Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ARC Review: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Synopsis:

From Jessi Kirby, a debut novel about confronting the past in order to move ahead.

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface. 

While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

Details:
  • Pub. Date: May 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
The Elliott Review:

This book is interesting - filled with a graceful prose that, gently as calm ocean waves, guides you through Anna's experiences as she comes to terms with issues in her mother's long ago suicide. The story is contains relevant, natural symbolism and skillful metaphors that bring about a deeper understanding of the situation without any unnecessary fuss and melodrama.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. They have their own personal quirks that make them interesting to read about and meaningful for Anna to interact with. Her relationship with her dad is a complex one, filled with so many unsaid words and things between them that need to be healed. Through her new relationships formed, Anna is able to learn more about her mother's motivation and about what her parents were like in the past.

Everything in this book is well-developed and intensely heartfelt. The romance between Anna and Tyler is sweet and believable, and I love how he helps her as she works through her family issues - believing in her strength even if she doesn't.

My favorite aspect of the book was the crazy beach-walker. Constantly crawling across the beach wearing a sign saying "Repent," no one would ever expect him to stand for something so important. I thought he was kind of random, but he is actually very important to the story.

Source: Thanks to The Teen {Book} Scene for organizing this tour. You can view other stops on the tour here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blog Tour: Character Interview with Anna (Moonglass)



What is a favorite memory you shared with your mom when you were younger? 

My favorite memories I have with my mom are of walking the beach together looking for sea glass. It seemed like a time when she was fully content. She glowed then.

What about a favorite memory with your dad from your younger years?

Early morning surf sessions when he’d wake me up in the dark and our VW would already be running. We’d head off to some ‘secret spot’, just the two of us, then share a giant breakfast after.

What is one lesson you've learned about yourself since the move? 

That I'm stronger than I thought.

Have you started to feel more at home here? How is school? 

Yes! I'm definitely more at home here. I run the beach, have good friends at school, even visit my mom’s cottage some days, and it feels different now. More peaceful.

What have you and Tyler been up to lately?

It seems like we’re here at my place a lot—diving or hanging out on the beach. He’s here every Sunday for Poke-N-Eat, and he’s become one of the guys with my dad and Andy. We have time to ourselves too, and we may or may not still sneak into a cottage or two.

What do you think you'll want to do in the future after high school?

That’s something I’m not sure of at all yet. I know I’ll want to always be near the beach, so we’ll see!



From Jessi Kirby, a debut novel about confronting the past in order to move ahead.

I read once that water is a symbol for emotions. And for a while now, I've thought maybe my mother drowned in both.

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love- a place awash in memories that Anna would just as soon leave under the surface. 
While life on the beach is pretty great, with ocean views and one adorable lifeguard in particular, there are also family secrets that were buried along the shore years ago. And the ebb and flow of the ocean's tide means that nothing- not the sea glass that she collects on the sand and not the truths behind Anna's mother's death- stays buried forever.

Follow Jessi:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Celebrate National Library Week!


We are in the midst of  National Library Week! Today I'm guest posting over at Bookworming in the 21st Century to raise awareness of the ways that you can support your library! Thanks to Kristen for having me!

Spotlight: Blue Apple Board Books


On March 1st and 2nd of this year, Blue Apple Books released some of the cutest board books ever! These are the type of books that my niece and nephew go crazy over. First of all, the moving picture of the animals on the front would engage them immediately with its fun look and feel. And the inside pictures of cute animals and text that encourages kids and parents to have a lot of fun movement. My nephew is big on memorizing phrases from books and saying them at random times, and I can totally see him going around asking people if they can wiggle like an octopus! These books would be a perfect gift for kids (or their parents)!


Caldecott Medal winner Simms Taback's vibrant illustrations and Harriet Ziefert's rhythmic text will have young readers waddling, wiggling, swaying, and swooping with delight. Wiggle!'s animals are ready for a dip in the sea. This sturdy board book with lenticular artwork on the cover will get kids on their feet and keep them moving.





Caldecott Medal winner Simms Taback's vibrant illustrations and Harriet Ziefert's rhythmic text will have young readers prancing and dancing with delight. Swing! features animals on a jaunty walk to the zoo. This sturdy board book with lenticular artwork on the cover will get kids on their feet and keep them moving.






Thanks to Tracey at Media Masters for providing copies of these books for a fair review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Winners: Scorpia Rising

Winners of Scorpia Rising:

James C.
Lexie 
April X.


Thanks to Karen and Tracey at Media Masters for making this giveaway possible.

Winners chosen by Random.org.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: How to Survive Anything by Rachel Buchholz

Synopsis:

Let's face it. With school pressures, social pressures, parental pressures...the teenage years are tough. Your best friend is with you one day, dating your crush the next. But it could be worse! You could be face-to-face with an angry grizzly, or chest-deep in quicksand. Never fear, National Geographic has the solution! In this hilariously informative take on surviving the trials ortf middle school and the jungles of South America, we combine our expertise on nature and adventure with the fun-and-learning approach of our Nat Geo style...and voila, the perfect advice to conquer any obstacle, whether it threatens life or social status or both. Edgy, young, authoritative, and amusingly illustrated, this title will grab the attention of young teens and gift-buyers alike

Details:


To be published April 12th 2011 by National Geographic Society

The Elliott Review:

This is another book that I know my students will love. It's another one that will have to be place on my "special" shelf to insure that no one steals it. I expect it to soon show evidence of much love as have my other National Geographic titles. With interesting pictures and a magazine-like layout that draws the eye, it is a great book for students to grab and instantly become engaged in after finishing work or just for fun on their own.

It showcases thirty-one situations that kids/teens might experience and takes a humorous tone on how to survive and/or save face if a particular thing happens to them. Taking on the form of a guidebook, it shows a funny picture that illustrates the "Right" and "Wrong" thing to do in each situation and then goes on to explain how to deal with the situation in question. I found these hilarious and immediately went through the book and looked at each one. This is yet another way the book could easily draw reluctant readers into an exploration of the text to see additional details.

A fresh, humorous approach to the angst of growing up, this book will help kids to have fun making fun of themselves (and the people in the pictures) while at the same time learning some skills that can help them through tricky life situations.

Source: Thanks to Tracey at Media Masters for providing a copy of this book for a fair review.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: Scorpia Rising (Alex Rider 9) by Anthony Horowitz

Synopsis:

Scorpia has dogged Alex Rider for most of his life. They killed his parents, they did their best to con Alex into turning traitor, and they just keep coming back with more power. Now the world's most dangerous terrorist organization is playing with fire in the world's most combustible land: the Middle East. No one knows Scorpia like Alex. And no one knows how best to get to Alex like Scorpia. Until now.

The chases have never been more intense, the fights more treacherous, or the risks so perilous to mankind. And this time, Alex won't get away.

Details:


Published March 22nd 2011 by Philomel

The Elliott Review:


I have only read the first book in the Alex Rider series, but I was excited when I received this book for a review because I know that so many of my students are hooked on this series and that been of great interest to the reluctant reader and, specifically, for the boy reader. As an educator, I am always, always, always looking for something that will do that.

The first great thing about the book is that it contained enough information for me to understand the backstories of previous books that I hadn't read. I never felt like I was missing something because of that. This is ideal for the reader who might randomly pick up the book because of a cool/interesting cover. It was great to see how Alex has grown and developed since I last read about him in Stormbreaker. 

The book has so many gadgets and interesting details to engage the male reader. All of the aspects of spying and international intrigue made it feel similar to a Tom Clancy book for younger readers. There is face-paced action as well as description of cool technical gadgets, specific names of weapons and cars, and other items to interest boys. I even though it was cool that within the third-person narration, you never see too much emotion from Alex when he is the main point of view. When another character is observing him, the reader is able to see some of his emotions and vulnerability but never directly from him. I thought this was neat and also very boy.

This is a very strong finish to an interesting and needed series.


Source: Thanks to Philomel and Tracey at Media Masters for providing copies of this book for a fair review.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Leverage Blog Tour: Character Interview with Scott



Today I am posting the interview that I had the, um, opportunity (??) to conduct with a character who in equal measures disgusts and fascinates me. So, if you would like, feel free to jeer at Joshua C. Cohen's amazingly crafted character from Leverage, Scott. I was hoping through this interview to find out if Scott would exhibit the faintest hint of human sympathy. I guess you'll find out if he did here in a minute...




So, hello SCOTT. Just so you know, I'm not really into football. What do you think of that?

I think them’s fightin’ words. Where I come from, not liking football makes you a total girl. I suppose you’re going to tell me you’re a girl, or somethin’.

[Looks down at self and thinks, well DUH!] What was being an amazing star quarterback like for you?

It was the best. But I’m not liking how you use the word ‘was’ in your question. I still am an amazing quarterback. Did you check my stats before this interview? Happen to notice our win-loss record when I started for the Knights or my passing completion rating? No one in the state has a better QB rating this season.

Is it true that the only reason you are so awesome on the field is that you are/were on steroids?

The lawyer my dad hired told me not to answer any questions about steroids so I’m going to have say ‘no comment’ but trust me when I also say that the level of awesomeness I play at on the field is not something you can get in a pill or a needle … though it certainly can’t hurt!

Do you feel any regret at what happened to Ronnie?

Regret?! Regret?! You soft hearted types are all the same—trying to pin what that stupid kid did to himself on me. I didn’t have nothing to do with what happened to him. We were just screwing around with him—and only after he and his gymnast gnomes started the whole thing and were begging for some payback, begging to be taught a lesson about who runs that school—and Ronnie just couldn’t handle it. I mean, am I also supposed to feel bad about the homeless guy sleeping on the park bench, like I made him sleep there? Am I supposed to feel bad if someone tries lighting his sleeping bag on fire while he’s sleeping in it and the stupid zipper gets stuck and he can’t get out?!?! It’s not like we made him sleep out in the open on a park bench to begin with. I mean, how weak and wimpy is everyone in this country becoming? Take some responsibility for yourself…wait…that last part about lighting a bum on fire …my lawyer just tugged on my arm and told me I shouldn’t have mentioned that so can we take that out of the interview? It’s not like I had anything to do with the burning bum last year. Scratch all that. Ok, what else?

What is life like for you now?

It totally sucks! Everyone keeps blaming me just like you’re trying to do now. Doesn’t matter, though, ’cause I’m strong. I ain’t going to listen to anyone. I don’t care if the stupid judge tries to sentence me…aarrgh…my lawyer just tugged on my arm again. Scratch that part about the ‘stupid judge’ even though the guy looks like he’s about 95 years old and his dentures rattle when he talks. Like an old toad like him would know what I’m going through…okay, okay, the lawyer’s telling me to wrap this up.

Do you have any dark secrets in your past that may have some bearing on what you did?

You want some squishy, tearful story about how I was abused as a kid and that’s why I did what I did? My lawyer is nodding his head like that is exactly what he wants me to do; spill some dark secret that will help get me off. Well, I’m not going to do it. Yeah, my dad liked to hit me pretty good and my older brother used me for a piƱata but so what? So did a lot of other guys’ families around me growing up. Where I come from it’s called discipline. Nah, you ain’t going to pin this on my dad or my brother. Fact of the matter is that there is an order to the world and you’re either strong or you’re weak. My family is strong and we are leaders. My brother was his unit’s leader before he got killed in Afghanistan. I was the leader of the Knights before all this crap happened. I still am the leader. Some of us are born with it, born to lead, and the rest of you need to serve us or stay out of our way. No mercy. That’s what I was taught. I got it smacked into me pretty good.

Connect with Josh Cohen:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Synopsis:

The football field is a battlefield

There’s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on—and off—the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy—including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school’s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

Details:


Published February 17th 2011 by Dutton Juvenile

The Elliott Review:

Since I am not into sports very much, what drew me to this book were the words in the summary -  "emotionally damaged fullback." I wasn't sure if the focus on sports would put me off or not. I'm so glad that I took a chance and read a book that was out of my standard comfort zone because this is one of my favorite books of 2011 so far. What sets it apart is its intensity. Everything in this book is intense. Intense emotions. Intense violence. Intense character development. Intense backstory. Intense stakes. It's just - wow!

The dual perspective works very well for this book. The voices of Kurt and Danny are distinct and poignant, though very different. Both boys have an inner world that few people are allowed to see, have fears about what could happen if they present a true face to the world. To Kurt, that "emotionally damaged fullback" that drew me to the story, that means stifling all the horrible, past memories he keeps inside from his foster care days. It means trying to block out the guilt that he feels about his friend, Lamar's, death. For Danny, it means pretending like being considered "less than" and weak doesn't hurt. While reading, I was stunned by how deep and complex the characters' emotions could be while remaining completely authentic and natural for guys their age. Kurt and Danny each leave a major impression in the mind of the reader.

The violence in this book is some of the most intense and graphic drop-your-jaw violence that I've ever read. Paired up with feelings that are already jangling from feeling the boys' emotional pain, it left me shell shocked. I would say in a good way, but I have to rephrase that because "witnessing" that level of violence can never really have a good affect on you. Rather, this violent act was harrowing, very masterfully serving its intended purpose of setting the stakes very high for both Danny and Kurt. Their lives are forever altered, and it's up to them to decide in what way they will change based on what they have seen.

After what happens, it is crucial for Kurt and Danny to stand up to the steroid-infused jocks at their school. Of course, it's the right thing to do, but it's also necessary in order for each of them to be able to cope. Theirs are the voices that are never heard, never acknowledged. They have to drastically act in order to keep themselves from being forever marginalized, victims. And the crew they have to stand up to makes any other bully in any other book seem like a moralistic cartoon. These guys are life-ruiners and, while not necessarily evil per se, their actions are so destructive, and they have all the cards stacked in their favor.

If you can handle gritty, gripping intensity, then I tell you to run - not walk - to the nearest bookstore and rip this baby off the shelf. It's not for the faint of heart, but it's something that you will never be able to forget. The themes and issues in this book are necessary and relevant for today's world, masterfully woven together into a work of genius.

Source: Thanks to Kari at The Teen {Book} Scene for organizing this tour. You can view other stops on the tour here.