Waiting on Wednesday–Saving Red by Sonya Sones

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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 wouldn’t normally write a Waiting on Wednesday post about a book with a release so far away, but I just saw Saving Red pop up on Goodreads and I love Sonya Sones. I’m not sure if this is another book written in verse; I hope it is! Regardless, I know my students are going to be excited to read this since I have so many fellow Sones fans in my classes. And don’t you love that striking cover?!

Saving RedTitle & Author: Saving Red by Sonya Sones

Release Date: October 18th, 2016

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Right before winter break, fourteen-year-old Molly Rosenberg reluctantly volunteers to participate in Santa Monica’s annual homeless count, just to get her school’s community service requirement out of the way. But when she ends up meeting Red, a spirited homeless girl only a few years older than she is, Molly makes it her mission to reunite her with her family in time for Christmas. This turns out to be extremely difficult—because Red refuses to talk about her past. There are things Molly won’t talk about either. Like the awful thing that happened last winter. She may never be ready to talk about that. Not to Red, or to Cristo, the soulful boy she meets while riding the Ferris wheel one afternoon.

When Molly realizes that the friends who Red keeps mentioning are nothing more than voices inside Red’s head, she becomes even more concerned about her well-being. How will Molly keep her safe until she can figure out a way to get Red home? In Sonya Sones’ latest novel, two girls, with much more in common than they realize, give each other a new perspective on the meaning of family, friendship, and forgiveness.

Audiobooks Round-Up

Audio Review

The end of the first semester really wore me out and stressed me out, so I fell behind on my book reviews. I’ve listened to a few audiobooks since then, so I’m putting together a few quick reviews since I promised myself and my readers that I would be better about posting reviews this year. I plan on writing full reviews of the other audiobooks I’ve listened to lately as well.

Instead of posting all of the summaries, I’m linking to them via Goodreads.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapien AgendaSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Goodreads):

Becky Albertalli’s debut has received numerous accolades and rightfully so. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is so sweet and so authentic. I really felt for Simon while I listened to this and often wanted to give him a good nudge in the right direction while simultaneously giving him a hug. I hated that he was being blackmailed and felt like he was being forced to come out before he was really ready to. I loved his supportive family and friends, however. This is a story that will appeal to a vast variety of readers because many teens, despite their sexual orientation, go through rough patches in friendships, want to fall in love, and have had secrets brought out in the open. I highly recommend reading this. In fact, I book talked this when I finished reading it and it was instantly borrowed.

The Last Leaves FallingThe Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (Goodreads):

Sarah Benwell’s debut is about a Japanese teenager, Sora, who suffers from ALS. I was really excited to read this because I haven’t read a book about a teenager diagnosed with ALS and it’s not often that I read a book that takes place in Japan. Sora’s story is certainly about ALS, but it’s also about friendship, family, and bravery. Sora feels alone because of his illness and finds friendship online. I was left disappointed, however, because I wanted more Japanese culture woven into the story. It didn’t help that the narrator is British and not Japanese. I don’t recommend the audio at all, but I do think The Last Leaves Falling is worth reading, it just didn’t please me as much as I wanted it to.

This Raging LightThis Raging Light by Estelle Laure (Goodreads):

I enjoyed Estelle Laure’s debut much more than I thought I would. A while ago I started reading the ARC during SSR, but it wasn’t holding my attention for whatever reason. That’s why I tried the audio. It’s only 5 hours and 36 minutes long and narrated by Sandy Rustin. The audio was able to hold my attention better than the physical book. I was intrigued by Lucille and Wren and also really disturbed by their mother abandoning them. This Raging Light is a story of sisterhood, friendship, love, loyalty, and strength. I was often reminded of Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory because Lucille, like Hayley, is forced to act as an adult/parent before her time. The writing in this novel is wonderful and I’m looking forward to reading more of Estelle Laure’s novels.

Book Trailer Thursday (182)–I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

Book Trailer Thursday

I didn’t know about the book trailer for I Crawl Through It by A.S. King until Gae Polisner posted a Facebook status about the book the other night. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t read A.S. King’s most recent release, especially since I adore her novels, but I’m still excited to share this book trailer with my students because I think it will really grab some of them. She’s an incredibly smart and talented author that I want more of my students to discover and appreciate. Also, it’s awesome that e.E. Charlton-Trujillo created this trailer.

I Crawl Through ItSummary (From Goodreads):

Our big explosion is coming any day now. Can’t you hear the ticking?

Four teenagers are on the verge of exploding. The anxieties they face at every turn have nearly pushed them to the point of surrender: senseless high-stakes testing, the lingering damage of past trauma, the buried grief and guilt of tragic loss. They are desperate to cope, but no one is listening.

Tick.

So they will lie. They will split in two. They will turn inside out. They will even build an invisible helicopter to fly themselves far away…but nothing releases the pressure. Because, as they discover, the only way to truly escape their world is to fly right into it.

Tick.

The genius of acclaimed author A.S. King reaches new heights in this groundbreaking work of surrealist fiction; it will mesmerize readers with its deeply affecting exploration of how we crawl through traumatic experience—and find the way out.

Tick.

Waiting on Wednesday–The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

 

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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.

Before I mention why I’m featuring this 2016 debut, I need to point out the cover. It is so pretty and eye catching! Also, I’m excited to read a book featuring the summer before college begins; it’s such a transitional and exciting time. The summary leaves me feeling like The Loose Ends List will be a good combination of handling grief and all things sweet. I really wish it was June and not cold, gray January.

The Loose Ends ListTitle & Author: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Release Date: June 7th, 2016

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary (From Goodreads):

A refreshing, funny, and moving debut novel about first loves, last wishes, and letting go.

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Waiting on Wednesday–Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

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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.

July is a (sadly) far in the future, but I have to share Miranda Kenneally’s upcoming Hundred Oaks novel now that it has a cover. My students and I fangirl over this group of books on a regular basis because they’re so much fun to read. I’m extra excited for Defending Taylor since its main character is a soccer player. The high school I teach at has a really strong soccer program; the girls who play will want to read Taylor’s story.

Defending TaylorTitle & Author: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Release Date: July 1st, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Summary (From Goodreads):

Taylor’s always felt pressure to be perfect. That’s what happens when you are a senator’s daughter. So when she’s kicked out of private school for covering for her boyfriend’s not-so-legal behavior, she is devastated.

Things go from bad to worse as she joins what used to be her rival soccer team at Hundred Oaks High. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. But Ezra has secrets of his own. Will Taylor repeat past mistakes, or can she score a fresh start?

Review: Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson + additional authors

Violent EndsTitle: Violent Ends

Author: Shaun David Hutchinson + additional authors

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Interest: Contemp / More than one POV / Author(s)

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

It took only twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to exit his car, march onto school grounds, enter the gymnasium, and open fire, killing six and injuring five others.

But this isn’t a story about the shooting itself. This isn’t about recounting that one unforgettable day.

This is about Kirby and how one boy—who had friends, enjoyed reading, played saxophone in the band, and had never been in trouble before—became a monster capable of entering his school with a loaded gun and firing on his classmates.

Each chapter is told from a different victim’s viewpoint, giving insight into who Kirby was and who he’d become. Some are sweet, some are dark; some are seemingly unrelated, about fights or first kisses or late-night parties.

This is a book of perspectives—with one character and one event drawing them all together—from the minds of some of YA’s most recognizable names.

It’s been two months since I finished reading Violent Ends and I’m still having a difficult time putting all of my thoughts together. Immediately after finishing it I began tweeting my reactions and thoughts because I had to say something about it to someone right away. So this review is going to be a mixture of those tweets and some written explanation.

One of the primary reasons aspects that makes this an awesome book is that it’s not easy to demonize Kirby. When a school shooting occurs the shooter(s) is almost instantly villainized by the media. And part of me wants to add “rightly so,” but then I think about Violent Ends and all of the stories connected to Kirby, and I find it difficult to type “rightly so.” That’s incredibly hard for me to grapple with as a teacher and parent.

Something that is so smart about Violent Ends is that even though many of the stories could prompt a reader to point to a moment as “the moment” that set Kirby off, we still can’t do that. Take this tweet for instance:

Violent Ends Tweet 3

I won’t say what happens in Elisa’s chapter, but, yeah. I was extremely fortunate to be invited to the Simon & Schuster NCTE dinner that featured Shaun and was able to ask him some questions about this book during the dinner. I asked Shaun specifically about this chapter and even he doesn’t know exactly how it ends. Elisa has purposely kept that quiet because it could sway readers in one direction or not. I bring this up, because it’s a perfect example of how society wants to find the real reason why someone decides to attack a school (or any public place). And often when a suicide is involved we’re left without answers. The authors who wrote this book together crafted it in such a way that while we know Kirby pretty well, we don’t know exactly why. The closest we get to being in Kirby’s head is in a chapter from the gun’s point of view.

There are chapters that made me feel close to Kirby and the characters who were directly involved in his life.

Violent Ends Tweet 4

This chapter, had me on edge like the tweet says, but it also showed an unexpected side of Kirby. I’m still thinking about that character and want Tom Leveen to write a book from her point of view.

There’s also this:

Violent Ends Tweet 2

Mindi Scott’s chapter left me feeling almost everything. And, again, I saw a side of Kirby that made me want to know him more. Mindi was the perfect author for this character and chapter (I’m purposely not naming the character).

Overall, Violent Ends is smart and timely, which is one of the reasons it was one of my favorite books of 2015. I’m impressed with variety of authors Shaun David Hutchinson pulled together and the amazing story they created. I never felt like I was reading something written by a group of authors, which is quite the feat.

Violent Ends Tweet 1 Violent Ends Tweet 5

Waiting on Wednesday: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

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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 left NCTE/ALAN with piles of books, but I didn’t get a copy of Kill the Boy Band which I’m bummed about. My friends have raved about it and said I should have it on my 2016 reading radar. I’ve come to realize that I don’t read as many humorous books as I should and this debut strikes me as something my students will want to read. I’m often drawn to serious/heavy topics, so I’m going to challenge myself to read a few more books on the lighter side in 2016. I think this debut will be a great way to meet my new reading goal!

Kill the Boy BandTitle & Author: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy  Moldavsky

Release Date: February 23rd, 2016

Publisher: Pointe (Scholastic)

Summary (From Goodreads):

From debut author Goldy Moldavsky, the story of four superfan friends whose devotion to their favorite boy band has darkly comical and murderous results.

Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn’t mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he’s tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it’s Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn’t be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn’t mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn’t. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.

Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow BlyTitle: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

Author: Stephanie Oakes

Publisher: Dial Books

Release Date: June 9th, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Debut Author

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us , as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.

I’ve wanted to read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes since the publisher sent me an ARC, but somehow it ended up sitting in my TBR stack for a while. Finding out that it’s a William C. Morris finalist is what pushed me to read it over Christmas break. I wish I would have read it sooner!

The first few pages grabbed my attention and never let it go. I couldn’t possibly turn away after this first sentence: “I am a blood-soaked girl.” That line is going to hook some reluctant readers. From there readers find Minnow Bly surrounded by blood in a snow bank and also discover that she no longer has hands. But it’s not her blood.

This debut is often gruesome and haunting. There are lines about the popping of burning skin and we discover how Minnow’s hands were taken from her. But these lines–and many throughout the novel–are also lyrical and written beautifully. Some scenes reminded me of Grimm’s fairy tales, which makes sense after finding out that this story was inspired by the Grimm fairy tale “The Handless Maiden.” It’s a book unlike any other I’ve read before.

Minnow’s story is told mostly through flashbacks while she’s in juvie remembering and detailing her life in the Kevinian cult. As I was reading I kept thinking how unbelievable it is that people fall into cults, but when Minnow meets Jude, an outsider, and they discuss the Bible and the Prophet, I wonder if some people think that about those who believe in God. Some of the flashbacks were so outrageous I sometimes wondered if Minnow was an unreliable narrator. It’s going to be interesting hearing what my students have to say about this after they read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly.

It’s interesting to me that Minnow Bly’s hands (I assume they’re Minnow’s hands) are at the forefront of the cover considering her hands have been cut off. I also noticed many references to hands, fingers, nails, etc.:

“Fingernail-sized flakes of snow”
“Bulbous knuckles”
“Rigid finger”

I’m going out on a limb and assuming that was done purposefully. I love noticing imagery like that when I’m reading.

Towards the end I was teary and distraught, but I was able to remain hopeful for Minnow. She becomes friends with her juvie inmate, Angel, whose story broke my heart. It’s her friendship with Angel that helps Minnow see the world differently even though she’s told that Angel is a bad influence. Stephanie Oakes wrote a mystery about a cult, but it’s really more than that. Ultimately it’s about a girl who learns to trust herself and find independence.

I completely agree with The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly being a Morris finalist because it’s an impressive debut. I can’t wait to read The Arsonist which is set to release from Dial/Penguin in fall 2016.

Some read-alikes: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (minus the magical realism), The Giver by Lois Lowry, and the short essay “Salvation” by Langston Hughes

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingTitle: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Interest: Contemp / Debut Author

Source: Finished copy received at ALAN

Summary (From Goodreads):

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I’ve been looking forward to reading Everything, Everything since I started reading early reviews during the summer, so when I received two copies at ALAN I was over the moon thrilled. I brought them to school and ended up giving both copies to students which were immediately and quickly passed from student to student. Thankfully I was able to snag one of the copies and read it!

First, I thoroughly enjoyed the multigenre approach used to tell Madeleine’s story. As I was reading this I kept thinking back to my seniors’ memoir multigenre essay and wishing I would have had a copy of this then to share with them. I don’t know exactly why Nicola Yoon chose to write her book this way because it doesn’t really feel like it was necessary for the story, but it worked for me. It upped the interest level which I know has been a big factor in its popularity among my students.

Because I didn’t finish Everything, Everything before Christmas, my momentum was slowed and consequently I found myself growing impatient with the movement of the story. It didn’t help that while I was on Goodreads one day I noticed someone shelved this book a certain way that made me question what was happening in the story. It was kind of an unintentional spoiler so I was anxious to figure it out. Instead of enjoying the relationship between Madeleine and Olly blossoming I was rushing to get further in the book to figure out if my suspicion was right after seeing that shelf designation. Anyway, I think that’s why I ended up really liking this as opposed to loving it.

I will say, however, that I’m excited to read future books written by Nicola Yoon. The story and the format are original and fresh which makes me confident that I’ll enjoy more of her novels. It’s also noteworthy that Everything, Everything isn’t really about SCID like some may expect. It’s more about relationships and self-discovery, which I loved. I felt like I knew Madeleine really well and understood her motivations. I foresee this debut being a perennial favorite in my classroom.

Waiting on Wednesday–Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

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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 adore Jessica Spotswood’s historical fiction trilogy, The Cahill Witch Chronicles, so discovering that she’s written a contemporary realistic novel has me over the moon excited! I like that the summary provides a mysterious vibe to the story and the idea of legacies and curses. I just know this is going to be a fun book to read!

Wild SwansTitle & Author: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Release Date: May 1st, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Summary (From Goodreads):

The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….

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