SSX XBOX 360

SSX XBOX 360

SSX. EA Sports. Release: 2012. Rated: E.

Summary and Evaluation

The theme in this game is “Go big or go home” and that’s the feeling you get when playing this game.  It’s great for both sports fans and non-sports fans alike.  You can choose from a series of characters as well as tracks.  You travel from Alaska to Siberia, the Alps and six other locations.  As a player you need to complete tricks to fill your trick meter and maximize your boost.  Fans of the earlier versions will enjoy this new release with it’s addicting music, some new characters and exhilarating vistas.  I personally am not a sports fan and do not enjoy other sports video games but SSX is the exception to that rule and is one of my favorite games.

Why I Included This Game

This is a great game that will appeal to a wide audience of both boys and girls.  It has some amazing graphics and the content is clean and appropriate for all ages.

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One of the Boys – Katy Perry

One of the Boys - Katy Perry

One of the Boys – Katy Perry. Label: Capitol Music Group. Released June 17, 2008.

Summary and Critical Evaluation

One of the Boys is Katy Perry’s debut album as she broke away from Christian gospel rock.  It contains three Billboard Hot 100 hits and Perry won two Grammy Award nominations in 2009 and 2010.  I Kissed a Girl was the first single off the CD and has become a worldwide hit.

The full list of songs include: One of the Boys, I Kissed a Girl, Waking Up in Vegas, Thinking of You, Mannequin, Ur So Gay, Hot n Cold, If You Can Afford Me, Lost, Self Inflicted, I’m Still Breathing and Fingerprints.

Katy’s flamboyant style and controversial topics of some of her songs such as I Kissed a Girl and constantly has her in the limelight.  The album has taken some criticism from the LGBT community over the belief that Katy is using the homosexual themes to make money.  Still the album debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200.

Genre

Pop Music

About the artist

Katy Perry was born Katheryn Hudson but used the stage name Katy Perry when she broke away from gospel music.  She has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards and has been a guest judge on the UK version of The X Factor and American Idol.

Why did I included this album

Katy Perry has been popular with the teens since she debuted and she was nominated in the Choice Single by a Female Artist during the 2012 Teen Choice Awards.

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Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan

Flanagan, John.  Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan. Puffin Books.  2006. ISBN 0142406635

Reader’s Annotation: Will is determined to become a Battleschool apprentice to honor his dead father’s memory despite not having the build for it.  Instead he gets chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice and little does he know the role he will play in the upcoming attack on the kingome.

Plot Summary: Will is a ward of Baron Arald after his mother dies in childbirth and he is deposited on the Baron’s doorstep.  Upon turning 15 each ward can request or is chosen to apprentice to one of the master’s.  Will doesn’t know who his father was but he believes he was a great knight in the army and therefore wants to join the Battleshool to honor his unknown father despite being small and lanky.  Instead he fights himself being picked as the reluctant apprentice to a Ranger, one of the band of cloaked and mysterious figures who are stuff of legends and fears.  Soon he learns they are the protectors of the kingdom and Will may have to play his part of a protector sooner than expected as Morgarath, an exiled lord, gathers forces to overthrow the king.

Critical Evaluation

This book is perfect for the reader looking for adventure with a dollop of fantasy thrown in.  Will is your typical teenage boy who thinks he knows what he is destined for but soon learns there is much out there he doesn’t know.  The great thing about Will’s character is he isn’t overly cocky and while he does have his moments of sulkiness he is not whiny to the point where you want to shake him.  I loved watching him mature and grow under the tutelage of his master, the Ranger Halt.  There are moments that made me laugh out loud and actually have to read the lines to whoever happened to be around me because I thought they were so funny.

This book is perfect for the teen reader especially those reluctant teenage male readers.  The pace moves quickly enough it sucks you into the story, the characters are well written and the relationships and bonds that form between them will draw readers in.  I didn’t notice any cursing, while there hints of some crushes amongst the wards nothing happens romantically/sexually and even though there are fights nothing too graphic takes place.  This is one of those books I would recommend in a heart beat.

About the author

John Flanagan grew up in Australia and began writing Ranger’s Apprentice for his son about ten years ago.  Flash forward to today and the Ranger’s Apprentice series is a bestselling series that appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

There are currently 11 books out in the series and John continues to write them til today.

Genre

Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

What trade would you pick and think your talents lean towards?

Reading level

Ages 10 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

I got my husband to start listening to this series via audiobook because I’ve heard it is so popular among teenage boys.  I just had to read it to see if it lived up to the hype.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Johnson, Maureen.  13 Little Blue Envelopes. HarperCollins Publishers.  2006. ISBN 0060541431

Reader’s Annotation: Ginny receives a package from her aunt containing 13 blue envelopes and a set of directions that will lead her across Europe.  The only thing is her aunt is dead and apparently had kept a number of secrets from her beloved niece.

Plot Summary: Ginny and her aunt Peg were always very close and Ginny felt like she was a different, more adventurous person while with her aunt.  So when her aunt up and moves to Europe without any warning or even letting the family know where exactly she is Ginny is hurt.  Then her aunt dies but leaves Ginny with a package containing 13 blue envelopes with instructions and tasks to complete.  The adventure will lead Ginny across Europe, reveal secrets Peg kept from the entire family and perhaps introduce Ginny to a bit of romance.

Critical Evaluation

My first thought when I started reading was what in the world was Ginny’s parents thinking?  It sort of reminds me of Dora in which you have this young girl traveling the world and in Ginny’s case having no contact whatsoever with her family and no set itinerary.  I can’t think of any sane parents who would let their teenage daughter go on such a trip but once you suspend the disbelief over this it was an interesting story.

While I didn’t dislike Ginny I never truly came to love her.  It was her travels throughout Europe that entranced me.  Like many people I’ve always dreamed about being able to backpack through Europe, visit these famous sites and maybe even have a few flings or romances with European men.  This aspect will really draw in the teenage audience who wants to convince their parents to let them have an after high school adventure before heading off to college.

About the author

Maureen’s first book, The Key to the Golden Firebird, came out in 2004 and 13 Little Blue Envelopes came out in 2005.  In 2007 her book, The Bermudez Triangle, was challenged by a parent in Oklahoma.  Johnson immediately replied and called for more transparency in the school’s challenge process.  In the end Maureen’s book was not banned but was put in a restricted part of the school’s library.

The sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Last Little Blue Envelope, was published in 2011.

Genre

Contemporary

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Have a series of instructions on where to pick this book up, read it, discuss it, etc. blue envelopes to fit in with the theme of the book.

If you received a set of instructions and tasks from someone you were close to but who was no longer alive would you follow them?

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

Maureen Johnson and this series in particular has come highly recommended.

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Filed under Fiction, Realistic/Contemporary

General OneFile Database

Who They Are…

General OneFile is a part of the Gale Group and was formerly known as InfoTrac.  They provide full-text access to millions of articles on a wide range of topics such as computers, current events, literature and more.

What they offer…

General OneFile contains over a million articles published between 1980 and 2012.  Users can do a basic keyword search to find articles and can limit them to documents with full text, peer-reviewed publications or even articles with images.

They also offer the ability to do a subject guide search or publication search.  The advanced search offers many different options.  In addition to the options offered in the basic search there are a host of other options regarding document type.  You can exclude advertisements, appendix, cartoons, etc.

How to access it…

General OneFile is a pay for service and can be access through your public library or school library.

Evaluation…

The search interface of General OneFile is relatively straight forward and similar to most of the article research databases. Even the basic search then offers options to drill down to narrower results.  The wide range of topics covered makes this a nice research resource for high school students.

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Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Maberry, Jonathan.  Rot & Ruin. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.  2010. ISBN 1442402326

Reader’s Annotation: Benny Imura is forced to apprentice under the brother he despises as a zombie hunter. Little does he realize how much he will learn about what being brave and humane really means.

Plot Summary: In this post-apocalyptic America where zombis now infest most of America and people huddle within reinforced compounds every teenager has to find a job or have their rations cut in half.  Benny Imura is forced to apprentice as a zombie hunter under his older brother Tom who he despises as a coward who let their mother die.  Through his training he realizes that there is more to the story and that zombie hunting isn’t the fun and games he thought it would be.

Critical Evaluation

For readers going in expecting your typical hack and slash zombie book look elsewhere.  The world and characters Maberry weaves will hook you in and leave you surprisingly invested in the characters.  Benny’s character is often times irritating but the growth in his character is neat to watch as he realizes that his brother Tom isn’t so much a hunter but someone who is striving to give people the closure they need after the zombie apocalypse.  Tom’s character is simply amazing.  His skill with weapons and survival is top-notch and the amount of angst he puts up with from Benny is a true testament to his patience and understanding.

The story itself is pretty much non-stop action and there is never a dull moment.  There is some violence and gore but that’s not the focus of the story.  Instead it’s focused on Benny’s growth in maturity, dealing with his brother and friends and coming to terms with the way the world is outside his little community.

This book while I think girls will enjoy it is definitely a must recommend for teenage boys.  It’s a great book and is the first in a series.

About the author

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times best-selling author and has won multiple Bram Stoker Awards.  He writes both adult and young adult fiction and Rot & Ruin is the first book in the Benny Imura series.

In addition to his fictional works he also has written several non-fiction books such as The Dryptopedia and Wanted Undead or Alive among others.  He also is the author of several projects for Marvel Comics.

Genre

Fiction

Curriculum Ties

N/A

Book talking idea

What would you do in a zombieapocalypse? Run, hunker down and try to wait it out, go out in a blaze of glory?

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book

I really enjoyed Maberry’s adult zombie books and I’ve said before he is the only author who can get me so invested in the characters in a zombie book that I tear up at times.  I’ve heard great things about his young adult series and I wanted to include something that would appeal to the more reluctant male teen reader.

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Filed under Fiction, Post-war/apocalylptic/disaster

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

Cross, Kady.  The Girl in the Steel Corset. Harlequin Teen.  2011. ISBN 0373210337

Reader’s Annotation: Finley is a 16-year-old girl living in 19th century England and just happens to be able to throw full-grown men across a room.  Griffin King sees something in her that makes him think she may be different just like he is and wants to convince her she’s not evil.

Plot Summary: When Finley hit puberty she began to show signs of greater than normal strength, healing abilities and of possessing a darker half to her personality that comes out when she is scared or angry.  She begins to wonder if she really is an evil person.  Griffin King is a duke who is all too familiar with strange powers and believes Finley may be like him and his friends.  Together they must work to find out who is using automatons to execute crimes and possibly be plotting against Queen Victoria.

Critical Evaluation

This being my first steampunk novel I can’t really compare it to other steampunk books but nevertheless I really enjoyed reading it.  The plot line of both the main story as well as the prequel that was included, The Strange Case of Finely Jayne, were predictable and you knew almost right off the bat what the villain was up to.  Still the journey to the climax was fun and the inclusions of automatons, some of the fears people have of machine gaining sentience and other mechanized methods of doing things that don’t exist even today made for a fascinating world.

The characters were an interesting mix.  Finley is a strong female heroine who can kick some butt and at least half of her isn’t afraid of doing so.  Emily was one of my favorites in that she’s a total geek fiddling around with machines, science labs, etc. but she is still self-confident and isn’t afraid of asserting her intelligence in the presence of mostly men.  The two men vying for Finley’s romantic attention were both appealing for different reasons but I am glad to say that the romantic aspect doesn’t completely rule the story.

About the author

Kady Cross is actually a pen name for the USA Today bestselling author Kathryn Smith.  Her second book in the Steampunk Chronicles, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar, recently came out in June 2012.

Kathryn currently live in Connecticut with her husband and a number of cats.

Genre

Fiction/Steampunk

Curriculum Ties

English

Book talking idea

Talk about actual historical automatons.

Talk about the different types of automatons available in this 19th century world.

Reading level

Ages 14 and up.

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this book?

Steampunk has definitely been picking up in popularity and this book as well as Gail Carriger’s series are often mentioned when I hear people talk about Steampunk.

 

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Filed under Fiction, Steampunk