Empty by Suzanne Weyn arrived at my classroom door months ago.  Then it sat on my desk.  Then I finally picked it up and moved it to my work-home bag.  It sat in there for a week or so, then I put it on my nightstand.  It sat there for some time too.  Eventually, I picked it up when I was bored out of my mind with another book and needed a brain break.  I'm glad that I read it- I didn't love it or hate it, I felt a bit 'meh' about it.
I do love the cover though, I was immediately drawn to it when my Scholastic Book Orders rolled through and I was browsing.  It makes me wonder why I put off reading it for so long... I guess life sometimes just gets busy.

A dystopic look at what happens to one American town when all the fossil fuels run out... Civilization has just run out.
It's the future - the very near future - and the fossil fuels are running out. No gas. No oil. Which means no driving. No heat. Supermarkets are empty. Malls have shut down. Life has just become more local than we ever knew it could be. Nobody expected the end to come this fast. And in the small town of Sage Valley, decisions that once seemed easy are quickly becoming matters of life and death. There is hope - there has to be hope - but there are also sacrifices that need to be made, and a society that needs to be rethought. Niki, Tom, and Gwen may find what they need to survive. But their lives are never going to be the same again.
Empty is a very quick read with a very obvious theme: use renewable resources.  I thought the idea of this book sounded awesome- set 10 years from now, our oil has pretty much run out.. at war and at a loss for what to do, society begins to fall apart.  Weyn is quite obvious in her desire to demonstrate what could happen if we continue down the path of oil consumption.  Society begins to crumble, emissions have created a global warming disaster (in the form of a super hurricane), and above all- the oil just starts to dry up.  The story follows local teenagers (from all different class backgrounds) as they navigate a crumbling society- and eventually try to rebuild. 

I thought this was a decent story- I feel a bit middle of the road about it.  I certainly didn't fall in love with the story, but by no means did I hate it.  I was annoyed at how obvious the "moral" of the story was.  While I think it is important to discuss the inevitability of (someday) oil running out, I think that Weyn used that as a scare tactic to get people to seek out renewable resources.  I absolutely think non-renewable resources and renewable resources are topics that need to be discussed, I just didn't like the transparent goal of this book.  But hey, if it gets my students asking questions and talking about these world problems- I'm cool with that!
I liked the characters that Weyn developed- and she did so quickly.  I felt some connection with them and their fight.  I was definitely rooting for them as they navigated this new world.  Weyn also did a great job demonstrating the ruthlessness of our society- both in government and in local communities.

I would absolutely recommend this for someone looking for a quick dystopian read.  It would also be a great choice for teachers & parents to help get the renewable resource discussion rolling.  I think this could be a fun extension to an Earth Day lesson as well.  Too bad I didn't think of that a few days ago. 

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


The Eleventh Plague

I've been holding off on reviewing The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch.  I felt like I needed to step back from this book so I could be a bit more objective.  However, it seems the more I back off, the more I realize I just didn't enjoy the book.

I gave the book 2 stars on my GoodReads because of a few factors:

1. I felt I had been misled by the title and summary and author supports
2. I could barely bring myself to write this review
3. I was bored while I was reading
4. Multiple people asked me about it (while I was toting it to and fro) and I couldn't really ever give them an answer
5. I didn't think it compared to the novels people were comparing it to

That being said, I didn't have much love for this dystopian world that Hirsch led me into.

The Eleventh Plague is the debut novel of author Jeff Hirsch and was quite talked about- even Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games) was quoted saying "The Eleventh Plague hits disturbingly close to home... an excellent, taut, debut novel." and was proudly stamped on the front cover.  I saw The Eleventh Plague on more than one "read after The Hunger Games" list, which prompted me to get this book, because even though I read THG a while back, I was still longing for more.  Unfortunately, I didn't feel that The Eleventh Plague delivered.

First off, I felt misled by the title and blurb: The Eleventh Plague has a ring of apocalyptic contagion.  I knew from the blurb that P11 had wiped out most of America's population, so I wasn't expecting the novel to be solely about the plague- however I was hoping we would get some more background story as well as P11 playing a larger role overall in the novel.  We got little background story about the war and the plague and I was left wanting much more.

The main character is a 15 year old salvager- crossing the country with his Dad and Grandfather to find goods to trade.  15 year old Stephen doesn't know anything except life after P11.  He was conceived during the aftermath and has grown up crossing the country and trying to survive.  This point is developed throughout the story, but again I was looking for more- I wanted to find myself attached to Stephen and his struggles but I just couldn't form a bond.  Maybe it was just me (because I have read that some people DID get attached to the characters) but I don't think Hirsch spent enough time developing the characters.
As the reader follows Stephen through the book, we meet different groups of people that are a result of P11.  Some of these groups are plain nasty.  I did really like the grit and reality of this that Hirsch brought in. Realistically, if the world fell apart, there would be large groups of people who did bad things.  The "slaver" groups are one of those- they steal women and children for their "use" in their camps.  Brutal.
It is when Stephen and his father run into a group of slavers that all the trouble begins.  From there, Stephen eventually finds his way to Settlers Landing- a settlement that seems so very out of place in such desperate times.  Homes, schools, parks, and community gatherings are at the heart of Settlers Landing.  They even have a doctor.  This is so bizarre to Stephen- almost like a tiny utopian society within this mess of a world.  The remainder of The Eleventh Plague follows Stephen as he learns to navigate the world within Settlers Landing.  A healthy dose of good and bad continues to befall Stephen as he adjusts to Settlers Landing.  New characters emerge and some clear "good" vs "evil" themes begin to play out.  The utopia within this dystopian society begins to lose its footing, and things begin to fall apart.

Overall, I felt that the story just wasn't developed enough.  It didn't hold my attention and more than once I contemplated just quitting.  The overall theme is pretty glaring- I understand in many YA novels it is a bit more obvious, but I felt this was just staring me in the face.  I must give Hirsch credit though- he didn't sugar coat much... he made it pretty plain and clear that the plague was awful and killed a lot of people.  The images he brings to mind while describing the landscape of America is also realistic.  I did like how he showed the brutality of humans- how sometimes people just don't care and only want to get ahead.  He painted a pretty good picture of both evil for the sake of being evil, and evil for the sake of survival.  Hirsch also showed the good in people in times of disrepair. He used Stephen to illustrate the battle between good and evil. As much as I enjoy dystopian novels, this one just didn't quench my thirst.  

I must disagree with the lists I have seen as I wouldn't recommend this to those who are looking to fill the void of THG.
I would recommend it to pre-teens looking for a dystopian read- some of my students read it (aged 12 - 13) and enjoyed it because they "didn't have to think" while reading it.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



Late last night I decided that I would stay home instead of going to the Syracuse zoo with Bear and M.. they met Brendan and A up there and had a great day. Since I was home, I chose to unofficially join in the Dewey read-a-thon. I've been up and reading since 8 and stopped for a quick lunch around hour 5 and then again at hour 9 to paint my nails and let my eyes rest. So far today I finished Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban then jumped right in to Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. I've made a fairly good dent so far. To keep my reading stamina up, I've had 3 mugs or coffee throughout the morning and early afternoon. After lunch I snacked a bit too- I've has some cheetos, fruit, and m&m's... not exactly the healthiest snacking! Ooh well! Now I'm about to dive back in to GoF with a glass of red wine! Hope those of you joining in the readathon are having a great reading day! ! Xox Jenna


This Is Not The Droid You're Looking For...

Well, since my phone is always by my side and I'm looking to get back into regularly scheduled posting, I figured it best to download some apps to blog via cellular device. After reading a bunch of reviews, I'm trying out BlogIt!

So far today I watched Harry Potter movies 1 & 2 and read a bunch of Prisoner of Azkaban. I watched the movies with my class as their reward for trucking through state exams... and I read Azkaban to them as well as read a few chapters myself while in the sunshine.
There's my sweet Lily Potter, watching me read this afternoon

I'm going to go read some more now, and drink a bit of wine! Here's a toast to Harry Potter and to cellular blogging! Have a splendid evening!


Back at it...

Well, I've taken an extended break from blogging.  I've tried on and off to get back into it, but just haven't had the desire.  I also haven't spent as much time reading as I used to.  So, I'm dipping my toes back in for now, to test the waters and see how it goes.  I'm committing to some reading challenges and updating at least bi-weekly.  I did love blogging when I was doing it on a consistent basis, so hopefully that will present itself again!

For now, I'm busy perusing the challenges and checking out what I've missed in the book blogger world!


I'm definitely committing to the Harry Potter 2012 Reading Challenge, seeing as I'm already on Year 3 in my re-reading of HP.
The Harry Potter Reading Challenge is hosted by The Reading Fever and runs from 1.1.12 - 12.31.12 and includes all 7 of the Harry Potter novels.  I will also be joining in with The Reading Fever and join in PotterCon2012.


I'll also join the Dystopian Reading Challenge- I did dystopia challenges in 2010 and 2011, so of course I gotta do it in 2012!
The Dystopia Challenge is hosted by Bookish Ardour and runs from 1.1.12 - 12.31.12.  I plan on stretching this year and going for CONTAGION level {reading 15 dystopian novels}


I will also do the Memorable Memoir Challenge... I participated in this one before too, and I gotta join in this year as well.
The Memorable Memoir Challenge is hosted by The Betty and Boo Chronicles.  It runs from 1.1.12 - 12.31.12.  I've fallen off my memoir kick lately, so I'm going to slow it down and only reach for the DIARIST level {1 - 4 memoirs}

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow