Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban June 23, 2013

Filed under: ALA,authors,book reviews,books,YA,Young Adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:53 am
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Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve read through a book non-stop and then felt compelled to write immediately about it. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban is the book that has done that for me. I LOVE this book. I love it so much, that I want to start reading it again tpfrom the beginning right now. I love it enough that I have already ordered the book that the author references in the “A Conversation with Elizabeth Laban” section at the end of the novel. I love it enough that I think high school English teachers should strongly consider making it required reading along with their student of Shakespeare. It would help their students understand tragedy at a level that classics can not bring to life for them.

I love it as a reader and I love it as a writer.

I wish I could have written it.

It has a map of the setting. I love when there is a map in a book, yet I didn’t even really look at the map. I just love that it is there.

It’s set in a school. I love books set in schools, especially for teens, since everything in their lives revolves around their friends and social contacts.

I love that one of the main character’s, Tim’s, parents are referenced so slightly, almost as if they were an annoyance to him. Yet you can tell he loves them, but just can’t be bothered by them. So dead-on with young people of that age.

I love the details about the locally-grown food throughout the book. Subtle references to the farms and locations the food came from-unnecessary details to the plot of the book, yet so detailed, it allows the reader to be there with the students of Irving School.

I love that I had to just keep reading it from the first page until the last. That it made me stay up late and wake up early, just so I could finish it.

I love the characters. I love that the tension you experience in the first couple chapters is still there, driving the characters on, driving the reading on, through the last page. Never is there a dull point, where you find yourself skimming, to get back to the main plot. I love that it’s set in a boarding school. I have a fascination with boarding schools.

It’s just that good.

Is the author going to be at ALA? I need to meet her and tell her how amazing her book is.




Tearing through Crossed by Ally Condie December 28, 2011

Filed under: authors,book reviews,books,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:18 pm
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Even though it did take me quite a while to get into the book, I really liked Matched, the first in the trilogy. I first tried to read it when it came out last year, but petered out during the first six chapters. My daughter then took the book to read and it disappeared into her scary pre-teen bedroom, not to emerge for many months. I then got the book on audio this fall, thinking that might get me past whatever was holding me up.

The audiobook expired before I was done with the book, so I picked up the hardback again.

Read a chapter.

Put it on my to-read stack,

and left it there until last week.

It’s not that it wasn’t good, it certainly got me thinking about a lot of things…the biggest thing being:

“What if no one learned to ‘write’ anymore (print or cursive) because everything was on a keyboard? How easy would it be for your writing to then be monitored? Hmmm….”

Well, I can’t put Crossed down and have almost finished it in the last 24 hours. I love how the chapters alternate between Ky and Cassia. I, of course, love any teacher turned author, such as Ally Condie.


New YA release by Patrick Carman Thirteen Days to Midnight April 12, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:08 am
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I’m very excited about the new release today of Patrick Carman’s Thirteen Days to Midnight. I loved the advanced review copy I got at NCTE and have been waiting for it to hit print. The 13d website has a great promo that would be sure to grab any reluctant readers.

If you liked his Skeleton Creek, you will like his new series for middle grade readers-Seekers. It is similar to the Skeleton Creek, as it combines multi-media/computer with traditional storytelling.

Here’s his recent article in Publisher’s Weekly:

Soapbox: Reimagining Books

How to reach young readers

by Patrick Carman — Publishers Weekly, 2/8/2010 2:00:00 AM

When I was growing up, there were no books in my house. It was the ’70s, and my dad loved the TV so much that he wouldn’t turn it off, even when no one was home to watch it. I’d often come home from school to an empty house and find Perry Mason arguing a case in my living room or Gilligan drinking out of a coconut. This was the era that gave us Evel Knievel, Stretch Armstrong, Kiss, Asteroids, Star Wars, and Fantasy Island. There were a thousand manufactured worlds, and I fell under the spell of them all. Books were a distant fourth, behind my turntable, the idiot box, and the local movie theater. Against these odds, I still became a reader.

Fast-forward to the present day, and people of all ages are reading less, which is hard for me to imagine, since my parents didn’t read at all (they have both since bucked the trend and improved in this area). There are more distractions for young readers today than there were when I was a kid—and there’s a fundamental difference in the types of distractions kids are faced with now.

Today’s teens and preteens have an overwhelming need to stay connected, and while adults may not appreciate it, we do have to live with it. My wife and I face this reality on a daily basis with our 14- and 12-year-old daughters. We’ve surrounded them with books, read to them endlessly over the years, and encouraged quiet time away from their friends and the consuming force of the computer. Yet it’s a challenge to keep them engaged by the written page. You begin to see the need for a lifeline.

And that, truly, is what I envisioned when I began working on the book-video hybrid series Skeleton Creek three years ago: a lifeline back to books. I imagined millions of disengaged readers finding the biggest carrot I could think of: getting to watch part of the story unfold on video. Read 25 pages, watch an online video, repeat. I would go back and forth with them—me in their world, them in mine—until we reached the end of the story. Meet me halfway and we’ll get through 200 pages together. That was the message.

And it worked. Three hundred thousand copies later, thousands of life-changing e-mails from librarians and teachers eager to tell me about nonreading students finally reading again, and almost two million videos watched have proven what I knew was true: if we meet young readers halfway, they’ll turn the pages we so desperately want them to read. Just this week, I learned about three middle schools reading Skeleton Creek together. In each case it started with just one kid and tore through the entire place, including the kids who never read.

Young readers understand this simple message: we want you, we understand you, and we will create books for you. This scares some people, all of them adults. Pundits may cry over technology as the beginning of the end for books, but I see it as a new beginning. If technology gets kids excited about reading, a book can spread as virally as a cool app. I’ve spoken in auditoriums full of kids at 750 schools across the country, and I’ve watched as a sea change has occurred in the lives of young readers. How we react to these changes as writers, publishers, librarians, and book lovers will set the stage for the next decade of reading and the ultimate fate of books. 

Our reaction requires two things: an open mind and the courage to step into young readers’ worlds. We can see the number of engaged readers skyrocket if we embrace the opportunity to reimagine what a book can be.  

Don’t get me wrong. I love traditional books. I’ve written a dozen of them and plan to keep writing them. But I’m convinced technology is not the enemy of reading. It’s our job—as the adults in the room who love books—to create a strategy that links kids back to books. They want to be connected to stories, and their tool of choice is technology.

I still think 19 out of 20 books for young readers should be traditional, but there is room now in my worldview to include a story that seamlessly blends words, videos, and the Web. I would like to think we’re smart enough to reimagine technology as something that creates millions of excited young readers instead of fearing the opposite.

Author Information
Patrick Carman is a bestselling author of several middle-grade series. Scholastic will release the first in his new book-video hybrid series, Trackers, in May.

Series books April 2, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:42 am
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I had to run right out yesterday to get Susan Beth Pfeffer’s newest book, This World We Live In, the third in what is now called The Last Survivors, Book 3. It is hard to put down!

Other books in a series that I look forward to:
Mockingjay-by Suzanne Collins-The last book in the Hunger Games trilogy-release date August 24, 2010

Sabotaged by Margaret Peterson Haddix-The Missing series-release date also August 24, 2010

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan-new series-The Kane Chronicles-release date May 4, 2010

The Necromancer by Michael Scott-book 4 in the Nicholas Flamel series-release date May 25, 2010


Science Fiction (by accident) March 31, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:34 pm
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First Light

Rebecca Stead

middle grade fiction

2007, 336 pages


Pete Hautman

Young Adult

2007, 272 pages

I have to say that I don’t normally gravitate towards science fiction. It was doubly unusual that I would be reading two sci-fi books at once. Both Rash by Pete Hautman and First Light by Rebecca Stead kept me turning those pages. I didn’t know enough about either book ahead of time to know it was going to be science fiction, which, in my case was good because it might have steered me clear of two good reads.

First Light by Rebecca Stead is the author’s first book, published before her Newbery win this year for When You Reach Me. I picked it up at NCTE when I was getting her autograph. I thought the cover was appealing and I liked that the chapters went back and forth between a boy main character and a girl main character. Set in the Arctic Circle, First Light is a compelling science fiction/mystery that started off in a way that I was fooled into thinking it was realistic fiction.

Here’s good old Wikipedia’s definition of Science Fiction:

Science fiction is a genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible withinscientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”.[1] Science fiction is largely based on writing rationally about alternative possibilities.[2] The settings for science fiction are often contrary to known reality.

These may include:

  • A setting in the future, in alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record
  • A setting in outer space, on other worlds, or involving aliens[3]
  • Stories that involve technology or scientific principles that contradict known laws of nature[4]
  • Stories that involve discovery or application of new scientific principles, such as time travel or psionics, or new technology, such as nanotechnologyfaster-than-light travel or robots, or of new and different political or social systems (e.g., a dystopia, or a situation where organized society has collapsed)[5]

First Light has alternative timeline to history, a different political system and  new discoveries.

Rash is a YA has a future setting (2074), new technology (safety equipment out the wazoo), artificial

intelligence and a whole new political system (the USSA-The United Safer States of America).  About twenty percent of the country is in prision, as anything unsafe is illegal. McDonalds still exists, but it doesn’t sell fast food-french fries are illeagal. You need to have your PSE (Personal Safety Equipment) for gym class, and more. If you take a look at Pete Hautman’s web site, you can see where he drew inspiration for this book.

I had picked it up at SSCO’s book review. I’m a huge Pete Hautman fan and think  his books should not be overlooked.

If you’d asked me last week if I liked the genre of science fiction, I would have told you no-I don’t really care for it. Now after reading these two sci-fi gems, I’m willing to give the genre a whole new look. What a happy surprise for me as a reader.


Recent Audiobooks January 12, 2010

Filed under: audiobook,book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:44 pm
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I’ve just recently finished listening to two different audiobooks. I enjoyed them both, for very different reasons. The one I finished most recently is John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines.

The other audiobook is Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

Two very different books, but both had me driving around laughing my

head off. I’m sure that makes funny viewing for the other driving, like when you pull up at a stoplight and someone is singing like crazy.

While looking at both covers, I’m struck by another similarity! Both books have teenage boys going on a road trip at a pivotal time of their life! Hmmm…..

That hadn’t crossed my mind until just now.

An Abundance of Katherines is the story of Colin Singleton and his best friend Hassan. They take off on a road trip to cure Colin of his heartbreak of being dumped by the nineteenth Katherine in his life. How does one guy get dumped by 19 Katherines with a K? Colin, child prodigy/hoping to be a genius has managed. The boys end up in Gutshot, Tennnessee, making friends, interviewing townspeople for their summer job, writing mathematical theorems and trying to decide what life has in store for them. Not a YA book you can listen to with your children in the car, as both Colin and Hassan are prone to use “fugging” in place of another curse word frequently throughout their speech.  There are so many amusing parts that I it’s hard to name one, but the hunt for the “feral pig” would be in my top three.

Going Bovine, by Libba Bray, is funny in a whole different kind of way. The cover of a cow carrying a lawn gnome, was just too good to pass up! Main character, Cameron, is having a hard enough time surviving high school and that is even before he comes down with Mad Cow Disease of the human form! Hallucinations of fire demons, a road trip with side kick and midget, Gonzo, a punk angel, a quest to save the world. all of which Cameron endures as he either is a: dying in his hospital bed or, b: really going on the trip of a life time. You’ll have to decide as you read (or listen) which you think.  I might need to go back and read Don Quixote.

I do love Libba Bray’s humor. From scanning her blog, she sounds like a hoot to hang out with.


Hush, Hush-a great gift for your teen reader December 12, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:25 am
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Hush, Hush

by Becca Fitzpatrick

Simon & Schuster, 2009

400 pages

Young Adult

Check out that cover. Can you help but be intrigued by what appears to be an extremely well-built angel falling from the sky? Besides being intrigued by the cover, I had seen a little bit about this book when it first came out in October. Then it, and the author, seemed to be receiving a great deal of attention/publicity at NCTE. The publisher had a special invitation to a cupcake “party” and author signing at NCTE that was attracting additional interest. My curiosity was piqued. I picked it up and started reading it immediately. I stayed up late and was hard pressed to put it down to sleep. The next day at the Middle School Mosaic: Being the Book to Being the Change session I had the opportunity to sit at a table next to the author for one of the roundtable discussions. The woman sitting on the other side of me had stayed up late and was within pages of finishing. She loved the book! The author, Becca Fitzpatrick was kind and charming. She had wanted to be a spy when she went to college. As a birthday present, her husband had been torn between getting her Japanese cooking classes or an online writing class. That was 6 years ago, which is when Hush, Hush was born. I think her readers will agree with her that we are glad she didn’t get the Japanese cooking lessons.  While there are similarities to Twilight that critics and readers will notice, but author Becca Fitzpatrick states that her ideas are her own and she wrote for the entertainment of her sixteen year old self. She was drawn to YA by Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Hush, Hush is the story of Nora Grey, a young high school girl who wasn’t very interested in boys, despite pressure from her best friend Vee. Enter bad boy Patch, the new dark and mysterious student at her high school. Soon her encounters with danger are oddly paired with the appearance of Patch. I don’t have a background in fallen angels or nephilium, but just as I had no background in vampire lore, I was able to completely lose myself in the book. Mind candy. Sometimes you can’t beat it. I enjoyed the smart girl, bad boy love story that was fraught with suspense and tension (not just the sexual kind!).

A great holiday gift for those looking to push the Twilight reader out of the rereading rut and into another book. You can listen to the first chapter on the author’s website.  Also check out the fan site

The sequel is planned for fall 2010. Just in time for the next year’s holiday gift.


wish you were dead by Todd Strasser December 9, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:35 pm
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I hadn’t thought about the thriller/mystery genre in quite a while. I went through many a year where I LOVED reading thrillers, mysteries, true crime, etc. That interest came to an abrupt stop with the birth of my first child. Patricia Cornwell had been one of my favorite authors. I had pre-ordered her book Black Notice, hoping it would arrive before the birth of my child. I knew there wouldn’t be much time for reading after that! I remember coming home from the hospital and finding the Amazon box with the book inside. There is sat. Unread. Still. (although it’s out of the box now)

I still haven’t read a Patricia Cornwell. When double checking the title of the book I’ve had since 1999, I was surprised to learn that the author is now on #17 of the series. Black Notice was #10.  It seems funny to me that I would read the first nine the week they came out and then just be completely done with them.

The idea of crimes, thrillers, mysteries, murders had no appeal for me in any form for many years. It is only just recently that I could even begin to think about reading one.

Wish You Were Dead is the first book I would classify in the thriller category since 1999! Yikes! I hadn’t even considered that thriller/mystery was part of the YA niche. I was surprised that this is the same author who wrote all the Help! I’m Trapped series that I had for years in my middle grade classroom. That series was silly and fluffy. This first installment in this “thrill”ology was a creepy  and compelling page-turner!

Even though I wasn’t too sure when I saw the cover of Todd Strasser’s newest book (very Psycho shower), I ended up loving it. I wish that it had been out for a while so I could run right out and read the second one. No such luck.

The main character’s friend disappears out of her front yard in a wealthy, gated community.

While writing this, I was reminded of a YA novel from my own youth. It was called A Question of Survival by Julian F. Thompson and was published in 1984.  It is one of those books that I still have in my basement from my childhood that I read over and over again.  It was set at a Teen Survival Center and was supposed to teach survivalist training in case of “the worst” happening in the United States. I guess there has always been a niche for the thriller, no matter the age group. Face on the Milk Carton, Chain Letter, I Know What You Did Last Summer,


Book Reviews Young Adult Tear Jerkers: Thirteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher; if I stay by Gayle Forman December 2, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:32 pm
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Thirteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher is an amazing book.

The cover-brilliant.

The content-devastating.

The intertwined stories of Hannah Baker and Clay Jenkins narrate the events of the book. Her voice tells the stories of what led her to take her own life. His tells what happens as he listens to the 13 tapes/stories that all led to her decision.

Clay’s story begins with the arrival of a box of audio cassette tapes. After figuring out how to listen to them, he learns the tapes are from his crush, Hannah Baker, who has just recently killed herself.

Gossip, rumors, backstabbing, sexual harassment, friendship, being let down by peers and adults-it’s all there-and more…

The cover is what originally grabbed my attention when I first saw the book a couple years ago. The inside flap let me know enough that I knew it was not a happy book. Still, I kept coming back to it in my TBR pile. Once I started, WOW!, I could not put it down.

if I stay by gayle forman is also an amazing book. The author had me on the first paragraph:

“Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true.” (p. 3)

Mia, an extremely gifted high school cellist, is agonizing about leaving to go to Julliard. She is, in some ways, an anomaly. Her parents were young rockers when she was born. Mia’s boyfriend is also a member of a rock band that travels to the bigger cities to perform. Yet she dreams in classical music.

Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 3 plays on from the wreckage of the car. The jacket flap describes the book as, “heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.” Just reading those words is enough to bring back the tears.

Reviews that had made me want to read these books:

Presenting Lenore

My Friend Amy

Jen Robinson


Quick Reviews July 14, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:55 am
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Peter Rabbit Munch! Peter Rabbit Naturally Better board book-a beautiful new board book that I picked for a friend’s new baby-love that each page looks “munched”.peterrabbit

The Problem with the Puddles by Kate Feiffer (intermediate aged readers) Love the illustrations which will help support those transitional intermediate readers. A great story about a family whose parents agree on nothing! Through an adventure together trying to find their lost dogs, they find there really aren’t so many things worth disagreeing about.

problem puddles

Lucky by Rachel Vail (YA)-A very fun YA read-very timely with the economy going south daily. The main character, Phoebe’s, mother has lost her well-paid job, leaving the family in a big financial pinch. Going from privileged child who wants for nothing, to having to tell her friends she can’t afford her part of their lavish, middle school graduation party, Lucky is a fun read. Gorgeous, the “sequel” (and part of a planned trilogy) focusing on Phoebe’s sister, just was published in the end of May. Sure to be a hit with YA readers looking for some light, realistic fiction.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (“grown-up”)-a great mystery read in a non-traditional mystery format. Margaret Lea, a young woman who rarely leaves her father’s rare and collectible book store, lives most of her life through the characters she reads. Selected by a famous, reclusive author to write her biography, Margaret partakes on the quest to find truth in Vida Winter’s story-telling. The story of dysfunctional twins, and the people who attempt to raise them, including a governess, pulls the reader into this book that allows the author’s knowledge of literature to shine through in a way that is pleasing for any reader. For the lover of literature, shades of Jane Eyre will be evident. thirteenth tale