Sunday, July 26, 2015

THE THIRD TWIN by CJ Omololu

The Third Twin
Lexi and Ava are identical twins.  They were adopted and raised by a wealthy restaurant owner.  Their father jets all over the globe donating millions to disadvantaged communities while the girls stay at home with their protective housekeeper. 

From an early age the twins played an interesting game.  If one or the other of them misbehaved, they teamed up to blame Alicia, a third sister they both imagined.  Alicia continued to developed as an imaginary character, and as the years passed, the game between the two sisters advanced as well.  Now as seniors in high school, whenever either sister wanted a bit of adventure, the persona of Alicia took over.

Ava used the character of Alicia frequently and encouraged the more reluctant Lexi to join in the fun.  There were strict rules about being Alicia.  One required that the girls had to take turns being the imaginary third twin, and while in character they were required to wear a gaudy, diamond encrusted "A" necklace.  Dating as Alicia was limited to five dates with the same guy, and there was an absolutely "no sex" policy, although, Lexi was fairly certain Ava didn't follow that last rule with regularity.

One afternoon Lexi sat at a coffee shop and was surprised when someone mistook her for Alicia.  Evidently this attractive, heart-throb of a guy had gone on a date with Ava while she was pretending to be Alicia.  Caught unaware, Lexi goes along with pretending to be Alicia, but wishes she could just be herself.

Things are getting complicated.  There is a murder, and evidence seems to point to Alicia.  But, how can that be, Alicia isn't real.  Or is she?  Could this childhood imaginary being created by two precocious little girls have turned into something tangible and decidedly evil?

THE THIRD TWIN by CJ Omololu is the perfect thriller.  It is a clever mystery that will have YA readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman
First of all, this post will be more of a reaction than an official review.  Because of the nature of the book, to reveal too much about the characters and plot would definitely spoil its impact. 

I've read so many opinions about the book from the time it was announced to its recent release, however, having taught the book to 9th grade English students for several years, I felt compelled to purchase it and read it.  To be honest, I'm not sure why all the haters out there are condemning it and refusing to read it.  I was thoroughly captivated and read it in less than 48 hours.

Jean Louise Finch has returned to Maycomb after having completed college and having lived in New York City for several years.  She plans to spend her two week vacation seeing family and friends and visiting old haunts from her past.  She is concerned about her father's health, but is thrilled to see him, although she doesn't feel quite the same about her the fact that Aunt Alexandra is now living with and keeping house for Atticus.

I read in an online comment a week ago that readers will feel like they are visiting old friends as the familiar characters come to life once again.  This is the feeling I had right from the first page.  The tone and pacing of the novel felt familiar as well.  There was Harper Lee's delightful humor present throughout, as well as her interesting turn of phrase and lovely vocabulary.  I embraced the changes within the characters after the twenty year absence.

Many have criticized what they view as a negative change in the character of Atticus Finch.  I feel very differently about it.  A scene from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD that kept coming to mind was when Atticus made the deal with Scout after her first day at school.  He promised they would keep reading together even though her teacher had told her he wasn't teaching her correctly and they should cease the practice.  To me Atticus's "new" opinions simply reflect that same attitude about Scout's teacher.  Just because you don't agree with someone else's position, doesn't mean that you have to make a federal case of it.  Everyone is free to think for themselves and, unfortunately, everyone must deal with their own personal baggage which means not everyone comes to the same conclusions at the same time.

As for Scout, I remember as a young girl life for her was very black or white, right or wrong, and good or evil.  Despite her travels beyond home, she returns to Maycomb much the same person as when she left.  She expected to experience all the same feelings twenty years later and was greatly surprised by what she encountered.  This trip home changes her perspective on life and how she will need to adjust her thinking as she faces adulthood.

Overall, I am so glad to have the chance to read GO SET A WATCHMAN.  Whatever the controversy, I see the book as another chapter in lives of some of my favorite characters.  I believe it will provide something special for my students who often inquire about what happened next after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Lynn Weingarten

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls
June lost her best friend to suicide.  Well, at least that's what everyone is saying happened.  Well, at least Delia used to be June's best friend.

Delia's death was announced at school.  Everyone was shocked.  The story that spreads is that Delia supposedly lit herself on fire in a shed in her backyard.  Since Delia always told June she was deathly afraid of fire, June is sure the story is wrong. 

Things become even more complicated when Ryan, June's boyfriend, and Jeremiah, Delia's boyfriend, have their own opinions about what really happened with Delia.  As June listens to both their theories, she isn't sure she believes anyone.

The plot quickly thickens and one mystery piles on top of another.  The twists and turns in this new release will captivate readers who enjoy a good mean girls type psychological thriller.

Author Lynn Weingarten takes SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS in unexpected directions and creates suspense through twisted, hypnotic relationships. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

HIT COUNT by Chris Lynch

fpoThis is it!  My favorite book of the summer!!  I was hooked right from the start and couldn't put it down.

As a freshman in high school, Arlo Brodie has dreams of being a standout player on the football team.  His older brother Lloyd has always been a role model, and they've spent countless hours working out together.  Arlo knows what it will take to be an outstanding linebacker, and he's willing to do just that.

Arlo's dad is supportive and no doubt shares Arlo's football dreams, however, Arlo's mom spends her time worrying about injuries, especially head injuries.  She has dedicated her time to research concussions and complications due to sports' head injuries for years and has amassed what Arlo and Lloyd refer to as "The File." 

When Arlo gets a taste of fame when he is moved up to varsity his sophomore year, his commitment to the game becomes an obsession.  He is training year round and focuses on becoming the best hitter ever.  By the time his junior year arrives, his dedication is so extreme his family, his friends, his girl friend, and even his coach begin to worry.  For Arlo, life is meaningless without a chance to hit, hit, hit, and when symptoms of serious injury begin to develop, he refuses to take heed.

Author Chris Lynch tells a compelling and powerful story of how one young man's obsession with football changes his life in a decidedly negative way.  The perfect combination of football action and personal life story make HIT COUNT a captivating read.  This is not just a sports story.  It has appeal for a wide range of readers and is a definite must read for both teens and adults.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

SURVIVE THE NIGHT by Danielle Vega

fpoSURVIVE THE NIGHT by Danielle Vega is perfect for the YA reader looking for the type of intense horror story likely to induce nightmares.  According to Booklist it is "page-to-page Stephen King style terror."

Casey, addicted to painkillers after a severe knee injury, is just leaving rehab.  Her parents have agreed to allow her to spend the night with some of her high school friends.  But when her old friend Shana shows up with a more tempting offer than a boring sleepover, Casey takes off in search of more excitement.

After visiting a club where her ex's band is playing, Casey and Shana hear about an underground rave that promises to be entertaining.  They head to the dark and seamy side of the NYC subway system.  As they enter the party teeming with creepy characters and an abundance of drugs and alcohol, the bouncer informs them that entering means they must stay until the end.  At first it seems like the perfect way to celebrate her release from rehab, but it soon becomes obvious that this rave is more than they bargained for. 

When Casey and her friends attempt to leave, the real craziness begins.  Finding a way out involves frightening tunnels full of sewage, rats, and unmovable manhole covers.  When one of Casey's friends disappears and then is found disemboweled by some terrifying creature, it is obvious that they might not all survive the night.

Author Danielle Vega captures readers with nonstop action right from the start.  Vivid descriptions and plenty of blood and gore are sure to satisfy those looking for a scary read.

Friday, July 17, 2015

O.K. IS GREAT written and illustrated by David Tiefenthaler

O.K. is Great
Otis Kalshwonkee, nickname O.K., is starting 7th grade at a new school.  He is determined to make a real name for himself that doesn't have the mediocre connotations that his nickname suggests.  He is sick of being stuck in the middle and average at best.

With the help of his new friend Leo, O.K. wants to find a way to stand out.  First, they pin their hopes and dreams for fame on their science fair creation, the Chemical Warfare Robotic Beast.  It's a sure-fire winner!  That is until it almost sets fire to the entire school.

His first day in gym class at Boykinville Middle/High School, O.K. gets a glimpse at what he decides will be his next attempt at fame -- the Boykinville Board of Beasts.  This amazing board boasts the record breaking accomplishments of past Boykinville athletes.  All he has to do is break one of the records.  Will it be for sit-ups, pull-ups, the mile run, or for the mysterious shuttle run?

What follows is a mad-cap adventure as O.K. and Leo train and put their athletic abilities to the test.  They will be faced with many obstacles such as mean girls, annoying siblings, a teacher/mom, and a demanding gym teacher/coach.  Readers will be entertained by the zany antics of likeable characters and also the spot-on illustrations provided by author David Tiefenthaler.  This book is perfect for middle grade readers looking to be entertained and also reassured that they are not alone if they are feeling overwhelmed by the ever increasing need to fit in and compete.

Note: Thanks go to author David Tiefenthaler for the review copy.

A SENSE OF THE INFINITE by Hilary T. Smith

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*I was able to read this ARC thanks to my generous neighbor who won it on Goodreads!
In A SENSE OF THE INFINITE, author Hilary T. Smith takes readers on a roller-coaster journey through Annabeth's senior year.  Smith truly captures the ups and downs of that tumultuous year.  Readers about to embark on the next step in life's adventure will see that relationships often change as hopes and dreams take different paths than originally planned.

Ever since Annabeth can remember, she and best friend Noe have been planning their future.  A trip to Paris and being roommates at college have topped their list after high school graduation.  Annabeth, the quiet one, has forever followed in the confident footsteps of Noe, but as Noe gets involved in a new romantic relationship and throws herself into gymnastics, Annabeth finds herself searching for something she didn't know she was missing.

A bit of newfound confidence has her dating for the first time.  It's a short-lived connection with handsome Oliver, but when she tries to share her new adventures with Noe, she feels a distance developing that leaves her saddened and confused.  It seems that the plans the two have made over the years are quickly eroding, and she begins to realize she may not be happy with the adjustments Noe expects.

An unexpected development in Annabeth's relationship with Oliver, a growing closeness she feels toward Noe's boyfriend, Steven, and shocking news about her absentee father have Annabeth questioning not only her future, but her present circumstances as well.  Can she find the courage to stand on her own two feet to make the important decisions she faces?  If she can't trust Noe anymore, just who can she trust?

Annabeth's senior year is filled with sometimes mind-boggling, non-stop action, but it is a guarantee that A SENSE OF THE INFINITE is sure to connect with many readers experiencing some of the same life-changing decisions in that last year before real life takes over.  This is a great page-turner for the beach this summer.