Waiting on Wednesday–The Fire Sermon by Francesa Haig

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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 enjoying having my students choose which book I feature for this post each week, so I’m keeping it up for now. It’s nice knowing which books pique their interest and which covers grab their attention. Today one of my seniors said I should choose “the one with the omega on the cover.” Once he read the description, I think it was the tie to The Road that really won him over.

The Fire SermonTitle & Author: The Fire Sermon by Francesa Haig

Release Date: March 10th, 2015

Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)

Summary (From Goodreads):

The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined first novel in a new post-apocalyptic trilogy by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: Whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

Newbery Award Winner Book Review: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Cover of The Crossover by Kwame AlexanderTitle: The Crossover

Author: Kwame Alexander

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 18th, 2014

Interest: Verse novel / Guy appeal / Diversity

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander (He Said, She Said 2013).

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

This is the first year that I’ve read many of the books honored and awarded by the ALA Youth Media Awards. To say I was thrilled by this revelation is an understatement. I’m incredibly behind on my reviews, so I’ve decided to *finally* write the reviews for the books which won or were honored.

Newbery contenders aren’t often on my radar since I teach high school students, so the fact that I read two out of the three books blew my mind. I was sitting in my pajamas watching the live stream since we had a snow day and I threw up my arms and cheered when The Crossover was announced as the winner.

Kwame Alexander’s newest release has been on my radar for quite some time for many reasons despite its younger audience. I adore novels written in verse and have been waiting to find one that appeals to boys. The Crossover is the book I’ve been waiting for. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching freshmen or seniors, the boys in those classes often want to read a book with a story line revolving around sports. The fact that I can now offer them a “sports book” that’s written in verse is really exciting. The Crossover will hopefully be the exposure to verse novels that these students need.

Speaking of the verse, Kwame Alexander’s verse impresses me just as much as Lisa Schroeder’s does. It’s rhythmic and smooth and even visually appealing. The verse in Brown Girl Dreaming is beautiful, but the writing in The Crossover bowled me over. It’s playful, it’s poignant, and at times it even rhymes. It’s a prime example of why I love novels written in verse.

In years past I’ve noticed that many of the books honored at the ALA Youth Media Awards aren’t always books that my students will immediately gravitate to. The books honored this year are more accessible. The Crossover may have won the Newbery, and Josh may be a twelve year old character, but this story is one that appeals to a wide range of readers young and old. Many readers will connect with Josh and his close relationship with his twin brother. Readers will empathize with Josh as he faces the dilemma of choosing between family and sports. As he realizes how truly important family is. I can’t wait to share this with my students.

Book Trailer Thursday (159)–The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Book Trailer Thursday

The Darkest Part of the ForestHolly Black’s newest release, The Darkest Part of the Forest, released from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on January 13th, 2015. Hopefully this book trailer makes some Holly Black fans happy!

Summary (From Goodreads):

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Book Trailer Thursday (158)–All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Book Trailer Thursday

I just finished the audio for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and am so excited to have found a book trailer for it! I think it captures Finch really well, but I wish it also included Violet in the trailer. I’ll hopefully get my audio review written and posted soon!

All the Bright PlacesSummary (From Goodreads):

The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
 
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Waiting on Wednesday–Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

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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 asked my students again to pick this week’s WoW post. I love seeing which books they’re drawn to when I show them my 2015 release shelf on Goodreads. My seniors looked at a few books that they want to read, but this upcoming release by Jennifer Banash is what they said I should highlight.

Silent AlarmTitle & Author: Silent Alarm by Jennifer Banash

Release Date: March 10th, 2015

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile 

Summary (From Goodreads):

Alys’s whole world was comprised of the history project that was due, her upcoming violin audition, being held tightly in the arms of her boyfriend, Ben, and laughing with her best friend, Delilah. At least it was—until she found herself on the wrong end of a shotgun in the school library. Her suburban high school had become one of those places you hear about on the news—a place where some disaffected youth decided to end it all and take as many of his teachers and classmates with him as he could. Except, in this story, that youth was Alys’s own brother, Luke. He killed fifteen others and himself, but spared her—though she’ll never know why.
 
Alys’s downward spiral begins instantly, and there seems to be no bottom. A heartbreaking and beautifully told story. 

Book Trailer Thursday (157)–Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

Book Trailer Thursday

I love discovering new books. All it took was a simple YouTube search for book trailers and I found this video about Michaela DePrince’s memoir. I’ve never been a dancer, but I have dancers in my classroom, and I love a compelling memoir. I hope this one is as good as it sounds!

Taking FlightSummary (From Goodreads):

The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is currently a member of the Dutch National Ballet’s junior company. She has appeared in the ballet documentary “First Position,” as well as on “Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America,” and “Nightline.”

In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet’s most exciting rising stars.

Waiting on Wednesday–Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

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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.

This morning I was thinking about which book to spotlight today so I asked my first hour freshmen to help me decide. I showed them my 2015 Release shelf on Goodreads and they pointed to Sarah Darer Littman’s upcoming release. I read the summary and immediately heard a chorus of “Oooohhh you need to pick that book!”

BacklashTitle & Author: Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

Release Date: March 31st, 2015

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

He says: You’re an awful person.
He says: What makes you think I would ever ask you out?
He says: The world would be a better place without you in it.

Lara just got told off on Facebook.

She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school’s homecoming dance. They’ve been talking online for weeks, so what’s with the sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse – are they true?

It’s been a long time since Lara’s felt this bad, this depressed, this ugly. She’s worked really hard to become pretty and happy – and make new friends after what happened in middle school.

Bree used to be best friends with overweight, depressed Lara, but constantly listening to Lara’s issues got to be too much. Secretly, Bree’s glad Christian called Lara out. Lara’s not nearly as amazing as people think. But no one realized just how far Christian’s harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.

As online life collides with real life, things spiral out of control, and not just for Lara. Because when the truth starts to come together, the backlash is even more devastating than anyone could have ever imagined.

Reading Resolutions

I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful 2014 is over. I’m ready for a fresh new year that will hopefully have fewer big life changes in store for me. The big changes that came my way in 2014 were fantastic (new job, new baby, new house), but WOW! are they stressful! I welcome 2015 with open arms.

Girls Like UsNew Year’s resolutions never work for me, however. I always pick something like drinking more water, but already that hasn’t been working since my little one has decided to wake up multiple times a night so now I’m drinking more caffeine than normal. The idea of a reading resolution sounds like something I can stick to though. Today during class my students and I were silently reading and I decided to make a reading resolution and share it with them. My reading life is hard to navigate right now with Jack in tow and it’s hard not to stress about it. I want to sit on my couch with a warm blanket, a cup of tea, my cats, and read uninterrupted. I want to read EVERYTHING. But I know that’s not likely to happen, so I need to read with intention. That’s my reading resolution.

I’m in the middle of reading Girls Like Us by Gail Giles–which is fantastic, by the way–and decided that I’m going to read more diverse literature. I told my classes about Quincy and Biddy’s stories and why I think this book is diverse. I don’t know of any other YA titles that feature special education characters the way Girls Like Us does. To me, diverse lit isn’t always about race. It’s about mental illness, it’s about exploring religion, it’s about marginalized characters, and more.

I also want to read for myself. I often look at my reading life door to make sure that I’m reading a good mix of books. I don’t want to read too much realistic fiction and not enough fantasy. Or too many romances and not enough mystery. I’m always seeking balance, but this year, I think I’ll allow myself to go off-balance, especially since I plan on reading more diverse lit. If a book I’ve been looking forward to for months releases or an ARC comes my way, I’m going to read it. If I’m reading a book that’s moving too slowly, I’m going to put it down without guilt. My reading life is precious right now, so I want to make it count. I want to read a book that I can’t put down.

Time will tell if this works for me. I certainly hope it does. I’m constantly putting pressure on myself to reach a numeric goal and to keep up with all of the new releases. It was refreshing to listen to the audioThe Summer I Turned Pretty for The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han because it was a book I wanted to read, a book that allowed me to connect with a specific student, and a book that’s a backlist title. When it comes right down to it, I’m still making reading a priority and I’m still reading books that I can add to my class library.

Hopefully my students will make some reading resolutions as well. Have you made any reading resolutions this year?

Book Trailer Thursday (156)–The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Trailer Thursday

My students and I are big fans of the Legend trilogy, although I must admit that I still haven’t read Champion yet. I will soon though! I’m excited about Marie Lu’s new series which begins with The Young Elites. It sounds thrilling and action-packed. I wouldn’t expect anything else!

The Young ElitesSummary (From Goodreads):

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Waiting on Wednesday–X by Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon

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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 remember learning about Malcolm X in my Civil Rights Movement class during undergrad and I think we read about him in my African American Lit class during undergrad as well. He’s a very interesting man, so I’m really looking forward to reading X when it releases. I’m sure this will be a fantastic title to share with my department since our sophomores write a research paper on well known dissenters.

XTitle & Author: X by Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon

Release Date: January 6th, 2015

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

Cowritten by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.

They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

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