Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin November 8, 2010

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Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin

release date September 7, 2010

ARC courtesy of Dial Publishing

young adult

I was first alerted to Extraordinary when I was doing some searches for hot ARCs at ALA 2010. I can’t remember if it was Monica Edinger’s Tweet or blog post at Educating Alice or Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy. No matter, I’ve never been steered wrong by either of those women, so it went on my ALA “shopping list”.

Not only did I manage to track down an Advanced Review Copy, but was also fortunate enough to run into the author while I was in someone else’s autograph line. What a kind and gracious person she was. Based on that encounter and the reading of Extraordinary, I have added Werlin’s other books to my reading list.

While the first “chapter” reveals to the reader that part of the story involves Faeries, if one inadvertently skipped it by starting to read “Chapter One”, it would be possible to begin reading thinking that you were going to be reading a realistic fiction book about middle school girls and their friendships. Hopefully when the reader gets to the chapter after Chapter Two, entitled Conversation with the Faerie Queen, 2,they would realize they missed something and go back to the beginning. If the chapter titles weren’t enough clue, there is also ivy that curls up and down the pages that are conversations with the queen.

Extraordinary is a fabulous read that intertwines the friendship of Mallory and Phoebe, with mystery surrounding Phoebe’s family history, and faerie lore. Does that sound like hard things to mix? Well not for Werlin. The three are exquisitely wound in and around each other, resulting in a unique and compelling story.

As a reader, I throughly enjoyed all parts of the story. Seamlessly the story of friendship, mixed with conversations between an unseen queen and her subject, pull the reader along on a fantastic journey.

For a much more detailed review/critique, head on over to The Book Smugglers. They don’t say anything I disagree with, but for me the combination of the friendship, intermixed with faerie, made it a fascinating read for me!



As often happens, when I went onto Liz ‘s blog, I got distracted by a new post she has. I then got further distracted by reading the comments in reply to her post, which of course led me to other blogs, other posts, and other comments.

That’s how writing a book review ends up taking over an hour!


The Cardturner by Louis Sachar October 25, 2010

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The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Young Adult, 352 pages

The Cardturner first hit my radar at ALA. I received a review copy of the first couple chapters and I found the cover intriguing as well as the first couple chapter titles. Finding the book in my local library on audiobook was a recent happy find. Every other Saturday I drive an hour one way to grad class. Audiobooks help make the time more enjoyable.

When I first put in The Cardturner, I have to admit I had a healthy dose of skeptism. I have to admit that if I’d had another audiobook or wasn’t starting an hour drive at 7 am on a Saturday morning, I might have turned it off. That would have been a mistake! What led to my initial reaction? First, the author narrates the book, and I wasn’t too sure at first about Louis Sachar’s voice being the right choice for audio. I really like his other books though, so I decided to try to get over it.

Second, The book starts with an author’s note, while very witty, also made me feel skeptical about the book. Did I really want to read a book about the card game Bridge? I’ve never played it. I don’t know anything about it. I couldn’t imagine there was enough to fill a book about that would hold my attention.

Good thing for me, there was no turning back.

The Cardturner is a great story of Alton Richards, a teenager who doesn’t have too much going for him. His parents don’t seem to have very many positive interactions with him, but despite this, he does not turn into “angry teen” or “misunderstood teen”. This was a nice change of pace in a contemporary young adult book.

In an attempt to procure some of his wealthy uncle’s money for the family, Alton’s mother volunteers him to be his uncle’s cardturner for a card game. Uncle Lester is gruff, terse, wealthy, and blind. She doesn’t bother to mention that the card turning is not just for a single game, but multiple times a week. For the whole summer.

Through Alton’s cardturning for his Uncle Lester, the reader learns about the card game Bridge, just as Alton does: one card at a time. Much to Alton’s initial disbelief, his uncle Lester can play the game as well as he did before he became blind just by Alton reading the hand he is dealt to him at the beginning and then playing the cards instructed to him.

I have to admit that I became pretty intrigued by the idea of Bridge as a pairs game. Why don’t people play more cards? Do I know anyone who plays Bridge? How does one go about learning to play? Could I have friends over to play Bridge or some other card game and have it be fun for all? Hmmm….

In addition to the unfolding relationship between Alton and his uncle Lester, I also really enjoyed Alton’s relationship with his younger sister. Once again, it was refreshing to have such a positive brother-sister relationship portrayed without it being any big deal. Eleven year old sister, sixteen year old brother. Not usually a relationship that includes helping each other, playing cards together, and an unspoken alliance to survive their dysfunctional parents.

Alton’s friend Cliff and new friend Tony, also are realistic relationships that Sachar does a wonderful job of developing.

I kept being reminded of Richard Peck’s Grandma Dowdel. I even typed Peck’s name a few times in place of Sachar’s and had to watch myself for that oversight. The age difference between characters, the back story that is revealed about uncle Lester, all is reminisent of the storytelling variety found in A Long Way from Chicago.

I think this book might make a fun read aloud, with time spent actually trying out some of the card hands Alton learns. I also think it would be big fun to make the foghorn sound whenever the reader got the whale symbol in the book, indicating the reader is coming to a part that might be difficult to understand, as it is mostly “bridge jibberish” (Alton’s words) explained in detail. A nice summary box comes right after, allowing the reader to choose to skip the “jibberish” if it’s not to their liking and still be able to understand the story.

Overall a great contemporary young adult story that I highly recommend.


Mortal Instrument series: City of Bones, City of ASHES, City of Glass January 6, 2010

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The Mortal Instruments series

by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones

City of Ashes

City of Glass

Margaret McElderry Books, 2007, 2008, 2009

541 pages

I first had City of Bones recommended to me at Teachers College this summer by TC staff developer Mary Ehrenworth. I had seen it on the bookstore shelf before that, but had passed over it due to the heavily inked male torso that makes up much of the cover (not a fan of tattoos).

Even though I was initially put off by the cover, I picked it up when I was in New York this summer. The other book she had been recommending was Hunger Games and I certainly loved that book, so I figure we had to have a similar taste in books.

I immediately started reading City of Bones while I was there, which was not good thing when it came to finishing my assigned reading each evening. Adding to the happy reading experience for me was the New York City setting. I was able to recognize parts of the book in the city. I still would have enjoyed the book without having had a New York City experience, but it would have impacted my reading some.  It made the setting feel more like an old friend, rather than some of the settings in books where I have never been (say LA or London).

The Mortal Instruments will find fans among those who enjoy Percy Jackson books as well as those who enjoy Twilight books. Main character Clary witnesses teenagers Jace, Isabella, and Alex kill another teen, but no one can see the body, or killers, besides her. Clary goes on to find out that the teens are Shadowhunters, humans with powers to track and kill demons. Soon enough, her own mother is kidnapped by demons, and it is the Shadowhunters who come to her aid.

The “human” characters of Clary, her best friend Simon, and surrogate father, Luke are compelling characters, as are Jace, Isabella, and Alec, the “Shadowhunter” characters. A great fantasy story set in “modern-day” New York City, you’ll be happy that all three in the trilogy are already out for your reading pleasure!


2010 Reading Challenges January 4, 2010

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The first challenge I signed up for is the original TBR (To Be Read) Challenge. Here’s the Challenge in a nutshell

** Pick 12 books – one for each month of the year – that you’ve been wanting to read (that have been on your “TBRead” list) for 6 months or longer, but haven’t gotten around to.

I’m still working on my list. I’ll post it soon.

Hosted by Michelle at Galleysmith
December 1, 2009 thru December 31, 2010

Participating in the Pick a Number Category (5 books) for

  • Fiction: Young Adult
  • Fiction: Middle School
  • Non-fiction: Picture book
  • Graphic Novel: MG
  • Fiction: Picture book

Possible reads for YA Fiction

  1. Forest Born – Shannon Hale
  2. Ice – Sarah Beth Durst
  3. Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld
  4. The Maze Runner – James Dashner
  5. Rampant – Diane Peterfreund
  6. Ruined – Paula Morris
  7. A Wish After Midnight – Zetta Elliot
  8. Candor – Pam Bachorz
  9. Flygirl– Sherrie L. Smith
  10. Going Bovine – Libba Bray
  11. Gringolandia – Lynn Miller-Lachman
  12. Hate List – Jennifer Brown

Graphic novel: MG possible reads

  1. BabyMouse #10 and 11 – Jennifer L. Holm (re-read)
  2. Dork Diaries – Rachel Renee Russell
  3. Dragonbreath – Ursula Vernon
  4. Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom – Eric Wright
  5. Little Mouse Gets Ready – Jeff Smith
  6. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute – Jarrett Krosocka
  7. Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians – Jarrett Krosocka
  8. The Storm in the Barn – Matt Phelan

Possible reads for MG fiction:

  1. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June – Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  2. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters – Lenore Look
  3. Anything but Typical – Nora Releigh Baskin
  4. The Brooklyn Nine – Alan M. Gratz
  5. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly (re-read)
  6. The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. – Kate Messner
  7. Heart of a Shepherd – Rosanne Parry
  8. Love, Aubrey – Suzanne LaFleur

Possible reads for non-fiction: Picture Book

  1. 14 Cows for America – Carmen Agra Deedy
  2. Coretta Scott – Ntzake Shange
  3. If America were a Village – David J. Smith
  4. Mermaid Queen – Shana Corey
  5. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 – Bran Floca
  6. Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths
  7. The Day-Glo Brothers – Chris Barton

Possible reads for fiction: picture book

  1. 1000 Times No – Tom Warbuton
  2. Blueberry Girl – Neil Gaiman
  3. The Book that Eats People – John Perry
  4. Boo Hoo Bird – Jeremy Tankard
  5. Crazy Hair – Neil Gaiman
  6. Crow Call – Lois Lowry
  7. Finn Throws a Fit – David Elliot
  8. The Lion and the Mouse – Jerry Pinkney

The 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

(I’m realistic and know that the Mini Challenge will work for me but the Just My Size is too ambitious).

–The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

–Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.

–Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.

–Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels.

100+ Reading Challenge

I met it last year. I felt good about having accomplished something. I’m up for the challenge again.

The 2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge
1. Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog to participate.

Four levels:

–The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

–Just My Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

–Stepping It Up – Check out and read 75 library books.

–Super Size Me – Check out and read 100 library books.

(Aim high. As long as you read 25 by the end of 2010, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.


Love This Trend: Publishers Weekly Reports… April 23, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:53 am
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I wanted to share this article from Publishers Weekly. Three of these titles are ones I have been recommending to adults over and over. Without fail, they have all DEVOURED the books. Now to try to get them to stick to looking in the Young Adult section not just when they are stuck for something to read, but as one more avenue for great literature!

Adult Readers in the Kids’ Section 
April 22, 2009

There’s a really good trend happening in our store right now. Adults are reading kids’ books. Not picture books, but novels written for young adults.  Slowly the awkwardness, the need to almost apologize for buying a kids’ book for themselves is dissipating.  Instead, it’s something the adults seem to be reveling in.  And really, isn’t it about time that adults realized the young adult section was chock full of riches, new and old, to read and enjoy?

There are several books this past year that seem to have spurred this trend. The first is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak — while not a new title, it continues to be an excellent seller for us to adults. At last count, five adult book groups have read The Book Thief. Several women have called me immediately upon finishing to say how much they just loved the book. There is still an occasional adult reader who resists even holding a kids’ book in their hands, as if something horrible will happen if they read the back cover.  I’ve actually had to place it in a customer’s hand with a declaration. “You will love this book. Just read it. Trust me.”

Elizabeth had the best handselling moment I’ve seen, ever.  Two women had overheard me talking about The Book Thief and they were resistant to buy the copy I placed before them. They looked to Elizabeth for a second opinion, and all she did was arch her eyebrows with eyes bright and alert and that said it all. They bought two.  

Grown women are marching straight up the counter and asking for “that book.” Admittedly, they are a little sheepish about buying the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer. But I don’t think it’s because it’s written for young adults. It’s because they love it so much. They can’t wait to read more about Edward and Jacob, who they are more than happy to talk about, at great length with other women in the store. One thing I particularly enjoy about these Twilightwomen is they tend to buy the whole series at one time. Sure, they tell daughters to wait, space out their purchases, save some money, and maybe even borrow from a friend. There’s none of that with the adults. No borrowing, no waiting for the book at the library, no, they need it, they need it now and they’re going to pay for their immediate gratification. And I love them for it.

Another book that has adults happily clutching it is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  A real page-turner of a dystopian adventure set in a future society that deals with larger themes that adults are really sinking their teeth into.  This is a challenging book to book talk, as on the surface it deals with kids killing kids at the behest of the government. Adults look askance when I say that, but then I put the book in their hands and say, “Read it. It’s so much more than that.” Again, adults are proving to be less patient than kids. I had a woman who was actually whining about the release date of the sequel. “I’ve got to wait until September?!”

Lastly, there is an anecdote I must share. One of my favorite customers comes in every Monday to get her books for the week. Jill is the most vital, active, and vibrant 78-year-old I’ve ever met. She is a well-rounded reader with eclectic tastes. Last week she was struggling to choose a book when she went to the young adult section. There she saw I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. She had read the book when she was 19 and remembered loving it. Well, she took it with her last weekend and was still beaming when she came in Monday to tell me about reading it again. She sat in the sun in an Adirondack chair with Beethoven on in the background and a glass of Merlot nearby. She read the book she first loved 60 years ago. “It was just marvelous. Marvelous.”
Posted by Josie Leavitt on April 22, 2009


Great YA book: Second book arriving in May March 5, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:36 pm
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Boy it feels good to be at home. The weather channel says it is 60 right not in Ohio, which as my son likes to point out, is a sign spring is coming! 


I started reading Gone by Michael Grant this past weekend to the exclusion of almost everything else (the exception was the laundry). I just got the normal weekend to-dos caught up today but I could NOT stop reading this book! I didn’t know it, but I guess I am a sucker for dystopian fiction. First Hunger Games, and now Gone.   

I was a “Goner” with the first paragraph,

“One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone.



In the blink of an eye, everyone fifteen and over disappear. Left behind (good thing he didn’t try to use that title) are the young: teens, preschoolers, and not a single adult. The reader is quickly pulled into the story as the hero Sam calms friends and strangers alike as the reality of the situation begins to sink in. Good  versus Evil, autism, supernatural powers. Somehow the book has it all in an action-packed book.   

A little of the television show Heroes, a little Lost,  a 558 page read that was over way too fast!

If you go to Amazon, DON’T watch the horrible book trailer. Go to your nearest Indy book seller and buy it there!

The book is the first of a six book series. Hunger is due out in May and the third is titled Lies (unknown publication date).  The author, Michael Grant, is married to Katherine Applegate (who some feel lost out on Newbery with her 2007 book Home of the Brave) and together they were the co-creators of Animorphs.


How had I not heard of Pete Hautman?? February 24, 2009

After hearing a rather depressing lecture from Johanna Hurwitz about the state of children’s book publishing (disguised as the history of publishing), I guess it should be no surprise to me that I had not heard of Pete Hautman until this past month.  As I learned yesterday that a book publisher has to pay Barnes & Noble $10,000 to have their new picture book displayed with the cover facing out, I guess I need to believe that there are lots of Pete Hautmans out there I haven’t heard of. In that case, boy are we the reader missing out.

During dinner the other night Pete Hautman alluded to something similar when we were discussing his books and marketing for new releases. It didn’t quite sink in until I heard Hurwitz present information about publishers and profits. 

I take pride in knowing authors and books for children and young adults.

Imagine how horrified I was when a friend asked me about a book her middle school son was reading for an upcoming author visit and I had not heard of the book or the author. I think it was a first for me. Imagine how much more horrified I was when I went home to pull up his name on the internet to learn that this particular author has more than 20 books out and more important than that, has won the National Book Award. What the heck? 

Maybe I can blame it on the post child baby brain when you are in survival mode and incapable of taking in your normal amounts of information. Yet his books are also starred reviews in School Library Journal. Hmmm. It must just be me.

I decided to do a little poking around. I remember how much buzz The Adoration of Jenna Fox got both before and after it came out. I happen to LOVE that book and think it got the buzz it deserved. 

But Invisible is an AMAZING book and it was nowhere on my radar as a book to read or recommend.  Thankfully there are great middle school teachers and librarians that knew his work. 

In a day when many of us work with, live, or encounter more and more people with forms of Aspbergers or mental illness, Invisible is a Must-Read.