Monday, November 30, 2009

TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS

I've started a new Tuesday post called TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS in which I post the opening lines of the book I'm currently reading.

Every reader is different, but I know the opening lines of a book can make or break my reading experience. By sharing the first few lines of what I'm reading, perhaps I can tempt readers to check out a book they might otherwise have passed up.

Here's TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS #3.

THE VAST FIELDS OF ORDINARY
by Nick Burd

I spent a good part of my senior prom drawing DH + PS in a giant heart in the last stall of the Cedarville High boys' bathroom. It covered the entire wall and took two red markers and almost an hour to complete.

THE ROCK AND THE RIVER by Kekla Magoon


It's 1968 in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. Sam and his brother Stick are the sons of one of the leaders of the movement. They've known Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. most of their lives and known him well enough to share dinner at the same table. But being connected so closely to the center of the movement is not easy. Expectations are high to set good examples and to stand for what is right.

Sam begins to see his older brother taking a different approach when he starts sneaking out at night and asking Sam to cover for him while he's gone. Sam doesn't understand what Stick has gotten involved in until he meets Maxie. Sam finds her fascinating and begins to spend more time with her. As their relationship deepens, he learns that her older brother is involved in a new group known as the Black Panthers. Their approach to gaining freedom is not through non-violence like Dr. King. Instead they carry guns and organize protests that include more than carrying signs and giving speeches.

When Sam discovers Stick is involved with the Black Panthers and learns that he even has a gun hidden in the bedroom they share, his first reaction is to cover up for his older brother. When pressed by his father for information, he reveals the truth violating his brother's trust and jeopardizing his relationship with Maxie who has followed her own brother's example and joined the group.

Young Sam faces a quick end to his childhood as he witnesses the beating of a close friend and false accusations that the friend actually caused it by threatening the cops who beat him. The death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and an attack on his own father lead Sam to believe maybe peaceful protests are not the answer.

Author Kekla Magoon brings this tumultuous time in history to life for readers of all ages, not just teens. Her story of Sam and his brother speak clearly about the feeling of the times, and perhaps even shed light on some of the problems of today. She vividly describes the frustration, the hatred, and the tension found in the streets of Chicago both before and after the tragic death of Dr. King. THE ROCK AND THE RIVER is a powerful statement about a powerful time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

BORDER CROSSING by Jessica Lee Anderson


Manz is barely holding things together. Life isn't too bad when his mother's boyfriend Tom is around to keep an eye on her drinking, but when Tom's gone on a long run cross-country, Delores is a mess.

There are memories of better times. Manz does remember his father, a Mexican nicknamed Loco. He worked hard at the nearby orchard and kept a roof over their heads. However, his nickname said how things really were, and his life ended in a head-on collision with a guardrail that was ruled an accident, although it probably was not.

It was rough at first when Delores met Tom. Manz didn't completely trust the guy, but when he saw how thrilled the two were to learn that Delores was pregnant, he thought maybe things might turn around. The devestating news that something was wrong with the baby ripped away any hope for better times.

Now Manz spends his time driving his mother to work and hoping she stays sober enough to handle things around the house and maybe even return to the painting that made her so happy before little Gabriel died. When he's not worrying about his mother, Manz picks up odd jobs with his friend Jed as he tries to keep him on the straight and narrow so Jed's abusive father won't kill him.

It's no wonder that Manz begins hearing voices. Along with the voices, there are visions and feelings of paranoia. Having no one he feels he can confide in, Manz begins listening to the voices hoping they can provide the answers no one else can.

BORDER CROSSING is a multi-layer novel that explores dysfunctional families, illegal immigrants, and mental illness. Jessica Lee Anderson gives readers a glimpse into the mind of a young man attempting to keep his mother's life and his best friend's life on track when his own is beginning a freefall toward destruction. BORDER CROSSING will challenge readers to sort through the confusing thoughts and emotions of young Manz as he struggles to keep his life from crumbling beyond repair.

Friday, November 27, 2009

YOU ARE HERE by Jennifer E. Smith


Emma has never felt a part of her family. Her parents, professors at a local college, and her much older siblings are always discussing poetry, philosophy, or topics important to the world. She is more interested in the here and now, not in deep intellectual thoughts.

Her feelings of not fitting in are dramatically increased the day she stumbles across the birth certificate of a twin brother she never knew she had. When she also discovers his death certificate tucked away in the same box in the attic, she can't believe that no one ever told her.

Turning 17 in less than a week, Emma decides to get her older brother to take her to his apartment in New York City. Once she gets there, her real plan is to "borrow" his car and travel to North Carolina to visit her twin's grave. When the car gives out at a rest stop along the New Jersey turnpike, she calls her neighbor Peter Finnegan, another soon-to-be 17 year old.

Peter is dealing with his own personal conflicts. He has grown up with just his father since his mother died shortly after his birth. Lately, his frustration with his silent and often absent father, and the desire to leave town and see the world, are almost more than he can tolerate. When he gets Emma's call for help, he sees it as the perfect opportunity to hit the road, see some of the sights he's dream of, and also spend time with a girl he realizes he's had a crush on for quite some time.

Together the two loners begin a journey that will change them both. Not only do the teens come to know one another better, but their families also begin to recognize the ways they could be more present and supportive.

YOU ARE HERE is a carefully crafted story about families and relationships and the secrets that complicate them. Author Jennifer E. Smith has created a intricately layered cast of characters that give readers a peek into the various of ways humans handle tragedy and conflict. Smith's depth and sensitivity make YOU ARE HERE a must read.

ONE OF THE SURVIVORS by Susan Shaw


They say survivors of tragic accidents suffer not only the personal trauma of the tragedy, but also feelings of guilt as the "lucky" ones who survived the event. What if that guilt is compounded by the fact that the survivors are also being accused of causing the deadly event?

Joey has already survived one fire - the one that killed his mother barely a year ago. Now he and his friend Maureen have survived a fire at their high school that claimed the lives of everyone else in their history class including the teacher Mr. Austen. Since the two fourteen year olds were the only students in the classroom to survive, people in the community have decided to accuse them of starting the fire in the first place. The reasoning behind the accusation - how else would they have known that the fire alarm was not just a test.

That day the new fire alarm system was being tested. It started clanging before classes were even in session. Throughout the day the fire alarm would sound, and the principal would announce over the PA that it was just a test. Joey became more and more unnerved each time the alarm went off, until finally in history class, he snapped. Even though Mr. Austen threatened him with detention, Joey stood up and announced he was leaving the building. Everyone knew about his mother's tragic death, but only Maureen knew Joey well enough to recognize his panic. As they both left the classroom and the building, they accepted the fact they might be punished their disobedience. However, when they arrived outside to find the building was indeed on fire, their world changed forever.

ONE OF THE SURVIVORS by Susan Shaw is the story of Joey's life after the fire and his struggle to cope with the angry accusations of some in his community and to deal with his own private grief and guilt. Shaw uses a mix of Joey's personal journal entries and narrative accounts of the events surrounding the time leading up to and including the fire. Readers will witness the emotional turmoil Joey experiences as he relives his mother's death and the senseless deaths of his fellow classmates. Shaw's control of the events and the way she gradually reveals the facts create a riveting read.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz


Is the feeling of exhilaration? Is it the possibility that it will make him stronger? Or is it an attempt to help his brother? Jonah doesn't know why he is driven to do it, but he does know it may be out of control.

Jonah breaks himself. He breaks his own bones. Staged skateboard accidents, intentional falls from high places, or direct blows with a heavy object - whatever it takes to break his bones. He keeps a tally of total breaks with his goal being the magic total in the human body - 206.

There's anorexia, bulimia, and cutting as a way to control the world around you, but Jonah seems to have found another method. The resulting pain and adrenaline rush give him special pleasure, but the real reason is linked to his younger brother Jesse. Jesse was born allergic to everything. He can't be in the same room as a cooking egg or spilled milk. He can't even touch their youngest brother for fear that he might be wearing traces of their mother's breast milk. All their friends are cautioned not to breath in his presence after eating certain foods like peanut butter. Even airborne contact with just about everything can stop cover him in hives and stop his breathing, sending him to the emergency room and possible death.

As people gradually begin to realize Jonah is not just a klutz, and that his broken bones are some sort of cry for help, he finds himself defending his strange obsession in an attempt to prove he is not crazy. Is there another way to control the world around him, or will one of the breaks end everything?

First time author Hannah Moskowitz has created a truly unique tale. In a modern world of escapist behavior, she has created a character with a whole new twist of self-destruction. BREAK gripped me on the first page, and I couldn't put it down. Jonah's family takes "dysfunctional" in a totally new direction that had me almost talking back to the book. The emotions that drive the characters practically jump off the page and demand attention. I can't wait to read her next book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WEDNESDAY'S WISH I HAD THE TIME #8


I've had a copy of CLICK for quite some time, but never seem to be able to fit it into my reading schedule. The fact that it was written by a team of popular YA authors fascinates me.

Here's a summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

A video message from a dead person. A larcenous teenager. A man who can stick his left toe behind his head and in his ear. An epileptic girl seeking answers in a fairy tale. A boy who loses everything in World War II, and his brother who loses even more. And a family with a secret so big that it changes everything. The world's best beloved authors each contribute a chapter in the life of the mysterious George "Gee" Keane, photographer, soldier, adventurer and enigma. Under different pens, a startling portrait emerges of a man, his family, and his gloriously complicated tangle of a life.

The full list of authors includes: Roddy Doyle, Booker Prize-winning author of A STAR CALLED HENRY; Nick Hornby, author of ABOUT A BOY; Ruth Ozeki, author of MY YEAR OF MEATS; Margo Lanagan, Prinz Honor Award-winning author of BLACK JUICE; Linda Sue Park, Newbery Award-winning author of A SINGLE SHARD; David Almond, winner of the Whitbread Award and Carnegie Medal and author of SKELLIG; Gregory Maguire, author of WICKED; Tim Wynne-Jones, two-time winner of Canada's Governor General's award and author of ONE OF THE KINDER PLANETS; Deborah Ellis, author of THE BREADWINNER; Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl Books. And more are signing on!

I'm hoping to tempt some of my new 9th grade students with it so they can give me a idea about how it reads. Time will tell.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS

I've started a new Tuesday post called TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS in which I post the opening lines of the book I'm currently reading.

Every reader is different, but I know the opening lines of a book can make or break my reading experience. By sharing the first few lines of what I'm reading, perhaps I can tempt readers to check out a book they might otherwise have passed up.

Here's TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS #2.

BREAK
by Hannah Moskowitz


The first feeling is exhilaration.
My arms hit the ground. The sound is like a mallet against a crab.

Monday, November 23, 2009

MESSED UP by Janet Nichols Lynch


R.D. never knew his father, and his mother is in prison. He was raised by his grandmother, but she up and left him with her boyfriend Earl so she could run off with a hairy truck driver. R.D. has promised to clean up his act and get through the eighth grade this year for sure, but it's the first day of school and things aren't starting off very well since he's suspended for fighting by lunch time.

Earl tries to keep R.D. out of trouble and encourage him to stick with it at school, but he has some serious health issues dating back to his exposure to Agent Orange during his time in Vietnam. Ever since R.D.'s grandmother left, Earl has been having more frequent attacks that leave him gasping for breath and sending R.D. in search of his inhaler. Just a few short weeks into the school year, R.D. gets off the bus and discovers Earl on the bathroom floor, dead.

With no way to contact his grandmother and no one else to turn to, R.D. decides to try to handle things himself. He deals with the funeral home people, handles the questions from nosy neighbors, and manages through trial and error to keep himself feed and the bills paid. Surprisingly, this forced independence turns R.D. into a more reliable student at school and has him learning things about life he never would have thought possible.

MESSED UP by Janet Nichols Lynch is a heart-warming and riveting read. R.D. starts out as an underachieving, gangster wannabe who turns his life around through hard work and determination. Readers will learn right along with him as he deals with the everyday, practical aspects of survival. He learns to shop for groceries and clothes and teaches himself how to cook and clean. For someone who pretty much let the world just happen around him, he takes on the challenge of making his own way and succeeds. MESSED UP is an excellent addition to any library or classroom collection.

Friday, November 20, 2009

THE GOOD NEIGHBORS: KIN by Holly Black & Ted Naifeh


What if you suddenly found out you are not who or even what you think you are? Rue Silver discovers she is not even human, but instead she's a faerie.

Rue's mother disappeared and has been missing for several weeks. Her father is arrested and held as a suspect in not only her mother's disappearance, but also as a suspect in the death of one of his young students. Rue is left looking for answers.

Her friends are being supportive, but when Rue starts seeing things that she's afraid are not really there, doubts begin to surface about her sanity. She's suspected for quite some time that her mother might be crazy, and now her mother has returned to tell Rue the whole story.

THE GOOD NEIGHBORS: KIN is Holly Black's latest project. It is the first in a new series done in a graphic novel format. Complete with faeries, magical transformations, and a dark side, it represents Black's style well. Her fans are likely to enjoy this new direction, and it will probably earn her a new following as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SWIM THE FLY by Don Calame


Matt and his two buddies, Cooper and Sean, have set a goal every summer. This summer is no different, except Matt thinks their goal is a bit more ambitious than usual. They want to see a girl naked.

Every move they make is carefully planned to achieve their goal. They've picked out the girl, and now it's just a matter of having the right opportunity present itself. Unfortunately, no one ever realized the number of obstacles that could be encountered along the way.

In an effort to keep busy while they wait for that perfect moment, the guys figure they might as well join the local swim team like they have every summer. One thing Matt didn't plan on was meeting the new girl, Kelly. What luck - a beautiful girl, wearing nothing but a swimsuit right there at the pool every day. It's enough to make a guy do something stupid, and Matt does. When the team's coach, Ms. Luntz, asks for a volunteer to swim the butterfly in the relay event, Matt, wanting to impress Kelly, raises his hand. It's a move he knows he'll regret, but he can't seem stop himself.

Between hanging out with his pals, making plans toward their "goal", attempting to learn the butterfly (the most difficult of all the strokes), and dealing with his wacky family, Matt has his hands full. He seems to be living through the summer going from one near disaster to the next.

SWIM THE FLY is the first novel for author Don Calame. His hilarious descriptions of Matt's experiences, while exaggerated, still sparkle with glimmers of reality for anyone going through their teen years or remembering them with traces of fear and fondness. It is fast-paced and laugh out loud funny.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

INTERVIEW WITH BOBBIE PYRON, AUTHOR OF THE RING



Welcome to my first author interview!

I read and reviewed THE RING by Bobbie Pyron recently and was pleased to see the author found the interview here on my blog, and she even stopped by to comment. She not only commented, but she also offered to let me interview her. So without further ado, here's the scoop on Bobbie Pyron and her new novel, THE RING.

Readingjunky: When did you first think about being a writer?

Bobbie Pyron: I wanted to be a writer from the time I was about nine years old. I just couldn't imagine anything more wonderful! I got a spiral notebook and wrote for days in a row—a badly plagiarized story about two orphan, runaway children and some wild horse.
I also wrote some rather bad poetry in high school. I started writing seriously about six years ago. I started with picture books and then crossed over to “the dark side” of novels.

RJ: What was your biggest inspiration for THE RING?

BP: My stepdaughter. When she was fourteen, she was going through a rather challenging time. After being grounded for the millionth time, she read an article in our local paper about a girls' boxing club. She handed me the paper, pointed to the article and said, "I want to do that." So her dad and I signed her up for classes. She went to training two nights a week. I took her one of the nights. I was intrigued with the girls who were taking the classes. And like most writers, I'm an incorrigible eavesdropper, so I listened to them talk about the stresses at school and at home. Over and over I heard them say how they could be themselves in the ring.

RJ: What drives your writing most? Characters, plot, personal experience ...

BP: I would say that, just like in my reading, my writing is very character driven. Sometimes the plot and the character come to me almost simultaneously. Actually, it usually does. But no matter how great an idea I have for a plot, I can't write a darn thing until the voice comes. Whether it's first person or third, the voice has to come to me and talk to me before I can write one word.

RJ: Do any of your characters resemble you in any way?

BP: Oh, the stepmother, Amy, is like me in some obvious ways: she's from the south, she's a librarian, she loves her dogs. But Amy is a much more patient stepmother that I was!

RJ: Does any particular type of music inspire your creativity?

BP: It really varies with what I'm working on. For THE RING, I listened to a lot of Ani DeFranco, The Fray, Coldplay, Avril Levine, and Frou Frou. For the middle-grade novel I have coming out in early 2011, I listened to lots and lots of bluegrass and country music because it's set in the Appalachian Mountains.

RJ: Can you describe a day in your writing schedule?

BP: I try to take care of email business while I'm still kind of groggy in the morning. Then I take the dogs for a short walk to wake up my brain. When I get back, I fix a cup of tea, fire up the computer, and try to write for about two hours. If I'm lucky and my schedule allows, I like to write for another hour or two in the afternoon after I've gotten the dogs out for a longer jaunt. I do work part time as a librarian, so some days I only get a short amount of time to write.

RJ: What is most rewarding about being a published author?

BP: I have to say, the first time I saw THE RING displayed face out in a bookstore, I almost wet my pants. It was such an amazing thing! But the real reward is hearing kids say how much they love the book and how Mardie is "just like them."

RJ: Who are some of your favorite authors?

BP: I read mostly young adult and juvenile fiction. For teen authors, my favorites are Chris Crutcher, Libba Bray, Sarah Dessen, Jerry Spinelli, Pete Hautman, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Sonja Hartnett. For middle-grade favorite authors, Cynthia Rylant, Kate DeCamillo, Patricia Reilly Giff, Susan Patron, Sharon Creech, and Ann M. Martin.

RJ: What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?

BP: Funny you should ask: I just posted about this on my blog! My biggest piece of advice is to take yourself seriously as a writer. Because if you don't, nobody else will. And don't get in you own way of writing by coming up with excuses why you can't write on a given day. If John Grisham could write two novels in a tiny closet while he worked 50+ hours a week as an attorney, you and I can find the time and space, too! A great book to help you make the most of your limited time and the least of your excuses is PEN ON FIRE by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett.

RJ: Can you tell us anything about your current projects?

BP: I have a middle-grade novel being published by HarperCollins in early 2011. It's a dog story called A DOG'S WAY HOME. I'm very excited about it!

RJ: And finally, what is your favorite way to relax?

BP: Oh, I love to be outdoors! I love to hike, backpack, ski, and snowshoe with my dogs (I have three) and my husband. I like to get really tired and then come home and curl up with a good book.

I want to extend a big thank you to Bobbie for taking the time to answer all my questions. If you want to learn more about her or THE RING, just pop on over to her website at http://www.bobbiepyron.com/

WEDNESDAY'S WISH I HAD THE TIME #7


ALABAMA MOON by Watt Key is a book my students occasionally read. Not many choose it, but those who do read it, really enjoy it.

They tell me it is a great survival story about a boy who has to make it on his own after his father dies. It is often compared to Gary Paulsen's HATCHET.

I've got to get around to reading it soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

REPLACING "TEASER TUESDAY" WITH "TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS"

I'm going to start a new Tuesday post called TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS in which I post the opening lines of the book I'm currently reading.

Every reader is different, but I know the opening lines of a book can make or break my reading experience. By sharing the first few lines of what I'm reading, perhaps I can tempt readers to check out a book they might otherwise have passed up.

Without further ado, here's TUESDAY'S TEMPTING TIDBITS #1. (I think you'll like it.)

SWIM THE FLY
by Don Calame

"Movies don't count," Cooper says. "The Internet doesn't count. Magazines don't count. A real, live naked girl. That's the deal. That's our goal for this summer."

SURF MULES by G. Neri


It's almost time for graduation, and Logan Tom has no idea what he wants to do. He's been accepted at one university but has no clue how he'll pay for it or if he even wants to go. All he really wants to do is surf.

Surfing with his buddies since age eight, Logan only feels alive in the ocean. Lately, his relationships have been pretty rocky, but he's hoping that will turn around. Z-Boy, Fin , and Logan have always been known as the three Musketeers, at least until the blow up with Fin. A girl was at the center of the fight, and Logan will forever have regrets. Those regrets are compounded by the fact that mere days before graduation, Fin is killed in a surfing accident that leaves Logan with doubts about his own life and whether having future plans even matters.

With money a huge obstacle in the way of college plans and relaxing days filled with surfing, Logan lets his friend Z-Boy talk him into a dangerous situation. With Fin gone, the two remaining friends are approached to replace him as "mules" transporting 100 pounds of marijuana from California to Orlando, Florida. Logan knows the decision is unwise, but the promise of quick cash is too much to resist.

A local distributor sets the plan in action and the two young men head off in a Crown Victoria for the two and a half day cross-country trip. Logan knows that with Z-Boy along almost anything is possible, and it doesn't take long for things to go terribly wrong. He just hopes they can successfully complete the delivery and return home safely.

Author G. Neri not only brings the world of surfing to life for his readers, but he also defines the true meaning of friendship and commitment. Readers will sympathize with the emotionally torn Logan, and at the same time enjoy the crazy antics of Z-Boy. The surfing backdrop provides an adrenaline rush that compliments the more serious subjects of uncertain futures and senseless tragedy. SURF MULES has me looking forward to whatever G. Neri has to offer next.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

THE RING by Bobbie Pyron


Mardie is 15 and headed down a path to destruction. Constantly living in the shadow of her successful older brother, she is seeks attention in negative ways until she discovers boxing. It might just be the thing that saves her.

As the story begins, Mardie's grades are slipping. She has the attention of one of the most popular guys in school and finding ways to party with him consumes most of her time. Even though he is making it pretty obvious that he is interested in just one thing, she's enjoying the jealous looks she gets from every girl in school.

Life is becoming a series of lies told to her father and stepmother. Mardie's beginning to question whether the lies are worth it because so far she's had to call both her brother and stepmother to pick her up from parties where things have gone terribly wrong. The result - she's been grounded and lost her cell phone privileges. Being caught shoplifting $93 worth of merchandise was the last straw. Now it doesn't matter if she's invited to parties because her evenings are filled with walking the dogs and going to the local fitness center with her stepmother.

It's while hanging out at the fitness center, that Mardie discovers boxing. Tired of reading and doing homework, she wanders around and stumbles across a girls' boxing workout. Encouraged to join in by the instructor, Kitty, she's hooked. Convincing her father that it's a good idea is a bit difficult, but with the help of her stepmother, she succeeds.

Can boxing and training for an upcoming championship fight turn things around for Mardie? Will it be enough to help her learn to accept her stepmother, deal with her demanding father, and understand that her older brother is gay?

Author Bobbie Pyron takes readers into the unusual world of female boxers. She mixes the physical release of the sport with the roller-coaster emotions of a teenager. What the story lacks in depth is made up for in action and plot twists most teens will be able to understand. THE RING is a quick read that might open up new possibilities for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WEDNESDAY'S WISH I HAD THE TIME #6


I'm a huge fan of Sharon Draper. I have been since I first read TEARS OF A TIGER.

My Wish I Had the Time pick this week is FIRE FROM THE ROCK. It's been on my classroom shelf for quite some time, and the students tell me it's very good, but so far there haven't been enough hours in my day to get to it.

Here's a summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

"Sylvia is shocked and confused when she is asked to be one of the first black students to attend Central High School, which is scheduled to be integrated in the fall of 1957, whether people like it or not. Before Sylvia makes her final decision, smoldering racial tension in the town ignites into flame. When the smoke clears, she sees clearly that nothing is going to stop the change from coming. It is up to her generation to make it happen, in as many different ways as there are colors in the world."

Hopefully, I'll get around to it soon.

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL by Simmone Howell


Riley Rose is not what you would call a "happy camper." Her father and the woman she calls her "stepmother in training" have decided to ship her off for a week to a Christian camp. They want to have a little vacation getaway, and Riley's recent less-than-perfect behavior is just the thing they need to justify sending her off to the desert for an attitude adjustment.

Ever since her mother died suddenly of cancer, Riley has struggled to keep herself together. Overweight and rebellious, she has used crazy hairstyles, suggestive clothing, and troublesome behavior to mask her real feelings. With a bold and sassy exterior, she is able to hide the fact that she misses her mother more than she thought possible.

When Riley arrives at Spirit Ranch, she can't believe her bad luck. No cell phones, computers, or means of communicating with the outside world for seven days. Most of the kids at the camp are under the age of twelve, leaving Riley in a small group of teens who are veterans of the camp experience. She declares herself an atheist and is determined to avoid not only Bible related activities but also all physical challenges, social interaction, and friendships of any kind.

In the odd mix of campers, is Dylan, a wheelchair bound paraplegic. Still bitter and angry because of some accident that robbed him of the use of his legs, Dylan spends as much time avoid camp activities as Riley which results in the two spending increasing time together. Both have plans of escape that end in disappointment, leaving them with one more thing in common.

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL takes readers into a week in the lives of Riley and Dylan. As they share their personal baggage, a friendship develops and an unbreakable trust they don't feel with anyone else. Riley's natural cockiness and Dylan's negativity may irritate the camp staff, but will no doubt intrigue readers as they bend and break the rules to gain a bit of freedom and release. This irreverent week at Spirit Ranch is definitely a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"TEASER TUESDAY"

Here's my TEASER TUESDAY #19.

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.

EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL
by Simmone Howell
p. 21
"I'm an atheist, agnostic, irreligious." I couldn't remember the right word, but what I meant was this: I'm different. I don't belong here."

NOVEMBER'S RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE 7TH AND 8TH GRADERS...

CHICKEN BOY by Frances O'Roark Dowell
VAMPIRE DIARIES by L. J. Smith
MAXIMUM RIDE: THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT by James Patterson
MONSTER by Walter Dean Myers
BURNED by Ellen Hopkins
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS by John Boyne
GUYAHOLIC by Carolyn Mackler
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS: WICKED by Sara Shepard
LAWN BOY by Gary Paulsen
MY SISTER'S KEEPER by Jodi Piccoult
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LAST STRAW by Jeff Kinney
CRANK by Ellen Hopkins
HOW IT'S DONE by Christine Kole Maclean
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
HALO: THE FIRST STRIKE by Eric S. Nylund
BLUE BLOODS series by Melissa de la Cruz
WHAT MY GIRLFRIEND DOESN'T KNOW by Sonya Sones
STOLEN CHILDREN by Peg Kehret
EVERNIGHT by Claudia Gray
VAMPIRE KISSES by Ellen Schreiber
CLAWS by Dan Greenberg
KISSED BY AN ANGEL by Elizabeth Chandler
TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer
GENERATION DEAD by Daniel Waters
IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins
IDENTICAL by Ellen Hopkins
GONE by Michael Grant
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS by Jeff Kinney
YOU ARE SO DEAD TO ME by Stacey Jay

HAPPY READING!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

STRUTS & FRETS by Jon Skovron


Sammy Bojar has music in his blood. His grandfather earned his living playing piano with some of music's greats. Sammy has his own dreams of music stardom.

The Tragedy of Wisdom is the name of the band Sammy and his buddies have put together. They have free practice space at the local community center, but things at practice have been pretty rocky lately. First, it was the argument about the band's name. It wasn't everyone's choice, but hey, it's just a name. Then there's the tension about their creative direction. Sammy has been writing the songs for the group almost since they began, but one member never seems to be able to learn the music or remember the words and another member seems intent on becoming the new writer for the band. Just when they may have their big chance in a local Battle of the Bands contest, the group may be breaking apart.

Much to his surprise, music is suddenly not Sammy's only passion. Jen5, his lifelong best friend and budding artist, is fast becoming his girlfriend. Who knew the mix CD he gave her last year really expressed his love and not just his friendship? Fortunately, Jen5 feels the same way so their relationship is heading off toward bigger and better things.

Sammy would like nothing better than to be able to sit down and confide in someone about the mounting pressures in his life. Jen5 seems an obvious choice, but she has her own artistic frustrations and a wacky father to deal with besides. Rick, Sammy's gay band mate, understands the music situation but is clueless about romance. There's always his mom, but lately she's only interested in deep, psychological talks about what a woman wants from sex. That leaves Sammy's grandfather. His connection to reality is questionable even on a good day, but it seems the old man may have more valuable advice to give Sammy then either one ever dreamed.

STRUTS & FRETS by Jon Skovron is for all you budding creative geniuses out there. It's for the readers dreaming of being in a band and making it big. It's for the would-be artists trying to put their passions on paper or canvas despite parents and teachers with their "real" world requirements. Skovron plugs right into the hopes and dreams of every idealistic teen and speaks to them in their own terms.





Friday, November 6, 2009

LOST by Jacqueline Davies


Essie's world revolves around her little sister Zelda. She is a challenging child and can be quite a handful most days. Essie knows how much Zelda misses her now that she is working at the Triangle, a sweatshop that employs young seamstresses to make shirtwaists. The little girl begs Essie to stay home and play, but Essie's paycheck helps keep food on the table and the rent paid.

When the boss at the shop presents a new girl for Essie to train, she just hopes the young woman learns quickly so she can keep up her own pile of completed garments big enough to please their demanding supervisor. It doesn't take Essie long to discover the new girl, whose name is Harriet, is well-educated and used to a comfortable lifestyle. As the two young women begin to develop a friendship, Essie suspects that Harriet is hiding something or from someone.

Set in the early 1900's, the chapters of LOST alternate between Essie's thoughts dated and written in diary form over a period of six years and narrative chapters relating her present day life at work and at home. As readers are pulled into the story, it becomes evident that something has happened to Zelda, and that Essie may be blocking out some tragic event concerning the little girl. The mystery deepens as Essie begins to unravel the secrets surrounding her new friend Harriet. What is Harriet hiding and is she really who she says she is?

Author Jacqueline Davies carries readers through the story with intriguing hints and tempting tidbits about Essie and Harriet. Their true stories stay just out of reach and will make readers curious and turning the pages to find out more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WEDNESDAY'S WISH I HAD THE TIME #5


BLOOM by Elizabeth Scott has been on my classroom shelf for over a year now. The girls are enjoying it, but I haven't had time to read it yet, so it is officially on my Wednesday's Wish I Had the Time list.

Here's a summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

There's a difference between falling and letting go.

Lauren has a good life: decent grades, great friends, and a boyfriend every girl lusts after. So why is she so unhappy? It takes the arrival of Evan Kirkland for Lauren to figure out the answer: She's been holding back. She's been denying herself a bunch of things (like sex) because staying with her loyal and gorgeous boyfriend, Dave, is the "right" thing to do. After all, who would give up the perfect boyfriend?

But as Dave starts talking more and more about their life together, planning a future Lauren simply can't see herself in — and as Lauren's craving for Evan, and moreover, who she is with Evan becomes all the more fierce — Lauren realizes she needs to make a choice...before one is made for her.

Have any of the rest of you read it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"TEASER TUESDAY"

Here's my TEASER TUESDAY #18.

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.

LOST
by Jacqueline Davies
p. 43

"I had thought she was closer to my age. Why would she lie about that?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE by Allen Zadoff


Andy has a weight problem. It is pretty obvious. All you have to do is look at him. That's why he doesn't understand why the makers of Levi's jeans have to put his size (48) right on the label for everyone to see.

Also, how fair is it that someone with a weight problem has to have a mother who has her own catering business. Andy's mother may specialize in mini foods - mini eclairs, mini bagels, mini bite-sized Caesar salads, but it is fabulous mini food and eating by the handful does help his situation at all.

Andy and his best friend Eytan managed to survive their freshman year. They hung in there despite the teasing and taunting from upperclassman and found their place with the geeks. Clubs like Model UN and getting good grades should be enough to please their parents and get them into first rate colleges. The only thing is, this year Andy wants more.

Things seem like they might be about to change when Andy meets April. He's helping his mother cater a wedding when April enters his world. The secret dreams of what could be possible if they could hook up keeps Andy thinking hopefully as his sophomore year begins. That hopefulness takes a leap forward when it turns out April has actually moved nearby and is attending Andy's high school.

When Andy discovers April is trying out for cheerleading, he makes an amazing decision. He takes a detour on his way to a Model UN meeting and ends up heading out the back door of the school and right into the middle of football practice. It turns out the team needs a new center and Andy's massive size fills one of the main requirements for the job.

Of course, there are complications. How can he get his mother to sign the consent form necessary to play football when he knows she'll be concerned that he suffers from asthma? What happens when his best friend finds out he is abandoning the geeks of Model UN in favor of the jocks of football? Can he even learn to play football when he doesn't really have an athletic bone in his oversized body?

Allen Zadoff takes readers into the familiar world of high school. FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE focuses on the cliques of high school and the resulting pressure to fit in, be popular, and just survive in general. If that's not enough pressure, Zadoff creates even more for his main character as he has Andy struggle with unrequited love, a controlling mother, and a mostly absent father. It all sounds rather depressing, but Zadoff uses fantastic humor and likeable characters to attract and hold the reader's attention right to the last page. FOOD, GIRLS, AND OTHER THINGS I CAN'T HAVE is a must-read.

AND THE WINNER IS ...


The winner of LOVE SICK by Jake Coburn
is *Alexa*!

I've sent you an email. Please respond within 48 hours so I can get your prize in the mail.

CONGRATS!!!