Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Fade  
Blurb from 

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams.  They’re just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.  Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody’s talking.  When Janie taps into a classmate’s violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open—but nothing goes as planned.  Not even close.  Janie’s in way over her head, and Cabe’s shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability.  And it’s bleak.  Seriously, brutally bleak.  Not only is her fate as a Dream Catcher sealed, but what’s to come is way darker than she’d even feared....

I enjoyed Lisa McMann’s Wake so much that I picked up a copy of its sequel, Fade, just as soon as I could.  I was not disappointed.  I enjoyed Fade every bit as much as Wake, though the story was different in many ways.

In Wake, Janie is largely powerless against her dreams.  She is struggling to understand her own powers.  She has viewed her dream catching as a curse for so long; she is completely shocked at Captain’s revelations that she can learn there are other people like her, that she can learn to control her power, and that can use her power to help others.  That was all during the first semester of her senior year.

Fade takes place during the second semester of her senior year.  Even though only a short amount of calendar time has passed, many things in Janie’s life have shifted subtly.  She is learning to control her dreams, and this gives her a sense of control over her own life that she has never experienced before.  She is now employed undercover by Captain, so she has a regular paycheck and a healthy college scholarship to boot.  The future is no longer as scary as it once was.  Although their employment status as undercover agents prevents Janie and Cabel from going public with their romantic relationship, they connect more deeply with each other than they ever have with anyone else.  Of course, there’s still the matter of Janie’s deadbeat alcoholic mother—and oh yeah, also the paralyzing seizures that Janie experiences as a result of her dreamcatching.   But Janie and Cabe are certain they can work it all out.

At the beginning of the book, Captain calls Janie and Cabel into her office and lets them in on a top-secret assignment.  Over the past year, the help hotline has received two anonymous calls.  While both were garbled, they seem to indicate that there might be a sexual predator on the loose….. more specifically, a teacher who preys on students.  Janie’s assignment is to enter her classmates’ dreams to see if she can discover anything.  Cabel, meanwhile, is to use his charm to talk to classmates and see what he can learn.

At first, they come up with nothing.  But then, through a chance encounter, Janie begins to develop some suspicions.  As she follows her hunch, the pieces start to fall into place.  But the further she becomes involved in the situation, the more upset Cabe becomes.  And when Janie attends a party to help with police make an undercover bust, she learns too late that the situation is much bigger than she realized… and she risks losing Cabe forever.

As if that’s not enough drama for one book, there’s also the matter of a journal left behind for her by a previous Dream Catcher.  It details what Janie can expect out of her life if she continues to use her abilities… and Janie isn’t at all sure that this is a future that she wants.  But does she really have any kind of alternative?

I really love Janie as a character.  She is faced with all kinds of overwhelming problems, and while she has her (understandable) moments of despair, she never gives up.  She is an extremely strong character—and I happen to love her wisecracks as well.  She loves Cabel, but she refuses to just sit back and let him take care of her.  While she definitely has her fair share of moments of nausea at the thought of tracking down a sexual predator, she ultimately does it because she wants to keep other girls safe.  She points out that Cabel took on all kinds of danger in the previous book, so she cannot expect anything less of herself now.  She is smart and tough and vulnerable, all at the same time.  Very real and very well done.  Definitely looking forward to finishing out the trilogy by reading Gone!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Requiem

Description from
This exciting finale to Lauren Oliver’s New York Times bestselling Delirium trilogy is a riveting blend of nonstop action and forbidden romance in a dystopian United States.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has transformed.  The nascent rebellion that was  underway in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds.  But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven.  Pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids.  Regulators infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels.

As Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain of the Wilds, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.  Requiem is told from both Lena and Hana’s points of view.  They live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

With lyrical writing, Lauren Oliver seamlessly interweaves the peril that Lena faces with the inner tumult she experiences after the reappearance of her first love, Alex, the boy she thought was dead.  Sophisticated and wide-ranging, Requiem brings the Delirium trilogy to a thrilling conclusion.

 I have waited anxiously for months to get my hands on Lauren Oliver’s Requiem.  I hate to break up the reading of a series, so I usually try to wait for an entire series to be published before I start reading it.  This means that all too often, I miss out on the excitement and hype of the hottest new releases, particularly those much-anticipated second books in a trilogy.  However, somehow I ended up breaking my own rule and got started on the Delirium series way back at its beginning, so it felt like I’d been waiting for Requiem for a really long time.  I actually intended to re-read Delirium and Pandemonium before picking up Requiem, but then I saw it sitting on the shelf of the teen section of my library (no wait!!) and just couldn’t resist snatching it up.

Unfortunately, I did find myself a little fuzzy on some of the finer points of the earlier books while reading Requiem—not enough to keep me from enjoying the book, but enough to keep me from catching every single well-done nuance.

Heading into Requiem, there were plenty of questions to be resolved for Lena and her friends.  What did Alex mean by his cryptic comment (“don’t believe her”) at the end of Pandemonium?  What would Alex’s reappearance mean for Lena and Julian’s budding relationship?  Would Julian be able to handle life in the Wilds, or would he want to return to the DFA?  Had Lena lost her once chance to reconnect with her mother?  What had become of Hana back in Portland—had she been cured?  And most importantly, when would the final and inevitable clash between the Invalids and the Regulators occur—and who would win?  Requiem addresses, but does not answer, all of these questions.  With some, readers are left to draw their own conclusions.

These days, dystopian trilogies seem to be cropping up everywhere.  What sets Requiem apart from many other books in the genre is the split narration between Lena and Hana.  I honestly felt that Hana’s voice was the stronger element of the two.  Thanks to her procedure, she is mostly emotionless, but she still has her memories of her old life, and every now and then, a faint memory of emotion works its way in.  It is this memory of emotion that leads to Hana’s attempt to discharge any lingering responsibility she might have toward Lena’s family.  Most of the time, though, Hana is powered by logic.  And it is logic, not emotion, that tells her something is very wrong with her fiancĂ©, Fred Hargrove.  As Hana subtly begins to investigate her fiance’s secrets, she confirms what she has long suspected—that her society is not nearly as perfect, or as powerful, as it seems.

While trying to stay away from blatant spoilery, I must say that I really admire Lauren Oliver for the ending of this book.  While it left me feeling unsatisfied in many ways, it did so because of Oliver’s refusal to wrap things up with a neat little bow on them.  There were moments where I could see various conflicts heading toward neat, tidy endings, and then Oliver veered away from them.  So while there’s no true resolution to the story, it ends on a hopeful note—perhaps primed for a follow-up novel or series?

While the “are you on Team Alex or Team Julian?” dilemma seems pretty formulaic for young adult dystopian novels by now (okay, for young adult novels in general), the split narration between Lena and Hana and the openended finish kept Lauren Oliver’s Delirium from getting lost in the crowd.  A nice finish to a well-done trilogy.  While I still think that Before I Fall was the strongest of Oliver’s YA novels, I definitely think she’s an author to keep our eyes on—I’m hoping to enjoy many more books from her in the future.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The US of YA - from Epicreads

A friend of mine sent me a link to this website from Epicreads, which provides an awesome map of the United States with each state decorated as a young adult novel that takes place there.  I LOVE this!  I immediately hit up my father (who owns a printing company) to print a huge poster-sized one in full color for my classroom.  Can't wait to get it and put it up!

Of this list, I have read:
* Indiana (my home state!) - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
* Maine - Delirium by Lauren Oliver
* Michigan - Wake by Lisa McMann
* Minnesota - Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
* Nevada - Crank by Ellen Hopkins
* New Jersey - White Cat by Holly Black
* Ohio - I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
* Washington - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

And MANY of the others have been on my TBR list for a good while now.  My new goal is to read all of the books on this poster (and add them to my wall of books) by the beginning of the next school year.

What do you think, fellow readers?  Do you have favorites on this list that I should bump to the top of my pile?  Would you subsitute a different book for any of the states?  Have you read the book from your home state, and did you like it?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Showing Off

Over the past week, I've been working hard to put together a library-specific resume.  While I like my teaching job and really enjoy spending time with the students and other staff members, my ultimate goal is still to become a librarian.  So I've been going back and looking through the various projects that I've created for my grad classes.  As I was doing this, it occurred to me that I had never posted many of those links here..... So here, the fruits of my librarian labors--enjoy!!  :)

 A pathfinder for The Great Gatsby, aimed at high school students.

An information inquiry with collaborative elements for teachers and librarians, focused on a high school study of dystopian novels.

A webquest facilitating an independent novel project for high school students.

A transmedia storytelling experience, sharing the lives of my "camp kids."

A research pathfinder on infant feeding and nutrition.

A research-based information inquiry into Hindu wedding ceremonies.

An inquiry-based learning experienced, focused on poetry for grades 5 and 11.

A comic on my daughter's preschool production of "The Wizard of Oz."
(As a side note, if you've never used Comic Life--it's awesome!)

My end-of-semester project answering the question "Why are electronic resources important in today's world?"

My personal blog.  Warning: It hasn't been updated since I returned to teaching in January!  (but archives go back to July of 2006)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Quotes for Readers

Since I've been on such a "decorating my classroom" kick lately, I thought I'd share another of my decorations with all my fellow bibliophiles.  I put up some of my very favorite quotes about books and reading:

Here's a transcription:

"I cannot live wihout books." - Thomas Jefferson

"We shouldn't teach great books; we should teach a love of reading."  - B.F. Skinner

"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."  - Walter Cronkite

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."  -Jorge Luis Borges

"Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they'll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back."  - An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

"Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself."  - George Bernard Shaw

"After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."  - Philip Pullman

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."  - Marcus Tuillius Cicero

"Books are uniquely portable magic."  - Stephen King

"He liked the mere act of reading, the magic of turning scratches on a page into words inside his head."  - An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

"Luckily, I always travel with a book."  - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I've also got a few more quotes that I'd like to add...  I'll have to find the time to do that in the next few days!  Those include:

"All we are, all we can be, are the stories we tell.  Long after we are gone, our words will be all that is left, and who is to say what really happened or even what reality is?  Our stories, our fiction, our words will be as close to the truth as can be.  And no one can take that away from you."  - Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

"I wanted to pull down a book, open it proper, and gobble up page after page."  - Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

"I was attempting to write the story of my life.  It wasn't so much about plot.  It was more about character."  - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

"Words are still needed by everyone.  Words are used to think with, to write with, to hope and pray with."  - Frindle by Andrew Clements

"...She made her home in between the pages of books."  - Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

"When I look at my room, I see a girl who loves books."  - Looking for Alaska by John Green

What are your favorites?  What awesome book/reading quotes am I missing?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Decorating for Book-Lovers

A few weeks ago, I was struck with a genius idea for decorating my classroom.  I teach high school English, and I am always trying to come up with ways to inspire my students to pick up books for pleasure.  So I spent a few quality hours with Google Images and used a LOT of colored ink in my printer, and voila!  Reading inspiration...

All across the front wall of my classroom, I taped up printed copies of the covers of all the books I've read (since 2011, when I started keeping a list).  Here's a closer view of part of it:

I would say that this project has been a huge success.  At first, my students said, "Whoa, I can't believe you've read all those books!"  But once we got past that, students started investigating individual titles.  Now, I'm asked multiple times a day, "Was that book good?" or "Tell me about that one."  I definitely recommend this decorating project for any teacher.... or for any bibliophile who has a wall at home to decorate.  :)