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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Running Dream

If you love books that have short chapters that keep you wanting to read more, then you need to read Wendelin Van Draanen's The Running Dream. This emotional read is narrated by sixteen-year-old Jessica. She was a star runner on her high school track team until tragedy struck. The team is leaving a track meet when their bus is in a horrible accident. Jessica loses her leg and must cope with every aspect of emotional and physical recovery. My favorite part of this book is how Jessica becomes a better person as a result of her loss as her friends and community rally around her. Jessica doesn't just let it end there...she gives back in a huge way. I appreciate that Van Draanen shows just how great teens can be! Other awesome reads by her include the Sammy Keyes series, Runaway, Swear to Howdy,and Flipped.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


Legend, Marie Lu’s debut dytopian novel, was the perfect read following the success of opening week of the Hunger Games movie. I could not put this book down – excellent storyline and realistic, powerful characters. The year is 2130; the Republic is in control while the colonies with their patriots are fighting back. When a child is ten-years-old, he or she undergoes a test called a Trial, if they score high enough (which is usually only those from wealthy families), they can work for the Republic. If they fail, they are sent to labor camps. The story is told from the two main characters’ perspectives. Day, a handsome young man who wants to save his poor family from the plague and government, has built quite a reputation for himself as a kind of Robin Hood. Failing his Trial, but escaping the labor camp, he has become the most wanted criminal by the Republic with a huge bounty on his head. June is a smart, talented girl from the “other side of the tracks”. She is a prodigy, scoring the highest score at her Trial, and leading her classmates at the Drake school for the military. When her only beloved brother, Metias, is killed, she wants nothing more than to avenge his death. Day, blamed for Metias’s death, has no idea that June is out to get him. Their two worlds collide, innocent lives are taken, and secrets are revealed. Cannot wait for book two! (Recommended for 7th grade and up)

Monday, March 19, 2012


All of my students who have read Hereafter by Tara Hudson are eagerly awaiting publication of her second book in this trilogy. Amelia has been a ghost for as long as she can remember. Time doesn't flow the same way in her world and she has lost track of worldly time. She continues to relive her death - falling from a bridge and drowning - through nightmares. Everything changes when she sees a boy, Joshua, who has a near-death experience when his car veers off the same bridge and goes into the water. She is able to connect with him and ultimately saves his life. The odd thing is that he can see her, communicate with her, and even touch her. The two quickly develop a relationship. To Amelia's surprise, Joshua's grandmother, Ruth, can also see her and demands that she get out of Joshua's life. Ruth has told him all his life about the evils that lurk near that bridge. Will Joshua and Amelia be able to sustain the love they have for each other while Ruth and Eli, a controlling ghost who wants Amelia for himself, are out to end things once and for all? This book will appeal to those readers who like suspense, romance, and ghost stories.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Dark City (Relic Master Book #1)

My students love Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron and Sapphique novels so I couldn’t wait to read her series called Relic Master, recently released in the United States. Book one, The Dark City, takes us to a new planet called Anara which is falling apart as the leaders of the Order are all but gone, the new evil governing power is called the Watch. One of the only surviving relic masters of the Order of Keepers, Galen, and his apprentice, Raffi, are captured by a dwarf named Alberic. Alberic takes their relic and demands that they must capture a Sekoi who has stolen gold from him in exchange. Galen is burdened with the secret that he has lost all his powers in a devastating explosion – he can no longer sense dangers or communicate with the living things around him. In their search for the Sekoi , the duo are told that the most powerful relic, the Crow, is in the dark city of Tasceron. The Crow is the only thing that can restore Galen’s powers, but the city of Tasceron is filled with deadly dangers. Early in the adventure, the duo is joined by a girl named, Carys, who deceivingly tells them that she is trying to rescue her father from the Watch. This fantasy has magic, suspense, and surprises throughout. Great recommendation for those who love fantasy novels.

Between Shades of Gray

Every once in a while a novel comes along that depicts the horrible actions that caused so much human suffering and leaves the reader wondering how this could have happened without anyone doing anything to protect the innocent people. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys’s debut historical novel, does just that. The author did extensive research about her family’s country, Lithuania, when she found out that her family there had to keep secrets to protect themselves. The story begins with fifteen-year-old Lina narrating her family’s capture by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet police. She, her mother, and younger brother, Jonas, are abruptly taken to a railcar packed with other Lithuanians. Her father, a university professor, is taken to prison for betraying the government. So many terrible things happen to the people who are stuffed inside the railcar with little food and no means of cleaning themselves. Andrius, a seventeen-year-old boy, and his mother are also captured. Andrius understands the repercussions of their situation and goes above and beyond to protect Lina and Jonas. Once the railcar reaches its destination, the occupants are forced to work in the fields in harsh conditions with very little resources. The Lithuanian people faced starvation, poor hygiene, disease, and heartbreak…many did not survive. Andrius is the one person who gives Lina hope for the future. This story is reminiscent of stories we hear about the Holocaust, but many do not realize how the Lithuanians suffered during this time in history. My favorite part of this book was the way the author had Lina flashback to happier times and memories throughout the story. This is a powerful story that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Like the Willow Tree - A Dear America Novel

I just finished reading a Dear America: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce novel called Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry. The story takes place in Portland, Maine in 1918, during the time of the Great War. Lydia is turning eleven-years-old and to celebrate her family wants to take her to town to see a show. Unfortunately, the Spanish influenza has struck the region and all activities in town including church services have been cancelled. Lydia's father, a clerk in a store, doesn't heed the warnings. He, her mother, and baby sister die from this deadly epidemic and Lydia and her older, quiet brother, Daniel, are sent to their uncle's house. Their aunt insists that they will be unable to handle to more mouths to feed. Their uncle soon brings the two to the Shaker community. The Shakers are a religious community with certain rules and expectations of their members. How will Daniel and Lydia cope with their losses and conforming to a new environment? Like the Willow Tree transported me to another place when life was harder and young people had little means to voice their dreams for the future. Excellent story telling from one of my favorite authors. Other great books by Lois Lowry include The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, Gossamer, Number the Stars, The Anastasia series, and The Sam Krupnik series.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Night Room

My student book club just finished reading E.M. Goldman's The Night Room (1995). This book is about a group of teens who are selected to undergo a computer evaluation called ARGUS. After an initial interview, each teen (one at a time) is hooked to a computer which will take them into the future to their high school reunion. While in the future they see what job they have, who they are married to, and other classmates from the group. The first few in the group to experience Argus are shocked to find out that the most popular girl in their school is listed as deceased and her date of death is their current year in school. The participants must race against time to solve this mystery and stop the horrific event before it happens. How much is Argus in control? This was a suspenseful novel that will keep you thinking.