Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Title: Drama
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 1, 2012

Cover Impressions: This cover is super cute.  I love the colors and the artwork.  The character depictions are great (love the purple hair) and I can really see this grabbing the attention of some of my students.

The Gist:
In this graphic novel a middle school's production of Moon over Mississippi has almost as much drama off the stage as on it.  Callie works as the set designer and has some grandiose ideas (some of which actually work!).  Along with her friends on the stage crew, she endeavors to pull off the best production the school has ever seen, and possibly orchestrate a love scene of her own.

Drama is a well written and beautifully illustrated graphic novel.  It is a quick, entertaining read that is sure to capture the hearts of readers who enjoy this genre.  I don't have a lot of experience with graphic novels but I am happy to say that, in watching my students, I have seen novels like Drama in the hands of both experienced and reluctant readers.

Drama introduces some fun and interesting characters.  Callie is cute, quirky, funny and (mostly) confident.  She is the type of character that I love to introduce to young readers.  My heart wrenched at her love troubles and soared with her triumphs.  Callie and her fellow students are incredibly dedicated to their school's production and it made me very happy to read about young students taking responsibility and initiative within their school.

This novel touched on issues of love and sexuality in a way that was both mature and age appropriate.  I would be happy to place this book into the hands of any of my students. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Gender:  Both
Sex:  None - Discussion of being Gay
Violence:  None
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (23)

"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: Eve and Adam by which is due to be released on October 2nd.

Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, Emma-Rose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.

While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything... until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.

The more I participate in Waiting on Wednesday, the more I realize that I am a sucker for a well executed cover.  Eve & Adam has a really interesting cover that grabs you right away.  I love the melding of the traditional apple image with the sci-fi elements.  The synopsis seems awkwardly written, but I am hoping it is not reflective of the book as a whole.     

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September Lessons

Ah September.  For a teacher, this is the most hectic month of the year.  For a teacher who has just ended a year of maternity leave, it is a massive lifestyle change.  My first few weeks as a working mom were more than hectic but I finally feel I am getting my feet under me.  I am settling in at my new school and (slowly) learning everyone's names!  The munchkin is doing well at daycare but seems to have developed some separation anxiety as he now cries whenever I leave the room - so much for private bathroom time!  I have learned a few things already

1. Traffic is made better by audio books.  Just last week, I started listening to A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff.  Now, I am actually looking forward to my drive at the beginning and end of each day!  The only downfall is that I really want to keep listening once the drive is done but am forcing myself to save it (audiobooks are EXPENSIVE!).  I do know about sites like Audible, but am waiting to see if I stick with it (and get through the ones that I already have) before I sign up.

2.  Even non-English teachers should have books in their room.  When I got to the school, I found a tiny little bookshelf that fit perfectly next to my front door.  Since then, I have filled it with some of my favorite YA books that I purchased in the last year or so.  I am having a great time chatting with kids about books (one even told me "Ms, you have really good taste in books!") and I really think it is important to spread the message that reading is not something to be confined to English class. 

3.  Scheduling reading time is HARD.  I am up at 6AM, off to daycare at 7AM, at the school before 8AM, out at 4PM, daycare and home by 4:30/5PM, Supper, Bath and then Baby Bedtime at 7PM.  That leaves a whopping 3 hours each evening when I can:

a) Read
b) Watch TV or a Movie
c) Spend time with Fiance
d) Call my mother
e) Do Laundry, Clean the Kitchen, Scrub the floors etc. 
f) Prep supper for the next day
g) Shower

I am finding myself putting books aside left and right because they are missing that special something that grabs (and keeps) my attention enough to lure me away from all of the other things that I could be doing during those few short hours.  Heaven help me when I have to start correcting at night!

There you have it.  I have learned a few things so far, and I am sure that there are more lessons to come.

Until next time,

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: A Mutiny in Time by James Dashner

Title: A Mutiny in Time
Author: James Dashner
Release Date:
August 28, 2012

Cover Impressions: I love the colors in this cover. The imagery is interesting and I definitely think it would appeal to a middle grade audience.

The Gist:
Dak and Sara know that something is not right with their world.  Natural disasters abound, people are plagued with mysterious remnants and a secret agency called SQ has taken ultimate control.  When they stumble upon Dak's parents time travel device, the Infinity Ring, they embark on an adventure to fix the Time Breaks and restore balance to their world. 

A Mutiny in Time is not just the first book in new series, it is also the introduction into a multimedia experience that is sure to grab any young reader.  Each book is packaged with a Hystorian's guide, a strategy guide for the online game.   The game itself seems quite well done, with beautiful graphics, character interaction and fun mini-games.  Teachers - here is a great opportunity to pull together reading and history with gameplay, perhaps by spending a little time studying the particular time period, reading the book and then playing the game!

A Mutiny In Time is a very fun read.  The characters are unique and interesting.  Dak and Sera are both geniuses in their own way.  They are relatable and likeable.  I can really see middle grade students connecting with these characters and following their adventures through each of the seven books.  I found less of a connection with Riq in this novel, but I am looking forward to learning more of his story in the next installment.

The plot is intriguing and fast-paced.  I love the incorporation of history and imagine kids will really enjoy encountering pieces of history that they already know and that it will inspire them to learn more about that time period.  I am not normally a fan of time travel novels, but I was impressed by the unique premise of this one and I enjoyed reading about the different time breaks that made the history of their world so different from ours. 

A Mutiny in Time is a great introduction to a fun new series.  I look forward to seeing how the story develops through future books and how Scholastic will continue to incorporate gameplay in innovative new ways.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Gender:  Both (boys will enjoy this one)
Sex:  None
Violence:  Gunplay, swordplay, attempted drowning
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready

Title: Shine
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 1, 2012

Cover Impressions: Meh. Not feeling the sleepy stare or washed out color.

The Gist:
In Shine, Aura and Zach set out to solve the remaining mysteries of the Shift.  Their efforts are hampered by the interference of the DMP, who are willing to go to extreme lengths in order to maintain control of both the ghost population and the teenagers that can see them. 

Boy oh boy, was this one ever hard.  I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, but this one left me bored.  Perhaps, part of the blame lies in the timing (I started the book just before returning to work after a year of maternity leave) but the rest has to lie with the book itself.

For a good chunk of this novel, Zach was being held by the DMP.  With him out of the picture, I should have been able to see some quality Aura time and important development in the secondary characters.  Instead, I got to watch Aura whine and her friends serve as little more than chauffeur or confident (allowing Aura to whine some more about Zach).

When they couple were finally reunited, I was treated to a vomit inducing love-fest as they discovered that sex was the most mystical and magical activity in the entire world.  And, of course, being connected the way that they are, it was SUPER SPECIALLY MAGICAL and we needed to be reminded over and over and over.  The frequent sex sessions (or the whining over not being able to touch each other for a few hours) interrupted an already suffering plot.

I found it difficult to keep the bad guys straight in this one.  In the previous novels, we had one big bad government agency.  In this one, it seems like there are multiple mysterious entities that want to use/kill Aura and Zach.  I am normally fine with a little government conspiracy theory, but this one was incredibly confusing with the number of players and, eventually, I just stopped trying to figure out who was doing what.

This series was never really one that I would put in my classroom, however the sexual behavior is seriously amped up in this installment and I definitely would not recommend it for my junior high students.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender:  Female
Sex:  LOTS!
Violence:  Gunplay, Knifeplay, Torture by Isolation
Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Bullshit, Slutty, Bitch, Jesus, Dick, Bastards, Shit, Piss
Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (22)

"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: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle which is due to be released on September 25th.

 If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?

In this captivating thriller, an Amish settlement is the last safe haven in a world plagued by an unspeakable horror…

Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there...and it is making a killing.

Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a decree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?

This one seems to be getting some positive buzz and the early reviews for this one are pretty good. I think it will be really interesting to see how this Amish community will work when under attack.  I am hoping for lots of plot twists and great characters.  We shall see.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

ARC Book Review: What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Title: What's Left of Me
Author:  Kat Zhang
Release Date: September 18, 2012

Cover Impressions: The cover is interesting but I do feel that it is missing something.  Perhaps it is the lack of color that is throwing me, though I do understand the purpose in washing it out in order to reflect how Eva had faded to nearly nothing.

The Gist:
In the world of the Hybrid Chronicles every body is born with two souls, each with a distinct personality.  Through their younger years, these souls exchange use of the body and are treated as two separate individuals.  However, as they grow older, one soul rises and dominant and the other fades away forever.  Once in a while, there is a soul that hangs on: a Hybrid - feared and hunted.  This is Eva and Addie.  For three years Eva has hidden away, locked inside Addie's mind while she tries to pretend that they have settled, that they are normal.  But Eva sees a chance to live and be known and it will drag both of them down a dangerous path. 

  I will admit, this book took me longer than normal to finish.  Admittedly, the munchkin and I were visiting my parents which does not make for the most friendly of reading environments, but I still feel like there was something missing.

The world was interesting.  The concept of two souls in one body is unique and opens the door for a lot of exploration.  I did find it difficult to piece together the history that led to this particular place and time.  A war was mentioned a time or two, but I would have liked some more details (perhaps they will be forthcoming in subsequent novels?)  The writing was fast paced and exciting and I cannot quite put my finger on what kept me from diving for this book at every free moment.

Perhaps it was the characters.  I found it difficult to connect with Addie and Eva.  They had spent so much time trying to blend in and not be noticed that they came off a little bland.  The secondary characters were not much more exciting.  I would really have liked to have been able to tell simply through dialogue and actions, which soul had taken over the bodies at which point.  Instead, I had to be told by Eva who was in control and it took something away from this unique premise.

In the end, I was a little underwhelmed.  There was some character growth and a set up for the next novel but nothing that really left me satisfied in the outcome.  The book was enjoyable enough that I will be coming back for the second in the series and hoping for some more dynamic characters to go with the roller-coaster plot.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender:  Both
Sex:  Kissing
Violence:  Physical restraint, unnecessary surgery
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (21)

"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: Citadel by Kate Mosse which is due to be released on September 13th.

LABYRINTH took us to the walled city of Carcassonne, SEPULCHRE travelled to the mysterious town of Rennes les Bains, now CITADEL transports us right to the southern-most edge of France - and to an amazing adventure set at key points in history in this scarred land right on the Spanish border.Combining the rugged action of LABYRINTH with the haunting mystery of SEPULCHRE, CITADEL is a story of daring and courage, of lives risked for beliefs, of unlocking secrets buried by time. Through history, this 'green land washed red by blood' has seen so much - not least the bravery of the men and women who smuggled exiles out of occupied France and away from the Nazi regime over the border into Spain. In CITADEL, Kate Mosse once again sets out to captivate the reader with the people at the heart of ancient struggles, to bring alive places and times unknown to us and to keep us on the edge of our seats with an amazing story. 

Citadel is the final book in the Languedoc trilogy.  I have been waiting for this book for a LONG time.  Sepulchre was released in 2008 and I don't even think Citadel had a release year at that point.  The fact that the cover picture you see above is pretty low quality and is the only one available is not giving me high hopes for the September release date....  

Monday, September 10, 2012

ARC Book Review: Velveteen by Daniel Marks

Title: Velveteen
Author: Daniel Marks
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: Oct 9, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is what first attracted me to this book.  It is deliciously dark, simple and stunning.

The Gist:
Velveteen was murdered by a serial killer named Bonesaw.  She spends her days emerging from purgatory in order to chase down errant spirits and attempt to foil the plans of her killer.  When purgatory is thrown into upheaval, it is up to Velveteen and her team to hunt down the culprits and restore the balance between the living and the dead.

The blurb for this novel led me to believe that it was the story of a ghost seeking revenge on the serial killer that murdered her.  That story excited me and I imagined a dark and disturbing show-down between killer and victim.  This was not what I got.  Instead, Velveteen centers around a group of souls that are attempting to escape purgatory and return to the "daylight".  This story is not nearly as exciting.

A major problem exists with the world building in Velveteen.  It presents a unique representation of purgatory, however, there is little to no explanation of anything that is going on.  We are left to stumble after Velvet in the hopes that she will drop some tidbit of information that will help bring this world into being in our minds.  Alas, these tidbits are few and far between.  For example, purgatory seems plagued by Shadowquakes.  I never got a clear picture of what this looks like, nor what it means for the souls that are left in it's wake (one girl appeared to be captured by the first quake but was later mentioned as being shaken up - but fine).  We are led to believe that all of purgatory is mashed together from items that can stolen from the living and smuggled in through the cracks, yet there is a train and it is never explained how this came to be.  Every time I encountered one of these issues (and there were many) I was left flicking back pages, convinced that I had missed something.  It ruined the flow of the story and left me annoyed.

The characters themselves are bland and boring.  Velvet is a terrible leader and the souls that make up her team seem interchangeable.  They evoked no sympathy or emotion whatsoever and were not the least bit clever or witty.  It is never explained what makes these particular teenagers special enough to be members of the ________ team.  ________ was such a boring character that I just had to go back and look up his name.  There was zero chemistry between him and Velvet and her half-assed attempt to stay away was annoying and wasted time that could have been spent on developing the plot or explaining what the heck was going on.

When Velvet interacted with her killer there was a real sense of urgency and excitement.  These scenes gave a titillating glimpse into the book that could have been.  Unfortunately, there were only a few of these moments and, in order to reach them, I had to wade through page after page of grey dullness in purgatory.  

In the end, Velveteen left me unsatisfied.  I realize that this is the first in a series, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't provide SOME answers to the motivation of the villain, or the secrets hidden by those in charge.  Velveteen gave me no closure on this story and no desire to continue with the next.

A final note on appropriateness:  As a teacher, I would NOT recommend this book to my students for fear of being fired.  There is A LOT of casual swearing (see below), some pretty nasty violence and description of torture. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

17 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Allusion to sexual acts
Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay, Kidnapping, Torture
Inappropriate Language: A LOT AND OFTEN! Piss, Shit, Blue Balls, Bitch, Slut, Ass, Tripping Balls, Dumpster Baby (just wrong), Whores, Fucking, Douche-Baggy, Dick, Pussy
Substance Abuse: Use of Gas?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

ARC Book Review: The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

Title: The Dead Girls Detective Agency
Author: Suzy Cox
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 18, 2012

Cover Impressions: This cover feels very contemporary fiction to me.  There is nothing about the cover image that feels supernatural and only the title hints at the paranormal elements that are crucial to the story.  I do not feel this one would stand out on a shelf.

The Gist:
Having been pushed in front of a subway, Charlotte wakes to find herself in a swanky hotel and in the company of the Dead Girls Detective Agency.  Together they must find Charlotte's murderer in order to give her a chance to move on.   

This was a very tough read for me and I am surprised that I managed to make it to the end.  The Dead Girls Detective Agency had a fun and interesting premise, but the writing, characters and plot were lackluster at best.

From the very first chapter, this novel featured A LOT of dialogue.  I get it, Charlotte had to be introduced into this new world and some groundwork had to be laid.  However, there had to be a way to accomplish this that did not involve pages and pages of info-dumping with very little in the way of comic relief and no action whatsoever.  For the first half of the book, we are forced to endure endless explanations of the rules.  What the rules are, who made the rules, how to bend the rules, what happens when you break the rules.  This is interrupted occasionally while Charlotte moons over the boyfriend that she left behind, realizes that he is a selfish twit, and then is informed by her ghost-mates that she gets 9 chances to break the rules - so let's go have some fun!  Seriously?  All that time spent building the world around these rules and then we frivilously toss them out the window so that we can drop in on Beyonce and Jay-Z?  That feels cheap to me and makes me angry that I had to sit through Ghost 101 when none of it actually mattered.

The writing featured a great deal of teen-speak that did not feel genuine.  In all my years of teaching, I have never heard an actual, honest-to-goodness teenager use an acronym in a sentence.  Yet, these teens drop OMG's like a middle-aged parent trying to be "cool" with their kid's friends.  The author also chose to engage in one of my serious pet peeves in YA: name-dropping.  I know it is tempting.  You want your book to be relevant, you want your readers to be able to relate to the characters: "She likes Simple Plan? OMG! I love Simple Plan - we could be BFF's!!"  In reality, in stinks of desperation. 

The plot of The Dead Girls Detective Agency crawled.  I found myself skimming pages, just waiting to get to some action.  There were some higher points, like when the girls possessed the cheerleaders (aptly named the Tornahos) but even those did not live up the the potential for hilarity.  There was very little in the way of action.  We had a few tense moments where the killer is revealed and a few more when Tess and Edison's connection is revealed.  I was pretty disappointed at the choice of murderer.  I am never a fan when the killer is revealed as being someone to whom we are barely introduced and, in this case, doesn't even warrant a name.

Despite my obvious issues with plot and writing, Cox could have pulled me back in with some kick-ass characters.  Alas, this was not the case.  The characters felt very cookie-cutter to me: the sweet one, the nerdy one, the fashionista, the bitch, the slutty cheerleaders, the sleazy ex-boyfriend, the new love interest.  All of them acted as expected.  They didn't do anything exciting and they didn't have any clever, funny or interesting dialogue.  Charlotte was incredibly boring, naive and gullible.  I was also bothered by the fact that she described herself as a prolific reader - yet she didn't speak like one.  At one point she even says "And one time, she helped me with a Shakespeare assignment, because I'd just finished reading Harry Potter and kept getting confused between Halmet and Hagrid and it was completely messing up my essay on why he had issues."  Seriously?  You claim to read a vast and varied array of books and yet you have trouble distinguishing between two characters?  I just couldn't relate to a girl that 1) dumped her best friend the minute she found a boyfriend 2) talked about the boyfriend non-stop for the majority of the book and 3) didn't use her special new ghostly powers to do some serious damage to the slutty cheerleaders and the boyfriend who hooked up with three of them within a few days of her funeral.

The Dead Girls Detective Agency just didn't work for me.  I was expecting a fluffy and humorous read, but this one just didn't have enough substance to hold it together.   

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender:  Female
Sex:  Kissing, talk of "hooking up"
Violence:  Murder - pushed in front of a subway
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Pissed, Ho, Asshole, Slut, Whore
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

"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: Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter which is due to be released on September 25th.
She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.

Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.

Her father was right. The monsters are real….

To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies…

This book had me the minute the cover was revealed.  To be completely honest, I didn't even read the synopsis.  The title was simply too intriguing to pass up and the cover those details that draw you in and demand to be examined over and over.  I am not a huge fan of the zombification of classic novels, but I am willing to go into this one with an open mind and I am really hoping to be rewarded.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date:
July 31, 2012

Cover Impressions: The cover is ok.  It doesn't even come close to showing what a great book this really is.  I am happy to see that Noah and Echo are pictured as described (even down to the long sleeves - though I would like to have seen her in gloves).  The lighting is well done, but I'm not sure this one would stand out very well on a shelf.

The Gist:
Overnight, Echo Emerson went from Miss Popularity to the High School Freak and no one knows why.  The horrible scars on her arms prove to Echo that something awful happened that night, but she can't remember.  Under the guidance of a new therapist, she meets Noah Hutchins, a boy who is not only dark and dangerous, but just as damaged as she is.  Fighting their undeniable attraction, they set out to reveal each other's secrets.  In order to do so, they must each let their guard down and let the other in.

Jumping on the Awesome Book Band Wagon in 3...2...1... WEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

Confession time: were it not for the amazing reviews from other bloggers, I never would have picked up this book.  I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction and I tend to steer clear of books that appear to focus mainly on a romance ESPECIALLY if they throw out the words "soul mates" or "destiny" (which the UK version does - right on the cover).  But Pushing the Limits, is not one of those books.  Yes, the romance is a big factor, but it loses center stage to some wonderful character development with a smattering of mystery.

McGarry has a remarkable skill in writing broken characters.  Echo and Noah both had moments that forcibly grabbed me and threw me into their world.  It is not often that a book can evoke such a strong emotional response in me, but this one succeeded.  There were several instances where I blinked back tears or fought the urge to shake somebody (usually Echo's parents).  The two main characters felt so real that I could easily picture them sitting in my classroom, trying to be invisible, while I sit behind my desk trying to think of a way to reach them.  Those are the type of students that break your heart - when you can see so much potential being smothered by so much pain.  As characters, Echo and Noah are always compelling, often raw and never boring.  They carry the story and have the kind of chemistry that makes the reader's heart race right along with them.

I was impressed by the manner in which McGarry tackled the relationships not only between Echo and Noah but between all of the characters on the periphery, especially Noah and his brothers and Echo and her parents.  It was heartbreaking to watch Echo interact with her "friends" and family as she struggled to meet their demands and win their love and to stand by while Noah spent supervised visits trying to maintain his connection to the two little boys who were his whole world.  Throughout the novel, I was pleased to see a great deal of growth in both characters, but a realistic journey to it.  There were struggles, there were setbacks, and, in the end, there were issues that weren't exactly solved, but where steps had been taken down the right path.

The writing in Pushing the Limits is clean (though I wish Noah would have laid off the siren and nymph comparisons) and the plot moves at a steady pace.  In character driven novels such as this it is easy to let action and excitement fall by the wayside, but the truth behind Echo's scars is revealed in such as way as to keep the reader engaged.  As Echo's memory returns in snatches, we begin to see the true horror and sadness behind what happened to her and how broken her family truly was.  In splitting the narration between Echo and Noah, McGarry ensures that each chapter leaves the reader wanting to turn one more page, read one more line until, if you are like me, you have finished the entire book in just a few short hours.

The only mark against Pushing the Limits is that the sexual nature and vulgar language would prohibit me from recommending it to my Junior High students, though I highly recommend it for teens over 16 and adult lovers of YA novels.

Katie McGarry has earned a fan for life.  I have already listed Dare You To (Beth's Story) as to-read and will count down the days until it's eventual release sometime in 2013.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender:  Female
Sex:  Kissing, Sexual Acts, Vulgar Sexual Language.
Violence:  Fist Fight, Drugging, Attempted murder
Inappropriate Language: Varied and Often: Fuck, Tits, Dick, Ass, Shit, Bitch, Jesus Christ, Pussy, Slut, Bastard, Whore
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking, Marijuana use,

Notable Quotables:

"She'd come home with me to act as my barrier for Family Firday - or as I liked to refer to it, Dinner for the Damned."

"No.  I like my brian cells.  I find they come in handy when I ... oh, I don't know ... think."

"Luke used to give me butterflies.  Noah spawned mutant pterodactyls."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (9)

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!

This week is going to look particularly large but that is just because I have returned from a couple weeks vacation to a bunch of books in my mailbox. 

ARCS I Got This Week:

EARCS I Got This Week:

Books Bought This Week:

Oh Lordy, I am in a total reading slump because I am prepping to go back to school after a year off and am trying to eek every last moment of enjoyment out of my summer.  I just can't seem to pick up a book and now I have this huge addition to my TBR pile.  Well, I guess if there is one problem in life I can live with, it is having TOO MANY books to read!