Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review: Halt's Peril by John Flanagan

Halt's Peril (Ranger's Apprentice #9)
Author: John Flanagan
Publication: Random House (Australia); 1ST edition (November 2, 2009)

From the jacket: Pursuing assassins can be a deadly business -- even for a Ranger. Halt, Horace, and Will are on the trail of Tennyson and his followers. The false prophet of the Outsiders cult escaped justice for his crimes in Clonmel, and Halt is determined to stop him before he crosses the border into Araluen. Will has defeated one of Tennyson's Genovesan assassins in Clonmeel but there are two left alive. Are the extraordinary archery skills of Will and Halt enough to save them during a duel with the Genovesans...or is Will's mentor facing his last battle?

My thoughts: This ninth adventure in the Ranger's Apprentice series has all the elements that has made the series so pleasureable to read. There is adventure, danger, and humor. The teasing and byplay among Halt, Will, and Horace allowed for lots of smiles. I love that all the characters are well-rounded with notable weeknesses as well as strengths.

I thought for a while that Halt at met his end but was very pleased that Will managed to find a solution. While there are fights, this one spends a lot of time showing the relationships between Halt, Will and Horace.

It was a great story. But what do I do now? Book 10 won't be published in Australia until November 2010 and probably about a year later here in the US. How do you deal with the long gaps between books in a series?



Challenges: In the Middle Book Challenge

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Review: The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan

The Kings of Clonmel
Author: John Flanagan
Publication: Random House; 1ST edition (2008) (US Edition is scheduled for May 18, 2010)

Product Description from the back cover: The Outsiders have returned to cause havoc. Who will stand in their path? Will is at the annual Ranger Gathering but Halt is investigating mysterious happenings in the west. When he does finally return it's with bad news, Hibernia is in turmoil. A false religious cult calling themselves the Outsiders are sowing confusion and sedition, and five of the six Hibernian Kingdoms have been undermined. Now the sixth, Clonmel, is in danger. Halt, Will and Horace set out to restore order. Can the secrets of Halt's past help them in their mission?

My Thoughts: This was an excellent addition to the series. It is wonderful to see the relationship growing between Halt, Will and Horace. Now that the boys are young men the comraderie is that of equals and not so much teacher and student.

This episode gives us a lot of new information about Halt that I don't want to share for fear of spoilers. However, I will say that there were moments of laughter and many moments of edge of the chair suspense in this one as our three heroes match wits with Tennyson, the leader of the religious cult.

The only thing I have to say negatively about this book is that I miss the further involvement of Alyss, Lady Pauline, and Cassandra. I am also very glad that I have book 9 waiting because, while this book comes to a satisfying resolution, the problem has been completely solved and our heroes are off to try to finish the matter.

This website will give you more information about John Flanagan and the Ranger's Apprentice series including videos and contests.

Challenges: 2010 In the Middle Challenge

Friday, January 29, 2010

Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan

The movie is coming and I am getting really excited. I wonder how much of the story is being told in the movie or if sequels are planned ala Harry Potter.


The trailer looks like it is filled with wonderful adventures. (And I like Pierce Brosnan too. Although I am not in love with the beard.) Here is a trailer that I found recently on YouTube:





I have read and enjoyed the first book in the series but haven't kept up. I did get a boxed set of the first three books at Christmas time this year. It is my plan to re-read at least book 1 before I go to the movie.

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse—Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends—one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena—Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Percy Jackson’s seventh-grade year has been surprisingly quiet. Not a single monster has set foot on his New York prep-school campus. But when an innocent game of dodgeball among Percy and his classmates turns into a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants, things get . . . well, ugly. And the unexpected arrival of Percy’s friend Annabeth brings more bad news: the magical borders that protect Camp Half-Blood have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and unless a cure is found, the only safe haven for demigods will be destroyed.
In this fresh, funny, and hugely anticipated follow up to The Lightning Thief, Percy and his friends must journey into the Sea of Monsters to save their beloved camp. But first, Percy will discover a stunning new secret about his family -- one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it's up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. Who is powerful enough to kidnap a goddess? They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared-a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever.

Percy Jackson isn't expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to diabolical.
 
In this latest installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos's army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop them, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth-a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn. Full of humor and heart-pounding action, this fourth book promises to be their most thrilling adventure yet.
 
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.
 
In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.

After reading these product descriptions from Amazon, I'm starting to regret not buying copies of books 4 and 5 for myself. I have a feeling that they won't be available to me in my media centers for quite a while after the movie comes out. I might have to get them for my Kindle so that I can find out the rest of the story.

I do know that these books have helped create a strong interest in the Greek gods in my students. All my mythology books are being rediscovered as students try to learn more about Zeus, and Poseidon, Hades, and all the rest.


Rick Riordan's new series looks like it will be doing the same for Egyptian mythology. The Kane Chronicles, Book One: The Red Pyramid is coming out at the beginning of May. Maybe I should look for books about Egyptian mythology now to have ready.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Hits the Big Screen

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a hit in my K-5 Media Center. I haven't seen them since the day I finished processing them. And the waiting lists....

We have four titles and two copies of each. (Hey, what can I say? Amazon was having a sale and I was feeling generous.)

All of the plot descriptions are from the Product Descriptions at Amazon. I haven't had a chance to read these yet.

*****************************

Boys don’t keep diaries—or do they?

The launch of an exciting and innovatively illustrated new series narrated by an unforgettable kid every family can relate to


It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.

Author/illustrator Jeff Kinney recalls the growing pains of school life and introduces a new kind of hero who epitomizes the challenges of being a kid. As Greg says in his diary, “Just don’t expect me to be all ‘Dear Diary’ this and ‘Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.

Since its launch in May 2004 on Funbrain.com, the Web version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been viewed by 20 million unique online readers. This year, it is averaging 70,000 readers a day.

*******************


Secrets have a way of getting out, especially when a diary is involved.

Whatever you do, don’t ask Greg Heffley how he spent his summer vacation, because he definitely doesn’t want to talk about it.

As Greg enters the new school year, he’s eager to put the past three months behind him . . . and one event in particular.

Unfortunately for Greg, his older brother, Rodrick, knows all about the incident Greg wants to keep under wraps. But secrets have a way of getting out . . . especially when a diary is involved.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules chronicles Greg’s attempts to navigate the hazards of middle school, impress the girls, steer clear of the school talent show, and most important, keep his secret safe.

***********************


Let’s face it: Greg Heffley will never change his wimpy ways. Somebody just needs to explain that to Greg’s father. You see, Frank Heffley actually thinks he can get his son to toughen up, and he enlists Greg in organized sports and other “manly” endeavors. Of course, Greg is able to easily sidestep his father’s efforts to change him. But when Greg’s dad threatens to send him to military academy, Greg realizes he has to shape up . . . or get shipped out.

Greg and his family and friends, who make the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books a must-read for middle school readers, are back and at their best in this hilarious new installment of the series, which is sure to please current fans while attracting new ones.


****************************


It’s summer vacation, the weather’s great, and all the kids are having fun outside. So where’s Greg Heffley? Inside his house, playing video games with the shades drawn.

Greg, a self-confessed “indoor person,” is living out his ultimate summer fantasy: no responsibilities and no rules. But Greg’s mom has a different vision for an ideal summer . . . one packed with outdoor activities and “family togetherness.”

Whose vision will win out? Or will a new addition to the Heffley family change everything?



And now, a movie, too!




See you at the movie!

Cool Videos to Make You Think

I first saw this video on Doug Johnson's blog and it gives me a number of things to think about. I was especially intrigued by the definitions of fast knowledge and slow knowledge. Which part catches your attention?





And the next blog I looked at showed me this video:




Maybe I'll have to get a cellphone one of these days. (I have an iPod but have never downloaded a podcast. At least I have started!) This video came from Mr. Byrne's blog Free Technology for Teachers.

Heavy thoughts for a Monday afternoon.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

They Need Their Teachers to Learn




This is the second time lately that I have seen this video. I find it moving. But for me, it is preaching to the choir. I like all that technology can bring our students and want to incorporate it in my lessons. What do you think?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In My Mailbox (Jan. 24, 2010)


The weekly In My Mailbox post is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is fun to see what everyone else gets in their mailboxes, shopping bags, and library visits.


Click on the link to The Story Siren's site to see the rules and join in the fun. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the cool books everyone gets. You will discover lots of wonderful blogs and lots of books that you won't be able to live without.

Here are the books I bought at Amazon this week:



Wish by Alexandra Bullen is the debut book by this author. It tells the story of Olivia who has lost her twin and been uprooted. It is a variation on the three wishes scenario and is realistic teen fiction.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale is a graphic novel that I am reading for the In the Middle Reading Challenge. I am trying to overcome my prejudice against graphic novels by choosing a something based on a fairy tale that I like.

Undead Much by Stacey Jay is the second in a series. (I bought the first too but it hasn't arrived yet.)  A story that combines ordinary High School life and zombies has to be fun.




The Iron King by Julie Kagawa is another book by a debut author. This one fits right in with the kind of books I enjoy the most. The blurb starts out "Meghan Chase has a secret destiny -- one she could never have imagined..." Faeries, deadly war, love -- what more could you ask for?

Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy was chosen for one of my In the Middle Reading Challenge books because Ms. Sharp is constantly recommending it and I want to see what it is like.

The Pace by Shelena Shorts is another paranormal that sounds really good to me. "Intensely fascinating and rich with determination, The Pace brings together romance, mystery, and suspense in a compelling bond that is sure to have readers asking for more." is what the product description at Amazon says.

These were my mailbox. What good stuff did you get?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn



Voices of Dragons
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Publication: HarperTeen (March 16, 2010)

Plot Description from GoodReads: On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity’s deepest fears: dragons.

Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she’s breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she’d rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, a secret friendship grows between them—even though the fragile truce that has maintained peace between their two species is unraveling around them. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war?

In her young adult debut, New York Times bestselling author Carrie Vaughn presents a modern tale of myths and machines and an alliance that crosses a seemingly unbridgeable divide.

This one looks like a lot of fun. Click here to read the first chapter. Ask me about this one in March. I just pre-ordered it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review: Erak's Ransom by John Flanagan


Erak's Ransom (Ranger's Apprentice 7)
Author: John Flanagan
Publication: Philomel (January 5, 2010)


Product Description from Amazon: What does it mean to earn the Silver Oakleaf? So few men have done so. For Will, a mere boy, that symbol of honor has long felt out of reach. Now, in the wake of Araluen’s uneasy truce with the raiding Skandians comes word that the Skandian leader has been captured by a dangerous desert tribe. The Rangers are sent to free him. But the desert is like nothing these warriors have seen before. Strangers in a strange land, they are brutalized by sandstorms, beaten by the unrelenting heat, tricked by one tribe that plays by its own rules, and surprisingly befriended by another. Like a desert mirage, nothing is as it seems. Yet one thing is constant: the bravery of the Rangers.

In this red-hot adventure, winner of the Australian Book of the Year Award for Older Children, John Flanagan raises the stakes on the series that has already sold millions of copies worldwide.


My Thoughts: This was another excellent addition to an excellent series. Will is on the verge of graduation and feels unready and hesitant about leaving his teacher Halt. It is at Halt's wedding the news comes that Erak has been captured and is being held for ransom. Princess Cassandra convinces her father, King Duncan, that she can handle the negotiations to free him. He is reluctant to send her but is more reconciled when Halt, Gilan and Will go along. Horace is also sent. It is good to see more of these favorite characters reveal their character in this story. The princess is shaping up to be a very good ruler and Will is definitely ready to be a Ranger.

Now I want to read more in this series. Luckily, a student received the Australian versions of 8 and 9 for Christmas and is willing to lend them to me. But, oh what a long wait, it will be for volume 10.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Review: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson


The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (April 29, 2008)


Product Description from Amazon: Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

My Thoughts: This book was stunning and very thought-provoking. The language was both stark and lyrical. Told in the first person, we see the world through Jenna's eyes as she rediscovers it and rediscovers herself.

Here is her voice:
"The accident was over a year ago. I've been awake for two weeks. Over a year has vanished. I've gone from sixteen to seventeen. A second woman has been elected president. A twelfth planet has been named in the solar system. The last wild polar bear has died. Headline news that couldn't stir me. I slept through it all."
"I don't remember my mother, my father, or Lily. I don't remember that I once lived in Boston. I don't remember the accident. I don't remember Jenna Fox. Father says it will come in time. 'Time heals.' he says. I don't tell him that I don't know what time is."
As Jenna regains her memories more questions are raised than answered. Big questions like "what does it mean to be human?' and  "what is too much to do for your child?' Jenna struggles to come to terms with the new her and we go along for the ride.

The book is easy to read and a fast read but it will stay with the thoughtful reader for a very long time. Check it out and never be the same again.

PS. I have included two different covers. Which one do you think is best for the book?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore


Magic Under Glass
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (December 22, 2009)

Product Description from Amazon: Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.

My Thoughts: This was a lovely book. I like the character of Nimira. Her mother was a famous dancer and her father a lord. When her mother dies and her father is disgraced, Nimira decides to try to make her own fortune in a strange land. She is just 13 when she leaves home and is almost 17 when this story begins. She has found that dancing is not so highly prized and there isn't a fortune to be found. When she has a chance to work for the sorcerer Hollin Parry, she looks at it as a possible chance for a better life. This quote, when she sees Parry's home, gives a good flavor of her.
"Vestenveld," he said. "The Parry estate. How do you like it?" He watched me.
"Lovely," I said, although my first thought was what a cold and lonely face the house wore in the cloudy night. Lights glowed from just a scattered handful of windows, while the building itself looked endless, with arches and stone towers and dozens of separate roofs. The architect seemed to have tacked on majesty wherever he could find a spot."
She quickly discovers that the automaton that Hollin wants her to perform with is a man imprisoned by a sorcerer. In fact, he is Erris a fairy prince imprisoned during the last war with fairy that killed all of his brothers and sisters making him the rightful king of fairy. She is determined to help him and over the course of some time falls in love with him. Otherwise, her life at Parry's estate is a lonely one.
"I lingered over my eggs and toast, heaving a few dramatic sighs to myself. If one spends too many hours in solitude, one starts to emote for one's own benefit."
Throughout the book I was uncertain about the character of Hollin Parry. He is a rich man but under the control of the head of the Sorcerer's Councl Mr. Soleran Smollings. He is being blackmailed by him. He seems to be a very wishy-washy sort of person. He says he wants to run away with Nimira but conveniently forgets to mention that his wife Annilie is alive and imprisoned in the attic. Hollin had cast a spell to try to save her life and now she sees spirits. This casting a spell of dark magic has given Smollings the fodder to blackmail him. Hollin seems to have accepted defeat before fighting any battle.

Nimira is young but very courageous. She is willing to do anything to help Erris. She even calls on the Queen of Longest Night to aide him. The queen makes him flesh again but he still needs the clockwork key to keep from winding down. Making him flesh again doesn't solve the problems. There is still the question of dark magic and the political situation puts all of them in danger. Smollings is a very powerful man and sorcerer.
"Sometimes, before you make any plans or resolutions, before you declare your heroic intent to persevere, you just have to cry.
And cry I did."
After Smollings takes Erris away, Nim plans with Hollin and Annilie to fight for justice. It takes all their gifts and courage to triumph. Even after defeating Smollings problems remain to be solved. When the books ends Erris and Nim are off to try to solve some of the problems. I hope Ms. Dolamore is busy writing their next adventure because I want to know what happens next.

Challenges: 2010 YA Debut Author, 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge, RYOB Challenge

Friday, January 15, 2010

In My Mailbox (Jan. 17, 2010)


The weekly In My Mailbox post is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is fun to see what everyone else gets in their mailboxes, shopping bags, and library visits.


Click on the link to The Story Siren's site to see the rules and join in the fun. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the cool books everyone gets. You will discover lots of wonderful blogs and lots of books that you won't be able to live without.







I got two books that I won in contests this week. (I have never won anything before and am very excited.) I got Something to Blog About from KarinLibrarian and part of the Holiday Break Reading Challenge and I got an ARC of Spellbinder by Karen Stringer from Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century. Kristen also sent along a really cool 3-D bookmark that immediately replaced my shabby bookmark in the book I'm reading right now. Thanks, ladies, for the really cool prizes.




I added the books by Mari Mancusi to my collection because I really like vampire books and somehow I missed these when they first came out. I see that a fourth book is either newly published or will be shortly. I need to catch up.


I also added Aurelia by Anne Osterlund. I liked Academy 7 which she also wrote. This one sounds good.
I added The Medusa Project: The Set Up by Sophie McKenzie because it got good reviews on a blog I was reading and I decided I had to have it.
I had been thinking about Boneshaker by Cherie Priest for a while trying to decide if I wanted it. This week, after reading another positive review, I decided to get it.
Freaksville by Kitty Keswick is a book by a 2010 Debut YA Author. I'll be reading this one as part of a challenge.

I just found this really neat trailer for the book too:







This is what I got this week. What did you get?

Wish by Alexandra Bullen



What would you do if you were given a magical dress that grants wishes? Read Wish by Alexandra Bullen to see what choices Olivia makes.

Product Description from Amazon: For broken-hearted Olivia Larsen, nothing can change the fact that her twin sister, Violet, is gone... until a mysterious, beautiful gown arrives on her doorstep. The dress doesn't just look magical; it is magical. It has the power to grant her one wish, and the only thing Olivia wants is her sister back.

With Violet again by her side, both girls get a second chance at life. And as the sisters soon discover, they have two more dresses-and two more wishes left. But magic can't solve everything, and Olivia is forced to confront her ghosts to learn how to laugh, love, and live again.

In a breathtaking debut from Alexandra Bullen, WISH asks the question: If you could have anything, what would you wish for?

Meet Alexandra Bullen:



Check out her blog. I have entered a contest to try to win an autographed copy for us. Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Two really popular books in the HS Media Center are The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.


Here's the story: In a not-too-distant future, the United States of America has collapsed, weakened by drought, fire, famine, and war, to be replaced by Panem, a country divided into the Capitol and 12 districts. Each year, two young representatives from each district are selected by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. Part entertainment, part brutal intimidation of the subjugated districts, the televised games are broadcasted throughout Panem as the 24 participants are forced to eliminate their competitors, literally, with all citizens required to watch. When 16-year-old Katniss's young sister, Prim, is selected as the mining district's female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart, Peeta, the son of the town baker who seems to have all the fighting skills of a lump of bread dough, will be pitted against bigger, stronger representatives who have trained for this their whole lives. Collins' characters are completely realistic and sympathetic as they form alliances and friendships in the face of overwhelming odds; the plot is tense, dramatic, and engrossing. This book will definitely resonate with the generation raised on reality shows like "Survivor" and "American Gladiator".

Here is a new fan made trailer:




The third book in this series will be coming out this summer. I already have it on my "must buy" list. What do you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Author Study: Rachel Vincent


Rachel Vincent is an author who writes urban fantasy and young adult books. Wikipedia says that she is a native of Oklahoma and a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma with a BA in English. It also says that she began writing in 2005 and her first book was published in 2007.


Her first novels were adult urban fantasy. Faythe Sanders is a female werecat, struggling to establish her place in the Pride led by her father. I highly recommend them for older readers.


In August of 2009 she published her first novel for young adults. The Soul Screamers series about a teenage bean sidhe (banshee) trying to balance a normal high school experience with the terrifying, hidden world she’s just discovered.  




There will be three books in the series. The books are: My Soul to Take (August 2009), My Soul to Save (January 2010), and My Soul to Keep (June 2010). There is also a prequel My Soul to Lose which is a free e-book that you can read by clicking here).

Here is a link to a blog where she talks about her new series.






My Soul to Take is the first in the Soul Screamers series. SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH KAYLEE CAVANAUGH


She doesn't see dead people, but...


She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.


Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next...

Check out this scary trailer:




My Soul to Save takes place just 6 weeks after the conclusion of My Soul to Take and Kaylee is learning more about how to be a bean sidhe. Here is a quote from the book description: "The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her boyfriend’s loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls for a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can’t possibly understand. Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk...."

Check out this trailer:





These books are really good and really exciting. I think high school readers who like the paranormal with a touch of romance will enjoy them. I can hardly wait for June when My Soul to Keep comes out.

You can find out more about the series and about Rachel Vincent by clicking the following links. Rachel Vincent's blog is here and her website is here.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

In My Mailbox Jan.10, 2010


The weekly In My Mailbox post is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It is fun to see what everyone else gets in their mailboxes, shopping bags, and library visits.

Click on the link to The Story Siren's site to see the rules and join in the fun. I guarantee that your TBR pile will grow when you see all the cool books everyone gets. You will discover lots of wonderful blogs and lots of books that you won't be able to live without.



I added these Middle Grade books this week:
 


Kate DiCamillo always writes excellent books and The Magician's Elephant look like another great one.

I have been waiting for the next book in the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan since I closed the book after finishing the last one. I am so eager to get started reading Erak's Ransom.

I also got a bunch of Young Adult books this week too.




I had a copy of The Demon's Lexicon and already donated it to the HS Media Center. But I donated it before I read it. I have heard so many good things about this book that I had to buy another copy to read when I had the time.

It is probably a little late for a Christmas story but Ex-mas by Kate Brian sounded so cute that I had to buy it.

The next two books are for my 2010 YA Debut Author Challenge. They both sounded so good that I had to order them right away. The Dark Divine is by Bree Despain and Magic Under Glass is by Jaclyn Dolamore.

So many people have said that Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles is a great book that I had to buy a copy and see for myself.



Here are two more books that I will be reading for my 2010 YA Debut Author Challenge -- The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard and Firespell by Chloe Neill. Ms. Neill has written other adult books in the Chicagoland Vampire series that I have enjoyed but this is her first YA.

I enjoyed Need when it was published and when I saw that Carrie Jones had written a sequel -- Captivate -- I had to get it.

These next two were highly recommended on a few of the blogs I read. (I wish I could remember who exactly recommended them but, sorry, I can't.) A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee arrived in my mail from the UK. Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell also sounded so good.



I am a big fan of Sherwood Smith. When I saw that she had published two more books, they immediately went on my next order. I am looking forward to reading Once a Princess and Twice a Princess.

I have been seeing blog posts about Laurie Faria Stolarz's new book which is a sequel to Deadly Little Secrets. Somehow I missed Deadly Little Secrets when it first came out so I added it to the pile.

I was also surprised to find that Jane Yolen had written another book in her Pit Dragon series. I liked the first three very much and had to add Dragon's Heart so that the set was complete.

I have read so many good reviews for The Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink that I had to add it to my TBR pile this week.

Those were my new Middle Grade and Young Adult books this week. What was in your mailbox?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fourth Grade -- Surveys


What is your favorite color? Which is your favorite movie? Which singer is your favorite?

These questions and many others were being asked in the computer lab today as fourth graders began gathering data to make spreadsheets and charts. The fourth graders have learned the basics of creating spreadsheets and charts in their Media classes. Now they are designing and creating their own surveys.

Here are the instructions that the students were given. I did provide a template for the students. I gave them the Excel template that included the class list. I also put in the formulas for them to see if they asked everyone and to compute the totals for them. (Students in sixth grade learn how to write formulas in spreadsheets as they make themselves multiplication tables and analyze packages of M&Ms.)

Students are having fun finding out about each other. They are looking forward to making their decorated charts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sixth Grade Project - Xtranormal Videos About Internet Safety



My sixth grade students have been studying internet safety this semester. We competed in the FBI-SOS Internet Safetly Challenge in November. My students came in 6th in the United States and 1st in Minnesota. I am very proud of their hard work.

We also watched some Public Service Announcements about internet safety. Then the students worked in pairs using Xtranormal to create their own PSAs about being safe online.

Here is my sample:



The students would like to share their videos with interested viewers. Watch them here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hearts At Stake by Alyxandra Harvey


Hearts At Stake (The Drake Chronicles)
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers (December 22, 2009)

Product Description from Amazon: On Solange’s sixteenth birthday, she is going to wake up dead. As if that’s not bad enough, she also has to outwit her seven overprotective older brothers, avoid the politics involved with being the only daughter born to an ancient vampire dynasty, and elude Kieran Black—agent of an anti-vampire league who is searching for his father’s killer and is intent on staking Solange and her entire family.

Luckily she has her own secret weapon—her human best friend Lucy—who is willing to defend Solange’s right to a normal life, whether she’s being smothered by her well-intentioned brothers or abducted by a power-hungry queen. Two unlikely alliances are formed in a race to save Solange’s eternal life—Lucy and Solange’s brother Nicholas, and Solange and Kieran Black—in a dual romance that is guaranteed to jump start any romance-lover’s heart.

Even fans of the genre who’ve seen it all will find a fresh read with kick-butt characters and family dynamics that ring true for all brothers and sisters—vampire or otherwise.

My Thoughts: I liked this book and am eager to read the further adventures in The Drake Chronicles. Each chapter is told from the viewpoint of either Lucy or Solange. For the first couple of chapters, I had to keep looking back to figure out who was talking. But once I got into the story it was easy to separate the two girls. Lucy is a girly girl who is being raised by unconventional parents (They go to ashrams, eat tofu, and do other new agey stuff.) but Lucy has a temper and a really smart mouth.  Solange is a vampire daughter with seven very protective older brothers. She doesn't like fancy stuff and would prefer to work on her pottery. That they are best friends is very clear.

It was fun to watch the relationship grow between Lucy and Solange's brother Nicholas. I liked that their relationship is changing as they grow up. Solange says that it is a family joke that Lucy's first words were "Nicholas is bugging me."  The relationship between Solange and Kieran is also interesting to watch. They start out as enemies but the relationship grows closer when they have to trust each other.

This was a very exciting book and a good romance too.

Contest! Contest!


Kelsey at The Book Scout is having a contest. Up for grabs is Dream Girl and Dream Life by Lauren Mechling. Click on The Book Scout link to find out all about the contest. BTW Kelsey is a teen-aged blogger who loves to read. Her reviews are always filled with good information.

Click on this link to go to Lauren Mechling's blog. (Read About the Author to learn more about this talented writer.)

Here is the book blurb for Dream Girl: The most fabulous half-French girl detective around is called Claire Voyante, and don't you dare blame her for it. She had no say in the matter--she was named after her great aunt Claire, who died in a Parisian heatwave the year she was born.

When Claire was little she started getting random visions in her head, pictures of things like froggy umbrellas and pink hats. She couldn't resist fantasizing that they were clues and chasing them down when she saw them on the street. But nothing much ever came of it, just strangers who got annoyed when they realized a little blonde kid was lurking in the shadows.

When she turns 15 and her crabby-fabulous grandmother Kiki gives her a black and white cameo necklace, her visions take on a different shape--and a whole new meaning. Claire's off to a rocking adventure that involves private jets, a ketchup fortune, and a cute boy. Make that a very cute boy. About time!

Doesn't it sound great!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In the Middle Reading Challenge


I have decided to take part in this reading challenge for middle school books. This challenge is started by and hosted by Jill at The O.W.L. which is a blog started by a 7th grade English teacher to encourage her students to read.
Here's "rules" for the challenge.

1. You must read middle grade books. These are books deemed right for kids ages 9 (sometimes 8) - 12. Harry Potter would be considered a MG book. If you look for them on Amazon you need to look under children's ages 9-12.
2. Challenge starts Jan 17, 2010 and ends Dec 31, 2010. All books for the challenge must be read in that time frame.
3. Books for this challenge can cross over to other challenges.
4. Audio and ebooks count for sure!
5. There will be 4 levels:
  • 5th Grader: At least 4 Books
  • 6th Grader: At least 6 Books
  • 7th Grader: At least 8 Books
  • 8th Grader: At least 10 Books
6. In order to be considered for any prizes given away during the challenge you must to an intial post joining the challenge and link on Mr. Linky by Jan 16 (two weeks).

At the end of the year, and occasionally throughout the year I'll do check-in posts and hopefully have some giveaways for them!
I should be able to compete at the 8th Grader level. Maybe I'll hold off on reading Erak's Ransom by John Flanagan until Jan. 17. It will be hard, though, I have really been wanting that book for what seems like months already.

These are the books I have read for this challenge:

Fifth Grader:

1. Erak's Ransom by John Flanagan (Jan. 18)

2. The Kings of Clonmel by John Flanagan (Jan. 30)

3. Halt's Peril by John Flanagan (Jan. 31)

4. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (Feb. 6)

Sixth Grade:

5. The Viper's Nest (39 Clues, #7) by Peter Lerangis (Feb. 6)

6. Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale (Feb. 13)

Seventh Grade:

7. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (March 7, 2010)

8. Claim to Fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix (March 14, 2010)

Eighth Grade:

9.  Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

10. Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt (April 2, 2010)

I have completed this challenge. It looks like I will be moving on to HS if I read any more middle grade books this year.

High School:

11. The Emperor's Code by Gordon Korman (April 10, 2010)

12. Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jim Benton (April 15, 2010)

13. Changeling by Steve Feasey (May 14, 2010)

14. Storm Warning (39 Clues, Book 9) by Linda Sue Park (June 5. 2010)

15. The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne (June 6, 2010)


16. Flight of the Outcast by Brad Strickland (June 11, 2010)


17. The Magic Thief: Found by Sarah Prineas (June 19, 2010)


18. Don't Know Where, Don't Know When by Annette Laing (June 19. 2010)


19. A Matter Of Magic by Patricia C. Wrede (June 20. 2010)


20. Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher (June 29, 2010)


21. The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (July 2, 2010)


22. Magic Below Stairs by Caroline Stevermer (July 6, 2010)


23. The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman (July 16, 2010)