Monday, March 31, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Alexandra Coutts

Hello readers!

47 days until TBF!! Have you guys been checking out the awesome book reviews from our Nazareth students? If you haven't you should definitely check them out! Over the weekend I had the pleasure of chatting to Alexandra Coutts, author of Tumble & Fall.

Miranda Reads:  Will there be a sequel to Tumble & Fall?

Alexandra Coutts: Nope! That was really important to me from the beginning, that it be a standalone book. Not to get too spoilery, but I feel like the characters did about as much growing as they had time for in this lifetime!

MR: Are you currently working on a new book?

AC: I am. It is tentatively titled “The Young Widows Club” and is about a 17-year-old runaway who marries her older boyfriend, and then he dies. (This all happens before the book starts, so again, no spoilers here!)

MR: What were your top 3 favorite books growing up?

AC: In order of the age I was when I read them: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis; Just as Long as We’re Together, by Judy Blume; and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. 

MR: One of your five fun facts says that you adopted a dog from Costa Rica. What's the dog's name? What kind of dog is he/she? What made you decide to adopt a dog from Costa Rica?

AC: I was traveling with my then-boyfriend (now-husband) Eliot around Costa Rica and there were just so many adorable little puppy strays. We fell in love with one -- she already had her name, Venga, which means “come here” in Spanish (ironic since she is always running away!) She is a medium sized, black and tan mutt, a very popular mixed breed in that part of the world. I always say that the hardest part about bringing a dog back from Costa Rica was finding a doggy travel bag for the airplane!

MR: Let's pretend you're on the talent competition show, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?

AC: Probably some kind of freaky-looking yoga pose. I am (borderline-disgustingly) flexible.

MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

AC: I know it’s a cop out to say all of them, but really: all of them! What an amazing line-up. I guess if you made me choose one I’d say Cecil Castelluci.  Beige was one of the first YA books I ever read (as an adult) and I’m really looking forward to reading her new one.

Thanks Alexandra! See you in May!

That's it for tonight, readers! Be sure to check the blog again for more author interviews and book reviews!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"The Future of Us" - Book Review

The Future of Us 
by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Hi TBF Readers!

My name is Danielle Manou and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College. I am working toward becoming a Literacy Specialist for students aged birth through sixth grade. I currently work as a substitute in my local school district and hope to get a permanent teaching position soon. I absolutely love to read, but the older I get, the less time I seem to have to read anything other than textbooks or articles for school! When I do find free time, I usually spend it using social media like Twitter or Facebook, rather than picking up a book to read. I even offer the excuse that using sites like Twitter and Facebook are equivalent to reading a book.

Coincidentally, as I scrolled through the book choices on the TBF website, reading through a few descriptions, my clear first choice happened to be "The Future of Us"  by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. I was drawn to the book because it centered around social media, with a major twist. While the main characters, Emma and Josh, struggled with their newfound ability to look into their futures I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to read the Facebook posts and look at the pictures of the ‘future’ me. Like the characters in the book, I think I would become addicted to checking my page for status updates and photographs, constantly wondering if I had affected my future in a negative or positive way with my actions each day. Unfortunately, I also wonder if I would allow it to consume my thoughts and interfere with my life in the present, especially my relationships. The relationship between Emma and Josh was dramatically affected by what they saw in their futures. While one of them is trying to maintain their marriage with one of the 'hottest' people in their high school, the other is trying to manipulate the little details in their present life to create a perfect future life. I found myself wishing I could just tell the characters what to do, rather than continue to read about them struggling!

Although the plot of the book is not very realistic (I have yet to meet someone who can see into the future) it proved to be a quick, enjoyable read and really got me thinking outside of the box. It also left me with many questions: 
  • How obsessed would we become with being able to change the future with our actions in the present? 
  • How much can one small decision alter the course of our lives years down the road? 
  • What would I want to see on my Facebook page fifteen years from now? 
  • If you could view the Facebook of the future you, would you do it, or choose not to?
I never expected to pick up "The Future of Us" and put it down with more questions than answers. I wonder if that was the intent of Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler - to force the reader to think about the book long after they have put it down.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post!

P.S. you might need to use google to look up some of the references made in this book! It was a serious blast from the past for me and reminded me of the internet and social media's measly beginnings back when I was a teenager (which wasn't even that long ago, but seems like it!).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interview with TBF Author: Joelle Charbonneau

Hey readers!

50 more days until TBF! Yay! I recently got a chance to chat to Joelle Charbonneau, author of The Testing series.

Miranda Reads: What was your inspiration for writing The Testing series?

Joelle Charbonneau: THE TESTING concept came out of my work with my voice students.  For years, I’ve worked closely with my private voice students as they navigate the testing, application and audition process required to be accepted into college.  The pressure on our high school students is greater than ever before. The need to be better and brighter than the other applicants has never been more keenly felt.  Students are hyper aware that every answer they give could impact the quality of their future. Some of my students handle the pressure better than others and it is never easy to see a student falter.  The teacher and parent in me can’t help but be worried that the benchmark of success has risen too high and that soon it will be more than our youth can handle.  The writer couldn’t help but wonder how much worse the process could become and what tests a future world might want to institute in order to select the next generation of leaders.  And thus The Testing was born.

MR: What made you decide to go from opera/theater to writing?

JC: I don't know that was a real decision. It just kind of happened. I was doing dinner theater here in Chicago when I had an idea for the first line of a book. I'd never done any writing outside of school, but I have always been a huge reader. So, on my days off I decided to see if I could write the book I had the idea for. I never dreamed that I would eventually be published or shift my story telling from the stage to the page. I just wanted to see if I could get to The End. That first book was terrible, but I was fascinated by the challenge of writing. Somehow along the way, I started performing less and writing more. I guess it goes to show you never know where life is going to take you.

MR: Pick one: living in the world of the Hunger Games or the world of Divergent?

JC: That seems like a trick question - do I get to pick where I live in those worlds? Regardless, I'm going for Hunger Games because while things are scary there, I think I might have a better chance of surviving there. I'd probably end up Factionless in Divergent and that doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun!

MR: One of your five fun facts says that you sang for President Clinton. That must have been quite the experience.

JC: I sang for him about 2 weeks after 9-11, which was both surreal and terrifying. I've sung in a lot of shows and for dozens of critics, but singing the National Anthem for a former president brings new meaning to the words stage fright. I was certain I was going to forget the words, especially when I saw him sitting ten feet away. Turns out, I remembered the words and got a chance to speak with President Clinton for a few minutes before the Secret Service whisked him away. 

MR: Let's pretend you're on the talent competition show, America's Got Talent. What talent would you perform?

JC: Um....I'm a professionally trained music theater and opera singer. People would expect me to sing something totally proper. So, I think I'd love to bust out some Adele and shock everyone by doing it well. (Of course, if I crash and burn that would defeat the purpose. Oh well!)

MR: What author are you most looking forward to meeting at the 9th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?

JC: Jay Asher! I gave Thirteen Reasons Why to my nephew for Christmas and am going to be a total rockstar in my nephew's eyes after I get to say I met him.

Thanks Joelle! See you in May!

That's all for today! Check back for more book reviews and author interviews!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cold Calls Goodreads giveaway!

Hey TBF readers!

I was browsing Goodreads, the Facebook for readers, and in the giveaway section is Charles Benoit's new YA novel, Cold Calls! So head on over to Goodreads to win one of 10 hardcovers of Cold Calls. The Goodreads giveaway ends April 20th. Please note that this giveaway is not through TBF. And while you're entering Charles's book giveaway why not sign up for Goodreads? It's free and you can follow all of your favorite authors like Cassandra Clare, David Levithan and more! Also  check out the Cold Calls book trailer!

Doesn't it look good or what?!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

My name is Lauren Herbert and I am a graduate student at Nazareth College. I've been a reader since I was little-with my best memories being my mom yelling at me to stop reading and go to bed. I'm sure some of you can relate to this. There's something about a really good book that gets even better when the house is silent at night. It almost feels like the characters are right there with you. One of those really good books to read under the covers with a flashlight is Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Originally, I chose this book because I heard such wonderful things about it. After buying Chains and reading it, I completely understood why everyone loved it! Laurie Halse Anderson paints a picture of slavery and freedom through the eyes of a young girl, Isabel, which makes the story not only heart-wrenching, but also believable and compelling. If you’re concerned about this being “another book about slavery,” don’t be! Chains is much more about Isabel’s search for courage, something we’ve all needed to find at some point in our lives.

Most importantly, Chains makes you wonder:

What would it be like to count down the days until freedom, only to be told that day would never come?
How would it feel to be ripped apart from your little sister, beaten, burned, and humiliated?
What would be harder: doing what you know is right or keeping quiet to stay alive?

Isabel knows these answers.

Isabel and her sister, Ruth, are supposed to be free. At least, that's what the woman they belonged to put in her will. Unfortunately, what dead people say means nothing to the living, especially when it dictates what slaves are allowed to do. Although Isabel and Ruth are so close to freedom they can taste it, they find themselves ripped from any promises made to live with their new owners-the Locktons.

As wealthy Loyalists living during the American Revolution, the Locktons keep their enemies close: pretending to be Patriots whenever the opportunity presents itself. Isabel is confused by this and finds the Locktons to be horrible people. She soon gives in to aiding the other side by feeding secret Loyalist information to her new friend, Curzon, who is a direct line to the Patriot troops.

Torn between her strong head and heavy heart, Isabel faces the challenges not only of a slave, but also as someone who wants to do what’s right.

When her sister suddenly disappears, Isabel stops caring about anyone else and focuses only on one thing: freedom. Follow her story. Fall in love with her determination. Believe the best things happen to good people...or do they?

-If you just finished the last book on your shelf and haven't a clue where to go next...find this book.
-If you love adventure, secrets, and deception...find this book.
-If history startles you, but also amazes you...find this book.

As you read, you will feel Isabel's pain, sadness, and hopelessness, but also her strength, joy, and unconditional hope. Follow Isabel's story just as she voyages “to the stars” (p. 104).

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Sisterhood, #1)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

By: Ann Brashares

       Hi everyone!  My name is Kelsey Lanphere and like many others who have posted to the blog, I am also a graduate student working on my Master’s degree in Literacy at Nazareth College.  I am currently certified to teach kindergarten through ninth grade, but my real love is teaching grades K-2.   When I heard that Ann Brashares was one of the authors who will be attending TBF in May, I knew that I had to tell other young adults about her books, specifically The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which was my favorite book when I was a young adult.
       I was first introduced to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when I was in sixth or seventh grade and I was immediately hooked by the story of four best friends who are faced with spending their first summer apart from each other.  Due to the fact that Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget are practically inseparable during the school year, they are not sure how they are going to deal with spending two months apart from each other.  What would you do if you had to spend a whole summer apart from your closest friends?  As fate would have it, the girls unexpectedly stumble upon an old pair of jeans that proves to be the glue that keeps them together throughout their summer apart.   
       With Lena traveling to visit her grandparents in Greece, Bridget going to soccer camp in Mexico, Carmen going to visit her father in South Carolina, and Tibby stuck at home with her younger siblings in Bethesda, Maryland, it is not like the girls are simply a phone call away from each other.  To stay connected, the girls decide that they will send the pants back and forth to each other throughout their summer apart.  The pants then become appropriately nicknamed “the Traveling Pants” and together the girls establish a list of rules that they must follow while wearing the pants (one rule being that the pants can never be washed!). 
       Even though it is the Traveling pants that help keep the girls connected throughout their first summer apart, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants tells a much deeper story than just four friends who send a pair of jeans to each other for two months.  During this summer, each of the four best friends experience some of the best moments and some of the worst moments of their lives while wearing the pants.  It is the strength that the girls get from wearing the pants that allows them to face both the good and bad things that the summer has in store for them.
       Read this incredible story of friendship to find out how a simple pair of jeans helps give four girls the strength and encouragement that they need when they are not together.  The best part about this book is that it does not end after the first summer! There are three other books in this series that continue to tell the story of Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget and how their friendship is strengthened by the Traveling Pants.  If you end up loving The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as much as I did, I know that you will not be able to stop after reading the first book! 

Sisterhood Books:
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood
Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood
Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cruise Control by Terry Trueman

Hello Readers,
My name is Mike Grasta, and I am currently getting my Masters degree in Literacy at Nazareth College. The certification that I hold allows me to teach grades 1-6, but my favorites are 4th and 5th grade. Although young adult literature is not a part of the curriculum in the grades that I teach, I believe it is important to know what today’s young adult literature is comprised of in order to best prepare my students to read it in the future.
When deciding which book to review, I tried to target a book that may have interested me when I was in my teens. I know that there are many students who do not always choose reading as their primary form of entertainment, and rather prefer physical activities. With these goals in mind, I chose the book Cruise Control by Terry Trueman. I saw the main character, Paul, as a relatable person for teen boys who are interested in playing sports, and are still finding themselves through experiences that teens frequently encounter.
Although the book is a sequel to Trueman’s novel Stuck in Neutral, your understanding of Cruise Control is not completely dependent on having read its predecessor. The story is told through the eyes of Paul, a phenomenal athlete who also excels in the classroom. Though Paul has a tremendous amount of success in the classroom and on the basketball court, he is struggling to keep his head above water at home. First, Paul’s brother Shawn is wheelchair bound and unable to communicate in any way. In addition, Paul’s father is absent, leaving him to be the man of the house with a mother, sister, and Shawn. The pressure associated with these circumstances lead Paul to a very angry and aggressive lifestyle that harvests the potential for him to make a violent, life-changing mistake.

As a reader who did not read Stuck in Neutral first, I suggest that you do to fully enjoy Cruise Control. I decided to read Stuck in Neutral after my completion of Cruise Control, and I am happy that I did. It felt as though Cruise Control was a novel that filled in gaps of understanding and detail for Stuck in Neutral. The characters were easy to relate to, however I believe that a full appreciation of the plot was only possible after having read Stuck in Neutral. Reading both novels helped me understand the multiple character perspectives that painted a much more detailed and enjoyable picture of the story of Shawn and Paul.

Book Review

Forever In Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood
By: Ann Brashares

        Hello, readers! My name is Kelsey Ryan and I am a graduate student studying Literacy at Nazareth College. I am a huge fan of the first three Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, and I was excited to find out that there is a fourth book in the series. I read the first three books of the series when I was in high school and enjoyed watching the movies that came out shortly after. Somehow, I lost track of the series until I recently became involved with the Teen Book Festival through one of my graduate courses.
I was eager to find out what was going on in the lives of the four best friends Lena, Carmen, Tibby, and Bridget. I wondered how the character’s lives had changed now that they were in college. Most of all, however, I could not wait to see what the fate of the pants would be.
Readers who are not familiar with the first three books in the series will still find themselves engaged in a story about love and friendship. Lena, Bridget, Carmen, and Tibby are four girls who have been best friends for as long as they can remember. In the first novel of the series, the girls are sophomores in high school and will be spending their first summer ever apart. While the girls all look different and have different interests, they stumble across a pair of pants that fit them all perfectly. They decide to create a schedule for mailing the pants to one another throughout the summer, along with a letter to keep each other updated. Throughout the series, this magical pair of pants keeps the girls connected.

In this forth and final edition, Forever In Blue, the girls find themselves in different places for the summer following their first year at college. The girls come to the realization that phone calls, emails, and the Traveling Pants are one of the only things holding their friendship together as it becomes more difficult for all of them to all be in the same place at the same time. As each character deals with their own struggles, they all must find ways to keep their friendships alive despite being so far apart. It takes a crisis in the end of the book to bring the girls together showing the strength and unbreakable bond of true friendship.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Trailer: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Check out the book trailer for Andrew Smith's newest novel Grasshopper Jungle -- on of the best books I've read in years!

Check back for a review of Grasshopper Jungle soon, and don't forget to read to read our interview with Andrew Smith too!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Beautiful Creatures Book Review

Beautiful Creatures

by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia

Book Review by Marsha O’Leary

Graduate Student at Nazareth College

 Genre: Fantasy
      “There were no surprises in Gatlin County. We were pretty much the
epicenter of nowhere. 
            At least, that’s what I thought, when I closed my battered copy of
Slaughter House – Five, clicked off     my iPod, and turned out the light
on the last night of summer.” (2).

Fans of the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling and the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer will love this tale of mortal versus immortal and the forbidden bonds of friendship and love found within the pages of Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I am personally a fan of all of the above. I am an eighth grade English teacher and graduate student in the Literacy program at Nazareth College and am already looking for ways I can tie Beautiful Creatures into my curriculum. Even as a graduate student, I have always been drawn in by books which involve magical and mythical elements. I was immediately captivated by the characters of Lena and Ethan and their journey to discover themselves and their strange bond to one another. As the story unfolds, so do the secrets embedded in each of their lives which keeps the reader in continued suspense of  how these secrets will affect Lena and Ethan’s growing relationship, and more importantly, their future.

Fifteen-year-old Lena just wants to be normal. At least as normal as any caster girl can be. New to the small southern town in Gatlin County, Lena is immediately treated like an outsider by the long-time residents. Lena attempts to go to the high school winter dance with her new friend Ethan, but because of Lena’s life as a caster, something goes dangerously awry.

After the death of his mother, and his father becoming more and more of a recluse, Ethan feels more stuck than ever until Lena Duchannes comes to live with her uncle in Gatlin County.  Ethan cannot explain his attraction and need to be with Lena. He has been dreaming about her since before her arrival in Gatlin County, but doesn’t understand why… yet.

As Lena’s sixteenth birthday approaches, the chaos begins to unfold in her family and her anxiety over her future as a caster and her relationship with Ethan reaches an unbearable level. Lena tries to sever the relationship between her and Ethan in order to protect him, but he chooses to stay and defend her no matter what, even if it means his own life will be hanging in the balance. Take this journey into a world where mortals unknowingly co-exist with beautiful, yet dangerous creatures and see what fate awaits Lena and Ethan.

Margaret Stohl is no stranger to the world of fantasy. Prior to writing Beautiful Creatures, she worked in the videogame industry. Some of her work included Spiderman, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow, and Spycraft as well as many other well-known videogame titles. Stohl co-wrote Beautiful Creatures with fellow writer Kami Garcia. Beautiful Creatures was the #1 Teen Pick from Amazon in 2009 and was an ALA William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalist in 2010. Since then, Stohl and Garcia have written several sequels to Beautiful Creatures, also known as the Caster Collection.

Fantasy, drama, and action all come together to create this exciting journey into the lives of Lena and Ethan. Once you read Beautiful Creatures, you will want more!

 The Caster Collection

·       Beautiful Creatures (2009)
·       Beautiful Darkness (2010)
·       Beautiful Chaos (2011)
·       Beautiful Redemption (2012)
·       Dream Dark – exclusively online (2011)

And coming very soon! - Dangerous Creatures May 20, 2014


Friday, March 7, 2014


Hey, readers! Want to win some TBF spending? From now until March 31st, you can enter to win one of three TBF certificates for the TBF table!! All you have to do is submit your TBF-related art on Instigram. Make sure to tag your posts with "teenbookfest" and use the hashtag "#TBF2014." We'll be choosing the winners at the end of the month and will email you so we can send you your prize. Winners will also be posted right here on the blog! You can create anything you want, as long as it's related to TBF -- here's an example of book spine poetry I made earlier.

We can't wait to see what you come up with!! :) Good luck!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Lady Kestrel is a Valorian. Her people are warlike and have conquered almost the whole known world, including Herran. She lives in a life of luxury and privilege as the general's daughter in Herran, with slaves to serve her every need. She has to choose (like all Valorian girls) whether to marry or join the army by her 17th birthday; but that isn't an easy choice for Kestrel, a cunning strategist and devoted musician. When she visits the market with her best friend, Kestrel finds herself at the slave market, and not much later, with a supposedly musical slave in her ownership. As the weeks go on, Arin, the new slave, and Kestrel begin to form a tentative friendship, but when violence erupts in Herran, they find their relationship stretched and ripped to the limits. Will they be able to find a way to mend their differences, or will they find themselves on opposite sides of an unbreachable divide?

I LOVED The Winner's Curse. I first thought it would be only a romance, but it's not only that. The Winner's Curse is a carefully crafted novel, combining intrigue with well-developed action and complex characters. The novel's world is really great too, and though it draws heavily on Roman history and culture, it distinctly has its own different, classic feel. The characters' interactions and personalities are also extremely real and believable, and they are by no means perfect people. Though the first 50 pages or so were a bit slow, the action picked up extremely quickly, and I could barely set the book down. This novel was AMAZING -- so awesome that I'm dying for the sequel, even though this one just came out yesterday. The Winner's Curse is a marvelous novel, and I know that if you give it a chance you'll love it!

Happy reading!

(Make sure to check out our interview with Marie Rutkoski!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Hello fellow bloggers!  My name is Nicole Swift and I am currently a graduate student at Nazareth College of Rochester; I am studying to become a Literacy Specialist for students aged birth through grade six.  To me, there is nothing more thrilling than reading a book that both captures your attention and forces you to question what you think you know about a topic.  Thankfully, Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why achieved both of these ends!
          While reading several plot summaries for the books by our TBF authors, I was immediately drawn to Jay Asher’s texts.  In particular, Thirteen Reasons Why grabbed my attention.  You might be asking “Why would a person be compelled to read a story about the suicide of a young girl?  Isn’t that a bit depressing?”  Have no fear; I too asked myself those same questions.  However, and here is where I defend my rationale, I was hooked with one word in the title: Why.  How often do we, as readers, get an insider’s perspective on why a deceased character made his or her decisions?  More often than not, we are given the perspectives of those who were affected by the passing of an individual, but we are often left guessing at the motives of the deceased character.  To put it simply, my own curiosity drove me to this book and I am thankful that it did.
                On the surface, this book serves as a sort of eulogy for Hannah Baker’s character.  In detail, Hannah reveals the events of her life that influenced her decision to commit suicide.  Hannah explains how such events, on their own, might not have pushed her to the point of no return, but when considered together, these events came to define her identity.  On a deeper level, this book speaks to the effects of our actions both seen and unseen.  Several of the recipients of Hannah’s tapes were under the impression that their actions were “no big deal” and Hannah was simply overreacting.  However, once aware of the inner struggle Hannah faced on a daily basis, these same characters were forced to reevaluate how their actions served as contributing factors.  This book is not only an account of one specific suicide, but draws attention to feelings that are often consistent across suicides.  Many people, similar to Hannah, experience bullying or feel a lack of compassion which forces them to question the value of their own lives.  Jay Asher draws attention to an important subject and forces the reader to wonder whether or not we can truly ever know someone’s most honest inner thoughts.  This book stirs up feelings of sympathy, pain and hope while leaving the reader to question: How can my actions make a positive difference?