THUMBS UP to Panic by Lauren Oliver

PUBLISHER: Harper Collins (hard copy & audio)

LENGTH:  416 pages; 8 hrs. 11 min.

SOURCE: purchased audiobook

SUMMARY: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

REVIEW: I was wary of starting this one because I had been so disappointed in Pandemonium and Requiem. I thought Delirium was amazing and I think that Oliver’s strength as an author is nailing the initial conflict. The other two books in the Delirium series seemed a bit drawn out for me and the initial verve I felt with the first installment fizzled as I finished the third book.

Panic is completely a winner! Everything I loved about Delirium is back in Oliver’s newest. The tension of “getting caught” is there as Heather and her friends continue to play the Carp community’s traditional rite-of-passage game,  Panic,  despite  mishaps early on. Many of the Panic challenges are deadly as well as being incredibly scary. I thought the balance between Heather’s fear and her determination to win was perfect. Saddled with a drug addicted, neglectful mother and the responsibility of looking after her younger sister Rachel, Heather has everything to lose if she gets eliminated from the game.

The tension in the book is heightened with dual narration between Heather and Dodge. Oliver avoids the predictable love affair between the two main competitors, which is nice. Heather’s love interest is a little obvious but one feels it’s supposed to be obvious to everyone but her. Dodge is just tortured enough to keep the reader interested without it being too depressing. His interest in Heather’s friend Natalie seems genuine and she is just as broken as he is so it seems a good match. There is good balance between character development and plot events satisfying both the need for tension and the desire for resolution.

Overall, the book is a great foray back into contemporary realistic fiction for Oliver and, as always, she is a master of the stand-alone novel. Well done.

7 April 2014

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us!

Completed in the last two weeks: I finished Unwind by Neal Shusterman and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, both on audio. I slowed way down on The Eye of Minds in hardback by James Dashner and just finished it. Too much to do to read an actual book, ya know?! I’m still excited about this series.

Up Next:
I really want to read Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. I do. I realize it’s been on my TBR list for several weeks but I promise I’ll get to it eventually. A Dash of Magic by Kathryn Littlewood is also still on the pile and I want to read the second book in The Ascendance Triology.

BRIDGE BOOK: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

LENGTH: 242 pages

PUBLISHER: Knopf Books for Young Readers

SOURCE: Netgalley

SUMMARY: A luminous retelling of the Snow Queen, this is the story of unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard who doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room.  He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen.  And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested.  Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

BRIDGE: Foxlee’s book would be a great pairing when studying traditional literature or fables. The story seems loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and has elements of the Hero’s Journey as well. The book is not difficult to read and could be used as a whole-class text or in literature groups. It would be a great frame story to teach the elements of traditional literature and then let students break into groups to analyze more complex texts. This would also be a great text with which to study symbolism. The different story elements have definite symbolic significance with both obvious and more subtle symbols included. Teacher-directed analysis of the more obvious symbols could lead to small group analysis of the symbols that take a little more digging to unearth.

READERS: Fantasy fans and readers who enjoy the purity of childhood friendships will enjoy this book. This book will also appeal to readers who have a strong sense of right and wrong and want to see “good” win.

OTHER TEXTS: Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, or The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

Thumbs Down to the Newsoul Series by Jodi Meadows

LENGTH: 374 pages

PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books

SOURCE: ebook; purchased

SUMMARY: New soul Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

No soul Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Heart Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

REVIEW: When I first saw Jodi Meadows’s cover for Incarnate, I immediately wanted to read the book. The cover is gorgeous and the publishers kept with the theme for all three books in the series. Then I started following Meadows on Twitter and became even more intrigued with her as an author. (Incidentally, I always picture her as the girl on the cover of the book since those have been her Twitter avatar for so long.)

The concept of the story appealed to me: reincarnation of the same group of people in the same area over and over again. I realize that the idea behind reincarnation is one of living your life over again until you get it right, but with the original mythology, there is no guarantee of where one will end up when reincarnated. The world Meadows has created ensures that the same souls are reincarnated together over and over again. Imagine having centuries of knowledge about someone: interesting and frightening all at the same time.

The big drawback to the series is the number of cliched devices and coincidences employed. A giant city surrounded by a white wall that pulses called…wait for it…Heart. The region they live in is Range, which is not very original to begin with but then, in the third book, a character even comments that they are “so far out of Range” that they can’t communicate with people back in Heart. Purposefully bad pun? I hope not. Then there are the expected corrupt council members, a plot amongst the leaders to undermine the intellectual awakening Ana brings to Heart, and the burgeoning love story between Ana and her rescuer, Sam. There’s just too much that is familiar plot territory here. The coincidences aren’t much more subtle: the sylph are bad – WAIT – they’re good and they key to unlocking the mysteries of Heart. The masked figure at the party is *gasp* Sam. Ana’s “father” has been studying the secret of Janan’s temple for years and just happened to figure out how to weaken the temple. Only one person has the ability to enter and exit the temple and Ana figures it out.

I’m being a over-dramatic, but understand that I did finish the series. It wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t stomach reading through to the end, and I did want to know what the conclusion to the story would be. Does the series have flaws? Certainly. However, the writing is good and the focus on Ana’s musical interest is a different twist. All of the issues I have with the series could be improved with more experience and harsher revision. Combine that with Meadows’s killer personality and the fact that she responds to tweets, and I’ll wait to see what Meadows writes next before placing her in the fun-but-fluff category.

Mon Reading Button PB to YAIt’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
The lovelies at teachmentortexts.com this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus: anyone reading and reviewing books in children’s literature. It can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels – you name it in the world of kidlit and it’s in! I love being a part of this meme and hope you do, too! I encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we’re reading. We hope you join us!

Completed in the last two weeks: I finished Cress by Marissa Meyer, Scowler by Daniel Krauss, and Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi all on audio. Scowler won the Odyssey Award for audiobooks and it is well deserved. Look for a post on the creepiness that is Scowler coming soon. A few hours ago I finished Barry Lyga’s The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Gothgirl in hardback. I was pleasantly surprised by Lyga’s story although I’m not sure it is appropriate for my middle schoolers and I KNOW Scowler is only for older audiences. Hell, I was a little disturbed sometimes. All of these titles were well worth my time.

Up Next:
I will be diving into Far Far Away by Tom McNeal and starting Lauren Oliver’s newest Panic on audio. If I finish with time to spare, I may even dive into A Dash of Magic by Kathryn Littlewood.