Waiting on Wednesday–Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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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 discovered Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer the other day when Time featured a list of YA novels that should be made into movies. I have some opinions on that list, but we’ll save that for another day. Anyway, Belzhar was featured and piqued my interest because it’s said to be inspired by Sylvia Plath’s life. I haven’t read any of Plath’s books, but I’ve read some of her poems and I read and loved Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill. For whatever reason I find myself drawn to books that connect to her in some way. I’m really looking forward to reading this debut this fall.

BelzharTitle & Author: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Release Date: September 30th, 2014

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

Summary (From Goodreads):

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.

Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting

The TakingTitle: The Taking

Author: Kimberly Derting

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Date: April 29th, 2014

Interest: Author / Science Fiction

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

A flash of white light . . . and then . . . nothing.

When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day. 

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men. 

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

The Taking by Kimberly Derting hooked me right away, just like her The Body Finder series did. It’s full of action, suspense, romance, and features a strong female protagonist.

If you’ve read The Body Finder series then you might agree that it’s a supernatural story. The Taking, however, I consider to be more science fiction. Just yesterday I was at lunch with a group of girlfriends and we were discussing what we like about fantasy and science fiction, so I brought up this book (besides the fact that I had just finished it and wanted to discuss it). My friend Beth said that she likes her fantasy to be grounded in reality since she’s a realistic fiction reader. That aspect is something that I love about Kimberly Derting’s writing; it feels like realistic fiction even though there’s a supernatural/sci-fi element involved. The Taking is sci-fi light and would be great for readers who are new to science fiction or unsure about it. There’s talk of alien abduction and other elements that reminded me of the X-Files, but it’s balanced with romance and regular teen issues.

Something I’ve brought up in past reviews is insta-love. Sometimes it works for me and sometimes I can’t stand it. Kyra’s instant and unexplainable attraction to Tyler worked for me. When Kyra is returned, she’s understandably confused and overwhelmed. When she meets Tyler again, only five years older now, she’s shocked. He looks quite a bit like Austin, but he’s different and he accepts her. Tyler grounds Kyra and I think it’s what really connects them. Considering Kyra’s circumstances, this insta-love made sense in the story and was fun to read.

Reading The Taking was fun because there’s so much action and suspense. There are some really surprising “I can’t believe that just happened” moments. Those moments kept me reading so I could piece everything together. I didn’t encounter any lulls in the story, so I’m planning on handing this to my readers who need a lot of action to keep their interest piqued. It’s hard to go into too much detail about some of the more suspenseful and surprising moments without spoiling the story.

Overall The Taking is an exciting first installment in a new series by Kimberly Derting. Just as I expected, I finished this book and wanted the sequel right away. I hope you’ll add it to your TBR list this spring/summer!

Book Trailer Thursday (146)–Cold Calls by Charles Benoit

Book Trailer Thursday

Yesterday I read the first few pages of You by Charles Benoit to one of my classes of seniors just to give them a quick sample. One of the girls in class was interested and decided to check it out. This afternoon I received an email from her saying she emailed the author about liking the book and asking him why he wrote it in second person. She sent me a copy of his reply (which was very cool) and he also included information about his newest book Cold Calls which releases on April 1st. He also included a link to the book trailer. My student said I should feature the Cold Calls book trailer on my blog, so here you go! :)

Cold CallsSummary (From Goodreads):

In the vein of the teen suspense classics I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton, Cold Calls is a chilling thriller, an unsettling mystery, and a provocative exploration of bullying, culpability, and the cost of keeping secrets.

Three high school students-Eric, Shelly, and Fatima-have one thing in common: “I know your secret.”
Each one is blackmailed into bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who whispers from their cell phones and holds carefully guarded secrets over their heads. But how could anyone have obtained that photo, read those hidden pages, uncovered this buried past? Thrown together, the three teens join forces to find the stranger who threatens them-before time runs out and their shattering secrets are revealed . . .

This suspenseful, pitch-perfect mystery-thriller raises timely questions about privacy, bullying, and culpability.

Book Trailer Thursday (145)–The Maze Runner Official Movie Trailer

Book Trailer Thursday

My students are big fans of The Maze Runner trilogy. I abandoned this book when I tried listening to the audio because I had too many questions that weren’t being answered. The movie trailer, however, has my interest piqued again. I don’t think I want to try reading the series again, but I do want to see the movie when it releases on August 13th this summer. I’m sure once I show this trailer in class today my waiting list for this book will grow. :)

The Maze RunnerSummary (From Goodreads):

“If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.” 

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Book Trailer Thursday (144)–Elusion by Claudia Gabel, Cheryl Klam

I have to admit that the cover for Elusion drew me in first. It’s so pretty! Thankfully the premise sounds promising and intrigued me enough to add it to my TBR list and feature it today. I’m looking forward to what my students will say about the trailer. If you’re interested in reading Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam’s book, it’s set to release on March 18th.

ElusionSummary (From Goodreads):

Soon, Elusion® will change the world and life as we know it.

A new technology called Elusion is sweeping the country. An app, visor and wristband will virtually transport you to an exotic destination where adventure can be pursued without the complications—or consequences—of real life.

Regan is an Elusion insider. Or at least she used to be. Her father invented the program, and her best friend, Patrick, heir to the tech giant Orexis, is about to release it nationwide. But ever since her father’s unexpected death, Regan can’t bear to Escape, especially since waking up from the dream means crashing back to her grim reality.

Still, when there are rumors of trouble in Elusion—accusations that it’s addictive and dangerous— Regan is determined to defend it. But the critics of Elusion come from surprising sources, including Josh, the handsome skeptic with his own personal stakes. As Regan investigates the claims, she discovers a disturbing web of secrets. She will soon have to choose between love and loyalty…a decision that will affect the lives of millions.

Suspense, thrills, and romance fuel this near-future story about the seductive nature of a perfect virtual world, and how far one girl will go to uncover the truth behind the illusions.

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New Release: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

A new book is on my reading radar: The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu. It’s a contemp dealing with being a teenage undocumented immigrant. I don’t believe I have any students dealing with this issue, but based on the summary and some of the early reviews I’ve read, this is a book that will resonate with my readers for a variety of reasons. I think they’ll connect with the character’s high school-related conflicts while learning what it’s like to be an undocumented immigrant. I haven’t read anything like this before, so I’m really looking forward to reading Maria E. Andreu’s debut.

The Secret Side of Empty releases today, March 11th, from Running Press Kids.

The Secret Side of EmptySummary (From Goodreads):

As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant. 

But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant.

Waiting on Wednesday–Swim That Rock by John Rocco & Jay Primiano

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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’m always searching for books that will appeal to my male readers in class; Swim That Rock sounds like a great book for many of them. I’m curious about it being written by two authors when it appears to be told by only one point of view (based on the summary). If you’ve read it already, I’d love to know what you think!

Swim That RockTitle & Author: Swim That Rock by John Rocco & Jay Primiano

Release Date: April 8th, 2014

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

 A young working-class teen fights to save his family’s diner after his father is lost in a fishing-boat accident. 

When his dad goes missing in a fishing-boat accident, fourteen-year-old Jake refuses to think he may have lost his father forever. But suddenly, nothing seems certain in Jake’s future, and now his family’s diner may be repossessed by loan sharks. In Narragansett Bay, scrabbling out a living as a quahogger isn’t easy, but with the help of some local clammers, Jake is determined to work hard and earn enough money to ensure his family’s security and save the diner in time. Told with cinematic suspense and a true compassion for the characters, Swim That Rock is a fast-paced coming-of-age story that beautifully and evocatively captures the essence of coastal Rhode Island life, the struggles of blue-collar family dynamics, and the dreams of one boy to come into his own.

Waiting on Wednesday: There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

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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.

Told from a guy’s point of view? Loss and grief? A twin sister? A bucket list? Yep, I’m intrigued!

There Will Come a TimeTitle & Author: There Will Come a Time by Carrie Arcos

Release Date: May 6th, 2014

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary (From Goodreads):

Mark knows grief. Ever since the accident that killed his twin sister, Grace, the only time he feels at peace is when he visits the bridge on which she died. Comfort is fleeting, but it’s almost within reach when he’s standing on the wrong side of the suicide bars. Almost.

Grace’s best friend, Hanna, says she understands what he’s going through. But she doesn’t. She can’t. It’s not just the enormity of his loss. As her twin, Mark should have known Grace as well as he knows himself. Yet when he reads her journal, it’s as if he didn’t know her at all.

As a way to remember Grace, Hanna convinces Mark to complete Grace’s bucket list from her journal. Mark’s sadness, anger, and his growing feelings for Hannah threaten to overwhelm him. But Mark can’t back out. He made a promise to honor Grace—and it’s his one chance to set things right.

Book Trailer Thursday (140)–Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

Book Trailer Thursday

Thanks to Amy Fellner Dominy, the author of OyMG and Audition & Subtraction, I’m featuring the book trailer for Terry Lynn Johnson’s upcoming release Ice Dogs. I didn’t know she had a new book coming releasing this year, so I’m extra thankful for the recommendation. Ice Dogs, which releases on February 4th from HMH Books for Young Readers, sounds like a book that will appeal to both middle grade and young adult readers. I know freshmen readers are often looking for something with action and adventure, so I bet this will be a hit.

I’m really appreciating the book trailer recommendations, so if you have more please send them my way! :)

BTW–Goodreads is hosting a giveaway of five copies of Ice Dogs which ends on January 31st.

Ice DogsSummary (From Goodreads):

Victoria Secord, a 14-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer, loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival, and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods, is entirely up to her.

Author Terry Lynn Johnson is a musher herself and her crackling writing puts readers at the reins as Victoria and Chris experience setbacks, mistakes, and small triumphs in their wilderness adventure. 

Waiting on Wednesday–Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

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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.

My life has been a little overwhelming as of late (mostly in good ways), which is why I haven’t been reading or posting anything. Christmas break felt like the first time I was able to relax since getting back from NCTE in Boston, but then I came back to school and was swamped with the end of the semester and midterm exams. I’ve noticed that I always go through a blogging/reading slump in January, however, and end up picking right back up where I left off in February. I sure hope that’s the case this year! Do any of you go through blogging/reading slumps at this time of year?

Anyway, I’m SUPER excited about the upcoming release of Barry Lyga’s newest book in the Jasper Dent series. This cover is fantastic, although a little different than the first two books’ covers. Regardless, it’s eye-catching and going to intrigue my students. Blood of My Blood doesn’t release for a while, but I couldn’t resist posting about it. I would avoid reading the summary if you haven’t read this series.

Blood of My BloodTitle & Author: Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Release Date: September 22nd, 2014

Publisher: Little, Brown

Summary (From Goodreads):

Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz’s serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz’s own home in tiny Lobo’s Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he’s never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: “Like father, like son?” Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and this time Jazz is the hunted, not the hunter. And beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

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