Monday, December 30, 2013

Pizza, Love and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams

Henry Holt and Co, 2012

 Sophie Nicolaides has grown up around food. As the daughter of an Greek father and Italian mother, she knows all the flavors, even the ones in between. Every night she goes to her dad’s restaurant to help out with folding napkins and silverware, but her best days are when she’s helping in the kitchen.

 Sophie is resigned to a life of her family’s restaurant, only dreaming of what opportunities are available after she graduates. Until then, she’s content to hang out with her best friend Alex, even though he’s more family than friend. Well, maybe not family either…when he comes to the house or restaurant, Sophie feels butterflies in her stomach. She can’t stand the girls that flirt with Alex. She, well, she likes him more than a friend even if she won’t tell him. It’s another one of her dreams she can dream about.

 But one day, Alex comes in to the restaurant and rocks Sophie’s world. A popular food network is accepting applications for a new reality television series called Teen Test Kitchen, where teen contestants around the country will vie for a top spot, which includes a scholarship and an opportunity to attend the most prestigious culinary school. Sophie doesn’t think she’ll even try out, but with the excitement Alex creates makes her go for it. With her cooking her best lamb dish, Sophie makes it to the challenge and is off to California to compete. It’s her first time away from home, and she’s not quite sure what to expect.

 Being in a reality show and away from home is more than what Sophie bargains for. The competition is cut-throat, a good looking French student is attracting her attention, making her question her relationships, and a long-lost aunt that will reconnect Sophie to her mother, who died when Sophie was younger.

 Kathryn Williams writes a light romance for teens that creates balance between Sophie’s story and the side stories of the other contestants and characters in the book that are part of Sophie’s world. From her Italian father to the handsome and suave French student, Williams puts in more than enough flair to make this book come alive. It looks at the bright and dark side of reality television as well as all types of teens from around the country, including everyone from a California blonde to the Madison Avenue trust fund guy.
     Williams intersperses her narrative with authentic recipes readers can try out and this also makes this book stand out from other romance novels. Give this to readers who can’t get enough romance in their lives.

Paired non-fiction reading: any cookbook (of course) but also Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild and Wonderful Foods or Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes.

If you like this, then you’ll like… anything written by author Siobhan Vivian and Maureen Johnson’s Girl at Sea or Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes.

Publisher book trailer:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Twinkle Tech! Four webtools that can transform the paperless classroom!

I was introduced to many of these sites via PLNs and colleagues and was intrigued with the possibilities and potential they had. These are one to definitely keep in mind as solid educational webtools! Includes a description and suggested curriculum tie-ins.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Curated Booklist/Booktrailer Using Thinglink

Here's my first project created through a culmination of the most recent books I've read and enjoyed.  The icons have cool book trailers or publisher/author sites.  I really like this tool!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

Simon and Schuster, 2013

London lives in a broken home with broken people.  Her father isn't at home much and their longest conversations are usually one sentence long.  It's still better than her mother.  She hasn't talked, or even acknowledged London, since the accident.  She hides in her room and if they are in the same room together, the avoidance hangs in the air like a heavy curtain.  London can no longer count on her best friend, her brother Zach, to help out.  He's gone too....

Since the accident, London's life has turned upside down.  The whispers in the school halls are filled with conversation and gossip that London was to blame for Zach's death.  Her best friend Heather can't be around her anymore and their friendship disappeared.  Rachel, Zach's girlfriend, left town and won't even take a call from her.  London had to leave Taylor, her boyfriend and Zach's best friend, because he constantly brought back memories she couldn't deal with.  Now, she's created a warm cocoon, keeping her safe and distant from everyone.  The only thing that keeps her company these days is her one-sided conversations with her brother and the depression that follows.

Then Jesse and Lili move from Utah to Florida, bringing with them the hope of a new start for London...

Lili doesn't know what's happened.  She finds London and begins to start a friendship with her, not really knowing that London is just playing the role.  But Lili doesn't give up and slowly but surely, a layer of the cocoon is torn away.

Jesse is the mysterious, new guy in school that makes London's heart skip a beat.  He's safe....for now.  And alternately, he notices London as well, even though her ex-best friend linked up with him.  London needs someone strong that can listen without passing judgement...someone other than Taylor. And another layer peels away...

But one penultimate day, the cocoon is stripped away, laying bare London's feelings not only for her parents, but for those she knew in her past and present life.  More than that, it forces London to realize and look at the truth of what happened to Zach and ultimately, her role in his death.

A beautiful and haunting novel in verse, Williams deftly creates a world around a tragic event that slowly crumbles into an avalanche, and the reader gets first row invitations to watch it happen.  Williams also uses an infected family nucleus, and more importantly, a simple teenager taken to the brink, to stop the avalanche, which gives this book an authentic foundation.  What made the family fall apart is the lure Williams uses, not allowing the reader the full story until the end, although enough hints are written throughout the novel to give them a curious sense of knowing what it could be.  Hand this book to those teens who enjoy reading a powerful novel in verse about family, loss and love.
Recommended for upper JH/HS.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Twitter 2013: My Year in Review

I love Twitter for one HUGE reason - I learn everyday from it.  There are some amazing people I follow that have shared so much!  It's hard to keep up with everything on my Twitterfeed, but that's why there's the handy dandy favorites!  When I see a link that I need to investigate further, a quote that means a lot to me, or a picture that sparks interest, I put it in my favorites.  So here are some of my most favorites on Twitter:

1 Dec
RT: : 8 Types Of Infographics & Which One To Use When [Infographic]

26 Nov

Thank you for keeping up w/book series in an easy search format! you guys ROCK! 

Great job! RT : For open house tonight

5 Good Places for Students to Find Public Domain Images

MT On my to-do list!Via@sue_fitz: RT:15 Cool Ways Libraries Can Use Vine to Create Social Videos from

Curious about YA historical fiction? Kim's genre guide and extensive reading list

Two Awesome Presentations on Digital Literacy for Teachers  

A2 I have students that read all day and are no better for it. I can read a French novel, that doesn't make me fluent in French. 

Educators take note The ultimate list of free stock photo sites for elearning

A great first sentence is a hot recipe for book love :-D 

I don't know if you are aware, but a couple great chats... 7-8 pm Tues., and 8-9 pm Wed. GREAT stuff!

We need to go to you as librarians first. Shame on us for forgetting. You are part of the viable curriculum! 

: The power of online collaboration....Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir - 'Lux Aurumque'

lecture in the 14th century. Look at the engagement of the last row...

I feel_______. You feel in the blank.

50 Terrific Twitter Feeds for School Librarians - Best Colleges Online via

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Inhuman by Kat Falls (Fetch #1)

2013, Scholastic

The United States is divided...not by politics or beliefs, but by those infected and those that test clean...

Lane lives on the western side of the Wall, where she and her friends wonder about the other side, known as the Feral Zone.  There is all kinds of speculation about it and more rumors than truth.  It's also not only hers, but everyone's, greatest fear to become infected. 

The Ferae Naturae virus starts slowly, with fever and the body going hot.  The second phase is the slow evolution of into a feral, a creature that is both human and animal.  This phase could last quite awhile but the third phase, and the most deadliest, can happen at any time.  It's when the animal side overtakes the human side and the infected  becomes a monster where there is no cure, only banishment into the Feral Zone...

Lane knows that to become infected, the body has to be exposed to blood or saliva for the virus to start attacking, but rarely does this happen inside the Wall.  She feels safe...until the the biohaz agents come knocking on the door and she is taken to the lab...

And it's there that Lane realizes that politics do play into both worlds. Director Spurling tells Lane the truth about her father and forces Lane to get what she wants outside of the Wall or her father faces death.  The only option Lane has is to venture into the dangerous Feral Zone and become a fetch...bringing back precious artifacts left behind by people during the mass exodus to the West. 

Lane realizes her father has been preparing her for this, but in the Feral Zone, nothing is off limits and humans become prey.  Can she trust the military and their politics or the scraps of humanity left in the Zone and their lack of trust in anyone that comes from behind the Wall?  Most importantly, will Lane survive, knowing there is a killer out there, preying on humans?

Kat Falls introduces YA readers into a different world in dystopian literature; one that revolves around man vs. nature, not just survival of the fittest.  There are no tests to take, just fighting the danger that is lurking in the undergrowth.  Fall's characters come alive, especially those minor characters that are in Phase Two of the virus, through her physical description coupled by the human personality that still exists.  Lane may start out weak, but she becomes a strong character through experiences, which are balanced instead of forced.  Falls also weaves two male characters into the novel that are polar opposites but ones that again reinforce the main character's (Lane's) strengths and imperfections when it comes to survival.  Chicago seems to have become the main setting of many dystopian novels, but this one has teeth of the vibrant and brutish world it has become through the descriptive writing Falls uses throughout her book.  Readers will watch and wait for the second book to be published.  Recommended for JH/HS.