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Reading Between Classes

A unique perspective on YA Literature from a junior high teacher. 

Currently reading

Unbreakable
Kami Garcia
Etiquette & Espionage
Gail Carriger
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)
Marissa Meyer, Rebecca Soler
Fauna - Alissa York Can someone please enlighten me as to 1) why this book has gotten such high ratings and 2) what exactly was the point? The characters were boring, there was no conflict, plot or driving force. Why, why, why????
Such Wicked Intent - Kenneth Oppel Fast paced, fun read with some good character development. Full review to come.
Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen I quit 70 pages in. I could not, for the life of me, find anything the least bit interesting about the main character. She is whiney and self absorbed, complaining about her situation and waiting for a man to swoop in and save her. I became more and more frustrated by her constant struggle with her writing. Clearly, she had seen success in children's stories but was trying to write something more prolific that would pay more. I am not one to bash artistic endeavors, but perhaps in attempting to put a roof over the heads of your children you might deem to lower yourself to write something THAT ACTUALLY SELLS! She spends countless pages moaning about her monetary situation but decides to spend her time attending frivolous parties and walking the streets of New York rather than actually writing anything.I was also bored and appalled at the characterization of Poe and his wife. They were simplistic characters with little color and nothing to hold one's interest. With a plot that crawls and characters that make my skin do likewise - I quit.
Bellman & Black - Diane Setterfield Woo Hoo!! Just got an EARC. I didn't even know Setterfield was releasing a new book but I LOVED The Thirteenth Tale and can't wait for this one!!

Freakboy

Freakboy - Kristin Elizabeth Clark This is my first time reading a book with those type of formatting. It took a little getting used to, but the story drew me in. Loved the three characters and the slow unraveling of their stories. Full review to come.
The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: I love love LOVE the artwork for this series and I am so glad that the publishers decided to continue with this color scheme. The Dream Thieves is not quite as drool-worthy as The Raven Boys but we still have the stunning brushwork that makes me just want to touch it. I can't wait to see this one all decked out in the finished copy.The Gist: Adam's sacrifice at the end of The Raven Boys has had further reaching repercussions than any of the boys realized. Adam is haunted by an inexplicable "otherness", Gansey is struggling to piece together the clues on his quest and Rowan is falling deeper and deeper into the dream world. Dangerous elements have been awoken and the someone, or something, is hunting in the dark, putting everyone at risk.ReviewThe Dream Thieves is a solid addition to this surprisingly interesting series. I am the first to admit, I LOATHED Shiver, and I thought after that debacle, I would never pick up another Stiefvater book again. When Scholastic sent me The Raven Boys for review, I had thought, at the least, I would get a ranty, gif filled review out of it. But, I am also the first to admit that I was whole-heartedly wrong. I loved The Raven Boys and thoroughly enjoyed The Dream Thieves. While TRB started out a little slow and then gained momentum towards the middle of the book, TDT has a much more steady pace. It is a slow burn in which the story unravels leisurely and we get to see much more of the characters than in the previous novel. I do wish there was more forward action on the over-all plot. We see quite a bit of character development and many events are put into place for the action of the third book, but mostly the problems that are solved are new ones, not the lingering questions from The Raven Boys.One of the strengths in this series lies with the character development. Each of the boys (and Blue) have their own issues and their own, distinct, voice. We get to follow inside each character's head for a while, which allows the reader to build deep and meaningful connections. I do wish that there weren't quite as many peripheral characters as it became difficult to keep track. We have 4 main characters, then each of their families, then friends and enemies, which adds up to a lot. There also isn't a whole lot of detail provided to jog your memory. I, for one, have read a LOT of YA novels in between TRB and this book and find it difficult to recall certain characters or aspects of the storyline. For example, at one point a chapter opens with Helen operating a helicopter. There is no preamble describing who Helen is and she has not been mentioned up to this point. It took me AGES to remember that she was Gansey's sister and my confusion took my attention away from that particular section of the plot.It is very interesting to read a series in which we knew the ending, from the very beginning. Blue's vision shows us that Gansey is to die and the prophecy about her first kiss tells us a lot about where their relationship eventually leads. Nonetheless, I continue to watch, breathlessly, for the plot to get there. All the while, hoping for a loophole that will lead to a different eventuality. Either way, I will certainly be hanging in there for the next two books!Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 13 and upGender: BothSex: KissingViolence: Knifeplay, Gunplay, KidnappingInappropriate Language: Dick, Fag, Bastard, Fucking, Shit, Jesus Christ,Substance Use/Abuse: Cocaine use, Underage DrinkingOther Issues: Child abuse
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: Adorable. This cover was the first thing that drew me in. I love the simplicity of Rainbow Rowell's covers and the fact that Cath is ignoring the boy for her fictional characters speaks volumes about her without saying a word. This was clearly a girl I needed to get to know.The Gist: Cath and her twin sister Wren are embarking on their first year of college. While Wren is taking the campus by storm, Cath is left behind struggling to deal with the unfamiliarity of a new environment and her often crippling fear of socializing with strangers. In real life, that is. In the world of facfiction, Cath is a star. She is incredibly popular for writing stories in which two of the literary world's most beloved characters are actually in love with one another. Along with the pressures of surviving her first year of classes and finishing her own "Simon and Baz" story before the author finishes the series and puts them to rest, Cath faces family troubles, boy troubles and her own internal debate about what she wants in life, and what she can actually have.Review:I loved Cath from the minute I saw the cover of Fangirl. The character inside the pages does not disappoint either. She is fun, sweet and quirky. Just weird enough to be interesting. Her whole experience the first few weeks dealing with living with strangers and not knowing where anything is or how it works reminded me why I NEVER wanted to live in dorm. It is incredibly easy to feel and empathize with Cath's anxiety at being in a new place and dealing with new people. Cath also gets to have this experience while watching her twin sister appear to thrive in their new environment in a way Cath could never even dream of. But don't get me wrong, this is not your typical "girl learns to stand on her own two feet" story. Cath is also dealing with the fact that her mother abandoned the girls when they were still children and their father who has issues of his own. On top of her familial and scholarly obligations. Cath is dedicated to her fans, of which she has A LOT. She is huge in the fanfiction community with her stories about the Simon Snow Series. The fictional set of books is about a boy who finds out he is a wizard, attends a magical school and makes an enemy in the form of his roommate, Baz. The story pretty closely mirrors that of Harry Potter, but Cath turns it on its head by making the two enemies into love interests. Her dedication to the characters is something to which I am sure any reader can relate and her compulsive need to finish her take on the series before the final book is released adds a sense of urgency. It also, compels the teacher in me to scream in frustration at Cath for neglecting her ACTUAL schoolwork for her personal project. But, I loved her enough to forgive her .... eventually. The story of Fangirl is also sprinkled with excerpts from both the official Simon Snow books and Cath's fanfiction, Carry On. These breaks aid the pacing and give interesting insight into the world that Cath has made her own.Rainbow Rowell really knows her characters. Cath is not the only one that I loved. Regan and Levi are both awesome in the own right. Regan got some of the best lines and Levi was just so damn loveable that no one could resist his charm. I also really liked being able to see the dicotomy between Cath and Wren. So often, twins are written as complete opposites: one shy, one outgoing, one nerdy, one popular - to the point where it becomes cliche. But here we have a much more realistic portrayal. The girls have clear differences, but they have a lot in common as well. They compete with one another, but they also complement. The love interest was also adorable and so genuine. It really showcased Cath's insecurities about herself, her experience level and being the less popular twin. I also love that even though this book features college age characters, the sexual activity is kept to a minimum and doesn't overtake the story.Having read Eleanor & Park and now Fangirl, I am officially signing on for anything and everything that Rainbow Rowell will write in the future!Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: BothGender: 15 and upSex: Kissing, Discussion of sex between teensViolence: Fist FightingInappropriate Language: Fuck, Jesus Christ, Asshole, Bitch, Shit, DickSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking
A Wounded Name - Dot Hutchison This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: Very pretty. I love how she is leaping into the water, rather than falling as is common in a lot of YA covers. The Gist: A re-telling of Shakespeare's Hamlet through the eyes of Ophelia.Review:I have been seriously procrastinating on writing this review. THis is a direct result of the annoyance I felt while reading this book. I chose A Wounded Name as one of the books to read while I was staying with my parents, preparing for my wedding. I was hoping for a book to drag me away and give me a moment of to of respite from the insanity of wedding planning. However, A Wounded Name ended up being the ONLY book I read because reading another page was the LAST thing that I wanted to do. Bring on the crazy relatives, just don't make me read any more of Ophelia's tortured world!A Wounded Name has the distinction of being the only book I can recall reading in which I hated ALL of the characters. Every. Single. One. I realize that this follows the plot of Hamlet pretty damn closely, but I could have done with some characterization to at least make one of two people appealing. Dane is an ass. Ophelia has no spine whatsoever. Her brother and father are duel control freaks and, frankly, the character the reader is meant to truly hate, is the only one who behaves decently throughout the whole book!The relationships in this novel are creepy at best, downright scary at worst. Ophelia appears to have feelings for Dane but never takes any control and allows herself to be lead wherever he wishes. Where he wishes, also tends to include physical abuse, which she endures in order to show her love. THE FUCK OPHELIA??? She is constantly hiding the bruises, engaging in dangerous activities at his behest and making excuses for his actions. Speaking of bruises - the author is OBSESSED! Nearly every page mentions actual bruises, past bruises, bruise colored objects and on and on and on. It has gotten to the point where I will never again be able to read that word without cringing inwardly. Ophelia's relationship with her father and brother is not much more healthy than that with Dane. Both men are incredibly controlling and treat Ophelia like an invalid. The family also seems to be distant and uncaring, while overly familiar with each other's private lives. At one point, Ophelia describes her brother's sexual activities in a way that made me want to call child services. To compound on the horrible characters, there was a great deal of confusion about the time frame. There are modern conveniences, such as cell phones, but antiquated ideas about women's roles. The females are the school are raised to be obedient wives and the administration fights against any suggestion that they should change. The language also got more and more annoying as the book went on. I was looking for a re-telling of a Shakespearean masterpiece, but that doesn't mean I wanted to read someone else's version of Shakespearean language. Every time the teens started speaking this way, it immediately jolted me from the story and made me question the author's choices.A Wounded Name is merely a butchered classic that fell far short of expectations. I do not think I will be anxiously awaiting any more of Hutchison's books. Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 16 and upSex: Kissing, Sex among teenagersViolence: Physical Abuse, Gunplay, PoisoningInappropriate Language: Whore, Prick, Bastard, Crude language regarding sex and masturbationSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Smoking
The Wishing Thread: A Novel - Lisa Van Allen This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: This cover has that beautiful, magical feeling that keeps me coming back to this genre. I love the natural background and the simplicity of the barefeet. The yarn adds a wonderful pop of color and the tendrils on the font give it just that little extra detail.The Gist: The Van Ripper women have always been strange. Living in The Stitchery - a run down home in Tarrytown, New York, they walk the line between the modern world and the realm of magic. The women in the family have the ability to knit spells, an ability they share with the people of the community - at a cost. Holding the town's secrets sets the Van Ripper women apart, sometimes even from each other. When the death of the family matriarch brings the three sisters home once more, they must learn to live with one another and with impact their decisions will have on the family for generations to come.Review: Every now and then, I feel the need to leave behind the world of YA and jump into an "adult" book. Usually when I am enticed to do this, it is by a book in the Magical Realism sphere like this one. The Wishing Thread is a wonderful story of three sisters and what home truly means. I loved the world of these women. The Stitchery had that run down feeling where magic can bury itself deep in the walls and permeate the very existance of each person who steps foot there. The sisters are all strong and unique characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. I loved getting to know each one of them and watching as they embraced what their hearts had known all along. There is a touch of romance in The Wishing Thread but it never overpowers the main story. The love interest is a kind and gentle man, willing to support Audrey in her endeavors and never balks at the idea of magic. I really enjoyed how the women weave their spells in a very subtle but powerful way. This is the kind of magic I love reading about - the everyday magic that takes work and sacrifice but reinforces the strength of the women who wield it. The Wishing Thread is beautifully written. Lisa Van Allen has a wonderful majesty over language and weaves the story together seamlessly. I will be looking forward to whatever works she is planning in the future.
Asylum - Madeleine Roux This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: This cover is awesome. The first one that I saw had similar shading but just featured a set of keys. It wasn't nearly as creepy. I believe this is the final cover and it is a great change. The shadows draw your eye into the frame and the blurring coupled with the lace adds the perfect spooky factor. Although, I do wish they had given the book a more stand-out name. Asylum is just far too common - a Goodreads search provides 837 results.....The Gist: Dan Crawford has finally escaped the opression of his foster home and high school. At New Hampshire College Prep, a summer program for teens, he is excited to spend his days with students that share his thirst for knowledge and geeky tendencies. He soon discovers that the dorm in which they are to spend the summer is actually Brookside, a former asylum that featured drastic experiments meant to cure the criminally insane. Feeling a strange connection to the building's history and suffering from nightmares that don't always come at night, Dan and his new friends begin to explore the bowels of the building and find that there are some secrets that should stay buried.Review:That cover is sure to pull in any horror fan. However, the book itself is not strong enough to hold them there for long. The characters in Asylum are far too one dimensional. It seems important to the plot that we understand the drastic changes in their personality that are brought on by living in the asylum, but we are given little to no time to actually get to know them before those changes begin. We are expected to believe that the three are the best of friends after having known each other for only a week. Couldn't the author have at least had them "meet" online, prior to attending the summer school program? What's more, there is an underlying plot featuring Jordan's obsession with an "unsolvable equation" that seems to completely drop out of the storyline without any resolution. Is this meant to be a series? Am I missing something?The setting for this novel is phenomenal. A student dorm built in what used to be an asylum and featuring a (sort of) locked basement with the trappings to spell out the horror that once occurred there. That has all kinds of potential! The author does do a good job of creating a tense and spine-tingling atmosphere whenever the kids are in the basement. This is aided by the addition of pictures which puts this book in that new sub-genre of multi-media fiction a la Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, though I do wish that the EARC had actually contained more of the pictures that will be featured in the final edition - since that is what interested me in the title in the first place. The plot of Asylum starts off strong by weakens as we get further into the mystery. There is some meandering into the past via dreams and visions which give us a glimpse into the mind of the madman who once ran the asylum, but we never learn any real details about what went on there other than a vague notion of horrific surgeries. One the murders start, we get to watch the cops bumble around and the kids go into Scooby Doo mode. The constant arguing and teenage drama that comes with the three main characters gets tedious rather quickly and, eventually, when the killer is finally revealed the dialogue becomes downright laughable. Rather than being scared, I found myself rolling my eyes and wishing the plot had gone in any direction other than the most obvious.Asylum may represent one step towards the road to a new genre as more and more authors attempt to bank on the commercial success of Ransom Riggs. However, until an author is able to seamlessly weave together pictures with a strong plot and compelling characters, I will be staying away.Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 13 and upGender: BothSex: KissingViolence: Murder of TeensInappropriate Language: Asshole, Shit, Bitch, PissedSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Night School: Legacy: Number 2 in series

Legacy - C.J. Daugherty This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: I like the colors and the contrast between her hair and the font with the snow. Otherwise, there isn't much to make this cover stand out from the others on the shelf.The Gist: Having survived her first semester at Cimmeria Academy, Allie is returning to classes with a new sense of the danger that surrounds her and an enrollment into the mysterious Night School. Here, Allie hopes to finally learn about the secrets surrounding her family and to find a way to save her brother from the clutches of the mysterious Nathaniel.Review:Having just finished Night School and gotten little to no answers about any of the big mysteries, I moved straight on to Legacy hoping for some enlightenment. I was sorely disappointed. Daugherty is the queen of the lengthy conversation in which absolutely nothing is reavealed. During the course of one conversation Isabelle tells Allie:"And if I try to explain it now we'll be here for hours.""It really would take me ages to tell you the whole story.""That ... is a conversation for another time.""I know you want to know everything, Allie, but just trust me when I tell you, this is complicated."Forget everything, Isabelle, I would just like you to tell her SOMETHING! And she is not the only one, even the bad guys speak in these oddly vague terms. Naturally, this lack of information leads to Allie making stupid decisions and running off into dangerous situations which make me want to strangle her myself. The love interests are equally infuriating. Yet again, in this book, we flip-flop from one boy to another. I am only able to be okay with Sylvain is if I completely ignore the almost rape scene in the last book - which I find very difficult to do. I am still not sure why the author wrote that scene. Surely she knew where the story would be heading. Could she not have found some other way for Sylvain and Allie to split up, something for which he could stand a hope of gaining forgiveness from the reader? Carter is also considerably more annoying in this book than he was in the last one. His overprotectiveness has gone into overdrive and he has gotten petty and jealous. The female characters don't seem to play as important of a role this time, though I enjoyed the addition of Zoe as the quirky character who constantly speaks her mind - which was important as Rachel not being a part of Night School meant that she could no longer act as Allie's sounding board.Legacy is considerably racier than Night School was. It includes steamier make-out sessions, more vulgar talk and a risque game of truth or dare. Against this backdrop, Allie becomes stronger and learns to defend herself, however despite having lots of action and a fairly entertaining story, there is no real movement forward on the larger plot or much character development. As this series is scheduled to continue up to at least book 5, I think I will be bowing out at this point.Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 15 and upGender: FemaleSex: Kissing, Nudity (not described), risque talkViolence: Hand to hand combat, murder by knife, attempted kidnappingInappropriate Language: Pissed, Bitch, Bastard, Jesus, TitsSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage drinking

Night School

Night School  - C.J. Daugherty This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: I like the colors and the illumination on the path but there isn't anything about this cover that will make it stand out from the other YA mysteries on the shelf.The Gist: Having been arrested for the third time in a year, Allie's parents decide to send her to Cimmeria Academy. There are, however, a couple of problems. First, Allie has never heard of this school and her parents won't tell her so much as where it is. Second, Cimmeria doesn't actually specialize in troubled youth, they are a school for rich kids, of which Allie is NOT. When the mysteries at the school start to pile up along with the list of the injured, Allie finds herself in a world far more dangerous than the life of alcohol, drugs and crime that she left behind.Review:In Night School, Daugherty plays a long game of "I can't tell you" and "Now is not the time" and, even by the end, doesn't really reveal anything about what is going on. This appears to be yet another book in which everything must be kept from the super-special main character in order to keep her safe, except not knowing any of the secrets is the reason that she is constantly putting herself in dangerous situations. I sincerely hope that the series does not continue in the same track. I despise books that dangle the Ihaveasecret carrot and never reveal a thing. If the second book had not already been released, I would be PISSED. As it is, I will be starting the next book, but if they continue to play the withholding game, I will just end up skimming to the end. In beginning, the main character gives in far too easily. Allie is set up as this bad girl with serious attitude. She rebels against any authority figure and has been arrested several times. But the minute she is taken out of her comfort zone she does everything she can to fit in. When she reaches Cimmeria, she immediately changes the way that she dresses (couldn't she make the uniform her own?) and stops wearing makeup, at several points she actually revels in how much happier she is now that she has assimilated. Naturally, Night School features they oh-so-overdone typical teenage love triangle. However, I can actually see the appeal of both characters (if you pretend that one particular, almost rape scene didn't exist - Allie appears to, so we might as well *scoff*). There are some swoonworthy make-out scenes but nothing that is too racy for the target audience. The female sidekicks are decently fleshed out and have their own issues to deal with. I liked both Jo and Rachel and enjoyed that there was some addition drama and conflict with them. I am hoping that they get further attention as the series continues. Oddly, I kept expecting for something supernatural to jump up, but instead there was some strange story about a secret corporation that runs the world. Perhaps this says more about my own reading habits than about the book itself but I found myself putting together small tidbits and theorizing my own supernatural elements (chased by something that growls - Must be a werewolf! Murals depict fight between good and evil - Maybe the Night School kids are actually angels and/or demons! MC keeps spilling secrets to one character - She must have secret powers!). Did anyone else notice this? Or has anyone does this with other books? Basically, I am looking for confirmation that I am not alone in this strange behavior.Even though Night School had enough of a mystery to keep me reading, I found myself a little disappointed at the end. I was really expecting more of a twist, some kind of revelation that would make me clamor to read the next book. Instead, I am approaching Legacy with trepidation and if the author somehow fenagles her way out of having the mother reveal some of the truth in the beginning of the next novel, I am out!This novel does include some swearing/mature scenes but not all that frequent and nothing that would prevent me from recommending it to most teenagers. Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 13 and upGender: FemaleSex: KissingViolence: Murder by Knife, Fires, *Almost* Rape sceneInappropriate Language: Dick, Bastard, Bitch, AssholeSubstance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking
The Bookstore - Deborah Meyler This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: This cover is very pretty and I am loving that there is just a hint of cleavage (nothing distasteful).Review: The Bookstore is the story of a young woman who escapes England for the excitement of New York. While completing her degree, she meets and falls in love with a suave and wealthy man. When she finds herself pregnant and jilted, she takes a job at a local bookstore and contemplates the path that her life has taken. It is a story with very little action and a plot that meanders through scenes that compel the reader to smile or grimace, rather than to laugh or cry. The love interest/future father was a truly despicable character. From the first few scenes, I found myself hoping that he would meet a timely demise. Unfortunately, Esme's infatuation with him and her inability to see how badly he was treating her, made me dislike her whenever they were on the page together. To be fair, at least Mitchell managed to make an impression. The Bookstore features an almost entirely male cast and I did have some difficulty keeping them straight. I could never remember which characters worked in the store and which were homeless men thrown in with some type of attempt at social commentary. The Bookstore itself, The Owl, is what piqued my interest in this title. I was hoping for a magical realm full of interesting characters. However, I found the scenes within the store to be some of the most tedious. The author had an unfortunate habit of referencing obscure authors and artists that I found pretentious. I often ended up skimming during those parts.The ending of The Bookstore was unsatisfying. There is some character growth, but no real closure and I am still unsure as to how Esme is managing to support herself and her child without being deported. This novel is nice for a slow read in a park/at the cottage but simply did not have enough action to distract me from the other demands on my time.
Stormbringers  - Philippa Gregory Cannot be bothered. Got to the second chapter and realized I wanted nothing more to do with this book.

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: Very nice, if a little cutesy. I understand that it is middle grade, but I usually prefer for these books to have an appeal to older students as well. The background images are beautiful and the crest and banner title are very well done.The Gist: For hundreds of years, the children of Gavaldon have been going missing. Every four years, two at a time, one beautiful and one ugly. After a time, the children of the town realized that these former playmates were appear within the pages of their favorite fairy tales. Sophie has spent her entire life preparing for this day, maintaining a beauty routine, sewing dresses and doing good deeds. Agatha, on the other hand, would do anything to remain at home with her gravestones and evil pet cat. When the two are swept away, they find that a serious mistake has been made and their fortunes have been reversed. Beautiful Sophie to the School for Evil and ghastly Agatha to the School for Good. As they try to fight for their hearts' desire, the girls learn about themselves and the barrier between Good and Evil.Review:The School for Good and Evil opens on the eve of the night when children regularly disappear from their homes. Most children are trying to make themselves as undesirable as possible, while Sophie attempts to flaunt her assets as a princess. She is determined to be spirited away from her home to the School for Good where she will meet her prince charming. Along side her, will certainly be her friend Agatha, the child for whom the term "witchy" was coined. As her counterpart, Agatha will enter the School for Evil and the two will find a way to maintain their frienship despite the rivalry of their schools. The premise for this book is very unique and charming. The thought of children being stolen from their homes only to show up in the pages of storybooks is both wonderful and terrifying. I do wish that we were able to spend a little more time with Agatha and Sophie within their village and to learn more about the mysterious town from which no one can choose to leave. This novel features some fantastic characters. Sophie was difficult to like, but that was kind of the point, while Agatha did lose a little of herself by the end of the novel. Sophie's roommates where a fantastic addition. They had the best lines and often left me laughing out loud. These characters could easily hold a story or series of their own (hint hint!).The School for Good and Evil was a beautiful mix of Wicked, Harry Potter and the humor of Roald Dahl. It was really fun to see the juxtuposition between Good and Evil. The schools were truly equal but opposite, down to the smallest detail. I must admit, I had more love for the School of Evil as they had more interesting characters and it was enjoyable to watch them revel in the dank, dire and disgusting. The world building is truly fantastic and well fleshed out, though it is a little difficult to keep track of all the rules and the names of the students. This was aided by the alternating point of view which worked well to show the thoughts and feelings of both girls as well as to give a glimpse into the inner workings of both schools.The plot was a little predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. The ending was a little strange, and I can't wait to see how this plays out in future books. I am very excited to see this on film. I think that it will translate really well and that the setting will play out beautifully on the big screen. Overall, an excellent addition to the Middle-Grade section of my classroom library. I cannot wait to jump back into this world in 2014.Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 10 and upGender: BothSex: KissingViolence: Magical ViolenceInappropriate Language: NoneSubstance Use/Abuse: None

Another Little Piece

Another Little Piece - Kate Karyus Quinn This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between ClassesCover Impressions: I like the cover image and the muted shades. The font is well done and reflected just slightly in the pink of the cover model's tutu skirt. I do think it reads as fairly contemporary and worry that it may be missing out on the primary audience. Paranormal fiction readers may simply pass this one by on a shelf and contemporary fiction readers may be disappointed upon discovering that their mystery has taken a very strange turn.The Gist: Annaliese Rose Gordon has been missing for a year. When she emerges, she has no memory of her life, her parents or where she has been. As her memories begin to emerge, they are more gruesome than she ever expected and feature the faces of other missing girls, girls whose blood is on her hands.Review:Confession time: I do not read book blurbs. Well, that's not exactly true, When I discover a book name or cover that piques my interest, I read the blurb in order to confirm or disprove my first impression. However, there is usually a span of a couple of months in between requesting an ARC for review and actually reading it. In that time, I tend to forget anything that the blurb said other than the most basic facts. I also actively avoid re-reading the blurbs as they set up undue expectations or leave me waiting for a particular even to happen and ruin my entrenchment in the first part of the novel. Not reading the blurb is usually not a problem.In Another Little Piece, however, I was expecting a very different novel. The first few chapters had me settling in for a contemporary fiction/mystery novel about how an abduction victim re-gains her memory of the horrific events of the year she disappeared. When the paranormal elements took over instead, I was pretty much blindsided. I went back several times to re-read the passage and make sure that I was not missing something. That is not to say that I was disappointed. Quite the contrary. The change, while unexpected, led to an incredibly unique story that examined the blurry line between good and evil and the desperate lengths to which the soul will go in order to maintain self-preservation.I love that Anna was a self-proclaimed monster. I really enjoy reading books that turn the reader's idea of evil upside down and leave you siding with, essentially, a murderer (I'm looking at you Anna Dressed In Blood!). In recovering her memories, Anna discovers that she has been the perpetrator of some truly gruesome deaths and that she has made selfish choices time and time again. Despite this, and perhaps a little bit because of it, I loved her. I could see the great potential in the character and the horror of the choice that she is faced with.In a YA novel with a great female lead, I am often disappointed by the boy(s). But not here my friends. There was a great connection between Anna and Dex, who had his own super-special stuff going on. I also really appreciated that the OTHER BOY, Logan was just a great guy and that, despite this, it was clear from the beginning that he was not the one for Anna. No love triangle here folks! I did feel like the choice to keep Frankie in child's body for most of the book made him a little laughable and not the frightening character that he could have been. This did take a little of the tension out of the story.I am not sure if this book will lead to a series set in this world, but there is certainly room for expansion. There are a couple of side characters who could easily lead their own novel and I would love to see more of the mysterious Physician who acts as puppeteer behind the scenes.A note on content: this one is gruesome folks. Blood, bodies and cannibalism just to start. There are also a couple of scenes that feature sex between teenagers, though nothing is really described graphically.Highly recommended, buying it in hardcover, putting it in my classroom and highly anticipating anything else by Kate Karyus Quinn!Teaching/Parental Notes:Age: 15 and upGender: BothSex: Multiple instances of sex between teenagersViolence: LOTS OF BLOOD! Cannibalism, Physical Fighting, Attempted RapeInappropriate Language: Shit, Fuck, Whore, Fag, BastardSubstance Use/Abuse: Smoking, underage drinking, alcoholism