Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quaking by Kathryn Erskine


5 Stars - "Feel good" book done right


     A new home for Matt was no big deal.  She'd been bounced around since the age of five from home to home after her mother died.  Maybe died wasn't even the right word.  She had been murdered by Matt's own abusive, alcoholic father.  Matt not only witnessed the beatings, she experienced her father's cruelty firsthand.


No reason to dwell, Matt thought. She was tough, right?  Just look at her appearance:  the piercings, dyed jet-black spiky hair, heavy combat booths...she looked like a freak, a goth, an emo kid.  Whatever - it worked.  It kept people away...that is until she moved in Jessica and Sam.


Living with a family of Quakers?  God had a pretty odd sense of humor, Matt thought.  Not to mention the other foster kid - drooling, "developmentally challenged," icky, and annoying...Matt just needed to graduate, keep quiet, and then move to Canada where she could be legally emancipated.


Jessica and Sam pretty much forced Matt to attend the Quaker meetings.  LIke she'd rather stay at home and babysit the blob?  Truth was, the meetings were not so bad, though.  They just sat there....meditating in their own thoughts....while sharing any feelings or experiences if they felt like it.  Rather than being super-religious, the members just seemed to want to create a better world, to be kind to others, and to promote peace.  Considering the violence Matt experienced growing up, she could live with those concepts.


Unfortunately, everyone around Matt doesn't want peace.  Her Western Civilization teacher Mr. Warhead, as Matt called him, was a war fanatic.  He quickly decided to target Matt due to her anti-fighting, anti-war beliefs.  The school bully soon joins in - making Matt's life a living hell at school.


Matt just wants to be invisible to everyone.  Jessica and Sam refuse to let that happen.  They continued to include Matt, considered her their daughter, talked to her about their own lives, and treated her with kindness, love, and respect.  Matt is shocked to discover she actually likes living with them, and for the first time, she is really part of family.  Will Matt be able to hold onto her happiness?


Some of the radical townspeople believed that the Quakers were anti-American and needed to be taught a lesson concerning what it meant to be patriotic and a "good American."  The only way to prove their point was to shut down their meeting place, wiping out some of the members and leaders in the process.


 Matt knows she has to stop the violence - despite her quaking fear of being hurt again and getting hit.  This time she wasn't going to lose the family she had grown to love.


Touching story which made me cry - more than once~!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins


 



     4.5 Stars - Suspenseful, hip, funny new Hex Hall trilogy


  Sophie Mercer learned early in life she was different from everyone else.  Raised by her single mother, Sophie knew little about her father except that he was a male witch or warlock.  Sophie herself discovered that she also had supernatural powers and using them could create a little fun at school....at times, though, her spells could cause a lot of trouble.  Casting a love spell for a nerdy girl who was crushing on the popular guy at Sophie's school led to disaster at Sophie's school dance.  As a result, was sentenced to Hecate Hall until reaching the age of 18.  Once Sophie moves into Hecate Hall, trouble in Sophie's life really begins.


Hecate Hall, or Hex Hall as the students call it,  is no ordinary private school.  It's a reform school for supernaturals.  Sophie's human classmates have been replaced with teens who are witches, faeries, shapeshifters, werewolves, and even vampires.


Life at Hex Hall isn't so great for Sophie to put it mildly.  Archer, who could pass for an Abercrombie and Fitch model, did save Sophie her first day of school when one of the werewolves decided she would be a nice snack for him between classes.  Too bad Archer was already dating another witch - the impossibly beautiful Elodie. 


The classes sure were different from regular high school courses.  Sophie would learn to cast powerful spells and use her magic to defend herself should she be hunted by a member of the L' Occhio di Dio - a group based in Rome whose single puprose was to wipe out the existence of all supernaturals.  Right now, however, Sophie was helplessly behind all her classmates.  Raised by a human parent, she didn't have the benefit of being taught how to use her power and magic as the other students had.  Not only did she feel like the biggest loser next to them, Sophie's teachers seemed to always target her in front of others.  Why did they dislike Sophie so much? 


On the bright side, at least Sophie had a cool roommate.  Jessica may be a Vampire, but as a friend, she was fun and full of life.


Things at Hex Hall quickly begin to spiral downward when the witch Chaston is nearly killed...left alone on the bathroom floor with bite marks on her neck.  She wasn't the first student to be attacked.  First there was Holly, Jenna's old roommate, who also appeared to have been attacked by a vampire.  Sophie can't believe her new BFF Jenna would hurt other students...but others are convinced that she is the culprit and Sophie herself could be her next victim.


Sophie thinks she is defenseless should she ever face an attack.  Her powers still don't measure up.  What Sophie doesn't realize is she is actually the most powerful of them all.  The danger Sophie fears does not lie in the outside world but inside the halls of Hex Hall....the enemy wears their school uniform...and Sophie is the next target. 


It will be up to Sophie to find out who is hurting her classmates and how she can use her powerful magic in order to save them all....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Boost by Kathy Mackel




4.5 Stars



Savvy never wanted to move to her aunt's farm in Rhode Island.  She knew that in order for her family top get back on their feet financially, though, it had to be done.  Savvy was determined to make the best of it - unlike her drama queen older sister Callie.  


Savvy ate, drank, and slept basketball.  Standing at 6'2", Savvy knew she would be a shoe-in at the middle school girl basketball try-outs.  When Savvy meets Gonzo, another 8th grader trying out for one of the district basketball teams, she finds out the team to aim for is the highly coveted, competitive, winning Varsity Girl's Basketball team.


Savvy knew as an 8th grader that making the team would be a long shot, but she always loved a good challenge.  To Savvy's surprise, she makes the cut!  Life after making the team, however, is anything but a slam dunk. 


 Coach Fitz tells Savvy she has mad talent but unless she boosted her game to the varsity level, she'd spend most of her time sitting on the bench.  Savvy's teammates were resentful that former players lost their positions on the team to make room two middle school girls.  Savvy thought she at least had one sure thing going for her - the attention of the hottest guy on the Varsity Boy's Basketball Team - until she sees him making out with her older sister at their summer barbecue back to school party.


Determined to still be a stand out, Savvy's hard work to boost her game to a higher level soon gets noticed.  The Coach begins playing Savvy and her teammates begin to accept and like her, realizing they ultimately need Savvy to take them to season playoffs. 


Life for Savvy becomes much sweeter....until someone discovers the steroids hidden in her gym bag... 


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

 4.5 Stars - Great start to a suspenseful trilogy


Chloe just wanted to be accepted.  After her mom died when Chloe was just five years old, she had moved frequently - one luxury apartment after the next...never making friends or feeling like she really belonged.  It wasn't until she started attending a boarding school for the arts that Chloe finally felt like a regular teenager....normal...until she had a mental breakdown.


 Admitted into Lyle House, a group home for mentally troubled or disturbed teens, Chloe tried to forget about the corpse....the man who had appeared to her at school, grabbing her, chasing her....insisting that she help him.  She was hallucinating, right?  Just like when she was younger and would go to the basement in her childhood home.  The voices....the ghosts...the spirits...all part of her active imagination, noone else saw them...they weren't really there.


Chloe accepts her doctor's diagnosis of Schizophrenia.  She faithfully takes her meds...jumping through the hoops so she could be released and move on with her life.  It didn't stop, though.  Chloe still saw them...they cried out...lurked around her...would not stop begging Chloe to help them pass....to finally be at peace.


When Chloe admits her secret to another teen patient, she learns that several of the teens who had been admitted seem to also have unusual powers or supernatural abilities - abnormal strength and heightened sensory preceptions, the ability to move things with their minds, to start fire spontaneously without ever striking a match.  Chloe finally realizes her supernatural ability enables her to communicate with the dead - she was a necromancer. 


Why were all the teens there?  Was it a coincidence?  Or were they being held there to suppress their powers - kept prisoners, labeled "mentally insane," never to be free again?  What secrets were the teachers and doctors of Lyle House hiding?


When Chloe's friend Liz becomes too outspoken, she suddenly disappears from Lyle House.  The staff claimed Liz was discharged and released. Why then was Liz appearing to Chloe in the form of a spirit....as if she had died?


Chloe and her newfound friends soon realize the greatest dangers they face are by staying complacent, accepting their mental "diagnosis," and keeping quiet.  They know that they must somehow escape - before it's too late...  

Digital Portfolio Tools for Education

As a former high school English teacher, then Library Media Specialist, and now Instructional Technology Specialist, I am always on the look...

Popular Posts