Sunday, November 9, 2014

RANDOM by Tom Leveen

RandomTori is known as one of the Canyon Seven, a group of teens whose malicious online comments may have caused the death of one of their classmates.  It is the night before her trial begins, and she is busy hating everything about her life.  She hates her parents who removed the computer from her room and took away her iPhone, leaving her with a crappy, old flip phone.  She hates her brother who stopped talking to her when she was arrested.  She hates the reporters who keep pounding on the door wanting her to make a statement.

When the piece of crap phone she's being forced to rely on rings, Tori assumes it is someone calling to harass her about the trial.  Great, a crank call, just when all she wants to do is sleep until this whole thing is over.

Tori doesn't recognize the voice at the other end of the line.  When the male voice identifies itself as someone named Andy, Tori still doesn't have a clue who he is.  It turns out this Andy fellow has punched in her number at random.  At least that's what he tells her.  He then tells her he is planning to commit suicide.  He describes how he is in his car parked at the top of a mountain road, and unless she can convince him that life is worth living, he plans to drive his car off the cliff.

Can Tori convince Andy not to end his life?  Will talking to him help her make sense of the mess she is in and the potentially life-changing trial she faces in a few short hours? 

Author Tom Leveen presents a powerful story with a plot so real, readers will be gripped from the very first page.  With all the attention on bullying and the connection to social media, RANDOM strikes just the right tone and its message will resonate with teens.  RANDOM is a must read for teens and anyone with the power to influence young people.

Friday, November 7, 2014



Click here to check out a great new book review blog!

One of my 9th grade English students is quite a reader, and she was inspired to begin blogging about some of her favorite books.  She is doing an incredible job!  Please take a minute to stop by and give her a comment or two.


Read Between the LinesI'm so honored to be part of the READ BETWEEN THE LINES ARC Tour!  Thanks, Jo Knowles, for trusting me with your fabulous book.

Knowles' previous books JUMPING OFF SWINGS and LIVING WITH JACKIE CHAN have been very popular in my classroom so I'm thrilled to be able to let my students know she will have a new book coming out in March of 2015.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES is filled with an intriguing group of characters.  Their lives are artfully woven together, and their stories will draw readers into and through the book.  Each chapter allows the reader step into the life of a featured character.  The sense that their experiences and lives will be connected is present from the start.  The simple, yet crude gesture of an extended middle finger becomes a symbol that helps connect these small town personalities.

As the stories evolve, readers meet the cheerleader, the popular athlete, the closeted gay teen, the misunderstood teacher, the father and son, just to name a few.  Judgments are made, lines are crossed, hearts are broken, and tempers flair.  One thing that becomes crystal clear is that no one can know what lives in the mind of one's fellow man.  No matter how hard we try or how much we imagine, the hidden thoughts of others remain a private, hidden world.  Knowles deftly intertwines the lives of her characters and makes us care about them, making READ BETWEEN THE LINES a fascinating read.

Over the next several months this book will be in the hands of very capable reviewers.  Watch for their wise words on blogs, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and more; then look for your own copy of READ BETWEEN THE LINES at your favorite bookstore in March 2015.

Monday, November 3, 2014


The Boy in the Black SuitI was soooo excited to win an ARC of THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT when I attended the ConTroll YA author conference in Adrian, Michigan.  I didn't even know Jason Reynolds had a new book due for release in January until I saw it lying there on the giveaway table.  My students and I really enjoyed WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST so when my ticket was drawn, I knew just what I wanted.

Matt is starting his senior year a bit late.  The delay is because his mother just died.  He and his father are trying to get used to her absence, but it won't be easy.  She was the glue that held the family together.  Matt misses her steady presence and the fun times they had when she was teaching him to cook.  His father, a recovering alcoholic, needs her inspiration to stay sober. 

When Matt is offered a job at a neighbor's funeral home, he tentatively accepts the offer not sure of what to expect.  Will he have to touch and dead bodies?  Exactly what does working in a funeral home entail?

Soon Matt is wearing a black suit while he sets up chairs, organizes after-funeral dinners, and even acts as a pallbearer on occasion.  Oddly enough, what he enjoys the most is sitting in on the funerals and watching the mourners.  Seeing them grieve helps him deal with his own sadness. 

An accident that critically injures his father and an attractive girl named Love add additional complications for Matt to handle.  Readers will be drawn to Matt's likeable nature immediately and marvel at his ability to carry on as he deals with his grief.  His determination to move on but not forget the woman who influenced him is admirable.

If you haven't discovered author Jason Reynolds yet, be sure to check out THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT as well as his earlier book, WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST.

Monday, October 27, 2014

SURROUNDED BY SHARKS by Michael Northrop

Surrounded By SharksDavey and his family just arrived on the tiny island off Florida's Key West.  After spending their first night in the hotel, Davey wakes up early and decides to explore the island.  He grabs his book and heads off to find a quiet place to read. 

After traipsing through the hotel lobby and checking out the dock, Davey finds a tiny, deserted beach that looks interesting.  He notices the faded No Swimming sign, but he puts down his book, slips off his glasses, and wades into the warm ocean water.  The gentle waves gradually lure him  away from the shore until the water is up to his chest.  Before he realizes it, he is being pulled away from the beach by the current.

As the rest of Davey's family awakens back at the hotel and comes to the realization that he is missing, Davey begins a struggle to survive miles from shore. 

He is a swimmer, but when exhaustion hits, knowing how to swim really doesn't matter.  When he sees the first shark, he knows his life depends on his family back on the island and whether or not they will figure out where he is in time to send a rescue boat.

Author Michael Northrop has created the perfect suspense thriller.  The action alternates between Davey lost at sea and his frantically searching parents and younger brother.  Northrop teases the reader with glimpses of the sharks as they circle and contemplate the floating boy.  SURROUNDED BY SHARKS will grab readers immediately and keep them gasping until the last page. 

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.