Thursday, July 30, 2009

HANDLE WITH CARE by Jodi Picoult


Osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease, is at the center of Jodi Picoult's new book HANDLE WITH CARE.

Willow, the youngest daughter of Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe, is diagnosed with the disease before she was even born. The illness caused her bones to break so easily that she had fractures while still in utero. Willow is now six years old and suffers breaks almost too numerous to count.

Life is difficult for the O'Keefe family. Sean is a police officer and works hard to pay not only the family's regular expenses, but also those involved in the health care of his daughter. Charlotte, an experienced pastry chef, can no longer work because even when Willow is attending school, Charlotte must be on call in case a broken bone requires her attention or a frantic trip to the emergency room. Older daughter, Amelia, loves her sister and means well, but life isn't easy when everyone's attention is constantly focused on someone else.

After an interrupted vacation to Disney World which involved an accidental fall, a broken bone, and the unpleasant allegations of child abuse from an unfamiliar emergency room staff, the O'Keefe's decide to file a lawsuit. An attorney is quick to remind them that people were simply acting in the best interests of their daughter and they really don't have a case. However, after continued discussion he believes they may have another option - a lawsuit claiming medical malpractice against the Ob-Gyn and how she handled Charlotte's pregnancy with Willow. He claims they could sue for what he calls "wrongful birth."

HANDLE WITH CARE is told in alternating voices, and as the drama unfolds, readers get a peek into how this disease and its consequences affect each and every life. Emotions run from heartbreak to anger to fear to joy and laughter as everyone takes their turn to tell Willow's story.

Jodi Picoult's are incredibly popular with adult women readers, but I would highly recommend many of her titles to YA readers. For those not familiar with her work, HANDLE WITH CARE would be a great place to start.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"


This week's Waiting on Wednesday is INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER by Julie Halpern. Due for release August 29.

Summary courtesy of Amazon.com.

Product Description

"It’s Jessie’s sophomore year of high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college (and in the meantime has shaved his mohawk and started dating . . . the prom princess!) . . .

Things are changing fast. Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd, who out-nerd everyone. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes?

If you go into the wild nerd yonder, can you ever come back?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"TEASER TUESDAY"

Here's my TEASER TUESDAY #6.

Once again the idea is the original creation of SHOULD BE READING.

1. Grab your current read.
2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
3. Share with us two "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
4. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from. That way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given!
5. Please avoid spoilers!
6. Than add yours to the list at Should Be Reading.

HANDLE WITH CARE
by Jodi Piccoult
p. 240

"Okay, that's the detail I left out: the only orthodontist in Bankton -- the one I'd been seeing all this time -- happened to be married to the woman she was suing. Granted, due to all the drama, I'd missed a couple of appointments since September, but I had no intention of skipping this one."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

IF I STAY by Gayle Forman


IF I STAY is an incredibly powerful book. It captured me immediately. Mia's character rings true as she recounts her life experiences and the memories that make her who she is.

Mia and her family members are so real and likeable that when tragedy hits early on, I gasped and felt like I'd lost friends I'd known for longer than a scant dozen pages.

At just seventeen Mia's family is torn from her, leaving her to fight not only for her life, but also to understand what continuing to live without them will mean. Her out-of-body experience lends such a vivid aspect to the story; the emotions seem to flow from the pages.

This is the sort of book that I find difficult to review because telling too much would deny an important element to future readers. What I can say is that the title IF I STAY, Mia's ultimate decision, provides a roller-coaster of emotions that take readers right up to the final page. I can't wait to see what author Gayle Forman has to offer next.

GRAY BABY by Scott Loring Sanders


About ten years ago Clifton Carlson watched as his father was beaten to death by a police officer. The attack was provoked by the fact that Clifton's black father was driving in a car with his white wife. Today's label for the situation would be DWB - driving while black.

Now in high school, Clifton doesn't think of himself as black or white. He is simply surviving, most of the time on his own since his mother has been lost in depression since the death of her husband. She spends her nights working at a dead-end job and her days lost in alcohol and cigarette smoke.

A balloon-release activity at Clifton's high school inspires him to try his own experiment. He writes short notes and sets them adrift in a nearby river in his mother's discarded wine bottles. Just making contact with someone far away from his own messed up world gives Clifton the courage to continue.

One day a letter arrives from a stranger who calls himself Swamper and Clifton is amazed. When he discovers the stranger lives within walking distance from the release point he used for his message-carrying bottles, he is at first disappointed but still interested in meeting the man.

Swamper lives alone in the woods. He spends his time catching catfish and selling them to a fishmonger who motors by each day to purchase his catch. Clifton is immediately fascinated by Swamper's lifestyle and falls into helping him as he casts his trot lines. He doesn't even question much when he learns that Swamper already knows about his father's tragic death. It just feels good to be with someone so sure of his place and so willing to spend time with a young teen.

Scott Loring Sanders explores the issue of racial prejudice in GRAY BABY. He presents the all too common white against black crime and relates the aftermath it creates for survivors. The plot could have gotten bogged down by the racial situation, but Sanders introduces several other situations that focus readers on the fact that bitterness as a result of crime and tragedy is not always black and white. Throughout the novel Clifton struggles with his place in life but a combination of determination and the encouragement of an old man help him find a way to carry on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"





Just a few more weeks to wait for this one.




AFTER by Amy Efaw
Release date August 11.

Product Description courtesy of Amazon.com

"An infant left in the trash to die. A teenage mother who never knew she was pregnant . . .

Before That Morning, these were the words most often used to describe straight-A student and star soccer player Devon Davenport: responsible, hardworking, mature. But all that changes when the police find Devon home sick from school as they investigate the case of an abandoned baby.

Soon the connection is made—Devon has just given birth; the baby in the trash is hers. After That Morning, there’s only one way to define Devon: attempted murderer.

And yet gifted author Amy Efaw does the impossible— she turns Devon into an empathetic character, a girl who was in such deep denial that she refused to believe she was pregnant. Through airtight writing and fast-paced, gripping storytelling, Ms. Efaw takes the reader on Devon’s unforgettable journey toward clarity, acceptance, and redemption."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"TEASER TUESDAY"

Here's my TEASER TUESDAY #5.

Once again the idea is the original creation of SHOULD BE READING.

1. Grab your current read.
2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
3. Share with us two "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
4. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from. That way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given!
5. Please avoid spoilers!
6. Than add yours to the list at Should Be Reading.

GRAY BABY
by Scott Loring Sanders
p. 132

"Colt's lips puckered and the folds on his face scrunched together like the jowls of a wrinkled dog. He rubbed at his faint beard again."

THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS by E. Lockhart


Ruby "Roo" Oliver is trying to be good. Since the beginning of the school year she has had a thing for Noel, but her promise not to go after any guy one of her friends is interested in is complicating matters. Nora told Roo she likes Noel and that makes him off-limits for Roo.

Although her focus is on Noel, the other guys in her life are sending strange message as well. Jackson is back to his old self flirting with Roo. Nora's college-age brother Gideon somehow seems interested in Roo, and Finn is volunteering to help with the bake sale she is running.

Since Roo's adventures in THE BOY BOOK, she has lost her job at the zoo and is now selling Birkenstocks at a local shoe store. She is still in therapy with Dr. Z, hoping to learn the cause of her panic attacks. As far as family issues, Roo makes a joke about Dr. Z recommending that she should have a dog, more specifically a Great Dane, and her parents take the news seriously when they bring home the giant but loveable Polka-dot. With all this going on, it's easy to understand Roo's worry that her life will never make sense.

Colorful characters and crazy capers combined with believable high school stress and pressure make E. Lockhart's BOYS series a popular read. Roo's adventures offer plenty of laughs as well as a sympathetic voice for the ups and downs of the teen experience.

Monday, July 20, 2009

CONGRATS TO THE WINNER OF BOY TOY...


The winner of a signed copy of BOY TOY is Taste Life Twice.

I'll be emailing you to find out where to send your prize.

CONGRATULATIONS!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

THE BOY BOOK by E. Lockhart


It's the beginning of junior year for Ruby "Roo" Oliver. After a less than satisfactory sophomore year (see THE BOYFRIEND LIST), she's hoping things will get better.

Only a few of her former friends are still talking to her. There's Nora and Meghan, as well as Noel and family friend Angelo, but Roo is still hurting over her ex-best friend Kim's betrayal. She's trying to convince herself that she's gotten over Jackson, however, he seems to find ways to chat, leave her notes, or just be in her space way more than she can handle.

Therapist Dr. Z is helping Roo deal with the "panic things" all of last year's stress created. Most of the time their sessions do help, but there are times when Roo just wants to quit. Those are the times when her parents jump in to be over-supportive. They don't understand her lack of social interaction and always ask annoying questions or make irritating assumptions like her mother's guess that maybe she's a lesbian. She needs everyone to give her some room as she attempts to rebuild her sullied reputation.

THE BOY BOOK is E. Lockhart's sequel to THE BOYFRIEND LIST. Full of Roo's great advice, funny footnotes, and typical teen angst, these books remind me of Louis Rennison and her Georgia Nicholson adventures. Teen girls will find much to relate to and should be thrilled to know that the series now continues with THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

THERE'S STILL TIME TO ENTER


Win a signed copy of Barry Lyga's BOY TOY.

Click here and get the details.

Drawing will be July 20.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW by David Levithan


Huge thanks to the girl who sat next to me on the bus to Chicago for ALA. She had this ARC in her hands when she boarded the bus for our 3 1/2 hour trip home, and she finished it by the time the trip was over. When I asked how she liked it, she nodded, I believe then swallowed a lump in her throat, and offered me the book. Once again, thank you!

Do you remember where you were on 9/11? The characters in LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW were all in New York City. So was David Levithan, and that experience was inspiration for this book. As Levithan points out in the Author's Note, many young people today may be too young to have first hand memories of that world-changing day. By reading the experiences of Jasper, Peter, and Claire, perhaps the emotions of that day and its aftermath can be experienced by readers in the years to come.

As the book begins, each character shares where they were and what it was like at the moment. Peter and Claire were affected immediately, while Jasper finds it difficult to admit that he slept through the actual attack and learned about it as he listened to Peter Jennings on the news.

The personal experiences of the three become intertwined as the story continues. All three are surprised at how directly they feel the emotions of the event. The life they once took for granted, the city they've always known as home, and the atmosphere surrounding them have them asking questions that have no real answers.

David Levithan captures the unique yet universal feelings inspired by the event that touched us all. Amidst the unanswered questions are feelings of greater appreciation for family and friends, the sympathy that goes out to those who lost and suffered most, and the human condition that connects the entire world. Unlike the teen who read the book in one sitting on the bus, I found the need to set it aside at times to sort through my own memories of that day and what has unfolded since. The world is truly a different place, and I've concluded I'm not sure if it is for the better or worse. Time will tell.

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"


HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown
Release date - September 1

Early reviews make this one look like a winner to me.

Summary courtest of Barnes & Noble:

"Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"TEASER TUESDAY"

Here's my TEASER TUESDAY #4.

Once again the idea is the original creation of SHOULD BE READING.

1. Grab your current read.
2. Let the book fall open to a random page.
3. Share with us two "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
4. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from. That way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given!
5. Please avoid spoilers!
6. Than add yours to the list at Should Be Reading.

LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW
by David Levithan
p. 96

"And I was paralyzed because all I wanted to talk about was what had happened in the days since 9/11, but I couldn't really talk about it with them, because they hadn't been here. And I realized that it would only be worse back at school, where I'd be surrounded by people who hadn't been here, who wouldn't understand."

Monday, July 13, 2009

CONFETTI GIRL by Diana Lopez


CONFETTI GIRL should be a big hit with the middle grade market. It takes a Latino backdrop and combines it with likeable characters experiencing the typical ups and downs of middle school life and puts it all in a fun, eye-catching cover.

Meet Apolonia (Lina) and her crazy sock collection. She sees herself as overly tall and gawky with skinny legs, an interest in science, and a sometimes annoying directness. Lina lives with her father, a high school English teacher. Several years earlier her mother died after she fell and cut her leg. The cut was not really serious, but the blood infection that followed was.

Life has been difficult, but Lina has her best friend Vanessa as support. In fact, they have supported each other since Lina's mother died and Vanessa's mother went through a nasty divorce. They have weathered the events fairly well, and now are hoping that their parents can begin to adjust and live more normal lives.

Mixed in with these personal tragedies are several other plot twists. Lina's grade in English is plummeting so she finds herself ineligible for sports, the one area where she shines. Vanessa has been acting strange anytime she is around Carlos. Lina has even caught them kissing. She knows part of her anger about this is due to jealousy since she has liked a boy named Luis for quite some time, but their relationship doesn't seem to be progressing to the same level.

Author Diana Lopez is spot on with her descriptions of budding middle school romance, merciless teasing, and parent/child misunderstandings. Young readers will find much to like about CONFETTI GIRL, including the added bonus of the Latino words of wisdom that begin each chapter and the Hispanic customs scattered through the story.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A NEW CONTEST!


Thanks to the generosity of author Barry Lyga I'm holding another contest. To celebrate the arrival of his latest book, GOTH GIRL RISING, Barry has given signed copies of some of his other books to bloggers and is encouraging us to use them as contest give-aways.

So without further ado, here are the contest guidelines for a signed copy of BOY TOY by Barry Lyga.

+1 - for commenting on my review of Boy Toy (see below).

+2 - for becoming a follower or already being one.

Please leave your email address.

Contest open to U.S. and Canada residents only.

A winner will be chosen in a random drawing on July 20.

BOY TOY by Barry Lyga (previously posted on MySpace)

BOY TOY seems to have stirred up a lot of controversy in the YA book review world. Personally, I'm glad I took the time to read it for myself.

Author Barry Lyga takes readers on an incredible journey into a world that for some, like main character Josh Mendel, is all too real. Josh's life was changed at age twelve when his teacher took the role of educator far beyond the limits of acceptable behavior. Lyga's story does not cut corners or mince words. He is straight-forward and direct in telling Josh's story. His graphic descriptions may have earned him criticism, but they have also made his story a powerful one.

Josh Mendel loves baseball. He is a wiz at math. His best friend Zik seems to be the one with the rocky home life and all the problems, but not for long. Mrs. Evelyn Sherman is the new history teacher recently transferred from the local high school to the middle school. She is drop-dead gorgeous. All the boys probably find it a bit embarrassing to stand up and leave the classroom some days. Josh certainly does. Josh's involvement with Mrs. Sherman begins when she praises his writing and asks him to help her with a project for her graduate class. Honored and excited, Josh is eager to help. Problems at home make staying after school and later actually going home with Mrs. Sherman, a convenience for Josh and his parents. He begins spending more and more time with her even after her project is complete.

At first being in Mrs. Sherman's apartment everyday after school is exciting because Josh gets to play unlimited video games, drink Coke, and hang out with an attentive, beautiful woman. His time in the apartment becomes even more fascinating when Mrs. Sherman begins inviting him to help her cook dinner and sip wine with her. Then kisses begin - tentative and then passionate. The passion moves from petting to full-on sexual experimentation. Josh is addicted.

There are feelings of guilt, but those feelings are out-weighed by the incredible physical pleasure Mrs. Sherman offers. Life is spiraling out of control.The world comes crashing down when Josh finds himself playing spin the bottle with Rachel. He and Rachel have been friends on the baseball field for as long as he can remember, but when Josh's newfound experience turns the innocent teenage game too sexually explicit, Rachel runs screaming to her parents. The "game" is over, and Josh's secret is about to come out in the open.

BOY TOY is not a short romp between the sheets. It is a vivid account of one young boy's experience and his attempt to return to a normal life. Readers will see exactly what went on with Mrs. Sherman, but they will also see deeply into the world of a young man trying to continue with life, make amends to his friends, and make plans for his future. It has a strong, powerful story to tell, and it tells that story well.

WHAT IS LOADS OF FUN BUT CAUSES SORE FEET, SHOULDERS, BACK, ETC.....


The answer is the ALA Exhibitors displays in Chicago. For a measly $20 I was lucky enough to catch a bus ride with a bunch of library-types from Michigan yesterday. I've listed the great things I brought home. (in addition to the sore body parts, but it was worth it!!)

Here’s a list of the signed books I got.
WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson *Woot*
THE MONSTEROLOGIST: A MEMOIR IN RHYME by Bobbi Katz
BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo
TRAVELING THE FREEDOM ROAD by Linda Barrett Osborne
INITIATION by Susan Fine
DYER CONSEQUENCES and DROPPED DEAD STITCH by Maggie Sefton
(These two are for my mother who knits in her sleep.)

Here are the ARC’s I was able to score.
TROY HIGH by Shana Norris
NERDS by Michael Buckley
THE ETERNAL KISS: 13 VAMPIRE TALES OF BLOOD AND DESIRE
TOMBSTONE TEA by Joanne Dahme
BLACK IS FOR BEGINNINGS (graphic edition) by Laurie Faria Stolarz
LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW by David Levithan
(Thanks to a fellow bus rider who read and finished it on the bus ride home.)
ELF REALM: THE HIGH ROAD by Daniel Kirk
LUV YA BUNCHES by Lauren Myracle
LIPSTICK APOLOGY by Jennifer Jabaley
AN OFF YEAR by Claire Zulkey
ALIVE IN THE KILLING FIELDS written with Martha E. Kendall

And finally, a few others that found their way into my shoulder-killing bags.

ZOOBREAK by Gordon Korman
FOOTBALL HERO by Tim Green
STAR WARS: EPIC BATTLES by Simon Beecroft
THE SLUGGERS #1: MAGIC IN THE OUTFIELD by Long & Bildner
(This is to replace the beat-up copy I already own.)
DISTANT WAVES: A NOVEL OF THE TITANIC by Suzanne Weyn
NARUTO: THE TESTS OF A NINJA and NARUTO: THE BOY NINJA
Adapted by Tracey West
DRAGON BALL: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS and DRAGON BALL:
DRAGON BALLS IN DANGER! Adapted by Gerard Jones
ALBERT EINSTEIN: THE MIRACLE MIND by Tabatha Yeats
PARALYZED by Jeff Rud
THUNDERBIRD SPIRIT by Sigmund Brouwer

Friday, July 10, 2009

THE LAST THING I REMEMBER by Andrew Klavan


How can a reader possibly pass on a book with a first line like this one: "Suddenly I woke up strapped to a chair"? THE LAST THING I REMEMBER is non-stop action from start to finish.

Seventeen year old Charlie West goes to sleep one night, and the next thing he knows, he wakes up battered and bloody just over a year later. He tries to piece together the memories of his last day as he sits strapped to a chair. He remembers getting up, going to school, and even getting lucky enough to have a conversation that might lead to a date with the girl of his dreams. However, these memories don't include any explanation for the situation he finds himself in at the moment.

Charlie's difficulties mount as he struggles to escape. He overhears a conversation outside his cell that leave little doubt that his life is about to end. Inspired by his karate master and a quote from Winston Churchill, he gains the focus necessary to overpower his captors and escape to a nearby woods. But that is just the beginning of a confusing search to figure out what got him into this mess in the first place.

THE LAST THING I REMEMBER is the first in a new series called The Homelanders. Andrew Klavan is an accomplished author of adult suspense novels and the winner of two Edgar Awards. If the excitement created in this new series is any indication of what is to come, he is sure to be a success with YA readers as well.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"


This week's Waiting on Wednesday features HOW TO STEAL A CAR by Pete Hautman. It's due out on September 1, 2009. (I'm going to new a bank loan to get all the great books due out in September *sigh*)

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

"Some girls act out by drinking or doing drugs. Some girls act out by sleeping with guys. Some girls act out by starving themselves or cutting themselves. Some girls act out by being a bitch to other girls.
Not Kelleigh. Kelleigh steals cars.
In How to Steal a Car, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman takes teen readers on a thrilling, scary ride through one suburban girl's turbulent life - one car theft at a time."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"TEASER TUESDAY"

Here's my TEASER TUESDAY #3.

Once again the idea is the original creation of SHOULD BE READING.

1. Grab your current read.

2. Let the book fall open to a random page.

3. Share with us two "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

4. You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from. That way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you've given!

5. Please avoid spoilers!

6. Than add yours to the list at Should Be Reading.

THE LAST THING I REMEMBER
by Andrew Klavan
p. 122

"Then the nothingness was broken. The pale, pale out-glow of a flashlight's beam appeared overhead for a single moment, then was gone."

Monday, July 6, 2009

LOVE, AUBREY by Suzanne LaFleur


Aubrey Priestly has eaten the last of the cheese and crackers and finished the juice in the refrigerator. There is nothing left to eat so she takes the birthday money Gram sent and heads to the store. She knows she can buy groceries and take care of herself, but she's worried about what might happen if someone finds out she is eleven and living alone.

Tragedy struck and took Aubrey's sister and father, and now her mother has been gone for days. Aubrey thought it was best to ignore the constantly ringing telephone since she had no idea what to tell any caller that might ask to speak to her mother. However, one afternoon she just couldn't ignore the repeated ringing of the doorbell. When she opened the door, she found Gram standing on the porch.

What follows is Aubrey's concerned grandmother bustling about asking questions about how long she's been alone and then giving instructions about what to pack since Gram was taking Aubrey back with her to Vermont. They ride the train from Virginia to the familiar old house in Vermont. Used to visits only on holidays, it seems strange to be moving in with Gram, but it's a relief to have someone taking care of her again.

Aubrey gradually opens up to her grandmother as the two of them work to adjust to the tremendous changes in their lives. But even with Gram's loving care, a new best friend living right next door and a helpful counselor at her new school, Aubrey finds the most relief when she writes letters to the loved ones now missing from her life.

LOVE, AUBREY is the first novel of Suzanne LaFleur. The story is filled with emotion. The heart-wrenching sadness Aubrey experiences as old memories begin to surface are sure to bring tears to the eyes of even the most jaded reader. LaFleur shows Aubrey dealing with grief and loss as she struggles to understand her feelings and the confusing choices made by her grieving mother. This is a powerful story about love, loss, and healing that goes far beyond its targeted middle grade audience.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

EXTRA CREDIT by Andrew Clements


Andrew Clements' novels are always a success in my opinion. Written for a middle grade audience, they are entertaining, inspirational, and educational, and EXTRA CREDIT is no exception.

Just look closely at the cover and you will probably guess EXTRA CREDIT is a pen pal story, but it is not just any pen pal situation. Abby finds herself reluctantly writing a pen pal letter for extra credit. She is in danger of being held back in sixth grade again next year. Desperate to go on to junior high with her friends, she has promised to do all her homework and earn B's on all future tests this year so that she can leave the sixth grade behind. That is not quite enough for her language arts teacher. An extra credit project will also be required. That's where the letter writing comes in.

Halfway around the globe from Illinois is Sadeed living in Afghanistan. His teacher has just asked him to assist his sister in writing a pen pal letter to a girl from America. That girl is Abby.

What follows is the development of an unusual friendship and a learning experience like no other. Both young people are introduced to a culture completely different from their own, and the reactions that arise leave them both confused about the intolerant beliefs that surround them. The possibilities for EXTRA CREDIT are endless. It could be used as a discussion starter in classrooms involving current events, different cultures, letter writing, and so much more.

JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia


Bullying is an increasing problem in today's schools and society in general. JUMPED presents the problem in a unique way. Three characters present their view point of the same situation.

Trina is confident, actually a bit too confident. She arrives at school in a hot pink outfit she believes makes her a hot chick. In her mind she doesn't know how anyone could think she is anything but smashing. Her confidence gives her the cockiness necessary to brush off the assistant principal's criticism of her hip outfit, and her over-the-top attitude causes her to be totally unaware of the hostile feelings she creates as she bustles her way through the school hallways.

Dominique has basketball on her mind 24/7. Learning that her playing time has been cut due to an unacceptable math grade has her furious and ready to jump at anyone for just about anything. When Trina comes bouncing along and unintentionally takes the path between Dominique and her gang, Dominique promises to take her down at 2:45.

Leticia has just skipped out of zero period early to sneak outside to use her cell phone. She happens to witness Trina's accidental insult and Dominique's threat of violent retribution. When her cell phone connection is made, she passes on this juicy bit of gossip to her friend Bea. The reaction to this piece of fabulous gossip is not at all what she expects. Bea immediately tells Leticia she needs to warn Trina or tell someone about the likely attack. But why would she want to get involved? Leticia rationalizes that she may not have even heard things correctly. Why jump to conclusions about something that doesn't really even involve her?

There are three parties involved in most acts of violence. In the case of bullying - it is the one that is the bully, the one that is bullied, and the one that observes the behavior. JUMPED attempts to show all three parties and does it well. All three characters are portrayed in detail letting readers learn the inner workings of each individual. Each believes they are the center of their universe and doesn't consider the impact of their behavior on others. Seeing the three views is disturbing yet it provides a kind of education about human nature we all should examine carefully. Readers might learn from asking themselves what role they would play in a story like JUMPED.

Friday, July 3, 2009

THE MILES BETWEEN by Mary E. Pearson


Coincidence, fate, destiny, how much of our lives do these control? Destiny Faraday believes these powers have been in control of her life since the day she turned seven.

Destiny is now seventeen, in fact; it is October 19, her birthday. She pulls herself out of her bed at Hedgebrook Academy as a fellow boarding school student calls out "Breakfast, Des." At breakfast she sits with the usual people and eats the same lumpy oatmeal the cook churns out every day. Will this day be the same as any other day, or could this day somehow be different? It turns out that quite a bit about this day will be different, and yet just the same.

Later that morning Destiny stumbles across a beautiful, pink convertible idling on the school grounds. The car offers the possibility of adventure and perhaps a chance to prove something to the parents she feels have abandoned her in various boarding schools for the past ten years. When Destiny spies Seth hiding out to avoid trash duty, she asks if he drives. When the answer is yes, they hop in the car and cautiously head toward the main gate. This is the first of a long line of coincidences that will take Destiny on the road trip of her life.

Joined by two other students, Mira and Aidan, Destiny and Seth turn in the direction of Langdon some two and a half hours away. Along the way they encounter some odd situations. They rescue a little lamb wandering in the roadway, and Seth promptly names him Lucky. When the gas supply begins to dwindle, a quick check of their finances reveals nothing but empty pockets until they check the glove compartment and discover a thick packet of $100 bills.

Many other strange and unusual happenings fill their day until they finally arrive in Langdon. Destiny confesses to her travel companions that this is her home and that today is the day she wants to confront her parents about her feelings of abandonment. With promises to support her, her classmates rally as the joyous adventure suddenly turns more serious.

THE MILES BETWEEN is the story of a girl searching for answers. So much in her short life has gone wrong with coincidence as the only explanation, and now she seems ready to face the fears she has lived with for so long. Mary E. Pearson weaves together an amazing and tragic tale as she turns four acquaintances into true friends. The range of emotions packed into this novel will take readers from laughter to tears and everything in between. This is a must read due out this September.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

FLASH BURNOUT by L.K. Madigan


Blake is trying to understand relationships. He has a girlfriend and he is also the friend of a girl. Both relationships are important to him, but he realizes balancing them requires artful skill much like in his hobby of photography. There are rules to follow and one mistake can cause everything to go out of focus.

Blake is a cool character. He dreams of life as a stand-up comic and uses almost every opportunity to test out jokes and one-liners. He chalks up an invisible mark every time he gets a laugh. Many of those laughs come from Shannon. Blake can't believe how much fun she is, how beautiful she is, and how much he is really starting to love her.

Marissa is Blake's partner in photography class. As the two youngest in the class, they became partners by default, but it's a partnership that has worked well. Their friendship revolves strictly around photography until the day Blake accidentally takes a picture of Marissa's mother. He didn't realize they were mother and daughter when he stumbled across the homeless woman sleeping on the street. The photo begins a change in their friendship as Blake learns the truth about Marissa's mother.

What makes this story unique is the combination of an interesting cast of characters in a mix of serious situations and refreshing humor. My attention was immediately grabbed in the opening pages as Blake enters the kitchen for breakfast. He describes the snapshots of gunshot wounds fanned out across the kitchen table and the snoring of his father, the coroner, asleep on the nearby couch. Then there's the entrance of his mother, a hospital chaplain, dressed in only underwear and a blouse. As she fixes her morning coffee, Blake is disgusted, but not particularly shocked, when she warns of an oncoming hot flash and promptly removes her blouse. With an introduction like that, how can readers not continue turning pages?

L.K. Madigan has fun with her characters as she takes them through the good times and the bad. Readers are sure to find at least one character to relate to and at least one experience to learn from. Several added bonuses include a photography tip at the beginning of each chapter and two interesting playlists with commentary from Blake at the end of the book. FLASH BURNOUT doesn't come out until October 2009, but be sure to watch for it; it's a worthwhile read.

"WAITING ON WEDNESDAY"


Technically it is Thursday now, but I had to finish the book I was reading. (See next post.)

THE TEAR COLLECTOR by Patrick Jones
Release date - Sept. 1

Patrick Jones is a favorite of mine, and it's not just because he was gracious enough to visit my local library and not even charge us for his inspiring presentation. His books are good stuff.

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

"Fans of urban fantasy should prepare for a new kind of vampire–one that feeds off of tears instead of blood. Descended from an ancient line of creatures that gain their energy from human tears, Cassandra Gray depends on human sorrow to live. Only Cass has grown tired of living this life and wants to live like a human, especially now that she's met someone worth fighting for."