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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Review: Insatiable

Author: Meg Cabot

Genre: Paranormal
Release date: UK Paperback 21st June 2012
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Harper Voyager
ISBN: 978-0007462124


Insatiable is a comic paranormal romance with a satiric twist.

Meena Harper has a sixth sense. She can tell when you’re going to die just by looking at you. Maybe that’s why she has a knack for writing dialogue for a soap-opera. She sees too much melodrama. At beginning of the story Meena is desperate to find out if she got the promotion she’s been after. But when it is given to a lazy, good-for-nothing co-worker, things start to go downhill fast. Suddenly, there’s a new storyline for the show – and it’s all about vampires. Meena thinks the whole thing is a crock. She doesn’t even believe in vampires.

Meanwhile Lucien Antonescu has to leave his job as a university professor in Bucharest and travel to New York because three bodies have turned up drained of blood. A vampire is on the loose and it threatens everything Lucien has worked so hard to control.

This is a comical novel. It’s full of humour about vampires and people who go crazy over them. So I guess this novel is partly a social commentary. For the first half I found it really funny and engaging. I didn’t mind the tongue-in-cheekiness. But as the book went on, I was bored. Lucien just bored me. And Meena’s reaction to him bored me. I finished the book but I didn’t really care what the ending would be. I’m surprised because I’ve enjoyed the other Meg Cabot novels that I’ve read. I think this book was too long. Some of Lucien’s dialogue went on too long. I just don’t think I got him. I’m not sure if that is the point of the book.

I’m left feeling confused and uninspired to read any more of this series. Insatiable was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe I’ll stick to Meg Cabot’s realism novels in future.

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Bookette's Guide to... Popular Books This Term

Here are the fiction books that topped the charts in my school library this term:

#1 being the most popular book in my school library since January 2013

Boys 8 - 12

  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (the whole series)
  2. Scream Street by Tommy Donbavand (the whole series)
  3. Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce (the whole series)
  4. Atomic: The Madness of Madame Malice by Guy Bass
  5. Atomic: The Vegeance of Vinister Vile by Guy Bass
  6. Monster Madness by Guy Bass
  7. Ratburger by david Walliams
  8. Tom Gates by Liz Pichon (the whole series)
  9. Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (the whole series)
  10. Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
The good news is that the Wimpy Kid books aren't being borrowed as much as they were. They've all read the new one and now they are trying other things. Interesting that Guy Bass features three times. I organised for him to do an author performance in February and the pupils loved it!

Girls 8 - 12
  1. Ratburger by David Walliams
  2. Amazing Esme and the Sweetshop Circus
  3. Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson
  4. Gangsta Granny by David Walliams
  5. Emerald Star by Jacqueline Wilson
  6. A Medal for Leroy by Michael Morpurgo
  7. Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell
  8. Secret Santa: Agent of Xmas by Guy Bass
  9. Who Could That Be At This Hour? by Lemony Snicket
  10. Tom Gates by Liz Pichon (the whole series)
What a great mix - mysteries, realism, comedy. Fantastic! I want to read the new Lemony Snicket book myself but it's never in stock...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Review: The Great Unexpected

Author: Sharon Creech

Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Target audience: 9+
Release date: 1st November 2012
UK Publisher: Andersen Press
ISBN: 978-1849390927


The Great Unexpected is a contemporary story of friendship, loss, first love and life’s wonderful mysteries.

Naomi has never liked the unexpected. She’s always felt there was something terrible about it. She lives with Nula and Joe in the town of Blackbird Tree. She has a best friend called Lizzie. Lizzie is known for her constant talking and asking of questions. She sings a lot too. They live a happy, outdoorsy life and though both Naomi and Lizzie have no biological parents, they are loved. At the very beginning of the story, a boy falls from a tree. Something most unexpected and he is a catalyst for many strange happenings.

Meanwhile, there is another story unfolding alongside this one. Mrs Kavannagh across the ocean in Ireland is plotting her revenge. She has rather a fondness for murder and so the author plays with our expectations about this.

I really enjoyed this book. It was full of quirkiness. Immediately you get a sense of Sharon Creech’s voice – it’s a kooky, it’s imaginative and it’s heartfelt too. Her way of playing with words is wonderful. You can tell that she thinks about how the words sound next to each other – like poetry. And this lyrical magical style really suited the story too. It’s undoubtedly a real life story and yet there were hints of the fantastical there – a witch, fairy rings, the mystical wind and something like a miracle too.

I did find that when the story switched to Ireland, I got lost. My concentration lapsed and I lost what was happening. I had to put the book down and come back to it. But that is no bad thing; sometimes a book should be read a little more slowly. It gives you time to ponder the big questions.

I also loved that the author left some things unexplained at the end. The reader was left to make up their own mind about the question at the heart of the book – what is real?

This was a joy to read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. My student book group are reading this and they are all raving about it. The Great Unexpected is an utterly charming and rewarding read.

Recommended for fans of:

Discussion Questions can be found on Sharon Creech’s website. Just click here: http://www.sharoncreech.com/teach-creech

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Review: He Forgot to Say Goodbye

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Release date: US March 2010
Genre: Realism, Bildungsroman
Target audience: 12+, YA
US Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1416994343


He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a contemporary novel about friendship, relationships and self-discovery.

Ramiro Lopez lives in El Paso, Texas. He goes to a pre-med magnet high school. But it’s not the sort of school where nice white rich kids go. They go to the school next door. Jake Upthegrove is one of the nice rich kids but he’s anything but happy.

I read this book because I really enjoyed another book by the author - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. They share many similar themes – young men finding their place in the world and deciding the type of men they would like to become. Ramiro thinks of himself as uncool and in social terms pretty much a loser. He has one great friend who he grew up with: Alejandra. She’s outspoken, she has opinions about everything, especially Ram. She thinks he’s cute and has been on at him to date her for ages. But Ram doesn’t see her that way. He sees her as a good person and a maybe a little bit overindulged by her father.

Jake is lost. He has no real friends. He pushes people away and though he has a sort of superiority complex around the students at school. He thinks they’re all unreal. I guess he thinks that they don’t think for themselves. But he admires Ram. To Jake Ram is the most real person he’s ever met. To Ram Jake is so sure of himself.

Most of the novel focuses on the events leading up to their friendship and the difficulties each faces in their life. They are connected by their absent fathers. Ram idolises his father, though he knows very little about him. Jake did idealise his father until they spoke and now he’s just left with a hatred of his surname and the challenge of living with his mother and his stepfather. On the outside Jake’s spoilt lifestyle may seem perfect but inside Jake is angry. The reasons why slowly unfold.

I love that the author doesn’t take the easy way out in his writing. He writes about difficult things. About how our parents aren’t perfect and the fact that we have to accept that and find a way to be better. About the consequences of substance abuse. About prejudice. About love.

He Forgot to Say Goodbye is a realistic portrayal of teenage experience – that which is not easy but which has the potential to be wonderful. A book worth reading.

Recommended for fans of:
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • Catch by Will Leitch

Source: Bought and read on my Kobo

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Release date:  21st February 2012
Genre: Bildungsroman, Realism
Target audience: YA, 12+
US Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0892-0


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a coming of age story set in El Paso, Texas in the late 1980s. It’s a story of a fifteen year old boy who wants to find out who he is but doesn’t really know where to start. I’m more than a little bit in love with this book. It’s almost divine.

Aristotle, known generally as Ari, is miserable. Its summer and he doesn’t have any friends. He’s the sort of character who chooses to be aloof and distant from people. He doesn’t seem to want any friends. But one morning he goes swimming and meets Dante Quintana. Dante offers to teach Ari to swim and perhaps because they share “weighty” names or perhaps because of Dante’s laugh, Ari accepts. It’s the beginning of a friendship which fills the book.

There is drama in this book. Great big, undeniably huge plot turns. I don’t want to give too much away about those but for a book which is essentially about getting to the heart of a character, it really does surprise you with action. That being so, it is a reflective book. Ari succumbs to bouts of melancholy. He’s in limbo. He’s no longer a boy but not yet a man. He lacks control of in life – his mother is often telling him what he should be doing. He still has to go to school and at a later stage he gets a job. He’s also divided by cultures – he’s Mexican living in America and although Ari feels he is truly Mexican, Dante is constantly seeking to be more so.

This novel is in part about growing into the person you want to be or rather realising who you are and being happy about it. But it’s also about communication. Ari’s father is a war veteran and keeps his son at a painful distance. Ari desperately wants to know more about his father and to share his pain. Ari also wants to speak about his older brother who is not around. But neither his mother nor father is willing to do so. In contrast to this fragile code of silence, is Dante. Dante who never shuts up, who is stubborn as hell, who lives with his heart on his face, who is impulsive and wonderfully alive.The relationship between the two boys is touching. It’s complicated but it’s meaningful.

The chapters of this book are really short. I read this book in two days and I am so glad that I bought it. The title captured my attention and it won an award in the US recently so I figured it was worth taking a chance on it. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a rewarding, heart-warming read. The writing is exquisite. Yes, I am definitely more than a little in love with this book. I can’t wait to read something else by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Recommended for fans of:

Source: Bought from Amazon

Monday, 4 March 2013

Thursday 7th March: WORLD BOOK DAY

World Book Day is fast approaching and I thought I’d let you know what we’ll be doing in the school library to celebrate this year. 

The Biggest book Show on Earth
We’ll be watching a live show streamed over the internet featuring some of Britain’s best loved authors. It starts at 11.05 and you can register to watch wherever you are too. Just click on the link: http://worldbookday.streamuk.com/

Open Mic
At lunchtime for KS2 pupils, we are having our first ever library Open Mic. I’ve asked pupils to come along with a poem or a joke to entertain us with. There's been a huge response to this one.

Book Charades
At lunchtime with KS3 pupils, we will be playing book charades. I expect lots of noise and all out mayhem in the name of books!

Myths and Legends
Staff and pupils will be dressed up as their favourite mythical character. I am going to be Maid Marion. I was Robin Hood last year!

Don’t forget the tokens
Every student will get their £1 token to spend in a bookshop of their choice.

However you spend Thursday 7th March, I hope you enjoy it and tell someone about the great book you’re reading.