Sunday, March 29, 2009

LOSERVILLE by Peter Johnson

Derek's friend Lucas is trying to piece together the events that led to Derek's disappearance. The account begins in May as school is wrapping up for the summer. Their group of friends is making plans for summer jobs and more importantly, summer fun.

Everyone has family issues. Lucas's parents view his relaxed attitude as lazy and are constantly on his case about what they call his underachiever habits. Coco and Phoebe are twins dealing with a controlling mother. Nate annoys everyone by insisting that Kurt Cobain is emailing him with evidence that his death was not a suicide. After the death of Derek's mother years ago, he and his father muddled along as best they could. That is until his father met Claudia with her tight tops and short skirts. She isn't exactly the stepmother he's had in mind.

Hovering in the background as the friends begin their summer activities is the reality show Loserville. As Lucas relates their story, he constantly remarks on the world's addiction to reality TV. Derek is about to become part of the entertainment because Claudia has booked him a spot on Loserville hosted by Jesus (heys-zoos). A bit like Jerry Springer, Jesus confronts his young guests with evidence of how badly they've messed up their lives. Cameras follow the guests before the actual taping of the show, filming less than ideal moments in their lives and then editing it to show their true "loser" lifestyle. Derek's friends try to support him as they wait to see how the show will affect his life.

Lucas recounts the events of the summer leading up to Derek's appearance on Loserville and the strange incident that follows. Teen readers will no doubt relate to the high-risk behavior of the characters and their struggle to cope with demanding parents and other social pressures. Life isn't easy as a teen and author Peter Johnson uses that to create a "reality show" of his own as he brings his characters alive. LOSERVILLE is a fast read with appeal for older teens interested in taking a look inside the lives of other typical teens.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

BRUTAL by Michael Harmon

When sixteen year old Poe Holly's doctor mother decides to take her practice to the jungles of South America for a year, Poe finds herself living with the father she has never really known. She was a baby the last time her parents were in the same room together, and now she's moving into his house.

Since her mother is usually busy 24/7, Poe is used to living on her own. It's a welcome relief to find out her father is willing to allow her a fair amount of freedom, but his neat and tidy house soon becomes her home, she is surprised how much she enjoys it. The shared meals and conversation aren't nearly as dreadful as she anticipated. The major weird thing about the arrangement is that when Poe starts school at the local high school, she's not sure how to handle the fact that David Holly, her newly inherited dad, is the school counselor.

Life in Benders Hollow is way different than the punk rocker life Poe is used to. Music is her life and leaving her band was one of the hardest things she had to do. When her father suggests she could join the school choir and maybe even be one of their soloists, she rejects the idea as too lame to even consider. But after some contemplation, Poe stops in to visit the music teacher. After hearing Poe's incredible voice, Mrs. Baird promises her a spot as the principal soloist. The result of that offer is one of Poe's first experiences with just exactly how the town of Benders Hollow works.

Poe soon learns that at Benders Hollow High School a select few have all the power. Although the school brags about its tolerance and its dedication to keeping its halls bully-free, Poe soon learns that the select few can do and say anything they want and those in authority will look the other way. Her father's odd neighbor, Velveeta, is a target for the rampant cruelty of Benders Hollow, and he provides just the reason Poe needs to stir things up a bit at her new school.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Michael Harmon, BRUTAL is a book you won't want to miss. His previous books, SKATE and THE LAST EXIT TO NORMAL, are excellent, but BRUTAL takes the prize in my opinion. Poe is an independent thinker, and the way she champions the underdog should be an example to us all. She is a terrific combination of the two people who have parented her in such different ways. Our world would be a better place if more of us reacted to injustice like Poe.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


by Greg Logsted

Release date - June 23, 2009

I haven't found much about this one, but when I saw Greg Logsted had a new book coming soon, I knew I had to make a note of it. After reading and reviewing SOMETHING HAPPENED, I'm anxious to read more of his work. The cover pretty striking as well.


Her sister Beth is gone, and Jenny wants to understand why it all happened. At ten years old she knows no one will tell her the truth, so she is determined to discover it for herself.

Her search begins with a blue cardboard box. She plans to sift through the things Beth left behind and find clues to explain why Beth changed. There are ballet slippers, a broken heart pendant, black rubber-band bracelets, and an address. Jenny uses them to recall memories and events that led to her sister's death.

Woven in among Jenny's memories are the struggles of the rest of the family. Some are part of the lies and deceit that contributed to Beth's downfall. Others are part of the efforts to stop her downward spiral. Their parents tried to control their wayward daughter when things began to head in the wrong direction. They tried to limit her activities and monitor her friendships, but Beth used Jenny and anyone else she could to concoct alibis that allowed her to carry on with her dangerous life. As in many stories with a mystery, Jenny stumbles across more questions than answers as her family crumbles around her.

THE ANATOMY OF WINGS is the first novel for author Karen Foxlee. She shows great creative promise with her unique characters and fierce emotion. She captures the turmoil of those left behind after a tragedy, and the tremendous effort required to hold life together. Readers may find it challenging at times to separate the different threads of this complex story, but if they are up to the challenge, they will find Foxlee is an author to keep an eye on in the future.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


A BIG THANKS to Karin over at Karinlibrarian for giving me the Sisterhood Award. She mentioned she was an only child, and I'll second that. It is sometimes lonely being an only so it's nice to be a pretend "sister" once in awhile.

Here are the rules for this award -

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award.
5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.
I’m passing this wonderful award on to the following blogs I've recently discovered...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A KISS IN TIME by Alex Flinn

When Jack escaped for the summer on a trip around Europe, he never dreamed he would be pulled into a real-life fairy tale. His main goal in agreeing to the numbingly dull tour of European museums was to avoid an even more boring summer working in his father's company. Both his father and mother think he is a lazy, slacker without any real interests. What they don't know is that Jack has an interest, but he knows as the son of a successful business family, they will not approve of his future plans.

After weeks of museum tours, Jack and his friend Travis decide to skip out on the tour group and head for the beach. They take a wrong turn and end up sneaking through a thick hedge hoping to find the illusive beach, but instead they end up in a strange place that seems lost in time. As they explore, they stumble across some of the residents of the area only to find them fast asleep.

When they arrive at the main gates to a huge castle, they begin to wonder exactly what is going on. Inside the castle they find the same situation - everyone is fast asleep. Life seems to have suddenly halted for these people leaving them in the middle of whatever activity or task that had kept them busy before their sudden slumber.

Jack and Travis find their way to an isolated area of the castle and are surprised to discover a beautiful young girl sleeping peacefully. Travis is more interested in returning to the throne room and snatching the crown jewels, and Jack gladly sends him off. Jack is fascinated by the sleeping girl whose beauty is astonishing. He can't help himself. He bends and gently kisses her soft lips. Suddenly she's awake!

By now readers will recognize the similarities to Sleeping Beauty, but what they don't know yet is they are in for some great adventures. Imagine being awakened by a stranger's kiss and learning you've slept for 300 years. The world doesn't even know your country exists, and you don't have a clue things like cars, buses, airplanes, cell phones, and televisions are now the norm. Princess Talia believes Jack must be her true love, but at seventeen, he's pretty sure she must be wrong.

Alex Flinn, author of YA books like BREATHING UNDERWATER and BEASTLY, has a new treat for her fans. She puts a unique twist on fairy tale retelling by connecting the past and present as Jack and Talia struggle through problems created by their strange meeting and their own personal family struggles as young teens trying to find their own direction in life.


Presenting Lenore is announcing this great giveaway by Penguin Publishers. The winner could be the proud owner/reader of 11 YA books. Stop by and check it out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


My students are currently working on a poetry project. I'm always surprised how many YA authors choose poetry as the genre for their novels. This list includes the books I was able to quickly locate just from the shelves in my classroom.

MAKE LEMONADE, TRUE BELIEVER, and THIS FULL HOUSE (trilogy) by Virginia Euwer Wolff


JUMP BALL by Mel Glenn
SPLIT IMAGE by Mel Glenn

LOOSE THREADS by Lorie Ann Grover

WITH THEIR EYES ed. by Annie Thoms

LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech
HEARTBEAT by Sharon Creech

SOLD by Patricia McCromick

HARD HIT by Ann Turner

BORIS by Cynthia Rylant

42 MILES by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

CRANK by Ellen Hopkins
GLASS by Ellen Hopkins
BURNED by Ellen Hopkins
IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins
IDENTICAL by Ellen Hopkins

THE WEIGHT OF THE SKY by Lisa Ann Sandell

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



Release date May 12, 1009

I really got a kick out of GENERATION DEAD. Waters puts a great twist on the typical zombie, horror story. Terrific stuff!

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

"The phenomenon that's been sweeping the country seems to be here to stay. Not only are the teenagers who have come back from their graves still here, but newlydeads are being unearthed all the time. While scientists look for answers and politicians take their stands, the undead population of Oakville have banded together in a group they're calling the Sons of Romero, hoping to find solidarity in segregation.

"Phoebe Kendall may be alive, but she feels just as lost and alone as her dead friends. Just when she reconciled herself to having feelings for a zombie -- her Homecoming date Tommy Williams -- her friend Adam is murdered taking a bullet that was meant for her. Things get even more confusing when Adam comes back from the grave. Now she has romantic interest in two dead boys; one who saved her life, and one she can't seem to live without."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Mazzy's family has fallen apart. A tragedy almost too horrible to imagine has broken down communication and left the remaining family members drifting in different directions.

Mazzy's father left on a business trip months ago and never returned. He tries to communicate by phone, but Mazzy can't seem to form the words that need to be said, so most of the time when he calls she hangs up.

Mazzy's mother is gone in a different sense. She stays in her room and in her bed, not moving or saying a word. Her body is there, but her mind has gone to a place not even Mazzy can reach.

When outsiders like Norma, the neighbor, or Mazzy's best friend Colby ask how things are going, Mazzy's response is always the same, "Everything is fine." But nosy Mrs. Peet, the government lady, knows things are anything but fine. She threatens to intervene, but it will take more than a social worker to fix what's wrong with Mazzy's family.

Ann Dee Ellis takes readers inside the mind of a young girl to tell the story of a family crisis. She uses prose only a hair away from being verse, and it is the perfect choice to illustrate Mazzy's tenuous grasp on reality and life at the moment. I found myself captivated by her desire to create a peaceful world for herself and her mother by avoiding the truth. Despite the tragic tone set right from the beginning, the character of Mazzy radiates a hope and determination that amazed me.

Monday, March 16, 2009


This post is to apologize to all the dedicated readers out there who issue challenges. At the start of the new year I read about the V. C. Andrews Challenge. Having read many of her books when I was much, much younger, I thought it sounded like an interesting idea.

With good intent I even purchased a half-dozen of the titles. However, since agreeing to the challenge, I found my time is completely occupied with reading books I've promised for reviews and keeping up with the latest YA fiction for my students.

I regret that I'm dropping the challenge at this time. Perhaps summer vacation will offer more reading time and another chance to give it a try.


Thank you to Sharon at SherMeree's Musing's for giving me this "I Love Your Blog" award. It's incredible to realize that people out there are actually reading my blog. I post reviews with the hopes they might help one of my students stumble across a good book, but to know it is much farther reaching than just my little world is amazing.

Here are the guidelines that come along with this award:

1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!
Here are the seven blogs I'd like to nominate (in no particular order):
Tasha posts reviews on a regular basis. Her reviews give me some great ideas for the girls who love to read.
Guys Lit Wire is the best place I've found for up-to-date stuff for the guys in my classroom.
The Longstockings crew runs the first blog I started to follow. I've enjoyed reading many of their books, and they post some fascinating things books and beyond.
Jen Wardrip just doesn't know the meaning of "I've too busy." She manages the wonderful and has recently started Authors Unleashed to highlight her author interviews.
My students are enjoying THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR, so I wanted to send some business Michael's way. Please stop by and take a peek at what he has in the works.
Jennifer is a teen librarian. I'm familiar with her reviews from
I just recently had the pleasure of meeting Devyn over at Faerie Drink Review. He has a lot to say about YA literature, and he puts his own unique spin on the subject.
Thanks again for honoring me with the award, Sharon. Hopefully, the links above include something new for everyone.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Want to know more?

The Jr. Volunteer Club in my school has created a unique way to celebrate OPERATION TEEN BOOK DROP. They are collecting new and gently used books for kids and teens. On April 16, they are dropping them at the local foodbank. Anyone stopping by the foodbank for temporary assistance will have a chance to pick up, not only food, but also a book or two for their kids.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


TENTH GRADE BLEEDS takes readers on the continuing adventures of a young vampire named Vladimir (Vlad) Tod.

Vlad is different than most vampires. He was born a vampire instead of created. Since the death of his parents - vampire father and human mother - he's been living with his aunt. There have been some bumpy times, but with the help of his vampire uncle and his best friend and drudge Henry, he's survived his first year in high school and is about to begin his second.

The previous years have held some challenges for Vlad, but his tenth grade year is threatening to reveal some of the more potentially serious vampire issues. Uncle Otis headed off on his own adventures; however, Vlad wasn't really worried about his absence since the two have a mental connection that allows them to easily communicate. Otis isn't gone very long when Vlad discovers that comforting communication seems to be missing. Now he doesn't have a clue where Otis is or how to get in touch with him.

Another new challenge is Henry. Their best friend relationship seems a bit strained. Henry finally admits his desire to be released as Vlad's drudge. First of all, is it possible? Secondly, can Vlad survive without the support and protection offered by a vampire's drudge?

The scariest change in book three is the fact that Vlad is beginning to have urges more typical of vampires. His blood supply has always come courtesy of his aunt's access to the blood bank at the hospital where she works, but he now is finding the sweet scent of live human blood may be a temptation he might be unable to resist.

Combine these immediate concerns with continued problems from distant vampire councils, and Vlad may have more than he can handle. As evidence mounts that he might, in fact, be Pravus, life as a one-of-a-kind vampire is quickly turning dangerous.

Heather Brewer has joined the legions of author's writing vampire tales. Her CHRONICLES series has many twists and turns that make it unique and will have teens excited to read each upcoming book.


Author Ned Vizzni made his third visit to a small town in Michigan. His first visit came shortly after the publication of his first book, TEEN ANGST...NAAAH about 7 years ago. Since then he has written BE MORE CHILL and IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY.

I've had a chance to watch Ned grow as an author and as a young man. It hasn't been a smooth ride, but that has actually helped him in his creative efforts and is what inspired the talk he shared with the 60 audience members on Thursday, March 12.

Speaking on what Ned calls "angstpiration" and how the negative experiences in one's life can be fuel for creative inspiration, provided the audience in this small town library with a better understanding of mental conditions and how they played a role in Ned's book IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY.

A big thanks to Ned for his willingness to once again travel all the way from New York City to a tiny town in Michigan.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Here's this week's "Waiting on Wednesday." (A soon-to-be available book that I can't wait to read.)

IF I STAY by Gayle Foreman has been popping up on blogger lists everywhere. The cover caught my eye, and descriptions of the book are also intriguing.

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeenyear- old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make-and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Release date is April 2, so there's not long to wait.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The adventures of Vlad continue. Starting high school has its own challenges, but when you're a vampire things can really get out of hand. NINTH GRADE SLAYS takes over where EIGHTH GRADE BITES leaves off.

There is an element of excitement about starting the new school year because that means Vlad will see Meredith more. After hesitating and missing out on what would have been a fabulous kiss, he's anxious to see if he's brave enough to let her know how stupid he was. Unfortunately, thoughts of Meredith are short-lived when Vlad finds himself facing a couple of bullies. They insist on making life miserable from day one.

Vlad's loyal friend and vampire drudge, Henry, is helpful as much as possible. Henry's cousin Joss moves in and he and Vlad become fast friends. Other complications arise when Eddie, an eager reporter for the school newspaper, starts following Vlad and raising suspicion that he might not be the regular, run-of-the-mill high school kid he appears to be.

Vlad also discovers that his high school education is not the only education he will receive. His Uncle Otis returns and tells Vlad to pack his things. They take off for a week in Siberia where Vlad meets an ancient vampire and finds out some of the secrets of vampire power. It's a good thing, too, because on his return to Bathory, things really begin to heat up.

The second novel in the CHRONICLES series shows a more serious side to Vlad and the life he is just beginning to understand. Learning more about his power may seem fun, but it also becomes evident that those powers will be essential to his very survival. YA readers with a love of vampires are sure to enjoy this series.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I'm so excited about my new header. A huge thank you to Lenore for having the contest that offered it as a prize, and another giant thanks to her friend Daniel who created the terrific design. No offense to all you busy bloggers out there, but my header is the BEST!


Next week I'll be starting a new book with my 8th graders. I was looking for something different and found Todd Strasser has this new one - IF I GROW UP. (Reviewed earlier here.) I really think they are going to like it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Here's this week's "Waiting on Wednesday." (A soon-to-be available book that I can't wait to read.)

I'm listing this one because it's the book my students are anxiously awaiting. The series in quite popular with the guys, and they are constantly asking when the next one comes out.
It is a terrific series for any reader interested in fast-paced adventure with great tie-ins to mythology. THE LAST OLYMPIAN is due out May 5, 2009.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

TOUCH by Francine Prose

Sorry, there's no cover art available yet for TOUCH by Francine Prose, but I recommend it as a good read no matter what they decide to do with the cover. Prose is the author of such YA titles as AFTER and BULLYVILLE, and TOUCH is sure to please her previous fans and help create new ones.

TOUCH is the story of trauma and its ability to manipulate the truth. Maisie has three very good friends - Shakes, Chris, and Kevin. They've been friends since preschool, and even though this friendship between one girl and three guys may seem strange to some, it totally works for them. That is it works until the year Maisie goes to live with her mom and stepdad.

After a bitter divorce that started with Maisie's mother leaving her husband to find a different life, Maisie has lived with her dad and Joan, his new wife. Uncomfortable with her stepmother, Maisie decides to spend her 8th grade year living with her mother in Wisconsin. As with many such experiments, Maisie learns the grass is not always greener on the other side, and she returns to live with her father when the school year is over.

Things would probably have just gone back to normal, except while living in Wisconsin, Maisie has blossomed as a young woman. She returns feeling the same but looking a bit different. She has boobs. Her three childhood friends have changed a bit as well. They now have a young man's appreciation for things like boobs. Although they try to resume their friendship as before, it is strained at best.

Maisie and Shakes have always had a special bond. When school starts in the fall, they find themselves boarding the bus first. As the only two people riding for a good twenty minutes, they head to the back seat. Amazingly, they are able to remain seated there even when the seniors climb aboard. As the weeks pass, Maisie and Shakes stumble across a way to pass the time before the other students are picked up. It begins with experimental kissing and soon turns into twenty minute make out sessions. They are very careful to time their groping to end just before others begin to board the bus, but one day they are caught. It is quite a shock for everyone, but especially for Chris and Kevin who never thought about Maisie as girl friend material.

Once the secret is out, the friendship takes a turn that shocks the entire school community. Maisie has become the subject of cruel gossip and speculation because she seems to have allowed the three boys to stray beyond the bounds of decency. What really happened in the backseat of the bus? Can Maisie really remember things objectively, and can her life ever return to normal?

Francine Prose takes readers into the mind of a confused young girl. Maisie is trying to justify her actions and the decisions that led to those actions. She battles her angry feelings toward her friends, her parents and stepparents, her fellow classmates, and herself. Coping with trauma and moving on are the central issues of TOUCH. Teens will no doubt see a bit of themselves and also their peers when they read about Maisie's ordeal.