Monday, April 23, 2012


Awaken CoverToday I was working quietly at my desk while my students were taking their standardized tests, and I began wishing I had my mind reader with me so they could see my thoughts without me having to interrupt them.  Except, there is one problem.  I don't have a mind reader, since, well, they're not real.  (Please understand that doesn't keep me from wanting one.)  Mind readers are just one of the super advanced pieces of technology characters inside Katie Kacvinsky's Awaken.

Awaken tells the story of Maddie, a seventeen year old girl who lives completely plugged in to technology.  Maddie and most young people in 2060 experience nearly everything in their lives through the lens of technology.  This shift began after school violence reached a terrifying level in America.  As a response to this extreme violence, Maddie's father pioneered an alternative called Digital School.  As it grew, Digital School became a requirement rather than an alternative.  Because of Digital School's success students now experience everything from studying for tests to chilling at coffee houses online with no face to face connections...pretty much ever.

Even though this renewed safety eased the minds of many, it began to change the way people lived their lives.  Technology began to take over every aspect of people's lives.  People didn't know how to be "unplugged".  And as you may have guessed it, people began to oppose Digital School and how it changed the lives of everyone.  Enter Justin.

Justin is part of a group trying to change society's dependence on technology.  He's intense; he's focused; he's mysterious.  Of course Maddie begins to fall for him, because really, who wouldn't?  But, there is much more to Justin than a rebellious desire and a cute grin.

I really like this book because it deals with two issues in our society: school violence and technological dependence.  Katie Kacvinsky is a former English teacher, and I can certainly feel her heart for teens and school when I read Awaken.  Thankfully, the follow up to Awaken called Middle Ground is due out the Fall of 2012.  She also has a novel entitled First Comes Love that sounds amazing as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire

Although I've forgotten more of the Greek and Roman mythology than I would like to admit, I never knew any of the Egyptian myths until I read the Kane ChroniclesRick Riordan has found a way to weave myths with the modern to bring the lore to life.  These two volumes which follow the fantastic Percy Jackson and the Olympians series deliver excitement and learning without even trying (my very favorite kind).

At the onset of the Red Pyramid, Carter and Sadie Kane reunite after having lived separately since their mother's death.  Sadie has been with their grandparents in London, while Carter has been traveling the globe studying Egyptology with their father.  This, of course, caused jealously between the two and created a situation when they were practically strangers.  However, there is something they don't know.  Members of their family are members of a secret society called the House of Life, which has existed since the time of the Pharaohs.  Talk about a bombshell.  Then to beat it all, their father inadvertently sets the most evil of all the Egyptian gods, Set loose on the world.  This leaves Carter and Sadie with no choice but to attempt to defeat him.  Along the way, they are met with lots of characters from Egyptian mythology, obstacles, and unexpected friendships.  Fortunately, they are able to send Set back to his place.

Oh, Ra
Then, the next installment, The Throne of Fire picks up as Carter and Sadie have hit their stride training others within the families connected with the House of Life.  They've met lots of helpful allies like Jaz and Walt who are quite important to defeating the evil gods out to destroy the House of Life.  Now in order to keep the powers of Chaos from taking over the world, Carter and Sadie must restore the sun god, Ra to his throne.  The problem is that Ra is not what he used to be.  He's...well, he's a bit senile.  This doesn't exactly help with the plan.  Carter and Sadie proceed on the perilous journey to find Ra but are left with many questions. 

Luckily, the third book in the series, The Serpent's Shadow (read chapter one here) is due out May 1.  I am hopeful that more of my favorite character, Bast will be included. Also, I am optimistic that Sadie will be able to find a cure for Walt.  So much to consider!  This is a great series.  If you haven't already, check it out. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

I usually write about newer books.   Reading what's hot at the moment is a great way to keep my finger on the pulse of what I could be bringing to those near and dear to me.  But, there are those books that have stood the test of time, even with the YA set.  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is, in my opinion, one of those staples in the young adult literature world.  I know, this book is older than I am, but it has the power to reach across the years and get under the skin of today's kids just as it did the day it was published.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry tells the powerful story of the Logan family.  This proud, farming family is struggling to hold on to their family farm in rural Mississippi during the early 1930's.  Being one of the only African-American families to own land in this extremely racist community is both a blessing and a curse.  However, holding on to this land and their dignity is the number one priority in the Logan home.

The story is told by nine year old Cassie Logan.  I've read this book more times than I can count, and I always have to remind myself that the narrator is nine.  She brings such a mature take on the events, sometimes I just can't believe her age.  Plus, I love her.  She is spunky, smart, and sleuthy.  What's not to love?

Mildred D. Taylor began her story in this book.  But, she chose to develop the Logan series in both directions on the time line.  Readers can go back in time in The Land to learn about how Cassie's grandfather came to own the farm as well as forward to learn about the fate of Stacey's friend T.J.

There will always be books that come in and out of fashion, but in my mind, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry will should maintain a place on everyone's shelf.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hana- a Delirium story

Warning: Delirium spoilers.  If that's a problem, ask yourself why in the world you haven't read Delirium!  There is no acceptable response.

I love Delirium (check out my review).  I love Pandemonium (check out my review).  Seriously.  Sometimes, when my thoughts are wandering right before bed, I find myself thinking about these books.  I may have a bit of a problem.  I think I may have a case of the delirium!  So, obviously I also love the short story told from Hana's point of view.

"Hana" is an exciting short story telling another perspective of that exhilarating summer before Lena and Hana are to receive the cure.  Hana and Lena have been the best of friends for years even though their lives are very different.  Hana's family is wealthy;  Lena lives with her middle-class aunt and uncle while rumors surround her mother's mysterious death and reaction to the cure.

Hana seeks an exciting life filled with boys and parties during their last summer.  She yearns to know what love would feel like and feel the thrill of the forbidden.  Hana wanted to share this with Lena, but Lena shied away from this and remained reserved (or so she seemed). 

But, as time wore on Lena and Hana began to grow apart.  Hana believed it was Lena's way of the cutting their ties before the cure changed them into people with nothing in common; she was afraid her wild nature had finally pushed Lena away.  But, as Hana continued her party path, became acquainted with her match, and experienced a taste of heartbreak she found herself needing Lena's friendship even more.  As a result, Hana learns that Lena's distance was because of her relationship with Alex.  Talk about a shocker.

I confess that Hana looks the same as Hannah
from Pretty Little Liars in my mind.  My
imagination is a cheater.
I absolutely adore this short story for a few different reasons.  Clearly, I love it because it gave me another bit of the Delirium story to absorb while I wait for the third book, Requiem.  But, I also love it because it let me know Hana.  I didn't really care for her character in Delirium, but I came to cherish her during "Hana".  She seemed so free yet trapped when I knew her thoughts. Another awesome part is that the story is available in ebook format for the mere price of $2.99.  How great is that?  Once again, well played Ms. Oliver.  Well played.