Book Trailer Thursday (161)–Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Book Trailer Thursday

I’ve seen multiple five star reviews on Goodreads for Mosquitoland by David Arnold, so my interest is definitely piqued. Penguin recently sent me an ARC and the audio; I’m really looking forward to diving into this March 3rd debut.

MosquitolandSummary (From Goodreads):

“I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange.”
After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the “wastelands” of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, “Mosquitoland” is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

Blog Tour + Character Interview: The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

Stephen Metcalfe’s debut novel The Tragic Age is set to release from St. Martin’s Griffin on March 3rd, 2015 and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to interview the main character, Billy Kinsey. He’s a unique character with a unique story. Enjoy!

The Tragic AgeSummary (From Goodreads):

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college.
 
Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. 

With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at.  The tragic age. 

Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.

You’ve brought up the absurd and that you’ve read some works by Albert Camus. Have you read The Stranger as well? If so, what do you think of Meursault’s attitude and way of life?
It’s been awhile.  In retrospect, I’m not so thrilled about old Meursault.  He’s kind of a dick.  I mean, trying to go through life feeling indifferent to the universe because you think it’s indifferent to you is pretty stupid and boring actually.  Also it’s pretty much  impossible (I failed at it miserably).   I mean, all you do is compartmentalize.   Feelings and emotions don’t just go away.  They’re still there, boiling and brewing underneath, waiting to burst out.  And for Meursault they finally did.  And let’s face it, he goes to the guilotine feeling pretty meaningless.  Which frankly, would suck.  I’d like to be a little more proactive with my life than settling for getting my head chopped off.

There are moments in the story when you think one thing and say or do another, or don’t act at all. What’s holding you back?
I actually think I’m doing the best I can in the given moment.   My problem is I’ve seen all these stupid movies and lame TV shows and so my brain keeps flashing on all these idiotic things that I could be doing or should be saying in certain situations – “cool” or “dramatic”or  “witty” things – but don’t.  Maybe I just have an over active imagination.

Do you have any advice for other teens who are dealing with loss?
Maybe embrace it so as to understand it?  It’s sort of part of life, isn’t it.  To paraphrase, Frank Herbert in his semi-interesting novel, Dune –  I will face my loss. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the loss has gone there will be healing” This comes under “the do as I say, not what I do” heading of teenage advice.

You’ve mentioned that you spend quite a bit of time in the library. What’s your favorite book?
Usually the one I’m currently involved with.  At the moment I’m totally smitten with Michael Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. 

 Interesting facts are prevalent in your story. How have you accumulated so much knowledge about such intriguing trivia?
I wish I knew.  I’m just curious about things.   Something interests me and I want to know about it.  And so I look it up and I read about it.  (That’s one thing the internet is good for.)  And reading about it usually suggest other things that sound interesting and so I read about them.  But when it comes to really knowing something, I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.  I should probably go into politics but I still have this crazy idea I might do something meaningful with my life.  Also I’m not so good at lying with a straight face.

Book Trailer Thursday (160)–Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin

Book Trailer Thursday

Meredith Zeitlin made my evening when she sent me an email today about this book trailer. Her debut Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters is one of my favorite books, so Sophomore Year is Greek to Me has been on my reading radar for some time now. I can’t wait to read it when it releases on April 21st!

Sophomore Year is Greek to MeSummary (From Goodreads):

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot

High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she’s devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona’s mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks… but no thanks.

In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.

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 (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

wow

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. 

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.

Run Much? YA Titles Featuring Runners

When I think about sports books I’m typically thinking about football, basketball, and baseball. I honestly have a difficult time getting into those stories, but I’m try to read at least a few titles under that category each year. I think, however, that it’s easy to forget about our students who don’t participate in those sports. I need to remind myself that I also have runners, soccer players, swimmers, etc. in my classes. Thankfully I caught myself reading a few books in a row featuring runners. I’m going to guess that I’m not the only teacher or librarian who forgets about this, which is why I decided to write a post about YA characters who run for one reason or another.

Anna from Moonglass by Jessi Kirby (Goodreads): Anna runs on a team (cross-country, I believe), but she’s also running to clear her head. I liked this part of the story because while it added another element to the plot, it also added another layer to the conflict.

Jessica from The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen (Goodreads): I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jessica’s story is so much more than a story about a runner. It’s about overcoming adversity, friendship, family, and more. I was really touched by how much of a family Jessica’s track team was to her.

Felton from Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads): If you’ve followed my blog for a while then you know how much I love this book. Felton is a stupid fast runner who runs on the track team (how his speed was discovered) and is a fast runner on the football team. Sports in general help Felton work through his family troubles and his personal conflicts.

Alice from On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor (Goodreads): Alice is a fun and quirky character who has decided she’s going to be a runner when her college plans don’t work out. I like that she’s goal-oriented and driven because so many of my students are. This is a great book for my seniors who are overwhelmed and stressing out about college, especially those who haven’t been accepted to their first choice schools. I’m not a runner by any means, but Alice’s story made me feel like I could be a runner, too.

Annie from Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally (Goodreads): Annie has decided to train for a marathon in honor of her boyfriend who died tragically. Miranda Kenneally’s characters continue to become more interesting with each book that she writes. I really enjoyed watching Annie become a marathon runner and watching her work through her grief.

Kate from Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads): Kate’s plate is more than full. She’s in charge of taking care of her family, she’s only applied to one college, her mother has passed away, and her father has taken in a family who she doesn’t get along with. Running is a way for her to calm her nerves and keep some control in her life. This is one of my favorite books written by Laurie Halse Anderson and one that I wish more of my students would read.

Nastya from The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay (Goodreads): This is one of my favorite books and it’s because I got to know the characters so well. Nastya is dealing with more than her fair share of issues and running helps her feel in control. Running has also led her to Josh Bennett who is also dealing with too much. This is a wonderful story that I couldn’t get enough of.

Nico from Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads): Nico is another character who runs to escape. His brother has died and so has his friend. Running helps him clear his head and relieve some of the anger he feels.

Waiting on Wednesday–Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

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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.

You know a book is going to be good when the summary makes you say “Ooooo…” That was exactly my response when I read the synopsis for Things We Know By Heart. But honestly, why *wouldn’t* I have that reaction to a Jessi Kirby book?! Now to wait until April…

Things We Know By HeartTitle & Author: Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby

Release Date: April 21st, 2015

Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary (From Goodreads):

Quinn Sullivan lost the love of her life when her boyfriend, Trent, died in an accident their junior year. In an attempt to get closure, she reached out to the recipients of his donated organs. Though some answered her letters, the one Quinn feels matters most–the person who received Trent’s heart–has been silent.

Nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas has spent the last several years in and out of hospitals waiting for a heart transplant. Now that he’s finally received a new heart, Colton is regaining strength, and he’s walking away from his bedridden past with no intention of looking back. He doesn’t want to know about the person who had to die so that he could live. He only wants to move forward.

But Quinn can’t let it go. Venturing outside the system to find Colton, Quinn takes a risk in hopes of finally laying her memories to rest. But what begins as an innocent conversation quickly becomes an attraction–and to make matters worse, Colton has no idea how they’re connected. His zest for life pulls Quinn from her months of sorrow but leaves her torn between honesty and utter betrayal. Because no matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost.

Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Open Road SummerTitle: Open Road Summer

Author: Emery Lord

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Release Date: April 15th, 2014

Interest: Contemporary / Debut Author

Source: Finished copy received from the author

Summary (From Goodreads):

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

I originally received a copy of Open Road Summer when I was at NCTE in Boston. I added it to my classroom library before I read it because I knew my girls in class would probably love it, so I figured I’d read it over the summer. Sadly my ARC went missing during the school year and I never found it. After tweeting about this, Emery Lord saw my tweet and offered to be a “book fairy” and replace my missing copy. I’m thankful she did for multiple reasons, one of them being because it gave me the opportunity to read a truly enjoyable book!

I have absolutely nothing against reading edgy YA, but sometimes it’s nice to read something light and sweet. Open Road Summer isn’t without its true to life conflicts, but it’s not a book that kept me on edge. Lord has written a book that I’ll feel very comfortable offering to both my incoming freshmen *and* my seniors; it will easily appeal to both grade levels. It’s not uncommon to start a school year with “young” freshmen who may not be ready for a heavy romance filled with conflict. Open Road Summer will work well for those students who want to read about love and summer and friendship. My seniors are a different story. They also like to read about love and summer and friendship, but they generally have more life experience and will appreciate Reagan’s history. (Please keep in mind that these are generalizations and don’t apply to all freshmen or all seniors.)

Speaking of Reagan, I’m glad Emery Lord chose to write this from her point of view. I love how protective and loyal she is to Dee (only people who know Lilah really well call her that) and how much she’s trying to move on from her past. Another thing I enjoyed about her character is that she reminded me of some of my friends, but I could also see myself in her. She’s a well-rounded character. On the outside Reagan is fierce and protective of those she loves, but underneath it all she’s vulnerable and hesitant to let anyone in. She makes mistakes and learns from them. I would, for the record, absolutely love to read stories from Dee’s and Matt’s points of view because they are both genuine and fun characters with interesting lives.

Once I finished reading this and gave it my rating on Goodreads, one of my followers on the site asked me if it’s really worth reading and how the music scene was portrayed. First of all, I absolutely think it’s worth reading. Emery Lord is an author that I’ll be keeping an eye on so I can read more of her books. I thought the question about the music scene was an interesting one because I honestly hadn’t considered it. Dee works hard to maintain a wholesome image because that’s who she really is and she wants to be a positive role model. She faces unfortunate drama and rumors because of the paparazzi, but other than that the drama she deals with mostly has to do with her personal relationships. It’s another reason why I think my more innocent readers will appreciate Emery Lord’s debut.

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