Thursday, March 24, 2011

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler - Sneak Peek


Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown.  But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort.  There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past.  As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home.  Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak.

PLAYING HURT is told from alternating POVs…This excerpt (excerpt #4) is told from Clint’s viewpoint, and comes just prior to Clint being forced to remember the most tragic event of his life…

I take a deep breath of sweet summer air.  Birds in the branches above me chatter small-talk; ducks follow their mother down the lake, single file.  The clucking ducks remind me, a little, of the tourists trailing mindlessly behind me.  They chatter to each other, none of them paying enough attention to their feet; I can hear their sneakers stumble off the edge of the trail every once in a while.

I glance over my shoulder at the first two people in line behind me.  A father and daughter, obviously.  I peg the dad for a runner.  His daughter’s about twelve, wearing an awful pink GIRL POWER T-shirt and clutching her phone like it’s somehow going to save her from dying out here in the woods.  She smells like grape bubblegum and the comfort of a childhood bedroom.  She blushes when she catches my eye.

Even though I’ve tried to deny it, Earl was right about the MAKING EYES junk.  Every single summer, younger girls like this one get crushes.  Blush at one guide, then another.  Twirl hair around fingers, get all giggly.

Frankly, a crush from a twelve-year-old is just plain embarrassing.  Especially with her father watching.  But the occasional older girls who come to the resort have a tendency to get a little goofy, too.  And I wonder, sometimes, what good a summer fling really does the girls who are old enough to have them.  What GOOD is something so short-lived it’s practically disposable?  Throw-away love.  Maybe it’s okay for Todd or Greg, but I don’t get the point.

I’ve just started to hope, with everything I have, that Little Miss Girl Power won’t spend her entire vacation traipsing around after me, when she glances at the trail ahead of us and gasps.

“LOOK,” she says, pointing at the tattooed tree.  At least, that’s what we’ve always called it here at the resort.  And that’s exactly the way it looks—like the body of some old heavy metal rocker.  Covered in hearts and letters.  Some painted.  Some carved with pocket knives.  Every summer romance that’s ever played out at Lake of the Woods has been etched into the skin of the tree.

She’s just the right age to be infatuated with the idea of love.  To maybe even be infatuated with the idea of heartbreak.  I think that sometimes, heartbreak looks adult to little girls like this one.  Same as lipstick or high heels.

I look at the tree even though I really don’t want to.  And I find it, instantly, like I always do every time my eyes hit the bark: CLINT & ROSIE.  At the bottom, near the thick, gnarly roots that poke up out of the ground.  As I stare, I can still fell the tiny glass bottle of red model paint I’d held in my hand while crouching to paint our names down there.  God, I was younger even than Girl Power back then.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting On Wednesday - Paper Covers Rock

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Publication Date: June 14, 2011

 At the beginning of his junior year at a boys' boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there's more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex's writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them. (summary from Goodreads)

I hadn't been able to find that much information about Paper Covers Rock until this article came up in the results of a search. So, in addition to the summary, this article says that Paper Covers Rock takes place in the 1980s at an all boy's boarding school. Despite the fact that it takes place almost 50 years later, the summary reminds me a bit of A Separate Peace, a book I love. Which, of course, makes me wonder how Alex and Glenn compare to Gene and Phineas.

What books are you eagerly waiting for this Wednesday?

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review - Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton
Publisher: Random House BYR
Publication Date: May 24, 2011

Blood Magic is chock full of awesomeness. It's a book that grabs you from the beginning - from the first paragraph - and doesn't let go until the last word. Then you sit there amazed by what you just read and can't imagine that the next book you pick up will be able to live up to the standards set by Blood Magic. Or maybe that was just me. Because that's exactly how I felt after I finished reading Blood Magic.

Silla and Reese Kennicott's parents were gruesomely killed. It's only been a few months and Silla is still dealing with their loss and the aftermath. Nicholas Pardee moved back to small town Yaleylah, Missouri from Chicago. He seems angry about about the move, plus living in his grandfather's house he remembers his absent mother - memories he would rather forget.

The graveyard that separates their two homes plays witness to Silla and Nicholas's first encounter. Soon they find that they are connected in ways that neither of them expected.

Told from both Silla and Nick's points of view, it was easy to transition back and forth because they each had very distinct voices. Usually when there is more than one point of view in a book, I find myself liking one of them over the rest. In Blood Magic, I liked Nick and Silla equally. Nick was the big city guy stuck in a small town - at first he sort of came across as "been there, done that" until his interactions with Silla. Silla was just trying to survive her day to day life, until she received a journal from a mysterious person call "The Deacon." The connection between Nick and Silla gave them both a refuge. They could be more themselves around each other and this gave both of them to face some difficult truths about their parents and themselves.

In addition to Nick and Silla's points of view, journal entries provided a look into the past. So there was an interesting back and forth interaction between the past and present. The journal's author filled in some gaps for the reader, but at the same time added to the mysterious atmosphere of the book. Even though the bulk of the action takes place in the present day, the tone was distinctly gothic and mysterious.

This is one of those instances when I wish that I was a more eloquent writer, because there is so much I want to say about this book that I'm not quite sure how to put into words or at least words that form coherent thoughts. I just loved the writing and style and pacing of Blood Magic. I loved Nick and Silla separately and together and their discovery of each other and the threads that connected them was a wonderful thing to witness. And, Ms Gratton knows how to write a kissing scene! I also loved how the villain was disguised and then revealed only to realize that was the tip of the iceberg where they were concerned.

There is a lot more that I could say, but I don't want to let any spoilers slip, so I'll just wrap up by saying that if you like paranormal or mysteries or books with a gothic feel or books about families you should read Blood Magic. Even if you don't, Blood Magic might just change your mind; it's that good.

I have a feeling that Blood Magic is one of those books that gets even better on a reread because once you know what happens you'll be able to pay better attention to all of the little details. And I can't wait to read it again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review - The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication Date: January 25, 2011

Magic, princesses, hidden identities, wizards, conspiracies, figuring out who you really are - The False Princess packs a lot of topics into a fantastic story.

Nalia, the royal princess of Thorvaldor, spent her time at court studying or with her best friend Kiernan. Just after her 16th birthday, Nalia learns that she isn’t the princess - she was just filling in for the real princess. A prophecy stated that the princess would die before she turned sixteen. The true princess had been hidden away and now that the prophecy has been proven wrong, she can be brought back to court.

Now Nalia is Sinda - daughter of a weaver from the small village of Treb. She goes off to the country to live with her aunt. But, living in the small country village, Sinda proves inept at the most simple tasks. Soon she learns that she has magic and goes back to the city to try to get into the Wizard’s College. Once back in Vivaskari, Sinda finds herself in the middle of palace intrigue and much more.

I love reading fantasy when the world building is spot on and the characters feel like real people despite their fantastical abilities. The False Princess had both of these elements. Ms. O’Neal does a fantastic job with the world building. The difference between Vivaskari and Treb was tremendous, but both locales felt real and I could picture them clearly. My only (very tiny) complaint is the lack of a map of Thorvaldor, especially since Sinda travels quite a bit, it would have been nice to see exactly where each place was in relation to each other.

The secondary characters were a lot of fun to read - especially Kiernan and Philanthia. Kiernan was one of the only people who welcomed Sinda back to Vivaskari. And no matter how Sinda treated him, he always stood by her side. Kiernan wasn’t a push over, he simple believed in Sinda more than she believed in herself. Their relationship was a grounding force for both of them, and I really enjoyed watching it evolve throughout the book. Philanthia, the unorthodox teacher and source of wisdom, was one of my favorite characters. There was always another layer to her - more for the reader to learn about her. Even Sinda continued to uncover more and more about Philanthia as situations came up where she needed advice. The rapport the two of them built was fun to read.

The situation Sinda finds herself in could have been one note, a “woe is me, what should I do” story. Instead there is a great twist that allowed her to really shine and save a country while discovering who she really was - more than a simple country girl easily cast aside by the people she thought were her family. Sinda has become one of my favorite heroines. I love her journey and her realization that she can be the hero.

The False Princess would make a great companion read to books like Mistwood by Leah Cypess and Fire by Kristin Cashore. The False Princess is a book that I will recommend often.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Sequels

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Today, I thought it would be fun to share some sequels I'm excited about. I liked the first (and in some cases second) books so much that their sequels are high on my "I need to read this" list.

Away by Teri Hall
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 15, 2011
Sequel to: The Line

When Rachel crosses The Line she leaves behind everything she has ever known and enters a strange new world: Away. Life there is hard, and survival is never guaranteed. Bizarre, wild creatures roam the forests, and people—the same people she’s always been told are dangerous and untrustworthy—have gifts she’s never thought possible.

Rachel has to rely on Pathik, the boy she risked her own life for, to help her navigate the strange customs. He’s exasperating, but she thinks she can trust him, and she hopes he’ll lead her to answers about her father. As it turns out, he leads her to more than she bargained for, and Rachel finds herself on an adventure filled with life and death choices, dark conspiracies, and unthinkable sacrifice.

In a place with no technology, no electricity, no medicine, and very little hope, Rachel discovers that only one thing makes life worth living. If only it’s not too late.

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Sequel to: Heist Society

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules

Red Glove by Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (S&S)
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Sequel to: White Cat

After rescuing his brothers from Zacharov's retribution and finding out that Lila, the girl he has loved his whole life, will never, ever be his now that his mother has worked her, Cassel is trying to reestablish some kind of normalcy in his life. That was never going to be easy for someone from a worker family tied to one of the big crime families and a mother whose cons get more reckless by the day. But Cassel is also coming to terms with what it means to be a transformation worker and figuring out how to have friends.

But normal doesn't last very long--soon Cassel is being courted by both sides of the law and is forced to confront his past. A past he remembers only in scattered fragments and one that could destroy his family and his future. Cassel will have to decide whose side he wants to be on because neutrality is not an option. And then he will have to pull off his biggest con ever to survive

The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: June 14, 2011
Sequel to: The Demon's Lexicon and The Demon's Covenant

The summary has some spoilers, especially if you haven't read either of the two previous books, so I've decided not to post it. Instead, if you really want to read it, it can be found in the Simon and Schuster digital catalog.

After reading the summary, I want this book now! Can it be June 14th? Please?

What books are you eagerly waiting for this Wednesday?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Picture Books on a Sunday - Meet Einstein

Amanda at A Patchwork of Books has this great Picture Book Saturday feature, where she talks about different picture books that are connected by a certain theme. As a librarian that works with kids of all ages, picture books come across both the reference desk and my own desk everyday. I thought it would be fun to talk about some of those picture books from time to time - it might be once per month, it might be more.

Today's book is...

Meet Einstein
Author: Mariela Kleiner
Illustrator: Viviana Garofoli
Publisher: Meet Books, LLC
Publication Date: March 1, 2011

Meet Einsein, he is a scientist who loves to study light and gravity. Einstein helps to introduce your kids yo science, and show the, that they are already great scientists.

Light and gravity are concepts that preschoolers are ready to learn. 
Meet Einstein helps them make connections in everything they see and do, and teaches them that science is all around them. (Summary from the jacket copy)

Meet Einstein is a great book for introducing young children (ages 3 to 5) to science. It has clear writing that uses examples that kids will recognize from everyday life.

Ms. Kleiner starts off by introducing Einstein and explaining what a scientist is and then goes on to talk about light and gravity. She uses examples like food spilling from the table and a child jumping up and down to illustrate her points. The writing reads like a conversation and I can see this book being the starting off point for teaching children both who Einstein is and about some of his discoveries.

Ms. Garofoli's illustrations are a perfect match for the text. They are beautifully drawn and really catch the eye.  I love that the endpapers at both the front and back of the book have illustrations of supplies a scientist might need to conduct experiments.

Meet Einstein
 is terrific resource for parents. While I can't see using it as a read aloud for a group, this book is perfect for one on one reading. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review - A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: May 1, 2010

A haunting portrayal of the effects of mental illness on a whole family, A Blue So Dark is a touching, emotionally packed story of a teen trying to cope with her mother’s schizophrenia.

Aura is has a secret; it’s something that she’s desperately trying to hide from everyone. Her mother has schizophrenia. Aura has been trying to take care of her and maintain a normal life. Sure that creativity and artistic talent lead to crazy, Aura turns away from hew own talent and only outlet. As her mother sinks deeper and deeper into illness, Aura pulls away from all the people that can possibly help her, until she realizes that it’s all more than she can handle alone.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started reading A Blue So Dark. The beautiful cover art grabbed my attention and made me want to read the book. But, it was the powerful writing that kept me reading.

From the first page Aura’s voice set the tone for the story. At times, I found it difficult to read, not because of the writing, but because of what was going on in Aura’s life. She tried so hard to put on a normal fa├žade for the world to see, even when everything was falling apart around her. Several times, I wanted to yell at her teachers to notice that things weren’t right and that Aura needed help. At the same time, I wanted Aura to reach out and ask for help. I understood why she didn't, but it was still frustrating to read.

I like that at its core, A Blue So Dark was about family. The relationships between Aura and her mother and Aura and her father couldn’t be more different. Where Aura stuck by her mother through the highs and the lows, it was clear that Aura’s dad checked out just as things got tough and left Aura to deal with things on her own. It was very easy to understand Aura’s feelings towards him and his choices. 

A strength of Ms. Schindler’s writing is that all of the characters were so well developed that it was easy to understand their actions and the reasons behind them. This was an emotional book, eliciting a wide range of feelings as I read it. Not a feel-good book by any means, it did give a very realistic portrayal of what can happen in a family when mental illness is present.

I highly recommend reading A Blue So Dark, it is a powerful book about a subject that is not dealt with often in YA literature.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Upcoming Contemporary Releases

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

Today I'm on Lauren Bjorkman's blog talking about contemporary fiction, so I thought instead of showcasing just one book, I would talk about a few upcoming contemporary books I'm excited about.

Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnick
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: August 2, 2011

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

• As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

• As the daughter of the new principal, new-girl-on-campus Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long. Fans of Susane Colasanti (When It Happens), Polly Shulman (Enthusiasm), and, of course, Jane Austen will love finding out if Elise’s love life will be an epic win or an epic fail.

Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have)
by Sarah Mlynowski
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 21, 2011

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn’t jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although, maybe “opportunity” isn’t the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: “Lied to Our Parents”). But she and her housemate, Vi, are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up “Skipping School” (#3), “Throwing a Crazy Party” (#8), “Buying a Hot Tub” (#4), and, um, “Harboring a Fugitive” (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: April 5, 2011

It's been three years since the devastating accident ... three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: April 26, 2011

It's been two years since Conrad told Belly to go with Jeremiah. She and Jeremiah have been inseparable ever since, even attending the same college-- only, their relationship hasn't exactly been the happily ever after Belly had hoped it would be. And when Jeremiah makes the worst mistake a boy can make, Belly is forced to question what she thought was true love. Does she really have a future with Jeremiah? Has she ever gotten over Conrad? It's time for Belly to decide, once and for all, who has her heart forever. 

The Pull of Gravity
 by Gae Polisner

Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Publication Date: May 10, 2011

While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him

Two sequels (Where She Went and We'll Always Have Summer), two books that sound hilarious, and one that involves Steinbeck - I love that contemporary fiction is so varied. 

In the mood to laugh? Sounds like Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) will bring the funny.

Want something a little quirky? The Pull of Gravity seems to fit the bill.

And I can't wait to read about what happens next for both Belly and Mia.

What books are you eagerly waiting for?

**All summaries were taken from Goodreads**


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