Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I picked up Lucy Christopher’s Stolen after reading Kate Messner’s rave review.

A psychological thriller, this is not a book to pick up unless you are ready to sit down and read it straight through.  Sixteen-year old Gemma is in the Bangkok airport with her parents when she meets a man who seems to actually listen to her.  However, things are not as they seem.  Ty is rugged, strangely handsome, too old for her,  and oddly familiar.  He pays for Gemma’s drink. And drugs it. They talk. Their hands touch. And before Gemma knows what’s happening, Ty takes her.  In and out of consciousness for an unknown amount of time, she finally wakes up in a house, with Ty.  She eventually figures out that the house is in the middle of the Australian Outback, hours or even days from the closest town.  And Ty  loves her. Wants her. Only her.  She is held prisoner with no chance of escape.

The story is incredible.  I was constantly on the edge of my seat as I read.  However, the writing style jarred me at times.  Written as a letter to her captor, Gemma constantly refers to Ty as “you”. This use of second-person was constantly pulling me out of the story as I had to consciously focus on you=Ty.  It’s not often that “you” is used in a novel, and when it is it usually refers to the reader, a la Lemony Snicket’s books.  However, other than this small personal issue, I loved the book.

Readers should be aware that this isn’t an action-packed story.  Much of the day-to-day storytelling is mundane.  However, it’s the emotional journey that draws you in.  Gemma isn’t ever really sure how she feels, and you are right there with her. The ending is left open, and while this usually annoys me, I was glad to see it in this book.  This isn’t a story you can wrap up neatly at the end.  Once the story was over I found myself still thinking about it.

Perfect for fans of TV crime shows, mysteries, and realistic fiction.  Highly recommended for high school classrooms/libraries.

*review copy courtesy of publisher

Book Event in NYC!

So sad that I can’t make it to this event, but hopefully you can!

Courtney Sheinmel and Regan Hofmann at at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South (20th St. between Park & Irving Place), New York City on Tuesday, Oct 12th, 8 p.m, for a reading/discussion/signing.


Reading, Discussion & Booksigning.  Authors Regan Hofmann and Courtney Sheinmel share stories of hope, redemption and the liberating power of the written word.  In 1996, Regan Hofmann became an unexpected symbol of HIV:  a young, well-to-do, white woman.  For a decade she kept her status secret.  But Regan, a journalist by trade, knows secrets and stigma can kill, and sharing personal truths can unite people and save lives.  In 2006, she became editor-in-chief of POZ Magazine, putting herself on the cover.  Her memoir, I Have Something to Tell You, chronicles her journey, and was praised by Kenneth Cole as “insightful and inspiring.”  Young adult author Courtney Sheinmel was thirteen years old when she began volunteering for the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, after reading an article about Foundation co-founder Elizabeth Glaser.  Courtney’s critically-acclaimed novel, Positively, follows a seventh grader living with HIV and was hailed by Publishers Weeklyas “wrenchingly authentic and quietly powerful.”  The book was inspired, in part, by her relationship with the Glaser family.  She’s also the author of My So-Called FamilySincerely, and the upcoming All the Things You Are.

I have read and loved all of Courtney’s books (Positively, My So-Called Family).  A few months ago we connected on Twitter because we both have experience with Elizabeth Glaser.  Courtney is extremely involved in the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and I performed Glaser’s famous speech from the 1992 Democratic Convention when I was on my middle school forensics team.  I so wish I could make it to this event, but it’s too difficult on a weekday.  I’m just too exhausted lately!  But you should go and tell me all about it!

Pictures and video of Regan and Courtney speaking together in January at Housing works.

Nonfiction Monday and the Cybils

I am so very excited to announce on this Nonfiction Monday that I am back with the Cybil Awards this year!  Ah, but this time I have stepped out of my comfort zone- middle grade fiction- and I am jumping headfirst into the MG/YA Nonfiction Panel. I am thrilled to be working with some fantastic teachers, authors, librarians, and much more for the first round.

Courtesy of the Cybils blog, check out my amazing category!

Panel Organizer: Susan Thomsen, Chicken Spaghetti [TW]

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Karen Ball, Mrs. B’s Favorites
Sarah Mulhern Gross, The Reading Zone [TW]
David Judge, Adventures at Wilder Farm
Jessica Leader, Jessica Leader [TW]
Susan Thomsen (see category organizer)

Judges (Round II):

Edi Campbell, Crazy Quilts [TW]
René Colato LaínezLa Bloga [TW]
David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy [TW]
Colleen Mondor, Chasing RayBookslut [TW]
Sandhya Nankani, Literary SafariSepia Mutiny [TW]

October 1st the nominations open and I can not wait!

Speak Loudly

This week, Wesley Scroggins,an associate professor of management at Missouri State University (and fundamentalist Christian), wrote an opinion piece in the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, in which he characterized Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak as filthy and immoral, calling it “soft pornography” because of two rape scenes. He is demanding that Speak, along with a few other books, immediately be pulled from the district.  This leaves me infuriated.

Melinda Sordino is one of my all-time favorite YA characters.  I can still remember the first time I got a copy of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. My aunt was a seventh grade language arts teacher at the time and she used to hand books to me on a weekly basis. One of those books was Speak. I was immediately drawn to the cover and remember that I read it, from cover to cover, that night. I was only in junior high, but I knew this was an extremely powerful book.

Six years later, as a freshman in college, I volunteered with my campus’s Sexual Assault Services. I still remembered Melinda, even though I hadn’t read the book in years. For the next two years I saw real-life Melindas. I also saw the other characters in her life- her classmates. I was a part of SCREAM (Students Challenging Reality and Educating Against Myths ), a group which uses improv and theater to address interpersonal violence. This involves issues such as harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, emotional, physical, and verbal abuse, and same-sex violence. Most of the skits I was involved with centered around dating violence and sexual assault. I will never forget performing for various high schools around the state, watching their faces during the performance and listening to the questions those students asked at the end of the performance. Not every high schooler has access to something like SCREAM Theater. But EVERY adolescent should have access to Speak.

Why?  Take a look at these statistics, courtesy of RAINN.

  • Every two minutes someone in the United States is a victim of sexual assault.
  • 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.
  • 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.
  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.
  • 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.
  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

Victims of sexual assault are:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

How DARE Mr. Scroggins characterize Speak, an important and vital book for YA readers, as filth?  Apparently he is unaware that young readers can actually be the victims of horrible things like sexual assault.  In fact, as Jordan Sonnenblick once said, there are children everywhere experiencing things everyday that we won’t let them read about.  Mr. Scroggins, Speak might not be right for you or your child.  But it could be life-saving for a teen out there.  You have every right in the world to keep your own children from reading the book, but stay the hell away from everyone else’s children.

There has been an outpouring of rage on Twitter and book blogs.Authors are stepping forward in defense of Speak, as are readers (both teen and adult).  Check out the #SpeakLoudly hashtag on Twitter for hundreds of responses.  At 8pm there will be a live tweet of #SpeakLoudly.  Do your part and Speak Loudly!  Speak up and speak loudly.

Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Vordak T. Incomprehensible

Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World is a rip-roaringly hysterical book that I would hand to fans of anything remotely funny. I am passing this one on to my sister to share with her high school resource English class. Talk about high interest!

You have to read this book prepared to go, “Muaaahhaaahaaa!” all the while. Vordak the Incomprehensible is here to teach you how to be an evil villain. Thanks to Vordak, you can learn how to choose the best evil villain name, how to choose the best sidekick/evil henchman, and how to deal with those pesky and perky superheroes. The book is also full of wickedly funny illustrations to help you out in your quest for super evildom. And the best part is that Vordak only asks for $13.99 (the price of the book), and a place in your evil regime. You know, when you take over world. (Hmm, come to think of it, how come Vordak is asking YOU to do all the work while he hangs out in his parents’ basement in NJ).

Highly recommended for middle school and high school readers. I found myself laughing out loud over and over!

Cybils Bling!

The Cybils are coming!  The Cybils are coming!

We are almost in October.  In my mind, October means one thing, and one thing only- Cybils nominations. 🙂  But right now, you can support the Cybils by getting your own Cybils bling.  Check out their store.  I know I will be placing an order this week.  Maybe a tote bag.  Or maybe a mug?  I can’t decide!  Whatever I decide on, you should check out the store, too.

Cybils store 🙂

Edmodo in the Classroom

Earlier this week I set up my first Edmodo page.  I first heard of the site over the summer and decided to give it a shot this year.  I used a blog for my class last year, but it sounded like Edmodo could give me a little more flexibility.  I admit it had a bit of a learning curve, but after playing around for a bit I realized it is fairly intuitive.  I quickly set up two groups, one for my English I and one for English IV.

So far, I have only introduced the site to my seniors.  Before diving in head-on, I wanted to run a test and my senior class is pretty small.  I figured they would be the perfect test subjects.  As all of my students receive an email address through the school, I assigned the Edmodo sign-up as homework this weekend.  So far, 2/3 of my students have logged in and signed up.

Right now, my page is hosting our class assignments, including files.  I love love love that I can upload files and let the students download them at their leisure.  This allows me to save paper, which I adore.  I can also post all the files in one assignment note, making it easy for students to keep track of the work for each assignment.  Plus, now no one has to ask me for extra copies-they are right there on the web!

I also posted a link to our Goodreads group and an assignment to join our private group.  I have to tell you, it is so much easier posting all of this online instead of writing on a HW board at school!

So, do you use Edmodo?  Any tips or tricks?  Any cool ideas I should try?  I am planning an attempt to use it as a backchannel while we watch a film later this marking period, but otherwise I am tapped out.  I’d love to hear from other users!