Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Memes: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb

Happy Friday everybody!!
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Rose City Reader. The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice. Check out the links above for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

This week I am spotlighting Kissing in America by Margo Rabb. I got this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
Acclaimed writer Margo Rabb's Kissing in America is "a wonderful novel about friendship, love, travel, life, hope, poetry, intelligence, and the inner lives of girls," raves internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love).

In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that's still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who understands Eva's grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head over heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the West Coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love.

In this honest and emotional journey that National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr calls "gorgeous, funny, and joyous," readers will experience the highs of infatuation and the lows of heartache as Eva contends with love in all its forms.
Beginning:
According to my mother, my first kiss happened on a Saturday in July.
Friday 56:
"I just don't think talent should go to waste," he said. "Maybe you need company. Sometime we can go find a café and write."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

ARC Review: A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

A Sense of the Infinite
Author: Hilary T. Smith
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (May 19, 2015)

Description: By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It's senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn't prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe's new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she's been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.
But most especially, she isn't prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don't involve Annabeth. Without Noe's constant companionship, Annabeth's world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she's really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith's second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

My Thoughts: This gorgeously written story is packed with issues. Depression, suicide, eating disorders, vegetarianism, abortion and rape to name just a few. It is also the story of a friendship as it changes. Annabeth has always depended on Noe to be her guide and spokesperson. But now Noe is drifting away to new friends and new interests and leaving Annabeth behind. Annabeth clings to Noe by trying to like what Noe likes despite her very different interests.

Annabeth is traumatized when she learns that she is the child of rape. She was brutally told this by a cousin when she was just thirteen. Her mother and grandmother also told her at about the same time but neither of them seem to realize how much this information altered Annabeth's perceptions of herself and of her self-worth. This information has made her quiet and shy and made her feel like she was missing something that others her age had. Noe filled some of the holes that Annabeth perceived in her life.

Now it is their senior year in high school. Noe is dating Steven who happens to be Annabeth's partner in Art class. Steven works hard to develop a friendship with Annabeth that is separate from his relationship with Noe. Steven is depresses and has attempted suicide. For him, Noe provides a sense of purpose and stability which is just fine until Noe drops him for another boy.

It is about this same time that Noe drops Annabeth as a friend when Annabeth inadvertently tells the gymnastics coach that Noe is purging. While traumatic for Annabeth, this does provide the impetus for her to make new friends and to learn that she is stronger than she ever believed she was.

I really came to like both Annabeth and Steven and I was rooting for them to overcome the Noe-effect and learn that they were strong, confident people. I have more confidence that Annabeth learned this than that Steven did though.

Certain situations in the story will keep me from having this in my middle school/high school media center. But I think that older teens would really like getting to know Annabeth.

Favorite Quote:
Noe was the kind of friend who could make you believe, however fleetingly, in the possibility of incredible. I clutched her arm close and took a deep breath of her, grateful for the thousandth time that she was mine.
I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

ARC Review: The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

The Fog Diver
Author: Joel Ross
Publication: HarperCollins (May 26, 2015)

Description: Joel Ross debuts a thrilling adventure series in which living in the sky is the new reality and a few determined slum kids just might become heroes. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull, this fantasy is filled with daring and hope and a wonderfully imaginative world.

Once the Fog started rising, the earth was covered with a deadly white mist until nothing remained but the mountaintops. Now humanity clings to its highest peaks, called the Rooftop, where the wealthy Five Families rule over the lower slopes and floating junkyards.

Thirteen-year-old Chess and his friends Hazel, Bea, and Swedish sail their rickety air raft over the deadly Fog, scavenging the ruins for anything they can sell to survive. But now survival isn't enough. They must risk everything to get to the miraculous city of Port Oro, the only place where their beloved Mrs. E can be cured of fogsickness. Yet the ruthless Lord Kodoc is hot on their trail, for Chess has a precious secret, one that Kodoc is desperate to use against him. Now Chess will face any danger to protect his friends, even if it means confronting what he fears the most.

My Thoughts: THE FOG DIVER is a post-apocalyptic science fiction story that is filled with action and adventure. It is also the story of four orphans who are on a mission to save the woman who took them in and made them into a family.

Chess, Bea, Swedish, and Hazel work together to scavenge things they can use or sell from the Fog that covers everything except the highest mountain tops. They need to find a big haul in order to sneak Mrs. E to Port Oro where there might be a cure for her fogsickness. However, they need to battle the Fog, mutineers and the evil Lord Kodoc who wants Chess.

The Fog is composed of nanites that were created to clean up pollution on the Earth. After they did that, they were supposed to die. But the nanites learned to create other nanites and decided that humans were the cause of the pollution.

No one can go down into the Fog without becoming infected with the nanites and dying. Chess is an exception. He was born in the Fog and can survive in it. He was born with one eye that has the Fog visible in it. He has been hiding his difference for all of his thirteen years. Now Lord Kodoc, who thought he didn't survive, has found out that he is alive and is searching for him. Lord Kodoc wants Chess to search the Fog for a machine that will let Kodoc end, or control, the Fog. Scientists from Port Oro, a place that rebelled and is fighting against Kodoc's rule, also wants Chess. They also want that machine.

I loved the airships that the kids use to scavenge. They had a very steampunk feel. I also loved the relationships between the kids with Hazel the leader, Swedish the pilot, Bea the engineer, and Chess as the explorer.

While this is clearly the first book in a series, readers will be pleased that the ending is not really a cliffhanger but still leaves lots for our characters to do in future books.

Favorite Quote:
"Do you think there are other mountaintops?" Bea asked.

"I know there are," Hazel said from her hammock. "Somewhere across the Fog, if you fly for months or years. There must be."

"If they're too far to reach, it doesn't matter," Swedish said. "It's like they don't even exist."

"I wonder," Hazel said with a wistful tone in her voice, "if they also think they're the last people on Earth."
I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Teaser Tuesday: A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Teaser:
I had hardly spoken all day—all summer, it felt like—but walking next to Noe, words started spilling out of me. It was as if the cold hand that had sealed me off from the rest of humankind had left one airhole open, the airhole of Noe.
This week my teaser comes from A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith. I received this eARC from Edelweiss. Here is the description from Amazon:
By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It's senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn't prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe's new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she's been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.
But most especially, she isn't prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don't involve Annabeth. Without Noe's constant companionship, Annabeth's world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she's really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith's second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 18, 2015)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme begun by Sheila at Book Journey. Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts have given it a kidlit focus.

It’s Monday!  What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Other Than Reading...

Because of a construction project to expand our Elementary School, next week is the last week for our Kindergarten through fifth grade students. We are all in a rush to finish projects while working around the last field trips, music programs, and activity days.

There are still three weeks for the Middle School/High School students. Since I work half days at each building, I get to experience the final rush twice this year. The last two weeks are filled with workshops and curriculum meetings for the Elementary Staff. I'll be able to take part in only some of those activities but look forward to getting some curriculum and rubrics written for next year.

Read Last Week
I recently received, and just had to read, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. I enjoyed it. I donated it to my MS/HS Media Center but will be steering it to my older students. There are some themes that I don't think would be best for my younger YAs or Middle School students. My review will be posted on June 3.

Currently
I am currently reading Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat. I got this review book from Edelweiss. Thus far, I don't like the main character very much but I am eager to see where the story goes.

Next Week
I am optimistically listing three books for this week but I don't know if I'll actually be able to get any of them read with much of my time filled with end of the school year activities.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway is a review book from Edelweiss. It will be released on June 23.

The Leveller by Julie Durango will also be released on June 23. I got this science fiction story from Edelweiss too.

Rogue by Julie Kagawa is from my TBR stack. I want to get this second book in her dragon series read and donated to the MS/HS Media Center before this school year is over.

Reviews Posted
Want to See What I Added to My Stack Last Week?
What was your week like? Leave a link and I'll be sure to stop by.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stacking the YA Shelves (May 17, 2015)

Tynga of  Team Tynga's Reviews hosts this meme to spotlight the books we receive each week. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the wonderful books everyone gets.
This week the two SYNC audiobooks were Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Dodger by Terry Pratchett. I read Great Expectations in high school but that was over 40 years ago. It will be interesting to hear it. I have never read anything by Terry Pratchett and look forward to listening to Dodger too. If you want these, you have to act fast. Two new titles will take their places on Thursday.

I was also browsing NetGalley and added two more review books to my stack.
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly is a historical mystery that will be released on October 27.

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis is an old fairy tale reset in a science fiction story which will be released on October 6.

What did you add to your stack this week?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

ARC Review: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak
Author: Brian Katcher
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (May 19, 2015)

Description: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak is Stonewall Book Award-winning author Brian Katcher’s hilarious he said/she said romance about two teens recovering from heartbreak and discovering themselves on an out-of-this-world accidental first date.

It all begins when Ana Watson's little brother, Clayton, secretly ditches the quiz bowl semifinals to go to the Washingcon sci-fi convention on what should have been a normal, résumé-building school trip.

If slacker Zak Duquette hadn't talked up the geek fan fest so much, maybe Clayton wouldn't have broken nearly every school rule or jeopardized Ana’s last shot at freedom from her uptight parents.

Now, teaming up with Duquette is the only way for Ana to chase down Clayton in the sea of orcs, zombies, bikini-clad princesses, Trekkies, and Smurfs. After all, one does not simply walk into Washingcon.

But in spite of Zak's devil-may-care attitude, he has his own reasons for being as lost as Ana-and Ana may have more in common with him than she thinks. Ana and Zak certainly don’t expect the long crazy night, which begins as a nerdfighter manhunt, to transform into so much more…


My Thoughts: Zak and Ana tell this story is alternate chapters. Zak is a slacker in school; he's more interested in science fiction and computers than anything else. Ana is the always-busy, over-achiever whose on every committee and always looking to pad her transcript for college. Zak is interested in Ana but Ana has no time or interest in him. They get thrown together when Zak is in danger of failing Health but the teacher who is also the adviser of the Quiz Bowl team recruits him because she needs another team member for an up-coming tournament. Unfortunately, the Quiz Bowl tournament is the same weekend as the biggest science fiction convention in Washington State and Zak goes every year.

So, Zak finds himself in the van on the way to Quiz Bowl with Ana, her younger brother Clayton, and the other two team members. He regales them with tales of the science fiction convention happening only a few miles from the Quiz Bowl Competition. After their first round, which Zak helps them win, they have the evening off before the next round. Clayton decides to go the the convention leaving Ana and Zak to go after him and try to find him and bring him home before their adviser or Ana and Clayton's parents find out he is missing.

Most of the book happens at the convention which is filled with all sorts of wild adventure for both Zak and Ana. It brought back memories of the science fiction conventions I have attended filled with oddly dressed characters, geeks of all descriptions, movies, gaming tournaments, and even a vampire ball. This is a world where Zak fits in and Ana needs to depend on his expertise. They manage to stay one step behind Clayton while attracting a drug dealer and a number of people who would like to do either or both Zak and Ana harm.

I liked watching Zak and Ana learn more about each other and realize that the other had some valuable things to contribute. I liked the way both Ana and Zak changed after one very intense night at a science fiction convention.

Favorite Quote:
"Okay. When I was five I asked Santa for a puppy and got a Barbie instead. When I was eight, Nichole got a new bike and I had to ride her old one. Clayton has been pulling that cutesy Boy Wonder routine for years, and I'm sick of it. I have no real friends. I spent two months campaigning for a congressman who I thought was big into education and after he was elected, he votes to slash school funding. Nichole keeps telling me I'll develop, and here I am at eighteen and I'm only an A-cup. I'm not allowed to drive or even leave the house without an itinerary. Mr. Klein wrote me a letter or recommendation for college, but it was bland and noncommittal. I almost got arrested tonight, and you go off and karaoke, you butthead. It's raining. Everyone wants to spell my first name with two Ns. It's the twenty-first century and most of the world lives in poverty. And my brother is still missing.

I lay there, taking all this in.

"Just an A-cup? Really?"

"Duquette!" 
I got this ARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.