoyed reading this book. The two main characters, Jill and Mandy were just such interesting people, both with their own issues to deal with. They are like so many teenage girls, wanting to fit in, be their own person, but their life circumstances have made it very challenging for them. For Jill, she is struggling with the loss of her father. Every since he died, she has cut herself off from her friends, her boyfriend and even her mother. She doesn't know how to deal with her grief. Then, when her mom announces she is going to adopt a baby, Jill feels like she is being replaced. She worries about her mom getting hurt, but mostly Jill is hurt that her mom is just able to move on from the death of her father. Mandy has had a tough life, her mother made it quite clear from the start that Mandy was a mistake. Mandy's mother has some very interesting opinions on how a women needs to survive- mostly by finding a man to take care of her. When Mandy finds herself pregnant, she knows she can't raise a child the same way she was raised. When Mandy offers to give her child to Jill's mom, she comes to live with the family just before delivering her baby. Both Jill and Mandy need to deal with their loss, their opinions about the world and their future. I thought this story was just amazing. Jill and Mandy are such different people, but both of them just want to be loved and to be in a family. What they realize is that family can come in different shapes. This story does have some mature themes like teenage pregnancy, but it is handled in a very sensitive way that I wouldn't hesitate to have this in my intermediate classroom. I think it is a great read for girls!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Crush, Candy, Corpse by Sylvia McNicoll

This is one of the Red Maple Nominees for 2013 and a new author for me. Sunny is a high school student who must complete volunteer hours in order to graduate from high school. She doesn't really know where she wants to volunteer, but she isn't too thrilled with the idea of going into the Retirement home and working on the Alzheimer's floor. But Sunny's true nature comes out when she starts getting to know the people living on the floor, she really starts to care about them. Some of the nursing home staff give her a tough time because she doesn't always follow the rules, but it is just because she wants to treat the older people with dignity and respect. Then Sunny meets Cole,the grandson of one of the patients. He starts talking about how his grandmother didn't want to live a life where she couldn't remember her loved ones and was dependent on people. A year later, Sunny is on trial for the murder of his grandmother. This story is a quick read. Sunny and Cole are neat characters who show such compassion for older people living with Alzheimer's. The story goes back and forth between the past and the present as different witnesses come forward at Sunny's trial. This is a great book for girls in grade 7 and 8.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

I realized last week that I haven't been reading many YA books, so I took a quick trip to Chapters and stocked up on all the books I've been reading about and wanting to read. So, be prepared for some new posts here. The Fault in Our Stars has been getting a lot of buzz, even Oprah put it on her 'best books' list. I have mixed feelings about John Green, I didn't like Abundance of Katherines (didn't even finish it, which is really saying something), but enjoyed Will Grayson, Will Grayson So, when I heard about John Green's newest book, I was a bit skeptical, I wasn't prepared to like it to be honest. Well, there is nothing better than having yourself proven wrong, because I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book! I was hooked right from the start. The main character in this story is Hazel, a 17 year old girl living with terminal cancer. Hazel has known forever that she is going to die, she has made herself accept this and wants nothing more than to spend time with her parents and reading books. Her mother forces her to go to a Cancer Kids support group which Hazel finds incredibly depressing. But she goes because she knows her parents want her to be a normal, happy teenager, which is a pretty tall order when she is living with cancer. One day at the support group, Hazel meets a new boy named Augustus Waters and suddenly her life changes. She finds a small group of friends, and starts to have a bit of a social life. What Hazel discovers through her friendship with Augustus is friendship, love, courage and strength. Hazel and Augustus are teenagers I would love to hang around with. They are witty, smart and incredibly loyal. I loved reading their story. There are books that you read that stick with you for a long time, this is definitely one of them. I have been telling everyone that they have to read this book. It is a bit hard recommending this book because it is about childhood cancer and teenagers. However, I wouldn't hesitate to have this in my grade 7 classroom. I would direct kids to it for sure. There is one scene in the book that deals with mature content, but it was handled in a way that I believe Intermediate students could handle without any issues.
But, I would suggest teachers or adults read it first to make their own decision on that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky

This book has been on my rader for a long time. It is one I've thought about picking up, but just never did. When I heard it was being made into a movie with Emma Watson no less, I knew I needed to read the book. Finally, last week my nephew texted me to tell me we had to go see this movie and he would even go see it again with me I knew I needed to move it up my reading list. I am so glad I did. I started and finished it yesterday and absolutely loved it! Again, it is a very mature read so it would be best for high school students. This book is told through a series of letters written by Charlie to a 'friend'. Charlie is a very sensitive boy who is just about to start high school. He really has no friends since his closest friend committed suicide the previous year. He is scared of not fitting in, not finding a friend and being along. Charlie seems to feel things deeper than most boys at this age. He feels pretty alone at home too. His sister is more interested in being popular and his brother is a football star who is playing his first year at college. When high school starts, he really feels as though he doesn't belong until he meets Patrick and Sam who accept him for who he is and introduce him to a whole different group of people who are all happy to get to know him. The way Chbosky wrote this book through letters and revealing bits of Charlie's story as the book progreses was so brilliant. I was so wrapped up in Charlie, Patrick and Sam that I could not stop reading it. Now I have to find out where the movie is playing so I can go see it, I'm not sure I can wait for the DVD to come out.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I've been on a real weird reading binge lately. I'm reading so much for my new job that I often don't feel like reading when I get home and because I'm not in the classroom right now, I'm not looking for new books for my students. However, one of the perks of my new job is meeting new people and talking about books. I love working with people who love to read as much as I do. The only problem is they are high school teachers, so some of these books are a bit more mature than what I normally post. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is written by two authors who are fairly new to me. This book tells the story of two different Will Grayson's, both boys in high school but who are pretty different. The first Will Grayson that we are introduced to is a boy who was in with the popular gang at school, but when he stood up for his former best friend, he suddenly found himself back with his original friends again. This isn't such a bad thing because his friends like him for who he is, although he struggles to accept them in the same way. His oldest friend Tiny, is anything but small. Tiny is a very large (in both stature and personality) gay boy who falls in love time and time again, but is constantly getting his heart broken. Will is both amazed by Tiny and also often embarrassed by him as well. Will doesn't have a problem with Tiny being gay, but he just wishes he wasn't so blatant about it, because many other kids in the school aren't so comfortable with it. The other Will Grayson is a very lonely boy. He has one friend at school and another 'cyber' friend who he lives to talk to. When his two friends betray him, he doesn't know what to do or how to carry on. But, when Will Grayson meets the other Will Grayson, the boys start to learn a lot about each other and realize they have a great friend in Tiny. I thought this book was hilarious in places and heart breaking in others. The authors did a really great job of writing the voice of the two Will's. I'm not sure how believable the events in the story are, but I enjoyed reading about the adventures of Will, Will and Tiny. I also think there is a great message in the book about acceptance, friendship, romance and even just surviving high school. There are some real mature themes and events in the book that make it not suitable for elementary kids. However, high school students should read this one. I'm going to give it to my nephew and see what he thinks.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Seven the Series

If anyone is interested in the series of books I've been reading called Seven the Series- you might be interested in hearing the authors speak at PCVS in Peterborough on Oct. 23rd from 7-9 I am looking forward to this night for sure!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Devil's Pass by Sigmund Brouwer

Devil's Pass is another novel from the Seven The Series set that I am currently reading and I have to say so far it is my favourite. This novel features Jim Webb, he is the troubled 17 year old grandson who left home to escape his step fathers abuse. Even though you can see flashes of anger and rage in him, deep down you know that Jim is a great kid who was raised properly. Jim's mission was to travel first to Phoenix and then to the Far North to travel the Canol Trail. Jim is full of confidence that he can do whatever is asked of him, but he is very unsure of why his grandfather has him doing this. Jim was close to his grandfather, but he never told him about what was happening at home because he was trying to protect his mother. Jim meets up with his tour guide George and the two form an instant bond. George reminds Jim very much of his grandfather and he finds himself talking to George about many things which makes him realize how much he misses his grandfather. Along the Canol Trail Jim faces dangerous wildlife, bullies and such beautiful landscape. Here, as with all the books, Jim learns more about his grandfather and himself. I have not read any books by Sigmund Brouwer, but I am going to have to find some. I really liked his writing style and how he developed his story.

Last Message by Shane Peacock

The Last Message is another of the books in the!/ that I am working my way through. Last Message features the 15 year old grandson who is from Buffalo. Adam is an average boy. He has a girlfriend, plays football and gets ok grades. He knows he can do better at everything but he's not sure how to go about getting it. He is hoping that the mission his grandfather has left him will show him how to be a better person. Adam's assignment is to go to France and right some wrongs from his grandfather's past. While there, he learns many things about both his grandfather and himself. I really liked the parallel characteristics between his grandfather's past and Adam's present. Both characters are not without fault or flaws.
I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book. Adam travels to France and relives some of his grandfathers adventures during World War Two. The challenges he faces seem a little bit unrealistic, but that is why this book will be appealing to kids, especially boys.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ink Me by Richard Scrimger

Ink Me is the third book I've read in the Seven the Series group of books. Ink Me tells the story of "Bunny" whose real name is Bernard. After his grandfather died, Bunny's task was to get a tattoo, but this really confuses him. He doesn't really understand why he needs to get this and how it will help his grandfather, but because the rest of his cousins and his brother are completing their task, Bunny does too. After Bunny gets his tattoo, things don't become any clearer to him. He finds himself with a new friend who introduces him to a whole 'gang' of friends and suddenly Bunny finds himself with a posse. Many of the things his new friends talk about Bunny doesn't understand, but he tries to join the conversation the best way he can. As the story progresses, Bunny gets in over his head, but he really doesn't know what to do, all he can do is live by his grandfather's words "Together we Fly" and hope things work out. I enjoyed
this story, Bunny was a really likeable character. The story is told through his voice and words. The writing was challenging to read because the words weren't spelled conventionally, but phonetically. This meant it took me a little longer to read than normal because I couldn't just skim the words, I had to read each word. But it was very effective and gave the reader a real insight into how Bunny sees the world. I am really liking this series. I like how even though each story is unique there is a link between them all with the characters. It is such a neat concept. I can't wait to hear how kids like these books.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio with updates

After reading all summer about the Wonder of Wonder on Twitter, I finally got around to ordering it. I started it this morning and finished it this afternoon, it was that brilliant!
To any of my teacher friends reading this blog- you need to pick this book up RIGHT NOW! I would love to know what kids think of this book, I think it has potential as an amazing reading aloud- there are so many wonderful stopping points and places you could have really really deep discussions about many important topics and concepts throughout this novel. Wonder is the story of how August, a 10 year old boy with a severe facial deformity learns to deal with the harsh reality of middle school. But, it is also about how his peers, friends and family learn to deal with getting to know who someone really is outside of their appearances. This is Palacio's first novel and she has hit a homerun with it. Wonder is told mostly from August's perspective, but there are times when you hear from his sister, and a few of the other kids at school. It is really interesting to read how they all deal with his appearance and the pressure they feel by knowing him and even befriending him. This book teaches empathy, kindness and how to stand up for what you believe in. I just checked out Palacio's website and I really like the questions she has posted for discussion. This is an incredibly powerful story, I know August will live with me for a very long time. UPDATE- January Many classes have been reading and discussing Wonder. A friend of mine read it aloud to her class and then had her students create a blogpost about the book. She shared one amazing post with me, and I had to share it here. You can check out Mackenzie's thoughts about the book But you also need to see the Wonder video the class made- you can see that below.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jump Cut by Ted Staunton

Jump Cut is another book in the Seven in the Series that I am working through. Jump Cut is the story of another one of David McLean's grandsons who has been sent on a mission after his death. Spencer's mission is to find an old movie star named Gloria Lorraine and get a kiss from her. Spencer is also charged with the task of filming this kiss.
Yet Spencer, who wants to be a filmmaker doesn't seem to understand the art of telling a story. He only plans to set the video up just before the kiss and leave it at that. Except Gloria Lorraine has other plans for him. Suddenly Spencer finds himself on a cross country journey into areas of Ontario that seem to have no real connection. Throughout his mission, Spencer learns more about film making, his grandfather and most importantly himself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Between Heaven and Earth by Eric Walters Updated at bottom

Seven the Series is a new book series created by Eric Walters. The premise is that a Grandfather has recently passed away and on the day of the reading of his will, his seven grandson's are each given a task to complete. Each of the seven books in the series feature a different grandson. Each book is also written by a different author. Since the stories are about seven grandchildren, the characters pop up in different books which is a neat concept. You don't need to read these books in order, although Between Heaven and Earth does a great job setting up the story in the first few chapters. Between Heaven and Earth tells the story of the oldest grandson- DJ. He is a popular, athletic accomplished young man. Things usually come easy to him and he expects his task will be no different. DJ's challenge is to travel to Tanzania and climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. DJ knows that climbing a mountain may prove to be challenging, but he has no idea of the obstacles that will be thrown in his path as he tries to fulfil his grandfathers last wish. As with all Eric Walters stories, the characters are believable and compelling. The relationship between DJ and his grandfather is obviously very deep. DJ strives to meet his grandfather's expectations in order to honour their bond. I really enjoyed many aspects of this story, but the relationship between DJ and his grandfather were my favourite parts. I am currently working my way through the rest of the books in this series. I think it is a brillant concept. You can find more information about it here . I've decided to start off my read alouds this year with Between Heaven and Earth and so I reread this book today. I am so glad I did, I think I like it even more than I did the first time. I found myself very emotional when I read the parts about DJ and his grandfather. I was lucky to have a great relationship with my grandpa as well, and I could make many connections to how DJ was feeling. One of the tasks I'm going to ask my kids to do is to share a connection they have with someone. It will be a great way to get to know them and who is important to them. I can't wait to share this book with my class in September. Even better, it means that there are six other books my kids can pick up when we finish it- and- although I can't find much information about it- Seven the Series has sequels being published on October 1st- I cannot wait to read more about these characters.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 is written by a new author, this is her debut novel and she has hit a homerun with this book. The story starts out with two brothers on their way to school. It is a typical morning with both boys getting onto the school bus. What starts out normal quickly turns to a crisis when enormous hail starts to hit the bus causing major damage. Luckily the bus driver brings them to safety by driving into a superstore. Suddenly, these kids- some high school, some in elementary school and some just primary children are stuck inside this huge superstore. They must learn to survive on their own. The news they hear from outside the store isn't good. Environmental conditions are worsening and the kids stuck inside are not sure what to do. The story is told from the perspective of Dean, a 15 year old who doesn't really fit in with the 'cool' group of school. Of course some of those cool kids are stuck inside with him and this causes a lot of tension. Watching the way the kids take on the various roles is familiar from books like The Maze Runner, and Trapped. It is always interesting to see what personality traits comes out in situations like this. Monument 14 was a really exciting read and I couldn't wait to see
how it was all going to end. Most of this book would be appropriate for grades 6 and up. There is a bit of mature content, so I would read it first to make sure it is appropriate for your class. It is a good read.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

The Forsaken is a book that was getting lots of buzz on twitter a while ago so I picked it up based on many recommendations. It is a great dystopian novel. It reminds me a bit of The Maze Runner. Alenna is living in a world called UNA- a nation that was created by joining Canada, United States and Mexido. Her parents were taken away from her when she was 10 and she was then raised by the State. At 16, all children from the UNA are 'tested' to uncover subversive tendencies. Much to Alenna's surprise, she is set to the wheel- a place where kids are sent who fail the test. There life is all about survival. Alenna meets some very interesting people there, some she trusts, some she doesn't. The one she is drawn to the most is Liam- someone who is a hunter and a fighter. As Aleena learns the way of life in the wheel, she discovers that she has strengths she didn't know she had. I really enjoyed this story. Alenna is a great character and the society that Stasse created was quite interesting. Anyone who enjoys alternative reality novels will enjoy this one!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fear by Michael Grant

Fear is the 5th book in the Gone Series. I find I am just wanting this series to be over, yet as soon as a new book is published, I have to pick it up. In this case, one of my students picked it up and let me borrow it (thanks Em!) In this book, it has been a year since all the adults disappeared. Kids have mutated and have had to deal with a world without law and order and rules. Yet they are surviving. Everyone seems to have their place in this new world. People have jobs and responsibilities. Of course because these are kids, sometimes things don't go as planned. As this book starts, several of the kids living in the FAYZ start to notice that the dome is changing. It is getting darker from the bottom up. They soon realize that the dome will be in complete darkness and so will the kids living inside. The smarter kids realize that this will mean chaos, no light means no food, no safety, and nothing to do. This strikes fear into everyone. I actually liked this book better than I thought I would. It was much more exciting than some of the last ones. I have a hard time keeping track of all the different characters and who is good and who is evil and why. However, the line in this book is pretty clearly drawn between good and evil. I am looking forward to the next one coming out.

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I picked this book up a few weeks ago in Chapters and now that it is summer holidays I finally got around to reading it. This book is written by the author of Elsewhere (a book I know I've read, but apparently I didn't blog about it- which is strange!) This book is set about 90 years in the future, although life is pretty similar to today. There are a few strange things, like having to pay for each litre of water used and chocolate and coffee are illegal, but other than that the story could be set today. Anya Balanchine is the middle daughter of a mob family. Her parents are both dead and she is responsible for her older brother who has a brain injury and her younger sister. Her grandmother is on her death bed and all Anya wants to do is graduate high school and keep her family together. Yet life keeps throwing curves at her. I don't want to give away any of the plot here, but there are lots of things that Anya needs to overcome. Through all of it, there is Win, a boy who Anya really likes and who seems to be there for her. Anya is a really interesting character. She is strong, determined, and very very smart. She misses her parents very badly, and works very hard to make sure they would be proud of her. Anya knows what she wants, and even though she is only 17, she makes some very difficult decisions. I enjoyed reading this book, there are some mature themes in it, but it is a great read.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Crossed by Ally Condie

Crossed is the sequel to Matched, a book I really liked reading. One of my friends gave me this book to read and I picked it up over the long weekend. What I found difficult was that I couldn't really remember how Matched ended and so I had a hard time following this book. That is one of the problems with reading trilogy as they are published instead of waiting for them to all to be published. Crossed picks up where Matched left off. Cassia is working in the Outer Provinces finishing up her three month work detail. The work is hard and she isn't sure exactly what she is accomplishing. All throughout her time at these camps she is thinking about Ky, wondering where he is and if he is safe. Ky is also in the outer provinces and he is just trying to stay alive so he can find his way back to Cassia. The story is told from alternative perspectives, one chapter from Ky's point of view and the next chapter from Cassia's. It is a story of love, and deciding what is right and wrong and how to best live your life. I enjoyed reading it, but I wish that I had reread Matched before starting this book. When the final book is published I will be sure to read the first two.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Starters by Lissa Price

I had read about Starters on Twitter a few months ago, it was being promoted for fans of the Hunger Games novels so I knew I was going to have to read it. When a former student showed me this one, I asked Emily to lend it to me when she was done. After a few reminders, she finally brought it to me this week, and am I ever glad she did. Starters is the story of life after a war in which everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty are wiped out. All that is left are the 'Starters' or the younger kids and the 'Enders', those at the end of their lives. There is a bit of tension between the two groups, laws have been passed that make it illegal for Starters to work which makes survival very difficult. Callie is the main character and she is a 16 year old who has been living on the streets trying to take care of her 7 year old brother as best she can. Callie learns of a way that she can make a great deal of money and all she has to do is 'rent' out her body to an Ender who wants a chance to relive their youth for a short period of time. For Callie, this seems like an ideal solution. She sleeps for a month while someone rents her body and when she wakes up she will be able to buy a home and look after her brother. Of course things don't go as planned for Callie. As she is being rented, she wakes up living someone else's life. She is confused and doesn't know who to trust. The more information she gets, the more confused and conflicted she becomes. This book was an incredibly exciting read. It was easy to follow and hard to put down. The ending leaves me thinking that there will be a planned sequel to the story, which is great because I really want to know what will happen to Callie and her brother. Fans of dystopian novels will really like this book.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Insurgent is a book that I have been waiting for for over a year. It is also the book that many of my students from last year have asked about as well. Insurgent is the sequel to Divergent and it begins at the exact moment where Divergent ends. Luckily I had reread Divergent just the weekend before, because otherwise I would have been a bit lost. If you haven't read Divergent, Insurgent might be a bit confusing for you. Once Tris decided on her faction, she thought she would be set for life. She was happy with her ranking as one of the top Dauntless initiates and was also happy with her future with Four. However all that changed at the end of Divergent, when war between the factions broke out. Now, Tris must deal with what she had to do to save herself, Four and what is left of her family. As she is trying to deal with all of that, she also has to figure out a way to stop the other faction from destroying themselves. This leads to Tris needing to make many difficult choices as she tries to navigate through the complexity of war.
I was so excited to start Insurgent and see what would happen with Tris and Four. I did find it a bit confusing to remember who was fighting for what side as I was reading. As with most wars, it is often hard to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. I love the strength that Tris has throughout both of these novels. While she feels remorse and guilt about decisions she makes, she always makes well thought out and planned moves. Anyone who liked Divergent should read this one. It is the second in the planned trilogy series and the ending certainly leaves you wanting to read the next book.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Partials by Dan Wells

Here is another book that has been recommended/given to me by Emily. I love it when she gives me books!
Partials is set sometime in the future after a war with the Partials, a group of human created artificial intelligent beings. The war with the Partials wiped out most of civilization and those that are left behind are no longer able to create new life because of a disease called RM. This is a real problem for the people still living. Most of their resources and energy go to finding a way to allow women to give birth and for these babies to live longer than a day.
Kira is 16 and she understands the dangers to a society who cannot create life. She is training to be a medic and wants nothing more than to help keep babies alive. Her and her friends realize that they need to take matters into their own hands in order to understand and find a cure for RM. Kira begins to realize that their enemy, the Partials may hold the key to most of their problems. She and a group of brave friends decide to take matters into their own hands to help society.

This book is really hard to explain, but it is a great read. There were times when it got a little heavy on the science, but it didn't really take away from the story if you didn't understand what was happening. This is a really great novel about how sometimes government and adults don't always have the answers and they must listen to the younger generation.

I would highly recommend this book, even though I don't feel I'm doing it justice here in this review.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

I know this book has been sitting on my "What am I reading" spot for the last several months (I think it might actually have been there since September) and I really haven't been reading it that long. I did pick this book about almost a year ago and have actually given it to a student to read in the meantime. This student, Emily has great taste in books. Her and I like all the same books, so if she says a book is good, I know I'm going to like it as well. Emily told me after she had read it that I would like it, so I decided to move it up on my to be read pile!

Blood Red Road is a story about a family living in a post-apocalyptic world. The family is made up of the father and his three kids, 18 year old twins Lugh and Saba and 9 year old Emmi. Lugh and Saba are best friends, Saba cannot imagine her life without her brother. She follows him everywhere and lets him do all the thinking. She doesn't always agree with the way he treats their father, but she never goes against him. One day, Lugh is taken by a band of mysterious men on horseback and it is all Saba can do to carry on. But, she made a promise to Lugh that she would find him, even though that means setting out on her own into the unknown.

On her journey, Saba discovers who she is when she doesn't have her brother to depend on. She realizes she is a fighter, and she never gives up on her quest to find Lugh. She meets many people on her journey and has trouble trusting any of them. Mostly, she has trouble trusting Jack, a secretive but attractive boy.

I really really liked this book. The dialogue is a bit hard to follow at first. As with some dystopian novels, there seems to be a different language or slang to learn, but once I figured it out, it was a great read. Saba is this strong, confident, determined young woman who is a great role model for girls. The story is exciting and very fast paced. Even though the main character is female, I know many boys will like this book as well. It's a great read!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Rivals by Daisy Whitney

The Rivals is the sequel to the book The Mockingbirds that I read just over a year ago. You don't really need to have read the first one to read this one, but it would probably be easier to understand. In The Mockingbirds, Alex is a student at a very prestigious private school. Every student enrolled is an overachiever and excels at something. The teachers believe that because these students agree to live by the school code of conduct, there is no need for any discipline. When Alex is date raped during a school party, she really has no where to turn and this is where the Mockingbirds come in. They are a student run organization that enforces the code of conduct and deal with issues that arrise when students cross the line. Alex was taken in by the Mockingbirds in the first book to help her deal with the terrible situation she found herself in.

Now, a year later, Alex is head of The Mockingbirds. She couldn't wait for school to start so that she could give back and help other students. Yet things aren't as easy or black-and-white as she thought they would be. Alex doesn't have confidence in herself as a leader and constantly finds herself crossing lines she never thought she would. She is faced with trying to balance her friends, her boyfriend and this organization she truly believes in, but has no idea how to steer. When rumours start surfacing that the school debating team is using drugs to win, Alex and the rest of the Mockingbirds feel they must investigate. This leads to hard feelings between those that Alex are closest to and she is often confused and unsure of herself.

I really loved The Rivals, I thought it was amazing watching how Alex went from victim to victor. I liked how in The Rivals she is unsure of herself and is still dealing with the aftermath of her rape. I think it wouldn't be accurate to have her be full of confidence and totally accepting of what happened to her. I liked watching her struggle with her morals and beliefs in this book. Growing up isn't easy and I really like it when books reflect this. I'm hoping that Whitney will be writing a third book in this series. I'd like to know what happens to Alex and the rest of her friends as they head off to college.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

I can't believe how long it has been since I've read a YA book. I have been reading, just adult fiction lately. One of my students from last year dropped this book off the other day and after reading the front cover I realized I had to read it right away.
Jay Asher wrote a book I really loved called Thirteen Reasons Why
This book has been getting a lot of buzz on twitter and I knew I wanted to read it but I just hadn't picked it up yet.

Imagine being able to find out what your future life holds. But every time you check, your life has changed. This is the premise of this story. It is set in 1996, before the Internet and social media had really taken off. The story alternates between Emma and Josh, who are childhood friends but have lately drifted apart. When Josh brings over an AOL CD for Emma's new computer, they are suddenly able to access their future Facebook pages. On those pages they catch glimpses of their lives, although they are totally confused by many of the references- even what Facebook is exactly. As they try to live their lives normally, they realize that every decision and every action that occurs now affects their future.

This is such a cool premise for a book. I loved reading about life in 1996, but I also loved the fact that Josh and Emma had no idea what some of the things that are popular now are. It is pretty neat to think about that. It's also interesting to think about how you might change your life or decisions you make if you knew what your state of happiness might be in the future.

I thought this book was brilliantly written and explored such a neat concept. I can't wait to share this with my kids at school.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

After our Scholastics book fair, one of my students Jessica finished this book and told me that I would love it. At the time, we were reading Empty in class and this book has many similarities with regards to global warming and dwindling supplies.

This World We Live In is the story of a family trying to survive after a meteor collided with the moon causing the earth's climate and weather conditions to drastically change. Supplies, food and luxuries are very hard to come by. Miranda, her mother and two brothers are barely surviving. They scavenge for what little food they can and try to stay warm without the benefit of the sun. When Miranda's father returns with other friends, life becomes even more difficult.

This story was incredibly interesting. It is easy to imagine living in a world where resources are limited. It is a bit of a precautionary tale, but also at it's heart it is a story of survival and the love of a family.

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

I haven't been reading much this fall, but when Emily came to me to tell me she had Silence and said I HAD to read it, I knew I had to make time to read this one. Silence is the third book in the Hush, Hush saga. The second book was Crescendo. I liked reading both of those books. Last year I was on a real paranormal romance kick and the girls in my class really enjoyed reading all these books after me. I find with any series of books it is often hard to pick up where the last book left off. This book was no different.

The Hush, Hush series main characters are Nora and Patch. Nora is a regular teenage girl and Patch appears to be a misguided boy who Nora is drawn to. Patch however is not a normal troubled boy, he is a fallen angel and while he falls in love with Nora in the first book, he will do anything to protect her from the Nephilim and the Black Hand.

In the beginning of Silence, Nora has been returned after being missing for the last 3 months. She has no memory dating back to five months before. All she wants to do is return to normal, go to school, shop and hang out with her best friend Vee. Of course life isn't easy for Nora, she continues to find herself in sticky situations that leave her totally confused. When Nora meets Jev, for some reason she can't explain she finds herself drawn to him, even when every time she is with him she is fighting for her life. Slowly Nora's memories start returning and she realizes that Jev is Patch, the boy that fills her dreams every night. As her memories start returning, Nora is faced with some frightening truths about her life and she must make some big decisions about her role in the war between Angels, Fallen Angels and the Nephilim.

Again, with this book, I found it hard to remember all the names of the different bands that were fighting and the reasons behind these feuds. However, the romance between Nora and Patch is still strong and I can understand why teenage girls enjoy this book so much. I'm not sure that I will rush out and get the next one, but I will always read it if a student gives me a copy!