Sunday, December 30, 2012

MIND GAMES by Kiersten White

Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 256
Source of Book: ARC loaned to me from my fabulous teacher friend, Lea
Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.
MIND GAMES is a compulsively readable story that shows a completely different side to Kiersten White than her PARANORMALCY series did. It was awesome and unexpected, while still having some of the trademark Kiersten White easy, contemporary style of writing that I love of hers. But this character is so different from what she has written before. The structure of this story built upon itself to drive the suspense to a climactic moment that I never saw coming. White has built a world of girls with psychic powers intertwined in a thriller of a story that kept me on the edge of my seat. It was an unputdownable pageturner. I have so many thoughts after reading this engaging, twisted, emotional, intriguing, thought-provoking, kick-butt novel, and all of them are good.

I really love reading books with strong girl characters, and when they're a little bit broken as Fia is, it makes it that much more relatable. Fia is kind of my new hero after reading MIND GAMES. She is conflicted, but knows what's most important to her. She is broken, but strong. She is scared, but fearless. She is hopeless, yet determined. She is the strength of this novel. Between Fia, the world that Kiersten White created, the mysterious thriller aspects, the relationships, and the back and forth timeline of the story, I never knew where it was going to end up. MIND GAMES was an excitingly thrilling novel and I enjoyed every page of it. I can't wait for the next one to find out what happens next!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

UNRAVEL ME by Tahereh Mafi

Title: UNRAVEL ME (sequel to SHATTER ME)
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 480
Source of Book: ARC from publisher at ALA
Juliette's world is beginning to unravel.
Everything is falling apart changing. 

Juliette has escaped to Omega Point-the headquarters of the rebel resistance. There she discovers other people with abilities. Abilities they have learned to control. And for the first time in her life, Juliette has hope. Hope that she can have a life with Adam. Hope that her touch can be used to save instead of destroy.

But Juliette is only just beginning to understand the depth of her power, and she's struggling to fight the desire to use it. She's still haunted by her past, terrified for her future, and too tempted by Warner, who still wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible. 

In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart-and Adam's life.
I am not ok. Reading UNRAVEL ME was an intense experience of emotional upheaval. I was angry I was blown away I was amazed I was hopeful I was hurt I was shocked I was upset I was having to take breaks because the emotion was so intense. I read it 400 pages in one day because I couldn't leave these characters until the end. The title is appropriate because I felt just as unraveled by this book as many of the characters did throughout.

Quick Take: I LOVE Tahereh Mafi's unique writing. I'm emotionally invested in her characters. I hate what some (okay, fine, maybe only one thing one) of them did. This book destroyed me (but in a good way)-it tore me up and then mostly stitched me back together. UNRAVEL ME is an intense reading experience.

Writing style: Tahereh Mafi has this incredibly unique (and effective!) writing style. I loved it in SHATTER ME, and I love it even more in UNRAVEL ME. Emotions swirl off the page and into my psyche. There is so much going on internally in this book with these characters, and I was sucked right into it because of the way in which it's written. There is a bit of a stream-of-consciousness to the style and I am drawn to that. It makes for a sense of urgency and confusion and heart-which is what's happening in the book. It makes the internalness of the conflict for Juliette even stronger because we are so in her head by how it's written. Mafi also has the most brilliant and effective use of personification I've ever read. The way in which she describes things and the figurative language she uses just speaks to me and draws me into this world.

Characters: OK, so the thing is I care a lot about these characters. I feel as if I've been through the rough times with them and I want them to come out on the other side more complete. And that really shows the genius of Tahereh Mafi's writing. That being said, I do NOT agree with all of the decisions that they make (one in particular)! I get that they've gone through hell and back and that they're confused and tortured, but still, there are some things that I just can't agree with no matter how angst-filled the teenager is. OK. Rant over. Beyond that it is really showing the psychological damage done to Juliette and Adam and Warner because of the situations they've been forced into throughout their lives-and things aren't being made any easier for any of them in this book. UNRAVEL ME seems to really be about Juliette's ability to figure out how to harness her strength and become a more stable person. She needs to decide who she wants to be and how to get there. She needs to learn to rely on others to help support her, but to find her strength on her own as well. While all of that is going on, we're also discovering sympathies for some of the other characters as well as we get to know more details about what they went though. I still think Kenji is one of my all-time favorite "sidekick" characters-he brings the much-needed comic relief to the story, but also is the one to put it all in perspective and keep the focus on what it should be. And he's a good friend.  I'm glad we get so much Kenji in this book and hope we get even more in the next.

Plot: The one thing that UNRAVEL ME has that SHATTER ME didn't is more outside world building. We get to understand how their world came to be the way it is, and a little bit more about these special powers some people have. There is a battle brewing with the resistance and it's going to come to a head. But, this book overall seems to be more about the characters to me. There is a major plot point in this book that I really didn't like. I have to put that out there. It's alluded to in the synopsis above, and I don't want to spoil anything too much, but I think it could be kind of controversial to readers and I'll be interested to hear more thoughts about whether people liked it or not. Personally, I get it-the writing and the emotion and the thoughts and the scenes Mafi used leading up to it help me to intellectually get it, but my heart and emotions and soul are not accepting of it. This book is full of emotion, and I think that is the stronger part of the book even over the plot of what's happening. However, if a book can make me feel so much, it has to be a strong story and writing (which I think it is).

Teacher/Parental Warning: This book is not so appropriate for middle schoolers in my opinion. There are certain scenes that are pretty intense/descriptive, so this one won't go in my classroom library. The 14 and up categorization by the publisher is pretty accurate in my mind.

So, yes, if you liked SHATTER ME, you'll definitely want to read UNRAVEL ME. I recommend setting aside some time come February because this is a book that will likely be hard to put down once you start. Based on the ending and where everyone ends up and the thoughts of Juliette on the last page, it's going to be a long wait to get my hands on book three!

Friday, December 28, 2012

SCARLET by Marissa Meyer

Title: SCARLET (Lunar Chronicles #2, sequel to CINDER)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (a Macmillan imprint)
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 464
Source of Book: Signed ARC from publisher at ALA
Cinder returns in the second thrilling installment of the New York Times-bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother and the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she has no choice but to trust him, though he clearly has a few dark secrets of his own.

As Scarlet and Wolf work to unravel one mystery, they find another when they cross paths with Cinder. Together, they must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen who will do anything to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner.
I think I enjoyed SCARLET even more than CINDER. Much of that has to do with the way Marissa Meyer wrote the characters of Scarlet and Wolf and how much I enjoyed reading their parts of the story. I do love a story told in multiple voices, and the way in which the stories of Scarlet and Cinder started off on opposite sides of the wold and slowly worked their way together was well done. However, I was enjoying Scarlet and Wolf so much early on that I rushed through the Cinder chapters a little bit to get back to the ones I was enjoying more. As it went on though, I remembered why I liked Cinder, especially with her new sidekick (who is quite entertaining), and as I saw how it was all coming together, it was hard to stop reading.

The way Marissa Meyer has created this world in which her characters live, and how their stories are all coming together (and will continue to do so in the final two books of the series) is intriguing to me as a reader. It is a complicated, well-drawn world, but it has characters that I really start to care about quite a bit. These characters are flawed and scared and insecure, but they are girls who become strong in their struggles. Both Scarlet and Cinder are having to become stronger than they every imagined they would have to as they find out more and more about what's going on in their larger world. They also sometimes have to rely on and sometimes have to save those who are traveling this journey with them.

One of the most interesting things about this story is the way that Meyer weaves in elements of the original fairy tale, but in a totally modern twisty way. If you read CINDER, I absolutely recommend that you read SCARLET. I enjoyed seeing where Cinder's story is headed with the new information she learned at the end of the first book, and I was drawn even more into the story by the introduction of Scarlet and Wolf and the discoveries that are made with the two of them and everything they have to go through in this story. I can't wait to see where they all end up in the next book, CRESS, based on Rapunzel, coming in 2014, and then WINTER, based on Snow White , in 2015. It'll be a long wait, but if this book is any indication, it will be worth it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 352
Source of Book: ARC from the fantastic Harper Collins School & Library reps during the "Day of Awesomeness" at NCTE
It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night?

In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable.
I was absolutely enamored with Veronica Rossi's debut book, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, and it stuck with me for a long time, so I was very anxious to get the sequel, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT. I loved this second book too, most especially being back in this world with these characters. THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT has the same beautiful writing and imagery and unique world-building from the first book, but we find out even more about how this world came to be and what might be going on as it disintegrates even further.

So much of this story is about the family relationships and how they affect Aria and Perry and Roar and everyone else that has been dependent on their families to help them survive in this environment. As we begin to delve deeper into these stories and what's happening with these characters, Rossi also gives us more detail about how this world came to be the way it is and the difficulties the people are truly facing in this environment. There is real life or death at stake here and it makes everything feel that much more urgent and every moment more suspenseful.

Rossi has written a series that is truly a love story at it's heart, and things are not easy for Aria and Perry, as they are both wanting to look out for each other, and be together, but that may not be what's actually best for either one of them. Perry is coming into his own as a leader of his tribe, one of what I feel is the strongest elements of the book, which means having an "outsider" at his side may not be beneficial. And, of course, there are other side plots happening that require attention from each of them. I really just want them to get over themselves and stop trying to protect each other and just be together to protect themselves together. They do support each other so much though and it's obvious they're meant to be, it just might not be easy to get there.

The plot for this story is well done for a second book, with quite a lot going on, while at the end still leaving it clear where it's headed for the third book, INTO THE STILL BLUE. I know I'll be anxiously waiting to get my hands on the final book in this trilogy to see where they all end up.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

PRODIGY by Marie Lu

Title: PRODIGY (sequel to LEGEND)
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (a Penguin imprint)
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Number of Pages: 371
Source of Book: ARC from author signing ALA
June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—-June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?
I really loved LEGEND when I read it last year, and many of my students did as well, so I was eagerly anticipating getting to read PRODIGY. I was so excited when I saw that Marie Lu would be at ALA signing books, and I got in line early to buy another copy of LEGEND and get an advanced copy of PRODIGY. Little did I realize I would be in for a heart-pounding, pit-in-my-stomach, anxiety-filled ride through this book...and I didn't want it to end. But it had to, and it was heart-breaking. I so want to know what is going to happen to these characters next and where Marie Lu's imagination is going to take this story.

Ten Things I Hate/Love About PRODIGY
*Okay, fine, it's not really hate, it's really love/love even more, but that didn't have the same flow to the wording or parallel structure or interest for creating this list*
1. It was impossible to stop reading, but it's exciting because the action never stops
2. The political intrigue and never knowing if I could trust the politicians, but it was intriguing and made for an important plot for this second book in the series
3. It had me full of anxiety, my heart was pounding the whole time I was reading it
4. Trust issues with some of my beloved characters, but they're still with each other and fighting for each other
5. All is not as it seems, but we get to learn so much more about the Republic and the Colonies and all that is going on in this world with travel from LA to Vegas and then Denver
6. I was an emotional wreck, but it has so much emotion because I care about these characters
7. The characters have to go through so much, can't they catch a break and be happy?, but the motivation is always about families and protecting their own
8. Seemed to be lots of foreshadowing, but where has their information been coming from...I just wasn't exactly sure where it would end up, so it was surprising
9. Marie Lu broke my heart in the end - it was shocking and unexpected and expected all at the same time, but I want my characters to be happy, but I have to trust in the author that they will be and this is the journey they're meant to go on
10. I was left with so many questions: (Will the Republic fall? Will the United States unite and become whole again? Will June and Day both be OK? So many questions & emotions!) and now I have to wait SO long for the third book, but I'm so excited and anxious for the final chapter in this series!

Oh, this book. It is so good. It is emotional. It is frustrating. It is so good. I loved it, and I hope you do too. If you haven't read LEGEND yet, go get it because you're going to want to read this series, and you can get PRODIGY at the end of January!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Best I've Read 2012: The Early 2013 Picks

This week is my daily listing of my Top Ten lists (in no particular order - it's hard enough for me to limit it to ten!) of the Best Books I've Read this year in different categories.

Day five is fantastic because I've been reading so many ARCs since NCTE and I've been lucky enough to have read some amazing 2013 releases a little early. And since many of these come out in the next month or two, I didn't want to have to wait until December of next year to tell you that you should definitely add to your To Be Read list! Titles link to my reviews (already or soon to be posted).

BEST I'VE READ 2012: The Early 2013 Picks
The Young Adult Novels
ALTERED by Jennifer Rush {Jan 1}
CRASH (Visions book 1) by Lisa McMann {Jan 8}
JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Forman {Jan 8} 
by Kasie West {Feb 12} 

MIND GAMES by Kiersten White {Feb 19}

WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney {June 4}

The Young Adult Continuing Series Books
(LEGEND #2) by Marie Lu {Jan 29}


SCARLET (The Lunar Chronicles #2 sequel to CINDER) by Marissa Meyer {Feb 5}

UNRAVEL ME (SHATTER ME #2) by Tahereh Mafi {Feb 5}

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best I've Read 2012: The Picture Books

This week is my daily listing of my Top Ten lists (in no particular order - it's hard enough for me to limit it to ten!) of the Best Books I've Read this year in different categories.

Day four is so exciting for me because I rediscovered my love of picture books this year, especially using them in the classroom, and as such, I read many, many more than in previous years. Because of this, I was actually able to put together a Top Ten that I think represents some of the best. If you haven't read these, you should definitely add to your To Be Read list!

Disclaimer: I read a lot of books this year, but there are still so many picture books I didn't get to. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the quality picture books that came out in 2012. 
BEST I'VE READ 2012: The Picture Books

EACH KINDNESS by Jacqueline Woodson

THE CLOUD SPINNER by Michael Catchpool

THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen (follow-up to I WANT MY HAT BACK)

A FLOWER IN THE SNOW by Tracey Corderoy


TOO TALL HOUSES by Gianna Marino

UNSPOKEN: A Story From the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole (wordless)

SKY COLOR by Peter H. Reynolds

THE MONSTERS' MONSTER by Patrick McDonnell

HELLO! HELLO! by Matthew Cordell

Bonus (older book I just discovered this year)  
WE ARE IN A BOOK by Mo Willems

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Best I've Read 2012: The Young Adult Continuing Series Books

This week is my daily listing of my Top Ten lists (in no particular order - it's hard enough for me to limit it to ten!) of the Best Books I've Read this year in different categories.

Day three is to where I'm sharing my adoration for the Young Adult series books. It seems to be more and more popular to have trilogies nowadays, and I've been reading and anticipating so many fantastic series that I wanted to give those second and third novels their own place - not competing against first books or standalones. Hence, today's list. If you haven't read these, you should definitely add to your To Be Read list! Titles link to my reviews.

Disclaimer: I read a lot of books this year, but there are still quite a few well-received young adult series books I didn't get to. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the quality young adult series books that came out in 2012. 

BEST I'VE READ 2012: The Young Adult Continuing Series Books

INSURGENT (DIVERGENT #2) by Veronica Roth


RIFT (NIGHTSHADE prequel #1) by Andrea Cremer
BLOODROSE (NIGHTSHADE #3) by Andrea Cremer


HALLOWED (UNEARTHLY #2) by Cynthia Hand


REACHED (Matched #3) by Ally Condie

CITY OF LOST SOULS (The Mortal Instruments #5) by Cassandra Clare
CLOCKWORK PRINCE (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare