Saturday, June 23, 2012

Take a Bow

Take a Bow (watch an introduction here) is told from the point of view of four students who attend New York's Creative School for the Arts. Carter is a former child star looking to lead a normal life, except that's not easy when you're a household name. Ethan is a musical genius who makes his own luck...mostly bad luck. Sophie is an amazing singer and has an obsession with fame. Emme is the amazing songwriter who has always supplied her best friend Sophie with beautiful songs to sing.

Each of the narrators is struggling to live up to the pressures of the demanding senior year at CSA. For Ethan and Emme this means spending more time with their band and each other. To Carter this means coming to terms with a truth he knows, but knows others don't want to hear. For Sophie this means realizing her foolproof plan to become a star may have hit some speed bumps.
So cute!

I love the way Eulberg tells this story. Each voice is unique and without needing to look at the chapter titles, the reader knows without a doubt who is speaking. I love the details like Carter's parts looking like a script that make each voice even more authentic.

To make things even more fantastic, Eulberg will be one of the authors taking part in YALLFest 2012. I am truly excited to be attending and hope to visit Eulberg. Give this one a try.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Darker Still

I was blown away by Leanna Renee Hieber's Darker Still (click here to watch the trailer).  This book really has it all: suspense, romance, espionage, magic, and history.  Seriously, this book is a can't miss. 

Natalie Stewart is a seventeen year old girl who lives with her father in New York City in 1880.  After her mother's tragic death when Natalie was four years old, Natalie lost the ability to speak.  Luckily, unlike many girls who are considered "unfortunates" , Natalie's father has chosen to keep her with him in mainstream society and educate her.  As a result of Natalie's father's job at the newly opened Metrapolitan Museum of Art, Natalie is not only well versed in the usual academics, but in fine art as well.  Natalie writes notes and uses sign language to communicate.

As the book opens, Natalie's father is attempting to aquire a painting of an exceptionally handsome young gentleman, Johnathon Whitby, Lord Denbury.  Mystery swirls about the painting, as well as the subject.  You see, no one knows exactly what happened to the young gentleman.  Some say suicide, but other theories circulate too.  The painting itself seems so lifelike people swear the eyes follow them.  Also, there is the part about Denbury being amazingly georgous that tends to attract the ladies.  Even though the Met really wants the painting, Mrs. Evelyn Northe wants it more.  And, as Mrs. Northe commands much respect in New York City, Mr. Stewart finds it in the museum's best interest not to go against Northe's dreams of owning the painting.  But, Stewart hopes to arrange an agreement allowing Northe to loan the painting to the Met.  Such a great compromise!

Borrowed from Hieber's site.  This is how she pictures Denbury!

As he works on plans for the painting, Natalie accompanies her father and meets Mrs. Northe and her niece, Maggie.  Mrs. Northe is immediately taken with Natalie, and Natlie too is drawn to the woman who can understand Natalie's use of sign language (Natalie's own father never learned, shame on him!)  There is certainly more to Mrs. Northe than being a wealthy art collector.  She is also a student of mysticism.  Her understanding of the supernatural world draws her to Natalie, even though Natalie has no knowledge of her own connection to the world of magic.

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When Natalie first views the painting of Denbury, she is mesmarized as are others.  However, each time she sees the painitng something seems to have changed.  As Natalie becomes more aquainted with the painting, she begins to learn of her connection to Denbury.  This connection leads her to world of dangerous and murderous mystery that only she can solve.  I know! 

In addition to the amazing story, I also love how many Shakespeare references Hieber included.  There is also the inspiration from Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray...amazing as well.  And, Natalie seems to have such a heart for the less fortunate.  I hope to see her continue to cultivate this as the series continues.  Yes, that's right, I said series.  The next installment, The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart is due out in November of this year.  Put it on your calendar, people!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cleopatra's Moon

Cleopatra's Moon
Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter is a little different than most of the books I read.  I really like historical fiction, but I am usually drawn to books about a time period, not about a specific person.  However, this book is based on the life of Cleopatra Selene, who is the daughter of Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra VII.  This book is absolutely stunning.  It has all the glamour and mystique that draws in the reader, while backing it all up with a truly intriguing historical tale. 

When the books opens, Cleopatra Selene and her brothers Alexandros and "Tolly" living the life in Alexandria.  They live inside the beautiful palace with their adoring parents.  They are surrounded by opulence and love.  However, Octavianus the jealous nephew of Julius Caesar has other ideas.

Eventually, Octavianus takes control of Egypt leading to the demise of Cleopatra Selene's parents and her whole world.  She and her brothers are forced to relocate to Rome and live in the palace of Octavianus- the very man who destroyed their world and their parents.  Can you say uncomfortable?  And, to make matters worse, Octavianus's sister also resides in this palace.  She happens to be the first wife of the children's father.  Marcus left Octavia for Cleopatra.  As you can guess, she's a little bitter.  And, to make matters worse precious little Tolly is a dead ringer for his father.  So, the kids have many strikes against them.

Rome is a dangerous place.  However, Cleopatra Selene is determined not to give up.  Her ultimate goal is to return to Egypt.  Along the way, she meets many people who are committed to helping her.  One is the kind hearted Juba, who was also taken to Rome after the Romans conquered his homeland of Numidia.  The problem is Juba does not seem to have the ability to help Cleopatra Selene return to Egypt.

Cleopatra Selene struggles against her circumstances and her desires to eventually become a true queen.  This book is certainly worth your time.  It tells the story of a neglected historical figure in a beautifully entertaining way.  You can find out more about the life of Cleopatra Selene here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Underworld by Meg Cabot is without a doubt awesome.  Last year when I read Abandon(watch Meg discuss John Hayden here and Pierce Olivera here) I was left with some questions, which, honestly, is something I like from a book.  In Underworld (read Chapters 1 & 2 here), Meg came through and answered those but left me with more.  That Meg, what a genius!

The story in Underworld picks up after the dramatic end of Abandon.  Pierce Oliveria now finds herself in the Realm of the Dead with the irresistible John Hayden.  She is obviously confused by this.  But, as she begins to learn more about John's past, she not only begins to understand him better but her own family as well.  Surprising, right?

Pierce now finds herself dealing with the fact that in order to stay with John, she must commit to staying in the Realm of the Dead.  This isn't easy, but she also knows that she will never be safe outside these confines.  However, she is lured away from this new beautifully dark place in order to save her cousin Alex.

As you might have guessed when Pierce, John, and some of his crew from the Underworld return to save Alex, they encounter many obstacles.  Frightening furies, old books, cemetery sextons, and creepy festivals all stand in their way as they rush to beat the clock. 

I couldn't resist! 
John is much cuter than Hades, though.
Wouldn't he have to be?
I love the story!  I also love how the Persephone and Hades myth is explored by the story line so naturally.  As usual, Meg Cabot has done it again by creating a fantastic tale for us to enjoy.  The third installment of this series, Awaken will be available next year.  I for one can't wait.

If you haven't read any books by Meg Cabot, well, get on it.  I've reviewed several if you'd like help choosing one....or four.  Check them out: Abandon, Avalon High, Jinx, How to Be Popular.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy birthday, little blog

A year ago today, I began writing this blog.  I really didn't know what to expect from it or really much about blogging at all.  But, this has really turned into something I love. 

Writing this blog has pushed me as a reader.  I've set goals for myself as far as how much I will post, which in turn translates into how much I read.  While I've always read a lot, I kind of like the pressure I've put on myself to read more. 

Also, I like feeling that something I do is helpful.  Some teachers I know and some I don't have let me know that my blog has been helpful to them in their classrooms.  That whole summary and critique thing is big, people.  Plus, anything that will get a kid to pick up a book is something I appreciate.

A little recognition for you YA authors
Teaching writing is a big part of what I do.  But, I've never been much of a writer myself.  Now, I have something I work on continuously, just like I expect from my students.  Plus, there is the thrill of having an audience.  I've got to admit checking out my audience map is one of my very favorite things.  I love seeing the different countries highlighted and marveling that my thoughts have traveled so far.

Honoring great young adult books is also important to me.  Authors who dedicate their time and talents to this group of people deserve special recognition in my opinion.  Getting teens to love books is a tall order, yet you manage to do it.  My hat is off to you!

So, as I head into year two I am hoping to do a little more, reach a few more, and help a little more.  Join me.

My next entry will be about Underworld by Meg Cabot.  My very first entry was about Abandon.  I am so excited to start year two with book two from this amazing series.