Sunday, April 20, 2014

DISPLACEMENT by Thalia Haltas

DisplacementVera needs to escape the chaos at home.  Her younger sister disappeared and is presumed drowned.  Her mother spends more time in foreign countries than with her children, and her older sister is focused on her own life without enough left over for anyone else.  Vera's love of geology leads her to the desert where she hopes to occupy her time with rocks and not the memories that haunt every moment.

When she arrives in the tiny town of Garrett, she is welcomed by a conglomeration of interesting people.  There is Tilly whose lisp makes every conversation a challenge.  Lon is half Indian, breathtakingly handsome, and he runs a questionable business shipping Indian artifacts.  Vera quickly connects with Milo, an artist whose pottery making skills are incredible.  Life in Garrett is slow-paced, and Vera falls into life there easily.

As the summer passes, Vera works for Lon keeping records and eventually earning his confidence to help pack artifacts for shipping.  When memories and imagined glimpses of her dead sister threaten to overwhelm her, she heads into the desert to calm her nerves.  No one questions her reasons for being there, but sometimes Vera wishes someone would.

When Vera discovers someone has been inside the house she is temporarily calling home, she sets about trying to solve the mystery.  When she finds the answers, she is shaken and begins doubting whether this is the place she belongs.  Will time help heal the painful past?  When will she be ready to go back to her previous life and pick up the pieces?

Author Thalia Chaltas explores the world of love and loss and what it takes to pull a life back together.  DISPLACEMENT is written in verse and beautifully tells Vera's story as she attempts to rebuild her life.  Chaltas is also the author of another novel in verse, BECAUSE I AM FURNITURE.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

THE RAFT by S. A. Bodeen

The RaftLiving in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on Midway Atoll among a bunch of researchers doesn't offer much excitement so Robie is thrilled that she has been able to visit her aunt in Honolulu.  Unfortunately, her aunt is called away on business and that leaves Robie with two choices - head back to the lonely Midway islands early or stay in her aunt's apartment being watched over by an annoying, nosy neighbor.  Robie decides in favor of the apartment despite the irritation of having to be looked after by a chatty, old woman.

Much to Robie's delight, her aunt's neighbor doesn't seem to be around which leaves Robie free to occupy herself any way she chooses.  However, when mysterious noises disturb her on her first night alone, Robie decides home doesn't sound so bad after all.  From past experience she knows she can hop aboard a freight plane headed to Midway without any ticket or advanced notice so she hastily packs her bags and catches a ride to the airport. 

Being a passenger on a transport plane is definitely not first class.  As the only passenger, Robie is instructed to strap herself into a seat located behind the cockpit among the boxes and supplies all packed for delivery to the plane's final destination.  She is barely able to get a glimpse inside the cockpit to watch the pilot and copilot as they fly the plane.

Not long into the flight they run into the path of a storm and the turbulence is incredible.  It is worse than any rough flight Robie has ever experienced.  As the roughness of the ride increases, Robie begins to worry about the seriousness of the situation, and when the copilot comes back to tell her they have lost an engine and the pilot has decided to ditch the plane in the ocean, she is terrified.

The next thing Robie knows, the copilot is shoving her and the plane's life raft out the emergency exit and into a raging sea.  What follows are days of blazing sun, no water, no food except for a handful of Skittles candy, and a desperate attempt to survive long enough to be rescued.  When Robie realizes that her parents have no idea she even left Hawaii on this fateful trip, she becomes convinced that her final days will be spent bobbing around in a sinking life raft as sharks prowl the waters around her.

Author S. A. Bodeen's THE RAFT is sure to have readers on the edge of their seats as they root for Robie to survive the ordeal.  With gritty detail and frightening clarity, Bodeen made me feel like I was in that life raft clinging to life right along with her characters.

Monday, April 14, 2014

THE LIVING by Matt De La Pena

The LivingA summer job on a cruise ship seems perfect.  Shy knows he will miss his family especially since the recent death of his grandmother, but the money he will be earning will go a long way to take care of everyone back home.  Passing out water, handing out recreational supplies, and straightening deck chairs for all the rich passengers keeps Shy busy.

One fateful night Shy is on deck providing beverages for passengers outside one of the onboard dance clubs when a middle aged guy with a pathetic comb-over decides to jump overboard.  Just before the man jumps, he mumbles some nonsense to Shy.  Shy reacts quickly enough to grab the man's jacket, but as the material tears, the passenger slips from Shy's grasp and plunges into the rough sea.

Shy's second cruise starts out smoother until he realizes someone is watching him.  When he and his cabin mate return to find their cabin ransacked, he knows something is definitely going on.  At the same time Shy is trying to figure out what the mysterious stranger wants, he gets a message from home.  His little nephew has contracted the same fatal disease that killed his grandmother months before.  He receives some comfort from a beautiful girl named Carmen who also works on the ship.  Her father also died from the highly contagious Romero Disease.

Before Shy can figure out what his stalker wants and how to deal with the problems at home, the ship's captain announces a dangerous storm is headed their way.  Shy soon finds himself saving passengers and then leaping into one of the remaining life rafts as he watches the huge cruise ship sink.

Author Matt De La Pena has crafted an amazing adventure that combines a mysterious disease, a tsunami, and an isolated island medical research facility.  Readers will be on the edge of their seats for an incredibly rough ride as Shy and his fellow shipmates try to survive.  THE HUNTED, a second book in the series, is due for release in the fall of 2014 and promises even more adventure.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


Hope Is a Ferris WheelEven though the place is called Treasure Trailers, it doesn't hide the fact that Star Mackie lives in a trailer park.  The kids at school poke fun at the fact that the park is located next to the dump, that the residents are drug addicts, that a number of trailers still have their Christmas decorations up, and that Star's blue-tinted black hair is cut in a mullet.  Star is sure her life would improve if she could find a friend and some day meet her father.

Since moving from Oregon to California, Star's mother has been busy with her new job and Star's sister Winter is focused on her own problems.  Star decides to see if her teacher will give her permission to start an after school club.  Maybe she could start a Trailer Park club and convince kids that living in a trailer park is actually cool. 

When that idea falls flat, Star reinvents her club.  Inspired by a poem quoted by her teacher, she decides to create an Emily Dickenson Poetry Club.  She is overjoyed when a girl named Genny agrees to join the club.  But when the girl's brother, one of the bullies who constantly taunts Star, comes along with the membership deal, Star isn't sure things headed in the right direction.

As she deals with frustrations at school, Star also worries about her sister's recent moody behavior.  When Winter suggests the two of them sneak away to return to Oregon to visit their deadbeat father, Star is more than willing to join her.  Memories of her absent father revolve around a trip to the carnival, a ferris wheel ride, and a missed opportunity to meet the man she has never known.  Going with Winter would answer so many questions and renew her hope that life has more to offer than a trailer park and bullies.

Author Robin Herrera's debut novel stars a main character who will capture the hearts of readers in the very first chapter.  Star's innocence and fresh perspective even when life puts up one roadblock after another make for an inspiring reading experience.  HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL is a sure winner for any middle grade collection.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


The Body in the Woods
Review copy courtesy of
Release date June 2014

Being part of the Portland Search and Rescue team known as SAR is a new experience for Alexis, Nick, and Ruby.  Alexis was told joining SAR would look good on her college applications and she could use any help she could get.  Nick hoped training and working with SAR would improve his popularity at school and at home where he was used to being invisible.  A fascination with CSI type shows and anything medical was the reason Ruby wanted to be involved with the Portland rescue group.  Whatever their reasons for attending the hours of evening and weekend training sessions and being on constant call for SAR, the teens never dreamed they would be involved in a search for a serial killer.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have their first search experience when an adult autistic man goes missing in an area of the city known as Forest Park.  When the parents of the man call the authorities frantic with worry about their missing, disabled son, SAR springs into action.  The three nubies hope to be the ones to find the missing man, but after following the trail and seeing only regular park visitors who haven't seen anything unusual, they begin to lose hope. 

Although it is against the search rules, Nick heads on up the trail ahead of the girls, and eventually all three are separated.  Alexis is the first to notice a body a short distance off the path.  A quick investigation reveals it is not the missing man but instead a young girl.  Alexis uses her alert whistle to get the attention of Nick and Ruby and together they report the find to the team leader.  From the evidence it appears the young female victim was strangled.  The three young SAR members can't believe their first search has ended with a murder victim.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby acquainted mainly through the SAR program, each have their own personal issues that make up much of the story in THE BODY IN THE WOODS.  Readers will learn what problems each teen faces and how these personal dramas could impact their involvement on the Portland rescue team.  When another body is found and there are also possible connections with a dead female found a month earlier, the young rescuers and their private battles become intertwined. 

Author April Henry's talent for plot twists and turns will have readers hanging on every word and trying to guess repeatedly who is responsible for the deaths of the young women.  Just when one suspect seems to be the guilty one, Henry takes the story in a different direction.  This whodunit is sure to please her many fans.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Summer SanctuaryAccording to Matthew, this summer is going to suck.  With his friend Kyle away visiting his grandparents' farm, there won't be anyone to hangout with except his annoying brothers and his pregnant mother.  And what's up with that?  Aren't four sons enough for one family?

Being homeschooled by his mother and minister father, Matthew decides to throw himself into a science research project so he can spend the long summer at the local library.  One of his first days at the library he meets a strange girl.  She confides that she is currently living in a nearby park.  Her name is Dinah, and she tells Matthew she has to live on her own for twenty more days until her mother comes back.  He agrees to keep her secret, but is puzzled about just exactly where her mother could be.

Even though a year apart in age, the two hit it off immediately and begin spending time in the library or perched in an old nearby tree.  Matthew shares his lunch and Dinah shares her poetry.  A few days after the meet, Matthew come up with a plan to leave the back door of his father's church unlocked so Dinah can sneak in every evening and spend the night. 

SUMMER SANCTUARY by Laurie Gray is the heartwarming story of a young boy who discovers the true meaning of friendship.  The messages in his father's sermons have always been just words, but helping Dinah survive and becoming her friend teaches Matthew the real importance of caring for others.

WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney

When You Were HereDanny is eighteen and about to graduate from high school.  He can't believe he is making decisions like whether or not he will keep the family home in California and the apartment in Tokyo, Japan.  When his father died suddenly six years ago, it seemed like such a life-changing event, and then shortly after that his mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Her promise to hang on to see him graduate didn't happen, and now he is trying to carrying on without the two most important people in his life.

In the two months since his mother died, Danny has been surviving with the help of his mother's best friend.  There have been some difficult moments since the woman is also the mother of Danny's ex-girlfriend Holland.  When Holland returns from her first year away at college, she tries to help fill the void in Danny's life, but all he can think about is how she dumped him when he needed her most.

Danny receives a message from the mother and daughter who watch over the Tokyo apartment.  Kana, translating for her mother, mentions several things left behind in the apartment and wonders if Danny has any special instructions for the items.  Since Holland's constant attention is wearing on Danny, he decides to travel to Tokyo and try to find some answers about his mother's life in the country she always loved. 

Once in Tokyo Danny finds Kana extremely helpful and lots of fun.  She takes him to all his mother's favorite places and offers to help him talk to the Japanese doctor who introduced his mother to a unique holistic cancer treatment.  Danny begins to understand his mother's spiritual connection to all things Japanese, and as the days pass, he discovers a secret side of his mother's life that involves much more than he bargained for.

WHEN YOU WERE HERE is a tenderhearted story about a young man trying to find his way after a terrible loss.  Readers will be touched by Danny as he learns about the depths of love and friendship and how to find new meaning in life.