Author Archives: Mrs. Andersen

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

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Andrea Cremer Nightshade

454 pp. Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group). 2010 ISBN: 978-0-399-25482-6

Summary from the publisher: “Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything—including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?”

Inside and out I completely love this book.  I fall for books quite often, but there are only a few I’ve read that leave me wanting to keep reading and reading and reading.  Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is one and Nightshade is another.  There’s something magical about the writing style, the setting and the characters.  Andrea Cremer’s writing is both easy to read and very engaging.  The setting is near Vale, Colorado at Mountain School, a school for werewolves with some priviledged humans mixed in.  It has the perfect mix of magic and mystery, plus the normal teenage drama and hormones. 

Because I am a character junky, I need to start a new paragraph to discuss why I love the Nightshades and the Banes.  Calla, the alpha of her Nightshade pack, is down-to-earth and protective of her pack.  She’s also a low-key girl that prefers jeans and a t-shirt over  a skirt and heels.  Can’t say that I blame her for that!  Ren is her future mate and fellow alpha.  He’s strong, dark and handsome.  He’s also quite the “ladies man.”  Despite Ren’s many love interests in his time before the union, he honestly cares for Calla.  Calla knows its her duty to be with Ren and gets weak-kneed when she’s around him.  But she’s also developing an inappropriate crush on the newest human at Mountain School, Shay.  This sets up a delicious love triangle.  Surprisingly, I can’t decide whether I prefer Ren or Shay more.  Ren is protective of Calla, sometimes to a fault, and very jealous.  But he’s also greatly concerned over her well-being and working with her to create a strong, unified pack.  Shay is intelligent and vulnerable.  But he’s strong-willed and romantic with a mysterious background to boot!  Decisons, decisions.  I can definitely say that Nightshade is full of well-written sexual tension.

Andrea deserves much praise for the research she put in for this novel.  From her bio, I know that she’s earned her Ph.D in early modern history and it shows.  This story required historical research and it’s obvious that legitimate research was performed.  I’ve read in blog interviews that Andrea put a lot of thought into her characters’ names, which I love.  If I ever get the guts to write a book, I will follow suit.  I’ve looked up some of the names like Seamus and Nightshade, and I’d like to learn more about the other names used.  These sorts of details add so much dimension to a story.

Now for the appearnace of Nightshade.  The cover is gorgeous!  I love the purple and touch of shimmer under Calla’s eyes.  The model portraying Calla looks beautiful yet fierce, just like Calla herself.  The frayed edges of the pages make me feel like I’m reading one of the books Shay swiped from his uncle’s library.  The shifting moon marking a new chapter is brilliant, but I’d like to know more about the alchemical symbols marking each chapter as well.  I’m always thinking of my students when I buy a new book, and it was no different when I  bought Nightshade.  I showed my students the cover and all the fine details I just mentioned. They were immediately intrigued.  I even asked the boys in my classes if they’d want to read this.  Most of them said they think it looks like a cool book.  I asked them about the color of the cover, and they weren’t hindered by it. 

Overall, Nightshade receives 5 out of 5 stars and major props for Andrea!  I was sad to finish because I am completely hooked on the story.  Book 2, Wolfsbane, is at the very top of my I Can’t Wait to Read list.  Nightshade gets my highest recommendation 🙂

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Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

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Sarah Ockler Twenty Boy Summer

          290 pp.  Little, Brown and Company.  2009  ISBN: 978-0-316-05158-3 (p’back) $8.99

Anna’s best friend, Frankie, wants the two of them to meet twenty boys during their three week vacation in California.  This should guarantee a summer fling for the two girls.  Anna hasn’t told Frankie that she’s already experienced a summer flame– with Frankie’s older brother, Matt.  But was it just a fling or maybe something more?  Anna will never know because Matt died tragically and unexpectedly one year ago.  She hasn’t been able to forget Matt, so how can she possibly move on to someone new?

Twenty Boy Summer is on Sarah Dessen’s recommended reading list, so it didn’t take more than that to persuade me to read it 🙂  First of all, we need to talk about Anna.  She loved Matt for a while before the moment he took it to the next level.  What they experienced, however briefly, is what so many people dream of. They’ve been friends forever, so they already knew each other well.  She didn’t tell Frankie because Matt wanted to keep it a secret until he felt secure in telling his sister, but that opportunity never came.  Anna keeps that secret, and her overwhelming grief, to herself for a year.  She focuses on helping Frankie deal with the loss of Matt, even if Frankie is reluctant to.  That’s why she goes along with the idea of the twenty boy summer. A couple of the reasons I like Anna so much is because she’s an optomist even when her life is falling apart.  Also, she doesn’t feel like she has anyone to confide in, so the healthiest way for Anna to deal with everything is by writing in her journal.  I’m glad Ockler wrote this into the story because more teens need to realize how relieving it can be to keep a journal.

I really like that Sarah Ockler has Anna stay true to herself.  Frankie has dealt with Matt’s death by acting out.  She’s become boy crazy, has started smoking, etc.  Anna is more introverted, very smart and just a tad insecure, but the way Ockler developed Anna, a reader would never think those are negative qualities.  At one point in the story, Frankie is flirting with a couple guys and Anna feels awkward around them because she isn’t done up like Frankie.  But she has her redeeming moment when one of the boys comments on how pretty Anna looks naturally. 

I definitely think teenage girls should read Twenty Boy Summer.  It’s a fun summer read, teaches an excellent lesson, has strong characters and uses rich vocabulary and imagery.

Party by Tom Leveen

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Tom Leveen Party

          228 pp.  Random House.  2010 ISBN: 978-0-375-86436-0  $16.99
          (High School)

Eleven teenagers, including skaters, a jock, and a girl with a secret, decide to attend an end of the year party.  They each have their own reasons ranging from needing to make a friend to getting over being dumped.  “Everyone” is expected to attend this party, yet none of them expect to have their lives connect in so many different ways.  Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, giving the reader an opportunity to see the action from all angles.

I decided to read this book after reading a review that compared it to the Academy Award winning movie Crash (and if you haven’t seen that movie yet you must!).  The first chapter is told from Beckett’s perspective, and I was instantly hooked by this character.  She’s all alone in the world, yet extremely observant, and decides to attend this party because she needs to know she’s visible.  Her character reminds me of Hannah Baker from Th1rteen R3asons Why only less harsh.  As Beckett is deciding whether to show up at the party she sees her old best friend Ashley with another girl Morrigan.  We find out why Ashley is her old best friend, what she thinks of Morrigan, and then the chapter switches to Morrigan.  This carries on throughout the night until we have the full picture of the events as they play out. 

I mostly enjoyed the differing perspectives because it made the story richer than just following one character.  The only drawback is that I wanted more from some characters.  Beckett’s view of the story ends after the first chapter, but we see her story play out as she encounters more characters during the night.  A couple characters lack detail that I prefer when reading a story.  Tommy, for example, didn’t strike me as a worthwhile character besides giving us more insight on how Josh copes with his breakup.  I love Azize’s character and would have loved it if Tommy’s chapter was cut so we could have had more from Azize or even the lovesick,  Max. 

But, like I said, the different views give us a richer story.  Morrigan, for example, is looked at in a variety of ways.  Beckett sees Morrigan as her replacement with Ashley.  Ryan looks at her as an overly drunk partier, and Josh sees her as the evil girl that dumped him out of nowhere.  But then we get to read the chapter from Morrigan’s eyes and we know exactly what she’s thinking and feeling.  We know how deep, hurt and confused she truly is.  Of course, Morrigan isn’t the only rich character in Party.  Tom Leveen has created quite a few rich characters, I only wish we could read even more about them.

Overall, I highly recommend reading Party by Tom Leveen.  If you enjoyed Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher or if you enjoy how Ellen Hopkins brings characters together in her books like Impulse or Tricks, then you’ll really enjoy this novel.  I’m looking forward to talking about this book with my students this coming school year!

2010 Debut Author Challenge

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The Story Siren (see link in my sidebar) has been hosting the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  I don’t remember how I came across her page, but I’m so excited that I did!  The challenge began in January and runs until Dec. 31st, but you can join at any time.  She’s requesting that if you join the challenge you read new novels released in 2010 by debut authors; try to read at least 12. 

I am joining the challenge.  Here’s my list of the 12 novels I want to read by December 31st:

1. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
2. Mistwood by Leah Cypress
3. Love Drugged by James Klise
4. The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson
5. The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by Kody Keplinger
6. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
7. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
8. Num8ers by Rachel Ward
9. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
10. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
11. Party by Tom Leveen
12. Numb by Sean Ferrell

These are listed in no particular order, and I’ll update my blog as I read each one.  I am also making it my goal to write a review for each of these books   So, who’s with me??  Who else will participate in this challege?  Make sure to sign up on her page:  http://www.thestorysiren.com/2009/11/sign-up-for-2010-debut-author-challenge.html

Books of 2010 (so far…)

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Because I’m a teacher, I don’t think of years like a normal person.  My years go according to school years.  Last school year a student asked me how many books I’ve read in a year, and b/c of this oddity I couldn’t figure it out.  Once the New Year rolled around, I decided to keep track of each book I read during 2010. 

 I can’t say that all of these are in order.  I did a good job at the beginning of the year, but for a while I forgot to update my list.  My summer reading starts at #20. 

How many books do you think I’ll read by December 31st?!

Books of 2010
1. Red is for Remembrance by Laurie Faria Stolarz
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
4. Shadowland by Alyson Noel
5. Fallen by Lauren Kate
6. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
7. Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
8. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
9. Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin
10. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
11. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
12. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
13. Touched by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
14. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
15. Gone by Lisa McMann
16. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
17. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
18. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
19. The Arrival by Shaun Tan (graphic novel)
20. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
21. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
22. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
23. Something Like Fate by Susane Colasanti
24. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
25. Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
26. Things Change by Patrick Jones
27. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
28. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

*Those that are BOLD are my favorites
*This list does not include my large pile of half-read books (That’s a whole other list…)