Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: One, Two, Three by Elodie Nowodazkij

YOU GUYS.  I am so excited.  Today I get to participate in a cover reveal for the first book I ever beta read!  This book, y'all.  You are going to love it.  Ballet and bad boys and best friends--this book has it all (Nata's best friend is my favorite character, and their relationship is so fabulous--but I know a LOT of you are going to lose it for Tonio.)

Anyway, here's the story: 


When seventeen-year-old Natalya’s dreams of being a ballerina are killed in a car accident along with her father, she must choose: shut down—like her mother—or open up to love.
Last year, Natalya was attending the School of Performing Arts in New York City. Last year, she was well on her way to becoming a professional ballerina. Last year, her father was still alive.
But a car crash changed all that—and Natalya can’t stop blaming herself. Now, she goes to a regular high school in New Jersey; lives with her onetime prima ballerina, now alcoholic mother; and has no hope of a dance career.
At her new school, however, sexy soccer player Antonio sees a brighter future for Natalya, or at least a more pleasant present, and his patient charms eventually draw her out of her shell.
But when upsetting secrets come to light and Tonio’s own problems draw her in, Natalya shuts down again, this time turning to alcohol herself.
Can Natalya learn to trust Antonio before she loses him—and destroys herself?

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...the cover!

I think this cover just nails it...once you get a chance to read this, I'm sure you'll agree.  It fits the mood of the story perfectly! I can't wait for you all to get to know the wonderful characters Elodie has created!  And speaking of Elodie, here's a little bit about her:

Elodie Nowodazkij was raised in a tiny village in France, where she could always be found a book in hand. At nineteen, she moved to the US, where she learned she’d never lose her French accent. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Language & Linguistics, and later earned master’s degrees in German Cultural Studies and European Studies. Unbeknownst to her professors, she sometimes drafted stories in class. Now she lives in Germany with her husband and their cat (who doesn’t seem to realize he’s not human), and uses her commuting time to write the stories swirling in her head. She's also a serial smiley user.
ONE TWO THREE is her first novel.

You can add One, Two, Three to your Goodreads shelves here, sign up for Elodie's newsletter here, and follow Elodie on Twitter here.  One, Two, Three will be released on June 26, 2014!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Quick Review: Text/Chat/Email by Erin Mallory Long

 It's spring break at one of my two schools, which means that I am tearing through books!  Today I want to highlight a fun, quick read by a friend of mine from high school: Text/Chat/Email by Erin Mallory Long.  (Full disclosure: while I know the author, I bought the book on my own, and I have not been compensated for this review.)

Text/Chat/Email follows 24-year-old Emily as she navigates a romantic crisis: she's living with Brian, the guy she's been dating since high school, but she can't stop thinking about a guy she just met.  And (hello, did you see where I said she's 24?) she does not handle it well.  What I really loved about this book is how messy it is, in a way that often gets smoothed over in books and television.  Sometimes people make bad choices, or weird choices, or just put off making choices, and the results are complicated and unpredictable and confusing.  I also really appreciated the way that Emily's choices in one relationship affect her other relationships; nothing is neatly cordoned off.  Reading Text/Chat/Email is like eavesdropping on someone at Starbucks, crossed with a Taylor Swift album (and let me be clear: those are two of my favorite things.)

Oh, and did I mention it's funny?  Here's one of my favorite lines: "If you were looking at two sides of a coin, Brian would be the really shiny side that looked like hardly any homeless people had put it in their mouths."  I also really enjoyed the interactions (in chat, because DUH, what do people do at their jobs all day?) between Emily and her co-worker Britney.  Emily's deadpan responses to Britney's weird doofiness made me laugh out loud, but I really appreciated that Britney gets fleshed out a little more as the book goes along, so she isn't just a ditzy stereotype.

This book is solidly New Adult material, which means that there is some (totally realistic) language and drinking (obligatory mention since this is usually a YA blog!)  There is not, however, the graphic sex that most articles on NA seem to think define the genre.  This is a character-driven story about taking stock of yourself, owning your choices, and trying to make sense of adult life. 

Edited to add: Here's a link to the Goodreads page!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Long Time Ago...We Used To Be Friends

Still here!  I'm just stupid-busy at school (took on an extra, brand-new, never-before-taught-by-me class this trimester with about two weeks notice!  These are the things that keep me on my toes and honestly, I love having the opportunity to dive into new things, but whew--it's a lot of work!) and so not doing much blogging or reading of YA at the moment.

HOWEVER--I have to mark the occasion of the Veronica Mars movie!  Mr. S and I drove all the way up to Waterloo, ON (that's Canada, for those of you not conversant in province abbreviations!) because it wasn't playing in Buffalo.

I won't say anything spoilery, except that I remain Team Piz and pretty much got what I expected from that quarter.  (Also, hello Wallace.  You grew up nice.)  But it was a great time, well worth the wait, and totally sets up a whole new bunch of stories that I hope Rob Thomas will get to tell!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Sunshine: Tough Going Edition

Um, the book I finished this week was Allegiant, so...this is not a particularly sunny Sunday post.  (Serves me right: I assigned my students Unspoken this week.  My reading quiz started with the words, "I'm so, so sorry" because pretty much all my kids came in and just draped themselves over their desks, drowning in sorrow.)

Anyway, before my thoughts on Allegiant, let me share with you the thing that is making me SO SO SO happy this week: ice dancing.  Olympic ice dancing.  (Yes, I have some serious issues with the political situation in Russia, no, I am not boycotting the Olympics coverage because I'm not convinced that it would do anything, especially since we are not a Nielsen family.  If I thought it would help, I would boycott.)   I hate to be a bad patriot, but I can't help rooting for reigning gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.  (Seriously, follow the link and watch them dance.  On skates.)  They just have the most amazing chemistry of any two people I've ever seen.  Of course, I also adore the American team of Charlie White and Meryl Davis--and I love that all four of them are training partners and good friends!

What I Read This Week: 

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)Allegiant by Veronica Roth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm way more destroyed than I thought I would be. I can weigh in on what I gather was a controversial ending and say I think it was perfect and it couldn't have gone any other way. I really admire Veronica Roth for staying true to her characters and I feel absolutely satisfied. The only thing I take issue with is (SPOILERS--highlight to view) the way Tris and Four's sexual relationship played out in relation to Tris's death. I think all of Tris's decisions--sex and war--made sense, but there's a pretty deep literary tradition of killing off unmarried women who have sex (or anyone else who breaks sexual norms) and this fits into that tradition more than I'm comfortable with. I wish they had made the decision to have sex sooner--maybe during that cute picnic?--so that Tris's death didn't seem like such a direct response. (It's like the dad from Freaks and Geeks: "I knew a girl who had sex before marriage. You know what happened to her? She DIED.") To balance that, though, I will say that I enjoyed the subtle allusions to Romeo and Juliet in the morning-after scene. I don't know for sure that it was an intentional nod, but starting with the birds, and basically all the dialogue...well, I was pretty sure after reading that scene that it was not going to end well for Tris and Four. Overall, though, this was probably my favorite of the whole series.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Happy Book Birthday to When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens!

Congratulations to the awesome Rebecca Behrens on the release of her fabulous new MG novel, When Audrey Met Alice!

You guys, I have been so excited for this book, you don't even know.  I mean, Rebecca is fabulous, and I was always going to nerd out when this day came.  BUT, a story about a kick-butt First Daughter, with a dash of US history?    It's like it's targeted to everything I love.

Today when I got home, just after an icicle hanging from our awning stabbed me in the head on my way up the iced-over porch steps, I saw the UPS guy coming around the corner, holding what I knew was my copy of When Audrey Met Alice.  I risked my neck going back down the stairs to get it and then hurried inside to read.

I devoured this book!  And it's a good thing, too, because another member of the family wanted a turn...

Willow is happy to report that this book is great for people and cats, although she is looking forward to putting it to the ultimate test of curling up on top of it.

Here's my full review--I loved it!  Thanks for such a great read, Rebecca!

When Audrey Met AliceWhen Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, I did not expect a book this fun and delightful to make me tear up a little at the end. It was total happy crying, but it took me by surprise anyway. Audrey Rhodes, First Daughter, is one of my new favorite people. Reading her story was a blast, except for the parts where I was in SO MUCH PAIN because one thing this book gets SO EXACTLY RIGHT is what it feels like to do something that seems like a great idea at the time and then immediately regret doing that thing. What I love about Audrey is that she responds totally realistically in those situations--sometimes with frustration or anger--but she works to fix the things she messes up, and to see things as other see them (once she's calmed down.) Her final bold choice is so satisfying and exciting, and I was thrilled to see a smart girl taking a stand for something she believes in. In short, she's a normal, imperfect, smart, courageous kid. And her historical counterpoint, Alice Roosevelt, is the same. I rooted so hard for both girls, and I'm sure I won't be the last one to add a biography of Alice to my TBR list after reading this!

In the end, while I loved the historical parallel stories, the way politics and the workings of the White House got worked into the story, and the sweet romance, the thing that got me right in the feels was Audrey's relationships with her family members, particularly her mom. (Alice's relationship with her family was a close second.) I love a well-done family story, and this one had a payoff that had me smiling through tears. I recommend When Audrey Met Alice to anyone who wants to eat up the world!

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What's Up Wednesday: EXTREME COLD EDITION!!!

What's Up Wednesday is a meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to bring reading and writing bloggers together once a week. Go to Jaime's blog to add your link and check out posts from other writers!

What I'm Reading

Four or five things at once--but all re-reads!  I'm wrapping up Beauty Queens in class, so I just completed a re-read of that. (Satire!  Sex-positivity!  Intersectional feminism!  Why isn't this in every classroom everywhere?)  I'm also teaching Persuasion in a different class and I'm really enjoying coming home to Austen and tea every day.  About a week ago I picked up Divergent so that I can re-read that in time for the movie AND work my way through the whole trilogy--I cannot BELIEVE it's taken me this long to get to Allegiant.  Plus, my book clubs at my other school are reading The Sound and the Fury and Great Gatsby.  I've taught Gatsby before, which means that I don't need a full re-read, but I haven't gone back to The Sound and the Fury since I read it in college and--much to my surprise--really enjoyed it. 

What I'm Writing

...Work stuff?  Tests, quizzes, prompts for response papers, curriculum materials.  But I've got a project simmering in the ol' brain crockpot (ew) and it's starting to bubble (sorry this metaphor got gross.) 

What Else I've Been Up To

Nesting!  Having a house is a lot of work.  (Thank GOODNESS for the snowblower my mother gave us, and also for Mr. S's willingness to get up early and snowblow...all the fricking time.  This is a real Buffalo winter.)  

OOH!  And because it's so disgusting out all the time, we finally went ahead and bought a piece of indoor exercise equipment!  

At the moment it's hanging out in our living room, which isn't the prettiest, but it means I use it pretty regularly.   Eventually it would be nice to put it upstairs, either in our room or the "rec room" (board games, table, yoga mat, keyboard).  But until we can get three-pronged outlets up there so we can plug in a TV, I know it will just gather dust.  So, one thing at a time.  I am horribly out of shape and biking is hard, but it feels SO good to be moving again.  

What Inspires Me Right Now  
My students!  I feel like this is my go-to answer, but seriously: I work with such great kids.  My upperclassmen at the one school are incredibly thoughtful, articulate, and motivated, and my freshmen at the other school are so curious, open-minded, and full of energy.  Mr. S said to me recently that he thinks the reason I'm a good teacher is that I'm so interested in what teenagers are interested in, and I think he's right.  I find my kids completely fascinating, and the things they have to say about the world are so, so, so smart and important.  

What's up with you?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday Smiles: Long Weekend Edition!

This is the weirdest month: it started during Winter Break.  Then we went back to school...for one day.  Then we were snowed out for two days.  Then two days on, then a weekend.  This week we actually managed a full five-day week...and today we have off in honor of MLK Day.  So it will be another short week.

Anyway, I figure I can count today as my Sunday, and tell you all about the book I finished yesterday.  This one isn't YA, but I think will appeal to a lot of the readers of this blog:

LongbournLongbourn by Jo Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book close on the heels of re-reading and teaching Pride and Prejudice, expecting that I would need to remember details, but really this is a standalone story. Sure, it gives another perspective on the Bennets (especially the parents) but mostly, this is the story of the servants at Longbourn, the ones who keep the house running and let Jane and Lizzy focus on looking pretty at balls.

I don't want to say too much, because I think one of the strengths of Longbourn is its plot, and the way in which everything ultimately falls into place. The characters held my attention and I would love to read more about all of them, especially Sarah: she came to Longbourn as a child, after the rest of her family died of illness. As a result, she has a vague sense of a different life, and while I wouldn't say any of the servants love their jobs, Sarah's past makes her particularly dissatisfied with her situation.

As a Downton Abbey fan (but a critical one), I also appreciated the lack of sugar-coating. It's easy to romanticize service (Downton is notable for doing that) and this book really exists to do the opposite. The servants in Pride and Prejudice are nearly invisible, and so is the work they do: bringing slop buckets to the pigs, hauling water and lighting stoves, and washing up after every trace of any and all bodily fluids (plus all that mud Lizzie is always tromping through.) This felt different than a lot of other depictions of service that I've seen and I appreciated that.

Ultimately, you don't have to be a Pride and Prejudice fan to read and enjoy Longbourn. (Also, I feel compelled to note, you may not enjoy this just because you liked P&P: in particular, there is some strong language and the unsavory elements are not nearly as tidily referenced as in P&P. Wickham, in particular, while not surprising to fans of the original, is even grosser than I imagined, and a few scenes that take place in a war zone are really tough. It all works with the story, and it didn't bother me more than it was meant to, but it's there nonetheless. So, if there is an easily shocked P&P fan in your life, maybe go another way at their birthday.) This is a satisfying story with original characters. It's a family story, a coming of age, a romance, and in parts an adventure. It's a novel written for adults, but with elements that would appeal to many readers of YA (especially older teens and adults.)

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