Wednesday, June 24, 2015

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Goodreads summary: 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.

Holy cow, I am still thinking about this book; it gave me some serious “feels” for many of the characters.
    hate--for Finch’s father
    bitterness--for Finch’s mother
    affection--for Violet
    anguish--for Finch
    dissatisfaction--for Mr. Embry, the counselor
    humiliation--for Amber
    justification--for Roamer

And many all over the map feelings, as I read though the plot.

This is a definite school buy for me, and a potential Gateway.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Uncomfortable issues, two reviews for a couple of amazing books

I did not want to read this book.  It made me uncomfortable, and I must have put it down about half a dozen times to take a walk around the room, before I finally just sat down to finish it.  I do think my reaction has to do with teaching in a high school, and having a teenage daughter. Thousand Words come across as a very believable portrayal of the social, emotional, and professional fallout from sexting.  Mistakes are made by teens and adults on both sides of this issue, making this a great book to use for talking points, and my own philosophy of living vicariously through fiction.  DON’T BE STUPID, PEOPLE!

An excellent portrayal of how a rape victim is treated by society.  Some Boys tells the story of Grace after her rape by Zac, a popular lacrosse player, who filmed part of the encounter and posted it online to refute Grace’s claim. The narration is told from two points of view, Grace and Ian, Zac’s best friend, during spring break when they share locker cleaning duty as disciplinary treatment for outbursts at school.  They have liked each other in the past but the rape and subsequent social fallout have made a relationship near impossible.  

Blaming the victim, rape culture, gender roles, and expectations are all taken in this book.  Many people need to hear about these issues, and I want Some Boys to be more than a voice crying in the wilderness. #shoutingback is a hashtag used by a tumblr blog and Twitter page called Everyday Sexism where women can share their stories of harassment to help call attention to the problems they encounter everyday. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

If you like Percy Jackson...

I want this to be a series. I want more of this story, I want to see/read Zephyr coming into her powers as Nyx, to see if she can fully control them, and see if she can find love unlike other Harpies.  The promise is there, even though the novel did wrap up nicely. It’s well paced, and the romance is downplayed. With the cover a mysterious bunch of black feathers, the boys can read this one without feeling uncomfortable.  

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson started a trend in young adult novels using ancient Greek mythology with a modern day setting that I like very much. It’s a great way to interest today’s teens in ancient literature and maybe help their ACT/SAT scores in a sneaky way. The Goddess Test is another book series in this vein; that will appeal to teen girls with its romance, love triangle, drama, and mystery elements. I can think of several students I will hand this to, this fall, when school resumes. Though I needed the reference list at the end to figure out who was who in the pantheon, because of the modern names, and not quite enough fleshing out of some of the minor characters—perhaps their namesakes will be more obvious in later novels. 

Kate is facing the end of her world as she fights the inevitability of her mother’s death from cancer. When Ava, a classmate, dies before Kate’s eyes and she has the chance to change the incident she makes a rash promise to Henry, a handsome young man who appears to magic it all away. Kate will live with Henry for six months of the year for the rest of her life. Henry is handsome, mysterious, powerful, and reminds me of the best of Edward, without the vampire part. 

When Phoebe's mom returns from Greece with a new husband and moves them to an island in the Aegean, Phoebe's plans for her senior year and track season are ancient history. Now she must attend the uber exclusive academy, where admission depends on pedigree, namely, ancestry from Zeus, Hera, and other Greek gods. That's right, they're real, not myth, and their teen descendants are like the classical heroes: supersmart and super beautiful with a few superpowers. And now they're on her track team! Armed only with her Nikes and the will to win, Phoebe races to find her place among the gods. (from

These are fairly light reads, but fun, and good for track girls.  I liked the first one better than the second, and Tera Lynne Childs has also tackled Medusa and her sisters in Medusa Girls.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Island Living

Searching for Sky by Jill Cantor

I’m dating myself but – if you’ve ever wondered what happened after The Blue Lagoon  kids got saved – this is your story. Imagine being thrust into modern day California after living on an island for all of your life. We’re not talking a resort island, or Gilligan’s Island. Real survival island, where you and your friend are the only two people on it.  

The writing style feels a bit elementary because the characters have such simple labeling for items in their world, but it serves the plot. While this was not the best book I’ve ever read, I was vested in Sky & River early on, and cared about what happened to them. I’m not sure about the ending.  I had another teacher friend read it to get her take, and she came away with a more realistic ending than I wanted.  She’s probably right.  I just don’t like it.  

Nil by Lynne Matson

I used to watch Survivor, then I got tired of the sameness. Nil reminds me a bit of survivor, but instead of being voted off the island, the characters have a year to catch a gate, or they die. There is no camera crew or host to intervene when someone gets hurt to take them to the hospital. The stakes are definitely higher on Nil.

I thought this was fairly paced and an easy read. The world building flowed into the story rather than being an info dump. You do need to watch the chapter headings as Charley and Thad take turns telling the story. If you hate insta-love, you’ll be annoyed, but maybe you’ll be pacified by the whole intensity of the one year left to live dynamic. I got a bit panicked, toward the ending, because I’d looked online and noticed there was a sequel. Thankfully this one does not have a cliffhanger ending.  I hope the second book is a companion, and gives more info on Nil and some of the other characters.  

I’m glad this one is in my library, and I will happily buy the next one.