Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shadowlands, by Kate Brian

I read the second book in the Shadowlands series, called Hereafter, this summer on Netgalley, not realizing it wasn't the first in the series. It was AMAZING and I couldn't wait to read the first installment.

Honestly, Shadowlands was not as awesome as I was expecting it to be, which is kind of disappointing - I'm worried that some of my students would be bored with Shadowlands and not want to read the rest of the series; they'd really be missing out because Hereafter was so good!!

Anyway, the novel is about a girl, Rory Miller, who is targeted by a notorious serial killer, who just happens to be her high school math teacher. Rory is able to escape his clutches, but after several days of FBI protection, it is discovered that the killer - Mr. Nell - has infiltrated Rory's family's home. So, they are sent to an FBI safe house in the elusive beach town of Juniper Landing. Rory's family quickly settles into the community, but Rory can't help but notice that something's slightly "off" about the town. Everyone seems to know everyone, yet no one seems to care when a teenage girl (Rory's friend) goes missing. Rory can't shake the feeling of strangeness, and is determined to figure out what's really going on in Juniper Landing.

Also Try: Tumble and Fall, by Alexandra Coutts; If You Find Me, by Emily Murdoch; "Private" series by Kate Brian

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Another Little Piece of My Heart, by Tracey Martin

Another Little Piece of My Heart is about a girl named Claire who's got a lot working against her. She's just graduated high school and recently lost her mom to cancer; the details of her first break-up have been dramatized and broadcast to the world via best-selling album by her now-famous ex; her dad's lost his job, gone off his rocker, and is dating his secretary who happens to be obnoxious; with the losing of the job comes the loss of her college fund; and, Claire's an aspiring musician who can't seem to get a decent song together.

As you can imagine, her family's month-long escape to her aunt and uncle's house in New Hampshire comes as a welcome retreat to Claire. However, she's not there long before the Claire-bashing ex, Jared (now a hot, famous, sought-after rock star) shows up in the same small beach town. Claire's cousins and new friends are fawning over Jared, and Claire's just trying to keep their history under wraps so that no one realizes that she's the one his songs are about. In the end, though, Claire realizes that maybe Jared wasn't such a bad guy after all.

I did find Martin's writing clever and her characters endearing, but overall, I just found the novel a little predictable. I felt like I knew what was going to happen before it did, and I don't really like that in a novel. It was a quick, easy read though, and I can think of several students who would enjoy it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick

It's been a while since a book made me cry - but Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie had me tearing up consistently throughout the book.

The book is about Steven, an average (if not a little awkward) 8th grader. Steven's number one problem in life is his perfect, 8 years-younger brother, Jeffrey. However, Steven gains new appreciation for Jeffrey when his family learns that Jeffrey has leukemia. Steven learns a lot about being a brother, friendship, forgiveness, and himself, while his family faces Jeffrey's stressful, sometimes touch-and-go battle with leukemia.

I loved the way Sonnenblick really captured the mind of an awkward middle-schooler. While he was writing from a boy's perspective, I think a lot of what he said rang true for girls in middle school as well. Here's one of my favorite passages from the book:

"It suddenly struck me that the two worst social situations in middle school - dances and dodgeball - have a lot in common for guys like me. You go to the gym, stand in a corner as far away from the action as possible, and try not to be seen. Your eyes scan the room for threats - either flying projectiles aimed at your head or girls aimed at mortifying you by getting you out on the floor - and you sweat profusely while standing still."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Variant, by Robison Wells

One of my students told me a few weeks ago, "Variant is the only book I've ever read that I've actually liked." So, I knew I had to read it!!

Benson Fisher hasn't had an easy life. He's been in foster care since he was very little, and he's bounced around from foster home to foster home. This also means he's attended a string of schools, none of which have felt right to him. So, in a last-ditch effort, he applies to Maxfield Academy, a private school. He gets in, but realizes soon after enrolling that this school is not what he was hoping for.

There are no adults at the school, it's surrounded by a secure wall, there are cameras watching the students' every move, and the students have formulated three gangs - Variant, Havoc, and the Society - that rule the school. Benson joins Variant. No one is allowed to leave, but students disappear often; they're sent to "detention", from which they never return. No one knows where detention is or what happens, but they can guess.

From the get-go, Benson realizes that there's something not-quite-right about the school and makes plans to escape. But he'll realize that what's actually going on there is worse than he ever would have imagined.

Variant was really fast-paced and kept me guessing. I had to know what was going on at the school. I felt just as clueless as one of the students at the school, and I think that's what propelled me to keep reading. I also liked that it was kind of sci-fi-y without being overtly sci-fi, if that makes sense. The ending of the book was a definite cliffhanger; the next book is called Feedback and I'll definitely be reading it soon!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Champion, by Marie Lu

I can't believe the Legend series is over! I've had a love-hate relationship with this series; didn't really like the first book, Legend, but loved Prodigy. Champion did not disappoint and had plenty of plot twists, which I've come to expect from Lu.

The last book in the trilogy finds June and Day in the midst of an attempt by the Colonies to overthrow the Republic. The plague that began in the Republic has spread to the Colonies and they're seeking revenge. The Colonies say that the only way they'll back down is if they're given a cure for the plague - this knowledge lies in Day's brother, Eden, who's been infected with the plague. But Day is hesitant to let the Republic experiment with his brother any more June realizes that things in the Republic are not as easy as they may have seemed, and she and Anden (the Elector) travel to Antarctica in hopes of garnering their support. While there, she realizes just how far behind the Republic is. In Antarctica, all people have virtual chips that record how many 'points' they have and what 'level' they're on. You can gain points by doing nice things for people, and lose points when you break a rule. Points and levels determine what sort of job you wind up with. Anyway, the Republic is ultimately able to save itself, but not in the way I'd imagined. The journey is action-packed and kept me on my toes!

Champion was an excellent end to the series! Sometimes I feel like final books leave too many loose ends untied, or just don't give closure, but Champion certainly did all of that. I can't wait to see what's next from Marie Lu.

Overall, Champion seemed a little more YA than the other books in the series - a little more risque. There's a scene in which June and Day are intimate, which I wasn't really expecting. It wasn't a big deal though, I think kids would probably just glide over it without thinking anything of it.