Waiting on Wednesday–Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick

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.

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Jordan Sonnenblick is one of my favorite authors.  His books appeal to guys, they’re honest, they’re usually funny, and they’re always fun to read.  I still have one or two to read, but I have yet to be disappointed (and I don’t expect to be).  It’s exciting that this upcoming release involves time travel because all of his other books I’ve read are very much contemporary realistic fiction.

Are You ExperiencedTitle & Author: Are You Experienced? by Jordan Sonnenblick

Release Date: September 3rd, 2013

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Summary (From Goodreads):

Rich is fifteen and plays guitar. When his girlfriend asks him to perform at protest rally, he jumps at the chance. Unfortunately, the police show up, and so does Rich’s dad. He’s in big trouble. Again. To make matters worse, this happens near the anniversary of his uncle’s death from a drug overdose years ago. Rich’s dad always gets depressed this time of year, but whenever Rich asks questions about his late uncle, his dad shuts down.

Frustrated by his dad’s silence, Rich sneaks into his office and breaks into a locked cabinet that holds his dad’s prized possession: an electric guitar signed by Jimi Hendrix. Before he knows it, Rich is transported to the side of a road in Upstate New York with a beautiful girl bending over him. It will take him a while to realize it’s 1969, he’s at Woodstock, and the girl’s band of friends includes his fifteen-year-old dad and his uncle, who’s still alive. What Rich learns, who he meets, and what he does could change his life forever.

Books I Thought I’d Like Less and More Than I Did

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It’s always disappointing when I discover that a book I thought I was going to love ends up being a dud.  But it’s really exciting when I’m reading a book that I had minimal expectations for turns into a favorite.  Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about those books.

Books I thought I’d like more than I did:

Splintered by A.G. Howard (Goodreads): I was really enjoying this when I first started listening to the audio.  The entire premise was intriguing and I was drawn in.  But then it turned into a weird, way-too-emo for me story that I couldn’t enjoy.  There’s a really long list of things I really disliked about this debut.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Goodreads): I’m still disappointed that I didn’t like this book.  I didn’t even finish it!  It didn’t speak to me and I hated the footnotes.

Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan (Goodreads): This debut had instant action and lots of promise, but ultimately it fizzled about half way through the book.  I never finished it.

Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins (Goodreads): I really expected to like this book.  I like the star-crossed lovers storyline, and I was looking forward to see how the story would play out with one of the characters being Amish.  Unfortunately, the story grew repetitive and stalled out.  I stopped reading it after I discovered that there would be more books.  If I was already bored half way through the first book, I couldn’t let myself invest in yet another series.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Goodreads): I love Lauren Oliver’s writing so I fully expected to love this one.  I was listening to the audio over the summer and made it as far as the second half of the audiobook before I gave up.  I grew bored with the story.  I wanted it to move along faster, and after a while Lauren Oliver’s flowery writing started to sound verbose.  Maybe one day I’ll come back to this one, but it won’t be any time soon.

SplinteredAn Abundance of KatherinesGlowTemptationDelirium

Books I thought I’d like less than I did:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads): Two students told me about this during my first year teaching my YA elective.  I was really hesitant to read it because I thought I didn’t like science fiction.  After they told me how amazing it was I decided to give it a shot.  It’s one of my favorites and it even made me cry.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Goodreads): I remember when my high school best friend picked this up when we were in college.  She raved and raved about it, but I wasn’t interested.  One of my students gave me her copy to read during spring break a couple years ago, so I finally caved and read it.  I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner because it’s SO GOOD!  I didn’t want it to end.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads): I remember seeing an ARC of this in my ALAN box in Chicago and thinking, “What is this?”  I had never heard of Jordan Sonnenblick, and I had never heard of this book.  I don’t know why I was so hesitant.  I can’t even remember how I ended up reading it last year, but I enjoyed every minute of it.  It’s funny and heart-warming.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads): I tried reading The Warrior Heir during my first year of teaching and really disliked it.  Last year I requested some titles to help me discover more fantasy and this was recommended.  I figured I’d like it, but I had no idea I would love it.  I was completely absorbed in the story and the world.  It’s a long book, and I’m pretty sure I read it in just over a day.  This is a fabulous series.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Goodreads): I tried reading this in the traditional sense and then a year later I tried the audio.  Both times I had to set it aside.  I finally tried the audio for a second time and I was finally hooked.  I think this is one of those “I need to be in the right mood books” because I can’t believe I didn’t finish it the first time I tried reading it.  It’s such a fantastic book that’s beautifully written.  If you haven’t read it yet, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio.

The Knife of Never Letting GoWater for ElephantsCurveball The Year I Lost My GripThe Demon KingDaughter of Smoke and Bone

Top Ten New To Me Authors of 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I’ve read some pretty fantastic books this year written by some pretty fantastic authors.  I love reading debut novels, so many of the authors featured on my list are debut authors.  I’d love to know which “new to you” authors of 2012 are your favorites!

1. Trish Doller–I’ve been raving about Something Like Normal since I read it this spring.  It’s a stunning debut and I absolutely CAN’T WAIT until Trish’s new book, Where the Stars Still Shine, releases next year.

2. Matthew Quick–I know his YA debut released in 2011, but I didn’t read one of his books until this year when I read Boy21.  This is another book that I rave about on a regular basis.  I love Boy21 so much I’m reading it out loud for the second time this year since I have a brand new group of students this trimester.

3. R.J. Palacio–I was late to jump on the “Everyone needs to read Wonder!” bus, but peeps, Everyone needs to read Wonder!  I’m so impressed by how Palacio wrote this book and has been able to reach so many readers across age levels.  I have sophomores reading Wonder and singing its praises.  I’ve been telling teachers I work with to buy it and read with their kids.  I will buy R.J. Palacio’s next book without a doubt.

4. Tammara Webber–Sigh…I LOVED Easy.  I hope Tammara Webber writes more New Adult novels because I had the worst book hangover after reading Easy.  I want more of her books!

5. Jessica Brody–I’m way late on this one!  I was asked to be part of the 52 Reasons to Hate My Father blog tour, so I was lucky enough to receive a copy to read.  And it was so much fun to read!  Since adding it to my class library, a few of my students have requested that I buy more of Brody’s books which I’m happy to do because I want to read all of them.

6. Jordan Sonnenblick–Again, he’s been around for a few years, but only this year have I been aware of his books.  I read Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, and since then I’ve been reading more and more of his books.  They’re great as audio and great as a traditional read.  His writing is engaging and his stories are heartwarming.

7. Jessica Spotswood–I bought Born Wicked on a whim and then read it straight through.  I’m usually hesitant to read historical fiction, but Jessica Spotswood wrote her debut in the best way.  Her historical fiction is romantic, magical (hence the witches), and engaging.  The language of the time isn’t overdone, but balanced and easy to read.  I can’t wait to read the sequel; I wish I didn’t have to wait until this summer!

8. Miranda Kenneally–I’ve read both Catching Jordan and Stealing Parker and love them both.  They’re incredibly popular in my classroom which made me eve more excited to find out that Kenneally is signed on to write six more books with Sourcebooks.

9. Rae CarsonThe Girl of Fire and Thorns released in 2011, but I didn’t read it until this summer.  I love Rae’s writing style and the characters she’s included in this high fantasy trilogy.  The sequel, The Crown of Embers, just released this fall and its been receiving lots of rave reviews.

10. S.J. Kincaid–I read Insignia last fall, but it didn’t release until this summer.  S.J. Kincaid is an exciting new voice in YA with the Insignia trilogy.  It’s exciting and refreshing and full of guy-appeal.

Flash Reviews (13)–Audiobooks Edition

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Since January my reading as been in a general slump because I’ve been overwhelmed with work, my Masters, and health stuff.  In April I decided to give audiobooks a try and can’t believe I didn’t start listening to them sooner!  I’ve created an Audible account and now listen to audiobooks while I’m getting ready for work, driving to and from work, sometimes during my lunch at work, while I’m cooking, etc.  It makes me feel SO PRODUCTIVE to be “reading” while I’m doing all of these things because those are all of the things that distract me from reading.  I’ve even wanted to start walking more so I can listen to my audiobook of the moment since I have the Audible app on my phone.  Anyway, since I’ve listened to a few already I decided to try some flash reviews since I’ve never tried writing a full review of an audiobook before.

Title: Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Narrator: Joel Johnstone

Summary (From Goodreads): Thirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey.  But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven’s world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother’s illness and his parents’ attempts to keep the family in one piece.

Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.

Flash Review: I listened to this during my spring break in April because my whole reading plan went down the drain when my grandpa decided to go off the vent he’d been on for a month.  I posted about this during that week after he died, but the reason I decided to listen to an audiobook during this time was that I still wanted to accomplish something even though I was spending four hours in the car driving back and fourth across the state to see him and be with family and go to the funeral.  It’s not exactly the happiest memory attached to this book, but regardless of all that Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie is a fantastic book to listen to in audio.  Again, it probably wasn’t the best choice to start with because it’s sad considering Steven’s little brother Jeffrey gets cancer, so I spent a lot of those four hours driving and crying and being all weepy (not so great to do while driving), but I also laughed and was able to take my mind off what was going on.  Joel Johnstone is a really talented narrator.  He does a great job switching voices, adding emotion to what he’s reading, etc.  He’s just about everything you could look for in an audiobook narrator.

The story itself is wonderful.  Steven is going through a tough time trying to understand the severity of his brother’s condition, and it’s not helping that his mom is almost always gone with Jeffrey and his dad isn’t talking to him about much of anything.  Steven’s grades start to suffer, and he begins to feel angry and depressed and confused.  I was able to relate to Steven because I often felt the same way when my dad was in the hospital with Leukemia, but I was in college at the time and understood how serious it was (thankfully my dad’s now cancer free!).  Jordan Sonnenblick has a firm grip on how teens think and act which shows in his writing.  I not only recommend listening to the audio, but adding the book to your library or class library as well if that applies to you.

5/5 stars for this audiobook!

Title: Beautiful Chaos

Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Narrator: Kevin T. Collins

Summary (From Goodreads): Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena’s Claiming. Even Lena’s family of powerful Supernaturals is affected – and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What – or who – will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?

For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He’s being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it isn’t by Lena – and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Even worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself – forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn’t know why, and most days he’s too afraid to ask.

Sometimes there isn’t just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there’s no going back. And this time there won’t be a happy ending.

Flash Review: This series never lets me down and Beautiful Chaos is no different.  In the fall I bought my copy as soon as it released, but while I was reading it I got distracted and set it down.  The problem though is that I never picked it back up.  Once I started listening to audiobooks I remembered that I wanted to finish reading Beautiful Chaos and sampled the audio.  I liked it right away, but I had no idea what I was in for just by listening to the sample!  Basically, after listening to this in audio I will only listen to the audio when book four releases.  It is awesome!  First of all, Kevin T. Collins is the perfect narrator for Ethan.  He uses his southern drawl and switches between all of the characters flawlessly.  The only voice that didn’t work for me was when he was reading Liv’s parts.  His British girl voice just didn’t cut it, but it did make me giggle.  Other than that he’s really impressive.  Plus, the audio plays background music during Ethan and Lena’s flashbacks, and we get to hear the Sixteen Moons (which has since changed for this book to Eighteen Moons) song.  I can’t sing the praises enough for Beautiful Chaos in audio.

The Beautiful Creatures series continues to be fantastic.  I love Link now as Linkubus and getting to know other characters more like Ridley and Amma.  So many secrets are uncovered about Lena’s family that my head was spinning.  Plus the ending completely blew my mind.  I had to rewind the audio and listen again because I couldn’t believe what happened.

4/5 stars for this audiobook

Title: Marcelo in the Real World

Author: Francisco X. Stork

Narrator: Lincoln Hoppe

Summary (From Goodreads): Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear–part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer. . . to join “the real world.”

There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file–a picture of a girl with half a face–that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the intensity and purity of its voice, this extraordinary audiobook is a love story, a legal drama, and a celebration of the music each of us hears inside.

Flash Review: I’m a little torn over this audiobook.  The story itself is beautiful, but the narrator isn’t all that impressive.  His voice is kind of monotonous and he doesn’t do a very good job changing his voice for different characters.  I also had a difficult time distinguishing when Marcelo is thinking something and saying something because there isn’t enough inflection in Lincoln Hoppe’s voice in some of those parts.  Despite those flaws, I was still able to continue listening to the audio because the story is so strong.

I listened to Marcelo in the Real World because we’re using it this year with our To Kill a Mockingbird YA connection unit.  I’m extremely happy we decided on this book because it will tie in nicely.  Just like many characters in To Kill a Mockingbird are misunderstood and judged, Marcelo and other characters are judged and misunderstood also.  Marcelo is very endearing and seeing him lose his innocence about the world was heartbreaking at times.  The characterization is strong in Marcelo in the Real World as well as the writing; it’s an excellent example of literary contemporary fiction.

4/5 stars for this audiobook

Review–Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick

Curveball: The Year I Lost My GripTitle: Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, 285 pages

Author: Jordan Sonnenblick

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Interest: Sports / Guy appeal

Release Date: March 1, 2012

Source: ARC received at the ALAN Conference

Summary (From Goodreads): Sometimes, the greatest comebacks take place far away from the ball field.  Meet Peter Friedman, high school freshman. Talented photographer. Former baseball star. When a freakish injury ends his pitching career, Peter has some major things to figure out. Is there life after sports? Why has his grandfather suddenly given him thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment? And is it his imagination, or is the super-hot star of the girls’ swim team flirting with him, right in front of the amazing new girl in his photography class? In his new novel, teen author Jordan Sonnenblick performs his usual miraculous feat: exploring deep themes of friendship, romance, family, and tragedy, while still managing to be hilariously funny.

Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author.  A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever After to one of her classes, but other than that I haven’t heard much about Jordan Sonnenblick’s work.  After reading Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, I feel let down that I didn’t know about his other books before.  I adored this book.  I loved the characters, the plot, the balance of sports and family and art, everything.  I just looked up some of Jordan Sonnenblick’s other books and found them at my local Barnes & Noble, which means I have a trip to the book store scheduled for today.  If his other books are great like Curveball, then I can’t go wrong!

Like I said, I love the characters.  Usually when I can’t finish a book, it’s because I don’t connect with the characters.  Peter is a likeable character.  He’s entering his freshman year of high school, and he and his best friend A.J. have big plans.  Peter and A.J. have always played baseball together, and they know they can dominate in high school.  Sadly, Peter’s dreams of playing high school baseball are crushed because of an injury.  This unfortunate injury really sets the pace for Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, because at the very beginning of a new chapter in Peter’s life, he is forced to change more than he planned.  Peter has always identified himself as a baseball player, but now he doesn’t know what to do or who he’s going to be.  Thankfully he has his grampa (an odd spelling, but that’s how it’s spelled in the book), who is a well known photographer.  Peter’s grampa has been teaching him about photography for almost as long as Peter has been playing baseball, so it’s second nature to him.  No more baseball and a depressed Peter leads him to taking a photography class (so he can find something else to focus on) where he meets the lovely Angelika.  Jordan Sonnenblick has a great cast of characters here.  A.J. is completely focused on him and Peter playing baseball together, but Peter can’t find the words to break the bad news to him.  He’s not an overly heavy presence in the book, but when he’s in a scene with Peter, it’s great and usually funny–especially when A.J. wants to give Peter love advice.  Angelika is Peter’s love interest, and while she makes him incredibly nervous, she’s very level-headed and really helps Peter.

While I love all the characters, I need to touch on Peter a little more.  He’s obviously a very talented baseball player, but he’s also very talented in the field of photography.  I love this balance because a majority of the YA I’ve read usually focuses on one ability, like art for example.  Because Peter can’t play baseball anymore, he needs to find a new focus and consequently finds that he’s really good at photography after everything his grandfather has taught him.  Teens who enjoy reading about sports will still enjoy Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip because even though Peter isn’t playing baseball anymore, it’s still a big part of who he is and also because he takes pictures at sporting events.  Peter is simply an endearing character.  He’s loyal to his family and friends and really cares about them.  Readers will love him.

Sonnenblick tackles some big issues in this book, but he does a fantastic job of balancing these issues with humor.  Not all of the humor is laugh out loud funny, but it’s enough to make a reader giggle.  In one scene, for example, Peter’s talking to Angelika and getting ready to take some photos of her.  “‘I think it makes sense to try for some, uh, full-body shots’–UGH, that sounded sleazy–‘and then, if we don’t like what we’re getting, we can get a little closer in.  With this telephoto lens, I mean.  Not like I’d be, uh, getting closer to you. Uh.’ That’s great, I thought. End a freaking sentence with ‘Uh,’ why don’t you?  Smooth.”  Peter’s insecurity around Angelika really brought out some fantastically funny lines and scenes.  A.J.’s advice is an excellent source of humor.  “‘Because, as your wingman and personal hormonal advisor, I have to analyze your moves, her countermoves, your counter-countermoves, her counter-counter-countermoves. . . . Wow, this is really complicated stuff.  Maybe we should stop by Staples on the way home so I can buy a clipboard and some graph paper.”  I read this part at the end of SSR, and one of my freshmen noticed my smiling and giggling to myself.  He asked about it, so I read it to my class.  Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip has been added to my future read alouds list because the characters in this book are funny and their voices are very well defined.

I don’t want to get into the heavier topics because it will spoil a big part of the book.  If you want to read a novel full of humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest novel enough.  I absolutely love Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and can’t wait to read more of his books.

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