Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter



All Fall Down
Ally Carter

Series: Embassy Row #1
Genre: YA Mystery Thriller
Hardback: 320 Pages
Publication: January 20, 2015
by Scholastic Press



Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.


Review

Nobody believes Grace about the cause of her mother’s death. Documentation officially claims that her mother's death is an accident. However, Grace's memories of the night of the fire include a man with a scar . . . murdering her mother.

The storyline is set the American Embassy in Adria, a nonexistent country in European. It is a place that is glamorous and dangerous at the same time. One wrong move can cause an international crisis. I enjoyed getting to know Embassy Row and the other countries.

I also love Grace. She is brave, stubborn, and determined to find the truth of her mother’s death. Her character is complicated. Though she doesn't trust people easily, she is desperate for someone to trust her. I feel for Grace; she has gone through a lot and continues to grow over the course of the novel.

Grace has a new group of friends waiting for her when she gets to Embassy Row. I like the friendship between Grace and Noah as well as the friendship that she develops with Megan and Rosie, who are always willing to risk everything to help her. We also meet Alexei, Grace’s older brother’s best friend and the son of the Russian Ambassador. I know that they all really care about Grace. Nevertheless, I would have love to learn more about all of them. They could have been developed more.

I enjoyed the mystery element of the story and the originality of the book's setting. I also really like how the emphasis is on the political tensions between the embassies. I am looking forward to see more information unravel and to find out what happens next for Grace in the next book.

An ARC was provided by Scholastic for review

Rating: 4 stars

Series
  1. All Fall Down
  2. See How They Run

Similar Books

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Movie Monday: Fury




Fury

Directed by: David Ayer
Genre: War
Running time: 134 minutes
Released: 2014
Produced by Le Grisbi Productions

In April 1945, the Allies are making their final push in the European theater. A battle-hardened Army sergeant named Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Brad Pitt), leading a Sherman tank and a five-man crew, undertakes a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Hopelessly outnumbered, outgunned and saddled with an inexperienced soldier (Logan Lerman) in their midst, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds as they move to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.


Review

Fury is an interesting war movie the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while. It does a great job at distinguishing itself from the plethora of World War II films. Fury focuses on a tank crew and plays on the evils of war. While this is an overdone concept in war films, the gritty undertone of the film really played on its action and themes and, combined with some exceptional acting, made for a great film.

The crew of the tank, Fury, is made up of battle-hardened veterans that have fought in Africa, France, Belgium, and presently Germany. Now mere weeks away from the end of World War II, the fighting is still going on as Hitler has resorted to total warfare, forcing everyone, including women and children, to put up a last ditch effort. The newest member of the crew is Norman Ellison, who has only been in the army for eight weeks. Though he joined the army as a typist, he is forced to take the place of the Fury’s bow gunner. Norman must shape up and become another battle-hardened soldier or put the entire crew of the Fury at risk as they undertake a suicide mission that puts them deep behind enemy lines.

Sgt. Don “Wardaddy” Collier, played by Brad Pitt, is the captain of the Fury. Pitt does a great job in his role. Wardaddy is a deep and complex character. On one hand, he is a hardened killer; on the other hand, he is a broken man suffering from trauma. He has forgotten the man he once was before the war and is willing to go to any lengths for his crew. However, Wardaddy acts as a father figure for Norman, partially for Norman’s sake and partially for his own sake to keep himself in touch with his humanity. In one scene, he forces the new recruit Norman to shoot a defenseless Nazi to shape him up as a soldier, yet in another scene, Wardaddy attempts to create a picture of civilization when he and Norman discover a German woman and her cousin hiding in an apartment. Instead of assaulting them, he gives them food, and they enjoy a short moment of peace with a short dance. These highlight the two sides of the character that is Wardaddy.

Overall, Fury is a great film. While its themes and its core identity are not the most original, as there are countless gritty war films detailing the horrors of war, Fury is very well made and the acting in it is incredible. I would recommend Fury strongly to any fans of war films.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Giveaway: Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

It's been a while since I hosted a follower giveaway. As thanks to y'all, I'm hosting another giveaway of Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom (because this author is that awesome)!

This one is US only, but I'll be hosting an international giveaway sometime in the near future. Keep your eyes open for that one because there'll be some great prizes!


Book Synopsis

Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can't "write what she knows" because she hasn't yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.

Soon Eva's life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp—a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they've even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer's blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell, Don't Ever Change is a witty, snarky, and thought-provoking coming-of-age young adult novel about a teen who sets out to write better fiction and, ultimately, discovers the truth about herself.


Giveaway

1 Hardcopy of Don't Ever Change
Open to the US only

Giveaway ends 7/31

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Raising Books For High School Students in Oakcliff

Hey everyone!

It's been a while since I last posted something more than a promo post - for good reason. The past seven weeks, I have been at teacher camp. This past January, I received and accepted an offer to join Teach For America. Teach For America is an organization that builds leaders out of teachers and places them in low-income neighborhoods to create transformational change in students' lives. As my teacher coach eloquently puts it, we are an army united in the fight against educational inequity. This fall, I will be starting my fight in Oakcliff as a Dallas ISD teacher.

A picture of me and my HS ELAR team

The reason that I am here is because I've had great teachers that encouraged me to follow my passions, and I want to do the same for the next generation. (That's the short of it; the rest is for another post.)

My vision as a teacher is to create a classroom culture in which my students feel empowered to speak up and share their stories. I want them to know that their opinions, and they themselves, are valued and that they have the power to pursue their dreams. I want them to know that they aren't in the classroom just to pass a test or to listen to their teacher preach. More than that, they are here to receive an education that will positively influence their lives outside of the classroom and empower them in their everyday lives.

One of the ways I plan to bring this vision to fruition is to promote a classroom culture that encourages students to read. Many, if not most, of my students will be coming into my class at a sixth grade reading level. My goal is to graduate them from my class with two years of reading growth.

In order to help them grow as readers, I want to create a classroom library. While I have some books that I can bring to my class, I've given away a lot of my books, and I don't have many duplicates. I want to create a classroom library for students to check out books (this doesn't require duplicates), but I also want to create classroom sets of books for students to read in groups. My vision is to hold a reading circle time once a week during which students read in groups of 5-6 students. Each group will read a different book, allowing students freedom to choose to read a book that interests them. A book that they consider relevant and relatable. I will have questions prepared ahead of time that they can discuss in their groups.

Some books that I'm interested in creating classroom sets of:
  1. Divergent by Veronic Roth
  2. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  5. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  6. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
  7. Books from this list

If you have any teen reads that you would be willing to donate (and they do not have to be from this list - I'm open to recommendations for my classroom library!), please send me an email. I appreciate any contribution you can make. If you have classroom supplies, book/inspirational quotes posters, or anything else that might help, I am also in need of those. Book swag is also appreciated as prizes for when students do well in class - again, I want to build a classroom culture that encourages students to read.

If you don't have any books or book swag to donate, or if you want to contribute further, I've created a Go Fund Me page for my classroom. You can also read more about my vision and goals for my students there. I would appreciate it if you shared this page - and this blog post - with your friends!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I appreciate y'all so much for following my blog and for all you do to make the world a better place. This blog, and the lives of the people that you touch, wouldn't be the same without you!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Giveaway: Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom



Don't Ever Change
by M. Beth Bloom
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: July 7th 2015

Synopsis:

Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic—one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can't "write what she knows" because she hasn't yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.

Soon Eva's life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp—a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they've even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer's blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell,Don't Ever Change is a witty, snarky, and thought-provoking coming-of-age young adult novel about a teen who sets out to write better fiction and, ultimately, discovers the truth about herself.


INTERNATIONAL



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M. Beth Bloom is a novelist and a screenwriter. Her fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly and Dave Eggers's Best American Nonrequired Reading series. She is also the author of Drain You. M. Beth lives in Los Angeles.



Friday, July 3, 2015

Review: For Your Love by Beverly Jenkins



For Your Love
Beverly Jenkins

Series: Blessings #6
Genre: Historical RomanceWomen's Fiction
Hardback: 304 Pages
Publication: April 28 2015
by William Morrow & Company



Return to Henry Adams, Kansas--an unforgettable place anyone would want to call home. . . .

Mayor Trent July and his wife, Lily, are enjoying life as newlyweds and embracing the challenges and joys that come with being adoptive parents to two wonderful boys. But fatherhood has inevitably forced Trent to think about his own birth mother.

Raised by his grandmother Tamar--and, in many ways, the good people of Henry Adams--Trent was blessed with a childhood full of love. But he can't help wondering what happened to the scared teenage girl who gave birth to him. And questions that he's never voiced are now begging to be answered: Who was she? Is she still alive? Why didn't she want him?

Trent has always believed that no good comes from dwelling on the past, especially when you have a loving family, a strong community, and folks who depend on you. But when the past comes to Henry Adams, Trent has no choice but to face it--and the woman who left him behind. The truth will shake his very being and everything he thought he knew about life, love, and the bonds that hold families together . . . but can also tear them apart.


My Thoughts

I've heard wonderful things about Beverly Jenkins and have been so excited for For You Love. I was supposed to review this for today, but I'm in the middle of Teach For America summer institute. Life has been really busy, but it has never been so fulfilling. I'll write a post on it soon. For now, if you read For Your Love, I would love to hear your thoughts on it!




About the Author

Beverly Jenkins is the nation's premier writer of African American historical romance fiction and specializes in 19th century African American life. The author of thirty novels, she has received numerous awards has been featured in many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, People, the Dallas Morning News, and Vibe. She has also lectured and given talks at such prestigious universities and speaks widely on both romance and 19th century African-American history.

Connect with Beverly
Website | GoodreadsFacebook



This post was made as part of the TLC Book Tour for For Your Love
Click here to see the full tour schedule