Review: Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry

Look Both WaysTitle: Look Both Ways

Author: Alison Cherry

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: June 14th, 2016

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Interest: Contemp

Summary (From Goodreads):

The story of a girl hoping she’s found a place to belong . . . only to learn that neither talent nor love is as straightforward as she thinks.

A summer away from the city is the beginning of everything for Brooklyn Shepard. Her theater apprenticeship at Allerdale is a chance to prove that she can carve out a niche all her own, surrounded by people who don’t know anything about her or her family of superstar performers.

Brooklyn immediately hits it off with her roommate, Zoe, and soon their friendship turns into something more. Brooklyn wants to see herself as someone who’s open to everything and everyone, but as her feelings for Zoe intensify, so do her doubts. She’s happier than she’s ever been—but is it because of her new relationship? Or is it because she’s finally discovering who she wants to be?

I’ve been in kind of a reading funk lately because I’m so focused on my 21 Day Fix journey. Most of my non-work related focus and energy has been on eating well and working out. Over spring break I tried reading a few different books, but none of them were holding my attention the way I needed them to. On a whim I picked up my copy of Look Both Ways.

I can’t say exactly what it was that did it, but I was hooked instantly. It was fun being thrown into Brooklyn’s theater-driven family right away. It really set the stage (see what I did there? ;)) for the novel. Even though Brooklyn’s family appears very open and accepting, it was immediately apparent how much pressure she’s under to measure up to them. These expectations haunt and affect Brooklyn throughout the novel.

Reading Alison Cherry’s novel made me realize that I haven’t read many books about drama kids. I was never involved in theater, so it’s fun reading from this perspective. The school where I teach has an excellent drama program, so I know my theater kids will eat this up.

Look Both Ways is a well-balanced novel. So much ties in with Brooklyn accepting and discovering who she is. This part of the story came through with her relationship with Zoe and her understanding of herself as a person and thespian. I was afraid her blossoming relationship with Zoe would overshadow the rest of the novel, but it never did. Almost every scene with Zoe led back to Brooklyn working through her own worries about being inadequate and what her family and friends will think of her true passions. Teens, regardless of their participation in drama, will enjoy Cherry’s novel because it deals with real teen concerns and trials. Actually, much of it reminded me of Ask the Passengers by A.S. King. I can see a lot of teen girls appreciating Brooklyn’s gray area when it comes to her friendship/relationship with Zoe and how she often tries to visualize what she wants to happen.

I blew through Look Both Ways. It kept me up late as I told myself “Just one more chapter.” I can’t remember the last time a book did that to me! I’ve never read any of Alison Cherry’s books before; after reading her upcoming release I’m going to remedy that.

Here’s a list of some other positives about the book:

  • The summer setting
  • A boarding school feel since it takes place at a summer camp
  • Fun characters
  • A fresh story

Waiting on Wednesday–When We Was Fierce by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

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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.

The book I’m spotlighting today not only has an attention-grabbing cover, it has an attention-grabbing title. I love the bold splash of red against the black and white. I also like that the title isn’t the standard; it reflects the characters and their voices. I’m also excited that this is a novel in verse! More of my friends should have this on their Goodreads TBR.

When We Was FierceTitle & Author: When We Was Fierce by e. E Charlton-Trujillo

Release Date: August 9th, 2016

Publisher: Candlewick

Summary (From Goodreads):

In an endless cycle of street violence and retribution, is there any escape? A powerful verse novel by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo.

We wasn’t up to nothin’
new really.
Me and Jimmy, Catch and Yo-Yo.
We just comin’ down the street keepin’ cool.
We was good at stayin’ low
Especially around the Wooden Spoon.
Guys hang around there, they got teeth on ’em
Sharper than broken glass.
Words that slit ya’from chin to belly. And that’s just their words.

Fifteen-year-old Theo isn’t looking for trouble, but when he and his friends witness a brutal attack on Ricky-Ricky, an innocent boy who doesn’t know better than to walk right up to the most vicious gang leader around, he’s in trouble for real. And in this neighborhood, everything is at stake. In a poignant, unflinching novel of survival told largely in street dialect, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo enters the lives of teenagers coming of age in the face of spiraling violence among gangs, by police, and at home.

Students Want to Know Jessica Love, author of In Real Life / Blog Tour + Giveaway

Students Want to Know

Jessica Love

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jessica Love is a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, California, where she met her husband and her two tiny dogs online. She is the co-writer of Push Girl with Chelsie Hill.

SOCIAL LINKS
Author’s Website
Facebook
Twitter
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Instagram
Snapchat

When I was offered the opportunity to interview Jessica Love about her novel In Real Life, I jumped at the opportunity because I knew my students would love it. I decided to take it one step further and get them even more excited about her book by having them come up with the interview questions. They immediately asked me if I would be buying a copy for them to read; of course I will!

In Real LifeABOUT THE BOOK (Goodreads):

Hannah Cho and Nick Cooper have been best friends since 8th grade. They talk for hours on the phone, Skype all the time, regularly send each other presents, and know everything there is to know about one another.

There’s just one problem…Hannah and Nick have never actually met.  

Hannah has spent her entire life doing what she’s supposed to, but when her senior year spring break plans get ruined by a rule-breaker at school, she decides to finally break a rule or two herself. She impulsively decides to road trip to Vegas, with her older sister and BFF in tow, to surprise Nick and finally declare her more-than-a-friend feelings for him.

Hannah’s romantic gesture backfires when she gets to Vegas and meets Nick’s girlfriend, whom he failed to mention to Hannah for the past three months.  And it turns out his relationship status isn’t the only thing he’s been lying to her about.  Hannah knows the real Nick can’t be that different from the online Nick she knows and loves, but now she only has one night in Sin City to figure out what her feelings for Nick really are, all while discovering how life can change when you break the rules every now and then.

PRAISE:

“A sweet, honest story that begins as so many of our relationships do: online.” —Emery Lord, author of Open Road Summer

“Love expertly creates a timely and entertaining story set on the glamorous Vegas strip, complete with rock and roll, gambling, love, and drama.  Readers will relate to the characters in this book and their effortless use of technology to support relationships.” —School Library Journal

“[A] sweet story ideal for contemporary teens whose lives play out in similar computer-and-text-message-related ways.” —Booklist

“The story manages to find its heart when it focuses on Hannah and Nick’s relationship. The warmth and intimacy of their friendship is convincing, and readers sighing over their long history will root for their relationship.” —Kirkus Reviews

“As Hannah and Nick work out the kinks of having to interact in person, they discover the advantages of taking things to the next level in this sweet, straightforward romance.” —Publishers Weekly
“A witty and entertaining story of friendship and secrets with a sparkly Vegas backdrop.  Jessica Love knows love!” —Kristin Rae, author of Wish You Were Italian

 

Here’s what my students wanted to know about Jessica Love and her book:

  1. Does Hannah consider the idea that Nick may be “catfishing” her?
    She doesn’t really, because she’s very trusting. They have known each other for so long and have really grown up together, so since they have shared so many things, this doesn’t really cross her mind. They have video chatted, so she knows he is the person from his pictures, and they met because their older siblings (who have met in person) introduced them online, so she feels pretty confident that he’s the real deal.
  1. Jessica, what’s your favorite roadtrip music?
    Cold War Kids. They have a bunch of albums and every single one of their songs is so fantastic. I can just put all their albums on shuffle and I’ll have fantastic driving music for hours and hours and hours.
  1. Do Hannah’s parents know about her relationship with Nick? Are they supportive of the relationship?
    They know she has an online friend she texts a lot, but she insists they’re just friends, so her parents don’t worry too much about it. They trust Hannah…it’s her older sister Grace they don’t trust.
  1. Now that we’re in the year 2016, do you think online relationships have become less taboo than in years past? Is that how you came up with the idea to writeIn Real Life?
    Oh yeah. I met my husband online in 1998, and it was super taboo back then. It was so weird that we actually made up a fake story about how we met because we didn’t want to admit the truth. Now it’s no big deal at all, and we finally let everyone know the truth.I decided to write this book in part because I have so many great friendships with people I’ve met online! I like to show people that real connections can happen with people you’ve never met in person.
  2.  Do you know anyone who has gone through a similar situation as Hannah or has it happened to you?
    No, this has definitely not happened to me. Not with a romance, anyway. I have traveled to meet people I only knew online, but they were just friends, and it was all very drama-free. I was inspired to write In Real Life by some people I saw on a reality show – they had been talking on the phone for five years and had never met in person. I loved that idea and I thought it would make a cool book.

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Waiting on Wednesday–Run by Kody Keplinger

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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 so excited to read a new Kody Keplinger novel! My students and I love her books, so much so that a couple copies of her books have gone missing from my classroom library. Run sounds like it will be just as entertaining to read as the rest of her novels. And I really appreciate that the girls on the cover look more like high school students than most YA cover models.

RunTitle & Author: Run by Kody Keplinger

Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.

Waiting on Wednesday–Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame

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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 have an unexpected snow day today so I’m taking advantage of it and putting this post together (and hopefully a few more!). My students and I are BIG Don Calame fans, so we’re super excited about his April release, Dan Versus Nature. I actually just book talked his book Swim the Fly yesterday and one of my freshmen borrowed it after my book talk and hearing another freshmen in class reaffirming what I was saying. So yeah, we’re fans and this is going to be a must-buy for my classroom.

Dan Versus NatureTitle & Author: Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame

Release Date: April 12th, 2016

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary (From Goodreads):

From screenwriter Don Calame comes another outrageously funny and raunchy tale of teen boys whose plans go awry — this time, on a survivalist camping trip.

Shy and scrawny Dan Weekes spends his time creating graphic novels inspired by his dream girl and looking out for his mom as she dates every man in the state of California. Then his mom drops a bomb: she and her latest beau, Hank, are engaged, and she’s sending her “two favorite men” on a survivalist camping trip to “bond.” Determined to trick Hank into showing his true — flawed — colors on the trip, Dan and his nerdy germaphobe best friend, Charlie, prepare a series of increasingly gross and embarrassing pranks. But the boys hadn’t counted on a hot girl joining their trip or on getting separated from their wilderness guide—not to mention the humiliating injuries Dan suffers in the course of terrorizing his stepdad-to-be. With a man-hungry bear on their trail, no supplies, and a lot of unpleasant itching going on, can Dan see his plan through now that his very survival depends on Hank?

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.

Audiobook Review: Girl at War by Sara Nović

Audio Review

Girl at WarTitle: Girl at War

Author: Sara Novic

Narrator: Julia Whelan

Publisher: Random House

Release Date: May 12th, 2015

Interest: Alex Award Winner

Source: Audio purchased via Audible

Summary (From Goodreads):

Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Jurić is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost.

Audiobook Review: Julia Whelan has become one of my favorite audiobook narrators, especially after listening to Gone Girl last year. Her voice is really easy to listen to and she does a pretty good job changing it for different characters and even using various accents. I decided to listen to Girl at War because it won an Alex Award and also because I don’t have a physical copy (yet). Plus, Julia Whelan as the narrator was an automatic win. It was nice to hear the names and words pronounced correctly since I know I’d butcher them if I read it myself. It was hard at first not hearing Amy from Gone Girl, but after listening for a while that went away and Ana took full form for me.

Book Review: Girl at War is about a war I know little about even though I was alive during that time period. I’m thankful that this debut exists because more readers, especially teen readers, need to know about more wars in history. Our sophomores have an independent reading war poetry unit that requires them to read a novel dealing with war. I’m going to share Sara Novic’s novel with those teachers in my department so they can consider adding it as a recommended book.

There are other qualities that make me want to recommend it to the teachers in my department. The writing it beautiful and full of emotion. I don’t know anything about Sara Novic, but I imagine based on the story she’s written, that this war hits close to home. The end of Part I had me crying and many other scenes caused me to tear up as well. I wish I had a physical copy while I listened because there were plenty of scenes that I wanted to mark based on the writing alone. Girl at War is full of vivid imagery and smart writing overall.

If you’re looking for a novel that will pull at your heartstrings and make you aware of a war, that in my mind hasn’t been covered enough, look no further than Girl at War. I’m looking forward to reading more of Sara Novic’s novels. Even though this is a short review, please don’t let think that I didn’t love this book, because I did. I couldn’t get enough of the audio; I was completely enthralled and connected to the characters.

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?

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