Sunday, February 28, 2010
You could be the lucky winner of LIAR by Justine Larbalestier.
I have an extra copy, and I'll be giving it away on March 20.
Here's all you need to do to enter.
+1 for leaving a comment
+2 for becoming a new follower
+3 for telling me you are already a follower
*Please leave a current email address so I can contact you if you win.
**For U.S. and Canada residents only.
In WOODS RUNNER Gary Paulsen takes readers inside the American Revolution. It is not the history book version, but instead, the story of one young boy's fight to survive and save his parents.
Thirteen year old Samuel loves the woods. He spends his time exploring the forest and hunting for game to feed his family. One day while in the woods, Samuel sees black smoke in the distance. The longer he watches the smoke, the more uncomfortable he feels. He heads for home, but when he arrives, he discovers his house and all the other buildings in his small settlement, burned to the ground. As he searches for survivors, he finds casualties, but his parents are not among them. He stays long enough to bury those who were killed, and then he heads off in search of his parents.
Samuel travels cautiously. He keeps to the brush and ducks for cover whenever he hears a noise. As he follows the trail of the Redcoats, he hears news about how they are traveling toward New York where most prisoners are being held. His goal to get there, too, and rescue his mother and father.
Along the way, Samuel witnesses horrible scenes of death and destruction. He is badly injured in one attack, but thanks to the help of strangers, he recovers enough to continue his journey. Other strangers also step in and lend a helping hand as Samuel heads east.
Gary Paulsen not only tells Samuel's adventurous tale, but he also inserts factual information telling about the British, the Colonists, and others involved in this tumultuous time in history. WOODS RUNNER is definitely not your typical, boring historical recap. There is action, suspense, and touching moments about what it was like to live and die during the American Revolution.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
As far as Reese is concerned, Progress Center is just a fancy name for juvie jail, and he's been there long enough to know. He was found guilty of stealing prescription pads from a doctor and selling them to a drug dealer. It wasn't easy to stay out of trouble on the street, and it's not much easier inside either.
The only person Reese trusts at Progress Center is Play. Diego, Leon, and Toon may hang with him, but they have their own agendas. It doesn't take long to find out the new guy they call King Kong is bad news, too.
When he's not in school with the other guys or getting his quarters ready for inspection, Reese is part of a new work program. He is cuffed and transported to a local nursing home where he helps out with cleaning and interacting with one of the residents. Mr. Hooft a scrawny old guy in his seventies calls Reese a criminal, and whenever he gets a chance tells people he's a murderer. Despite his gruff exterior, Mr. Hooft shares his life story and offers Reese some life-changing advice.
Reese experiences several setbacks when he punches the new guy for picking on Toon, and when detectives haul him in for questioning on additional charges they hope to pin on him which would add years to his lockup time. His only motivation is a little sister named Icy whose faith in Reese never wavers.
True to his hard-hitting, gritty style, Walter Dean Myers gives his readers an inside look into juvenile detention. He reinforces the cold, hard facts of life in the neighborhoods create the tough situations that tempt kids like Reese and lead to a life of crime. He doesn't sugar-coat life inside the detention center. Readers see it for what it is and the destructive atmosphere that often hardens kids like Reese instead of rehabilitating them. LOCKDOWN is an honest look at a side of life that might change the choices of some young readers.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I was really excited to discover Natasha Friend was releasing a new book. Many of my students have enjoyed her other books: LUSH, BOUNCE, and PERFECT. Now that I've read FOR KEEPS, I know they will love this one, too.
What happens when you think that sometimes you are more mature and in control than your mother? That's how Josie Gardner sometimes feels. She and her mother have made it through a lot together. Josie knows she was the product of a high school romance. She knows her dad's name was Paul Tucci and that he left town with his family not even knowing he was going to be a father.
It never really made a difference until one day in the grocery store. Josie's mother suddenly ducks for cover in the pet-food aisle. What is going on? Kate Gardner appears to be a nervous wreck as she whispers to her daughter that Paul Tucci's parents are in the store. When Josie takes a peek at the couple headed for the checkout, she suddenly realizes they are her grandparents. Now it's a matter of calming down her frantic mother and finding out what they are doing here.
The mystery is solved by Josie's best friend Liv. With a little amateur sleuthing, Liv finds out that the Tucci's have moved back to town. When Josie tells her mother, she's surprised by Kate's sudden lack of interest. Josie doesn't think there will be a problem and probably not even any contact between them. It all changes when her boss turns his mediocre ice cream parlor into a thriving little pastry/coffee shop. Josie's grandfather, Big Nick Tucci, becomes a regular customer. Again, thanks to her talkative best friend, Josie learns that Paul is the youngest of the Tucci's three boys, and he remains unmarried, working with at-risk youth somewhere in the Carolinas.
Filled with mixed emotions about the possible return of the side of her family she's never known, Josie faces further emotional upheaval when the popular and attractive Matt Rigby makes it known that he is interested in dating her. It's almost more than one girl can handle.
Natasha Friend's fresh, straight-forward style makes FOR KEEPS excellent reading entertainment. Her use of humor, down-to-earth characters, and heartfelt relationships will have her fans cheering and any new- comers clamoring for her earlier books. I'm glad to see this new arrival and will be eagerly awaiting more to come.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Diego is angry. It doesn't take much to set him off. His normal release for anger is punching the walls in his bedroom, and then he discovers cutting. One day a taunting comment from a classmate ends with Diego punching the kid in the face. That punch lands Diego in front of a judge.
Since it is his first offense he avoids time in juvie and even escapes probation. However, after meeting with Mr. Vidas, a probation officer used by the court to evaluate juvenile offenders, Diego thinks time spent talking to this man might be helpful. Much to everyone's surprise, he pleads to be put on probation.
Once his weekly meetings with Vidas begin, Diego finds himself facing his internal demons. Much of his anger seems to be connected with the suicide of his stepfather and a feeling that his mother doesn't really give him the attention and credit he thinks he deserves. Vidas takes Diego down a path of self-discovery that opens old wounds and forces him to deal with long-buried issues. The question now is - Can Diego come to terms with what he has faced in his young life and come through it alive?
Thanks to the talent of author Alex Sanchez, readers will see Diego's life, both past and present, unfold before them. The flow and timing of BAIT will capture readers in the first chapter and make them reluctant to put this one down until the last page.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Jane loves her sister Lizzie but is forever in her shadow. Lizzie gets straight A's, while Jane simply earns perfect attendance. Lizzie is perfect, and Jane is merely average.
JANE IN BLOOM begins on Jane's twelfth birthday. She can hardly wait to get up and head downstairs. Today is the day she gets her ears pierced. According to her, she is the only girl in the entire world without them. But first she pauses outside their shared bathroom and listens as the water runs and Lizzie does whatever it is that Lizzie does.
Jane's special day begins to spiral out of control almost immediately as Lizzie at first refuses to come to the breakfast table, and once she does, refuses to eat any of the special birthday pancakes. After three reluctant bites, Lizzie rushes upstairs and the next thing Jane knows is her mother is screaming and her sister is being carried away in an ambulance.
Pierced ears are quickly forgotten and replaced with visiting her sister in what looks to be the psych-ward of the local hospital. Jane can't believe that her perfect sister is lying in bed with a tube connected to her arm and her wrists strapped to the bedrails. When Lizzie returns home after several days, things get even worse. She refuses to change, and their parents fight constantly.
The world totally collapses on the day Jane returns home from school to discover another ambulance in the driveway. This time the paramedics leave with Lizzie and promise that the autopsy will reveal her cause of death. How can she and what's left of her family ever survive?
JANE IN BLOOM is the heart-wrenching story of loss and recovery. Author Deborah Lytton does an amazing job revealing the intense emotions experienced by each member of Jane's family. The grieving process is handled differently by each individual as they come to terms with what it means to lose Lizzie. This one is sure to bring readers to tears, but at the same time provide encouragement and hope.
Always a target for taunts and teasing, Mary Harold dreams of finding the place where she truly belongs. She is pretty sure that place is the place where she was born - Wren Mountain in Alabama. Now she lives in Virginia with her mother, and she hates it with a passion.
Occasional visits to Wren Mountain to see a grandmother she calls Ayma have Mary Harold longing to live there permanently. When her mother swears she'll never go back there, Mary Harold decides to make the trip herself. She may be only thirteen, but thanks to her mother's back-country upbringing and a strong independent streak, Mary Harold has known how to drive for years. It is easy to sneak out at 2:00 am and roll the truck down to the main road before she pops the clutch and heads south. Almost 700 miles later, Mary Harold is at Ayma's and is welcomed with open arms.
An agreement is made that Mary Harold may stay on Wren Mountain as long as she is happy and as long as Ayma doesn't force her to go to church on Wednesdays and Sundays. With the summer stretching out before her, Mary Harold soon becomes the proud owner of Sue, a pregnant cow, and she begins helping out with the rest of the cattle. She falls in love with the farm work, a new best friend named Dixie, and the knitting circle that makes her feel a part of the world of Wren Mountain.
Mary Harold gains a confidence that she never felt in Virginia, but she finds out that people can be mean no matter where you live. When school starts in the fall, she discovers that her newly developed farm muscles and her desire to stand up for herself can get her into trouble if she uses them in physical defense of her friend Dixie. Although Ayma understands her urge to protect, she is forced to remind Mary Harold that violence isn't the answer.
A CERTAIN STRAIN OF PECULIAR is a heart-warming story of one thirteen year old's search for comfort and a place to call home. As she faces her own fears and the secrets of who she really is, she learns about friendship and understanding. Readers will be immediately hooked by Mary Harold along with the cast of unique individuals that inhabit Wren Mountain.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
When Steven's mom's boyfriend takes off, he's relieved. He never really liked Mike. Unfortunately, Steven's mom is pregnant. She says she's having a girl, and they begin calling her Sam.
Steven's dad died when Steven was only one. He doesn't know a thing about him. Now, about to have a little sister who also won't know her dad, he sets about trying to explain things to her. He begins to write Sam a letter. He's not sure when or if she will ever read it, but he writes about everything that's happens to them last December.
There was the new high school and Steven's desire to be part of the hockey team. There was a fight with a group of skinheads and the threat that they might come back for more. There was the irresistible Jenny and new best friend Trevor who got Steven involved in the high school social scene. There was Byron, the Ms. Pac-Man playing stranger, who always seemed to show up at the Donut Hole. All of these are intertwined in Steven's letter along with the stress and pressure of being the man in the family for his pregnant mother and his soon-to-be little sister.
LAST DECEMBER describes Steven's struggle to adapt to the normal ups and downs of being a teen at the same time he comes to terms with being there for a mother about to become a single mother of two children. Using the concept of a letter, author Matt Beam takes his readers directly into Steven's thoughts as he attempts to provide history and guidance for his unborn sister.
Friday, February 19, 2010
CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers is the YA fiction winner of the Cybils award. It is Summers's first book and will probably have many waiting anxiously for her next.
Parker Fadley's life is falling apart. Previously, she had perfect grades, was the perfect daughter, the perfect girlfriend, and the perfect cheerleader. Well, sort of anyway.
Parker had her life scheduled right down to the tiniest detail. She was in control. Although, others might have seen her as controlling and her fellow cheerleaders referred to her as the Nazi, she knew exactly what she wanted and where she was headed. All of that is gone now. Now she is in danger of not graduating, and her parents have her on a short leash that includes a curfew and constant questions as soon as she enters the house.
It started the night of Chris's party. She was drunk and most definitely out of control. Her best friend Jessica was having boyfriend trouble, and something happened. That sometime has taken control of Parker's life. It's that feeling of responsibility that has her drunk at school, skipping classes, and even attempting suicide.
Author Courtney Summers takes her readers deep into the troubles of Parker Fadley. Her supporting cast of characters stand at the ready to help Parker, but through cleverly placed flashbacks, readers learn that Parker's guilt is preventing her from accepting any of their well-intentioned help. Each flashback reveals more and more of that devastating night, and readers will keep the pages turning to find out what fate has in store for Parker.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Janie thought things were settled. She's made her peace with the fate life has in store for her. Cabel keeps telling her his love for her will not change even when she's blind and crippled. Now on vacation with him at the lake, she is finally beginning to feel that maybe it will work. That is until she gets a frantic phone call from Carrie.
Carrie's hysterical call leads Janie to believe her mother has finally lost it. It sounds like after wandering drunkenly in her nightgown, she's been taken to the hospital. Who knows what Janie will find when she arrives?
When Janie and Cabel get to the hospital, they discover that the problem is not with Janie's mother, but instead with a man named Henry. Through a confused haze of alcohol, Dorothea tells Janie the man is her long lost father and that he is dying. After delivering this shocking news, Dorothea heads home and shuts herself in her room. The next morning Janie is unable to get her mother to reveal much more about the sudden reappearance of the father she has never known, which leaves Janie with the task of figuring out what to do next.
With Cabel's help and her newfound detective skills, Janie begins to uncover the truth. She learns that Henry has lived just a couple a miles from her her entire life. On several more visits to his hospital room, Janie is sucked into his dying dreams. The terrifying experience gives her clues about his life, and when she encounters Miss Stubins, she knows he was a dream catcher, too.
Knowing about her father and the choices he made, gives Janie even more to think about as far as her own future is concerned. Maybe it is time to think about what is really best for her, Caleb, her mother, and the Captain's offer of a job. Knowing what she knows now offers the promise of a peaceful life without blindness and crippling disability but at what cost to the relationships she values.
GONE is the final book in Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy. After following Janie and her life as a dream catcher, readers will be fascinated by the twists and turns revealed in this final book. McMann did an excellent job of capturing Janie's continued frustration with her lot in life and her desire to maintain control and at the same time protect the ones she loves. It is a conclusion worth waiting for, and now just leaves readers wondering what McMann will have to offer next.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Dawn Bundy has set out to kill God. She is not exactly sure how to go about it, but she is sure it's the only answer.
Two years ago her father disappeared. It's not that it was a terrible loss. He was a drunken drug addict and pretty worthless as far as she could tell. However, since he disappeared her mother has fallen apart. She spends her time in front of the TV usually drunk and zoned out on her antidepressant meds.
Dawn goes to school and then comes home to hang out. She spends her free time listening to music and snuggling up with her two dogs. Their life isn't perfect, but thanks to her father, she and her mother have money. He left behind a duffle bag full of money. The gun also left inside the bag suggests the money was from some drug deal, but whatever the case, they have used it wisely as they wait for his possible return.
Dawn describes herself as having another Dawn trapped in a cave inside her mind. That other Dawn is hiding from something she doesn't want to remember. Even though Dawn tries to carry on and push aside her memories, they eventually catch up with her and pull the inner Dawn out into the light of day.
Author Kevin Brooks exhibits his unique talent to get inside the psyche of his characters. Through Dawn, readers will live her fears and frustrations as she deals with her alcoholic mother and repressed memories of her absent father. As the layers of her character are peeled away, her story becomes deeper and darker. Readers will feel her desperation, yet sense the underlying hope that drives her. Fans of Kevin Brooks will want to check out his latest, DAWN.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
THEY NEVER CAME BACK by Caroline B. Cooney is a great thriller for middle grade readers. There are just enough twists and turns in the plot to keep readers focused, and it offers a few thought provoking questions to make readers consider just exactly what they would do in the same circumstances.
Chapter one is about Cathy. She is enrolled in a special accelerated summer school. The program squeezes one full year of Latin into a summer course. Her focus is Latin morning, noon, and night. One afternoon in the cafeteria, Cathy is shocked when a boy named Tommy approaches her table and calls her Murielle. He even drops to his knees before her as he insists she is his long-lost cousin. He claims she was taken from his home five years ago by social services. Then he adds that she had been abandoned by her parents who were guilty of stealing millions of dollars from business investors. Suddenly Cathy is the center of attention.
Chapter two begins with Murielle. Ten year old Murielle is a lucky girl. Her parents are in the financial investment business, and they are able to provide her with anything her heart desires. She is used to living in a fancy house, having pretty clothes, new things whenever she wants, and private lessons in just about anything she is interested in doing. Even though they are constantly working and leave her in the care of various babysitters and housekeepers, Murielle thinks her parents are terrific.
One afternoon Murielle is with her Aunt Lois headed toward the airport. The plan is that her aunt will be dropping her off to catch a flight with her father. They will be flying to England where they will meet up with her mother. Suddenly Aunt Lois turns the car away from the airport and begins shouting about how she won't go through with the plans. Murielle has no idea what is going on except that she is not going to be going with her parents. At that point her life changes forever.
Could Cathy and Murielle really be one and the same? Is Cathy, who lives with a struggling foster family, really the daughter of millionaire investors? It's been five years since their scandalous disappearance. Could they really have been more interested in money than in their adorable little Murielle?
THEY NEVER CAME BACK is a fast-paced novel with a unique plot. Caroline B. Cooney's smooth flowing prose will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they follow the action to see just exactly who is who in this clever mystery.
Monday, February 8, 2010
If I was asked to write a one word review for POP by Gordon Korman, I would write - Fantastic! Once readers start passing this one around, it may never touch a bookshelf again.
Quarterback want-to-be Marcus Jordan is packed up and moved to the mountains of New York state by his divorced mother. It's no big loss in the dad department considering he refers to his father as Comrade Stalin. He knows he and his mother are better off out of Kansas and on their own, but it's the summer before his junior year, and his dream of playing varsity quarterback may not survive the move.
With no friends yet to occupy his time and definitely no fellow football companions to workout with, Marcus heads to the local city park to create his own workout. He is attempting some passing practice when a burly, middle-aged guy shows up and sprints into the park and picks off one of his passes. Before he knows it, the guy is putting him through his paces. They are passing the ball like crazy and then running patterns and hitting each other like it's the biggest game of the season. And then the guy is gone.
Marcus learns the man's name is Charlie. Without any regular schedule or plan, they start working out together in the park. Charlie just sort of shows up - maybe one day, but not the next, and rarely ever at the same time. Even with crazy and unreliable appearances, the time Marcus spends with Charlie is really improving his game.
Whenever Marcus tries to find out exactly who Charlie is, he runs into a road block. Their time together is basically all about football until the day a wild pass ends up crashing through the side window of a car parked along the street. Charlie disappears faster than Marcus believed possible, leaving him to write a note to the car owner promising to pay the repair bill. After that more strange things begin to happen. Marcus notices that when he and Charlie leave the park to grab a Gatorade or a bag of ice to ice down an injury, Charlie simply grabs what they need from a local store and leaves without paying a cent. Weird... but the weirdness is outweighed by the fantastic football knowledge Marcus is gaining from this awesome athlete.
As school starts that fall, Marcus finds it difficult to fit into the already stacked football roster. The team has a super reputation and is heading into a second undefeated season. There seems to be no hope that he will play quarterback. In his attempt to make friends and fit in with the team, Marcus learns that Charlie is the father of the team's star quarterback. It makes sense that such a great player would have a talented son, but Marcus also discovers that there is some sort of family secret and Charlie seems to be at the center of it.
Gordon Korman is at his best in POP. He has wrapped a tremendous amount into this fast-paced novel. In addition to football action, readers will experience Marcus's "new guy" frustration, emotions twisted by his parents' divorce, and the discovery of a horribly debilitating disease. Readers will find it difficult to stop reading once they have met Marcus and Charlie. Run, don't walk, to the nearest library or bookstore to get a copy of POP.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Mike Semak's dream is to play center field. His idol is Yankee centerfielder Billy Budd. He lives and breathes any advice he can find from the great Billy Budd.
Mike's focus is directed at playing his best which means clearing his mind of anything that is not baseball. He tries to steer clear of too-serious relationships with girls. He avoids involvement in his parents' latest project - opening a new floor covering store, and he pushes the problems of his sister, a single young mother living in New York, and his older brother, a championship cello player, to the back of his mind.
Unfortunately, Mike comes up against several distractions that may threaten the intense focus on his goal. One obstacle standing in his way is a new player named Oscar. He is a new kid from the Dominican Republic who shows up and looks to be a challenge for the center field position. Coach Cody lets them both know they will have to prove themselves to earn the position.
All the pressure Mike is feeling about baseball comes to a head in a silly incident with a notorious school geek named Zack. In a moment of lost control, Mike shoves Zack and ends up regretting it when, as punishment, he finds himself helping the Cyber Club provide Saturday computer instruction at the local senior center. Having the little computer nerd boss him around is almost more than he can take. The only highlight about the community service becomes another distraction for Mike's center field dreams - Katherine Herold.
Kat is a track athlete with an interest in photography and filming. Her membership in the Cyber Club surprises Mike, but he's glad to have a chance to get to know her. As people notice them together, word gets back to his cheerleader girlfriend, but Mike never thought of their relationship as particularly exclusive and his fascination with Kat seems worth the price he might pay with Lori.
Complicating matters even further is Coach Cody. Mike has always looked up to Coach so when the man approaches Mike with a request, it is natural that Mike wants to help. Cody wants Mike to infiltrate the Cyber Club in an effort to bust them for hacking into the school computer system. Problems arise when Mike begins to suspect that Coach is using him in exchange for the center field position. Even more suspicious is the fact that as Mike begins to become friends with Zack, he learns that Coach Cody might not be exactly who he says he is.
Robert Lipsyte has filled CENTER FIELD with more than just baseball action. Mike's performance on the field is illustrated in excellent play-by-play narrative, but there is much more to this novel. There is intrigue as Coach Cody uses Mike to investigate the possible computer hackers, and additional suspense comes from new member of the team, Oscar, as well as the not-so-perfect Kat and her intoxicating power over Mike. CENTER FIELD has a little something for everyone. Readers who are not sports enthusiasts should not shy away from the title or cover art. It is definitely an entertaining read.
After losing his mother in a tragic accident, Gaston Giambanco Jr., known as Gas, decides that best thing he can do is leave his drunken, abusive father and head off on his own. He hops on the back of a chicken truck with a bunch of illegal Mexican workers and takes his chances as he heads north.
Growing up in Texas, Gas has been surrounded by illegal workers everyone calls beaners. That didn't seem to matter until his mother was killed in a car accident that involved an illegal behind the wheel. Now Gas harbors hatred toward them that he can barely hold in check. When he finds himself stuck in the back of a smelly truck with three brothers headed north, he can't believe his rotten luck.
Gas and the Mexican brothers are dropped off in the dead of night at a race track in Arkansas. Maybe he has had just a bit of good luck. His father worked at a race track handling horses, and his mother loved to ride and attempted to pass her interest in horses on to Gas.
The work is dirty and grueling, especially since Gas is at the bottom of the pecking order of the race track. He walks the horses after their workouts and does whatever his boss commands. Much to his surprise he is given the chance to ride as a jockey. Unfortunately, his mount is a horse known for his viciousness and the ride leads to some painful and disappointing performances.
Despite the taunts and even threats from other jockeys, Gas is bound and determined to prove himself. As he pushes to earn himself a name on the race track, he learns other valuable lessons about friendship and family bonds.
Author Paul Volponi heads into different territory with HOMESTRETCH. His usual subjects involve inner-city youth and gritty relationships involving gangs and the city. Even though the setting is different in this new novel, he still presents life at its toughest as young Gas deals with the anger of losing his mother, the additional loss of an uncaring father, and the prejudice he feels toward a minority group he thinks he should hate forever.