Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

Feiwel and Friends, 2014

Edie knew this was the end of the line.  One step off the bridge would take her from the misery her current life to a world of nothingness.  But someone else has another plan for Edie…

Going to a private school, Edie Kramer knows the difference between her and the Teflon crew – those gorgeous and popular students everyone loves and wants to be like.  But one day would change Edie’s life.  What they did to her was unforgivable and if Edie could teach them a lesson she would.  But really, what kind of lesson could she, Edith Kramer, science nerd extraordinaire, do to Cameron, Allie and rest of the crew?  Riddled with pain and a sense of complete loneliness Edie has made her decision to jump, until Kian guides her down and gives her an intriguing option.

Edie can’t believe a guy like Kian would even care about her.  He was one of those guys who turns girls, and even, women’s heads because of his unbelievable looks.  Why would he be so interested in her?  When he tells her why he’s there, she can’t believe it’s real.  She gets three favors to use within five years and in return…she will owe three favors.  After going through every possible situation trying to debunk Kian’s offer, Edie realizes he’s offering her the truth and once she agrees, a sign is burned onto her wrist.  She now belongs to the firm of Wedderburn, Mawer & Graf.  And revenge is fresh in her mind…

Going through a complete physical transformation, Edie returns to Blackbriar with a different mindset and agenda.  Beyond beautiful, she starts a new year at high school slowly working her way into the Teflon crew to make them pay.  But horrible things begin to happen to them – coincidence or not?  On top of it all, she begins to see horrible things…crazy who want to grab her only to disappear; three dark creatures who watch her from the street.  And then Kian tells her the other truth.  Edie is now a pawn between two evil entities, but why?  And what’s the outcome for them both when there isn't a good side to help?

Ann Aguirre delivers a dark novel of love, revenge and survival in her latest.  She fills the pages with fantastically evil creatures the reader must guess if they’re human, chimeras, or real monsters; what a shift in paradigm or reality.  The strength of the main character, Edie, derives from the fact that although her fa├žade changes, who she is doesn't, which put her and the plot into a juxtaposition.  Part reality, part fantasy, this book is full-on amazing and will read fast.  Recommended for high school.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Importance of Libraries and What We Do

I've seen all types of Top Five's for different areas of education, but rarely do I see a Top Five for school libraries (or libraries in general!)  So I combed through then scoured Youtube looking for what I think are the top five videos about and for libraries and this is what I found.  My criteria were:
1. Had to be about school libraries
2. Definitely no cheesiness!  It has to have importance attached to it
3. Well done format.

So, here are the Top Four.  I searched as much as I possibly could for a fifth and couldn't find one, so if you do, please add a comment with the link! :)

School Libraries Matter: The Changing Role of the School Librarian

Principals Know: School Librarians are the Heart of the School

 School Libraries from NJASL

What Are Databases and Why You Need Them

Friday, April 24, 2015

Reasons Why You Shouldn't Join Twitter (the unlearning experience)

So, I would say I'm a pretty connected librarian, and I definitely will say my professional Twitter account has really taught me a lot.  Not only have a learned SO MUCH, but it has also helped me connect with colleagues, authors, and libraries; be a voice for the librarian in a chat room full of teachers and administrators; and allows me to share my passions.

With that in mind, I'm dedicating this blog post to some of the best things I've tweeted, learned about, and connected with since January 2015.  This is just a sampling and if you like the taste of this tech piece of chocolate, you really should think about joining in :)

What I've learned from others (Jan 2015-present):

Things I've Shared (Jan 2015-present:

My three favorite Twitter chats:
#readYAlit (of course!) It happens once a month and is all about young adult literature.  Not just titles, but more meaty topics about YA lit.  Topics like sexual violence in YA lit to revamped dystopia/author chat to unreliable characters in YA lit are discussed.  And yes, there are tweet chat where it's all about readers'choice of excellent YA books too.  It really helps me keep updated on new books and really helps with my ordering list!

#eduality  happens every Monday night, and I wish that evening was free, but alas!  I can't always join this one.  But when I do, I LOVE IT.  This is a no holds barred chat about education...the good, the bad and everything in between.  The chats are also very thought provoking as well.  Questions like, "If you could put something from today's world of ed in a time capsule to make sure in 100 yrs it is valued, what would it be?" The other tweets this anonymous Twitterer writes are hilariously true!

#txeduchat is on Sundays weekly and if nothing else, I love to be involved and to learn from teachers and administrators from around the state and the different ways districts in Texas are doing innovative things.  There is nothing like "hometown" connections, and this chat, although not one specifically for librarians, is perfect for the teacher side of this librarian.

Lurking, tipping your toes in the water, or doing a freefall into's all good! Hope to see you on the flip side!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Amulet Books, May 2015

Triss has woken up, not really knowing what happened before.  She vaguely remembers who she is, where she’s from, or who her family is.  Triss is also afraid.  She sees the dolls she’s always loved since childhood, watching her as she moves around the room, calling to her.  Is it her mind playing tricks on her or is it really happening?  All she knows is she’s ravenously hungry…

When the Crescents arrive home after their fatal holiday, they also begin to notice changes in their beloved daughter.  She’s eating everything set before her as well as everything in the pantry.  She begins to snoop on her parents’ conversation instead of being the docile and obedient daughter she once was.  The only thing that hasn’t changed is her little sister’s utter contempt and hatred for her. 

Triss begins to notice changes in herself she desperately tries to hide.  Leaves fall from her hair and dirt ends up in her bed and nightgown.  She’s eaten some of the dolls in the room and has even gone outside to devour the rotten apples no longer clinging to the trees.  These slow changes come to fruition when she realizes exactly who she is…and she’s not Triss.

Pen, her little sister, has been in contact with the Architect, a dark man who is handsomely disguised, driving a beautifully menacing black Daimler.  He’s the one who had the power to bring Triss to life and trade her for the real Triss.  He also isn’t finished with the havoc he wants to reap on Piers Crescent and him family for the binding agreement Piers made with him.  Something dark and personal…  Triss realizes she needs to help not only stop to the Architect and the Besiders from hurting the real Triss, but also from hurting her as well. 

Set in the backdrop of England after World War I, the reader will get completely lost is the magical realism Hardinge writes.  You’ll meet characters like Violet, a girl who loves jazz and rides a motorcycle but always is running from the winter she brings to Mr. Grace, a tailor who wields his scissors with talent along with the beautiful tea cakes he sets before his guests to the family dynamics of the Crescents, who don’t like change in a world on the tip of tremendous transformation.    Hardinge takes everything from a magical period in history and blends it with the magic in the book portrayed from the sympathetic Triss to the ruthlessness of the Architect to the strange creatures called the Besiders who live within the bridges and buildings of the city.  EXCELLENT read and highly recommended for JH/HS.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Orion, 2015

Mare Barrow lives in a world divided between the wealthy (the Silvers) and the poor (The Reds). Her days consist of pick-pocketing to help her family survive.  Her father, a veteran of the war, cannot help so she and her sister take on work, either legal or illegal, to supply what little food and electricity they can.

The lives between the Silvers and the Reds run in completely separate veins.  Mare, her family, Kilorn (her best friend), and everyone else living in poverty in the Stilts are Reds.  They have nothing special about them except to ensure Silvers' lives of leisure.  The blood that runs through their them is even 

Silvers, on the other hand, not only have money and power, but are also gifted with extraordinary abilities.  Some can manipulate water, other can read your minds, still others are strong enough to crush rock with their bare hands.  There are fire starters, swifts, greeneys, and stoneskins, to name a few, and ever Silver is not only gifted with an ability, but their blood also runs silver, a beautiful and rich color.

Life in the Stilts is about to get worse for Mare Barrow's family.  When her sister can no longer work, Mare goes into full mode pick-pocketing.  Her best friend Kilorn, whom Mare has known since childhood, is in danger of being conscripted to fight in a battle between the Lakelanders and the Norta, which has lasted decades and decades.  His leaving is tearing at Mare, and she'll do anything to stop this from happening.

One fateful night will forever change the destiny of not only Mare, but her family's and Kilorn's as well.  Once a roamer of the streets, Mare is now at the Silvers monarchy's summer palace to serve and it's there that she unleashes a power unlike anything ever seen. But how can a Red have the abilities of a Silver?

Mare's life becomes a whirlwind where she now needs to balance two opposing sides - first as a newly formed future princess and pawn to a crown prince and secondly, as part of a hidden renegade group of Reds wanting to take down the hierarchy. But which life will she fight hardest for and whose trust will turn out to be a lie?

This is a novel that fantasy readers have been waiting for.  From the land where Reds and Silvers live to the individual powers displayed, to the deep and cunning nature of the renegades, Aveyard has created a sweeping fantasy that enchants and intrigues the reader to keep trying to figure out the twists, plots, schemes and relationships it presents.  Mare is a strong main character and the two characters vying for her attention in different ways create a polarity in personality that makes this book work.  The only thing missing is a map of this new world Aveyard has created, but those with enough fantastical imagination can create one of their own easily through the richness of the setting written in this new fanasty for YA.  Highly recommended for JH/HS

Friday, March 20, 2015

More than Powerpoint, please!

Almost everyone uses powerpoint, but to what degree of success is hard to tell.  The beauty of online presentation tools is the fact they add a little pizzazz and sparkle to a presentation already built into their platform..well most of them do :)
Here's a list of 15 free presentation tools to integrate and use in your classroom but wait, there's more!  Give students these options too and sitting through an hour of classroom presentations will be a little more interesting too!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sites and Apps to Create Digital Projects or Book Trailers

Powered by emaze

Made for You by Melissa Marr

2014, HarperCollins

Eva Tilling is the girl who has it all…popularity, a good-looking boyfriend, and a family who is considered the top of the social echelon in the small southern town she was born and raised in.  Like most of her friends whose families are connected, she follows traditional Southern etiquette, including who she can date or be friends with. 

Nate used to belong, but something changed…now he’s a loner and a social paraiah, known more for his drinking and partying.  His family has slowly crumbled, reflecting his reputation.  He’s known Eva Tilling since they were kids and played together, but now as upperclassmen in high school, their relationship has changed.  It’s non-existent, with only furtive glances and cold shoulders.

But this changes the day of the accident.  Eva is now in the hospital recovering from a hit and run, trying to understand who or why it happened.  She also suffers from severe brain injury and can’t remember details afterward.  Her best friend has come by often to check on her, and unexpectedly Nate shows up, spending time with her.  Eva couldn’t be happier about this.

But something else is bothering and scaring her.  When she touches people, she can see their deaths.  She’s seen her best friend in danger as well as Nate’s, but can’t see the face of the person who is behind the shadow.  Then dead bodies begin to turn up, and all of them have one thing in common:  Eva Tilling.

The Judge is in control, knowing who and when to attack and kill to get Eva’s attention.  He knows she was made just for him and no one is going to get in the way of their love, even if it may seem maniacal and twisted.  He’s leaving her breadcrumbs, waiting for her to notice and understand them.  She needs to hurry or he’ll have to find another victim with another clue…

Melissa Marr has once again delved into the dark side and written a wonderful novel that will have readers asking  who the murderer is  until the end of the book.  And that is the one perfect reason that makes any mystery book an excellent one.  Marr builds suspense by making the readers continue to question if a particular character is the one, even as innocent as they seem.  Not only are the characters in question, but also family dynamics and expectations these teens are required to follow.  Excellent YA murder mystery and recommended for high school readers. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Hyperion, 2014

My students EAT UP Laurie Faria Stolarz books!  SO glad she wrote a new one!  Dark, creepy, mysterious, on-the-edge of your seat reading!

If you can't access Youtube, try this link:


Google Drive:

Enjoy!!  I know I did!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

LitWeaver: Bringing Students, Teachers and Authors Together Virtually

It was during a #yalove Twitter chat one night that I happened to notice one tweet from author Will Weaver.  I always have an open invitation for authors to join, and we have had a few tweet with us, but to me, this man is a LEGEND!  He's been writing for well over twenty years.  He is also the author behind a new website entitled LitWeaver (

I had the chance to do and online interview with Will Weaver to learn more about this site pairing e-books, authors, and reader's guides.  After reading the interview, please take a look at the website to get the full experience of the awesomeness of what these authors are doing.

 How did LitWeaver come to life virtually?

WW:  I do lots of school visits, and over the years have seen the increasing pressure on ELA teachers and school librarians. Budgets always seem in decline– especially for classroom sets of novels and new acquisitions for libraries. Some principals and superintendents believe “technology is the answer”, and find money for tablets—but none for staff support or even curriculum. The Learning Management Systems from big publishers look cumbersome and expensive—so it hit me that there has to be a better way.  A middle ground, you could say, as schools transition from print textbooks to digital learning

 Give a brief description of what LitWeaver does

WW:  LitWeaver is designed to be a bridge from your five pound lit anthology to iPad and tablet-style reading and learning. We’ve purposefully focused on shorter, contemporary young adult lit—short stories, essays, poems, and plays—that teachers can “weave”  (get it?) into their ongoing curriculum. Teachers need a break from the same readings every year!  LitWeaver also includes a short lesson plan with with discussion questions and reading prompts.

How did you get the authors on board with this idea?  

WW:  You mean Katherine Paterson?  Jerry Spinelli?  Ellen Hopkins? Rene Saldana?  Nikki Grimes?  Those kinds of authors? (Shameless name-dropping here, ha). Actually it was easy to get our 50+ authors on board. They (we) have had such amazing support over the years from teachers and librarians who have bought our books and invited us to their schools, and here was a chance to give back.

Teachers and students will have access to e-books.  Are these all free to read and download?

WW:  We believe in free stuff for schools, and we’ll always have a nice batch (about 20 titles to begin) of free reading. But our website has bills to pay, so we’ll eventually add a low-cost subscription option for “more”—that is, access to our whole library plus some other cool teaching and learning tools.  FYI, LitWeaver will never have a huge library—that’s exactly what we don’t want.  We are curating (buzzword nowadays) a select group of really good readings for grades 5-12 so you don’t have to spend time looking online or through huge, publishers’ catalogs.  Our editor, Don Gallo, and the authors themselves have picked pieces we know students will read—and maybe even like.

Each book comes with a reading guide.  Who created those?

WW:  Current classroom ELA teachers. We have a great, small team of lively teachers dedicated to keeping kids reading and thinking (a big focus on the latter)!

Currently LitWeaver is in beta stage.  When do you anticipate it becoming a full site?

WW: Within 5-6 months, that is, in time for the new school year.  Our beta release is to gauge support.  If we get a lot of teachers signing up (for free), we’ll get investor funding. If we get investor funding, we can build out LitWeaver to provide LOTS of free and low cost YA lit for schools. Nothing not to like about that.

The cost of becoming a LitWeaver user is free right now.  Will free users be able to keep this status after LitWeaver is fully functional?

WW:  Yes.  We’ll always have a rotating section of “free stuff” by top, contemporary authors. If you only want to use these free readings, that’s fine.  But we hope you’ll find enough value and excitement in LitWeaver to eventually subscribe as a paid user. As I mentioned, websites like our are expensive to build and maintain.  Looking ahead to new features, we’ll be adding a student writing component, which will be a fun complement to the reading side.  

Thank you so much Will!!  I've already gone to the site and demo'ed it out and it's really pretty intuitive.  I'm SO glad there are authors like you and the several others who contribute their time and energy to create passionate readers!!

WW: One last thing. LitWeaver doesn’t assume that all schools have 1:1 tablet technology.  If you don’t, no problem. You can select readings and print them out for distribution in class.  We believe in access first, technology second.  And please remember that our site is in open beta right now, which means we’re still working on it–so we’d love to hear your ideas. And very important: if you like where LitWeaver is headed, please sign up and help us get there.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three Girls, Three Books, Three Very Different Lives

I've been a reading machine lately (yes, it has to do with setting a goal for the year and this year I VOW to make it!).  This is going to be a tri-review of three great books girls may love, relate to, or know someone who is going through these situations.  All of the books are different and all have a large dose of hope.

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic 2015, on-sale date 03/01/2015

Lara and Bree are sisters.
Bree knows her older sister gets all the attention, but the kind she's receiving isn't something Bree will ever want to have.  Her parents are hovering over the hospital bed, hoping Lara's attempt at suicide doesn't take her life...

Lara and Sydney were friends.
But high school changed that when Lara lost weight and became cheerleader.  Sydney feels used, but more than that, she's no longer in the spotlight.  But that's okay...she's got something up her sleeve just dying to come out.  All for Bree...

Sydney and Liam are brother and sister.
Liam doesn't know why Sydney has to be so involved in other people's lives, especially her obsession with Bree.  They used to hang out all of the time in the treehouse, where only a fence separated the families.  Not anymore.  Liam misses Bree the most and hopes they can start to hang out soon, even if their sisters don't anymore...

Lara and Christian, status unknown
They met on Facebook and Lara can't believe her luck.  He's handsome, cute and knows her so well.  They've been chatting for awhile and things are getting more personal.  She's hoping he'll invite her to his school's big dance.  She can't wait to meet him...

One is a liar, One is a lie; One is a defender, One is a protector.  All of their lives are about to change...  Recommended for JH/HS

Better Than Perfect by Melissa Kantor.
Harper Teen, 2015 expected pub date 02/17/2015

Juliet Newman has two big goals she's working on.
Goal number one: make the perfect 2400 SAT
Goal number two: early decision into Harvard

But those are difficult to do after her parents divorce.  Her mom, always put together and totally supportive of Juliet's schedule and life, lays in bed most of the time with her pill bottles lined up on the bedside table.  Her father, always the handsome, well-dressed businessman, lives in Manhattan now where there is hardly any contact.

But that's okay because Juliet has the love of her life, Jason. They've been dating for four years and are both hoping for Harvard early decision together.  They just sync and Jason has been Juliet's rock through her parents' divorce.

Juliet has no idea that her life is about to be far from perfect....her mother is now in ICU from a drug overdose and this one incident creates a tailspin in Juliet's orderly life.  While trying to understand this devastating situation and how it will impact her, she literally bumps into Declan, a new student and amazing singer in a band.

Juliet must navigate through her now messy life and ask the hard questions:  What does she really want, and what does she really need?  She is in control of all of her relationships, including the ones with her parents, but will she make the right decisions? Cans her life be better than perfect? Recommended for HS

Kiss of Broken Glass by Madeleine Kuderick
HarperTeen, 2014

Kenna has been Baker Acted, which means she has to spend 72 hours in a mental facility because she was caught.  Kenna knows the witch who narc'ed on her just wants her out of her best friend Rennie's life, out of The Sisters of the Broken Glass...

Now, Kenna has to face reality.  Her parents are going to know what happened and freak out.  Her perfect step-sister will only shine more, and her little brother Sean, so innocent to the situation...

Kenna knows she's not like the other patients who are here. There's Donya with the multi-colored hair and a penchant to deviate from normal; Skylar who's as tiny and fragile as a robin; and Jag, whose relationship with his father is rocky, at best.  At group, they talk about addiction, about goals to keep, about alternatives.  Kenna has learned which are the answers she needs to give, even if they aren't the truth.  Because she doesn't have an addiction...

"Elbow on the sink.
Right hand trembling."

"Lungs are feeling tight.
Heart is thumping hard.
Rennie's words are swirling in my head.

Just one cut to feel alive..."

What happens after 72 hours are over?  Recommended for JH/HS

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

G.P Putnam's Sons, 2014

Adelina and Violetta have the strong bond of sisterhood, but their lives couldn't be any different.  After being struck down by the blood fever, Adelina was became a malfetto, having the marks associated with them.  And because of those, she is treated differently not only by her father, but everyone else as well.  While Violetta escaped being marked, Adelina's father knew the only thing he could do with his ugly marked daughter was to sell her either for the powers some malfettos were known for, or sell her to get rid of her. 
And the night he decided upon her price changed Adelina's life...

Now, Adelina is on her own being hunted by the Inquisitors.  Not only is she a malfetto, she is also an Elite, someone known for their unique abilities acquired during the blood sickness.  Now in the hands of Teren, the Grand Inquisitor, Adelina looks across the crowd trying to find her sister so it will be the last thing she sees before she dies.  But at that moment, she is rescued by a band of malfettos known as The Daggers, where their goal is to create dissension against the crown.

Waking up in a strange place, Adelina learns more about The Daggers and the dangerous games they play for power.  Enzo, with his ability to release flame and fire, is the leader of The Young Elites.  Other members include Raffaele, Michel, Gemma, Lucent and Dante, all with their own unique abilities.  Together they are strong.  With Adelina, they are powerful.

Little does she know her own abilities could also be her undoing...

Marie Lu takes on the fantasy genre in a sweeping novel set in distant lands like Tamoura, the island of Kennetra and the faraway land of Beldain.  The conflict takes center stage, where good vs. evil is hidden and obscure as well as what the true definition of justice is.  The characters sweep back and forth against these tides and takes the reader down paths they don't expect.  At one point, I was taken by surprise by what Lu does with the storyline.  The characters are vibrant not only with what they can do, but also through their personality.  This is quite unlike her other dystopian novels (Legend series) and deserves a platform on its own, where the reader, like me, cannot wait for the sequel.  The epilogue will blow your mind...
Highly recommended for upper JH/HS

Monday, February 9, 2015

So, what did I learn at TCEA?

TCEA is always a great conference to go to when you want to fill your head, knowledge, and devices with educational technology in action.  From apps to Google everything; tools to pedagogy and everything in between, I absorbed as much as possible, hoping it will stick.

So, when I got back to work today, the first thing I did was start working with presentation tools in an amazing session I sat through in Library Academy.  This is just one of the 10 a librarian from Clear Creek (Shirley Dickey) shared.  It's called e-maze.  So, if you're tired of the same old powerpoint or Prezi, try this one.  It's a freemium, so you have access to it, you just can't download it (must have internet access).
This is a presentation I'm doing with the choir teacher tomorrow to show them different types of video creators they could possibly use :)  Love this site!!

Powered by emaze

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tabula Rasa by Kristin Lippert-Martin

Egmont, 2014

Sarah is in a the Center, head clamped into a halo, waiting for the drilling to begin.  She knows this is all part of the process for her and others in the hospital suffering from PTSD.  She takes her meds like she's supposed to, until one day an orderly hands her a note that reads:

"Take one pill at a time, at 24-hour intervals.
24 hours exactly.
Remain still after taking."

And the chain of events to fight and survive begin....

Sarah doesn't know her past very well because they are being erased one at a time to ease her PTSD...or is that what's happening?  The Center is creating a tabula rasa experience by slowing taking all things Sarah may have known through interactions and previous knowledge and giving her a completely blank slate.  A new start in life.  What the patients don't know is this is only the surface of what the Center is doing for its patients.  Sarah was complacent, at the least, with her decision but the truth about what the Center is truly about begins to crumble and her past life and memories they are trying so hard to erase is coming back, making connections...

At first she only knows bits and pieces, but slowly she realizes why there are people slowly hunting her down, who will stop at nothing to see her dead.  As the bullets fly and the people she knows dies, Sarah runs for her life straight into a stranger named Thomas, who has his own reason for being part of the Center's takedown.  Their relationship is tentative at first, not knowing who to trust or why each one should but when the walls surrounded their mysteries come down, doubt is replaced by a solid partnership and assurance which grows stronger between the two.

Together, Sarah and Thomas make a formidable alliance against the adults tracking their every move through stealth and state-of-the-art devices.  With Sarah's strength and daring paired with Thomas's finesse with computer hacking, both prepare for the battle ahead.  They meet both friends and strangers who become enemies or allies, which only adds to the fury that burns in Sarah when she finds out what that initial first cryptic message really means.  But can she survive an army of mercenaries with the help of one?

New YA author Kristen Lippert-Martin writes a story filled with action, plot, motive and deceit. Readers will instantly get drawn into the chaos fighting alongside the characters while the plot will keep them on the edge of their seats, waiting for more of the truth to be revealed.  This book will attract readers who love high intensity situations.  Think of movies like Mission Impossible or Taken and that is the mood Lippert creates through words and what mental images come to the readers mind.  This is one considered an ultimate page-turner!  Recommended upper JH/HS

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reading Challenge 2015

When I started thinking about a personal reading challenge, I began to think about those books I kind of shy away from or don't read as much.  Once I started thinking about this, I decided to make a list and my 2015 reading challenge was born.  Here's the list that will not only challenge me to read, but also stretch my reading comfort level.  
Plus,'s fun :)  

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Little Brown, 2015

Hazel, Ben and Jack have grown up together in the town of Fairfold, knowing it’s the most interesting on earth to live.  Tourists flock to this small town to see the main attraction in the middle of the forest, and sometimes they don’t come back.  The children have been brought up to know they should never act like tourists or they too, may disappear.  They keep iron and oatmeal in their pockets and don’t venture into the woods on a full moon.  They hang special herbs on their lintels and wear them in small bags around their necks.  They do this because Fairfold is a truly different, one where humans and faeries live side by side.  There is a reason the residents protect themselves from the faerie folk as well as the other magical and dangerous creatures of the forest that are from another realm.  And the main attraction?  A beautiful boy with horns, asleep in a glass casket that is unbreakable.

Hazel and Ben are brother and sister and when they were little, they played at being a knight who kills evil creatures and the boy who can sing them into submission.  As they grow older, their child play is forgotten and other people and attentions take over.  Now as teens, they go to parties where Hazel kisses the boys and Ben hangs out with his best friend Jack, who himself has an interesting past.

But things in Fairfold begin to unravel, especially when the boy with horns wakes up.  The morning after, Hazel wakes up knowing she had something to do with his awakening but keeps her secret hidden.  When Ben and Hazel decide to search for the beautiful boy with horns, Jack warns them not to, asking them to take heed of his warnings.  They decide to pursue the object of their fascination regardless, not knowing that this awakening has also roused a most terrible monster of the forest who will wreak havoc and destroy anyone who stands in its way.  There is only one solution, but can Hazel and Ben meet the challenge or will they be destroyed as well? 

 A popular sing-song rhyme all of the kids in town know goes like this:
There’s a monster in our wood. 
She’ll get you if you’re not good. 
Drag you under leaves and sticks. 
Punish you for all your tricks. 
A nest of hair and gnawed bone.
You are never, ever coming…
And the one thing they’ve learned is to never ever say the last word.  It’s too late now….

Readers can tell with this novel that Holly Black knows how to write fantasy.  From the setting to the characters to the thickening plot, Black puts her special spin on the story, weaving a beautiful type of lyric onto the pages.  She makes her characters real but has a gift of also making things other than human come to life.  The forest and town aren’t just places, but living and breathing entities, just like the characters.  The main characters in this novel are dynamic and so different from each other but yet maintain a triad that can’t be broken without breaking the storyline.  It wouldn’t work without the trio…those three characters belong together.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read urban fantasy, and am glad this is the book to take me back there again.  Fantasy readers will very much DEVOUR this book and be satisfied with an ending to the tale without hanging on the strings of a sequel (although the adventures could continue in a completely different realm).  HIGHLY recommended for upper junior high and high school.  Even better, it'll be published January 2015!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Twelve Days of Tech-Mas

Taken by David Massey

Scholastic, 2014

Rio can't believe her luck.  Her dream job became a reality when she was chosen to work with the unique crew on Freedom, a custom outfitted yacht.  Starting in South Africa, the crews’ goal is to sail around the world.  Before Rio boards the yacht, she is caught off-guard by a bizarre man, rattling a dirty leather bag with his gnarled and stained fingernails, staring at her with manic eyes….

The crew consists of five veterans of the war, each with their own personality and abilities.  Ash has two blades instead of legs, and still has the strength and dexterity to match a man with legs.  Marcus has to be careful around the sun because of his severe burns to his body that are starting to heal, stretching the scars tight across his face.  Charis has a biotic arm, the first of its kind she can manipulate with her muscles.  Izzy fell from a helicopter and shattered her leg while also coping with Type I diabetes.  Rio and Jennifer are there as support for the team, and everyone is ready to take off. 

Then disaster strikes.  They only wished it had been a monsoon, but it is something much deadlier.  A group of pirates have seized the ship and ransacked it, taking them as hostages and sinking the yacht.  No one knows where they are or what has happened to them.  Now the crew is on their way to most savage part of Africa, where Joseph Kony and his army of children, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, awaits their arrival.

Surrounded by children with guns and blank faces and eyes, the group must be careful around these trigger-happy soldiers, who care nothing about killing a human.  Although Ash and most of the others are veterans, they face something much more difficult – being able to survive with their handicaps.  Mwemba, the leader, is asking for a huge ransom, but he is only part of the problem.  Rio keeps her eye on a girl she calls the Empty Child, a girl whom the others shy away from, even the Sangomo (witch doctor) and Mwemba.  Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer is the tactic of Rio and her mates live as they walk their way through desert and jungle hanging on to every shred of hope in order to survive.

This is unlike any other YA novel I’ve read because the storyline is so very unique.  David Massey does an EXCELLENT job at taking a serious world issue that has come to the forefront of many nations and building a fictional account of it specifically for young adults.  The characters become a cohesive part of the novel, showing both the hopeful and hopeless situation they are a part of, whether it's personal or not.  Within the larger story are smaller ones that deal with the relationships between the crew, especially Rio’s relationships.  Most interesting is that Massey incorporates the strength of individuals with handicaps, examples of true human endurance.  This is one begging to be read and excellently delivered.  Recommended upper JH/HS. 

Non-fiction pair: graphic novel, Army of God by David Axe.