Thursday, May 23, 2013

Save the Date: GHOST HAWK by Susan Cooper

I know it's way early to be telling you about this book, but I just can't wait to share my feelings because I'm so overwhelmed by them (in a great way) after just finishing GHOST HAWK today. And I want to make sure you don't miss it's release in the late summer back-to-school madness. So I'm borrowing (with her permission!) the Save the Date idea (where it came from) from the adorable and sweet Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner. So please add August 27th to your "Books to Buy" calendar (you do have one of those, don't you?) or just preorder it now. I really really want all of you to read this one! 

Author: Susan Cooper
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (a Simon & Schuster Children's imprint)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
Age Recommendation: Ages 10-14, grades 5-9
Source of Book: ARC sent from publisher
From Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper, a story of adventure and friendship between a young Native American and a colonial New England settler.

On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father traded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.

John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.

The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.

First Thought: A magnificent treasure of a book. Quietly powerful story sews its threads into your consciousness and doesn't unravel.

GHOST HAWK is a beautifully written book that is quiet in its impact, but leaves an deep impression. The gripping tagline on the cover is Memory ~ Mystery ~ Murder, is fitting (and the cover is stunning). The descriptions are rich, the text is accessible, the story is epic. The plot follows a circle of life flow starting with before Little Hawk is born, in the 17th century set in Colonial New England, with everything coming full circle many many years later. The elements of the Native culture are embedded in an unobtrusive way because that's just how life is, yet explained for those unfamiliar with them. 

Narrated by Little Hawk whose voice hooked me into the story from the beginning, GHOST HAWK provides a Native perspective of an unimaginable, controversial, and tumultuous time in United States history, a historical perspective many don't know, and one that's important to tell. His voice stays strong, even after a shocking moment that changes the trajectory of the story, and his gentle ways provide the calming presence necessary to process the events that occur.  Seeing events from his perspective, feeling his love and fear, living his friendships all help the reader connect to the story in a meaningful way.

I have not previously read anything by Susan Cooper, but based on this, I can see why she was a Newbery medalist, and I would not be surprised if GHOST HAWK is on the shortlist this year. It just feels like it's that kind of book. Powerful, meaningful, surprising, endearing, hopeful, beautiful. I felt utterly connected to this story and the characters in it. Although not a quick read, it was a book I needed to keep reading.

Final Thoughts: This is the book I'm going to be proclaiming everyone should read this year. And I really hope you do.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Student Recommendation: CRASH by Lisa McMann

Title: CRASH
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 233
If what you see is what you get, Jules is in serious trouble. The suspenseful first of four books from the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode...and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

In this riveting start to a gripping series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann, Jules has to act—and act fast—to keep her vision from becoming reality.

Crash by Lisa Mcmann was amazing. Everything about the whole book was totally mind blowing, from seeing visions on windows to the shocking ending. I chose this book to read because it reminded me of another story I read called Pivot Point by Kasie West (Which was also amazing) both books had girls with the ability to see visions but in reality they were totally different in plots and storylines. While I’ve read plenty of books dealing with people who could see the future, I’d say Lisa Mcmann came up with the most creative idea of seeing the unfortunate events by having them play out on windows, TVs, and even street signs! In the end I’d say this is the best book I’ve read this school year so far and cannot wait until the next book. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery and adventurous novel. I rate this five stars.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I'm Kirby Larson's Teacher Tuesday today!

I am so honored to have been asked by Kirby Larson to be a guest on her Teacher Tuesday feature. I'm so appreciative of Kirby's support of teachers and spreading the word of some of the things we're all working so hard to do in our classrooms for our students.
When Kirby asked me what I wanted to talk about, I of course knew that I would have to share how I incorporate choice reading in my classroom to engage and motivate my students in reading. If you'd like to read more about it, head over to Kirby's blog.
Thank you so much for having me, Kirby!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau

Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 336
Source of Book: ARC from bookseller in anticipation of author visit
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same?

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career.

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one.

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.
First Thought: Oh my goodness! SO good! An engrossing, thrilling, intriguing, suspenseful story set in a well-built future world.

I really enjoyed reading THE TESTING. I was engrossed it in from the start. At first, I was a little worried that it would be too reminiscent of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, but as I got into it, I realized that it was completely it's own creation of this world, while maybe feeling like an homage to those great dystopians that have come before it.

It was so hard to put THE TESTING down. Joelle Charbonneau wrote a well-paced plot, and once I got to certain parts throughout, it was impossible not to keep reading so that I could find out what would happen and who would survive. I very much liked the main character, Cia, and was pulling for her throughout the book. She is smart, while still being young and sometimes making decisions that made me want to yell at her, but her intelligence and insights are what keep her going. In a game of who can you trust, she learns to really think through all situations, but that doesn't mean she figures all of it out. In a contest of who can make a great leader, it is difficult to know exactly what the officials might be looking for, but staying true to oneself and one's upbringing can always been seen as the right path. Cia's path is not easy, her decisions are not easy, her ability to live with herself after what she has to do to survive will not be easy, but she stays true to herself which is an admirable quality.

The world-building was done well in giving the reader enough information when necessary, but also keeping us guessing about some things. The scenes of explanation are smoothly entrenched in what is happening in the story and propel the plot forward, but also give us enough insight into how things might have come to be this way. The overall idea behind The Testing is so smart, and so manipulative, and scary at the same time. I just hope all of the characters that I have come to like will make it through this series.

And, yes, there is an element of romance, but in a brutal contest that is set up to kill off candidates who are not worthy, and a system that is set up to make you question the ulterior motives of everyone around you, and in a world in which all may not be as it seems, how can one be sure of anything that happens during The Testing or trust one's own memories? That remains to be seen.

Final Thoughts: I'm calling it now - I think this is going to be the next big dystopian will at least fill that hole left behind from the end of the The Hunger Games and the upcoming end of the Divergent series.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Number of Pages: 320
Source of Book: ARC from author (Thanks Kasie!)
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.
First Thought: Hello? Pretty in Pink meets Pride & Prejudice? Sign me up!

I LOVED Kasie West's debut book, PIVOT POINT, so was extremely excited to hear that she had a second standalone book coming out in the same year. When I read the synopsis for THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, I knew it sounded like my kind of book.  I was thrilled when an advanced copy showed up on my doorstep, and 36 hours later I had finished the book. I am in love with this story!

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US is an engaging, sweet story with heart and snark. It's a story of romance and family and honesty and looking beyond the obvious. I thoroughly enjoyed Kasie's development of the quirkiness of the setting and the likeability of the characters. Kasie West writes some of the most charming guys in YA today - and I've officially declared her the Queen of the First Kiss Scenes. But it takes awhile to get to that point. Caymen and Xander have quite a bit of figuring each other out and introspection and learning to do before they can get together - and that's part of what's so great. Although they're both intrigued when they start talking, it is a slow build up of their relationship, which I appreciate because it allows them to get to know each other first. The way in which Kasie writes their relationship has me rooting for them to get together and figure their differences out. I especially loved some of the cute things that happen as they build their friendship. I absolutely adore Xander. He is charming and sweet in a real way and it is obvious how much he cares. And Caymen is dedicated and supremely sarcastic (which I love!) adding quite a bit of comedic relief to the story, but Xander calls her on it - part of the reason he's so good for her and leading to some laugh out loud moments. There is such an adoring element to their relationship that I was really drawn to in addition to their chemistry. They're looking out for each other and supporting each other and helping find the best in each other. They have the kind of sincere, real relationship that I like to read about in light-hearted contemporary books.

Early on I was hooked, and although I was a little worried that it was going to be predictable, it ended up not being too much so. It definitely fits the formula of a rich boy/poor girl contemporary romance story, which is part of why I liked it so much because it's familiar in a good way, but the setting is interesting, the characters are endearing, and there are enough real motivators and surprises (hello family secrets) along the way to keep it feeling fresh. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US is a sweet story that warmed my heart and was so much fun to read. After I finished, I wanted to go right back and read it again.

Final Thought: I seriously need more Kasie West books in my life! For real.