Back to School: Books for Every Subject

Back To School: Books for Every Subject

Labor Day has come and gone, which means it’s back-to-school time for kids in the United States! To celebrate the new school year, I’ve put together a list of books inspired by the various subjects studied in American schools. Load up your backpacks, pack those lunch boxes, and let’s get ready to read!

Math

Book cover for Flatland by Edwin A. AbbotBook cover for Little Brother by Cory DoctorowBook cover for Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Flatland by Edwin A. Abbot: Who would have guessed that a fictional tale of geometric shapes, written as a satire of Victorian society, could be entertaining? Certainly not me, but this little book, narrated by “A. Square,” is actually quite clever.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Little Brother is a computer nerd’s dream and a civic student’s nightmare. It’s about teen hackers using technology to protest governmental oppression, and it explains a ton of cool facts about information technology and the mathematics behind it.

Sideways Arithmetic From Wayside School by Louis Sachar: I loved the wacky Wayside School stories as a kid, and this particular book is a lot of fun, even though I still can’t wrap my head around the majority of its quirky math puzzles. Here’s a typically goofy quote from the book: “Everyone take out your spelling books,” said Mrs. Jewls. “It’s time for arithmetic.”

Science

Book cover for Catalyst by Laurie Halse AndersonBook cover for Kissing Frogs by Alisha SevignyBook cover for The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson: I don’t remember a ton of details about the plot and characters in Catalyst – it’s been many years since I read it – but many of the science-y facts from the book fortunately stuck with me. In fact, I recall getting really excited in ninth-grade Chemistry because I got the question “What is a catalyst?” on an exam. The only reason I knew the answer was because of this book.

Kissing Frogs by Alisha Sevigny: When Jess Scott starts failing her high school Biology class, her only shot at saving her grade is extra credit – namely, spending her Spring Break in Panama with the school’s Conservation Club, working to protect an endangered species of frog. This novel is light and fun and shares the importance of ecosystems and conservation. (Read my review here.)

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett: Bennett’s book introduced me to a career I never knew existed: medical illustrator. (For some reason I thought medical journals just used photos nowadays.) The book’s protagonist, Bex, spends much of her time drawing careful diagrams of muscles, organs, bones, and more. It’s not a job that I could do – too squeamish – but it’s definitely a cool idea.

Literature

Book cover for The Fall by Bethany GriffinBook cover for For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana PeterfreundBook cover for This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

The Fall by Bethany Griffin: This novel-length retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” is deliciously Gothic and creepy. Griffin fleshes out the story and makes it, in my opinion, even better than the original. (Read my review here.)

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund: Persuasion has always been my least favorite of Jane Austen’s books, but this futuristic, quasi-dystopian reimagining brought the tale alive for me in a whole new way.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel: I’ve never read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but this prequel makes me want to do so quite badly. It introduces a teenage Viktor Frankenstein and shows him taking the first steps on his path to knowledge and power. (Read my review here.)

History

Book cover for Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear ShecterBook cover for Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse AndersonGone With The Wind

Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shectar: A love story set in Pompeii, this book includes great historical details about what life would have been like in the days leading up to the infamous eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson: This fictional account of a true event – a mass breakout of yellow fever in Philadelphia that left more than 5,000 dead – was the first plague book I ever read. It made me supremely grateful for modern medicine!

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Mitchell’s tale is a classic not only for its iconic characters and volatile romance, but also for its portrayal of the American Civil War and the profound transformation that war had on the Southern way of life.

Physical Education

Book cover for Whale Talk by Chris CrutcherBook cover for Winger by Andrew SmithBook cover for Summerland by Michael Chabon

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher: An unlikely group of outcasts form a swim team and confront racism, bullying, and injustice in this short but super-special novel.

Winger by Andrew Smith: Although Winger is about so much more than just sports (like first love, friendship, and tolerance, for example), rugby does play a big role in the story, as you might guess from the title. The school rugby team’s camaraderie and pranks are part of what makes this book so much fun to read. (Read my review here.)

Summerland by Michael Chabon: I don’t know much about baseball, but Summerland makes me wish I did. The great “American pastime” lies at the center of this magical tale, which is also full of adventure and faeries and a battle of good vs. evil.

Art

Book cover for David by Mary HoffmanBook cover for I'll GIve You the Sun by Jandy NelsonBook cover for From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler

David by Mary Hoffman: Hoffman’s book tells the fictional story of the man who supposedly modeled for Michelangelo’s statue of “David.” I love the insight it gives into the relationship between model and artist and the way it showcases the political climate of Italy at the time of the statue’s creation.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: Twins Jude and Noah are best friends turned bitter rivals, bound by their shared love of art yet constantly striving to outdo one another in a bid for their mother’s attention. Art is the lifeblood of this story, from paintings to sketches to sculptures, and as a decidedly non-artistic person I really enjoyed seeing the world from an artist’s point of view.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg: In this story, two kids run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eleven-year-old me thought this was the coolest idea ever, and I still entertain fantasies of sleeping in Marie Antoinette’s bed, wandering through the Egyptian galleries, and diving for spare change in the fountains after hours like Claudia and Jamie in the book.

Music

Book cover for Just Listen by Sarah DessenderBook cover for I Heart Robot by Suzanne van RooyenBook cover for Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen: Music aficionados will find a kindred spirit in Owen, the music-obsessed love interest in Just Listen. Music is Owen’s life, and he’s constantly trying to induce Annabel, the book’s protagonist, to explore new musical genres: “Music is the great uniter. An incredible force. Something that people who differ on everything and anything else can have in common.”

I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen: Tyri is a teenage girl torn between her passion for music and her family’s expectations. Quinn is a run-away companion droid who yearns to be human and move people with his music. When the two musicians’ paths intersect at a prestigious orchestra, neither realizes just how big an impact they will have on each other’s lives and on the fight for robot autonomy. (Read my review here.)

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater: When it comes to literary bad boys, musician Cole St. Clair is one of my favorites. He’s one half of the romance in Sinner and the front man of the wildly popular band NARKOTIKA. Brilliant, troubled, and self-destructive, Cole strives to find an outlet for his love of music and performing without giving in to his addictive personality.

What books you would add to the lists for each school subject above? Let me know in the comments section!

Cover Reveal: Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey

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Welcome to the cover reveal for

Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey

presented by Entangled Teen Crave!

YA fantasy / fairytale retelling of The Swan Maiden with a blood feud twist like Romeo & Juliet? Say whaaaat?

LoveMeLoveMeNot_1600

Dating isn’t easy when you’re in the middle of a blood feud.

Anastasia Vila’s family can turn into swans, but just once she’d like them to turn into responsible adults.

After hundreds of years, they still cling to the blood feud with the Renard family. No one remembers how it started in the first place—but foxes and swans just don’t get along.

Vilas can only transform into their swan shape after they have fallen in love for the first time, but between balancing schoolwork, family obligations, and the escalating blood feud, Ana’s got no time for love. The only thing keeping her sane is her best friend, Pierce Kent.

But when Pierce kisses Ana, everything changes.

Is what Pierce feels for her real, or a byproduct of her magic? Can she risk everything for her best friend? And when the family feud spirals out of control, Ana must stop the fight before it takes away everything she loves.

Including, maybe…Pierce.

This Entangled Teen Crave book contains language, violence, and lots of kissing. Warning: it might induce strong feelings of undeniable attraction for your best friend.

add to goodreads

Love Me, Love Me Not by Alyxandra Harvey
Publication Date: February 22, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crave

About-the-Author2

alyxandra-harvey

Alyxandra Harvey lives in a stone Victorian house in Ontario, Canada with a few resident ghosts who are allowed to stay as long as they keep company manners. She loves medieval dresses, used to be able to recite all of The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, and has been accused, more than once, of being born in the wrong century. She believes this to be mostly true except for the fact that she really likes running water, women’s rights, and ice cream. Aside from the ghosts, she also lives with her husband and their dogs. She likes cinnamon lattes, tattoos and books.

Connect with the author: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads

Sign up for the tour!LoveMeLoveMeNotTour

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2016 Retelling Challenge

I’m trying something new this year, something I’m both nervous and excited for: I’m participating in a challenge for the very first time. My Bloglovin’ feed has been overflowing with posts about the various challenges my fellow bloggers will be undertaking in 2016, and when I saw that The Daily Prophecy would be hosting a Retelling Challenge, I couldn’t resist signing up.Retelling Challenge button

The challenge is primarily focused on fairy tale retellings, though mythology, legends, and folk tales are fair game as well. I read a ton of retellings in an average year – in 2015 I devoted an entire month to reimagined fairy tales – so the reading itself shouldn’t be too difficult for me.

The real challenge, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, will be the act of participating, period. I’m a relative newbie when it comes to taking part in the blogging community, so I’m hoping that this challenge will help me get out there and start interacting with other readers and bloggers. I’m also hoping it will help me be a more disciplined blogger by requiring me to post regular updates and get used to tweeting with the #fairytaleRC hashtag. Fingers crossed!

For the Retelling Challenge, I’m aspiring to reach the “Evil Queen” level by reading 10-15 retellings in 2016. Here are a few of the titles on my TBR list:

Book cover for The Crystal Heart by Sophie Masson Book cover for Spirited by Nancy Holder

Book cover for Fairytale ConfessionsBook cover for A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine NorrisBook cover for Valiant by Sarah McGuireBook cover for Daughter of the Forest by Juliet MarillierBook cover for Stitching Snow by R. C. LewisBook cover for The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy Book cover for Rose and Thunder by Lilith Saintcrow

Book cover for Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher

Book cover for Enchantment by Orson Scott Card

Review: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

This Dark Endeavor Book Cover This Dark Endeavor
Kenneth Oppel

The purest intentions can stir up the darkest obsessions.

In this prequel to Mary Shelley’s gothic classic, Frankenstein, 16-year-old Victor Frankenstein begins a dark journey that will change his life forever. Victor’s twin, Konrad, has fallen ill, and no doctor is able to cure him. Unwilling to give up on his brother, Victor enlists his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and best friend Henry on a treacherous search for the ingredients to create the forbidden Elixir of Life. Impossible odds, dangerous alchemy and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

Review:

Prior to reading This Dark Endeavor, my only knowledge of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came from watching Frankenweenie and Young Frankenstein. I knew the bare minimum of the plot – a mad “scientist” creates a monster out of spare body parts and uses electricity to bring said monster to life with disastrous results – but that was it. I didn’t really have a desire to learn any more, either, and I never had any real interest in reading Shelley’s iconic work for myself.

All of that changed after I read This Dark Endeavor, a prequel to Frankenstein that shows Viktor Frankenstein taking the first steps on his path to knowledge and power. Even I, knowing as little as I did about the original story, was captivated by Kenneth Oppel’s teenage Frankenstein. Young Viktor is an incendiary combination of inquisitiveness, pride, jealousy, and brilliance, and it was fascinating to see the first sparks of wonder and desperation that would eventually set his world aflame.

Viktor Frankenstein is a memorable character if ever there was one. He’s dramatic, theatrical, and mercurial, with an excitable imagination and a hunger for adventure and renown. He loves his family and friends with all his heart, but darkness and jealously lurk beneath his surface. He simultaneously adores and envies his twin brother Konrad, who is Viktor’s dearest friend as well as his greatest rival.

When Konrad falls ill, Viktor determines to do whatever it takes to keep his brother alive, no matter the cost. Aided by his childhood companions Elizabeth and Henry, Viktor embarks on a dark quest for a cure, a quest that ignites Viktor’s curiosity and lays the groundwork for the events of Shelley’s novel.

This Dark Endeavor has a deliciously gothic feel that made me shiver and grin while reading it. Viktor and his accomplices discover secret passageways, explore hidden libraries housing forbidden tomes, and creep through dank cellars. There are portentous dreams, sleepwalking maidens, and beakers full of organs and fluids. The pages burst with alchemy, magic, and elixirs whose ingredients must be gathered in darkness. It’s not a frightening book, but it is an atmospheric one, and I enjoyed this very much.

Something else that I loved, though it may seem silly, was the precise, specific language in the book. How often does one get to read about characters who use words like “scoundrel,” “apparatus,” “ghoulish,” and “phantasmagorical?” Rather than coming across as tedious and contrived, Oppel’s diction feels authentic and right, and it pleased me greatly.

I may not have had any desire to read Frankenstein previously, but after finishing This Dark Endeavor the first thing I did was high-tail it to Google to search for anything about Frankenstein that I could get my hands on. I applaud Oppel for interesting me in Shelley’s classic at last and can’t wait to find out what I’ve been missing out on all these years.

Review: Jane by April Lindner

Jane Book Cover Jane
April Lindner

Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance.

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre promises to enchant a new generation of readers.

Review:

This is probably going to send my high school English teachers into convulsions, but I actually liked April Lindner’s Jane more than Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Jane Eyre, it’s about a young woman – Jane, of course – who comes to work as a governess to the child of a wealthy man, Mr. Rochester. Over time Jane falls in love with Rochester, but because she’s plain, quiet, and modest she holds no hope that he’ll ever return her affections. Jane’s spirit and goodness do eventually captivate Rochester, but just as the two reach the brink of happiness a dark secret is revealed that puts their relationship at risk.

I read Jane Eyre in high school and again for one of my literature classes in college, and I liked it both times. It wasn’t until I read Jane, though, that I felt like I truly connected with the story. Lindner is faithful to Brontë’s masterpiece but freshens it up, making the story more interesting and polishing Brontë’s characters until they shine. All the parts that I found unlikely or boring in the original are changed or gone completely in this retelling, like the tedious opening scene in the Red Room, Jane’s time at school with Helen Burnley, etc. What remains is the heart of the novel: an unlikely romance between a dowdy young girl and her wealthy employer, a love story about being true to yourself no matter what.

Here are just a few of the things I loved about this book:

Mr. Rochester is a rock star. Literally. In Lindner’s adaptation, Mr. Rochester is replaced by Nico Rathburn, a famous musician with a history of drug abuse, trashed hotel rooms, and a string of volatile relationships. Although some die-hard Brontë fans might faint dead away at the thought of a rock star Mr. Rochester, I assure you it works surprisingly well. For one thing, it provides the necessary context for fitting Jane Eyre into the modern world. Nico’s fame explains why he’s so wealthy and sought after, as well as why it’s unexpected for him to be seen with unremarkable, unworldly Jane. The rock star lifestyle also adds all sorts of interesting complications, like paparazzi, groupies, world tours, band mates, and gossiping maids who want to sleep with their boss. And let’s be real – what book doesn’t get more exciting with the addition of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll?

Jane is the epitome of quiet strength. At the beginning of the book, Jane seems like a bit of a weirdo. She rarely smiles, doesn’t approve of swearing, and is completely out of touch with popular culture. She’s never had a boyfriend, is serious and reserved to the point of being somber, and would rather spend her free time listening to classical music than socializing. If you happened to be seated next to her at a dinner party, never having met her, you’d probably be bored to tears within the first five minutes.

And yet…once you get to know her, you realize there’s much more to Jane than meets the eye. She may be odd and quiet and subdued, but her plain exterior hides a strong, passionate spirit. Anything Jane feels, she feels deeply, and she wants to be desired and loved just like anyone else. Jane may not be outgoing and flashy, but Lindner imbues her with a quiet courage and resolve that I really admire and respect.

There’s a strong message about being true to yourself. As already mentioned, Jane is nothing to look at. I don’t mean she just thinks she’s ugly but in reality is just unconventionally beautiful; no, Jane is legitimately not attractive. Many girls would try to change this, spending a ton of money, time, and effort on hair care regimens and beauty products; not Jane. There’s one scene where two of Nico’s band mates’ girlfriends take Jane under their wing and give her a makeover. Jane is amazed at how gorgeous she looks, yet she washes the makeup off before Nico ever sees her. She knows in her heart that the glamorous girl in the mirror isn’t her, and she won’t compromise herself, even if it means missing a chance to impress Nico.

Does it hurt Jane’s feelings when people tease her because she’s plain? Absolutely. Does she wish she were beautiful? Hell, yeah. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to change who she is. This isn’t a novel about a geeky girl who gets a makeover and then gets the guy. It’s a novel about a girl who gets the guy because she DOESN’T get the makeover. Jane’s refusal to be anyone but her herself – plain face and all – is a huge part of what makes her stand out and shine.

Jane and Nico actually build a real relationship. I had no complaints about the romance in Jane Eyre, but it wasn’t until Jane that I really saw why Jane and Rochester, or in this case Jane and Nico, fall for one another. In Brontë’s novel, Jane and Rochester don’t really do much together besides talk and occasionally take a stroll. In Jane, Nico and Jane actually spend time hanging out and establishing a rapport. They go for walks, paint, spend time with Nico’s daughter, and go out for seafood. Nico teaches Jane to swim. They tease one another and bring out each other’s best qualities. For example, Jane has a wonderfully dry sense of humor that only comes out when Nico’s around:

“I’m not even sure I have a bathing suit,” I told him[…].

“What?” He was frowning at me now. “No bathing suit? Are you sure you’re not a nun?”

“Some nuns swim,” I said.

I’m grateful to April Lindner for taking a classic that I liked and retelling it in a way that made me appreciate it even more. It won’t be for all Jane Eyre fans, but it definitely worked for me, and I know I’ll be reading Lindner’s other retelling, a reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.