Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Trailer for CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick

CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick, the sequel to fallen angel story HUSH, HUSH, comes out on October 19th - it's one of the October sequel releases I'm looking forward to. In anticipation of the release, I'm posting the book trailer.  Enjoy the preview, and if it seems interesting to you, go read HUSH, HUSH and look for CRESCENDO on October 19th.

Monday, September 27, 2010

FOREVER by Maggie Stiefvater Cover Reveal - Pre-order to get a SIGNED copy!

Maggie Stiefvater has released the book jacket image for FOREVER, the final book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (begun with SHIVER and LINGER). Not only are these some of my favorite books ever, but also have the most beautiful covers I've seen for young adult books (designed by Christopher Stengel - see Maggie's interview with him about the covers here: Shiver Cover Interview). The cover is what drew me to the original book, the lyrical writing is what kept me reading, the plot and multiple point-of-view storytelling is what made me love them. I've heard Maggie speak in person and she is fascinating to listen to, and has a great web presence sharing her writing brilliance with all.

So...are you anxiously awaiting the July 2011 release of FOREVER (like I am!) to find out what happens to Grace, Sam, Cole, and Isabel in the final book of The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy? Use this link to pre-order a signed copy of FOREVER from Maggie's local, independent book store to be sent to you next summer:  http://www.fountainbookstore.com/autograph-maggie

October Releases I'm Looking Forward To

I'm really excited about some of the books that are coming out in October, lots of series sequels, and I've pre-ordered most of them. It looks like October will be a busy reading month. I'm looking forward to so many of them that I thought I'd share here!

BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl 
(follows the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series)

THE SCORCH TRIALS by James Dashner
(sequel to THE MAZE RUNNER)

CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick
(sequel to HUSH, HUSH)

TORMENT by Lauren Kate
(sequel to FALLEN - comes out tomorrow)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week (2)

In My Mailbox is a shared posting concept/listing from The Story Siren (read about what it is and how it got started here: In My Mailbox).  This will be a semi-regular feature on Teach 8 YA Book Blog.
This week's In My Mailbox is mostly due to the fall Scholastic Book Club selections being so great. Thanks to them (and Random House sending a book) here are the new books that came into my classroom this week:

ARC Sent to Me:
MUSEUM OF THIEVES (The Keepers) by Lian Tanner
Sounds like an intriguing new series that fans of the Percy Jackson series might like.

Thanks Random House!

Scholastic Book Clubs TAB and Teen Readers Club Order:
ACCOMPLICE by Eireann Corrigan
Sounds like an interesting novel based on the premise of needing to stand out in today's society.


EMPTY by Suzanne Weyn
A new dystopian dealing with a modern concern of oil running out.

SABOTAGED: THE MISSING Book 3 by Margaret Peterson Haddix
My students have been eagerly awaiting this one by an always popular author as they've read through the first two FOUND and SENT.

Takes place by Yellowstone National Park and is a coming-of-age story of a one saving the wolves that have been reintroduced that the community is scared of. Of course the title sells it.

Will be delivered to my room on Nov. 9, the release date.

Needed More Copies of:
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
Got another copy because I can't keep them on my shelf - probably because I keep telling the students they all need to read it and they are!

The boys that have read it have loved it, so wanted another copy to keep them reading this wonderful novel.

Needed another copy because I can't keep it on hand due to so many students reading the series right now.

Needed to replace some that are falling apart from being read so many times!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Celebrate BANNED BOOKS WEEK - Sept. 25-Oct. 2 - Read a Book!

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are UNABLE to say. ~ Anaïs Nin

Books: save people; save lives; help us figure out what we would do in certain situations; open our eyes to parts of the world we may never know otherwise; help us figure out our own lives, thoughts, feelings, concerns, frustrations, hopes, and dreams; help us grow; help us grow up; are the mirrors that show us who we are; are the windows to the world around us; help us figure out who we want to be and how we want to act; show us others have gone through things we have - even if no one around us understands; let us figure things out we're too scared to say out loud; help us realize that we aren't alone in this world.

That is why we celebrate Banned Books Week - a week dedicated to: celebrating the freedom to read; drawing attention to the harmful nature of censorship; reminding us about intellectual freedom (whether we personally agree with the ideas or not); stressing the importance of ensuring access to all viewpoints for those who want them; knowing the importance of our First Amendment rights; and highlighting the power of literature.
"Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than a thousand books have been challenged since 1982. The challenges have occurred in every state and in hundreds of communities. The targets range from books that explore contemporary issues and controversies to classic and beloved works of American literature."
Out of 460 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2009, the following are some young adult titles that were in the top ten most challenged: 
ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
A few more popular titles that have been challenged recently as well:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Information from: www.bannedbooksweek.org

Exercise your freedom to read! I'm not saying you should read something just because it has been challenged, especially if it doesn't fit with your or your family's personal values, but does that mean it shouldn't be available to others who may need it? You have the freedom to make choices about what you read, and you should be making educated choices about books that are important for you to read and appropriate for you personally based on your family's values. Challenging or banning a book means one person, or a group of people, has decided that a book is not appropriate for you to read - shouldn't that decision belong to you (or those who are raising you) - those who know you and what you need the best? Being aware that this happens and knowledgeable about what it means is important as a literate member of our society. So, Celebrate Banned Books Week - pick up a book and read it - because you can!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ACES UP by Lauren Barnholdt

When I was trying to decide what book to read next last week, I decided to go with another light-hearted cute book and chose ACES UP by Lauren Barnholdt. I supposed because I've been watching the World Series of Poker Main Event each week on TV lately, I had poker on the mind when I gravitated toward this book.  

The summary goes like this: high-school senior Shannon Card needs money for college tuition because her father lost his job and she's been accepted early-decision to Wellesley, so she gets a fake ID and to get a job as a waitress at a casino to make as much money as she can. But she discovers it's a little more difficult than she imagined carrying trays of drinks while walking in high heels, and then gets the mysterious invitation in her work locker to join Aces Up, a secret group of poker players who are really talented because of their math knowledge - and she's just the kind of player they need. Only one problem - she's underage and has never played poker before. As if all of that isn't enough, Shannon's dealing with Max, who used to be her friend until there was an almost kiss they haven't talked about, and Cole, the cute college guy trying to recruit her for Aces Up.  All of that made me think this might be another fun book, and it pretty much was. But really, this book is about a girl who tries to take a quick fix for her problems, ends up getting into bigger trouble, losing herself in the process, disappointing those around her, and has to figure out how to work her way out of the mess she's created.

The thing I liked most about this book is the voice of the main character. Shannon has a great way of narrating in first person that at times seems as if she's talking to the reader in asides.  I really like it because it makes me more invested in what she's going through because I like her - although at times I do wonder if she shouldn't have seen where there was headed long before she did.  I also really liked her way of describing things - she just does it in a way that seems true to the voice of someone her age and she has a sense of humor in her voice that is somewhat snarky at times. The thing that bothered me about her though was that I think she could have taken more control over her relationships, and for as intelligent as she is supposed to be, she sometimes made really stupid decisions in parts of the book.

Here's the problem I had with the book: I feel like it was too easy for Shannon to fall into something with Cole that had no depth to it other than him being mysterious. It seemed like Shannon's character was made out to be more independent and strong than how she was acting with him, so it was hard to buy into her being that into him and into the trouble she got in to. Because that part was a little unbelievable, the story came across as a bit shallow in those parts. I really liked the parts where Shannon was dealing with Max and what was happening with their relationship, and even the stuff with her sister and work friend Mackenzie, I just wanted a little bit more depth to round out all of the characters for a light-hearted, cute, fun, girly read.

Overall I liked it for the voice and humor of the main character, the storyline with her guy friend Max, her relationship with her sister, and the fun poker references.
3 1/2 STARS for ACES UP

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg

Sometimes I really want a light-hearted book without all the angst and drama of a lot of the popular YA books/genres out there right now, and to get a good girl-power message - even better. That's exactly what I got with Elizabeth Eulberg's debut novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, plus I got a little Beatles nostalgia along with it. I was drawn to it as soon as I heard the plot summary, but of course, the cover sold me on getting it in hardcover - it's so fun!

This book is a story with an independent high school junior girl main character who gets treated badly by a boy she's had a crush on for a long time. The girl - Penny Lane (a Beatles song of course since her parents are huge fans) - decides she's not going to deal with one more boy treating her badly, so she swears off dating for the rest of high school. Thus starts the lonely hearts club (inspired of course by the Beatles' Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). Once word gets out, other girls decide they don't want to deal with immature boys who treat them badly either, and they see how much fun the girls in the club are having, so the club gets a reputation around the school.

There's a really important message coming out of reading this story - it's not just about not dealing with the boy drama, but it's more about what it means to be a good friend to the girls around you.  It's about keeping your friends honest, being there for each other, and not letting boys change your priorities. The club's rules say that a girl can't change who she is for a guy, she can't ditch her friends for a guy, she can't let a guy take over her whole life and forget about her friends - what a great message to send teen girls who need to remember that when they get to high school and boy drama and pressure becomes so much more of a part of their lives. 

I think the highlight about this book for me was that even though it deals with the typical boyfriend drama of high school girls, it's done in a unique way in which the girls still get to be strong characters. I do wish some of the secondary characters had the chance to be developed a little more fully because they had the potential to really add to the story more than they were able to with the length of the book, but it was it will be an accessible book for many adolescent girls - and it doesn't cross the line into mature content. I loved this book for it's light-heartedness, great message, and fun story (with a Beatles twist) and am glad I found it.


Monday, September 13, 2010


WHITE CAT is one of those books that I had heard so many good things about from so many authors that I like, that I was expecting to really like it, but it wasn't quite what I expected.  I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it, I was left feeling a little confused by it in the end. Ultimately, I would probably read the next one in the series because I started to care about the main characters and I'm curious what will happen to them next. 

I think there are a few reasons for my confusion in the beginning.
     First, I'm not sure if I really liked the flow of the writing - there is quite a bit of jumping back and forth and skipping to the next scene that is done with just a break in the text, which was throwing me off a little bit as I read and would have to look back and see where I was at in the story. 
     Second, I felt kind of lost for most of the first half of the book. I couldn't quite get a handle on this world of the curse workers and what it really was or how it really worked. I guess I felt like I really needed a more explicit or longer explanation of what was going on earlier in the book.  
     Third, I sort of liked Cassel, the main character, but I'm not sure if I felt the urgency to find out what was going to happen in the story.  I liked that he was a male main character who was intelligent and had a wry sense of humor, but I wasn't totally engaged with wanting to know what was going to happen to him in the beginning.
     Fourth, honestly, it was a little slow for me. It took until at least 100 pages in until I felt like something was happening that I understood and then another 40 pages before I figured out the real conflict, then 40 pages later it really started to get interesting.

So, that's how I felt for the first half of the book. Then I started to get more into the story as Cassel figured out more of what was going on, found out what he'd done in the past, figured out what the big con was, and then worked his own counter-con. Now this was what I was looking for in this book and the kind of book I like. The secondary characters started to get more interesting as they got tangled up in Cassel's big con, which made me want to read more also. 

The thing is, it's not a bad book by any means, it just took awhile for me to get into it.  However, since Cassel himself is in the dark for most of the book and confused about what's going on, it is very possible I was supposed to feel a little foggy about what was happening to make me feel like I was in his shoes. If you like realistic-fantasy books, this is a good one and I really liked that it had a male main character who was likeable and interesting. I'd probably read the next one in the series just to see what comes next for these characters because by the end of the book, once I figured out what was going on, I really liked them. 

3 1/2 STARS for WHITE CAT: The Curse Workers Book One

Sunday, September 12, 2010

RETURN TO PARADISE by Simone Elkeles

I need to start this review of RETURN TO PARADISE, the sequel to Leaving Paradise by talking about the author - Simone Elkeles - because she is the reason I read the first book in this series. Ever since I read Perfect Chemistry (my first Simone Elkeles book) I have loved her as an author - she writes emotional, edgy, real, romance books with deep characters. They are realistic fiction stories about girls and boys in high school, but go beyond just the typical cliched looks at high school that some young adult books in this genre stick to.  They also go beyond just the girl's story and drama - we get to hear from both the boy and the girl who are the main characters in the story. By switching points of view for each chapter, we get characters who are more fully developed and go beyond shallow feelings, to understanding why the conflict happens in these relationships. While they are romance stories, they go beyond that with deeply-flawed characters who have to find their way through their own issues before they can be part of a couple, and discover more about themselves and the how to get by in the world around them by their journeys through these stories.  Simone writes in a direct style with a voice that seems true to life for teenagers. Her books are not overly complicated, they are to-the-point delving into the emotions, hardships, struggles, inner-battles, and love of the characters she writes. There are a few more mature situations in her books, but nothing too graphic, and always handled well with the thoughts and emotions that the characters go through in relation to those situations.

Now that you know how much I love Simone Elkeles as an author, I need to tell you about the first book in the series. I first read Leaving Paradise when one of my students gave me her copy to borrow after I read Perfect Chemistry and talked about how much I loved it.  I devoured Leaving Paradise in one day. It is the story of Maggie, whose leg was severely injured when hit by a drunk driver and a year later is still struggling with getting her life and spirit back to being able to live her life. Caleb is the boy who went to jail for hitting her - and also her neighbor and twin brother of Maggie's best friend. The story starts when Caleb comes home from juvie and Maggie is heading back to school.  In all of their emotional struggles that ensue with their life changes, Maggie and Caleb realize that the one person they're most afraid of - each other - might be the only person who can help them get through to the other side.  I loved the first book, but felt a little let down by the ending, mostly because I felt it left Maggie and Caleb's story a bit unfinished.  

Flash forward to a year and a half later when I heard Simone had written a sequel - RETURN TO PARADISE - to complete Maggie and Caleb's story and let us know what happened after Leaving Paradise.  Simone was running a facebook contest and I commented about her books and she thanked me for being a teacher who reads what her students read and then offered to send me a free copy of the book. I was really excited to read this book, and was not disappointed. The thing that I really loved about this book is that it wasn't just an easy path for either of them when after eight months, Caleb shows back up in Maggie's life. They are on a summer trip to tell other teens about the dangers of reckless driving with four other teens who have also been affected in some way. Both of them have their reasons for having their guard up and fighting against the feelings they have for each other, while each of them has to travel their own path to self-acceptance and realizing that the other one is the best person for them.  

Without giving away too much of the story, I will say that when the realization is made that accidents affect far more than just the perpetrator and the victim, but the entire families around them, it is a moment of healing, acceptance, and moving forward that was much needed for their stories. The other thing I really like is that neither one of them has to give up who they are or what is important to them to be better with each other. Simone has left this book with a satisfying ending for Maggie, Caleb, their families, friends, and the reader. Now, with both books combined, this feels like a complete story and journey of discovery, acceptance, and healing for these characters who I was began to care about.

Simone Elkeles' Books:
Perfect Chemistry - Rules of Attraction - Chain Reaction (early 2011)
Leaving Paradise - Return to Paradise
How to Ruin a Summer Vacation - How to Ruin My Teenage Life - How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation

In My Mailbox - New Books This Week

OK...so this is my first New Books This Week post because I'm so excited about all the books that I've gotten this week, and I want to start sharing more titles that my students may be interested in reading - and give them a sneak preview of what will be showing up in my classroom library soon.  This idea came from The Story Siren's In My Mailbox posts (read about what it is and how it got started here: In My Mailbox).  This will be a semi-regular feature on Teach 8 YA Book Blog.

Sent to Me:
REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly 
ARC - book releases 10/12/10  Thanks Random House!
Story sounds really intriguing and contemporary/historical genre-bending. I could see my higher-level girls loving this book based on the jacket summary. I'll need to get one of them to read it soon.

RETURN TO PARADISE by Simone Elkeles 
Sent for being along with awesome posters for my classroom promoting the book trailer for Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction and a bookmark of all of her books.

THANK YOU for supporting teachers, Simone!

MATCHED by Ally Condie 
Galley - book releases 11/30/10
Thanks whatchyareading.net!

I'm so excited to read this one, but am forcing myself to wait until a little closer to the release date.  I'm hearing rumblings of being a great find for those who need something after The Hunger Games is over.

Ordered Online:
THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB by Elizabeth Eulberg

Really excited to read this one - sounds like a great contemporary book!


This is one that I've heard so much about, I knew I needed it for my classroom - it also seems like a good pick for adolescent boy readers.

ACES UP by Lauren Barnholdt

Sounds like a cute contemporary realistic-fiction with some fun poker elements.
CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare

If you've read my reviews of The Mortal Instruments series you know why I had to get this when it came out this month.

LEAVING PARADISE by Simone Elkeles

Needed to get this one in my room for all of those that love her other books, because I know how good it is, and because the sequel is out!

Bought at the Bookstore:
WHITE CAT by Holly Black

I've been hearing so many good things about this book I figured it was really past time for me to get it and finally read it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

THE 39 CLUES series

For almost two years (and through the course of ten books), I've been following the story of fourteen-year-old Amy and eleven-year-old Dan Cahill, and all of their relatives, as they've traveled the world learning about all sorts of famous people and events throughout history as they've fought to search for their family's hidden clues that would lead to power.  They've learned much about history, themselves, family, how to work together, survival, outwitting others, how to be there for each other, and most importantly, what family really means. These books are quick, fast-paced, exciting, easy reads which kept me guessing until the very end. Finally, I've read the culminating book in THE 39 CLUES series: INTO THE GAUNTLET, and I'm glad I went on this journey.  I truly enjoy a good mystery, spy, or heist book and this series combines all of those with adventures, double-crossing, and excitement.

The 39 Clues is a series of ten books, written by various fantastic young adult authors, that all tell the story of what happens to Amy and Dan after their grandmother dies and her will leaves them (as well as members of the other four branches of the Cahill family) one million dollars or the first of 39 clues that will lead them to a source of power.  They take the clue and the adventure begins.  Along the way, as they decipher hints to lead them to the main clues, they learn how many famous people in history were actually members of the Cahill family and involved in the clue hunt: Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhardt,  and Mozart just to name a few. 

I liked how the series ended and felt satisfied with how the hunt ended up.  I enjoyed the bits about William Shakespeare in this final book, and how Amy and Dan were able to mature and become the strong people they are by the end of this journey.  I appreciate books where the brother and sister are portrayed as real as these two are: they have their fights are arguments, but ultimately, it's all about protecting and looking out for each other.  I'm glad I got the chance to follow their journey throughout this series as they all discovered more about themselves and who they really are, and would highly recommend it to middle school readers.  It's a series with a lot of adventure, suspense, sticky situations, clues to figure out, mysteries, loyalties to be tested, and assumptions to be questioned - it's a great amount of fun!

5 Stars for THE 39 CLUES series
Book 1: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan
Book 2: One False Note by Gordon Korman
Book 3: The Sword Thief by Peter Lerangis
Book 4: Beyond the Grave by Jude Watson
Book 5: The Black Circle by Patrick Carman
Book 6: In Too Deep by Jude Watson
Book 7: The Viper's Nest by Peter Lerangis
Book 8: The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman
Book 9: Storm Warning by Linda Sue Park
Book 10: Into the Gauntlet by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Sunday, September 5, 2010


After reading City of Bones, the first book in The Moral Instruments series, I knew that I wanted to read the rest, so I quickly moved on to CITY OF ASHES and CITY OF GLASS, and am glad that I did.  I liked the first book in the series and the Shadowhunter world that Cassandra Clare created and the characters that she introduced me to, but I definitely wanted to know more about what happened to the people living there and the politics of the world they were living in.  Now that I've finished the entire trilogy, I realize that if I really wanted to know the whole story, I had to read all three books. I do like that about books that are planned to be a series from the start though, the fact that each one can stand on its own, but there is definitely a plan by the author for the overarching storyline and where it will end up that satisfies the reader. One of the things that I like most about series books, is actually starting them once the whole series is published so I can read them all in a row instead of having to wait many months for the next book to come out, but I can be impatient that way. 

Especially with this series, I'm glad I got to read them all in a row, otherwise I might have been slightly frustrated because there is a main conflict plot point between Clary and Jace that is not resolved until two-thirds of the way through the last book.  All along I was hoping there would be a resolution similar to what happened, and in fact, there was probably some foreshadowing along the way because I did predict a few of the details, but ultimately, if I had to wait a long time, I might have been a little less likely to keep going because after the first and second book I was disappointed in what was happening between the two of them. One of the reasons I didn't rank these two books quite as high as the first one was because there were times where I felt as if I knew more than the characters and I became frustrated that they weren't figuring things out quickly enough. However, another piece of these books that is so good are the secondary characters that are as engaging as the main characters - it left me wanting to know more about them. Ultimately, I because engaged with all of these characters and wanted the best for them, which is why I became frustrated when they weren't figuring things out - which shows that the writer was able to make me care about her characters and the world they were living in. These books are still page-turners that make me want to find out what's going to happen next.

Overall, this series continued to be an enjoyable world to live in through the writing. The plot continued to be fast-paced, exciting, intriguing, and adventuresome with it's family, romantic, political, and social issues.  These books are filled with adventures and battles and scenes that draw the reader in to the excitement in a way that I could  picture it in my mind.  There is an interesting piece of these books that deals with "otherness" and the idea that there can be hatred of others just because they are not like ourselves, and it is handled really well and leads to an understanding at the end that it's not the best way to think for us to get along in this society.  I do appreciate that although the books are enjoyable, they also do lead to a message that is important for adolescents to hear.

I am glad that I read the whole series and was satisfied with the way it all ended up. I'm also really glad to know that Cassandra Clare is going to be continuing the series with three more books to be published: City of Fallen Angels in spring 2011, City of Lost Souls in spring 2012, and City of Heavenly Fire in fall 2013. But first, I'll have to read CLOCKWORK ANGEL, which was just released, because it is the first book in The Infernal Devices, a prequel/companion series that takes place 100 years before the events of The Mortal Instruments books.  I'm sure they'll be on my to-read list because I did enjoy my time with these characters in their world and became invested in what happened to them, so I am curious to find out what will happen to them next after the resolution of all of the issues in the first series and the appearance of a happy ending for them all.
4 Stars for CITY OF ASHES
4 Stars for CITY OF GLASS