Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Kiss in Time

We've all been tired, really tired.  The kind where we just feel that if we could sleep for an entire day and that might not be enough.  But, imagine sleeping for three hundred years.  How crazy would that be?  Pretty darn, I assure you.

In a Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn, Talia and Jack take the lead role in a retelling of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty.  Now I'm sure most of us are familiar with the Disney version.  You know, the one where Princess Aurora is raised by the fairies, sings a song about true love's kiss, is saved by Prince Phillip in a timely manner, and includes a showdown with a witch turned super scary dragon.  Exactly, I thought you would remember.  Anyway, most of that doesn't happen here.  Let me explain.

In a Kiss in Time Talia (who has Aurora as one of her many middle names- a wink to the Disney classic is always appreciated) has grown up in the castle under strict supervision because she is never to touch a spindle.  You may remember this is the same fear as in the original tale.  On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the evil witch is able to lure Talia to the spindle, plunging her and the entire kingdom into a deep sleep.

This sleep is so deep that, three hundred years later when Jack arrives everything is just as it was.  Jack has managed to give his seemingly boring tour of Europe the slip in hopes of finding a beach.  But what he does find is the forgotten kingdom of Euphrasia.  As you might have imagined, Jack bestows a kiss upon Princess Talia and brings the entire kingdom back to life.  Only they've been asleep for three hundred years.  Mayhem ensues!
I like this book, just as I enjoyed Flynn's recently
adapted for the screen, Beastly.  I've got to tell you that my favorite part of the movie of Beastly is when Kyle's dad says that he doesn't want any "fattycakes"; it cracks me up every time!  Flynn also released Cloaked another fairy tale retelling this year.  I plan to read it soon as well.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pontificating on Potter

So, I just finished re-reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and it got me thinking about just  what these books mean.  I don't mean the deep philosophical battle between good and evil.  I mean what these books seem to have done for the genre.  When I was the intended audience for young adult literature, I feel like the only books I know that were out there for me were The Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley HighNow, of course, I loved these books dearly and thought they were the absolute best.  But, I didn't know about anything else.  There were no major movies, no midnight sales of the next installment, no themed parties...it was just no big deal.  Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling changed all of that.  And for that, I am thankful.

There are a wealth of articles that suggest Harry Potter changed the face of reading for young people.  But, you know, I think it changed reading for everyone.  These books proved that there could be universal appeal to a tale, that people wanted to follow a character as he grew and changed, and that young adult literature was starving for a resurgence. 

Sometimes I marvel at what these books have done.  In addition to the amazing movie adaptations, there's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Islands of Adventures.  I am lucky enough to have seen this in person.  I've got to tell you, the excitement of it was overwhelming!  You must make it one of your life goals to visit this place if you haven't.  Have a yard sale, sell your plasma...whatever it takes get thee to Orlando!  It was truly amazing.  But, in addition to the grandeur of it all, what amazed me is that people run through the entire park passing everything just to enter this section.  This section that's here because of books!  This happens so much that the folks at Universal give out ticket times for this section of the park just so Hogsmeade can hold all the Potter fans.  Yes, a ticket within a ticket is needed.  How very Dumbeldore!  And, just in case you forgot, books did that. 



(These were taken by yours truly.  Note the feeling of being transported into a magical world you are now experiencing!)

Young adult literature has such power.  It can create lifetime readers; it can offer travel and adventure.  Oh young adult literature, you are so amazing, I think I'll love you all my life!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Body Finder

It's time for a confession.  I regret to inform you that I fancy myself a bit of a sleuth.  I love a good mystery.  I like to think I can deduce any mystery.  I have even been nicknamed Nancy (as in Drew course) because of my love for the sleuthing (and plaid).  Well, I'm here to tell you that my pseudo- sleuthing has nothing on Violet Ambrose from Kimberly Derting's The Body Finder and its sequel, Desires of the Dead. 

Violet Ambrose is "called" to the dead.  Be it an animal or human, the dead reach out to Violet.  Violet senses what she calls an echo from anything that is dead and hasn't been laid to rest properly.  Sometimes this is a smell, others a visual- each living thing is different in death, just like in life.  As a small child, Violet created an animal graveyard in order to put these animals to rest.  As Violet began to become accustom to her unusual gift, she realized that who or whatever was responsible for a death also wore an identical echo linking it to the life that was taken. 

In The Body Finder, a killer is on the lose in Violet's small town.  Violet is unfortunate enough to  stumble  upon one of these bodies, thereby sensing that echo.  This means she would also be able to identify the killer of this young girl.  Violet and her friend, Jay, struggle with her need to find this killer but maintain her safety.  Yikes guys!   Could you imagine just being able to identify a killer by looking at him or her?  I don't even think the great Nancy Drew could make that happen.

The follow up to this exciting read, Desires of the Dead, also tells the story of Violet.  Her small town is surprised and fascinated by a new brother and sister who have moved to town and are attending their small high school.  Mike, the new boy about town, is quite a looker and easily becomes part of the crowd and particularly liked by Violet's now boyfriend, Jay.  But, his sister is another story all together.  In addition, Violet finds herself involved with the FBI in order to work through another crime.  In her involvement with the FBI, she comes in contact with someone she thinks might be able to help her understand her morbid gift.  Exciting?  Well, of course!

According to GoodReads, there will be two more installments in this series, although I don't know when to expect these.  However, Kimberly Derting does have a new book entitled The Pledge which will be released November 15.  It looks to be an thrilling, dystopian tale.  Nice.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wednesday Wars: Toads, Beatles, Bats!

I have one question for you, people.  Could there be a sweeter book?  Quite simply the answer is no.  I realize that I a little late to the party on reading Wednesday Wars, but for that I truly apologize. 

Generally, I am not a proponent of the phrase lol.  Once a colleague of mine imitated a note written by a middle schooler who inserted lol after each sentence.  It went something like this:
Hey, what's up (hahahahaha).  Just sitting here in math (hahahaha).  I like your shoes (hahaahahaha).  Well, I guess I better go (hahahaha). 
If only you could see that grown man standing here giggling like a crazy girl in front of you, then you too would shy away from how the lol truly works.  However, I must admit I was lol-ing all over the place when I read Wednesday Wars.

Wednesday Wars, by Gary Schmidt, is one of those books that everyone should read.  It follows a seventh grade boy named Holling Hoodhood (that is not a typo!) through the whole year with Mrs. Baker.  Now I'll tell you one thing, Mrs. Baker, she's good stuff.  Holling Hoodhood has the misfortune of being the only Presbyterian in Mrs. Baker's class.  This means that on Wednesdays when all the Catholic students go to catechism class and all the Jewish students go to Hebrew school, Holling is left all alone with Mrs. Baker, whom he is convinced hates his guts.

Each Wednesday Holling spends with Mrs. Baker is an adventure.  He begins by being her servant, you know, doing those chores no teacher wants to do.  But, soon she introduces him to the world of Shakespeare which Holling relates to his own life like no one I've ever seen.  During his time in seventh grade, Holling learns that many people are much more than they seem, and that sometimes, people are exactly what they seem.

Wednesday Wars is set in 1968.  So, obviously, Mr. Schmidt took the opportunity to weave world events into his tale.  It was so seamless and so natural that I was able to really identify with how Holling must have felt growing up in that time. 

I love this book!  I was pleased to learn that there is a follow up book that follows Holling's friend Doug as he moves from Long Island to Marysville.  It's called Okay for Now.  Quite honestly, life before this book is like being cursed by Caliban! (hahahahaha)

Matched: Love that Dystopia!

Ever wonder why dystopian books are all the rage with the YA set?  I've taken some time to ponder this, and I've come up with a few theories, which I shall share with you free of charge.
1.  Dystopia can really remind you how sweet your gravy train with biscuit wheel life truly is.
2.  Dystopia can really make you forget how your gravy train with biscuit wheels life derailed.
And there you have it, folks, the scientific method at its finest.  Seriously, though, no matter your take on dystopian literature it has truly collected quite a following.  From Lois Lowery's classic The Giver to Suzanne Collins's wildly successful Hunger Games Series, dystopian literature captures something inside of us and makes us keep those pages turning.

Matched, the first in a trilogy to come by Ally Condie, is a fairly recently published example of dystopian literature with magnetism.  Matched follows Cassia as receives her Match from the Society.  Cassia has always been the perfect daughter, perfect citizen, well, the perfect everything.  When she attends her Match Banquet, she is eager to see the photo of someone she is likely not to know who will become her husband one day.  Most often the Society matches people form different areas so they have not met.  However, Cassia is matched with her best friend, Xander.  This is amazing!  Xander is a dream boat!  He's everything she could have wanted.  But when Cassia views the information about her match there seems to have been a mistake.  Only, the Society doesn't make mistakes.

Cassia begins to question every decision she ever thought she made and wonder how much free will she really has.  She must decide between love, safety, and freedom. 

Book two of the Matched Trilogy is titled Crossed.  It is due to be released in November of 2011.  An interesting fact about Ally Condie is that she attended Brigham Young University.  That's the hallowed institution that schooled Stephenie Meyer.  They must have a heck of a creative writing department there.  Just saying.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beautiful Creatures & Beautiful Darkness

Beautiful CreaturesI must confess to you that I LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird.  I mean true, lasting love.  I can't tell you how many times I've read this book.  I can, however, tell you that I love it so much I made my mom and bff load up last summer to visit Monroe, Alabama for the fiftieth anniversary of the novel so I could stand in Atticus's courtroom and peek through the branches of Boo's tree.  Yes, indeed, I even have the t-shirt.  So, as you might have guessed, I also love anything that can bring the Mockingbird into my mind.  Oh, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, you had me at hello.

To me, Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness are like To Kill a Mockingbird meets National Treasure peppered with just enough not sappy love to grab me and never let go.  Shall I share?  Oh, I think so.

Beautiful Darkness
Both Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness are set in Gatlin, South Carolina, which I imagine as a more modern Macon, Alabama of course.  And, by modern, I mean the streets are paved and the library is pristine.  The narrator, Ethan Wate, finds himself pulled into the mysterious and sometimes dangerous world of The Casters when Lena Duchannes comes to town to live at Ravenwood Manor with her uncle, Macon.  Macon is described as being both the Atticus Finch and Boo Radley of the book, depending on your position in Gatlin.  I, of course, fell promptly in love with him.  I must say I was also surprised and delighted to find a male narrator in this book.

Ethan begins to sense something has changed in himself.  He is drawn to the new and taboo Lena Duchannes.  In this close knit community Lena Duchannes may as well be an alien as a beautiful girl awaiting her sixteenth birthday.  Ethan and Lena discover they have an unexplained connection; they can hear each other's thoughts.  As these two fall in love, Ethan learns that Lena is a Caster.  This means she has powers, either light or dark, that will be revealed to her upon her sixteenth moon.  The problem is that Lena learns that her mother is the most powerful dark Caster, since...forever.  Lena fears that she too will become a dark Caster.

As Ethan and Lena struggle to learn about her fate they learn more about the seemingly sleepy town of Gatlin, Ethan's family, Lena's family, and everyone Ethan thought he understood. 

Just like the names of the books imply, they are beautiful.  The third installment, Beautiful Chaos, is due out October 12, 2011.  I have recently learned (Thanks, Compulsive Reader) that a short story called "Dream Dark" will be released August 2.  Just right around the corner!  This story features Link, Ethan's best friend, as the narrator.  It will give the reader insight into Link's transformation that begins in Beautiful Darkness. I know!  Way to go ladies.  I wish more writers would send out a teaser between the long awaited next installment of a series.  Perhaps others will follow your lead.  A girl can dream, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011


A friend of mine recommended Veronica Roth's Divergent to me.  Well, it was more like a command than a recommendation.  It went something like this: 
Awesome Friend: I am reading Divergent.
Me: Awesome!
Awesome Friend: Of course it is.  Have you ordered it yet?
Me: No, not yet.
Awesome Friend: What is wrong with you?  Get it now!
So of course, what could I do?  I read it straight away....in one day.

Divergent takes readers to a dystopian Chicago of the future.  People have organized themselves into factions according to the virtue they think most important in creating a perfect society: selflessness, bravery, knowledge, honesty, and peace.  Ideally, these factions all contribute to the working of society as a whole.  But, you know, we people got in the way and messed up that plan.  We cannot be trusted!

At sixteen people are tested and then able to choose their faction. The test should reveal their general tendencies toward one faction, but do not have to influence the choice.  After choosing, new "initiates" go with their new faction for training.  Those who transfer to a different faction, should prepare to leave their families behind.

This story follows a girl named Beatrice whose aptitude test yields strange results that begin a dangerous chain of events for her.  Triss, as she becomes known, must learn how to mask who she really is and who she wants to become.  Being classified as Divergent is both dangerous and frightening because it is shrouded in mystery. 

This book emphasized the power of choice.  But, just like with many choices we don't know exactly what is involved with making that choice until we're right in the middle of it.  Since the factions don't communicate much with one another, those who transfer to a new faction are headed for a new world. 

This book is packed with action and is a great one for readers who just couldn't get enough of The Hunger Games.  I know I can't! 

I noticed in the author information on the book jacket that Veronica Roth says she used to write the story that would become Divergent instead of doing her homework.  That makes me giggle!  Well played, Roth, well played.

Hush, Hush & Crescendo

Picture this: a cold, snowy, icy day, a girl and her two dogs snuggled up reading a book.  She reads, reads, and can't seem to stop.  She unfortunately lives in a town with no book store.  She begs her husband to brave the road conditions to take her to the next town in order to buy part two of this story.  He gives in, because really, why wouldn't he.  This is exactly what happened when I read Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush on a snow day this winter.

This book had me at hello.  This is the story of Nora Gray whose father was killed in a mysterious accident previously.  Nora lives in a small town
with her usually absent mother.  Nora seems to be your average girl but meets a new student at her school with whom she has an instant connection and repulsion.  This is none other than the mysterious Patch, who turns out to be a fallen angel.  At this point, I must tell you that in my mind, Patch is the late, great Heath Ledger as he appeared in the movie What I Hate About You.  See I told you.  I mean does that face say fallen angel turned guardian or what?  Exactly. 
The story's basis is that fallen angels interact with us mere humans all the time.  Patch has fallen out of grace with the other angels because he wanted to be human.  As a way of redeeming himself, he is serving as Nora's guardian angel.  Despite her seemingly regular girl facade, she is involved in the world of the supernatural more than she would ever have guessed.  Nora and Patch develop a relationship and battle the forces of evil in a way that leaves the reader wanting more.  Which brings me to the follow up novel, Crescendo. 

As the name promises, Crescendo brings a symphony of action and drama to the story readers came to love in Hush, Hush.  Nora becomes confused as Patch seems to distance himself from her.  She digs deeper into the mystery of her father's death.  She begins to see that her life is inexplicably tied to the Nephilim that she is only beginning to understand.

Becca Fitzpatrick's first novels are certainly in my humble opinion a huge success.  She made me feel as drawn into the story and excited as the first time I read Twilight.  Even the titles of the books in the trilogy are smart.  For those literature geeks like myself, I am sure that you've noticed that the trilogy's titles fit perfectly along the classic plot diagram we all dutifullly learned in middle school.  I mean way to go Becca!  Not only did you write an amazing series, you also laid these titles out so beautifully to indicate what the reader will find in each installment.  You are awesome!

So despite starting my quest for silence on a snowy, icy day, I continue to snuggle those same two dogs and impatiently wait until Silence arrives on October 4.  Good grief.  It's like the story of my life...waiting for slience. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Whilst floating along the lazy river of our semi-local water park, a dear friend of mine shared her love of reading blogs about reading.  And I thought, you know, I too, could blog about reading.  What's more I could even, possibly be good at it, well, maybe.  So, as my summer lies before me as a giant calendar of amazingness waiting to be experienced, I am going to throw my hat into the blogospheric ring.

As you may have learned from my last sentence, I am a teacher.  I teach eighth grade language arts and (most days) love it.  I believe that much of my love for my career comes from my belief that it entitles me to be and fully embrace the book geek that I am and always have been.  I mean, teachers are suppose to be geeks, right?  Clearly, I aim to be a shining beacon of geekiness in a sea of geeks.  As a result, I read constantly, I justify this by claiming it is "research."  We all know what the truth is here, right?

At any rate, the first book I would like to share is Meg Cabot's Abandon.  I must inform you that I am a die hard Meg Cabot fan.  I think that if she knew me, she would choose me to be her BFF.  This book is another great addition to her catalog!  I really love Cabot's sense of humor that always shines through all of her writing; however, this book does not showcase that part of her style as much as others I've read.  This book is set in the Florida Keys (home of Meg herself!) and is a retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth.  I must say, the concept really intrigued me.  Cabot also chose to weave in the recent tragic Gulf Oil Spill into the story.  Even though, this is not a major aspect of the plot, I thought is was a really important choice for her to make.  While I do not think anyone has forgotten it, it was I feel a great way to educate her readers about how this tragedy impacted that area of the United States. 

Pierce, the main character, had a near death experience which leads her to meet John, who is the Hades like character.  Readers must wonder how their tale will unfold.  At first thought, it seems like the classic "I hate you!"  turned "Oh, you're dreamy" story coming on, but no, no such cheese would come from my BFF (in my dreams) Meg.  I must tell you that after reading and reflecting, I am still confused about who John really is.  I've seen on Cabot's blog that John is not meant to be an incarnation of Hades, neither is Pierce an incarnation of Persephone. But, this begs the question who the heck is he? 

I will certainly be waiting with baited breath on the sequel to Abandon.  I truly enjoyed this book, but who wouldn't?

In my next installation, I plan to discuss Becca Fitzpatrick's books Hush, Hush and Crescendo.  Can you say hot angel, page turning fantasticness?  I think you can.