Thursday, December 18, 2014

ARC Review: Ignite by Sara B. Larson

 Defy is the first book in Sara B. Larson’s debut trilogy.  The sequel is Ignite which appears on bookstore shelves December 30th! Defy starts with chaos and destruction as Alexa’s parents, as well as most of her village, are brutally murdered by a black sorcerer. Her twin brother Marcel quickly cuts off her hair and makes her look like a boy to avoid being forced into a breeding house. Instead, the dynamic duo becomes part of the King's army and eventually gain a position as a member of the Crowned Prince Damien’s Elite Guard. Damien is a very arrogant, selfish person in the beginning of the novel, but eventually his facade disintegrates and shows he is actually very kind and cares for Alexa. When there is an attack on the palace, Alexa, Rylan and Damien are kidnapped by the Blevonese, thus begins the great adventure and battle to save the kingdom.

Ignite is the thrilling second book in the Defy series and promises even more action, adventure and romance. It picks up shortly after the end of the second book, as things have returned to “normal.” It has an intriguing plot and is an overall a great book.

Corienne’s Review

To be completely honest, I had many questions on how the author was going to develop Defy into a series after reading it earlier this school year. It was interesting, and left me with so many unanswered questions about the characters and the plot. Our class was fortunate enough to Skype with Sara B. Larson and this gave me some clarification on why she wrote the novel in this particular way. I was happy to discover that some of the questions I personally noticed while reading Defy, were resolved in Ignite. When I finished Defy, I felt as though it locked the doors of that world away, but when I realized there was a sequel, the questions began to swirl around my head. Our classroom was fortunate enough to obtain an ARC. After the delivery, I rushed into the school building a half an hour early eager to get my hands on Ignite before any of my other peers, just to see if I could reopen those doors once again. And actually, it was even more immersive than the original book. The plot progressed into so much more than I could have previously imagined. It was a fast-paced, dramatic, cliffhanging, action-packed in pages and pages full of amazing words! It was so much more than I expected and so much more than I could have ever wanted.

As I read Defy, I was craving more development of the characters. In Defy, readers can clearly see how different Alexa is at the beginning and ending of the novel and we also see small amounts of Damien cultivating, but what about Rylan, or Lizbet, or even Eljin? Throughout Ignite these characters’ stories are established and we watch them develop into warriors which is the only other thing I could have ask for. The theme of Ignite really caught me off guard as well. The main theme I grasped was that the things you love the most can be taken away from you so easily. The specific character (who is going to remain nameless because of spoilers) really sets the tone of the book when he is kidnaped. Alexa and Damien feel the loss of losing someone they originally took for granted. I feel like this propelled Damien throughout the book to the extent that he appreciates his friends and family more. Also, the villains! Don’t even get me started. I loved having a villain I can just openly hate with good reason! Most books these days have a villain who turns out to actually not be evil, but just have a lot of feeling they like to express. These villains, though were just trying to conquer and cause destruction and were absolutely ruthless. They had no sense in morals and to me that just makes the whole plot progress so far, because the villains show they will go any length to wreak havoc.
As for the obvious love triangle, in Defy I didn’t fully support Alexa’s decision on choosing Damien over Rylan. Rylan to me, cared for Alexa so much more and just had a special place in his heart for her. In Ignite though, Damien shows how much he truly loves Alexa and just leaves you torn between the two. I still can’t ignore the way Damien acted in Defy, but I can forgive him and support his side (as well as Rylan) in the battle to win Alexa’s heart. If you haven't yet read Defy, read it now and get ready for the upcoming release of Ignite!

Caylee’s Review
I really loved Defy when I read it. There is an excellent storyline behind the book and an inspirational setting. The jungle and castle aspect really added to the fantasy, but also reality of the book as odd as that sounds. A jungle also seems like a place where magic would occur. Deep in the middle of nowhere, a fantasy land where anything can happen. There are some twists with the characters that really contributed to an overall strong conclusion that left me wanting to read more of the story. So when the Ignite ARC became available to our class, I was extremely anxious to get my hands on it!

Personally, I really liked both the books, but I feel like the second one reached out to me even more. Maybe it’s because there was more action and romance even though there was plenty of that in Defy. I read the advanced reader’s copy of Ignite that our fantastic teacher managed to get for the classroom. I loved it! No other words to describe how great it was. Not like or it was good, it was marvelous!!! I felt like everything, especially the characters immensely improved by being more relatable. I remember when I skyped with Sara B. Larson, she said she got writer’s block while trying to write about Damian. In Ignite, readers can better understand why he acts cold at times and caring at others. There’s explanation for his actions and I like that. It focuses basically on two characters, Alexa and Damian with a hint of Rylan. I am hoping to hear more about Rylan in the next book. I loved checking out the author's Wattpad to find a scene written from Rylan's point of view. I feel like Ignite has a good balance of events. There is the perfect amount of everything wonderful in it. Ignite ends with a cliffhanger. Oh the anticipation for the next book. My favorite part of Sara B. Larson’s writing is her overall idea for the book. I love the whole concept of it and the way she chose to portray the idea is something I wish I could do in my writing. Ultimately, I was glad I read this novel, I really enjoyed everything about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ARC Review: The Kidney Hypothetical or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days by Lisa Yee

Samantha M.'s Review
Higgs Boson Bing is the "golden­boy" of Sally Ride High School. Great grades, destined for Harvard, head of the Debate Team, Prom King, and has a gorgeous girlfriend  With only seven days left until graduation, what could possibly wrong? How about, everything! 

It all starts tumbling downhill at the annual pre­-graduation picnic on a boat, the Senior Sail, where Roo, Higgs' girlfriend, asks him a seemingly simple hypothetical question: if I needed a kidney, would you help me and donate one? He hesitates, his enemies provoke Roo and thus she breaks up with him.  Roo then gathers a clique, and sets off to ruin everything about him.  Add to fact that he can't get off the ship, and word will travel fast about Higgs breaking Roo's heart. How can this get any worse? Great question! Right before Roo leaves, Higgs, feeling seasick and flustered, throws up on Roo and sentences his week to one of misery and woe. 

The school week begins with a bang: explicit posters about him, his Debate Team leader status is questioned, and he is accused of cheating on his Harvard application! But not everything about his week is bad. Monarch, a mysterious girl who
lives in the woods, suddenly appears in Higgs' life as a sort of anti­-rolemodel. From stealing
things to breaking out pet shop mice, Monarch and her surprises are the only things that keep
Higgs from totally freaking out. But who really is Monarch? Can she be trusted? Is he falling in
love with her in less than seven days? Will Higgs' life ever get back on track? Who is the one
bent on destroying Higgs' life, anyway? All these questions and more will be answered in The
Kidney Hypothetical On How To Ruin Your Life In Seven Days by Lisa Yee!

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Recommended For: Those who like a lot of humor, a bunch of romance, and a dash of
Age Recommendation: 12 ­+ for crude/explicit humor and some language.
Release Date: March 31, 2015

Kaila's Review
Good grades? Yes. Top of your graduating high school class? Yup.  Continuing your family’s legacy of attending Harvard? Definitely. Well forget all of that. In The Kidney Hypothetical by Lisa Yee, a graduating high school student named Higgs Boson Bing’s life is turned upside down in the matter of just seven days! 
Being popular and successful as a senior in high school is great, but according to Higgs Boson Bing’s life, that can all be taken away in a very short period of time. Imagine losing your girlfriend, risking your invitation to Harvard and much more all happening to you in the last week of your senior year! Well, in this novel, many awful things happen to Higgs, and his life is practically ruined.  Having his prima donna girlfriend break up with him was more than enough weight on his shoulders, but everything else that was holding him and his reputation up, slowly begins to crumble. 
The building blocks to Higgs’s future plans are taken away one by one as the story goes on, but he just gets stronger with every blow that hits him. Having vandalized pictures of his face spread across school, having his family fall apart and awful things of that nature, are all burdens for Higgs as the week progresses. All of these things continue the story and lead up to a big shock in the end. (Not to give anything away!) And yes, there are some cliché aspects to the story such as “meeting a new girl” and all, but don’t most dramas have those?!

The Kidney Hypothetical is a fun, unique, and action-packed novel that I think is a great read for any teenager. This story consists of a mix of comedy, drama, romance, and a hint of mystery. I definitely got a few laughs while reading this! It is a simple, yet charming story that I think most teens and young adults would enjoy. I also think that it is a staple for every 8th grade library and reading list. Over all, I really enjoyed this book and would certainly recommend it to everyone in my grade.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

October Author Showcase: Susan Dennard and Sarah J. Maas

Our October Authors are two of our classroom faves.  Caring to their fans. Sweethearts. Down-to-earth. Incredible to believe that these two endearing authors create such strong, tough heroines!  Susan Dennard is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly Series and Sarah J. Maas is the author of the Throne of Glass Series. Both are AMAZING and widely read in our classroom.

 Here's Susan skyping with us!  Can't you just tell how sweet she is?  She was so nice answering all our questions and spending lots of time with us.  She was also very open about learning to overcome difficulties in school and in life.  We had a lot of fun with her.  The television show Classroom CloseUp was with us that day as well.

YA Lit for School Safety!

We won the School Safety Door Decorating Contest! The novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher has been a popular book in our classroom.  After a text-study activity with the novel, students were each given a postcard with the motto "Tell the World."  Each 8th grader created their own positive message to share with our community in order to promote anti-bullying and to support school safety.  Their inspirational messages remain on our door as a reminder of the importance of every person in our lives.  Many students spread their messages using social media and some were even featured on Jay Asher's website.

ARC Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Powerful. Inspiring. Eye opening. A book filled with a young girl who learns to find herself throughout the course of the book. It seems that everyone is against Grace, including her own mind. It is a play of words, a rollercoaster of emotions and an adventure in itself. I picked up the book hoping to find something different from the average "girl meets boy and they fall in love” story. Honestly, I was trying to get away from the love stories in general. It seems like every book today has a sort of love connection as a  plot and there is not always a happy ending in the real world. Reading All Fall Down allows the reader see the importance in the friendship between Grace and the boy next door. They stick together throughout the challenges her mind places on her. With  her mother dead and only her memory of the scar- the scar of the man who killed her mother- left behind, Grace needs to find a way for someone to believe her.

The author takes the reader on a journey that has you feeling like you are Grace. It leaves you wanting to shout at her grandfather and go on her journeys. I thought I knew how the story was going to end.  All the facts where there, or so I thought. Even reading the last couple pages I was shocked. The ending is nothing I expected. Ally Carter took a complete turn on how she decided to end her story and it absolutely worked. At no point in the book did I feel like abandoning it, despite my habit of abandoning every other book I attempt to read. She shows how strong girls can be and that girls do not need loads of makeup and the the fanciest clothes or shoes to show she can do anything and make it out on top.

I was very fortunate to have the privilege to read an advanced copy of All Fall Down (Book #1 in Embassy Row series) by Ally Carter. I wish I could read it again and again and I might end up doing just that! Even knowing the ending, it would still be like my first time reading it. It is a must-read and should be on everyone's reading list. It is a great book for those who enjoy realistic fiction and a bit of mystery. All Fall Down is set to be released on January 27, 2015. I will be looking forward to the sequel of All Fall Down as Ally Carter continues to write her new Embassy Row series.

by Karla B

New Book Review: The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason

 “Evaline Stoker and MIna Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving is in your blood, so to speak. And when two young society girls disappear-one dead, one missing- there’s no one more qualified to investigate. Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve a murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The pressure is on and the stakes are high- if Stoker and Holmes didn’t figure out why London’s finest sixteen-year-old women are in danger, they’ll become the next victims” (Jacket Cover).

This is the first book in the Stoker and Holmes series that introduces the reader to the crazy world of astute Mina Holmes and her partner in crime solving the vivacious Evaline Stoker.

“Evaline Stoker and MIna Holmes never meant to get into the family business, but after the affair of the Clockwork Scarab, they are eager to help Princess Aliz with a new case close to her heart. Seventeen-year-old Willa Ashton is obsessed with spiritual mediums, convinced she is speaking with her mother from beyond. While MIna is determined to prove Miss Ashton is the hapless victim of fraud, Evaline senses there is something more sinister- or otherworldly- at work. The list of clues piles up- an unexpected murder, the return of vampires to London, and a mysterious spirit glass - but are these things connected? As Uncle Sherlock would say, “there are no coincidences.” It will take all of Mina’s wit and Evaline’s muscle to keep London’s sinister underground at bay" (Jacket Cover).

This book was honestly capricious throughout each and every chapter. I loved its ever-changing witty angle, always adding in new things to the plot. There are so many different plots she had to manage to tie-in at the end of this book that must have taken a lot of thought and writing finesse to accomplish. Between time-travel, vampires, and famous families there was a lot to sum up and and make it all nice together like a perfect game of tetris.
One thing I didn’t find so interesing about this book is the romantic connection. For Evaline, the author creates a sort of love triangle for her. Little time is spend describing either of the male characters so the reader is basically in the dark about their backstories. Sure, I enjoy a good love triangle, but just the way the characters are portrayed in this one makes it unfathomable why a character would love either of them.

Something really interesting about this book is learning about every day 1800s London behavior. Granted, they didn’t have vampires or time travel in real history, but the author does an excellent job showing what everyday life would be for people there and how different their customs and ideas were. For example, Gleason always goes into detail describing the dress for the time period. In the 1800s girls always had to wear dresses, pants weren’t really a thing for girls. Maids had to help dress the girls because of all the buttons and layers they wore. Gloves were worn at most times along with a parasol and bonnet, all very different things from today’s style of clothing. People had elegant balls instead of parties, and called on their friends for tea. They took carriages to the theater to watch plays. All of this is so different from American normal day life and it’s really intriguing.

Overall, this is just a really great book and a really great series. iI’s hard to say a lot about the book without spoiling it since everything is connected to the first book in the series, but I definitely recommend it.

by Caylee S.

New to Our Shelves: The Hunt by Andrew Fakuda

In the "new-to-our-shelves" novel The Hunt by Andrew Fakuda, a new breed has taken over the humans. A mix between vampires and zombies who don't cough, sneeze, bleed, squint, laugh (when they find something humorous they scratch on their wrists), sweat, smell, grow hair, and eat raw meat are the new rulers of the earth. The animals have their own civilization, speak in English and have feelings but they burn in the sunlight. There are still a few humans left in the world (called hepers). However, it is difficult to hide all the human characteristics, and if any tiny sign shows that one is a human that individual will be devoured immediately. So, for Gene I guess it could be said that it was hard to have his whole life be a lie, but he has been going strong for seventeen years. It seems as though he could make it out of school alive, when there is an announcement that there will be a heper hunt. A heper hunt is when they set lose a group of humans, who are then hunted by the animals who try to chase after them and eat them. It soon becomes clear that Gene is not as he seems when he is picked to participate in the hunt.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a thriller of a book, but still has a really good plot. 

by Bobby W. 

September Author Showcase: Sara B. Larson and Lori M. Lee

Within our first couple of weeks of class, we were able to have a Skype conversation with Sara B. Larson, author of Defy and the upcoming sequel, Ignite.  I left the classroom ready to take on the world. Behind her stories and books there was a reoccurring theme that if you believe in yourself, you can succeed in whatever you do. Even after she had people tell her she didn't have the ability to make it as a writer, she knew that the harder she worked the more confident she would get and that she could make it. She couldn't get anyone to invest their time and efforts with so she went to countless people to help her make it big and in return was turned down countless times. Did the thought of giving up come across her mind every once in a while? Sure. But did it stop or even slow her down? No way. Now, she has successfully published her first books and has MANY fans anticipating the sequel.  Clearly, the Skype with Sara B. Larson didn't only get me intrigued in reading and writing books, but a lesson that is of higher importance. You can succeed if you believe in yourself.  Stay tuned for ARC review of Ignite!

by Bobby W. 

Sara B. Larson Skyping with our classroom
Classroom enjoying chat with Sara
Many of the students used Twitter to thank her
Sara even tweeted at our class!
We also had the opportunity to Skype with Lori M. Lee, author of fantasy novel Gates of Threads and Stone.  This is her debut novel and we are excited about the release of her upcoming sequel The Infinite, which is scheduled to be released March 10, 2015.  It was so interesting to speak to an author who was born in Laos.  During a time when young adult literature is in need of diversity, Lee is bringing diverse characters to her readers.  Her main characters including Kai, Avan, and Reev are Asian, which makes the story even more interesting.  Lee told us about her struggles to be published and the excitement that accompanies having a larger audience read your works.  One of her critique partners is Mindee Arnett, who is the author of Avalon and the soon-to-be released Polaris (1/15/1015)

The Walk On by John Feinstein ARC Review

In The Walk On by John Feinstein, the freshman quarterback Alex Myers is moved in with his mother after a divorce and is trying to conquer the new intimidating Chester High School. Quickly, Alex's cannon of an arm is noticed by the right people from the first throw he takes. When school starts the actual "school" part isn't of importance to him, but there is one ray of sunshine is day that could light up the whole sky, Christine Whitford. The smart, attractive, high school newspaper writer becomes his instant priority. But after school there is nothing but business left on the football field. The crooked Coach Gordon and his Matt try every way to prevent him from his deserved spot at starting quarterback.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes sports or even suspense. The book has an interesting first person point of view. Obviously, this is a great book for not only the football fans, but for people who want to read a good story.

by Bobby W.