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Sadly, Not Much to Offer:The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

Welcome back friends!

I was lucky enough to met author Gordon Korman a few years ago, and he was such a friendly and humble individual! He’s one of my librarian crushes, I have to admit.  My students adore his books, mostly because he is a good storyteller and writes interesting and funny characters, but I was a little disappointed with The Hypnotists.The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

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Jackson Opus has always been persuasive, but he doesn’t know that he’s descended from the two most powerful hypnotist bloodlines on the planet. He’s excited to be accepted into a special program at the Sentia Institute — but when he realizes he’s in over his head, Jackson will have to find a way to use his powers to save his friends, his parents, and his government.

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The world Jax (Jackson) lives in mirrors our own but with one big difference, some people have hypnotic powers. Overall, The Hypnotists was an interesting idea, but was also completely unbelievable and what it was lacking is the follow through to make be believe it.

The pacing of the story was quick and a lot of action happens, especially in the first few chapters where we meet Jax on a seemingly out of control bus speeding through the city streets. Adventure and action scenes like this are one of Korman’s strong points but unfortunately it’s the only thing that this book has to offer.

I’m sad to say that the majority of the characters, Jackson included, are not well developed, which is unusual for Korman. Jackson goes from being naive to knowledgeable and wavers between the two the whole time. I found myself more than halfway through the book when I suddenly realized that I just didn’t care about Jax or saving the world from evil hypnotists. Really. And because I had read so much of the book already, and I feel loyal to the author, from that point on I was skimmed the pages just so I could finish it.

I was disappointed in my usually awesome Gordon Korman, but The Hypnotists just doesn’t have much to offer the reader other than a few exciting action scenes and I wouldn’t make this book your introduction to Korman’s books. I do think some of my students will still enjoy anything written by this author because of his normally great track record, and the quick pacing might really appeal to reluctant readers, but I doubt that I’ll be doing much recommending of this one in my library, which is a shame.

Author: Gordon Korman

Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 1, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 232 pages

Series: First book in The Hypnotists series

YA/MG: MG

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Shadow Cabinet

Hi!

I honestly can’t believe I haven’t posted about The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, and how much I want it to be released already!!

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The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen JohnsonAt the end of Maureen Johnson’s New York Times bestselling novel, The Madness Underneath, Rory, Callum and Boo are reeling from the sudden and tragic death of their friend and squad leader, Stephen. The Shadow Cabinet picks up where readers left off, and now Rory is convinced there must be a way to bring Stephen back. Meanwhile, new dangers arise: Rory’s classmate Charlotte is missing, and Jane and her nefarious organization are clearly planning something big—with Rory as their most valuable asset. Time is running out as the ghost squad struggles to protect London and Rory fights to bring Stephen back.

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The Shades of London series is one of my favorite unfinished series out there right now! I’m not normally drawn to creepy reads, but these books combine the right amount of creep with humor, history, romance, and suspense. To make it even better, all of this fun stuff is placed smack dab in the middle of a boarding school in LONDON. YES!!!

According to Goodreads, The Shadow Cabinet isn’t scheduled to release until March 2015. So, we have a bit to wait don’t we?!

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Excessively Diverting: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Hi!

Who doesn’t enjoy Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs drama?!

Okay, there are probably some people out there who don’t enjoy it like I do, so if it’s you then Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore is most likely not the book for you.

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The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems. Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshorebeyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance.

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage — or the means — to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

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Take one guess as to why I was immediately drawn to Manor of Secrets.

Here, I’ll help you out: 1. pretty gown, 2. the word “manor”. Either guesses would have worked. Both signs point to “YES” for Tina! My reading preferences are pretty predictable.

Overall, Manor of Secrets was a fun and amusing read and sometimes you just need an uncomplicated story to tumble into for a while. Although there were definitely weaknesses, I enjoyed the story so much I can overlook them. For the most part the writing fell much more on the “telling” instead of “showing” side of things and the plot twist was spotted clearly from a mile away! Additionally, other than a few basic descriptions of the manor and the characters, there was nothing strong about the setting, it is kind of invisible. The book really could have taken place in any British manor house in any historical era because it was lacking in anything that specified this was 1911.

The relationship that grows between Charlotte and Janie is the story’s strong suit. Although the characters themselves are nothing new (we have a poor-little-rich-girl constrained by her upbringing and a rags-to-riches Cinderella), the friendship that is being forged between the two makes for interesting growth in both girls. You have Charlotte learning (a little bit) about the seriousness of world and how her actions can affect others, while Janie is learning more about what family really is. Add in all of the secrets, flirtations, and deception going on amidst Charlotte and Janie’s growing friendship and you have a book that is so excessively diverting you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

As mentioned earlier, I can overlook the weaknesses in Manor of Secrets because the story is just so fun and I’m always interested in the whole upstairs/downstairs thing. If there was a sequel planned, which I don’t think there is, I would definitely pick it up although I don’t think I’d rush to get my hands on it. In the end, I can identify some of my students who would really enjoy this read, mostly middle school girls who already enjoy Downton Abbey and books with pretty dresses on the cover.

Author: Katherine Longshore

Publisher: Point (January 28, 2014)

Format: e-galley

Length: 320 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

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Complex Relationships: Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

Hello friends!

It’s always nice when a book pleasantly surprises you. I didn’t go into reading Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

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On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father Ghost Hawk by Susan Coopertraded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.

John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.

The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.

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I started Ghost Hawk, expecting to be underwhelmed, but quickly realized that I was turning page after page to find out what would happen next. I was completely riveted to this story of an unlikely friendship between two boys from vastly different worlds. Woven between this story of friendship is the turbulent history between colonial New Englanders and the Native Americans of the region detailing one of those difficult and change ridden era in American history. The complexity of the relationship between these two wildly distinct cultures is handled well here. Cooper doesn’t over simplify the overlapping layers of mistrust and kindness, but it is also written appropriately for middle grade readers to grasp to basic themes.

However, I do wonder if this is truly a book geared towards middle grades readers. It is already a struggle to get my students to pick up a historical fiction title, and there is at times a slowness to the story (that isn’t a negative thing just an observation). Due to the sometimes complex themes, I don’t know if any of my students would enjoy and completely understand the whole story and context of Ghost Hawk while reading it independently. I feel like it would be best read, and enjoyed, in a guided group setting (for middle school readers at least) so that they can discuss the story and it’s depth with other readers.

When I read other online reviews of this story, most people complained that they lost interest once the narration switches primarily to John’s life, instead of Little Hawk’s. It seems that people thought the pacing slowed done and the story just kind of plodded along, but I totally disagree. Maybe it’s because of my own preferences with regards to historic events, but I enjoyed reading about the Puritans and John’s experience so much more and this book became more interesting to me as it progressed. I was especially intrigued by the “rebel” Puritan and his breakaway colony, so much so that I’ve spent some extra time researching a little more about it.

In the end Ghost Hawk is a hauntingly beautiful story of friendship and tolerance of those who are different than ourselves. These themes are as important for adults to be reminded of as well as younger readers, so I think that readers of all ages (who enjoy historical fiction) will get something out of this book.

Author: Susan Cooper

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 27, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 336 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Young Elites

Hi!

I hope you’re having a good week so far. If you haven’t made time to read a good book yet, what are you waiting for?! Get on it!

This week for Waiting on Wednesday I’m showcasing The Young Elites by Marie Lu.

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Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness The Young Elites by Marie Luswept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

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My husband and I listened to Lu’s Legend trilogy on audiobook together and really, really liked it. So, because I am always a fan of fantasy, and Marie Lu has a great track record so far, I have high hopes for this new fantasy series! The Young Elites is scheduled to release in October 2014, so I only have a few short months to wait!

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Waiting on Wednesday: Homeroom Diaries

Hi guys! Happy Wednesday!

Today it’s time for another edition of Waiting on Wednesday (hosted by Breaking the Spine) and I’m featuring a book that has surprised me a little. I recently saw Homeroom Diaries on another blog and couldn’t believe it when IHomeroom Diaries by James Patterson saw James Patterson’s name attached to it!

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Margaret “Cuckoo” Clarke recently landed in a mental institution following an emotional breakdown, but she’s turning over a new leaf. Now, she gets through the clique-wars of high school by writing and drawing in her diary. And when life gets really tough, she can count on her diverse group of friends, known as “the Freakshow,” for help. Cuckoo always tries to keep smiling . . . until one of her closest friends, pushed to desperation by a Hater prank, decides that enough is enough. James Patterson’s most endearing and quirky teen heroine yet shows us that tears and laughter can live side by side, and that everyone can use a helping hand once in a while.

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I’ve just never heard of James Patterson’s name attached to anything with a bright pink cover about a high school girl who is not a laboratory experiment ( a.k.a. Maximum Ride)! Although I sometimes struggle with the writing style of his books, I’ll probably try to read Homeroom Diaries just to see what its all about!

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Completely Justified: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Welcome back!

I love it when you’ve been excited to read a book for years and when you finally get to that book you were completely justified in your excitement! Well, that’s what happened with The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron.

When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. The Dark Unwinding by Sharon CameronBut instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity. As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

I don’t know why The Dark Unwinding isn’t talked about more by bloggers (maybe it was when it first came out?) but I think this is one of most underrated books I’ve read. There is just so much that I’m naturally drawn to in a story; romance, historical British setting, and mystery! It’s all here and it’s all combined to create a beautiful atmospheric read. The plot itself is abundantly creepy with it’s abandoned English manor house full of strange waxen models and perplexing house staff, and Catherine’s odd uncle with his strange preferences, but placing the story on an already bizarre historical setting makes it that much more unsettling!

We see Katherine, our narrator, as innocent, honest, yet conflicted and absolutely reminiscent of Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.  She is sent to Uncle Tully’s estate, Stranwyne Keep, with what seems like a pretty straight forward task, only to be faced with an inexplicable situation; an uncle who clearly has what we now know to be autism, and two entire towns completely dependent on him for their livelihoods. Katherine wants to do what’s right, but feels stuck in an impossible situation and needs the help of other supporting characters. These supporting characters are all so bright and vivid that you begin to fall in love with them just as Katherine does (with one in particular!!).

The story has a slight steampunk edge woven into the real life historical setting. If you haven’t yet heard of the strange history of Welbeck Abbey (Nottinghamshire, England), once you’ve read this book you’ll rush to your laptop to learn more about this weird estate where every room was painted pink!

The Dark Unwinding is the first book in a series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book, A Spark Unseen. Middle grade readers and up who are interested in a light steampunk read will find The Dark Unwinding mesmerizing.

Author: Sharon Cameron

Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 27, 2012)

Format: paperback

Length: 318 pages

Series: First book in The Dark Unwinding series

YA/MG: MG/YA

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Perfect for Summer Lounging: Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Hello!

It’s getting to be about that time…summertime!

Yes, it’s true! Teachers and students around the country are beginning to rejoice! Whoot!

With that said, let’s talk about a great read for your beach/pool bag. It’s not actually set in the summer, Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulbergbut it’s a fun contemporary novel…and what better for the summer than a good contemp?!

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder… are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

Right?! It’s a romance…or is it?! Perfect for lounging by the pool or on the beach!

It has been said by reviewers before me, but I’ll say it again; Better Off Friends really is like the YA version of When Harry Met Sally. One of the best things about that movie was the mini interviews with all the different couples that were in between scenes throughout the movie, and Eulberg does something similar in this book. Instead of interviews with random couples however, she gives us dialog between Levi and Macallan as if they’re sitting with us at a table over coffee telling their story. Their back-and-forth teasing banter is just so spot-on!

In fact, so much of what Levi and Macallan deal with over the course of their story is so spot-on realistic. In addition to their own friendship/relationship drama, both Levi and Macallan are also confronted individually with the regular middle/high school woes. They have friend issues, family problems and school troubles just like normal teens do and Eulberg writes them with authenticity, while also keeping in line with the fun, light, and all around adorable plot.

Additionally, in keeping with the honesty of the story, both Levi and Macallan are average, non-perfect people. Most of the miscommunications and misunderstandings that go on between them stem from their flaws and inability to deal with awkward and difficult situations. Just like real life! I’m not a teenager anymore (not by a long shot!! haha) but I still struggle with figuring out how to deal when things are awkward and difficult!

The story’s pacing in quick. Levi and Macallan start off in middle school on the day they first meet and over the course of the book their story takes us all the way into high school. Both narrators give us the details on pivotal moments throughout the course of their friendship and they alternate chapter to chapter, which also helps an already fast paced story feel quicker, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. I happened to like the quickness because it makes it that much more perfect for your poolside summer lounging.

So do they remain just friends or do they take the leap and pursue more? I can’t tell you! You’ll have to pack Better Off Friends in your beach/pool bag! It really is a fun, sweet, and light-hearted contemporary read that will make you smile!

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point (February 25, 2014)

Format: e-galley

Length: 288 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA (possibly older MG too)

Buy the Book:

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Movie Alert: The Giver Movie Trailer

Hi guys!

Well,  a lot has been happening in the world of YA books turned to films! We have Divergent releasing on Friday (I’m going to try to go see it on Sunday afternoon!) and The Maze Runner trailer dropped two nights ago! I have to say that I’m a little nervous about Divergent but have high expectations for The Maze Runner movie!

Well, I was on Twitter tonight and was reminded about the film adaptation of The Giver by Lois Lowry. I had forgotten all about it! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally read The Giver, but when I finally did it was clear why it is considered such a classic. So, here’s the trailer!


I was surprised to see Katie Holmes so that’s interesting. Also, it’s not in black and white….I feel like it should be, but there is still hope…hopefully?! I just wonder how they’re going to get across all the…”giving”…I don’t want to be a spoiler! I must say that as a school librarian, I’m just excited whenever a YA book to film happens because my circulation goes up, which just means that more students are reading! YAY!

So, what do you think about the trailer?!

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It’s a Weird One: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Hi!

I recently finished Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, after years of passing by it in my library as I straightened out the shelves and I have to say, this was such a weird book!

Fever Crumb is a girl who has been adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, a member of the order of Engineers, where she serves as apprentice. In a time and place where women are not seen as reasonable creatures, Fever is an anomaly, the only female to serve in the order.Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Soon though, she must say goodbye to Dr. Crumb – nearly the only person she’s ever known – to assist archeologist Kit Solent on a top-secret project. As her work begins, Fever is plagued by memories that are not her own and Kit seems to have a particular interest in finding out what they are. Fever has also been singled out by city-dwellers who declare her part Scriven. The Scriveners, not human, ruled the city some years ago but were hunted down and killed in a victorious uprising by the people. If there are any remaining Scriven, they are to be eliminated. All Fever knows is what she’s been told: that she is an orphan. Is Fever a Scriven? Whose memories does she hold? Is the mystery of Fever, adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, the key to the secret that lies at the heart of London?

As I said before, this was a weird book. I originally wanted to read Fever Crumb because I thought it was steam-punk and that I’d really enjoy Fever as a character.  Well, the world Reeve has created isn’t quite steam-punk, in fact, Fever’s world is so far ahead in the future that it is this strange “futuristically backwards” society.  It’s almost as if society became so advanced that it had no where else to go and simply regressed, so much so that technologies like computers are considered ancient, yet most of Fever’s world runs on steam power. I do think I misclassified Fever Crumb at first, and it is not strictly steam-punk so much as it is just sci-fi, but readers who are fans of the steam-punk genre will probably enjoy this one too. Whatever it is, it’s an incredibly interesting setting.

I also originally thought I’d enjoy fever as a character, but I struggled to really like Fever. Because Fever was raised with the order of Engineers, she was taught that emotion was irrational and that practicality was key, she is rather unsympathetic. She could be so straight forward and harsh at the wrong times, which just make it hard for me to like her. In her defense however, after leaving the Engineers and experiencing the outside world, Fever does struggle with her own emotions verses being rational and she does learn that it can be a good thing to act on one’s feelings. She was just too practical for me to really love her like I was hoping I would.

Despite not really liking Fever, I was so engrossed in her story. The more time that she spends away from the protection of the Engineers, Fever’s personal history begins to unfurl and she starts to learn things about herself that she never knew. This is what I enjoyed about this book. I wanted to know where Fever actually came from and how she fit in with the turmoil of her society. The story really is pretty interesting and action packed, despite having Fever as a lackluster subject.

So, if you enjoy sci-fi and strange futuristic worlds you may really like Fever Crumb. I recommend the audiobook too because it was narrated by the author which is always fun! Although it wasn’t my favorite, it was an entertainingly strange read!

Author: Philip Reeve

Publisher: Scholastic Audio (March 1, 2011)

Format: Audiobooks

Length: 6 hours and 59 minutes

Narrator(s): Philip Reeve (yes the author!)

Series: Book 1 in the Fever Crumb series.

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Fever Crumb