Audiobook Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Audio Review

Walk on Earth a StrangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Author: Rae Carson

Narrator: Erin Mallon

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 22nd, 2015

Interest: Author / Fantasy / Historical Fiction

Source: Audible purchased via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Audio Review: I couldn’t buy a physical copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger yet, but I really wanted to read it so I decided to download the audio via Scribd. I’m so thankful that I did because the audio is great and so is the story. Erin Mallon has a voice suitable for a sharp shooting girl who’s fleeing to the west. It’s just the slightest bit gritty and easy to listen to. Also, the audio is almost 11 hours long and I finished it within a few days because I kept finding excuses to keep listening. There were a few times I walked into work a little late so I could keep listening in the parking lot. And I did the same thing in my garage. I was thoroughly entertained.

Book Review: I’m a big Rae Carson fan so I had high expectations for Walk on Earth a Stranger and I’m sure her other fans feel the same. Looking for epic world building? You’ll feel like you’re trekking into the wild west with Leah. Want to feel a crazy bond with the characters? I haven’t felt so close to a group of a characters in a very long time. I was hoping for more fantasy elements, but this is a stunning piece of historical fiction.

Did any of you play the Oregon Trail game in elementary school? I remember playing in my 4th or 5th grade social studies class and loving it. I clearly remember the wagon I built with my dad for our class project. Reading Walk on Earth a Stranger was like playing the Oregon Trail game on steroids. There’s an especially vivid buffalo scene that made my hair stand on end. I’m sure the audio helped, but I really felt like I was alongside Leah throughout the story. Her magic sense added an extra layer of excitement, but I liked the historical elements even more. For some reason I’m not always quick to pick up a historical fiction novel, but if they were all this entertaining I’d read more from the genre.

Let me tell you, I experienced so many emotions as I read this book. Some of the men in this book made my skin crawl. During the Gold Rush era women still weren’t respected and treated fairly. I love that Leah fights that and so do some of the other women she meets. It was also difficult listening to characters depict Native Americans in such a backwards and bigoted manner, but that’s sadly true to the time period. There were also a few moments that had me tearing up and had my heart swelling. There’s a good reason why Walk on Earth a Stranger is on the long list for the Young People’s Literature category for the National Book Award!

I wish I didn’t have to wait a year to read the second book in the series. I’m expecting more magic as the series progresses, so I know it will continue to be a fun series to read. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is a must read!

Review: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Dream Things TrueTitle: Dream Things True

Author: Marie Marquardt

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Diversity / Retelling

Source: e-ARC provided by the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.

Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

I really enjoy teaching Romeo & Juliet, so when Dream Things True was pitched as a modern retelling of the famous tragedy I knew I had to read it. Evan and Alma are certainly star-crossed lovers considering Evan comes from a wealthy family and Alma is and comes from an undocumented Mexican family. Alma’s story really captured my attention since I haven’t read many (any?) YA novels focusing on undocumented citizens.

Marie Marquardt brings to light an issue that many of us are aware of, but may not truly know how it affects people. Alma’s family is close-knit and loyal to one another; they look out for one another, even their families still in Mexico. Through Alma readers are able to see what life as an undocumented citizen is like. Marie Marquardt never makes this feel like an issue book, but the tension between politicians, American citizens, and undocumented citizens is evident. I’m looking forward to discussing this with my students as they read Dream Things True, especially since it’s not a topic we typically discuss in class.

The story of Alma, her family, Evan, and his family is a balanced one, but there’s an additional storyline added that deals with date rape. Honestly, I know why it’s included because it’s a good way to make a certain character more antagonistic, but it distracted me from the story. It felt excessive to me. I would have been completely find continuing to read Alma and Evan’s story without it or with a different storyline to layer the conflict.

Other than that issue I enjoyed Dream Things True. I liked making connections to Romeo & Juliet and wondering as I read which scenes and characters my students would recognize. I also appreciate that readers can read this book and not connect it in any way to Shakespeare’s famous tragedy; nothing is lost if a reader isn’t familiar with the story.


Book Trailer Thursday (175)–Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Book Trailer Thursday

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige released in April 2014, so it’s not exactly new by any means, but I recently started listening to the audio and I love it! The only problem is that I was listening to the audio with my Scribd app and one morning an alert popped up stating that the audio was no longer available due to something about the author or publisher. I was SO disappointed! And annoyed. Now I have to wait until next month when I get another Audible credit to finish listening to it since Audible still has the audio available.

Dorothy Must DieSummary (From Goodreads):

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado – taking you with it – you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little bluebirds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a yellow brick road – but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm – and I’m the other girl from Kansas.

I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I’ve been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt is a modern retelling based on Romeo & Juliet. For this blog tour author guest post I asked Marie Marquardt how she tied the famous tragedy to her story. I love her explanation, especially after finishing the book, and really appreciate how much more she added to the story.

Dream Things TrueAbout the Book (Goodreads link):

A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town. Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much — except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There’s too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she’s an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.


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Marie Marquardt CREDIT Kenzi Tainow



Marie Marquardt’s Guest Post:

I am intrigued by the fact that young adults have to make their way in a world that they didn’t create – a world that they inherited from their parents, their society, and the legal system that structures their lives. For Evan and Alma, the protagonists in Dream Things True, growing up means opening their eyes to the painful injustice of that world, and then devising a way to struggle against it together.

Dream Things True is similar to Romeo and Juliet in that my protagonists are “star-crossed” in the sense of having fate (in the form of family connections, social norms, and laws) working against them. There are also are some plot elements and characters that bear close resemblance to the play. Evan and Alma fall for each other fast, to be sure (but not as lightening-fast as Romeo and Juliet). The story also features an irredeemably bad guy named Conway, who functions much like Tybalt. But, like Tybalt, Conway is not the antagonistic force in the story. (That’s society.) He’s just plain bad, and he manifests some of the most insidious elements of the society, laying them bare for all to see.

Sometimes, though, I feel inclined to resist the comparison with Romeo and Juliet. Alma is much more savvy than Juliet, and Evan definitely is way less dramatic and impulsive than Romeo! Also, Dream Things True is a story about many kinds of love, not just the romantic love explored in Romeo and Juliet. It’s about a son’s love for his mother, even when she’s emotionally distant. It’s about a sister’s love for her brother, even when he makes choices she disagrees with. It’s about the love we have for friends who do the unthinkable, but then seek our forgiveness. Love runs deep and broad in this story.

And one more thing: I wrote Dream Things True with the goal of offering an honest, realistic portrayal of the crises faced by undocumented immigrant families in a particular time and place. Because of this, I couldn’t give the story a sweet happily ever-after sort of ending (Oh, how I wish I could!). But the story’s outcome is hopeful, not tragic and devastating. This, of course, also distinguishes Dream Things True from the real tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.


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Marie Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and the author of Living Illegal: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration. She is widely published on issues of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. South. Marquardt has also worked as an advocate among immigrants in Atlanta. She is a founder and co-chair of El Refugio, a hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Dream Things True is Marie’s first young adult novel.  


Book Trailer Thursday (174)–Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

Book Trailer Thursday

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan released from Dutton Books for Young Readers on May 26th, 2015. Sorry for the abrupt post today; I’m on a tight schedule this week!

Daughter of Deep SilenceSummary (From Goodreads):

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.

In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

Waiting on Wednesday–Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

During the ALAN workshop this November I’m moderating the fantasy author panel, which means I’m reading a few fantasy novels this fall. I didn’t know about Tessa Elwood’s debut Inherit the Stars until I saw her name as part of the panel. I enjoy reading fantasy even though I don’t read it as regularly as I should, so I’m excited to read Elwood’s promising debut.

Inherit the StarsTitle & Author: Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood

Release Date: December 8th, 2015

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Summary (From Goodreads):

Three royal houses ruling three interplanetary systems are on the brink of collapse, and they must either ally together or tear each other apart in order for their people to survive.

Asa is the youngest daughter of the house of Fane, which has been fighting a devastating food and energy crisis for far too long. She thinks she can save her family’s livelihood by posing as her oldest sister in an arranged marriage with Eagle, the heir to the throne of the house of Westlet. The appearance of her mother, a traitor who defected to the house of Galton, adds fuel to the fire, while Asa also tries to save her sister Wren’s life . . . possibly from the hands of their own father.

But as Asa and Eagle forge a genuine bond, will secrets from the past and the urgent needs of their people in the present keep them divided?

Author Tessa Elwood’s debut series is an epic romance at heart, set against a mine field of political machinations, space adventure, and deep-seeded family loyalties.

Join Kate DiCamillo in a Live National Webcast

I know I have some Kate DiCamillo fans who read my blog, which is why I’m excited to share this news from Candlewick Press with you. This is a great opportunity!

Candlewick Press banner

Two Time Newbery Award Winner Kate DiCamillo in LIVE National Webcast October 15th

This fall marks the 10th Anniversary of the acclaimed Mercy Watson Series – a long time classroom favorite

FREE Online registration is available now, please visit for more details and to reserve your spot.

Mercy WatsonMercy Watson, the beloved early chapter-book series written by two-time Newbery Medal winner and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by award-winning artist Chris Van Dusen in his signature retro style, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The series, consisting of six fun-filled adventures illustrated in full color, concluded in 2009, but demand for the books continues to be strong: the series is now published in ten languages, and worldwide sales are now well over the two million copy mark.

The tongue-in-cheek tales, for readers age five to eight, star “porcine wonder” Mercy Watson, a delightfully single-minded pig, in her never-ending pursuit of treats, buttered toast, or just a rollicking fun time. When the series launched in 2005, Booklist’s starred review described the first adventure as “appropriate as both a picture book and a beginning reader,” while FamilyFunmagazine recommended the series as “a gentle transition from picture books.”

Tales from Deckawoo Drive, a spin-off series set in the Mercy Watson world and launched in 2014, is for readers age six to nine. It features longer chapters, more text, and fewer illustrations, done in black-and-white. The series debuted with Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, a New York Times bestseller and Amazon Best Book of the Year starring reformed thief-turned-cowboy Leroy and his more rusty than trusty steed, Maybelline. That kickoff adventure will be followed by Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon in August 2015, at which time Leroy Ninker Saddles Up will also be published in paperback.

About revisiting the Mercy Watson characters with slightly older readers in mind, Kate DiCamillo says, “I kept thinking about those Mercy Watson books and how much fun they were to write. I was looking for a way back into telling stories about Deckawoo Drive, and Leroy said, ‘Yippie-i-oh,’ and that seemed like a request to me.”

Join Kate for a virtual discussion of this beloved early chapter book series and the continuing stories of Deckawoo Drive with young readers on October 15th!

Tracy Miracle
Publicity & Marketing Campaigns Director
Candlewick Press – 99 Dover Street, Somerville  MA 02144

Francine Poulet

Book Passes Lead to Reading

On the second day of every school year I utilize a book pass to expose my students to a wide variety of books. It’s one of my favorite days of the school year because there’s a mix of excitement and uncertainty, but it always leads to reading. This year, after facilitating this session about creating a community of readers in the high school classroom, five other teachers in my building facilitated book passes this week!

This year I have my desks in groups of six since I have 35 desks in my classroom; it’s the easiest way to make them all fit and still feel like we have room to move around. So I had my students stay in their groups and pass the books within their groups. I gathered a wide range of genres, authors, and past class favorites for my students to choose from. Each student chose a book, wrote down the title and author, and then began reading for three minutes. I kept time on my phone and when it ended they wrote down Yes, No, or Maybe in regards to whether that book is of interest to them. Then they passed their book to the right and on the cycle went. Once or twice between passes I asked if anyone found a “Yes” book and allowed them to share that title and why they want to read it. We cycled through about seven books during each class this week.

Before the end of class I stop the book pass so students can put the books away, and more importantly, check out any book(s) they discovered and want to read. A few of my senior classes this year seemed a little apprehensive about checking out any books they found, but most of my classes had long lines of students waiting to check out their books. As I looked at the pages of books checked out, I decided it would be fun to write a post including which books my students chose to kick off their reading year.

Book Trailer Thursday (173)–Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

Book Trailer Thursday

Another Romeo & Juliet retelling this year? Count me in! This fall is going to be delightfully full of eerie, creepy reading. :) Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett releases on September 22nd.

Blood and SaltSummary (From Goodreads):

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Waiting on Wednesday–A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I was looking at my last WoW post and in it noted that I try not to be swayed by pretty covers. It made me chuckle reading that because the cover for A Madness So Discreet grabbed my attention right away. It’s so pretty and haunting! The tone of the cover is perfect for an October release. I love reading mysteries in the fall around Halloween, so this will be perfect.

Title & Author: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Release Date: October 6th, 2015

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

A Madness So DiscreetSummary (From Goodreads):

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

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