Saturday, May 28, 2011

Noooooooooooo! Mockingjay Made Me Cry!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Review: I was waiting for the revolution. I was excited to see Katniss as the Mockingjay, because I loved the image of her wedding dress burning away to the black and white Mockingjay feathers. I started reading, hoping she'd end up with Gale, although poor Peeta is losing his mind.

Nothing happened like I thought it would. The book fulfills the promise of action to finish the trilogy. The ending  resonated with me...I cried and cried. The characters became real people to me.

 Remember...revolution isn't always glorious and we should be wary of glorifying any type of war or violence.

Song to Read By:  "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going, Going...Gone

Going, Going
by Naomi Shihab Nye

For her 16th birthday wish, Florrie challenges her family and classmates to skip franchises for 16 weeks in order to make a statement by shopping at local, independent stores in downtown San Antonio, Texas. In this way, Florrie and her friends discover new and delicious restaurants, cool indie record stores, and friendly people who give the town character, history, and a personal touch.

Florrie is a vibrant character, as is the city of San Antonio in this novel. Readers will relate to Florrie’s developing sense of identity and her swinging from utter confidence and purpose to doubts about herself.

Song to Read By: Gypsy Caravan by Putumayo cd: 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Katniss Everdeen Movie First Look!

Have you seen the cover of Entertainment Weekly? This makes me believe that Jennifer can play Katniss!

So jealous of her MAD bow and arrow skills!

What if you Lived Your Last Day...Again...and Again...and Again...

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Review: At first, watching Sam was painful—she’s spoiled, bratty, and mean to her classmates. Everything you wanted to forget about being a teenager—cliques, shallowness, the insular world, senseless cruelty, the obsession with popularity--it is all there and too accurate to want to revisit, for me. The dialogue and characters’ thoughts are dead-on.
I kept reading because I wanted to see Sam redeem herself soooo bad. What really attracts us, draws us in to this book… we all hope we’ll have one second chance after another in life, especially when we need it the most.

Song to Read By: “Got You Where I Want You” by The Flys:

Note: Before I Fall is a book for older teens, because it had a lot of older teen concerns and content, including drinking/debauchery, sex, and language.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Simple Story about Two Paths that Criss Cross

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

Criss Cross is more of a middle grades read in my opinion. But I like the simplicity of the story. Each character has one memorable quality that is developed. The story is quiet yet engaging. Debbie wishes something exciting will happen to her and Hector embarks on a career of songwriting as he learns to play the guitar in this small-town story about two fourteen-year olds, who are waiting for their lives to truly begin. This book is the sequel to All Alone in the Universe and can be read alone or with the first book.

Song to Read By: "Half of My Heart" acoustic version by John Mayer:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Love or Not to Love? That is the Question!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Review: This book ensnares you and won’t let go. The premise is intriguing (what if love were considered a disease and you must be ‘Cured’), but the book has a great balance of action and deliberation. There were plenty of beautiful descriptions of Portland and the ocean, sky, homes, and the Wild. The setting was realistic enough, which contributed to the believability of the plot. The plot twists just kept coming. I didn’t predict what would happen. I truly cared about the main character and wanted to hear more about Alex’s past and the Lena’s mother.
Favorite quote: “Poetry isn’t like any writing I’ve ever heard before. I don’t understand all of it, just bits and images, sentences that appear half-finished, all fluttering together like brightly colored ribbons in the wind” (p.295).
Update: I just found out Delirium is the beginning of a trilogy—the next book is called Pandemonium.

Song to Read by: "Fireflies" by Owl City:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Love is Like a Monsoon

Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

Jazz is falling in love with her best friend Steve, but they’re so busy running a successful business together in Berkeley, they barely have time to notice. This summer, Jazz has to accompany her family to India, back to the orphanage her mother was adopted from years ago. 

I like the combination of coming-of-age/origin stories, like how Jazz travels back to where her family is from to find out more about who she is. You can chart her connection to her culture and growing identity, which is something many immigrants in America today could relate to.

Song to Read By: "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cinna, Will You Please Design My Wedding Dress?

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Review: Katniss suppresses her Hunger Games memories, but she grows as she realizes the power she can wield and her responsibilities to the people in the districts. Like when she looks into the eyes of Rue's family (I admit, tears again). 

MORE GALE PLEASE. I'm glad Peeta's artistic now, that gives him some dimension, but I want more of the mysterious Gale. That's why I started reading the book. I thought he'd be in the forefront and Peeta would recede.

Catching Fire explores the formation of revolutionaries, like the film the Motorcycle Diaries explores the pre-Che Ernesto Guevara.

Song to read by: "Fiery Crash" by Andrew Bird

Why Katniss Everdeen Rocks

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I may be two years behind in reading this book, but I'm just in time for the movie casting bonanza.

Review:  Katniss is a bada$$. I'm jealous of her archery skills. Scenes with her sister Prim and ally Rue put tears in my eyes. My heart aches when Katniss can’t comprehend other human beings’ kindness.

This book is subversive. Seriously, how different are we from the Capitol? Watching people poison themselves on Jersey Shore, Survivor, and Fear Factor?

How far are we now, as a society, from reveling in the gore of the Hunger Games onscreen? Ironic. That's what we'll be doing when we watch the movie.

The character development and mirror on society were unexpected in this addictive read.

Check out the website:

Song to read by:  Heavy in Your Arms" by Florence and the Machine:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gemma, A Very Anti-Victorian Girl

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Review: Gemma Doyle’s life changes when her mother dies in India. She discovers a power she never knew she had. She must learn how to harness it as she begins a new life at Spence Academy in London. I devoured this book. I loved the mix of magic, suspense, and British private school life.

Of the three very different main characters, you’ll find someone to relate to. We’ve all felt lonely like Gemma or plain and unremarkable like Ann or wished we were more like the gorgeous, charming Pippa.

Read this Victorian-era novel about a spirited, un-Victorian-era girl.

Songs to Read by: "Porcelain" by Moby: 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gifted People + Goals Equals Love...Or Not

Very Far From Anywhere Else by Ursula LeGuin

Review: Owen and Natalie are both outsiders, but for different reasons, and they form a bond that is unexplainable to others. But will Natalie’s focus on her music career and her secret dream to become a famous composer tear them apart? Or will it be Owen’s aimlessness and lack of ambition that makes it hard for him to understand Natalie? Owen and Natalie navigate the line between love and friendship in this quick and relevant read. This deals with giftedness, ambition, and identity. Good for gifted bibliotherapy discussion groups.

Songs to Ready By: "Firework" by Katy Perry:

The Girl Version of Holden Caulfield?

St. Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb
by Valerie Hurley

Review: Raine is a unique, idealistic 18-year-old who is trying to finish her senior year at St. Ursula’s after flunking out of Horace Mann School. She’s on a quest to rid the world of atomic bombs, but finds herself distracted along the way, as she befriends her guidance counselor and follows her boyfriend to Nebraska to see a nuclear silo. Random, right? Yes, but cool. This clever main character has been compared to Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye by literary critics. I related to her and liked her spunky attitude and sense of humor. 

Songs to Read By: "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis

Monday, May 9, 2011

There's more to MATCHED than Romance!

Matched by Ally Condie

The boy next door or the intriguing outcast. Xander or Ky. The Matching Banquet brings unexpected results for Cassia. In the futuristic Society, only 100 songs, 100 poems were chosen. Libraries are incinerated, which broke my heart. This shows how controlling societies demolish beauty and mystery. This could lead to interesting thematic discussions.
When I first started reading Matched, I wondered, Is the writing simple or deceptively simple? I thought this book might be another throwaway teen romance, but it is not. Reread the poetic lines on page 28, the metaphor using cottonwood trees. You will find nuance, beauty, mystery, heart.
Song to Read by: "Jar of Hearts" by Christina Perri:  

Author website:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What if you woke up one year later? The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Jenna Fox wakes up one year after the Accident, in a new house in California with her mom and grandmother. Her father, a famous scientist, lives in Boston. Where are her friends? Jenna watches her  memories on DVD, one for each year. She doesn't feel quite herself and strives to figure out who she is, although her parents try to hide it.

An artist next door. Creepy boy down the street. New friends at school. And the mystery of who she is.

 The writing is crisp and suspenseful, yet delves into bioethics and religion with satisfying depth.

Link to Jenna Fox website:

Song to Read By: "The Shawshank Redemption Theme" by Thomas Newman:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Can You Save Someone Else? Or Just Yourself?

 Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Review: The story begins when Francesca’s mother doesn’t get out of bed one morning; she was the epitome of cheerfulness. Francesca feels lost, especially since she’s dealing with the daily degradations of being one of a few girls at a boys’ school. As Francesca tries to help her mother, she accumulates a quirky group of friends. She grows apart from her old, shallow group of girlfriends and realizes what real friends truly are. Francesca’s sense of humor recalls Georgia from the hilarious Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. The writing has a strong voice and balance of serious and funny moments.
Songs to Read by: Shout-out to some Aussie songs, since the book is set in Australia:
"Torn" by Natalie Imbruglia
"Steer" by Missy Higgins 

Friday, May 6, 2011

In Her Own Words...Love, Stargirl!

Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
the Sequel to Stargirl

The Review:
Did you wonder why Stargirl  was told from Leo’s perspective? Did you wish Stargirl told the story? Wish granted! Love, Stargirl is told from Susan Carroway’s perspective (aka Stargirl). The book was slow at first, because she missed Leo so much, but the story picks up as she makes quirky new friends, like the adorable Dootsie, in her new town. Don’t worry, you could still understand this book even if you haven’t read Stargirl yet.  While this book doesn’t have quite as many exciting events as Stargirl, basking inside the mind of this unique, relatable character is worth the journey!
Songs to Read By: "Where I Stood" and "Peachy" by Missy Higgins

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ukulele..Pet Rat...Pioneer Dress...the Bunny Hop...Yeah, That's Stargirl

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

The review: From the moment Stargirl sings "Happy Birthday" at her new school, strumming a ukulele and wearing a pioneer dress (like the one I wore in the 4th grade), I was in love with this character, because of how much I relate to her and also how much tweens and teens can learn from her fearlessness as they have to decide between conformity and non-conformity. The book is beautifully written. I find memorable phrases each time I re-read. I use this quote to teach metaphor: "She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl."

Background Info/Film Clip: Emily Dickinson believed you should memorize poetry so it would be there for you if you need it, and Stargirl is like that, because it will resonate in years to come. Stargirl as a character was brewing in Jerry Spinelli’s head for over 30 years. The character is inspired by  his wife Eileen (who is also a writer) which they discuss in this video clip from Randon House.  The film rights are sold, and they have been for years, but when will the movie be produced?

Song to Read By: "The Way I Am" By Ingrid

Launch Day: YA Lit Reviews in 100 Words or Less plus Songs to Read By

Today I created the concept for this blog--I'll be reviewing Young Adult Literature books in 100 words or less.

Why 100 words? The review itself will only be 100 words or less. That's a challenge. People don't have time these days and they like Twitter apparently (no I am NOT starting a Twitter account)--with any luck, Josh Groban will sing my book reviews like Kanye West's brilliant tweets :) LOL.

Why YA Lit? They're some of my favorite books to read. And crossover books like The Hunger Games and Twilight are getting major attention, so you might like some of the books I review. I read and write in this genre a lot as well. I also teach middle school English, so all my students and people who wish they were my students can find out about cool books. 

Songs to Read By: I love music and creativity goes along with reading and writing. Words, words, words!

On this blog, you'll find out about fun or thoughtful or mysterious or intriguing or meaningful new books while listening to new (to you) music. Or rediscover your old favorite books and songs!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

4 Teens and a Pink Convertible: Making It Up as They Go Along

 The Miles Between by Mary Pearson

I just finished reading The Miles Between by Mary Pearson. I picked this up because I loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox and I saw Mary give a talk for writers at an SCBWI conference. 

My review: At first I was like, Is this going to be a quirky book about a girl who has OCD?  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I wanted to read a fun, breezy road trip adventure type of book. Des is interested in the power of coincidence, not OCD.

Once they set out on the journey, I liked the book's hint of magical realism, unexpected plot twists, and character development. I finished reading this book at Starbucks on my lunch break and I teared up a little during the climax. I was afraid I'd be late for class, but I had to finish reading!

Songs to read by: "Winding Road" by Bonnie Sommerville (from the Garden State soundtrack):

"The Dim and the Dark" by Jump, Little Children 

What Really Happened During the Spanish Inquisition?

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

One of my students bought this book for me from the Scholastic Book Fair, but I didn't read it for years, because the cover and title made me think about witches. I enjoyed Alice Hoffman's books for adults, but still hesitated.

However, I devoured the book in like one day! I was reading at the gym and instead of grading papers. The book is set in Spain during the Inquisition. The main character finds out some intriguing things about her true identity, falls in love, and runs for her life. Action-packed, yet with ruminative, poetic writing. 

The book's official site:

Now I think I'll check out Hoffman's The Red Garden next. 

Song to Read By: "Full Moon" by The Black Ghosts from the Twilight soundtrack:

Be Careful Biking...Or You'll End Up Elsewhere

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Over spring break, I read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. I was intrigued by the snow globe on the front, yet I wasn't sure if I wanted to read about a girl's life after death. However, the character, the intriguing conflict, and the readable writing style drew me in. The premise is original and refreshing. Imagine being Liz, a 15 year old girl who woke up on the S.S. Nile and must start a new life...Elsewhere. If you liked The Confessions of Max Tivoli or Benjamin Button, read this.

Now I want to read another one of her books, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac!

Song to Read By: "The Carnival of the Animals: The Aquarium by French composer Camille Saint-Saens: 

Another Great Read by Julia Alvarez

Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez

Milly Kaufman was adopted from a country in Central 

America, but the center of her life is the here and now, 

Vermont. The  past emerges when the new boy in school, 

Pablo, befriends her and makes her think more about the 

past. When an opportunity arises to go to her home country, 

the Dominican Republic,  she is torn about whether or not to

Song to Read By: "Suerte: Whenever, Wherever" in Spanish

The Lives of Bollywood Babes

Bollywood Babes by Narinder Dhami

Three sisters navigate a new life without their 

mother, meanwhile scheming to bring a 

former Bollywood star to their school fundraiser. Set 

in England, these girls have their work cut out for 

them when a self-centered movie star moves into 

their house and the biggest hangama of their lives 


Song to Read By: "Saade Dil Te" by Daler Mehndi. Check out the sweet classic Bollywood video:

There's more to the Caribbean than Exotic Vacations!

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

If you love learning about history and traveling to a foreign country, this book is for you. It follows the story of a girl growing up during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. You will learn about the life and culture there, encounter an engaging set of characters, and gain a more global perspective on life by reading this book. I have read all of Julia Alvarez’s books and she is one of my favorite authors, so I highly recommend all of her books.

Song to Read By: "Angel Fish" from Caribbean Steel Drums in the Lifescapes series

What can you find in a "Backwater?"

Backwater by Joan Bauer

Ivy Breedlove loves peace and quiet, which her family of aggressive lawyers don’t understand. Ivy embarks on an adventure in the town of “Backwater,” full of birds and her “hermit” aunt, Josephine. Ivy, on her quest to write the entire history of the Breedlove family in America, embarks in the middle of the winter up the mountain, with zany, aspiring how-to author and wilderness guide Mountain Mama. She meets a park-ranger-to-be, Jack, but her most life-changing experience is learning how to live and what she’s made of from her journey and her aunt’s perspective on life.

Song to Read By: "Landslide" by the Dixie Chicks:

Have you ever wanted a convict to do your laundry?

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Have you ever wanted to go to Alcatraz? Now you can in the story of the children who lived on Alcatraz with the prisoners, and hatch a scheme to make money by telling their schoolmates Al Capone can do their laundry—for a fee, of course. 12-year-old Moose finds out being the new kid on the block is much more complicated when you’re on an island of convicts. And there's a sequel!

Songs to Read By: "Folsom Prison Blues (Live)" by Johnny Cash

Anastasia Krupnik series--"It Saved Me in the 4th Grade!"

Review: The incomparable Anastasia navigates a new baby brother, moving to the suburbs, and several career moves, from her own business to a hilariously failing modeling career, making new friends and funny side comments along the way. Anastasia is a character you’ll always love, relate to, and remember, not to mention the antics of her highly gifted baby brother Sam. One of my friends recommended the series to me, saying “It saved me in the fourth grade.” Whether you're 9 or 21 or 91, you'll like this series.

Song to Read By: "Vanilla Twilight" by Owl City: