Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton


Title: Seeker
Author: Arwen Elys Dayton
Genre: Sci Fi/ Fantasy
Series: Seekers Book 1
Source: Digital ARC Courtesy of NetGalley

Book Summary: Quin Kincaid has been put through years of brutal training for what she thinks is the noble purpose of becoming a revered ‘Seeker’.  Only when it’s too late does she discover she will be using her new-found knowledge and training to become an assassin. Quin's new role will take her around the globe, from a remote estate in Scotland to a bustling, futuristic Hong Kong where the past she thought she had escaped will finally catch up with her.

Characters: Quin Kincaid, Shinobu, John, and Maud

What I Loved: I loved a lot in this book.  First I liked the set up of the book.  The chapters are set up so that each character is giving us their part of the story from their point of view and I like that.  It is clearly labeled at the beginning of each chapter who is speaking and more than that, it really works for this story.  I think the story would be confusing or take a lot more explaining (making it extremely tedious).  In this way the story can unfold naturally and often we see an event from multiple points of view which really helps in clarifying some things in the story that are initially confusing.  I also really liked the story.  It was different from what I have been reading and lately and was a welcome change. In its basic sense it is a story about following your dreams these three (Quin, Shinobu and John) are being trained to become a Seeker, something elite are revered only to find that they have been deceived. Now that they know the truth, what will they do and how will they come to terms with their choices.  Which leads to my next love of the story,the action! There was a ton and not all of it was expected or predictable but it was intense and (for lack of better term), hardcore!   There is also the love story part which I am not normally a fan of but for a few reasons ( that I will not elaborate on as to not give spoilers), it totally works (and I know who I am rooting for) and lets be honest, they are teenagers, if there wasn’t a little romance going on it wouldn’t be believable. There are family issues, trust issues, questions of morality and love, which makes it relatable to a lot of different students and I can think of a ton who are going to love this!  

What I could have done without:.  There isn’t much I didn’t like.   The most difficult thing for me is going to be talking about this book with my students without giving too much away!

Final Grade: A

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Author Skype with Ellen Hopkins

At the beginning of the year, I was fortunate to receive an email from a book publicist working for Ellen Hopkins.  She was looking for librarians who hosted book clubs who would be interested in hosting a Skype session with Ellen.  The only requirement, or fee, would be that the book club would have to show proof that they had purchased 10 copies of Ellen's newest book, Rumble. The copies were purchased, a copy of the receipt was emailed, and the date was set for January 8th, after school.

Ten copies of a book seems like a lot for a library to purchase, but I had no qualms about buying that many copies of any Ellen Hopkins book.  Her books fly off of my high school library shelves.  Rumble was extremely well-received by the students, they discussed the book frequently and I couldn't wait to see what questions they came up with for Ellen.

I held the event after school on a Thursday from 3 to 5.  We were to Skype with Ms. Hopkins from 3-3:30, then eat pizza (food is always essential for book club!) and discuss our conversation with the author and Rumble.  

The students were star-struck. Ellen was captivating.  I had suggested questions written out on cards in case any of the students wanted to talk to the author but couldn't come up with something to ask her, but the students never needed any suggestions.  They came up with a variety of questions on their own--everything from specific things from her books, to how she writes, to questions about her personal life.  I had one young lady who had read every one of Ellen's books--she was so excited that she was in tears!

Things that made this successful: 
Planning: I had the Skype account set up ahead of time, the projector ready, and I tested everything before the event.
Food: Always an important element.
The appeal of the author: Ellen Hopkins is one author who is consistently popular year after year!

Things I would do differently next time:
I had each student approach my laptop so as they came up to ask questions.  This created a lull between questions.  Next time, I would like to set up a camera, elevated, so that the author could see the entire group of students.

This was one of my favorite events in the entire history of my career.  The joy and excitement of these kids over the chance to talk to one of their favorite authors... that's the kind of thing that keeps me loving my job!

          Post by Nicky

Book Review: PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles

Title: Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: Romance
Series: Perfect Chemistry

Book Summary: (via Goodreads) When Brittany Ellis walks into Chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect.

Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more. In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.
Characters: Alex Fuentes, Brittany Ellis are the two main characters and make up the romance element to this book. There are a lot of other “extras.”
Plot: Alex is the bad boy-- a Mexican gang member from the poor side of town.  Brittany is her high school’s golden girl--popular, smart, from a wealthy family, and head of the cheer team. When Alex accepts a bet to get Brittany to sleep with him, and then the two are assigned to be chemistry partners, the obvious happens--they each realize there is more to the other than they first realized.  They fall intensely, passionately in love. Brittany finds out about the bet. Alex cannot leave his gang like Brittany demands. Can this relationship survive? (Do you sense my sarcasm here?)     
What I Loved: Admittedly, very little.  I can tell you, however that there are 2 things I liked about this novel:

  1. I like novels told in first-person from the point-of-view of varying characters. Elkeles writes back and forth between Brittany and Alex. (And, ok, I will admit it--Alex does seem pretty hot, which leads me to…)
  2. The fact that my high school kids (my high school girls) love, love, LOVE this book. Any book that gets my students this crazy and talkative is okay in my book. This one is also an easy sell with reluctant readers.
What I could have done withoutThe reason I read this book was that several girls in my monthly book club asked for a romance novel selection for February. I knew I was in trouble because I’m not a big fan of romance.  Still, I thought I’d give it a shot. Some of the dialog made me cringe.  The whole star-crossed lovers thing was so West Side Story, Romeo and Juliet, Outsiders, etc. etc., and it has been done over and over and over again.  I know Elkeles wanted to make these characters more complex and believable by making Alex close to his family and by giving Brittany a disabled sister, but both those issues seemed a little forced. Finally… the epilogue.  I am not a fan of epilogues, and this is one example of why they make me crazy.  Everything ties up so neatly, and (without giving too much away) a cure for Alzheimer’s?? REALLY??

Final Grade: C

Book review by Nicky