Friday, September 28, 2012

CHAIN REACTION by Simone Elkeles

Title: CHAIN REACTION (Book 3 in the PERFECT CHEMISTRY series)
Author: Simone Elekeles
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 16, 20122
Number of Pages: 308
Source of Book: Bought the hardcover
Like his brothers, Luis Fuentes is a risk taker; whether he's scaling the Rocky Mountains or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis is always looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by certain rules -, don't trust a boy who says "I love you", boys lie to get their own way and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Then she meets Luis at his brother Alex's wedding and suddenly she's tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to give him a chance is Luis's biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by the head of the gang that nearly destroyed his brothers' lives. Will Luis's feelings for Nikki be enough to stop him from entering a dark and violent world that could prove to be the ultimate risk?
Once again Simone has written an edgy urban romance with a twist. Once my students read PERFECT CHEMISTRY, they pass it on to their friends and are clamoring for more like it. For that reason, I'm really glad this was a series of three books each featuring one of the Fuentes brothers. Fans of PERFECT CHEMISTRY and RULES OF ATTRACTION will definitely enjoy this third book in the series focusing on the youngest brother, Luis. 

I have to say I liked this one more than the second book. It didn't feel like it was the same story again, but took a different angle on a familiar idea. I liked these characters and loved the way that my favorites from the first two books showed up in this one to support Luis. One of the aspects that I appreciate so much in Simone Elkeles' books is the strength of the family unit and their support for each other. I really do enjoy books with two points-of-view also, and this one has it in a very engaging way. I liked Nikki - she is a strong female character who isn't going to just take what people give her, but fights for what she wants and knows is right. One caution: This book was a little more descriptive in the mature scenes than the others seemed to be. That didn't stop many of my students from wanting to read it, but it is worth a cautionary moment. 

I wish there were going to be more Fuentes brothers stories, but since there aren't, we'll have to settle for a new series from Simone Elekeles, with the first book in the FULLRIDERS series coming in 2013. Overall, if you've enjoyed her previous books, you should definitely grab this one for a quick, fun, romantic read. If not, what are you waiting for? Get PERFECT CHEMISTRY as soon as you can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

EVE & ADAM by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Title: EVE & ADAM
Author: Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends (a Macmillan imprint)
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 304
Source of Book: ARC from publisher at IRA Convention
Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, EmmaRose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.

While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything... until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.
EVE & ADAM had a premise that sounded really interesting to me, and with two powerhouse authors (who are married-I didn't know that before!), I definitely had to give it a shot. I'm really glad that I did, and it was a page-turner for sure, but it wasn't as high of a quality of a story as I expected. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it was more of a down and dirty action movie type of book to me, as opposed to a thoughtful exploration of the medical/genetic scientific experimenting. I think that comes from it being so plot and action driven as opposed to character driven like some other books. But I did like the characters of Evening and Solo quite a bit. I really just wanted to hang out with them and create trouble.

Michael Grant (of GONE fame) and Katherine Applegate (THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN), team up well and have written a book that will appeal to both guys and girls. It's fast-moving and plot-driven, involves conspiracy theories and villains, medical miracles and experimentations, questionable good guys and bad guys - who may change depending on the perspective, has a bit of romance and lots of action. I read this book in one day. One of the things I really enjoyed was the way that this world was imagined. It's a normal world, but inside Spiker Biotech, is a whole other story. EVE & ADAM is suspenseful and mysterious and an enjoyable, quick read. I'll be looking forward to seeing what happens in the sequel, ADAM & EVE.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Sister Classroom Project

Have you heard me mention the Sister Classroom or seen me talking with Brian Wyzlic about it on twitter? 
Well, we launched a collaborative blog just for this project, and the first post explains how it came to fruition. 
You can check it out here.
Not sure how often we'll post, but when we plan something fun or our students have things to share, it will go there. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

EVERY DAY by David Levithan

Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Number of Pages: 336
Source of Book: ARC from NetGalley & publisher at ALA
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

With his new novel, David Levithan, bestselling co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, has pushed himself to new creative heights. He has written a captivating story that will fascinate readers as they begin to comprehend the complexities of life and love in A’s world, as A and Rhiannon seek to discover if you can truly love someone who is destined to change every day.
There's something poignant and beautiful and humane in all of David Levithan's writing and EVERY DAY is no exception. It's a look into the human condition and wants and desires of the soul. It goes beyond the corporeal factors and gets to the heart, while acknowledging that in some circumstances and in some situations, the body is in charge affecting the mind and soul.

I admit I had a weird sense of deja vu while I was reading. I was describing the premise to my librarian and she said it sounds Quantum Leap-ish, and it is in a way. I used to watch that show often, so that may be why.

The suspense of the story kept me turning pages, not wanting to put it down, and staying up too late because I couldn't stop reading. Each chapter is a different day/person, some longer and some shorter, so there were natural break points, but that also kept me wanting to read to find out what would happen in the next body on the next day. 

What would you do to prove your love for and to someone? To what lengths would you go to see that person? All of these elements and questions are integrated seamlessly into this story along with elements of acceptance and gender and relationships, both romantic and friendly and also family-related. There were sweet moments in all variations of relationships with no judgement and no preaching, just being, which is one of the things I find so strong about Levithan's writing.

I was left with a feeling of, Huh...that's it? at the end, but the more I processed and decompressed from it, the more I realized the quietness and rightness and possibilities left by the ending. As A says, "Every person is a possibility."

How different each person's life experience must be based on their soul and body and circumstances. This idea really hit home with me even more while reading EVERY DAY. What makes a person who they are? There are some universal questions in this story and they're addressed in a spectacularly thoughtful way.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

New Look for Heise Reads & Recommends!

With starting a new job this year and having a new attitude and outlook for my blog, I was ready for a redesign. As much as I loved the old look, I was ready for a more simple and sophisticated design.
 So, of course, I went back to Lori from Imagination Designs because I knew from the last time that she is seriously amazing, works hard to make sure that you get exactly what you want, checks in with you every step of the way, and has incredibly reasonable prices.
We started off with a couple of design ideas I've seen that I liked, a color scheme (sticking close to the old), and Lori took off and created incredible looks for me. It's always so fun working with her because she never minds me giving my input, she's talented, and makes absolutely sure I love it including making slight adjustments so I can see and decide which look I like the best every step of the way.

I absolutely recommend working with Lori if you're thinking about a new look for your own website of any kind! She's fantastic.
I'd love to hear what you think of the new look. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

THE WAITING SKY by Lara Zielin

Author: Lara Zielin
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: August 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 224
Source of Book: My Awesome Sister Classroom teacher, Brian Wyzlic, bought the hardcover at her signing event in MI for me!
One summer chasing tornadoes could finally change Jane's life for the better.

Seventeen-year-old Jane McAllister can't quite admit her mother's alcoholism is spiraling dangerously out of control until she drives drunk, nearly killing them and Jane's best friend.

Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left the problems at home years ago for college. A summer with him and his tornado-chasing buddies may just provide the time and space Jane needs to figure out her life and whether it still includes her mother. But she struggles with her anger at Ethan for leaving home and feels guilty--is she also abandoning her mom just when she needs Jane most? The carefree trip turned journey of self-discovery quickly becomes more than Jane bargained for, especially when the devilishly handsome Max steps into the picture.
Holy wow. THE WAITING SKY is incredibly absorbing. Lara Zielin's writing voice is so engaging. It was definitely a stayed up too late reading because I didn't want to stop and woke up the next morning thinking about it anxiously wanting to know what was going to happen kind of book. The suspense Lara Zielin built throughout this story was undeniable. The way in which the characters handle the alcoholism seems very real and honest. I imagine any teens or students who are dealing with these issues in their own lives would really relate to what Jane is going through. I imagine any friends of those teens would really relate to Cat and Ethan trying to help Jane see clearly what's happening and how she's ruining her own life trying to save her mother's.

THE WAITING SKY is an honest portrayal of a real girl who needs help, and those who are trying to help her see the light are the voice of reason. The juxtaposition of the tornado stories with Jane's own family dynamics strengthens this shorter novel. The human emotion of this story within the family dynamics, interspersed with the anticipation and aftermath of the tornado chasing, adds a level of suspense that make it a page-turning read. It's life or death with the tornados, and it's life or death for Jane and her mother. There are high stakes in both areas, and whether or not Jane will make it out okay, is up in the air. It sounds like a heavy story, and I wasn't sure if I was in the mood to read it, but once I started I realized that although it deals with some heavy topics, because of the way Jane is written in such a real way, I just wanted to root for her and keep going - it never felt overbearing.

I really loved the characters in this story and their interactions with each other. They're all messed up in their own ways, but also all look out for each other. The older brother, Ethan, is a favorite for sure. And Max provides a balance to Jane that is desperately needed. There are all sorts of little moments within the context of these bigger issues that add sweet elements to the story and lighten up the heaviness of the topic, but still keep it real. THE WAITING SKY has an alcoholic mother and it has tornadoes, but it's about Jane and her journey to understanding and acceptance and fighting for herself. It's a coming-of-age book in the best sense of the phrase. Overall, it's an intriguing, honest story that has a voice that makes me want to be friends with the characters, and read more of Lara Zielin's books.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Blog Tour: Author Interview with Malinda Lo-ADAPTATION

Malinda Lo author of ASH and HUNTRESS, has a new book, ADAPTATION, that came out yesterday, and today she's stopping by on her blog tour to answer a few questions.
Reese and David don’t remember what happened to them after a bird flew into their headlights on the Extraterrestrial Highway--not the resulting car accident and certainly not a bit of the 21 days of care at the military hospital in Nevada. It’s a good thing, the doctors and colonels tell them, that they crashed on a military base, but they won’t tell Reese and David what the extent of their injuries were, or how they were healed. They do tell them they’re not going home, though, until they sign a confidentiality agreement.

When they get home, Reese can’t help but find everything a little weird. Worldwide bird strikes resulting in plane crashes have grounded air travel, David won’t talk to her, and she could swear she’s seen her military doctors around the neighborhood. It’s only when she meets Amber Grey that things in her life begin to really fall apart, and the mysteries of the bird strikes, the military, and her own treatment come together. Reese realizes that she must find out what they did to her in that hospital, but her search for the truth threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

What if we aren’t alone in the universe? What if the alien is inside us?
1. How would you describe Adaptation in five words or less? 

Option 1: You'll love it, I swear!   

Option 2: A mysterious, sexy, scifi thriller. :)

2. What sparked your initial idea to write this book? 

A dream! I dreamed that some people were in an airport when planes started crashing from the sky due to birds flying into them. It was a very intense dream, and when I woke up I ran to my office and wrote it down. I thought immediately that it would make a fantastic beginning to a story. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and that's how I knew I had to write the book that became Adaptation.

3. Adaptation is a bit of a departure from Ash and Huntress. What caused you to go in a different direction?  

The dream! If I hadn't had that dream, I probably would have written something else entirely. In fact, I did have other book ideas that I put aside because of the dream. But I also  wanted to try something different. I was an X-Files fan back in the '90s, and the idea for Adaptation gave me an opportunity to revisit those interests. I'm glad I decided to do it, because writing Adaptation and its sequel have been just about the most fun I've ever had while writing.

4. Did you direct your characters or did they direct you in writing this story?

I've heard plenty of writers say their characters drive the story, and I can see the allure in that. It also sounds so romantic, doesn't it? But let's face it: the story is fiction. Those characters are fiction. Fictitious characters can seem real, but they're not. For me, part of the awesome fun of being a writer is that fictitious people must do what I tell them to do.

The difficult part is, at the beginning of a new novel, I don't usually know the characters very well. When I began Adaptation, the main character, Reese, was completely fuzzy to me. I had a vague idea of who she was, but it wasn't until I made her do a bunch of things that I understood who she was. Then during revision, I had to make sure her personality came through.

That's not always the way it works, though. Usually, one or two characters per novel seem to come to me fully formed from the beginning. With those characters, their scenes can feel like they're writing themselves. However, their personalities can initially overpower the other characters, simply because they're clearer to me. During revision, I have to make sure all the characters are doing the things I need them to do at the right time.

So, I absolutely direct the characters. I have to make sure to not direct them to do things that would be "out of character," but I do direct them.


5. You've said you were inspired by The X-Files when writing Adaptation. What's the most interesting alien story you've ever heard?

In 1997 there were multiple sightings of a UFO over the city of Phoenix, Arizona (where Adaptation starts!). Thousands of people saw clusters of lights in a V shape, and many of them reported their sightings to the authorities. There is even video footage of the lights in the sky.

But that's not the part of the Phoenix Lights story that I find most entertaining. The best part (to me!) was that the governor of Arizona at the time, Fife Symington, held a press conference in which he declared he knew who was responsible for the UFO sightings. Then, his chief of staff came out dressed in an alien costume, essentially turning the whole press conference into a joke.

UFO enthusiasts were not amused by the governor's antics, and ten years later, in 2007, Symington shocked everyone by basically retracting his comments and saying that he had actually seen the Phoenix Lights. He also admitted that he lied back in 1997 because he didn't want anyone to freak out about the lights. So who knows what really happened? The jury's still out. (You can see a CNN report about Symington's retraction, including footage of his spoof press conference, here:

Thank you so much for stopping by, Malinda, and many thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for arranging your visit!  You can also visit Malinda on her website.

Monday, September 17, 2012

MMGM: WONDER by R.J. Palacio

Author: R.J. Palacio
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (a Random House imprint)
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Number of Pages: 313 pages
Source of Book: Bought a hardcover & got a signed copy from publisher at ALA
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.
There's just something so powerful about what R.J. Palacio has created with WONDER. The world of upper elementary and middle school teachers and librarians has been all abuzz about this book since February, and I knew it was a book I would have to read, but I also knew it would be a book that I would likely want to use for a read aloud with my students, so I held off until close to going back to school so it would be fresh in my mind. If you still haven't gotten to it yet, I urge you to do so as soon as you can because this is one of those books that must be read and shared with children and teens. Even if you don't have or work with kids, read it, and share it with someone who does. This is one of those titles that exemplified for me the power of Twitter - I may not have known about it if it wasn't for my Personal Learning Network out there, and I am so thankful that I have.

WONDER is a book that makes you think. It brings up the hidden parts of all of us that you may be ashamed of, brings it to light, and helps you to know how to do it better. It's about acceptance and understanding. It's about kind. It's about relationships. It's about family and parents and siblings and friendships and school and teachers and students and principals and how all of those people interact to create someone's experience. It highlights the importance of adult interactions with children. It highlights the importance of both verbal and non-verbal behaviors and how those can impact someone's view of others and one's self. It highlights our fears and our hopes and our dreams. It makes you think and leaves you a better person than when you entered this story. It's the wonder of WONDER (#wonderofwonder).

I could get into some of the specifics of this book. The way Palacio chose to write so splendidly and honestly in Auggie's voice. The way Auggie helps us to see inside the mind of someone we may have known or seen in the past, and what our actions may have meant to them. The way the various voices that get to tell this story enhance the reader's experience so much. The way the use of emails and letters in certain parts highlights important moments in the story. The way Palacio flawlessly interweaves the multiple storylines and characters' experiences to create this complete book. The way that this realistic story can appeal to upper elementary students, middle school students, high school students, and adults. The way it opens a readers' eyes to actions and thoughts that may be hard to be honest about. The way it creates precepts for life that could make all the difference. But the experience of this book is about so much more than that. It's about the human experience, and how we can all be better at it.

I can only be thankful that so many students will be experiencing WONDER in their classrooms this year. I can only be thankful that R.J. Palacio's story may make those children take a second to think differently about bullying, and even more than that, their simpler interactions with others. I can only be thankful that the message to Choose Kind is permeating the world of education this year. We can only hope that more people get this message and pass it on, and the way to start is by sharing this book with others. So I encourage you to read WONDER, to pass it along to others, and to always choose kind.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Picture Book Praise: I SAY, YOU SAY OPPOSITES by Tad Carpenter

Author: Tad Carpenter
Publisher: LB Kids
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Number of Pages: 18 (board book)
Source of Book: Board book from publisher
Series Website:
I say reading, you say fun! This book of opposites is colorful, playful and encourages interactive learning through basic techniques like prediction and repetition. But really, most importantly, it’s super, duper, crazy fun and everyone in the whole family will enjoy it. With I Say, You Say, your little ones can: say new words, recognize opposites, and learn and play!
I SAY, YOU SAY OPPOSITES is a little different than the typical picture book I recommend as it is definitely aimed at a much younger audience, but it was so much fun I wanted to share it. While this book is not one that I would probably use in my middle school classroom (unless as a model text to create their own version of these books to read to younger graders - hey, I'm actually kind of liking that idea; I might just do that.), it was such a cute book to read with my young niece and a great one to share for anyone who has little ones.

The illustrations are cartoonish and bright colored and fun. It even has a lift-the-flap design, which is so great for interactiveness with little kids. The illustrations have an energy to them overall which kept the book moving and the interest of the little kids reading it, while showing variety and diversity. They're definitely learning as they read this one, and the concept of opposites, with the appropriate pictures to back it up, is one that is beneficial to little kids. The repeated phrasing also allows kids to predict what might be coming next as they learn their opposite concepts.

So far there are two books in the series, with I SAY, YOU SAY ANIMAL SOUNDS also available now. These will definitely make it into my "baby shower" book buying stack.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My 9/11 Read Alouds - Picture Book Praise

This is the year that I truly realized that my students from this point forward will not have any memory of the September 11th terrorist attacks from their own lives. It will officially be history for them. This is the year that I truly realized the importance of non-fiction picture books...those that tell the true stories in a way that is accessible to children (even middle school age!) and engaging and provides a method of inviting them into a conversation about events that can sometimes be hard to understand or process or talk about. Books allow that conversation to happen by opening those doors. These are the picture book read alouds I use for 9/11. Both have stunning illustrations and stories that are powerful in their own way. One for the day of bravery and helpfulness of strangers; the other for the interconnectedness of our global society and the way in which small gestures can be meaningful and the importance of understanding other cultures. I would love to hear what other books you're using to share the stories of 9/11.

Title: FIREBOAT: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey
Author: Maira Kalman
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: August 4, 2005
Number of Pages: 48
The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboatof its time, but by 1995, the city didn't need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames. In this inspiring true story, Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life and proves that old heroes never die.

Author: Carmen Agra Deedy
Illustrator: Thomas Gonzalez
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Release Date: August 1, 2009
Number of Pages: 36
In June of 2002, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed on the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unsought and unexpected as it is extraordinary. A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away. Word of the gift will travel news wires around the globe. Many will be profoundly touched, but for Americans, this selfless gesture will have deeper meaning still. For a heartsick nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope and friendship. Master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy hits all the right notes in this elegant story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures. An afterword by Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah the Maasai warrior at the center of the story provides additional information about his tribe and their generous actions. Thomas Gonzalez's stunning paintings are saturated with rich hues of oranges and browns and blues and greens, which capture the nobility of the Maasai people and the distinctive landscape of the African plain.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Title: THE UNWANTEDS: ISLAND OF SILENCE (2nd book in the series)
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Aladdin (a Simon & Schuster imprint)
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Number of Pages: 416
Source of Book: ARC from publisher at ALA
The battle is over. The magical barrier between the dreary land of Quill and the fantastical world of Artimé is gone. Now residents of both places are free to mingle, but tensions are high. The artistic warriors of Artimé struggle to forgive those in Quill who condemned them to death, while the Quillens attempt to recover from the shock of Artime’s existence, the loss of their leader, and the total collapse of their safe, orderly world.

14-year-old Alex Stowe has recovered from his physical wounds since his death-defying role in Artime’s victory, but his confidence is shattered. He battles self-doubt after Artimé’s beloved mage, Mr. Today, makes a stunning request, which is further complicated by the mysterious arrival of two silent, orange-eyed teenagers.

Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron is devastated by his fall from grace and seething with anger toward his twin brother Alex. Spurred by rage, Aaron recruits a team of Restorers and devises a masterful plan of revenge that will return him to power…if no one gets in his way.

Bestselling author Lisa McMann delivers another trademark page-turner in this second book of The Unwanteds series, as Alex and Aaron's parallel stories ultimately come together for a shocking climax that will leave readers desperate for more.
I really loved THE UNWANTEDS when I read it last year - it's a great mix of dystopian and fantasy in a spot-on voice that Lisa McMann wrote with for her first jump from young adult (which are also great) to middle grades books. It is also highly engaging and makes a great book talk opportunity to hook middle schoolers with the premise of kids being "sent off to their deaths" for being creative in any way. Knowing all of that, I was eagerly anticipating the release of ISLAND OF SILENCE to find out what would happen to Alex and his friends and the magical land of Artime now that Quill knew of their existence. I was not disappointed.

From the very start, I was drawn right back into this fantastically creative, yet at times frightening, world that Lisa McMann has created with this series. I didn't have any of that feeling of trying to remember what happened in the last book that I read over a year ago. All of the favorite characters were back including the magical creatures that Mr. Today created. While the Artimeans are figuring out how to handle everyone knowing about them, we alternate chapters with Aaron back in Quill and his continuous struggle to gain power back and eliminate his twin brother and all of the magic. Aaron is systematic and smart and frightening in his single-minded focus on ridding Quill of Artime. Meanwhile we have many characters who we don't know if we can trust because they're acting suspiciously, and a few who seem to be "double agents" but we're never really sure. As we get further into this story, there doesn't seem to be such a clear-cut right or wrong way to act for many of these characters. In addition, we're introduced to the islands outside of the one these characters all live on, now that they know there is more beyond where they exist, and find out there may be more evils out there than even exist in Quill.

Along with all of the external battle going on, Alex has his own internal battle to contend with. He just doesn't see himself as the leader that he needs to be and others want him to be, and he has to figure things out. Because Alex's own twin has turned out so evil, and his own parents don't want anything to do with him, he does feel very alone. This is where the creatures of Artime come even more into play as Simber and Ms. Octavia and Ms. Morning and Florence and Clive and the others all become the support system that he needs. My absolute favorite scene of the entire book comes on pages 168-169. It exemplifies the battle that Alex is having with himself, and why he feels the way he does, and what Artime means to him. I adore that scene (and I love Simber!) so much it has stuck with me for days.

It seems such a universal feeling for kids (and some adults) to want to feel included and able and believed in and supported and to have someone who will always be there for you. This book has that universal theme of needing someone to believe in you throughout. As Mr. Today says, "There will always be times we struggle, make bad decisions, even fail. What's important is not that we fail, but that we learn and grow. And that we know that there is always someone out there who believes in us" (p. 250). That's the type of book quote I want to always remember and post on my classroom wall. This kind of message, along with all of the excitement of the story, but with this at its heart, is part of the reason that I love this series.

Overall this book was a strong second book in a uniquely creative series with action, emotion, plot, excitement, characters, and heart that draw the reader in. The ending definitely left me hanging though, and I am dying to read the next book to find out what happens with Alex and Artime next. I was left heartbroken by the events toward the end of ISLAND OF SILENCE, but hopeful at the same time. That's a pretty good place to be left in an engaging book series.

I don't know for sure how many books will end up being in this series, but I do know absolutely for sure that I will be reading them all and sharing them with my students as well. This is a series that should be in every middle school classroom and book-talked for students to snatch it up. Just this week one of my students picked up the first book because he loved THE HUNGER GAMES and HARRY POTTER and since THE UNWANTEDS is touted as a combination of the two, he wanted to read it for sure. The next day he walked up to me hold the book in his hand and said, "This is the best book I've ever read in my whole life." No higher praise than that!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A MILLION SUNS by Beth Revis

Author: Beth Revis
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: January 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 386
Source of Book: Bought the Hardcover on release day
Godspeed was fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos.

It's been three months since Amy was unplugged. The life she always knew is over. And everywhere she looks, she sees the walls of the spaceship Godspeed. But there may just be hope: Elder has assumed leadership of the ship. He's finally free to enact his vision - no more Phydus, no more lies.

But when Elder discovers shocking news about the ship, he and Amy race to discover the truth behind life on Godspeed. They must work together to unlock a puzzle that was set in motion hundreds of years earlier, unable to fight the romance that's growing between them and the chaos that threatens to tear them apart.

In book two of the Across the Universe trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis mesmerizes us again with a brilliantly crafted mystery filled with action, suspense, romance, and deep philosophical questions. And this time it all builds to one mind-bending conclusion: They have to get off this ship.
It's been so long since I read the first book, and I've read so many similar books in between that I couldn't remember how much I really liked the world that Beth has created here, but boy do I ever! I'm really glad I went back to this series. It picked up right where ACROSS THE UNIVERSE left off and sucked me right back into the story. It was suspenseful, and there's tension and secrets and philosophical dilemmas and reveals and manipulations and surprises, and it all makes an engaging story. I was definitely surprised by what ultimately happened in this story. If you read the first book, you'll definitely want to read this sequel so you can continue the story with Amy and Elder and the Godspeed. Their relationship is intriguing and the world is engaging and there is realistic tension in this space science-fiction story as they fight to survive and discover things about their ship that they never could have imagined. I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes in the final book in the trilogy with SHADES OF EARTH in January!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Nerdy Book Club Guest Post

Just wanted to let you know that I'm guest posting over on the Nerdy Book Club blog today.
I'm sharing my Top Ten list on my favorite or most memorable/meaningful author signatures (of course, if you know me, it's tough to keep it to only ten, so there are some combinations and bonuses). Head on over there and check it out.