Thursday, January 27, 2011


Yummy: The Last Days of a Soutside Shorty
By G. Neri and Randy DuBurke

Wow...this graphic novel is based on the true story of 11-year-old gang member, Robert "Yummy" Sandifer.  He was a "shorty" for a gang in Chicago.  While shooting at a rival gang, he took the life of a 14-year-old girl, a past classmate.  Yummy spends the next few days hiding from rival gang members and the police.  Just as he is about to turn himself in, members from his own gang find him and end his short life.  Was he a ruthless killer?  What caused an 11-yr-old to do this?

The story of this child is so sad.  I have worked at schools with a gang population and I can tell you that I have seen the good in these kids.  The sad thing is that once they leave school, they are fighting for their own lives every single day.  Most of these kids see no other way of living.  How can we stop this?  I wish I knew the answer....
This book would be great in the hands of teens, but also in the hands of professionals who work with youth.  It is captivating and heartbreaking.

Rated: 4.5
Recommended for: high school students, teachers, administrators, etc....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mo' books.

Yes...I have actually read some more books!

By Allie Condie

Seventeen-year-old Cassia Reyes has waited her whole life to attend her Matching ceremony.  She is dressed in a beautiful green dress, fed delicious food, and given her "Match", the boy she will someday marry.  Cassia is surprised to find out that her Match is her very best friend, Xander.  Upon being matched, each teen is given a box with a data card containing information on the other.  Although Cassia knows a lot about Xander already, she is eager to see what his data card says.  She slips it into her computer and is immediately show a picture of her Match.  The only problem is....the Match shown is not Xander.  In a society where there are no mistakes and each decision is made for the individuals, errors are not acceptable.  Cassia is counseled by an Official about the mistake and told that someone must have pulled a prank on her, but Cassia has a hard time believing this and begins to wonder about the other boy.  Her friendship with him grows and, in a life with no choices, she yearns to choose who she will marry.  This rebellious attitude causes Cassia and her family much trouble and endangers the life of the other boy.  Cassia must decide what she is willing to risk in order to be happy.

I have read so many great reviews of this book that I couldn't wait to read it.  It was not disappointing!  The characters are well-rounded and the author does a great job of setting up this futuristic world.  Readers will be anxious about the release of the next book in this series (trilogy?).  The only negative thing I could possibly say about this book is that it doesn't seem very original.  It is kind of a combination of The Giver, Candor, Hunger Games, and The Uglies.  The good thing is...I liked all of those books, so I thought this was great.

Rated: 4.5
Recommended for: All high school readers

You Can't Read This: Why Books Get Banned (Pop Culture Revolutions series)
By Pamela Dell

This book is a concise source on book banning, where it originated, and possible reasons for censoring books.  It is an entertaining read and includes many photographs, pictures of political cartoons, a timeline, and an extremely useful bibliography.  Many of my students are required to write papers on a specific book on the "banned" or "challenged" lists.  This will be a wonderful source for them.

Rated: 4
Recommended for: All high school students

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New books!!!

I got an exciting box in the mail yesterday...some new books from Scholastic!  My school does a high school fair twice a year so I ordered a few things with my Scholastic Dollars.  If you haven't had a fair with them, you should check it out.  They've gotten a bad rap in the past for only offering things for the younger set, but I have found that lately, Scholastic is really trying to catch the high school readers.  We had a pretty good fair this fall and will be hosting another one at the end of February.  Anyway, here is what I got...

 What should I read first??

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Woohoo! Back to reading!

I've actually been able to finish a few more books recently and wanted to share them...

Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz
By Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri

This haunting memoir tells the story of Eva Mozes Kor and her twin, Miriam's, survival of Auschwitz.  The twins arrived at Auschwitz with their whole family, were torn from their mother, and never saw the family again.  Eva and Miriam were housed with a few hundred other twins and experimented on by Dr. Josef Mengele.  Experiencing illness, hunger, and devastating effects from being injected with unknown substances, the girls survived their time at Auschwitz only to be faced with the reality of starting over after the war.

My grandfather was a survivor of Auschwitz.  He was a prisoner of war during World War II and, luckily, was liberated from the camp after the war.  Therefore, I have always been extremely interested in reading about the Holocaust, especially the camps.  Although the subject matter is intense, this book was a very good read.  I devoured the book in a single sitting and feel comfortable recommending it to any of my high school students.  There are some disturbing parts of the book, in particular when Mrs. Kor is describing some of the experiments on the twins, but, in my opinion, the writers of this book kept it from being overly graphic.  This book has become one of my favorite books about this specific time period, along with I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson.

Rated: 4.75
Recommended for: History buffs, those looking for something other than Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

Fancy White Trash
By Marjetta Geerling

Poor Abby.  Her parents are divorced, her eldest sister is a teen mother, her middle sister is pregnant with her guitar teacher's baby, and her mother is newly married and pregnant...with the guitar teacher's baby.  Oh, did I mention that Abby's best friend, Cody, is gay but can't admit it to anyone yet?  And that Abby's first love, Jackson (Cody's brother), is back in town after a summer of mission work?  No wonder Abby has developed her ridiculous One True Love Plan.  She refuses to end up like her sisters and mother, the beautiful, yet trashy, Savage girls. 
Once the new baby is born (the sister's baby...confused yet?) and the guitar teacher hits on Abby, the dynamics in the Savage household change and Abby must learn to deal with more family problems.

Fancy White Trash is on the High School Sequoyah list this year (Oklahoma award).  I really liked this book and must say that I've never read anything like it.  The subject matter is CRAZY, but not totally unrealistic.  And...I LOVE the cover.  What is wrong with pink flamingos?

Rated: 4.25
Recommended for: Anyone looking for a laugh

Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook
By Sarah Schmelling

With postings like "Holden Caulfield thinks only morons write status updates (Catcher in the Rye)" and quizzes to find out which Jane Austen character you would be, this book portrays characters and authors from the classics all in Facebook postings.  I LOVED it!  The tongue-in-cheek humor is great and the subject matter is timely.  Luckily, I have a vague idea of the plots and characters of most of the classics detailed in this book.  However, the ones I didn't "get" due to the fact that I haven't read many classics, encouraged me to read some of these old dust-catchers (just kidding classics lovers!!).  I know the AP students would get a kick out of this book.  I plan on showing them tomorrow...

Rating: 4.5
Recommended for: Students with some prior knowledge of the classics...with a good sense of humor


Okay...I've decided to make more of a commitment to this blog.  I have worked on the blog for over a year and have only posted 40 times!!  Commitment issues?  Maybe...
Anyway, I am hoping to post three to four times a week.  We shall see where that leaves the blog at the end of 2011!

We finally got settled after a December move.  Therefore, I was only able to read a few books over the break.  Still working towards 100 this school year!

Attila the Hun: Leader of the Barbarian Hordes (A Wicked History Series)

Okay....I kind of feel like I shouldn't count these books.  They are kind of short and do include some pictures, but....I'm counting them! 

These books are sooo interesting. I'm the kind of girl who just likes the facts...not into wordiness when it comes to nonfiction.  The books from this series hit the spot.  I learned some fascinating information about Attila the Hun and never got distracted (not a small feat for me!).  I have a few more in my TBR stack.
Rated: 4
Recommended for: History buffs....lower level readers

 Lost for Words
Alice Kuipers

Mournful over the loss of her sister Emily, teenager Sophie just can't seem to move on.  She no longer confides in her best friend, Abby, nor does she communicate often with her mother.  Sophie is lost. She begins seeing a counselor who encourages her to keep a notebook.  On paper, Sophie is able to confront tragic events from the past in bits and pieces.  She is also able to express her hope that one day she will be able to live without obsessing over her loss.  Sophie becomes friends with Rosa-Leigh, the new girl at school.  Rosa-Leigh writes poetry and Sophie begins to write as well, finding it soothing to concentrate on something positive.
Tensions increase when Sophie's mother decides to return to work and attend a support group.  This leaves Sophie with the impression that her mother is "over" Emily.  She lashes out at her mom and becomes more introverted than before.  Finally, she faces the attack that occurred to both she and Emily and is able to reconnect with her mother.

Okay...I really liked this book, but it was so sad.  I was sad for Sophie...I was sad for her mother...I was sad for Emily.  Although this seems like a typical depressing teen book, there is some suspense with the author revealing only small facts about the "attack" until the end of the novel.  The suspense kept me reading because in all honesty, I don't care for sad novels.  Alice Kuipers also wrote Life on the Refrigerator Door which I reviewed earlier this year.  That one is also quite a tearjerker. 

Rated: 4.5
Recommended for: readers who like Nicholas Sparks, Lurlene McDaniel, Jodi Picoult...students who may have experienced a loss such as the main character

Veronica Chambers

Beatrice "Bee" Wilson has the world by the tail: she's a college Freshman in New York City, she's dating a popular guy on campus, and she has a job tutoring a hottie rap artist.  Things are going great....until her boyfriend, Brian, dumps her after a romp-gone-wrong.  Bee is wallowing in self-pity and...eating.  She spends a few weeks enjoying all of the treats life has to offer and is then miraculously "discovered" eating lunch with her friend Chela at Dean and Deluca.  She interviews for a highly-coveted spot as a plus-size model in the new Prada campaign...and she gets the job.  It doesn't take long before the world knows Bee Wilson.  This is a great way to get revenge on an ex, but also a great way to make new enemies.  One of which is Savannah Hughes, another model.  Keeping up with college classes and modeling is tough on Bee and she begins to see that she doesn't have much in common with her old friends.  Soon after Bee becomes famous, Brian "decides" that he made a mistake and he wants to date her again.  Bee, being a typical young woman, loves the attention from her ex and lets him back into her life.  After a few hilarious mishaps and some downright dirty deeds, Bee's career is hurting.  She and Chela make up and she reconnects with her hot tutoring students, who is now a rising star.  Will Bee fix her mistakes and go back to modeling?

Hmmm...what can I say about this book?  I enjoyed reading it, but I do think there are some problems.  I LOVE the idea of having a plus-size teenage girl as the main character.  It seems that there are many girls who could identify with Bee, except....she is drop-dead gorgeous and is "found" eating in a deli.  Now...I truly believe that no matter the size, all women are beautiful, but...this is not realistic.  It is easy for Bee to accept her body...she makes tons of money and is famous for her looks.  What about the bigger girls who know this will not happen for them?  Can they learn to accept and love themselves without scoring a modeling contract?  Not sure about this part of the author's message, but I do applaud Chambers for lots of things in this book.  It IS entertaining.  I found it easy-to-read and I was eager to find out what would happen with Bee and the rapper.  She also corrects the stereotype that overweight people just eat whatever they want.  Bee takes care of herself.  She eats right and exercises often, but accepts that her body is curvy, not bony.  Chambers also provides a lesson in what can happen when people see themselves "above" others.  Bee has some not-so-shining moments once she becomes famous, but soon realizes that those she left behind are the ones that she can lean on in tough times.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Recommended for: those looking for a chick-lit type of book