Friday, October 17, 2014

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander

The CrossoverJosh and Jordan are twins, raised on basketball by their father, a former star player in the European League.  For them success has been measured on the court.  Josh is referred to as a phenom with huge potential.


The two brothers have always been headed in the same direction, but when Jordan becomes more interested in a pretty girl than in the action on the court, Josh is confused.  The confusion turns to anger and he finds himself sitting the bench just when his team needs him the most.


Worried about their own personal issues, the shocking news of their father's health crisis hits them hard.  Their father had been too stubborn to heed his wife's warnings to see a doctor, and now Josh and Jordan may lose their mentor.  Each young man faces the crisis in his own way and each must determine how best to honor the father they love and respect.


Author Kwame Alexander uses verse to create this hard-hitting, fast paced story.  The basketball action, the rivalry between brothers, and the discovery of what holds a family together all combine to provide an interesting read for a wide ranging YA audience.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

WELCOME TO DARK HOUSE by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Welcome to the Dark HouseNightmare Elf's e-Newsletter reads "NIGHTMARES BE GONE CONTEST."  According to the rules, if you write about your worst nightmare (one thousand words or less), you just might win a chance to meet a famous movie director and get a sneak peek at his latest horror film. 


That's the contest eighteen year old Ivy Jensen entered.  She wants to win the awesome prize, not to meet the famous director, but because of the promise associated with the contest - the promise that your terrible nightmare would disappear.  Ivy hasn't even seen a Justin Blake movie, but she has a nightmare that plagues her sleep and even haunts her every waking moment.  When she learns about the contest, she enters hoping that winning will free her from the horror she experienced back when she was twelve.


Seven teens have entered the contest each hoping for something different.  A few are like Ivy, hoping to be rid of their nightmares, while others have different dreams for the weekend at the Dark House.  Most are true movie fans and meeting Justin Blake and some of his famous characters are worth whatever it takes.  At least that's what they think as the weekend begins.


When they discover the weekend entertainment includes an amusement park and real life reenactments of their horrible nightmares, winning doesn't seem to matter anymore.  A graveyard, vicious black eels, and the disappearance of one of the contestants are just the beginning for Ivy and the others.  Can she survive and will it be worth the peace she hopes to find?


Author Laurie Faria Stolarz is well-known for her BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARE series, BLEED, and PROJECT 17.  Her latest, WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE, is sure to please her loyal fans and win her many new ones.  Told through the alternating voices of the teen contest winners, Stolarz takes readers into the frightened minds of characters whose nightmares will remind us of some of our very own fears.  Get your hands on a copy today, but be sure to sleep with the light on when you finish reading.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

INSOMNIA by J.R. Johansson

InsomniaAfter years of virtual sleeplessness, Parker doesn't believe he has much time left.  He is known as a Watcher.  This means he spends the night hours experiencing the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with. 


Parker's mother believes he has a secret drug habit and drags him to the doctor.  The physician's prognosis verifies the research Parker has done that sleep deprived people can't survive indefinitely.  Feeling that his days are numbered, Parker is simply going through the motions as he carefully avoids eye contact with anyone guaranteed to full his nights with discomfort or even terror.  He hates the helpless feeling he has when some dreams having him witnessing events beyond his control.


He wears sunglasses hoping to avoid eye contact with random people or those he has already learned have disturbing dreams.  His relationships are strained, and he knows he is on the verge of losing his best friend and most likely his spot on the school's championship soccer team.  His sleepless life has become a nightmare.


When Parker meets the new girl, Mia, he doesn't make a very good first impression, but he discovers eye contact with her appears to provide just what he needs - sleep.  Mia's dreams are soothing and refreshing.  Parker is able to enter her dreams and find his own peaceful rest.  He is soon obsessed with making eye contact with Mia his daily goal. 


Just when Parker thinks he might be able to live with being a Watcher, he discovers Mia's life may be in danger.  Although, her opinion of Parker isn't the greatest, he is feeling a strong connection to her beyond her comforting dreams.  What will it take to protect someone who doesn't seem to want protection?


Author J.R. Johansson has crafted a unique thriller perfect for readers looking for a fast-paced, paranormal adventure.  Parker's vulnerability and charm are sure to appeal to female readers, while his tough determination will earn him male fans as well.  INSOMNIA is book #1 in the Night Walkers series.

VANISHED FROM DUST by Shea Norwood


View Vanished from Dust new banner.jpg in slide show


Eric will be the first to admit that living in Dust, Texas, isn't exactly exciting, but that is about to change. 



Life for Eric is not the greatest.  As a target for every bully in Dust, Eric is fairly miserable.  The fact that he claims to see phantoms of some kind have earned him the nickname Crazy Train. 


Eric may finally have found a friend when a new kid in town, Kyle, comes to his defense.  Not used to having someone stand up for him, Eric is inspired enough by Kyle's display of friendship to confide in him.  When Kyle accepts Eric's talk of phantoms and even seems interested in investigating the phenomenon, Eric is cautious yet thrilled. 


What follows is the beginning of an incredible adventure.  The two friends start by researching the mysterious mass deaths of some early townspeople of Dust and end up traveling to what might be described as another dimension.  It might help explain Eric's visions, but it might also be more dangerous than they can imagine.


Author Shea Norwood sends readers on an adventure as they follow Eric and Kyle.  VANISHED FROM DUST is book #1 of what promises to be a popular series for middle grade and YA readers.  Norwood paints a vivid picture of Eric's visions and provides enough action to grab and capture her readers' interest.


This reviewer gives VANISHED FROM DUST 4 stars.





Sunday, September 21, 2014

THERE WILL BE BEARS by Ryan Gebhart

There Will Be BearsTyson is a crack shot when it involves hunting in video games, and he'd love to try it in real life.  For as long as he can remember, Gramps has promised to take him on his first elk hunt, and the time has finally come.  Or has it?


Several events are threatening to derail the promised hunting trip.  #1 - Attacks by a grizzly bear are popping up all over the news.  One victim lost an arm, and worse yet, an Ohio couple was killed.  Tyson's parents aren't thrilled about the idea of sending their son into the claws or jaws of a grizzly.  #2 - Something is up with Gramps.  Tyson's parents are keeping a secret about why Gramps has to leave their home and move hours away to live in a nursing home.  They are insisting that Gramps is in no condition to go on horseback into the wilderness to hunt anything.


Not only is Tyson trying to figure out what is going on with Gramps, but he is also trying to salvage a dissolving relationship with his best friend Brighton who seems to suddenly be part of the popular crowd.  Tyson and his odd obsession with Taylor Swift and his constant talk of hunting elk and maybe even grizzly bear, have turned him into the butt of all the jokes from Brighton's jock friends.  When Tyson meets the new girl at school who has actual elk hunting experience, he is inspired to defy his parents and plan a top-secret hunting adventure that may prove to be the last hunt for Gramps.


Author Ryan Gebhart keeps the action rolling in THERE WILL BE BEARS.  Readers will root for Tyson as he learns family secrets, defends his reputation, and strives to achieve his lifelong dream of big game hunting.  There is plenty of tension, adventure, and humor to satisfy even the most picky reader.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RUMBLE by Ellen Hopkins

RumbleAs a longtime fan of Ellen Hopkins, I've always chosen IDENTICAL as my favorite book by the well-known YA author.  I now have a new favorite, RUMBLE.  Personally, I think it is her best yet.


Life has a habit of letting down Matthew Turner.  He may be a senior with decent grades, and he may have a hot girlfriend, but just about everything else in his life is a mess.  When his younger brother committed suicide, Matthew's fragile faith in any possibility of a higher power was hopelessly crushed.  Since his brother's death, Matthew has witnessed his parents' lives implode.  His mother is drinking but still clings to her religion.  His father, always more dedicated to the high school team he coaches than his family, has rekindled a love affair with a former girl friend. 


Just when Matthew needs the love and support of his own girl friend, she is withdrawing from their relationship and focusing on a new youth pastor hired at her church.  Matthew's therapist tries to provide helpful advice, but Matthew is just going through the motions. 


When a bold girl named Alexa offers to listen and also admits that she hopes he will leave Hayden for her, Matthew begins to rely on her friendship and is surprised to find himself physically attracted to her as well.  Maybe her freshness is just what he needs to be able to come to terms with his brother's death and his broken family.  Whether or not he buys into the ideas of religion, faith, and prayer, he must find some way to forgive himself and the others who have let him down.


Hopkins explores many topics in her latest release.  RUMBLE examines the role of spirituality, sexuality, and morality, as well as the politics and cold hard facts that rule much of our lives.  RUMBLE will please her many fans and no doubt earn her many new ones.



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

WAIT TILL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn

Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost StorySince their father left, life has changed for Molly and Michael, and things are about to get even more crazy.  Their mother and step-father have decided to move the family to the country.  Their new home is an old, countryside church that will be turned into an art studio for their parents.  Another change is the addition of Heather, a six year old step-sister.


Molly is uncomfortable in her new surroundings.  Not only will she be sharing a room with Heather who is unpleasant at best, but Molly also learns there is a creepy, old cemetery behind the church.  When Heather finds a hidden grave beneath an ancient tree in the cemetery and begins insisting that she can talk to a ghost named Helen, Molly is convinced that something evil is connected to their new home.


Molly and Michael have tried to accept their new sibling, but Heather doesn't make it easy.  When Heather was just three years old, her mother died in a terrible fire.  Heather managed to escape the burning house but not the nightmares and panic attacks that have plagued her ever since.  Now she spends her time accusing Molly and Michael's mother of stealing her father's love, and every chance she gets, she tattles on Molly and Michael saying they pick on her.  Her latest threats involve the ghost of Helen and what she will do to her step-brother and sister when she returns.


Author Mary Downing Hahn is a master of mystery.  She takes her readers into the frightening world of the unknown that will have them jumping at shadows and imagined footsteps on creaky floors.  WAIT TILL HELEN COMES portrays a world in which the children must convince preoccupied parents that the ghost is real and lives may be in danger.  It is perfect for middle grade fans in search of a good ghost story.