Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 My Best Books List

Those who know me well, know I read a TON of books every year. This year the official total was 127 of published novels, with somewhere around an additional 20 manuscripts that I edited for clients. That's a lot of books!

In past years, I've taught English classes and I was able to build a list of my students' favorite books, but since I'm in the library, I only know the books my patrons have most enjoyed, and which ones have been most popular.

I thought I would give you a list of the books I most enjoyed, and therefore those I most often recommend. Some are for teens, others for adult readers. You may agree; you may not, but I hope this list will at least get you thinking about the books you read in 2012, and what reading goals you plan to set for 2013.

Here's my list in the order I read them. Now, everybody READ!

1. The Death Cure -- James Dashner
2. The Last Lecture -- Randy Pauch
3. Icefall -- Matthew Kirby
4. The Newport Ladies Book Club: Olivia -- Julie Wright
5. Shifting -- Bethany Wiggins
6. Bloodborne -- Gregg Luke
7. Sean Griswald's Head -- Lindsey Leavitt
8. With a Name Like Love -- Tess Hilmo
9. Girls Don't Fly -- Kristen Chandler
10. 43 Old Cememtary Road: Dying to Meet You -- Kate Kliss
11. Pie -- Sarah Weeks
12. How I Sold a Million eBooks in 5 Months -- John Locke
13. The Wedding Letters -- Jason F. Wright
14. Decision Points - George W. Bush
15. No Apology - Mitt Romney
16. How Do You Kill 11 Million People -- Andy Andrews
17. The Future of Us -- Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
18. Ripple -- Mandy Hubbard
19. Friends and Foes -- Sarah M. Eden
20. Banana Split -- Josi Kilpack
21. Both of Us -- Ryan O'Neal
22. Infinity Ring: A Mutiny in Time -- James Dashner
23. The Harbinger -- Jonathan Cahn
24. Of Grace and Chocolate -- Krista Jensen
25. Savvy -- Ingrid Law
26. Michael Vey: Rise of the Elgen -- Richard Paul Evans
27. Lincoln's Last Days -- Bill O'Reilley
28. Almost Home -- Joan Bauer
29. Potterwookie -- Obert Skye
30. The Missing: Caught -- Margaret Haddix Peterson
31.  Heart of the Ocean -- Heather B. Moore
32. Princess Academy: The Palace of Stone -- Shannon Hale
33. The False Prince -- Jennifer Nielsen
34. Third Time's a Charm -- Heather B. Moore
35. A Winter's Dream -- Richard Paul Evans

Thursday, December 13, 2012

With a Name Like Love - Tess Hilmo

When Ollie’s daddy, the Reverend Everlasting Love, pulls their travel trailer into Binder, Arkansas, to lead a three-day revival, Ollie knows that this town will be like all the others her daddy drags them through—it is exactly the kind of thing Ollie has come to expect. But on their first day, Ollie meets Jimmy Koppel, whose mother is in jail for murdering his father. Jimmy insists that his mother is innocent and Ollie believes him. Still, even if Ollie convinces her daddy to break his three-day rule and stay longer, how can two thirteen-year-olds free a woman who has signed a confession?

Ollie’s longing for a friend and her daddy’s penchant for searching out lost souls prove to be a formidable force in this tiny community, where everyone seems bent of judging and jailing without a trial.

Winner of two Whitney Awards, and a finalist for the Utah Beehive Award, With a Name Like Love has already proven itself to be a winner among adult readers, and children will appreciate the honest look at how far one must go when they have faith in a friend.

Part mystery, part realistic fiction, the novel, which is appropriate for middle readers and young adults, is an excellent demonstration of giving characters a unique and compelling voice. Hilmo’s word choice adds flavor to both the character of a traveling preacher and his family and the people of Arkansas. As Ollie works to solve the mystery that surrounds the murder of Jimmy’s father, and the supposed-confession of his mother, readers can apply supporting details to solve the case on their own, keeping in line with the Common Core Standards.

Reminiscent of Carl Lynch William’s Christmas in Heaven in theme and story, the two novels discussed together would prove an excellent source for the investigation of voice.

Highly Recommend.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Kindling - Braden Bell

Home work? Of course. Crushes? Sure. But who knew seventh grade included superpowers?

All thirteen-year-old Conner Dell wants is to pass pre-algebra, play lacrosse, and possibly kiss Melanie Stephens. He didn't mean to set anyone's gym shorts on fire, or make school lunches explode. But now that the strange powers inside him have been ignited, Conner's normal teenage life is about to go up in flames!

One “dark and stormy night,” Conner, his twin sister, Lexa, and her friend Melanie are studying at home, and all is well, despite the storm. Until Melanie opens the front door. 

Waiting in the street is danger, and they all three sense it. The lights go out, the dogs bark furiously, then mysteriously stop, and a lone man, dressed in black, is standing in the street. A coincidence? A scene right out of a scary movie? 

Perhaps it's all innocent enough, until the same man is spotted near their school. Who is this guy, and what does he have to do with magi, kindling, and the Dark Force? 

Bell weaves magic and telepathy into what most would consider the mundane world of middle school in this easy-to-read novel. Although at times as an adult reader, I felt the world-building needed to be a little stronger, and occasionally the telepathic talk was confusing, the book was enjoyable and has received great reviews from my students who are curious about what will happen next in the lives of Conner and Lexa. 

Years of teaching middle school students has helped the author target the voice he gives to the characters, as well as the emotions they experience at discovering their lives are now special and in danger. The Kindling   could serve as a gateway for young readers interested in moving from juvenile books which average 100 pages, toward heftier novels such as Harry Potter, helping readers build their skills in text complexity. 

Recommend for grades 5-8, depending on the student's independent reading skills.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone - Shannon Hale

When Miri and a few of the girls from Mount Eskel's princess academy travel to the capital to help the princess-to-be get ready for her wedding, they have no idea what to expect. Some are worried about leaving their beloved mountain for the first time, others are thrilled about going to the big city, and Miri is mostly just happy to see her best friend.

But not everything in Ashland is as perfect as the mountain girls hoped. As Miri learns more about her new home, she finds herself deep in the missdle of an up heaval that affects everyone she loves. Torn between her loyalty to the princess and her belief in her new friend's daring ideas, and between an old love and a new crush, Miri must test the strengths and skills she gained in the princess academy.

Palace of Stone serves as a perfect sequel and continuation of the story readers loved with the original Princess Academy, and will open the world of Shannon Hale to middle grade readers who are certain to love the vivid descriptions, interesting characters, and almost-magical worlds she creates.

Miri's exploration of ethics introduces readers to the idea of choosing between two perhaps equally worthy or appealing choices, options in which the final outcomes may be drastically different. With the new Common Core Standards' focus on writing argument papers, teachers may want to use this novel to read together as a class, or as a support text for independent reading.

The inclusion of poetic epigraphs and informal letters expands the opportunity for student-centered writing activities and teacher-directed discussion of text structure and writing styles.

Educational uses aside, Palace of Stone is a wonderful story for both independent reading or to read aloud. Highly recommended for fans of Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Gail Carson Levine.