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Someone Else’s Summer
Author: Rachel Bateman
Published May 9th, 2017 by Running Press Kids

Summary: Anna’s always idolized her older sister, Storm. So when Storm dies in a tragic car accident on the night of her high school graduation, Anna is completely lost and her family is torn apart. That is, until she finds Storm’s summer bucket list and decides to honor her sister by having the best summer ever—which includes taking an epic road trip to the coast from her sleepy Iowa town. Setting out to do everything on Storm’s list along with her sisters best friend Cameron—the boy next door—who knew that Storm’s dream summer would eventually lead to Anna’s own self-discovery?

Review: I am a sucker for road trip books. I just love them so much, and a good road trip book to me is like the perfect book to read–especially if I am in a rut. Someone Else’s Summer is a really good road trip book. It has everything you expect: searching for identity, mishaps, high jinx, romance, and unexpected twists and turns; however, Someone Else’s Summer is not predictable or like any other road trip book. It has all the feelings of comfort with new adventures, characters, and conflicts. 

Storm was the opposite of Anna, but she was Anna’s very best friend, no matter how much they’d grown apart in high school, so when Storm dies, Anna knows she has to do something to honor her friendship with her sister, and it had to be something like what they did as kids. One of the things Storm liked to do was make to-do lists; however, her very last one is one that Storm will never be able to finish–so Anna decides she needs to. And it is only right that Storm’s best friend and the boy next door, Cameron, accompanies her. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are readers out there that need this book. They may be dealing with grief or struggling with their identity in high school or making a transition between friends. They’ll need Anna’s story. There are other readers out there that will want this book. They may love romance or road trips or sad books. They’ll want Anna’s story. This book has a home in classrooms and libraries where these readers can find it.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think Anna felt she needed to finish Storm’s to do list?; Did the ending surprise you? Was there any foreshadowing to the reveal at the end?; How did you feel about Anna’s friend’s reactions to Anna’s choice? Did Anna deal with the situation well? Why do you think she changed so quickly?

Flagged Passages: “Hours later, the rain still pattered a steady rhythm on the roof as a shrill ring pulled me from sleep. Mom and Dad insisted on keeping a landline with receivers throughout the house, even though we rarely use it. The ancient, corded phone blaring just outside of my bedroom door should have been my first indication something was wrong; I should have known right away. That’s the way it always happens in the movies–there’s intuition, a feeling deep in the gut. I had none of that, just a mild irritation at whoever was calling. And the constant, insistent rain.

Then my world ended with Mom’s ear-breaking scream.”

Read This If You Loved: Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely; Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown; The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle; Jess, Chunk, and the Road to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark; The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider; Cadillac Chronicles by Brett Hartman

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**Thank you to Valerie at Running Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Star-Crossed
Author: Barbara Dee
Published March 14th, 2017 by Aladdin

Summary: Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

Review: I really, really, really enjoyed this book. First, it made me like Shakespeare more than I did before. Second, I think that it dealt with sexual identity in a gentle and realistic manner. 

I must admit that Shakespeare is a fear of mine because I just never have felt like I got him the way I should as an English Lit major and English teacher; however, it is what it is. When I see Shakespeare plays, I am always transported into the story and understand what all the hoopla is about, but reading it cold, I just never get it. I worried that a story about a middle school putting on Romeo and Juliet would let the Shakespeare bog it down, but it did the opposite–it helped this story be what it is. The reader learns to love Shakespeare as Mattie learns to love him. And since we are in class and at rehearsals with Mattie, we also get to be part of some of the lessons about the play thus helping the reader understand the text as well as Mattie is supposed to. It was brilliantly intertwined.

Mattie’s feelings toward Gemma are obvious to the reader before Mattie even realizes what they are, but that felt truly realistic to me because if you are someone who has already crushed on boys, feeling the same way towards a girl could be confusing, but Dee never makes it seem like what Mattie seems is anything but natural which is beautiful to see in a middle grade novel.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to being in classroom, school, and public libraries, sections of the story could definitely be used in conjunction to a reading of Romeo and Juliet. Some of the discussions of the play, both during Mattie’s English class and during play rehearsals, would be great jumping off points for similar discussions in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: What clues did Dee include that Mattie’s feelings for Gemma were deeper than she first realized?; If your class was putting on Romeo and Juliet, who do you think would be best to play each character? Explain.; What allusions to Romeo and Juliet did Dee include within the text?; Have you ever read a text that affected you the way Romeo and Juliet effected Mattie?

Flagged Passages: “But that afternoon, when I got home from Verona’s and locked myself in my bedroom to read Romeo and Juliet, something happened to me. It was kind of like a thunderbolt, I guess you could call it. Because as I was reading, I stared speaking the words out loud, feeling the characters’ emotions as if they were mind. I didn’t understand every word, and a few times I skimmed when certain characters (specifically, Mercutio and Friar Lawrench) got speechy. But the idea that Romeo and Juliet had a secret love they had to hid from their families, even from their best friends–it was a story so real I could almost see it happening in front of me.

And wen I got to the end, when Juliet discovers that Romeo is dead, and kisses his lips, and they’re still warm, I did the whole scene in front of the mirror, including the kiss. My eyes had actual tears, and I thought: It’s like this play is happening TO me. Inside me. 

I wanted to own it. I wanted to eat it, as if it were chocolate layer cake.” (p. 68-69)

Read This If You Love: Shakespeare, Middle grade novels about school life and identity 

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing a copy of the book and to Barbara Dee for reaching out to me!**

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the sun is also a star

The Sun Is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Published: November 1, 2016 by Delacorte

Summary: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My Review: This book shines brightly. It is more than a love story. The description of the text doesn’t quite do it justice. While reading Nicola Yoon’s words, I thought of politics, I thought of the universe, I thought of science, and I thought of culture. Natasha and Daniel have a lot of baggage, and their family histories have formed who they are. Both are strong characters who want to be better than some of the mistakes their family members have made. I appreciated the depth of this text.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love talking about immigration in the classroom because it is a great opportunity for powerful discussions. I would love to talk about Natasha’s situation and students’ opinions about it. This might allow students an opportunity to look at immigration laws and how they impact others.

Throughout the text, Yoon provides snippets of other characters’ lives. These snippets impact the narrators, and it would be interesting to discuss how each snipped changes the way we read the story.

Discussion Questions: Is Natasha’s father entirely wrong in his approach to life? Can you find some redemption in his poor decisions?; Do you believe in fate? How can we tie this story to science?; Does Natasha’s family deserve to go home? Do you think they should be allowed to stay in the United States of America?; What role does Daniel’s father play in the development of the story?

Flagged Passage: “There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

 

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

arabian-nights

Tales from the Arabian Nights: Stories of Adventure, Magic, Love, and Betrayal by Donna Jo Napoli
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrator: Christina Balit
Published October 11th, 2016 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: Classic stories and dazzling illustrations of princesses, kings, sailors, and genies come to life in a stunning retelling of the Arabian folk tales from One Thousand and One Nights and other collections, including those of Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The magical storytelling of award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli dramatizes these timeless tales and ignites childrens’ imaginations.

Review: This short story anthology of Arabian mythology was fascinating, captivating, and beautifully written and illustrated. The layers of themes and stories built upon each other to create a collection that is a wonderful introduction to true traditional literature.

One thing that I at first struggled with but then ended up loving was how stories overlapped with stories. The main story was that a young woman was telling her husband a story every night to keep him in suspense so that he keeps her alive for another night. So within her story, she is telling stories. Then sometimes the characters in her stories, to help her add suspense and cliffhangers, will tell stories. So that meant at times the story you were reading was a story within a story within a story. Sounds confusing but the way it was explained and implemented allowed for the tactic to do what the young woman hoped it would do for her husband–I just had to keep reading!

I also, in my ignorance, had not read any Arabian traditional literature as I only knew the pop culture versions, so I loved learning about the culture and history through their folk tales.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Greek mythology is taught throughout school; however, there are folk tales and mythology from so many other cultures. I would love to see more Arabian folk tales taught during mythology units (and why not more folk tales and mythology from other cultures as well!). Donna Jo Napoli along with Christina Balit already have anthologies for Egyptian and Norse (and Greek), so those are a good place to start!

Discussion Questions: What are some themes you see throughout all of the tales?; How are the stories you were familiar with different than the popular culture versions you knew?

Flagged Passages: 

arabian-nights-illustration

“Princess Budur unfoldedthe letter and her own ring dropped into her palm. She read the letter. At last! She planted her feet against the wall and strained until the iron around her neck snapped. She pulled the curtain aside and threw herself into Qamar al-Zaman’s arms. On that day they were wed.” (p. 72-73)

Read This If You Love: The Arabian Nights by various and other Middle Eastern or Asian stories and folk tales, mythology

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!!**

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Ten Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes Romance

Kellee

These are some of my favorite YA romance novels!

1. and 2. Openly Straight and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

openly honestly-ben

Everyone needs a little bit of humor (and well-crafted plot & characters!) mixed with their romance!

3. Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely

last-true-love-story

This is a love story to love stories.

4. and 5. Olivia Twisted and Olivia Decoded by Vivi Barnes

Olivia Twisted Olivia Decoded

Oh, Z. There is just something so fascinating with a bad boy who isn’t that bad but bad enough.

6. Winger by Andrew Smith

winger

Oh, Winger. Such truth in what is on a 14-year-old’s mind.

7. Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil

life in outer space

Nerdy boy + awesome girl should equal cliche, but in this novel it equals warm and fuzzies.

8. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirl

There are two romance stories in Fangirl, and they are both swoony.

9. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

aristotleand

Aristotle and Dante’s story fills your heart.

10. Tyrell by Coe Booth

tyrell

I wouldn’t exactly call this book a romance novel, but it is a novel that is awesome that happens to have some romance in it. Maybe the book club needs a bit of a different type of romance 🙂

Which romance novels would you recommend? 

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Olivia Twisted

Title: Olivia Twisted
Author: Vivi Barnes
Published November 5th, 2013 by Entangled: Teen

Summary: Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her sixteen years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite?break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv…

Thanks to Z, Olivia’s about to get twisted.

Olivia Decoded

Title: Olivia Decoded
Author: Vivi Barnes
Published September 6th, 2016 by Entangled: Teen

Summary: This isn’t my Jack, who once looked at me like I was his world. The guy who’s occupied the better part of my mind for eight months.

This is Z, criminal hacker with a twisted agenda and an arsenal full of anger.

I’ve spent the past year trying to get my life on track. New school. New friends. New attitude. But old flames die hard, and one look at Jack—the hacker who enlisted me into his life and his hacking ring, stole my heart, and then left me—and every memory, every moment, every feeling comes rushing back. But Jack’s not the only one who’s resurfaced in my life. And if I can’t break through Z’s defenses and reach the old Jack, someone will get hurt…or worse.

Vivi

About the Author: Vivi Barnes was raised on a farm in East Texas where her theater-loving mom and cowboy dad gave her a unique perspective on life. Now living in the magic and sunshine of Orlando, Florida, she divides her time writing, working, goofing off with her husband and three kids, and avoiding dirty dishes.

Find her on her blogs: http://vivibarnes.com/ and http://4chicks.wordpress.com/

Find her on twitter: https://twitter.com/ViviBarnes

Find her on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/vivibarnes.author

Check out http://www.oliviatwisted.com/ for the Olivia Twisted official trailer!

Review: I was very lucky to be one of the early readers for Olivia Twisted (Vivi’s children actually go to the school I teach at! Check out the discussion questions at the back of the book, too–I wrote those!), and I fell in love with Liv and Z. I loved how Vivi retold Oliver Twist yet made the story completely hers at the same time. However, anyone that read the book had one big question looming over them: What happened between the end of the story and the epilogue?!?!? It is something that I am sure Vivi was asked over and over again, and Olivia Decoded is the answer, and it is a GOOD answer. I read this book in one sitting, and I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened because even though you knew what happened because of the epilogue in Olivia Twisted, how it got to that situation was a big mystery.

Excerpt: “Wow, who gave you that?”

“My grandfather. He left it on my car seat this morning.”

“Oh, boo. I thought maybe you had a secret admirer or something.” I try not to smile at her obvious disappointment. Emerson’s been on me to date for months now. She knows I had someone back in Richmond who was special, but only that we broke it off before I moved here. She doesn’t know anything else about Jack. No one does, because what would I say? The last guy I dated is a criminal, and the last time I saw him was right after we got kidnapped by his horrible boss and almost died trying to escape. That’d go over really well.

“I don’t know, what do you think?” Emerson breaks into my thoughts as we walk down the hallway to our lockers.

“About what?”

She sighs. “Where Kade’s taking me tonight. Girl, you are not with it today, are you? Are you doing anything tonight?”

“My grandfather’s taking me to dinner.”

“Sweet. Not so romantic, but sweet.”

I smile. “Yes, he’s sweet. But a little over the top on gifts sometimes.” Even after eight months of living the wealthy life, I’d be happier if he gave me a gift card to a bookstore instead of extravagant jewelry I rarely wear.

My phone starts buzzing, and I pull it from my pocket. Grandfather’s text reads: What gift?

I frown, typing, The bracelet you left in my car. I snap a quick picture of the bracelet on my wrist and send it to him. Maybe his text was a hint to send a picture, though I doubt it. He’s usually pretty direct about things.

“What’s up?” Emerson asks.

“Looks like Grandfather forgot he left me the bracelet.” But even as I say it, it doesn’t sound right. He’s one of the sharpest people I’ve ever known, and he runs a financial institution.

“Maybe he gave it to one of his staff to put in your car.” Her voice has the usual bitter tone whenever she’s thinking of her parents. They’re hardly ever around, and when they are, they don’t pay much attention to her.

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” I don’t believe that, though. Even though it’s possible Mrs. Bedwin did put it there, I doubt it. Grandfather is the type to handle things himself when it comes to me. But Emerson’s parents travel so much for their business that they often let their staff handle things like birthdays and other events they think aren’t important. So as grateful as I am that Grandfather’s always there for me, I don’t like to rub that in Emerson’s face.

“Maybe you really do have a secret admirer,” she says hopefully.

I roll my eyes.“I doubt that.”

“Oh, really?” She stops in her tracks, her eyes fixed straight ahead. I follow her gaze, a sharp sense of dread creeping down my spine. A white rose is dangling from the vent in my locker.

A rose I know wasn’t placed there by my grandfather.

Discussion Questions: Why is Olivia so hesitant to date and make friends at her new school?; How does Olivia’s mom’s decisions affect how Olivia’s grandfather treats her?

Read This If You Loved: Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin, Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia

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Giveaway!

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Make sure to not miss out on any of the stops on the blog tour!

September 12th

The Phantom Paragrapher – Review Book #2

The Book Beacon – Spotlight Post

September 13th

RoloPoloBookBlog – Spotlight Post

Roxy’s Book Reviews – Spotlight Post

September 14th

Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews – Author Interview

Folders Corners & Smudged Screens– Review Book #1

Book Lovers Life – Spotlight Post

September 15th

Becky on Books – Guest Post

Worth Reading It? – Review Book #1

September 16th

Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books – Spotlight Post

Novel Knight – Spotlight

September 17th

Realm of the Sapphired Dragon – Review Book #2

Just One More Chapter – Spotlight Post

September 18th

Elizabeth Delana Rosa – Spotlight Post

Once Upon a Moonlight Review… – Review Book #2

Sleeps on Tables – Spotlight Post

September 19th

Books and Swoons – Review Book #2

Worth Reading It? – Review Book #2

Cozy Little Book Nook – Spotlight Post

September 20th

Crossroad Reviews – Review Book #2

The Reading Pile – Review Book #2

September 21st

Read Love Blog – Review Book #1

September 22nd

Pandora’s Books – Guest Post

YaReads – Author Interview

September 23rd

Unleashing Readers – Review Book #2

The Avid Reader – Review Book #1

September 24th

The Avid Reader – Review Book #2

Folders Corners & Smudged Screens – Review Book #2

September 25th

Read Love Blog – Review Book #2

Bookwormette – Author Interview

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**Thank you to Nichole at YAReads Blog Tours for setting up this tour!**

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emma g

Emma G. Loves Boyz: A True Love Journal Volume 1
Author: Taro Meyer
Published November 24th, 2015 by Red Sky Presents

Summary: Emma G. Loves Boyz: A True Love Journal is the first book in the new Tween Girl Series by Taro Meyer – the exuberant journal of a star-struck fan who vows to stop at nothing – not even doing chores! – for a chance to see her favorite boy band perform live…

Emma G. is CRAZY about Aaron, lead singer of Boyz3000. Of course, she doesn’t actually know him, but so what? Feelings are feelings. That is until Josh appears… and he’s soooooo CUTE. Navigating her two crushes and her middle school life, especially with eighth-grade hater Renee around, is a challenge. And oh yeah, she’s got to earn money for an AWESOME trip to the Bahamas to see the band of her dreams. Hello???? How much can one thirteen-year-old take???

Review: Oh man! This book brought flash backs to every boy band obsessed student I have taught over the last 10 years! Emma’s love for Boyz3000 can represent any middle school fangirl/boy who is so in love with the band, their music, and one of their members so blindly that they feel that the love is the most real thing they’ve ever felt! (And this is coming from a girl who cried when she saw Hanson live for the first time, so I know this emotion!) In addition to the story about Emma’s love of Boyz, Emma also has to learn responsibility to earn money to go see them in concert as well as some mean girl issues in middle school all told in a journal format which I think middle schoolers will find true to their voice. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a perfect book for a middle school library/classroom library! So many of my students are always looking for a romance book that is appropriate for them, and this is perfect!

Another aspect of Emma’s journal is that she writes poetry, so her story could be a perfect inspiration for students who are interested in writing poetry or need to find an outlet for emotions.

Discussion Questions: How does Emma’s want to go see Boyz make her become a bit more responsible?; How does Josh change Emma’s perception on life?; Why do you think Renee is so mean?; How does the structure of the text affect the way the story is told?

Flagged Passages: “Oh my God. I just woke up completely happy, thinking I HAD FINALLY GOTTEN A TICKET TO A BOYZ3000 CONCERT and would meet Aaron, their lead singer. I’ve entered at least five contests and haven’t won any yet. 🙁

But sadly, I’d only fallen asleep in front of my computer and it was just a dream, and I still had to write a make-up essay for Language Arts because of the stupid D I got today!

I cannot believe I got a D in Language Arts! I plan on being a writer, and really, what kind of writer gets a D on an essay?

A D could ruin my entire future!” (p. 5)

Read This If You Loved: Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker by Kristina SpringerRadiate by Marley Gibson

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**Thank you Brittany from Red Sky Presents for providing a copy for review!**

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