Saturday, January 30, 2010

KITH: THE GOOD NEIGHBORS by Holly Black



Rue Silver is half faerie, half human.  Her mother died leaving Rue and her father Thaddeus alone.  Or did she really?  Rue believes her mother is still alive somewhere.

Using her faerie powers, Rue travels into the world controlled by her magical grandfather and discovers her mother is still alive.  Although she doesn't want to be tempted by this other world, Rue is entertained by her brief visit there.  She knows she must return to keep her friends safe from her grandfather's plot to take over the city.

Relationships between Rue's friends are strained making them vulnerable prey to the powers of the faeries.  Rue realizes her boyfriend Dale is definitely under their control, but her attempts to convince him to fight their power over him fail miserably.  Even with her ability to control plants, Aubrey, her grandfather, continues his plans to make the city his.

Holly Black, along with illustrator Ted Naifeh, is the creator of THE GOOD NEIGHBORS series.  KITH is the second book in the series.  Fans of Black's fantasy style will appreciate the mystical world inhabited by good and evil faeries.  The twists and turns of the story are enhanced as the graphic illustrations bring the characters to life.  KITH is sure to be a hit with graphic novel/manga fans everywhere.

THE LESS-DEAD by April Lurie



Raised in a strict evangelical home, author April Lurie explains in her author's note how closely she can relate to Noah Nordstrom, the main character in her latest book.  THE LESS-DEAD is a compelling story of drama, religious frustrations, and murder. 

Noah Nordstrom has been raised from birth to view religion and the Bible as the road map of life. His father is the well-known Bible Answer Guy whose radio talk show is extremely popular in the Bible-belt city of Austin, Texas.  Maybe in rebellion against his father and his church upbringing, Noah has turned into a trouble-maker.  He attends a school for juvenile offenders and his parents attempt to keep him on a short leash.

Despite almost constant supervision, Noah and his friend Carson get out quite a bit using youth group activities as a cover.  On one such outing, Noah meets Will, a foster kid living on the streets.  Will's interest in poetry and music make for the beginning of a fast friendship.  The two find they have a lot in common, although, Carson lets Noah in on the fact that Will is gay and may be interested in more than simple friendship.

When Noah lets Will know he is straight and hoping to win back his ex-girlfriend Aubrey, Will seems happy with just being friends and sharing their common interests.  Noah invites Will to his house thinking his father might be able to help Will find a place to stay, but when Mr. Nordstrom finds out Will is gay, his religious beliefs come between his son and the help he wants for his friend.  Noah is furious, and the already fragile relationship with his father deteriorates even further.

A background bit of plot becomes central to the story as Noah and Will spend more time together.  A gay teen is found murdered in Austin.  The murder is classified as a hate crime and is soon connected to the religious community when the police arrest a former member of Noah's family's church.  When a second gay teen is found dead, Noah begins to worry about his new friend's safety.

THE LESS-DEAD is packed with action and controversy.  April Lurie will have readers questioning their prejudices and their views of traditional and contemporary religious beliefs.  Teens living in circumstances similar to those of Noah and Will, will find THE LESS-DEAD more than just an entertaining novel.  Hopefully, they will learn they are not alone in their feelings of confusion and self-doubt.  This is a story that offers huge potential for discussion and soul-searching.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GIVING AWAY ANOTHER CATHERINE RYAN HYDE BOOK - CHECK IT OUT!!!




Win BECOMING CHLOE by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  All you have to do is leave a comment and your email address, and you could be the lucky winner.

A great big thanks to Catherine for donating a signed copy for this giveaway contest.

Here's a chance for extra entries, too.

+2 - become a new follower.
+3 - mention that you are already a loyal follower.

Deadline is February 10 at midnight.
* Remember to leave an email address so I can contact you.
** US and Canada entries only.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

MORE BOOKS WITH GREAT FIRST LINES - PART 2

Here are some books the 8th graders recommend because of their interesting opening lines.

SURF MULES
by G. Neri
"Dude, Check it out.  Surfers!"  Z-boy shouted as they sped down Interstate 10.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE AWAKENING
by L.J. Smith
Dear Diary,
     Something awful is going to happen today.

GENTLEMEN
by Michael Northrop
It started out as just another Tuesday at the Tits: first period, Practical mathematics, nothing special.

THE MEDIATOR: SHADOWLAND
by Meg Cabot
They told me there'd be palm trees.

STORY OF A GIRL
by Sara Zarr
I was thirteen when my dad caught me with Tommy Webber in the back of Tommy's Buick, parked next to the old Chart House down in Montara at eleven o'clock on a Tuesday night.

AFTER
by Francine Prose
Minutes after the shootings, everybody's cell phone rang.

THE STRAIGHT ROAD TO KYLIE
by Nico Medina
I really wish I wasn't gay right now.

MESSED UP
by Janet Nichols Lynch
CAT FIGHT - about the only good thing that can happen the first day of school.

Monday, January 25, 2010

THERE IS A WINNER!




My sincere apologies.  I did use the random number generator to choose a winner for the contest giving away a signed copy of THE YEAR OF MY MIRACULOUS REAPPEARANCE by Catherine Ryan Hyde, and I notified the winner.  However, I never posted the winner here.

So anyway - here goes.

THE WINNER IS ......... * Lenore *

Her book has been sent and probably received by now.  Once again, sorry for the delayed post.

NEW CONTEST WILL BE POSTED SOON!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

THE 8TH GRADERS RECOMMEND THESE BOOKS WITH GREAT FIRST LINES (PART 1)

I asked my 8th graders to take a look at the first line of the book they were currently reading.  If the first line looked like an attention grabber, they gave me the book so I could put it on this recommendation list.  Maybe some of these will inspire a reader or two to give them a try.

NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL
by Justina Chen Headley
Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect.

CARTER FINALLY GETS IT
by Brent Crawford
In the back room of the Pizza Barn with only two weeks before the start of high school, my boys and I are at the Freshman Mixer.

BAD GIRLS DON'T DIE
by Katie Alender
I stood perfectly still, looking up at the house and the dark sky beyond it.

RUNNING THE RISK
by Lesley Choyce
The gunman arrived at Burger Heaven shortly after midnight on Friday.

STANFORD WONG FLUNKS BIG-TIME
by Lisa Yee
Today's the last day of school, the only day that I look forward to.

IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY
by Ned Vizzini
It's so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself.

THE JOURNAL OF DOUGLAS ALLEN DEEDS
by Rodman Philbrick
"Today we embark on a great journey."

THE WINTER OF RED SNOW
by Kristiana Gregory
It is almost sunrise and we are still waiting for Papa to return.

THE HUNGER GAMES
by Suzanne Collins
 When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.

FREEFALL by Ariela Anhalt



I am always impressed with new authors.  The idea of all the hard work involved in writing a book, and then putting it out there for public criticism for the first time, must take an amazing amount of courage.  It is especially impressive when I turn to the author info on the back cover and see that the author is a 19 year old sophomore in college.  That's the case with a new release called FREEFALL.

Just how tough are you?  When life hits you with a father who commits suicide and a mother who can't seem to get passed it, how do you handle the other tough stuff that comes along?  Ask Luke Prescott.

One might think that Luke has it all.  He attends a fancy boarding school and has hopes of attending a nice college.  Money isn't really an issue for him or for the friends who surround him at Briar Academy.  He and his best friend and roommate, Hayden, are on the fencing team, enjoy the company of the occasional attractive female, and both get excellent grades.  What could go wrong?

Although Luke feels he knows Hayden pretty well, Hayden has been acting strange lately.  When a new kid named Russell shows up and demonstrates his excellent fencing skills, Hayden doesn't seem able to cope.  When Russell also moves in on Hayden's girlfriend, things come to a head.  Unfortunately, Hayden's temper may have gotten the best of him during an initiation ritual that involves the new fencing team member and a jump from a nearby cliff.

Luke finds himself faced with testifying either for or against Hayden at a trial accusing Hayden of killing Russell.  He was there, but answering the question about what exactly happened is much harder than Luke ever imagined.

Debut author Ariela Anhalt has crafted a sure winner.  Readers will be drawn into the culture of Briar Academy with its cliques and rituals.  Luke's family story adds depth and emotion that underline the complicated situation he faces at school.  Anyone who gets involved in his story will no doubt find themselves measuring their own strength and convictions against those of Luke and several other characters.  I look forward to seeing more from Ariela Anhalt.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

SHOOTING STAR by Fredrick McKissack Jr.




Jomo Rodgers has big football dreams, unfortunately, he's not big.  His coach praises his competitive attitude and his hustle, but he always ends his comments with, "If only ...."  Jomo knows he means, if only he was bigger.

At the coach's suggestion, Jomo begins an aggressive training program between his sophomore and junior year.  With the help of Jeri, the team's strength training coach, he is able to start building some muscle and increasing his weight.  Just like most young athletes, Jomo doesn't think it is happening fast enough though, so he looks to another source.  He hooks up with Ganz, a college chemistry major who is selling a product he says will make Jomo a star.

Just two weeks after beginning the steroid injections, Jomo notices a difference and so do his coaches and teammates.  Getting the money to continue using is not a problem, but keeping it a secret might prove to be. 

His football situation is improving, but things at home are not.  His father, a college professor, has started ending each evening drunk, and Jomo's mother recently moved to Seattle to advance her art career, so she is not around to keep things running smoothly.  Even with his success on the football field and admiring calls from college recruiters, side-effects from the steroids have Jomo's life spiraling out of control.

SHOOTING STAR by Fredrick McKissack Jr. focuses on the player side of steroid use.  What pushes a player to use the illegal substance knowing that discovery will end a career?  Why does a player continue using when things obviously get out of hand?  SHOOTING STAR is an attention grabber.  It will interest not only sports fans, but anyone looking for a story about the drive to succeed against personal odds.  It is a real page-turner I couldn't put down.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

SOLACE OF THE ROAD by Siobhan Dowd




Life has not been exactly fair to Holly.  She has grown up in a series of group and foster homes surrounded by social workers who say they care, but it certainly doesn't feel like they do. 

As the story begins, Holly is headed toward a new home.  A childless couple arranges for a few test visits and then decide they are willing to offer Holly a place in their lives.  It should be the answer to Holly's dream, but her sights are set on finding her Irish mam and not relying on the kindness of strangers.

Maybe it's the constant disappointments over the years and the repeated caregivers who have abandoned Holly.  Whatever the reasons, she doesn't feel that she can go through it again.  After a short stay with the new couple and one heated outburst, Holly decides it's time to leave.  She stumbles across a blond wig that adds several years to her own almost fifteen, and when she looks in the mirror, she reinvents herself with a new name - Solace.  Solace has the courage and the calm attitude needed to strike out and find her mam.

The journey takes Solace (Holly) into a world of roadside diners, truck drivers, and adventure spiced with bits of humor and potential danger.  She's a girl in search of her past and, hopefully, a future filled with a promise of real family and real love.

Siobhan Dowd, author of several other award-winning YA books, tragically died of cancer at age 47.  SOLACE OF THE ROAD features her typical Irish flare with colorful characters leading less-than-perfect lives.  She captures the loneliness and desperation of Solace as she searches for what most of us take for granted.  American readers may find SOLACE OF THE ROAD a challenging read due to its definite Irish/British dialect and tone, but once they are caught up in the story, they will find it a rewarding read.  Dowd's exceptional talent will be missed.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S WISH I HAD THE TIME #14




Whenever I see this book sitting on the bookshelf or on a student's desk, I think, "Why haven't I read that book yet?"

Judging by its cover, COBWEBS by Karen Romano Young looks a terrific book.  After reading the following summary from Barnes & Noble, I want to get around to reading it even more.

"A girl walks across the Brooklyn Bridge, a backpack full of knitting slung over her shoulder, a green fish kite in her hand.  A boy balances on the bridge's crisscross webbing, waiting for the girl to pass.

Are they angels?  Spiders?  In love?  Or in danger?  Once they connect, they'll start a chain of events that could stretch out smoothly like the river below them -- or become knotted like a tangled web of spider silk."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

CHECK OUT THIS NEW BLOG FOR GREAT INTERVIEWS AND FABULOUS CONTESTS!

Be sure to stop by and check out TRT BOOK CLUB.  If you like books and authors, you'll find a new interview posted every day and loads of great prizes!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

INVISIBLE LINES by Mary Amato



Even with the odds stacked against him, Trevor Musgrove proves that determination and a sense of humor can work wonders.

Moving to a new school has its challenges.  Trevor, his mother, and his two younger siblings are moving into a new apartment.  It is a pretty crappy place with smelly hallways, broken elevators, and a definite criminal element.  Unfortunately, it's all they can afford.  All three kids wear secondhand clothes and sleep on mattresses from a place called Save the Children.  Trevor's mom works two jobs and that leaves him babysitting the two younger kids when he'd rather be playing soccer and hanging out with his new friends.

School could offer a breath of fresh air for Trevor.  The kids from his underprivileged neighborhood attend school along with a bunch of rich kids from a different part of town.  Trevor discovers himself in a science class for gifted kids in something known as the Summit program.  At first he is worried about not making the grade, but once he meets the unusual teacher and starts learning amazing things about mushrooms, he finds out learning is fun and easier than he ever imagined.

A big soccer fan, Trevor also finds he has a chance to try out for an elite traveling soccer league.  When he mentions it to his over-worked mother, she immediately says no way.  Too expensive and who will babysit while she has to work are her reasons for saying no, but Trevor doesn't give up easily.  He secretly attends the tryouts and gets a place on the team.  It sounds like good news, but that's when everything else begins to go wrong.

INVISIBLE LINES by Mary Amato is a fast-paced story of one boy and his fight to help his family, make his mother proud, and meet the challenges of an accelerated program.  Amato combines soccer, art, and science in a tale that will grab readers on page one.  Aimed at a middle grade audience, INVISIBLE LINES is excellent for independent reading or for use with a group.  The characters are typical middle school students in situations that will provide discussion material as well as entertainment.

CONTEST REMINDER!




Don't forget you can win a signed copy of THE YEAR OF MY MIRACULOUS REAPPEARANCE by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Just click HERE to enter.  Contest ends JANUARY 15!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

ANGRY MANAGEMENT by Chris Crutcher




If you enjoy Chris Crutcher, we'll want to check out ANGRY MANAGEMENT.  In it he revisits a number of characters from his previous books.  Montana West, Sarah Brynes, Angus Bethune, John Simet, and Matt Miller reappear in three novelettes.  A group therapist named Mr. Nak is the connection that draws these previous characters together.

Anger is the common factor in the lives of Sarah, Montana, and Matt.  In novelette number one, Sarah, who suffered disfiguring facial burns as a child, faces the anger she's lived with for years.  In the second story, Montana West continues to rebel against her controlling father, Maxwell West.  Once again the issue of freedom of speech comes before the school board of which Maxwell West is the ultra-conservative president.  Finally, in story number three, Matt Miller attempts to deal with the conflict he feels between his anger over the senseless death of an innocent, young, gay, black student and his own deep religious convictions.

Each story could stand on its own, but together they speak to the power of anger to control our lives.  The three young people have every reason to remain hostile given their back stories told so well in Crutcher's novels, STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BRYNES, WHALE TALK, DEADLINE, and THE SLEDDING HILL, but they are facing their anger and attempting to rise above it.  Even if you haven't read the above books, ANGRY MANAGEMENT is well worth your reading time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

WEDNESDAY'S WISH I HAD THE TIME #13




If you follow the reviews on this blog, you have no doubt already figured out that I am not a big fan of fantasy.  However, I'm thinking I will need to make a place on my future reading list for the INKHEART trilogy by Cornelia Funke.

The series is quite popular with my students, and they are teasing me with bits and pieces of the story in hopes that I will read it.  If the number of students asking when I plan to get a copy of the final book in the trilogy is any indication, this is a must read.  I did break down and purchase the book last week, and there is already a waiting list of readers.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

ACCORDING TO KIT by Eugenie Doyle



Kit has lived her entire life on a Vermont dairy farm.  Her life is one constant routine.  It starts with the morning milking and chores and ends with the same at night.  The only variety is her dancing.

Things change a bit the fall she turns fifteen.  When a crazy kid in her high school science class takes out a knife and cuts another student, Kit's mother decides she's had it with public education.  She pulls Kit from the high school and tells her she will be homeschooling from now on.   But homeschooling for the daughter of busy farmers turns into Kit taking care of her own learning. 

At first it seems like fun, but things get boring pretty quickly.  Math means helping her mother with the farm accounting, science is helping with the chores and milking and listening to her father's schemes to increase revenue for the farm.  She reads a lot and decides to keep working on the research she started at school for a project about bats that fascinates her.  Physical education is, of course, her dance classes.  One benefit of the homeschooling deal with her mother is that her dance classes increase to three times a week.

Being around her parents 24/7 doesn't always bring out the best in everyone.  Kit is fairly certain that her mother tries to be as mean as possible by complaining and finding fault in everything.  Her father attempts to calm the waters between mother and daughter, but often the only escape Kit can find is heading down to her grandfather's trailer or going up into the haymow to dance away the stress.

ACCORDING TO KIT by Eugenie Doyle is the story of one year in the life of a young girl whose dreams of an exciting future don't fit with her dairy farm lifestyle.  As her day-to-day story unfolds, readers get to know Kit and will admire her determination to make her dreams of dancing as important to her mother as they are to her.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

CANDOR by Pam Bachorz




Candor is the ideal place to live.  The houses are beautiful, the town is picturesque, and the kids are perfect.  That is as long as the music is playing.

Oscar Banks lives in Candor.  He has lived there for most of his life.  Actually this wonderful town is the creation of his father Campbell Banks.  The family needed to get away from Chicago and the memories of a terrible accident that took the life of Winston Banks, Oscar's older brother.  Mr. Banks designed Candor to be a model community, and now there is a waiting list of people hoping to move there and live happily ever after.

Of course, there's a catch.  Creating a pretty location is one thing, but how does one control those who come there to live?  The answer is brainwashing.  Mr. Banks uses subliminal messages hidden in music to create perfect residents for his perfect community.  The minute prospective clients enter Candor, they are subjected to constant music.  The messages tell them they want to live there, and once they do, the messages keep them on the straight and narrow path of ideal citizens.

Oscar has been aware of his father's methods for quite some time.  Using his father's own special technology, Oscar has created alternative messages that have allowed him to resist being brainwashed like the rest of the population.  In fact, he has his own rather profitable business going.  When he finds a new young resident with access to large quantities of cash, he reveals the secret of Candor and offers to make it possible for them to escape.  Business is good until Oscar meets and falls in love with Candor's newest resident, Nia.

CANDOR by Pam Bachorz is sure to stick with readers beyond the turning of the last page.  She has created a scary yet fascinating place where good intentions have run amok.  Every normal (or rebellious) teen who reads CANDOR will no doubt have at least a dream (nightmare) or two about what would happen if their parents learned of such a place.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 1, 2010

LEIGH ANN'S CIVIL WAR by Ann Rinaldi




Ann Rinaldi has added to her amazing collection of historical fiction.  LEIGH ANN'S CIVIL WAR focuses on a family in the Conferate South battling not only the nation's Civil War, but also their own family's inner problems.

Leigh Ann has been raised by her two older brothers since she was about four years old.  Their mother who claims she was never meant to be a mother took off leaving the children with her husband.  At first he was busy running the family-owned textile mill, but then he fell ill and the responsibilities of the mill and running the family went to his sons, Teddy and Louis. 

Now that the war has begun responsibility has increased yet again.  The two brothers head off to battle, but soon return when one is injured and the other is needed to keep the family business from falling into northern hands. 

Being the youngest, Leigh Ann has escaped a lot of the family tension, but as the Yankees get closer and closer to their plantation, family turmoil escalates.  With her father now unable to take care of even his own personal needs, papers have been filed declaring her oldest brother Teddy to be her legal guardian, however, her mother sees it as an opportunity to step back into the family lay claim to whatever she can. 

With the Civil War as the backdrop for the story, readers are able to watch history unfold as well as what happens within Leigh Ann's family.  An older sister is secretly married while visiting her soldier boyfriend, and she returns pregnant.  Tension increases in older brother Teddy's marriage as he spends more and more time keeping the mill running.  Despite a crippling war injury, Louis is elected mayor and takes on the responsibility of running the town.  All the while Leigh Ann tries to behave as a good southern girl should, but her desire to help her family often causes her to step beyond the boundaries set by her brothers. 

In this new release Ann Rinaldi highlights the South's struggle to hang on to their way of life as war crept closer and after the Yankees took control.  She artful reveals this one family and its efforts to survive and protect their own during dangerous times.