Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review: As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender

      Title: As Dead As It Gets
Author: Katie Alender
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: May 15, 2012
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
So much cover love.  Even before reading the book I was a big fan of the creep factor behind each of the Bad Girls Don't Die covers.  After reading, I am happy to note that every detail included in this cover, from the dress to the flowers, is reflective of the story.  The color scheme features the prettiest lavender and makes me want to blow it up and frame it.

The Gist:
Alexis and ghosts go way back.  She has successfully thwarted both a possessed doll and a demon seeking poise, perfection and death.  These encounters have left her with the ability to see ghosts through the lens of a camera and stripped her of her best friend, her boyfriend and now the one thing that was keeping her sane; her photography.

I have been waiting for this finale for a very long time.  I had high hopes of growth for Alexis and some truly scary moments for myself. I was not disappointed on either point.

The fact that Alexis only sees ghosts (other than Lydia) in pictures and on film is a really neat twist. Especially being faced with them in magazines and textbooks. It makes me think about how often we look at photographs and video in our everyday lives. For Alexis, this twist seems to take away the one constant in her life – her photography. At this point, she has lost Megan, Carter and now her one refuge. It makes for a bleak start to the novel but I think Alexis needed to be broken down and stripped of her safety blankets so that she could grow into a better person.  

This plot twist also creates some truly terrifying moments.  Imagine shooting pictures in the dark that show a gruesome specter standing right in front of you, but not being able to actually see the creature with your own eyes.  It adds an extra element of terror to the novel's ghostly encounters.  This time around, the ghosts are incredibly intense and terrifically terrifying.  This is not one to read while home alone.  Or perhaps it is the perfect book for that.

Alexis continues to struggle with her character flaws but growth is on the horizon, I promise!  I know some readers are annoyed by characters who take too long to start behaving in a manner that we see fitting, but I believe Alender has portrayed an accurate representation of the effort and emotion that goes into seeing one's flaws and attempting to fix them.  That said, I was very happy when Alexis finally begins to trust other people and, eventually, herself.  And then there is Lydia.  Despite her trying to kill all the member of the Sunshine club in From Bad to Cursed, I always liked Lydia.  I was very happy to see her return and even more happy to see her role advance from background lurker to strong supporting character.  Lydia has a way with snarky remarks and reminds me that even the prickliest of teenagers can be hiding a real strength of character beneath.

Katie Alender manages to create a plot with an exciting blend of low build and high action.  Chilling moments are interspersed with emotional breakdowns and relationship building.  The intricacies of the story are slowly revealed and begin to knit together to create an ending that incredibly satisfying for those of us who have read and loved this series and these characters (even Alexis).  I am sad to see it end, but happy that it did so on a high note.  I cannot wait to see will flow from Mrs. Alender's pen next. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female, though not strictly.
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Death by falling, Attempted murder/suicide
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: Some underage drinking

Notable Quotables: 

A cute accountant, piped up the voice in the back of my head.  Shut up, voice.

“After school one Monday, I decided I deserved a break.  A little fun in my life, for once.  So I set aside the whole afternoon to organize the kitchen junk drawer.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Review: From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender

Title: From Bad to Cursed
Author: Katie Alender
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: June 14, 2011
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
This cover fits really well with the first in the series.  The girl has a seriously intense and chilling stare and begs the reader to ask whether she is emerging from the door or protecting what is within.  While her expression is dark and menacing, her outfit is sweet and child-like, presenting a wonderful contrast.  The scroll work on these covers always adds a delicate detail that adds interest. 

The Gist:
Alexis has spent the last few months in blissful normality.  That is, until her sister Kasey is released from the mental hospital and promptly finds a group of friends who are a little too perfect.  Worried that Kasey may be in over her head again, Alexis and her friend, Megan, join the Sunshine Club in order to protect her.  The girls quickly learn that you never get beauty, poise and a launch up the social ladder without sacrifice.

Alender really knows how to write her ghosts.  First the evil doll-obsessed little girl and now a spirit that feeds on the teenage obsession to be pretty and popular.  The novel starts off slowly, as each girl takes small steps towards "self-improvement" but features some truly chilling moments once the girls begin to depend on supernatural influences and to forget how they survived without them (the scene with Emily in the bathroom - HOOO BOY, that freaked me out a little).

Alexis is still a fairly unlikeable character.  She mistrusts her friends and is reluctant to make any gestures of compassion and friendship towards her sister (she just got out of a mental hospital - invite her to some parties and don't make her eat lunch by herself - it is not that hard!).  At one point she even asks herself when she turned into "The kind of person I claimed to hate" but doesn't appear to change her behavior.  This gets worse as she begins to think and act like a teenage Stepford wife.  Alexis' continued flaws did, however, allow me to see things from Lydia's point of view which may or may not play out in her favor in the final book.

 Though this novel is the middle book in a series, I believe it could stand fairly well on its own.  It does not suffer the same flaws as many middle books - where big secrets are rarely revealed and the plot only serves to prepare for the last novel.  Here we have a real clear ending to one story, and the hint of the beginning of the next which made me want to jump right into As Dead As It Gets.  Which is exactly what I am going to do as soon as the sun goes down!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Self harm with curling iron, hand to hand fighting, knifeplay
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse:  None

Notable Quotables:

“Rule one: Don’t be friends with ghosts.” 

“I felt the oddest combination of emotions – happiness and apprehension at the same time.  Like my heart inflated and then ran away and hid under the bed.”

“Look on the bright side, I told myself.  It might not be ghosts.  Maybe it was just drugs.  Or blackmail.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sound Off Sunday (3)


Sound Off Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Reading Between Classes.  This is your chance to speak your mind.  Each week will feature a new question or topic on which you can share your thoughts.

This week's Sound Off topic is: Classics

I, Zabet Reading, am a resolution breaker.  The one and only resolution that I made this year was to read one classic novel a month.  "I am an English Teacher" I told myself.  "It is shameful that there are so many classics I haven't read."  I thought "Hey, one a month is nothing, you read tons of books in a month".  I made it through three.  Pride & Prejudice, The House of Seven Gables and Frankenstein.  Not only did I find each book painfully boring, but they also began to turn me from reading in general.  I am a one book at a time kinda girl but instead of reading, I was doing ANYTHING else.  It was taking me over a week to finish each book and, during that time, I wanted to claw my eyes out in frustration.  

Perhaps I am simply not patient enough for classic novels.  I can appreciate a well written turn of phrase, but I require that it be backed up with a story line that holds my interest.  It seems like each time I pick up a classic novel I end up question WHO exactly, decided to make these novels classics.  And, how many poor teenagers out there are claiming themselves to be non-readers because the required reading for their classes is painfully dull and difficult.  

While I am talking about Classics I can't help but talk about a disturbing (and irritating) trend in YA.  That is, the precocious main character who adores classic novels and spouts Shakespeare like a Lit Major.  COME ON! I was a voracious reader as a teen, I grew up to be a Lit major and an English Teacher but even I didn't read and re-read Jane Austen and dream of a handsome, wealthy but stand-offish young man who would learn to love me in spite of my myriad of unforgivable faults.

I will probably still force myself to read a classic once in a while, at the very least so I can seem intellectual and snobbish when the topic arises.  But, I probably won't enjoy them and I am fairly certain that I will not believe it when someone else tells me that they do.  

Next week's Sound Off Sunday topic will be:  Do Not Read Shelves (on Goodreads, LibraryThing etc)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stacking The Shelves (3)

Stacking The Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

 For me (bought with Mr.Visa):

Stacking Shelves May 26 (1)

I actually read Legend shortly after it came out in ebook format.  But, I am trying to build up my classroom library and thought I would pick this up before it was unavailable in hardcover.  I hate mismatched covers or formats and with the amazing cover for Prodigy, I had to make sure I was able to have a matching set.

I also picked up an ebook copy of:

If you haven't already, check out my dream casting for this book.

For the Munchkin:

Stacking Shelves May 26 (2)

I love the Amazing Baby board books.  Munchkin received one of them (Baby Boo) in his newborn reading package and I haven't been able to find a single one in any of the bookstores in the city and have resorted to buying online (though I would prefer to actually LOOK at them prior to buying).  He really like the baby faces in Baby Boo and the bright colors in this one, AND he has learned how to turn the pages!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (5)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question activity is

Dream Cast Your Current Read

Well Peeps, this should be interesting.  My current read is Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson.

Now for casting:


Toni Collette
Toni pulls off all kinds of lunacy on United States of Tara.  If she can handle a redneck, slut and Martha Stewart wannabe - all in one show, then she MIGHT be able to embody Jenny's personal brand of bat shit crazy.


Jake Gyllenhaal
I have no reasoning here..... I just really like looking at him.... I mean, come on.  LOOK AT HIM!


Dakota Fanning
Remember THIS Dakota Fanning, when she was all big smiles, baby teeth and (thank god!) no makeup?  That's the Dakota Fanning I want.  Now that she is all grown up she scares me a little.  I mean, I was just as awkward when I was a kid and *I* didn't grow up all Hottastic.  Which devil did she make a deal with that I missed out on?

Jenny's Dad:  

Jack Nicolson
Who wouldn't pay real movie theater money (and not wait for Netflix or *GASP* download illegally) to see Jack's hand up the ass of a recently deceased squirrel as he gleefully embodies the creepiest puppeteer since the dude behind Saw - IN 3D!

Barnaby Jones: 

Frank from Men In Black
 What is better than a dog that stabs you with a chicken, trips you and then acts like he was just innocently being a dog and he has no idea why you are on the ground and bleeding?  One that yells "Die Motherfucker" when he does it, then goes strangely silent and dog-like when your husband walks in prompting you to question your own sanity in thinking that the dog could talk, until he whispers "Next time make it steak or you might find yourself getting a little too friendly with the stairs" when you Husband isn't paying attention. 

That's all from me, I hope you like my casting.  Maybe, if I ask my cats to wish me luck and start calling the number before 14 - 12B MAYBE Jenny herself will come and check it out.  And maybe laugh - I hope *gulp*.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Book Review: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

Title: Bad Girl's Don't Die
Author: Katie Alender
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: April 21, 2009
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
The colors here are beautifully muted and soft.  The scrollwork adds a delicate detail and reflects the lace curtain.  The image of the little girl hiding in lace is just creepy enough to set the tone, without over-doing the "freak out" factor. 

The Gist:
Alexis lives in the quintessential Halloween Haunted House.  She has always liked it, until her sister starts acting strangely.  Suddenly the house appears much more sinister and Alexis must enlist the help of those she least expected in order to save her sister and banish the evil that surrounds her.

This is my second time reading Bad Girls Don't Die.  Even so, I could only read it in bed if my husband was there.  Katie Alender does an excellent job of creating that delicious sense of suspense that only truly great scary stories can achieve.  She is also incredibly skilled at writing scenes that begin with the easily explained and end with the truly terrifying.

The story falls on the shoulders of Alexis who is, at best, a deeply flawed character.  She is usually callous and sometimes mean.  She often goes out of her way to spread rumors about those who have hurt her in the past.  This is not the character you root for from the beginning.  This is the character that you realize has a lot of growing up to do and hope that she does.  I have encountered these types of character before, but I am very pleased that in Alexis' case, all of her growing up does not occur within the first book.  She continues this development and I hope by the third book in the series will have become a character I can be proud of.

Alender also does quite a good job of painting realistic relationships, between Alexis and her "arch enemy", her crush and her sister.  The cheerleader is not all villain, there is no insta-love and the sisters do not bond over boys and shopping.  Instead, we see these relationships grow and develop (albeit under extreme circumstances) and Alexis begins to see the value in each, especially the love for her family.

There are far too few truly creepy YA books out there.  We tend to gorge ourselves on this genre in younger years, with Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark, but we seem to lose it as we get older.  Thank you Katie Alender for bringing me back to those childhood moments of sneaking a flashlight into my room and reading beneath the covers. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both, though leaning a little more toward the females
Sex: A kiss
Violence: Attempted poisoning, death by gas, fire
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: None

Noteable Quotables:

"Preps are like cheerleaders, only with less jumping"

"A Kasey-size shadow as way back in the darkest corner of the room, near the long-abandoned tool bench, making clanking noises as it dug through piles of discarded junk.  Werewolf, my brain said.  Zombie!"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Adorkable by Sarra Manning which is due to be released on May 24th.

 Jeane Smith is seventeen and has turned her self-styled dorkiness into an art form, a lifestyle choice and a profitable website and consultancy business. She writes a style column for a Japanese teen magazine and came number seven in The Guardian's 30 People Under 30 Who Are Changing The World. And yet, in spite of the accolades, hundreds of Internet friendships and a cool boyfriend, she feels inexplicably lonely, a situation made infinitely worse when Michael Lee, the most mass-market, popular and predictably all-rounded boy at school tells Jeane of his suspicion that Jeane's boyfriend is secretly seeing his girlfriend. Michael and Jeane have NOTHING in common - she is cool and individual; he is the golden boy in an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. So why can't she stop talking to him?

This book sounds (wait for it) adorable.  I don't normally go for contemporary fiction and I definitely don't go for books where you know the "oh so different" characters are going to end up together.  But Jeane sounds like a really fun character and I love it when teens not only own their nerd/geek/dork - iness, but they make it work for them.  I am hoping for fun and frivolity with a minimum of teen angst.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (8)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week will feature a new Top Ten list . Everyone is welcome to join. 

This week's topic is the Top Ten Blogs/Sites you read that aren't about books.  

1.  Books of Adam:  Adam is a pretty strange guy.  His social commentary (accompanied by cartoons) serve as a great pick me up.  Sometimes I am right there with him, and others I think he is on glue.  Also, since he added a very handsome picture to the sidebar, I find him a lot more intimidating than when I thought he was some average looking dude sitting around his parent's basement.
The Featured Creature

2. The Featured Creature: This blog displays pictures and commentary on the strangest creatures.  I love finding wacky and wonderful new animals that I never knew existed and I especially love showing them to my students!  

3. The Bloggess:  I am going to assume that by now you have all heard of the lady with a penchant for ethically taxidermied animals and hiding in bathrooms during social events with a grab bag of drugs.  Also, she clearly has the most amazing and patient husband in the world, or the craziest - one of those. 

4. Good E Reader: I like electronics and I love ereaders.  I am the go to chick when a friend or colleague is thinking about buying one so, of course, I need to keep up on the latest on all my favorite devices.   

5. The Ebook Reader:  Ditto #4 PLUS this one regularly lists coupon codes for lots of ebook buying sites.  

6. BabyCenter: When I became a mom, I had A LOT of questions.  On Babycenter, I was able to join a group for women who gave birth in the same month as me and chat with them about common issues and how to solve them.  I swear, the first few months after the Munchkin was born, I was on this site at least 20 times a day.  

7. MODG Blog: When I became a mom I also needed some humor in my life.  On this blog I can read about hippie baby toys, hemorrhoids and the joys of breastfeeding and teeth - All in one place!  These posts are usually accompanied by drawings that could only have been created by a monkey missing all but two fingers - or a mom with access to MS Paint and no recognizable artistic skill 

8. Squawkfox: Living is expensive.  Gas is going up, groceries are going up, teachers are losing their jobs left and right (and I decided to have a kid - what the frick was I thinking?).  Squawkfox features some money saving tips and techniques that can help me keep a little more cash in my pocket. 

Can You Stay For Dinner?
9. Can You Stay For Dinner: I love to eat, so I learned to love to cook.  CYSFD is one of my favorite sites for new recipes.  Andie's pictures will have your mouth watering and her instructions are super easy to follow.  Thanks to her, I no longer spend big bucks on pasta sauce at the grocery store and instead stock up on crushed tomatoes when they go on sale and make my own homemade marinara! 

10.  Green Lite Bites: Also on the foodie front is a site that is pretty new to me.  Roni has some great recipes and I especially love her posts on School Lunches and Baby Food Adventures.  I am already dreading having to pack school lunches for the Munchkin in a few years but I am sure Roni will be a huge help!

There you go folks!  Can't wait to see everyone's posts and maybe pick up a few new blogs for my bookmark folder!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: Revived by Cat Patrick

Title: Revived
Author: Cat Patrick
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Rating: 3.5/5

Cover Impressions:
Wow, wow, wow.  This cover is gorgeous.  In fact, the reason I was excited about this book in the first place had a lot more to do with the cover than the synopsis.  The colors are striking and the image of the eye in the middle of the tear is stunning.  The font is reminiscent of Science Fiction and alludes to the medical nature of Revive.  I almost wish this was a series so that I could see more of this artwork!

The Gist:
Daisy has died 5 times.  She is part of an experimental trial for the drug Revive, which brings her, and others like her, back from the dead.  Each death means a new city, a new name and the chance to re-invent herself.  When Daisy finds friendship and a new love interest, she discovers that she doesn't want to lose this life and begins to unearth the deep, dark secrets of the Revive program.

The premise of this novel is really interesting.  It begs the reader to questions whether or not our own government might be conducting super secret experiments with drugs that might one day change our entire world.  And, of course, whether or not we trust our government to use this knowledge in our best interest.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that this did not go the way of a typical zombie novel though there were moments where I thought it was heading down that path.  The plot moves smoothly and has enough intrigue and action to keep me interested. 

Daisy is an interesting character.  She has little to no apprehension about death, except the unpleasantness of, you know, dying.  I loved her obsession with decorating her room and keeping up with her blog.  She feels like a typical teen.  Even her love interest seems like a genuine school-girl crush complete with flirty glances, butterfly inducing phone calls and sweet, endearing moments.  Daisy's friends Audrey and Megan seem fun, but could have been given a little more personality (I spent half of the novel waiting to meet this wonderful, trans-gendered character and then get a couple pages of typical teenage chatter instead of the wit and sarcasm I was hoping for).


Honestly, this book had be right up until the beginning of the end.  I dealt with the teenage drama and accepted the touch of teen angsty romance but there were a few things that bothered me.

1. Why have Daisy steal the revive for Audrey if it wasn't going to do anything?  This felt like filler to me.  I kept waiting for her to pop up out of the casket zombie-style and go searching for Jake Gyllenhaal's brains.
2. More Megan.  Why include a trans gendered character if you aren't going to let her shine?
3. I hate, hate, HATE when the (usually) heroine gets caught up in a dangerous situation, blacks out and then awakens to (usually) a man telling her how she was rescued and all her problems were solved while she was dead/unconscious/incapacitated.  Why couldn't Daisy have figured out God was in town and that Cassie was evil and kicked some super villain ass?

It really felt like this story could have been better presented as a series, perhaps with each book featuring a different kid from the bus crash.  It was a fun read but, in the end, there were too many unanswered questions for my liking. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Death by bee stings, gunplay
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: Underage Drinking

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sound Off Sunday (2)


Sound Off Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Reading Between Classes.  This is your chance to speak your mind.  Each week will feature a new question or topic on which you can share your thoughts.

This week's Sound Off topic is: Sex in YA

YA is not just for kids anymore.  A growing number of adults are reading the genre (or at least have started to admit that they read it) and, perhaps as a result, some authors are making things a little more racy.  I constantly find myself conflicted on this issue.

On one hand, as a kid I read a lot of YA and a lot of adult novels.  I read about murders, possession, child abuse, creepy ass cyborgs (that one still haunts me) and yes, even sex.  I did not turn into a murderer, I did not play around with ouiji boards, seek out sex offenders or scrutinize every person in my life to see whether or not they were actually breathing (well ok, yes I did, but only for a month or two).  And I did NOT have sex.  I was an adult in college before I took that plunge.  Mostly, because I was raised to believe that a) sex was special and should be shared with someone that you love and b) my mother would kill me if she found out while my father took out the young man with one of his shotguns (take note that it was ONE of the shotguns - there were a lot in my house). 

I don't think reading about teenagers having sex would ever have made me want to do it, but I also don't like how many forms of media mistakenly make real teenagers think that EVERYONE is doing it.  The same goes for drinking and drugs.  Lots of kids don't partake, but if one were to believe many books, tv shows and movies, every teenager on earth has a secret stash full of drugs their parents have never even heard of! I do believe that such saturation will make teenagers think of these activities as more commonplace and therefore, less of a big deal.  I only hope that they are able to discuss the things that they read or view with an adult who will allow for an honest and frank dialogue.

Now comes the other side of the coin.  Ultimately, when I read about sex in YA (especially in a book I was really enjoying) I tend to get disappointed.  Because this means that I cannot put it in my classroom.  Since I teach junior high (ages 12-16), my classroom books are held to a higher standard.  I have to scrutinize them for swear words, illegal activity and sex because you never know what is going to offend a parent.  It makes my job that much more difficult because there are wonderful books that I could recommend, but due to the content, I fear for my job.  This becomes particularly frustrating when the complaining parent does not want their child READING about sex, but allows them to watch shows like Gossip Girl or play violent games like Call of Duty.  I can only assume that the parent in question has never actually viewed these things. 

Ultimately, sex in YA makes my life more difficult.  I might enjoy the book myself and completely understand why the author chose to include the scene.  But, I know that I will then lose out on an opportunity to recommend a great book to my students. 

Can't wait to hear what everyone else thinks on this topic!
Next week's topic will be: Classic Novels.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (2)

Stacking The Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Here are my books this week, all bought by me and my poor credit card:

For Me:

Stacking Shelves May 19 (1)

I have been SO excited for this book.  I just finished my re-read of From Bad to Cursed and the Husband has gone out for boys night.  As soon as the baby goes to bed I am settling down with a snack and this book.  I have a feeling this is going to make me want to stay up all night to finish!

For the Munchkin;

Stacking Shelves May 19 (2)

As soon as I saw this book online I knew that I had to have it.  It features recipes that all have one ingredient in common - CHILDREN!  The illustrations are so gorgeous and detailed that I could stare at this book all day:

Stacking Shelves May 19 (3)

I can't wait till the Munchkin is old enough so that we can enjoy this book together (without him trying to eat the pages...)

That's all from me this week.  Can't wait to see what all you guys got!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (4)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question is

Q: Summer Break is upon us.  What would be the perfect vacation spot for you to catch up on your reading and relax.

I am actually planning a trip to my perfect vacation spot.  I will be spending a few weeks in my hometown.

My parents will help with taking care of the little one and I can relax.  There is a beautiful (and usually deserted) beach, a gorgeous harbour and quite a few swimming holes like this one:

I have a ton of family there and I can't wait for my son to get a chance to spend some more time with them, while I take advantage of all the extra hands!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
I am a big fan of the covers for this series.  The first featured the Dauntless flames and this one shows the tree of Amity.  The colors are muted but effective and the misty city (with train this time!) adds to the mysterious tone.  The raised letters adds texture to the hardcover copies and makes it feel that much more luxurious.   

The Gist:
Insurgent picks up exactly where Divergent left off, with the train ride away from the Dauntless compound after Tris and Tobias destroyed the simulation.  The factions are on the brink of war and Tris must decide where her allegiances lie, in defeating Erudite and punishing them for their discretions or in searching for the truth at all costs.

Insurgent is considerably slower than it's predecessor.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed getting a look at how the other factions lived and learning that, despite appearances, they all have some deep dark secrets.  In this book, the characters begin to reveal how their faction upbringing continues to influence their actions (though even they will not admit it) and how each person can be seen as a little bit divergent.  We also have to deal with some personal issues and emotional setbacks as Tris deals with the guilt of killing one of her friends and Tobias struggles to trust Tris' instincts. 

Urgh - this is starting to sound like a plot summery.  Ok, reboot.  This book is good.  Very good.  It concentrates more on character development than action.  There is still plenty of fighting and lots of secrets.  As with Divergent, Roth writes good action sequences; snappy and exciting without the "he hit me, then I hit him, then he hit me again" drain that makes me steer away from many adult fantasy novels.

At about the halfway point, I found myself lying awake at night wondering if my predictions for "The Big Reveal" would be correct.  In the end, it was well done and left us in great suspense for the next novel (though I am not quite sure why Marcus felt he couldn't explain this without showing them the information itself).  I did find the ending a little unsatisfying, but that is pretty typical when I read the middle novel in a trilogy, so I forgive it.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Hand to Hand combat, Execution-Style Murder
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse:  None

Closing Thoughts: I am not quite happy with the way this review turned out but that is due to my own writing failure rather than the books.  Basically it boils down to this: If you like Divergent, Insurgent makes a solid addition to the series.  If you didn't like Divergent, Insurgent is probably not going to change your mind and you might want to consider moving on to something else.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (8)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Changeling by Philippa Gregory which is due to be released on May 29th.

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.   

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.    

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.     

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

I have read and enjoyed Philippa Gregory's adult novels, especially The Other Boelyn Girl.  I am really excited to see how her first foray into YA compares.  The cover looks really beautiful (thank you for the absence of heaving bosom) and I am hoping that this will be a really great addition to my classroom library for those lovers of historical fiction.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Go Out And Get It - As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender

It's here ladies and gentlemen!  The release date for the third (and final?) installment in the Bad Girls Don't Die series. 

It's been three months since Alexis helplessly witnessed Lydia Small's violent death, and all she wants is for her life to return to normal.
But normal people don’t see decaying bodies haunting photographs. Normal people don’t have to deal with regular intrusions from Lydia’s angry ghost, sometimes escalating to terrifying attacks.
At first, it seems that Lydia wants revenge on Alexis alone. But a girl from school disappears one night, and Alexis spots one of Lydia’s signature yellow roses lying on the girl’s dresser the next day. Soon, it becomes clear that several of Alexis’s friends are in danger, and that she's the only person who can save them. But as she tries to intervene, Alexis realizes that her enemy is a much more powerful ghost than she's ever faced before... and that its fate is tied to hers in ways she couldn't possibly imagine.
Not even in her worst nightmares.

If you are a regular follower, you know that I have talked up this series to no end.  If you haven't broken down and bought it yet - go now!  I am so excited to for this release (Canada post SAYS my copy is on its way...) that I am doing a re-read and review of the first two.  They are perfectly creepy and perfectly fun - just don't read after dark, while alone, on a stormy night.  On second thought, do, but be sure to sleep with the lights on!

Top Ten Tuesday (7)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week will feature a new Top Ten list . Everyone is welcome to join. 

This week's topic is Top Ten Authors I'd Like To See On A Reality Show.

Hmm.. This one is kind of a tough topic.  What do we really know about our authors other than what their books tell us?  Can we gleam who would be the fan favorite?  Who would be the villain?  And in the interest of finishing this post in time to watch Game of Thrones with the Husband, I am changing my topic.  So here is the list of:

Top 10 CHARACTERS I Would Like To See In A Reality Show:

I am choosing Big Brother, because it is my favorite reality show (probably due to the fact that it airs in the summer when there is NOTHING else on).

1.  Katniss from The Hunger Games - Yes, Katniss is the queen of reality tv, but the games were the complete opposite of Big Brother.  Put Katniss in a house with 9 other houseguests and I am betting she develops a severe case of cabin fever and goes on a murderous rampage.

2. Anna from Anna Dressed in Blood - I love Anna.  I just want to see more of her.  Plus, she can help with Katniss' rampage.

3. Four from Insurgent - The house needs some male blood and Four would use his cool and calm facade to fool the other houseguests while he secretly tried to dismantle Big Brother from the inside out.

4.  Daisy from Revived - She dies, she comes back from the dead.  It is the ultimate Surprise Return Of A Former Houseguest.  Nuf Said!

5 and 6.  Aura and Zach from Shade - Every Big Brother House needs a power couple and they are my pick.  Just cutesy enough to make me want to barf into my "just as bad for me as the tv show" snack food but not so cutesy that I lose my voice screaming at the tv to film somebody else.  PLUS, while Aura can't actually talk to ghosts in the house (unless there was a mysterious death while constructing it) the other players don't know that and she can totally pretend to know what they are all talking about behind her back.

7. Todd from The Knife of Never Letting Go - because he annoys me and I need someone I dislike to be the first person voted out of the house.

8. Sybella from Grave Mercy - Katniss needs a mortal enemy and the handmaiden of death/ assassin nun is the only character I can think of who could be just as bad ass.

9. Angel from My Life As A White Trash Zombie - what could possibly make this season of BB any more awesome?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  Let's say hello to our resident Zombie who is trying to keep her brain cravings a secret.  A week on slop?  No problem, she'll just munch away on Todd's brains - that should keep her in tip-top shape for the next POV competition.

10.  Galinda from Wicked - because every season needs one chick who isn't interested in the game but wants to get far enough to cement a career in show-business in the real world. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Early Review: Timepiece by Myra McEntire

Title: Timepiece
Author: Myra McEntire
Publisher: Egmont
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
I really do like this cover.  It is simple, clean and effective.

The Gist:
In this sequel to Hourglass we switch to Kaleb's point of view and learn more about his emphatic powers.  Jack Landers is still on the lose and time rips are becoming more frequent, and real, than ever.  Against this backdrop, The Hourglass is issued an ultimatum, find and deliver Jack, or face an alternate timeline that could destroy its members.

This book was not easy to get into.  I read Hourglass quite a long time ago and, despite re-reading my review and checking this site  I still found it very difficult to remember exactly what had happened and what we had previously learned about Rips and Time Traveling.  I was pretty confused for at least the first 50 pages or so.

I was also unimpressed with the we-hate-each-other-so-much-you-just-know-we-are-going-to-end-up-together romance that I have seen over and over again.  And, of course, Kaleb becomes a one woman gal practically over night.  Because, as we all know, bad boys are only bad boys until the right girl comes along!

I did eventually come to like Kaleb and I got sucked into the story once it got going.  The ending was a little unsatisfying but, that is par for the course for middle book in a trilogy (this is a trilogy right?  Someone correct me if I am wrong).  I do feel kinda like. in the end, nothing was accomplished in this book that couldn't have been achieved in a short story or novella.   

I am beginning to think that time travel books are just not for me.  It seems like cheating to be able to benefit from the shock value of killing off characters only to cheapen it by changing time/bringing them back to life.  There also tend to be long-winded explanations of how time travel works and complicated materials and/or circumstances required.  Timpiece had both of these.

Overall, I was underwhelmed by Timepiece.  There wasn't really anything wrong with the writing.  The characters were enjoyable enough.  The plot moved at a decent pace.  I guess there just wasn't anything that stood out as GREAT and this (coupled with my Time Traveling issues) left me lukewarm at best

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Mentioned but not described
Violence: knifeplay, gunplay
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse:  Underage drinking

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sound Off Sunday (1)


Sound Off Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Reading Between Classes.  This is your chance to speak your mind.  Each week will feature a new question or topic on which you can share your thoughts.  This is meant as a jumping off point that you can take in your own direction.  I am going to warn you, these may get ranty and they may get rambly but I kinda started this so I would have a place to do just that.  Feel free to join me by linking below.  This may end up being the blogging equivalent of being last chosen in gym class or eating alone in the cafeteria but *deep breath* here goes nothing:

This week's topic is: Love Triangles

I am so beyond done with love triangles.  They are starting to all feel Twilight-esque to me.  And yes, I know, there were love triangles before Twilight, there will be love triangles well beyond Twilight, but I think the Edward vs Jacob debate rocketed Love Triangles to a whole new level.  People sported Team Edward or Team Jacob t-shirts FFS and what is more surprising than that is that EVERYONE KNEW WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT!  Whether you read the book or not, you knew exactly what that meant and, if you taught jr high like I did, you heard actual honest-to-goodness DEBATES on the subject.  Personally, I am team Guy Who Almost Hit Bella With A Car.  

But back to the topic at hand.  Love triangles in YA feel selfish to me.  As a young reader I couldn't help but think "I can't find one decent guy to date and this bitch has TWO fighting over her?!"  I also never really trusted the guys motives, I suspected that at least one of them only wanted the heroine because the other guy did and, if he ever got her, would promptly lose interest.  

They are also becoming so commonplace in books and tv shows (Vampire Diaries wasn't satisfied with just having a love triangle, they had to make the guys BROTHERS) that it is almost cliche and is starting to come off as lazy.  Can't seem to write about a relationship where the two characters click on a deep and personal level?  Ok, just throw another dude in the mix and hope nobody notices that there is no emotional connection between ANY of the characters.  

I am also infuriated by the fact that the heroine never picks the guy I want.  How many people know of successful couples who a) met in high school b) fell in love at first sight c) overcame some HUGE obstacle in order to be together?  No one. That's who.  The successful couples are the ones who started as friends first, or have things in common, or are able to communicate on a deep and meaningful level.  And one of the two guys usually has some/all of these traits.  He is the guy who was always quietly there for the heroine.  The one who watched her cry over the bad boy, who dropped everything to be with her when she was upset and held her hair back when she drank too much.  But does that guy ever get picked NOOOOOOOOO.  He gets left behind for Mr.IhaveamotorcycleandaleatherjacketsoImustbeabadass who the heroine KNOWS she shouldn't be with, but goes after anyway.

These love triangles in YA have started to get to a point where it goes on the STOP RIGHT NOW list of words/phrases that I keep for synopsis.  Right up there with "The Next Twilight", "Instant Attraction" and "Feelings that she shouldn't be having for her brother". 

Thank you for joining me on this rant post.  I hope you will sign up with your own Sound Off and join me again next week for a new topic ... which I will come up with ..... eventually.....


Stacking the Shelves (1)

Stacking The Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Here are my books this week, all bought by me and my poor credit card:


Insurgent by Veronica Roth:  I just finished my re-read of Divergent and am so excited to get into this book!  I am hoping for lots of revealed secrets!

Revived by Cat Patrick: This cover is STUNNING!  I couldn't NOT buy this one

Bunheads by Sophie Flack:  This has been on my list for a long time.  I have heard some great reviews and really hope that this is a good one for those aspiring ballerinas in my classroom.

Bad Girls Don't Die and From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender:  I have actually read both these book in ebook form but wanted to add them to my classroom library.  I am planning on re-reading both in anticipation of the upcoming As Dead As It Gets release date

Friday, May 11, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (3)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question is

Q:What are some of your favorite books with a strong mother/child relationship
I didn't realize how difficult this question would be.  In the YA world, it is pretty much a given that the main character is either going to have parents who are dead or have an estranged relationship with them.  As such, it is difficult to even come up with books that FEATURE a mom.  That said, I did come up with one.

In Divergent Tris falls into the trap of being a teenager who thinks she knows who her mother is.  She assumes that what she has seen on the outside is all there is to her mother.  As the story progresses and moves into Insurgent, Tris begins to learn details about her mother that she never thought possible and realizes that she did not know this woman, and her dark secrets, at all.

I think we all go through this as we age.  As children, we have a very limited view as to who our parents are.  When we become teenagers we are SURE that we know who they are (and convinced that they are LAME).  It is only as adults that we begin to discover some of the hardships and struggles that made our parents who they are.  If we are lucky enough to have a relationship where parent and child are treated as equals, we can learn things about our parents that we never imagined, and in doing so, learn things about ourselves as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: I really like this cover.  The 'eye in the sky' grabs your attention and works well with the color scheme.  The city and marshland add to the tone and set this novel clearly as a dystopia.  In my physical copy, the title and author's name are raised, giving the book a polished, expensive, feel.

The Gist: The world has split into factions based on what each group values above all else.  Each teenager will be tested for aptitude in each of factions and then must choose one.  This means leaving behind everything they have ever known, including family.  Beatrice Prior makes this choice and struggles to conform to a new set of ideals in a world that isn't as secure as she once thought.

Review: Tris (Beatrice) is not your typical YA character.  She doesn't wait for the boy to save her, she doesn't plot and scheme or use her womanly charms to survive.  She kicks ass and takes names.  She doesn't start off as strong, she doesn't have some special ability that lets her play with the big boys, she works at it, she practices and this is why I love her.  Tris walks the line between compassion and ferocity.  She is able to empathize and show mercy one moment, while being hard nosed and unforgiving in the next.  Her reactions speak to me as Human, no where near perfect, but trying to survive while upholding her own set of morals.  Some of the other characters are not featured as well and do come off as a little one-dimensional, but I have hopes for redemption on this point as the trilogy continues. 

Roth creates a very distinct and interesting world.  It is one that appears calm and orderly on the outside but, after further investigation, begins to show the cracks underneath.  Once those flaws begin to be revealed, the novel moves from slow and steady tension building to all out downhill run.  The last 100 pages or so are impossible to put down (unless, like me, you have an infant who waits for the best part of the book to decide that he needs you NOW NOW NOW!).  There are scenes that are hard to read, there are deaths that I wish didn't happen and others that I wish did.  There are also a few things that I found unbelievable (but can't discuss without spoilers) but I was able to move past them and concentrate on the action. 

This book was hyped.  And I mean HYPED with all caps.  I believe it deserves some of that hype.  It is not the be-all, end-all of dystopian novels, but it really is a fun, exciting and exhilarating read.  Both boys and girls will love the adventure and the fast pace.  I do have some concerns about the level of violence and would not recommend it for young readers.  The groping scene has caused some controversy but I do think it was written well, though I would have liked to see Tris reflecting on it now and then.*  The kissing scenes get a little steamy but nothing above PG13 (I will be reviewing Insurgent later and have a feeling that things may get a little more racy).   

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Unwanted groping
Violence: Death by falling, knifeplay/stabbing, death by drowning, gunplay, execution-style murder, mind control.
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse:  Drinking

* For those teachers out there, Veronica Roth wrote a blog post about it, discussing the mistakes that writers make, that may be interesting for older students to explore.  It can be found HERE

Closing Thoughts:  This is my second reading of Divergent and I enjoyed it just as much this time around.  Veronica Roth has gained a fan in me and I am sure I will continue to read anything that she decides to write.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (7)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo which is due to be released on June 5th.

 Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. 

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. 

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

This novel has gotten some serious play from early reviewers.  Nearly everyone I follow on Goodreads has either read an advance (and loved it) or marked it as To Read.  The cover is stunning and mysterious AND features a quote from Veronica Roth.  I don't normally read a lot of fantasy novels but I am making an exception for this one. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ARC Book Review: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

Title: The Girl in the Clockwork Collar
Author: Kady Cross
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: The cover is very eye-catching and I love the color of the dress and the intricacy of the clockwork collar.  I am particularly glad that it was featured as it played such an important role in the novel.  I also enjoy the ambiguity of the expression on the model's face.  It is difficult to tell just what she is thinking and feeling.

The Gist: Having defeated The Machinist, Finley Jayne and her newfound friends have barely a moment to celebrate before Jasper is handcuffed and whisked off back to America to face a murder charge.  The team follows him and are thrown into midst of the New York criminal underbelly while Jasper attempts to save himself and the mysterious girl that he left behind.  

Review: This novel felt much more comfortable than it's predecessor.  The characters seem to have worked out some of their issues and we are allowed to experience much more action and adventure rather than melancholy and introspection (though Griffin is still far too moody for my liking).  In setting the novel in New York, Cross allowed for the development of Griffin and Finley's relationship without the interference of Griffin's station as Duke or Jack Dandy's advances.  Finley also shows a great deal of growth in the acceptance of her abilities and, it is my hope, by the next novel she may have stopped whining about her attraction to the dark side all together.  

Having established much of the world building in the previous novel, the writing in this one flows much more easily.  We are not bombarded by the introduction of machine after machine and those that are described are much more original and, usually, play an integral part in the plot.  Cross still shows a weakness for describing clothing and often seems to invent excuses to get Finley and Emily into elaborate dresses.  The major flaw in her writing is the repetitiveness.  We are constantly reminded that Finley has a dark side, that she enjoys the danger and that they are all worried that the "Jekyll" part of her personality may be becoming dominant.  She also has a tendency to repeat descriptive words and phrases (snap like a chicken bone, tear like tissue paper, etc).  What made this novel receive 3 stars (as opposed to The Girl in the Steel Corset, which I gave 2 stars) is that the story is interesting enough and the plot fast-paced enough, to overlook this idiosyncrasies.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: Age 12 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: None
Violence: Fighting, Gun-fighting.
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: None

Monday, May 7, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (6)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week will feature a new Top Ten list . Everyone is welcome to join.

This week features the Top Favorite Quotes from Books

1. "Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked.  This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men" - Neil Gaiman

2. "To swallow and follow, whether old doctorine or new propaganda, is a weakness still dominating the human mind" - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

3. "Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?"
"You called her a liar?"
"You told her He Who Must Not Be Named is back?"
"Have a biscuit, Potter."

- J.K. Rowling

4. "Matilda said, "Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable..." - Roald Dahl

5. "Tis now the very witching time of night, when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood, and do such bitter business, as the day would quake to look on. - William Shakespeare

6.  "Well, don't expect us to be too impressed. We just saw Finnick Odair in his underwear." - Suzanne Collins

7. "Don't be ridiculous, Charlie, people love the parents who beat their kids in department stores. It's the ones who just let their kids wreak havoc that everybody hates." - Christopher Moore (My parenting/teaching style in a nutshell)

8. "She's so small, yet she contains so much evil." - Christopher Moore (My personal mantra) 

9. "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once." - John Green  

10. "So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone." - Roald Dahl 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (2)

Feature & Follow is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read

This week's question is

Q:What is one thing you wish you could tell your favorite author? 

Dear Roald Dahl,

As a child I suffered from a severe lack of friends.  Instead, I explored a chocolate factory, hid from witches with square toes, and followed a very little girl with a penchant for very large books.  Your characters showed me how to dive into other people's worlds and drift pleasantly there until my own problems seem a little smaller.  I now try to instill that love of escapism in my students - I do believe I am succeeding.  Thank you for creating my friends and for sending them to me.  

P.S Please stop being dead and start writing again.  

Zabet Reading