Hourglass

Last year, at YALLFest 2013, I heard a charming, entertaining author speak*, and I’ve been meaning to pick up her books ever since. That author is Myra McEntire, and I finally made time to dive into Hourglass, her first novel, this weekend. It didn’t take long for me to get sucked into the world created by Ms. McEntire, and I can hardly wait to read more. (There are now three books in the Hourglass series, and I plan to devour the others during my upcoming holiday break. Woohoo!)

*I should also note that Ms. McEntire was so entertaining that I recommended her as a guest author at the annual conference of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians. Wonder of wonders, she accepted SCASL’s invitation, so I’ll get to see her once again in March!

Emerson Cole is not exactly a typical seventeen-year-old girl. In fact, almost nothing about Emerson is what one would consider “normal.” When her name pops up, “crazy” is the word most often used to describe this troubled girl.

And why is Emerson so troubled? Nothing big, really. She simply sees ghosts of the past nearly everywhere she goes, she’s traumatized by her parents’ deaths, and she’s recently decided to go off her meds because they make everything feel all fuzzy. Emerson has tried nearly everything to help herself cope with the strangeness that is her life, but she’s never really thought about embracing what makes her different. At least, not until Michael enters her life…

Michael Weaver, a guy not much older than Emerson herself, works for an organization known as the Hourglass, and he’s been hired by Emerson’s older brother to help her through some of her issues. What her dear brother doesn’t know, however, is that the mysterious Michael hasn’t come into the picture to make Emerson “normal;” he’s here to show Emerson the true depth of her power.

Soon after meeting Emerson, Michael explains that her encounters with ghosts are much more than what they seem. They are, in fact, ripples in the fabric of time, and Emerson has the unique ability to actually travel to the past, even change things if she wishes to. Michael wants to help her do just that.

Emerson is soon dealing with some fairly unbelievable information, things that make her question everything she thought she knew about herself and the universe. And as if that’s not enough, she’s also confronting some pretty inconvenient feelings for Michael. There’s this weird electrical charge whenever they touch, and their pull toward each other is undeniable, but Michael rebuffs her at every turn. Why? Is it simply because her brother hired Michael to help Emerson? Or are there other things–other people–getting in the way of a possible relationship between Emerson and Michael?

As Emerson learns more about herself, her abilities, her past, Michael, and the secretive Hourglass organization, she comes face-to-face with some truths that are at once horrific and seemingly impossible. Does she really have the power to change her fate and that of those around her, or have other forces already manipulated Emerson’s life and abilities to achieve their own ends?

Well, as they say, time will tell…

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Hourglass really puts a different spin on the whole time travel concept, and it’s one that I think a lot of readers will enjoy. There’s way too much time travel fiction out there that just glosses over the physics behind the concept. This book doesn’t do that. It actually takes a look at things like the space-time continuum and how changing one thing in the past could have devastating consequences in the present and future. The science nerd within me is rejoicing over this…and trying to decipher what the book’s conclusion could mean for time itself.

Aside from all of the time travel stuff, Hourglass has a flawed, totally relatable protagonist. Emerson is far from perfect. She has huge errors in judgement all the time, but I truly believe that her heart is in the right place. She wants to do the right thing, but it’s not always clear how to do that. And when she finds herself floundering, she does what so many YA characters don’t–she talks to the adults in her life, tells them the truth about her situation, and listens to (even if she doesn’t always follow) their advice. Also, she’s like a mini-ninja, so that makes me like her even more.

So, we’ve got time travel, and we’ve got a likable main character. What am I forgetting? Oh yeah! The totally infuriating (in a good way) love story! The push-pull between Emerson and Michael was both wonderful and exasperating. Every time I thought they were about to confess their feelings for each other, I was thrown for a loop. (So was Emerson, by the way.) I didn’t know which way to turn, or even which way I wanted to turn. And when another swoon-worthy guy entered the picture, I was even more confused. Who should Emerson really be with? Should she be with anyone? It’s all very confusing…for both Emerson and the reader. And the book’s resolution, while it does kind of resolve this one big thing, also makes it clear that Emerson’s immediate future will likely be anything but moonlight and roses.

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If you’re looking for a riveting YA read, I urge you to give Hourglass a try. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

For more information on Hourglass, its sequels, and Myra McEntire, check out the author’s website, Goodreads, and Twitter. Ms. McEntire is also a contributing author in the holiday anthology My True Love Gave to Me, so you may want to give that fabulous book a read as well!

The Terrible Two

Once again, I owe my thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy of a truly outstanding book, a book that is now on the must-purchase list for my school library. That book is The Terrible Two and is brought to readers by the superb team of Jory John, Mac Barnett, and Kevin Cornell. If this book turns into a series, I predict that it will leave Diary of a Wimpy Kid in its dust. Yeah, it’s that good, and it appeals to readers of all ages. If I’d been reading this anywhere other than the comfort of my own home, I would have been publicly humiliated by all of the snort-laughing going on. (Granted, I am rather immature at times, but who isn’t? This book is perfect for the precocious child in all of us.)

Miles Murphy has just moved to boring Yawnee Valley–where cows outnumber people–and he’s not happy about it. He’s left his school, friends, home, and reputation as a top-notch prankster behind, and he has to start over in a town where he doesn’t know anyone. To make everything worse, it seems this town already has a prankster, and, loathe as he is to admit it, this prankster may be even better than Miles. How can Miles possibly make himself known as the best prankster with this other guy running around?

When the two boys final reveal themselves to each other, the Prankster King of Yawnee Valley wants to combine forces with Miles. He thinks they’d make a great team, but Miles wants none of it. He’s sure he can beat this guy, and he seeks to prove it. Miles’ solution to his dilemma is a prank war. (Yeah…this will end well.)

Miles tries his best to pull the ultimate prank and get a leg up on the other guy, but he’s always foiled at the last minute. Can it be that Miles is not the prankster he always thought he was? Nah…that can’t be it.

Finally, Miles has enough of his ill-advised prank war, and he decides to join forces with his former nemesis to form the Terrible Two, surely destined to be the greatest pranking duo of all time. This twosome devises the most epic prank ever seen in Yawnee Valley, a prank that people will talk about for years. A prank that may have the power to take their enemies down a notch or two. A prank that, if all goes according to plan, will cement their status in the International Order of Disorder.

Can Miles and his new partner-in-crime pull off this most awesome of pranks? Find out when you read The Terrible Two, written by Jory John and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kevin Cornell!

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The Terrible Two will be released on January 13th, and I will have it in my library as soon as humanly possible. Kids–particularly those who are on the mischievous side–will surely identify with the utterly charming characters and their thought processes. (My students will especially identify with much of this book. My school is right down the road from a dairy. Read the book, and you’ll understand exactly what I mean.) The writing and illustrations are equally hilarious, and I look forward to many laugh-out-loud moments as students devour this book in the library.

The Terrible Two is an essential purchase for any library that serves elementary or middle grade readers, in my humble opinion.

I sincerely hope we see more of The Terrible Two in future books. This book is simply too awesome to stand alone.

For more information about this outstanding, hilarious book–and its equally outstanding, hilarious creators–check out the websites of Jory John, Mac Barnett, and Kevin Cornell. Enjoy!

Published in: on December 14, 2014 at 10:02 am  Comments (1)  
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The Queen

Note: If you plan to read The Queen, a Selection novella by Kiera Cass, you really must read the books and novellas that preceded it…even though The Queen really serves as a prequel to all of them. Check out my posts on The Selection, The Elite, and The One if you’re curious about this series. You also may want to read The Prince and The Guard, two more novellas that I didn’t get around to posting on (probably because I’m lazy). All of this reading will help to put The Queen and its main characters in context.

Before she was the Queen and mother to Prince Maxon, she was just a girl named Amberly…

When Amberly was chosen to take part in the Selection, she somehow knew destiny was at work. She’d been in love with Prince Clarkson for most of her life, and now she would have the chance–however slim–to become his wife. But could he look past her work-roughened hands, her near-constant headaches, and her caste? Could a prince possibly care about someone like her?

Somehow, Amberly manages to catch Clarkson’s eye, and she’s sure that he is at least beginning to return her feelings. She makes it clear that the Prince is the absolute center of her world, but is that enough to make her a future Queen?

Forces are working to keep Clarkson and Amberly apart–Clarkson’s mother, the increasing threat of rebellion in Illéa, and a crisis that will jeopardize all of Amberly’s plans for her future–but these two young people are nothing if not determined.

Clarkson will be the future King of Illéa, and he wants Amberly by his side. How will everything unfold? Read The Queen to find out!

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So…if you haven’t read The Selection series (and the obviousness of the novella’s title escapes you), I’ve just spoiled this story for you. Yes, Amberly does become the Queen of Illéa, but it is interesting to read just how that happened.

This story also goes a long way in explaining why Amberly stayed with Clarkson when he was being such a butt-faced jerk in The Selection. When I read The Selection trilogy, I admit that I judged Amberly for sticking by Clarkson when he was acting like an asshole. (Sorry for the cursing, but that word is the most accurate one I could think of.) While I still judge her a bit for appearing to be a doormat, I at least understand her reasoning a little better. I don’t approve, but I do understand.

To those who have read the entire Selection series, I think you’ll be interested in how Amberly handled her place in the Selection versus how America dealt with things. Each girl had her own way of doing things, and each one faced their own set of unique circumstances, but there were some parallels in their backgrounds and in the way they interacted with their princes. Which girl had the better approach? I can’t really say, so I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

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If you still haven’t gotten enough of The Selection, have no fear! Kiera Cass is gracing us with more from this captivating world. The Favorite, another novella, will be released on March 3rd (my birthday!), and this one gives readers a glimpse at Marlee and her life with Carter.

Also–*insert fangirl squeal here*–The Heir, a whole new Selection novel, will be out on May 5th! Let’s take a look at the absolutely gorgeous cover, shall we?

Pretty, pretty, pretty. Apparently, this book revolves around Princess Eadlyn, the daughter of America and Maxon, and her own Selection for a prince. If The Selection was The Bachelor on steroids, I guess now we’re giving The Bachelorette her turn. I can hardly wait!

For more information on The Selection saga and author Kiera Cass, check out her website, Twitter, and the Selection Facebook page.

 

Published in: on December 11, 2014 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Year of the Beasts

I really didn’t know what to expect when I first started reading The Year of the Beasts. I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads, and the only things I knew going in were that I’d previously enjoyed books by the author, Cecil Castellucci, and the story was told in both prose and comics (drawn by the very talented Nate Powell). I was unprepared, then, for just how hard this book hit me.

At first, I thought I’d be reading a fairly typical tale of two sisters who grow apart because of a guy and then eventually find their way back to each other. Yeah…not so much. To say that this book defied and exceeded all of my expectations would be a gross understatement. The Year of the Beasts threw me for a loop, and I’m still thinking about how the story relates to my own life and my understanding of things like jealousy, love, and grief.

It all started when the carnival trucks rolled into town. That was the unofficial start of summer, a summer that would forever change everything for Tessa and her younger sister, Lulu.

For the first time, Tessa and Lulu are enjoying the carnival without the watchful eyes of their parents. They’re finally free to truly enjoy the food, the rides, the games…the boys. So when Tessa sees the opportunity to hang out with her crush, Charlie, and his friends, she seizes it.

Tessa, Lulu, and Tessa’s best friend Celina join up with Charlie and his buddies for a bit of fun at the carnival, but Tessa couldn’t know that this one outing would change her relationship with Lulu. Why? Well, as it happens, Charlie isn’t interested in Tessa. He wants Lulu…and Lulu wants him back.

Tessa is green with envy, but she tries her best to hide it. She doesn’t want to rain on her sister’s parade, but she can’t be wholly happy for her either. Charlie was supposed to be hers, not Lulu’s…and it feels like Lulu is taking every possible opportunity to throw her new boyfriend in her older sister’s face. It feels like Lulu, the younger of the two siblings, is growing up, moving on, and leaving Tessa in her wake.

Tessa’s only respite from the drama with Lulu, Charlie, and their assorted friends occurs in the arms of Jasper, the school outcast. Tessa finds a measure of peace when she’s alone with Jasper, but she doesn’t see how he can be part of her “real life” outside of the woods where they meet. Neither does he. No one even knows about them, and Tessa fears her friends’ reactions if they did. On top of that, even though Tessa is growing closer to Jasper, she still can’t let go of her jealousy over Lulu’s claim on Charlie. Why does Lulu, now Miss Popular, get to parade around with her boyfriend while Tessa has to keep her tenuous new relationship a secret? Nothing about this is fair in Tessa’s eyes, and she doesn’t know how to cope with all of the jealousy and rage bubbling within her.

Everything is about to come to a head for Tessa, Lulu, and company, and the summer that began with such promise will end in a tangle of envy, sadness, self-loathing, regret, grief, and–when all is said and done–a small measure of hope.

Will Tessa find some way to tame the monster raging within her and find the girl she used to be once again? Or will the events of this one tragic summer change her–and everyone around her–forever?

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I don’t know that the brief recap above in any way captures what happened in this book. It doesn’t even touch on the story presented in the comics. At first glance, the two stories don’t appear to be related, but, as the book progresses, the prose and the comics come together to create a story so intricately woven that I can scarcely believe that I ever thought they could be separate. While the prose tells of that one eventful summer that changed everything, the comics–presented in alternating chapters–show readers how grief and self-loathing can turn a person into something completely unrecognizable. How do the comics relate to Tessa’s story? Well, I’ll leave you with that one surprise, but I will tell you that I felt totally ripped to shreds by the book’s conclusion, and I’ll probably take a second look at the book’s art to see if I can pick up any clues that would have hinted at the emotional wreck that I was soon to become.

Now it’s time to get a little personal…

Truthfully, I think my strong feelings about this book come, at least in part, from my own experiences. Like Tessa, I have a younger sister. When we were teenagers, I sometimes felt like she had everything going for her. (To be perfectly honest, I still feel that way on occasion.) While I was the short, fat, near-sighted, bullied, tuba-playing nerd with braces, my sister was the tall, thin, athletic, blond girl who didn’t take crap from anyone. It was difficult to stand next to her and not wonder if everyone was thinking, “Well, I guess little sister is definitely the pretty one.” (Sometimes I didn’t have to wonder. People said those words out loud.) And things didn’t get any better for me when the guy I was madly in love with (or so I thought) had a thing for my sister. While she did not reciprocate his affections, the mere thought that he preferred her to me turned my overly dramatic teenage world upside-down. (If you’re reading this, you probably think I still haven’t recovered. You’d be right.) It was painfully easy to see my sister and me in the characters of Lulu and Tessa. I think that’s a big part of the reason why this book’s conclusion affected me the way it did. It made me examine what my teenage self would have done if she were faced with the same circumstances, and I have to admit I likely would have felt much like Tessa did.

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If your interest has been piqued by this post, I strongly urge you to give The Year of the Beasts a try. You won’t regret it. I think this is an excellent book for any reader in eighth grade and beyond.

To learn more about this amazing book, you can check out author Cecil Castellucci on her website, Goodreads, or Twitter, and graphic novelist Nate Powell on his website and Twitter.

Published in: on December 9, 2014 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Suspicion

Thanks to NetGalley, I have once again been privileged enough to read an early copy of a thrilling new young adult novel. This time, I turned my attention to Suspicion by Alexandra Monir. (This book is set to be released next Tuesday, December 9th.) I had previously read one other book by Ms. Monir–Timeless–so I was fairly certain I would enjoy Suspicion. And when I heard that it was like a combination of The Princess Diaries, Downton Abbey, and Alfred Hitchcock, I was even more eager to read it. (Also, the cover is gorgeous, no?)

Seven years ago, Imogen Rockford endured a horrible tragedy on the grounds of her family’s estate in Wickersham. Her parents and her aunt and uncle were killed in a terrible fire, and Imogen has spent the time since trying to put the horrifying events firmly in the past. She cut off all communication with her grandfather, her cousin Lucia, and Sebastian, the boy both she and her cousin adored.

Fate, though, seems to have other plans for Imogen…

When Imogen learns that both her grandfather and cousin have passed away, she’s faced with the realization that she’ll have to return to the Rockford family home in England…as the new Duchess of Wickersham. That’s quite a bit of pressure to put on her seventeen-year-old shoulders, but Imogen knows only she can fill this role. Only she has ties to the estate that cannot really be explained.

Upon her arrival at her newly-inherited estate, Imogen is flooded with both a sense of rightness and a feeling of dread. For some reason, she belongs here, but why? Why does the land come alive in her presence? Why does she seem to have some sort of power over the gardens? What abilities has she been ignoring for all these years…and who wants to make sure that she never has a chance to discover just how important those abilities are?

As Imogen learns more and more about her place–and her family’s history–in Wickersham, she begins to uncover a mystery that defies everything she’s ever believed. She also grows ever closer to Sebastian, the boy she’s loved her entire life, the boy who chose her cousin, the boy who is hiding secrets of his own.

Can Imogen unravel the web of deceit surrounding her before she’s caught up in yet another tragedy? Will her newly (re)discovered abilities help in her quest for the truth? Who can she trust with her own secrets? And who is hiding something so shocking that it will shake the foundation of Imogen’s entire world? Read Suspicion by Alexandra Monir to find out!

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First, let me say that I did like this book. It was a quick, fun read that kept me guessing…but it was rather unrealistic at times (aside from the supernatural elements). I had issues with the lightning-fast romance part of the story, Imogen’s totally ridiculous “magical powers” (which I didn’t think added all that much to the plot), and the unrealistic ending. The ending especially was just a little too neat for me, and I can only hope that the one piece of “unfinished business” in the book will come back in a sequel and mess things up a bit.

All of that being said, I do think Suspicion is a good read for those who like their mysteries peppered with a bit of romance and a dash of the supernatural. When you throw an English setting into that mix, you’ve got me. I’m probably not alone in that.

If you’d like to learn more about Suspicion and other books by Alexandra Monir, check out her website, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Published in: on December 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Iron Trial

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you probably know that I will read anything that Cassandra Clare cares to write. So it should come as no surprise that I was eager to read the first book in her new middle grade series co-authored with Holly Black. Well, I finally got around to reading The Iron Trial, book one in the pair’s five-part Magisterium series, over this holiday weekend, and I’m pleased to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it…and it’s something I can add to my school library and promote to my students. (I think it’s a great read for upper elementary on up.)

There are elements that many readers will find familiar in The Iron Trial. A boy learns he has magical abilities, goes to a hidden school for those of his kind, becomes close to two other kids (a boy and a girl) at this school, gets into a bit of trouble, and works to solve a mystery that could endanger his life and the lives of those around him. Sound familiar? Yeah, the similarities to Harry Potter can’t be ignored…but they can be used to urge Potterheads to pick up this book. Readers will undoubtedly notice the parallels, but I also believe they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how things are different. Clare and Black take the story we expect to read and turn it around on us, and I think most readers will be both shocked and intrigued with how this plays out. I know I was.

What kid wouldn’t want magical powers? What kid wouldn’t want to attend the Magisterium, a super-secret school to learn how to use those abilities? Callum Hunt, that’s who.

For as long as Call can remember, his dad has told him that the Magisterium is evil and that he must do whatever it takes to fail the Iron Trial, a series of tests used to determine who earns a place at this magical school. And Call does his best to fail…and it looks like he’s succeeded. He fails spectacularly and gets the lowest possible marks at the Iron Trial…but he’s selected for the Magisterium anyway. Not only is he accepted; he’s with one of the best mages, in the group with the most gifted apprentices. What’s going on here? Why would anyone want him as an apprentice? What is so special about Callum Hunt, a kid with a bum leg who wants to be anywhere but here?

As Call begins his Iron year at the Magisterium and learns more about magic, he begins to wonder just what his dad had against the school and magic. Call is learning so much…and he’s actually getting pretty good at his studies, despite his rather horrible start. His fellow apprentices, Aaron and Tamara, soon become his closest friends, and that’s kind of a big deal to a kid who really didn’t have friends before now.

Call is becoming more and more comfortable with himself and his abilities, so he’s eager to learn just why his dad didn’t want him here. Since Call is a curious sort with a certain disregard for rules, Call begins to investigate. He stumbles upon a few things that might answer some questions…or they might create even more.

It seems that Call’s past is tied to the most feared being in the magical world, the Enemy of Death. This figure, cloaked in mystery, is responsible for the deaths of many, many mages–including Call’s mother–and he’s still out there, biding his time until he can use the forces of chaos to rise to power. The Magisterium has recently discovered its own weapon in the coming war with the Enemy…but will that be enough? What if the Enemy has already infiltrated the Magisterium? What will that mean for the Magisterium then? And what does all of this have to do with Call?

Soon, Call will come face-to-face with his past, his place at the Magisterium, and what it could mean for his future. He learns just why his father wanted to keep him from magic. What will Call do with this new and disturbing information? Time will tell…

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I hope I haven’t given too much away in this post. I want readers to be just as floored by the ending–and what it could mean for future books–as I was.

The second book, The Copper Gauntlet, is expected to be released sometime in the fall of 2015. I, for one, can hardly wait to read more about the adventures of Call, Aaron, and Tamara, and what they do with everything they learned in The Iron Trial. Should be interesting to say the least.

If you’d like to learn more about The Iron Trial, I encourage you to visit the official website. It has loads of information on the book, the authors, and the world of the Magisterium. There are also some games and other extras that look like fun. You may also want to take a quick peek at the video below. Enjoy!

Published in: on November 30, 2014 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Butter

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life, so it’s often difficult for me to read what I’ve dubbed “fat kid fiction.” Usually, these books are about overweight girls who are desperate to lose the pounds to please some guy, and, miracle of miracles, they do it. They make it look easy. (It’s not.) Well, that’s where Butter, a 14-15 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominee by Erin Jade Lange, changes things up a bit.

First of all, Butter is about a guy. He receives the nickname Butter in the cruelest of circumstances, but he kind of takes it on as his own personal banner. Secondly, he’s not all that eager to change his ways. Food is his comfort in a world that would like to pretend he doesn’t exist. Sure, he’d love to win the heart of the prettiest girl in school, but losing the weight to do it just isn’t possible. Finally, when Butter actually makes a plan to shake things up, losing weight isn’t part of the equation. Losing his life, however, is.

After some particularly upsetting comments on an online forum, Butter decides that it’s time to do something to really get everyone’s attention. He vows to eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve. He doesn’t know exactly how things will play out, but Butter doesn’t expect his classmates to cheer him on. All of a sudden, he’s Mister Popular, and everyone wants to know what his “last meal” will be.

Butter isn’t prepared for his new-found popularity, and he wonders if these people–many of whom made fun of him in the past–are really his friends and how they’ll react if he decides not to go through with his plan. Do any of them really care that he’s essentially planning his suicide while they watch?

Butter is at war with himself. Should he go through with his morbid plans, end his suffering, and become a local legend? Or should he finally seek out help? Will anyone speak up for him when things begin to snowball out of control, or is Butter truly on a collision course with death?

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So, I finished this book on Saturday, and I’m honestly still not sure how I feel about it. In many ways, it hit too close to home. (No, I’m not going to end it all because I’m fat…but I can see where Butter is coming from.) It’s not easy to live in a world where people either stare or pretend you’re invisible solely because of your size. It’s not easy to hear the taunts or loud-enough-to-hear whispers that you should just stay home or do something about your weight. News flash: It takes a long time to put on weight. It can take even longer to take it off. These things don’t happen in an instant…no matter what other books may want people to believe.

Aside from Butter’s struggles, I’m also unsure how I feel about his so-called “friends.” These people were basically cheering for him to die. I understand morbid curiosity. All of us have rubber-necked at the scene of a car accident. But to place bets on a guy’s last meal or if he’ll go through with killing himself? I like to think most teens–most people–are above that. (Having worked with people of all ages, though, I know that’s not always the case.) It was hard to read these scenes with Butter and the popular kids knowing that they were only interested in him as long as he was planning to commit suicide. Butter knew what was going on, but the starvation for some kind of connection–with someone or something other than food–was so keen that he just couldn’t back out of his foolish plan and really get some help.

I don’t want to say too much more for fear that I’ll give away what happens in this book. I will say, though, that Butter is definitely a book that makes the reader think. What would you do if you were Butter? What would you do if you saw his plan plastered on a website? Were there signs of trouble that people–mainly adults–around Butter missed? Why is it still acceptable in our society for people to be judged based solely on their size? If you know the answer to that last question, I’m all ears…

For more information on Butter and author Erin Jade Lange, you can go to the author’s website, Twitter, Goodreads, or Facebook. You may also want to check out the book trailer from Bloomsbury Kids below.

Published in: on November 24, 2014 at 3:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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My True Love Gave to Me

When I heard the author lineup for My True Love Gave to Me, an anthology of YA holiday stories, I immediately knew that I would have to read what I was sure would be an outstanding collection. With favorite authors like Ally Carter, Gayle Forman, David Levithan, Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, and Kiersten White–among others–contributing short stories, I was hooked before I even started reading. And when I didn’t think anything was ever going to get me in the holiday spirit this year (Humbug!), this book managed to fill me with a bit of cheer.

My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of twelve holiday stories that kind of touch on everything: New Year’s, winter solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, and even Krampuslauf (something I’d never heard of before). There’s really something for everyone (except Festivus for the rest of us), and I think this would be a perfect gift for any teen reader…or adult reader who loves YA lit.

Now, I’m not going to go through each and every story here. That would take forever, and, honestly, it would probably spoil a couple of the stories for you. Instead, I’ll briefly highlight a few of my favorite stories from this collection.

My favorite story in the collection comes from the book’s editor herself, Stephanie Perkins. Her story is titled “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown.” This short story, like Perkins’ longer works, introduces readers to a true gem of a guy. North Drummond, like Étienne St. Clair, Cricket Bell, and Josh Wasserstein, is almost too good to be true, but that just makes me–and Marigold, his “love interest”–adore him more. He seems to really “get” Marigold, even though her life is less than traditional. He works to make her world a better one after knowing her only a short while. Every girl should be so lucky. (I’m militantly single, and even I felt my cold heart melting for North.) If you enjoyed Stephanie Perkins’ enchanting novels, you’ll likely feel the same way about this lovely story.

One of my other top picks from this collection was “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell. (If you follow this blog at all, this should come as no surprise.) This story involves two best friends who seem to just miss being together at midnight each New Year’s Eve. This year, though, things might just be a little different. (Since this is essentially a YA holiday romance anthology, you can probably guess what will happen. Even so, the story is heart-warming and brings on the feels.)

Finally, I have to talk a bit about “Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter. This was the only story in the book that actually made me cry. The basic premise is this: Mysterious girl exchanges plane tickets with someone else, pretends to be someone she’s not (in order to hide from her own life), gets found out, and ultimately finds something she never knew she needed. Such a moving story that I had to grab a couple of tissues. There was a romantic element to this one, but, at least for me, this particular story was about the love that can be found with friends, family (not always blood relatives), and people who deeply care about what’s really best for those they love.

Those were just three of the stories that really spoke to me. Truthfully, there’s not a stinker in the bunch, and every story resonated with me in some way.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Krampuslauf, or no holiday at all, this collection is an outstanding, moving, entertaining read for anyone who believes in the power of love…in all of its many forms.

Published in: on November 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Revenge of Seven

Warning! Spoilers ahead! If you’re not totally caught up with the entire I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies) series, you might want to go ahead and take care of that. And when I say “totally caught up,” I mean reading the four previous novels as well as all nine short stories. Here’s a reading list to get you started.

In my opinion, it is essential to read the novellas to fully understand what’s happening, particularly in The Fall of Five and The Revenge of Seven. These short stories add so much depth to the story, and they help readers really get to know the motivations that drive certain characters.

There are a few other journal entries and things that you may also want to take a look at. You can see a full list at Goodreads.com. (I plan to explore those as soon as I finish with this post.) For now, though, let’s dive into the fifth novel in the Lorien Legacies saga, The Revenge of Seven.

When last we left the remaining members of the Lorien Garde, things were looking rather bleak. An unexpected betrayal resulted in the death of one of their own. Now, the Garde is scattered and on the run. They don’t know who they can trust or how deep the Mogadorian threat has infiltrated the government, but they know they must fight, or Earth will surely fall to the Mogs.

Four, Sarah, Sam, Malcom, and Adam (a Mogadorian who sympathizes with the Loric cause) escape from the horror that befell them in Chicago and journey to the Mog stronghold in Washington, DC. Their aim is to hit the Mogs where it hurts…and hopefully learn a thing or two that will help them win this war.

Six, Seven (Marina), and Nine are in Florida, and they’ve just endured a shock to their systems. They witnessed the betrayal of Five–a betrayal that resulted in Eight’s death. They’re reeling from what has happened, but they must also prepare for the battle to come…a battle in which the Mog forces are seemingly unbeatable. In their quest to get a jump on the Mogs, however, they’ll receive help from an unlikely ally. This help gives them just enough time to flee the Mogs in Florida and join up with Four and company in their Washington stronghold.

In another turn of events, Ella (also known as Ten) has been captured by the vile Mog leader, Setrákus Ra, a sinister being who is more powerful than anyone she’s ever encountered. Setrákus Ra is bent on the domination of Earth…and he wants Ella by his side when it happens. Why? What’s so special about her? Why would Setrákus Ra want to ally himself with one of the Lorien Garde? Is there anything Ella can do to escape his clutches and warn the other members of the Garde of what is to come?

The Mogadorians are close to a full-scale invasion, and the Lorien Garde and their allies are the only beings capable of stopping them…even though the Garde is severely outnumbered. Is there any way for the Garde to claim victory, or is Setrákus Ra simply too powerful to stop?

The Loric and the Mogadorians are careening toward a war that will envelope the entire planet. Who will win? Who will lose? Well, that’s not entirely clear. One thing is certain, though…something has just been unleashed that could change everything.

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If it’s not already clear, The Revenge of Seven is not the last book in this series. We’ve got one more novel to go (I think) and probably a few more novellas. Unlike The Fall of Five, though, I was at least a little prepared for the cliffhanger at the end of this book. No urges to fling the book across the room.

My mind is spinning from what happened at the end–and the implications for the next book–and I’m pretty sure that the final installment will be more action-packed than anything we’ve seen before. I doubt all of our heroes will survive until the end, but I foresee them doing a lot of damage to the hated Mogs before all is said and done.

A couple of my librarian friends actually judge me a bit for being so into this series, but I really don’t care. (I’ll never apologize for liking a book.) If you’re looking for a series with loads of action, adventure, intrigue, suspense, aliens, government conspiracies, and even a teensy bit of romance, I think you’ll enjoy the Lorien Legacies books as much as I do. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be just as eager for the final installment as I am. (I just hope we get a somewhat happy ending. These kids have been through enough!)

There’s no word yet on the title or release date for the next book, but I would expect it to be out in late summer of next year. The next series of novellas will come out before then. The ebook version of novella #10, The Fugitive, will be out on December 23rd.

For much more information on this exciting series, go to the I Am Number Four Fans website. You may also want to check out the book trailer for The Revenge of Seven below.

*A word of advice from me: Avoid the movie adaptation of the first book. It doesn’t begin to compare to its source material.*

Published in: on November 7, 2014 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

As you may know, a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was released yesterday. After I voted, I rushed to my closest bookstore and purchased ten copies for my school library. (I’m fully aware that this is probably not enough.) Before I took the books to school, though, I sat down to read this ninth installment, The Long Haul.

In The Long Haul, Greg Heffley is about to take part in that most dreaded of family activities–the road trip. Greg’s Mom thinks this will be the greatest summer activity in the world, and she’s billing it as a vacation and learning experience all rolled into one. Well, it’s definitely a learning experience, but I doubt dear old Mom had these lessons in mind…

From rundown hotels to lost wallets and cell phones to destructive pigs to unfortunate car mishaps, the Heffley family goes through loads of mayhem and madness on this most epic of road trips. Everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong on this horrible vacation.

Crammed in the back of the family van, Greg tells readers all about his vacation misadventures, and readers young and old will find it all too easy to sympathize with Greg’s plight. (Who hasn’t endured a heinous family road trip?!)

Will Greg and his family make it out of this with their sanity intact? Can anything go right for them during this trip? What more could they possibly endure?

Join Greg Heffley on yet another wild ride when you read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul!

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I don’t have to do a whole lot to sell this book to my students. Setting it out on the shelf is usually enough. I do plan to tell them, though, that The Long Haul is probably my favorite of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. It’s just so relatable, no matter what the reader’s age may be. I can remember long car rides with my family–my sister and I fighting over the smallest things, my parents getting more irritated by the minute, all of us fussing about my dad’s choice in music, having no escape from all the togetherness. Oftentimes, we needed another vacation from our vacation. I think lots of readers–like myself–will be able to see themselves in everything that goes wrong with the Heffleys’ road trip.

I’m sure we’ll see more of Greg Heffley and his infamous diary in the future. The Long Haul didn’t wrap up in a nice, neat little bow, so be on the lookout for another book this time next year.

For all things Diary of a Wimpy Kid, be sure to visit wimpykid.com. For a quick look at The Long Haul, you may also want to take a peek at the video below. You can find loads more videos on the Wimpy Kid YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 3:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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