Friday, July 28, 2017

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

In the time of the Inquisition, it is dangerous to make many claims at all. Priests, commoners, and kings alike are on the watch for heresy in any form. So that would make it a bad time to, say, begin worshipping a dog, claim she's come back to life, or to have visions of the future that you can't control.

But, that is just what happens to a peasant girl named Jeanne. It's also a bad time to be so strong you break benches to pieces with one blow like William or to be a Jew who can heal with the power of prayer like Jacob.

Brought together by fear and bad luck, kept together by a strong sense of duty and love for the people around them, these three children brave the fanaticism of the Inquisition with bravery, honesty, and virtue--but is that enough to save them from a king who commands a hundred knights?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

Based on the YouTube videos of the same name, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl details the horrors of Sunshine Griffith, who has just moved into an undeniably haunted house.

The evidence: someone is running around upstairs, but no one else is in the house. Sunshine keeps hearing the laughter and whispers of a little girl, but Sunshine is an only child. Plus, the stuff in her nauseatingly pink bedroom is being moved around every time she closes the door.

The problem: Sunshine's mother doesn't see any of it. She's all about science and she doesn't believe in ghosts or spirits or anything paranormal. So, Sunshine picks up her camera and sets out on a journey to prove without a shadow of a doubt that this ghost is real.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five Teen Alternatives to Game of Thrones

I love Game of Thrones. Series, show, you name it. There's a whole lot to like. Strong characters, compelling drama, love, adventure, the triumph and sorrows of characters--death, mayhem, betrayal, ferocious battles, the rise of the undead! What's not to love?

However, it is DEFINITELY not something I would EVER recommend to any of my middle school students. Even the ones who are wise beyond their years--the ones who read at voracious levels. I'm not saying they can't read it--that's up to their parents--I'm saying it's got far too much inappropriate content for me to recommend. Heck, I'm somewhat disturbed by many of the scenes, and I didn't read it until my mid-20's.

There are a lot of great YA books out there, and they're very popular. Still, I think many amazing works slip through the cracks as they get older. In light of that and in the interest of highlighting great storytelling, I've made a list of recommendations for people (especially students) who love to read but are not ready for Game of Thrones.

The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

In the world of Norta, citizens are divided by the color of their blood. The Silvers: elite and gifted with unthinkable powers. The Reds: poor, futures uncertain, valued only for what they are able to give the Silvers.

Mare knows exactly who she is and what it means. She is not skilled like her sister--Mare picks pockets to make money. She is not gifted like the Silvers, and without a job, she is doomed to fight in a war she cares little about. Mare knows what her life will be like. She knows the life that all Reds are doomed to live.

At least, she thought she did.

Brought to the palace by happenstance, Mare stumbles into the truth of her blood. In the presence of hundreds, she makes a shocking discovery. Somehow, she is swept into the world of the Silvers she hates. She must play pretend, say the right words, and learn their customs. Her life and the lives of the people she loves depend on how well she can guard her mind and hide her heart.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I Was Nominated for the Liebster Award!

I am so grateful to the Saowbia at Ever The Reader for nominating me for the Liebster Award. The award is designed to bring attention to small blogs with less than 200 subscribers. (And that definitely fits this particular little blog). I'm honored to participate!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

"Let me tell you a story."

That's how Kyra always begins speaking when she has something to share. She loves myths, legends, folklore, and even just the mundane, everyday tales of people's lives. They fascinate her and fill her with purpose, but they also provide her with an escape from her manic highs and the intensity of her lows.

Corey is Kyra's best friend, and she has always tried to help and support Kyra through her struggles with mental health, but Corey's mother took a job in Canada. Corey had to leave Kyra behind, but it wasn't as if they'd never see each other again. Corey would come back to visit and she and Kyra would be together again, just like they used to be.

That was the plan, anyway. Just before the end of her first semester at her new school, Corey gets a call from her mother. Kyra has drowned herself in the river--the ice should have been too thick for her to fall in, but it seems she found a weak spot.

In order to mourn her friend, Corey returns to the town where she grew up to find that things have changed. People keep talking about hope, blessings, and belonging. But buried below the surface, Corey senses something sinister. She begins to ask questions in a town that prefers to keep its silence. They don't trust outsiders and Corey, although she once lived in this tiny Alaskan community, finds herself with a label and a deep sense of dread.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

young adult, teen pregnancy, teen reads, teen fiction, young adult novel, young adult book, book, book reviewCONTENT WARNING: While categorized as a YA title, this book and its review may not be suitable for children of all ages. Parental discretion is recommended.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

will scarlet, young adult, young adult fiction, fiction, book, review, book review, female lead, female protagonist, robin hood, books about robin hood, robin of locksley, sheriff of nottingham,
Everybody knows Robin Hood. He's the ousted earl who's expert at the bow and he steals from the rich to give to the poor. Always present beside our golden-hearted thief is John Little--big guy, charming, and good with his fists. Few, however, know very much about Will Scarlet--the one with a knack for knives and knicking. For example, they don't know that Will Scarlet is a nickname. They don't know that beneath the skinny frame and the wide-brimmed hat, Will Scarlet is actually a girl. They don't know anything about her past in London or where she really came from. And that's just how Scarlet likes it.

But her past is coming back to haunt her. Guy of Gisborne knows her from well before she began to pilfer in Sherwood forest. He cuts a sinister figure, all in black, and he's working to turn the people of Nottingham against their thieving heroes. He'll stop at nothing until he kills the band of merry men--even if that means taking a girl with them.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

young adult literature, book review, review, young reader, teen, teen fiction, fiction, book, novel, young adult novel, young adult book, advanced reader copy, advanced reader reviewSynopsis:
Orléans is a country without beauty. All of its people are born in shades of gray. All of the people except the Belles, who alone possess the gift of being beautiful. It's a gift they share with the rest of the people of Orléans, enhancing their looks, recoloring their hair, making them unique and gorgeous with the power of their arcana, which was gifted to them by the Goddess of Beauty.
When Camellia is finally able to share her gifts with the world, she imagines herself as a vessel of the goddess, sharing her powers with the queen and royal family. She wants nothing more than to make people beautiful. However, all is not as it seems at the royal palace. Secrets are hidden beneath the surface, loyalties change as often as hair color, and danger lurks behind false smiles. Camellia must discover the royal family's secrets before they discover hers.

Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera

Children's literature, book review, book blog
Fifth grader Star Mackie lives in a trailer, which was just fine back in Oregon. But here, in California where she's just moved, that is apparently not something that you tell people. According to her sister, you also shouldn't tell people that you've never met your dad or that your sister goes to an alternative school because she got kicked out of her old one. Dubbed Star Trashy by all the kids at school, she immediately finds out that fifth grade is difficult when you don't have any friends. Star is determined to overcome her early misstep, so she decides to start The Trailer Park Club to educate people on their misconceptions. Unfortunately, she's not so sure about the friendliness of her club's new members.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Let's Take a Moment

Some lovely books I picked up from the library.
This seems like a good time to explain why I'm writing this blog and what its purpose is.

I've always found it challenging to start blogs because I didn't have an audience. Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, says he always wrote books to his sister. He said you should always have an audience in mind. I think he's right. In the past, when I've tried to start book blogs, it always just seemed like I was screaming into a giant vacuum. A vacuum cleaner. That was turned on. There were so many other blogs who were doing what I wanted to do much better than I would. So, I would start a blog, post a couple of entries, then go dark.

Then, this year, I wrote the summer reading list for my small school in Colorado. I started off with a list styled after the ones I loved in middle and high schools. The ones I received were at least two pages--often more. They were filled with books chosen by my English teachers, history teachers, science teachers, the librarians. Book titles and authors marched in two neat rows down the page. They filed past me in beautiful, mesmerizing lines. I adored the choices I was able to make. Nothing was mandatory.

In ninth grade, I read A Clockwork Orange and The Handmaid's Tale because they were recommended for twelfth-grade students and I wanted to impress my freshman English teacher. (Which totally did not work. She hated me from the get-go.) I'm not endorsing these books. I was far too young to fully understand either of them. My real point is that the ability to have so much choice really opened me up to new experiences and allowed me to challenge myself.

I wanted to give that power of challenge and choice to my students. So, I scrapped my summer reading list entirely. I decided that what the students really needed was to operate without boundaries imposed by their school. They can challenge themselves or they can not. What is important is that I make reading less of a chore. I make it a choice.

So, you ask, who's my audience? The answer is simple: students. Not just mine, but any student. I intend to use this blog, as well as, my Instagram (@braud_down) as an easy and convenient way for students to learn about books. It's not the end of a list, but instead is the starting point for kids who are unsure where to begin. The bookshelves of the world are vast. My hope is to narrow the starting point down somewhat. No one has to read any of the books on my "list," but if they're not sure where to start, this is as good a place as any.

© 2017, Copyright Miriam Braud.  

While I try to post content warnings if I, personally, identify anything that I think is not appropriate for my students who range in age from 11-14, I recommend that all content is perused by parents to ensure that the individual and unique values of each family is upheld.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

There's something about indie kids that draws vampires, soul-stealing ghosts, and flesh-eating zombies. It seems like they always are blowing things up and wrecking the town. Mike, however, is not an indie kid. So, when weird blue lights start shooting up all over town, animals begin to come back to life, and, all of a sudden, indie kids are dying left and right, Mike and his friends start to get pretty nervous. There are only four and a half weeks left until graduation, and Mike doesn't care about saving the world--he just wants to graduate before the school blows up.

Dreamer Wisher Liar by Charise Mericle Harpe

Ashley is convinced that her summer is going to be awful. Her best friend is moving to Portland. Worse, she can't even hang out with her friend at summer camp because her mom wants her to baby sit for three weeks. Things are not looking good. But, perhaps a little magic might help the summer get better.