Monday, June 28, 2010

COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles



It's 1962.  It's all about your collection of 45's, boy/girl parties, TV dinners, and McDonald's.  JFK is president, the Civil Rights Movement is just beginning, and Communists are evil.

Franny is eleven years old and in the fifth grade.  She has an older sister who is just starting college and a younger brother who dreams of becoming an astronaut.  Her father is an air force pilot who flies out of Andrews Air Force Base, her mother is a busy, bossy homemaker, and her Uncle Otts is crazy.

As Franny struggles to make her way through fifth grade she has the added challenge of dealing with the fear of every American - the threat of nuclear war.  Bomb shelters and air raid drills are part of daily life in her community.  It was bad enough that the Communists were threatening the US from the Soviet Union, but now there's the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The Russians have set up shop in Cuba and have installed nuclear missiles.  They are pointed at and capable of destroying major cities all over the country.

Life for Franny is all about succeeding in school, pleasing her parents, putting up with the frustration of her siblings and irritable best friends, and at the same time, learning the "duck and cover" drills and survival skills necessary to live through an atomic blast.  Life isn't easy for a fifth grader these days.

COUNTDOWN is a fascinating account of one young girl's experience during the early 1960's.  Author Deborah Wiles takes readers deep into the time period through Franny's thoughts and emotions.  Wiles makes Franny come alive as she describes her fear, her hopes and dreams, her guilt, and her pleasures.  Mixed in with her story are factual accounts of the tumultuous times, political speeches, advertisements, and survival instructions that provide an accurate timeline of the period.  COUNTDOWN is history come to life for both teen readers of today and readers who have personal memories of those trying times.  Don't miss this one.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

THE WORST THINGS IN LIFE ARE ALSO FREE (Dear Dumb Diary #10) by Jim Benton



It's summer vacation time.  No school means time to do whatever, but Jamie Kelly and her friends Isabella and Angeline quickly discover that anything worth doing costs money.  It's even more infuriating when grown-ups keep telling them, "The best things in life are free."  Yeah right!

Uncle Dan saves the day when he makes a deal with the three girls.  He says if they can earn $100 each over the next month, he will take them to the amusement park Screamotopia.  How hard can it be to earn a little vacation money?

The girls try everything.  Their first money making venture is a lemonade stand.  Someone drinks all the profits and all Jamie knows is it wasn't her.  Then they try babysitting, car washing, and an eBay auction of all their unwanted treasures.  With each new idea the girls have high hopes which are soon dashed to smithereens.  By the middle of the month, they've managed to earn a total of $5.50.  There is no way they'll be going to Screamotopia this summer.

Jim Benton continues his hilarious Dear Dumb Diary series.  Thanks to a 5th grade student, I discovered this series and have laughed hysterically with each book.  Readers will have a great time following the adventures of Jamie and her friends.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

LAST CHANCE by Lesley Choyce



Many YA books today focus on the issue of homeless kids and runaways.  Their stories include the horrifying ways they find to survive on the streets and their disturbing living conditions.  Few of these books feature kids like Trent and Melanie who are working hard to stay out of the sex and drug trade, hold down legit jobs, and actually attend school determined to graduate and make better lives for themselves.  LAST CHANCE is their story.

Melanie left home after dealing with years of emotional abuse.  Any chance of getting help from some social agency is out of the question since she can't claim any substantial acts of physical violence from her parents.  All she knows is she can't stand living there any longer.  Her first days were spent on the streets living with other kids just like her.  Although she spent her days in her high school classes, she had to sleep on the streets and hope that a little food would come her way each day. 

Then she met Trent.  He started out the same way, but he was now living in an apartment, holding down a part-time job at night, and attending his high school during the day.  Granted the apartment included a bunch of drug dealers and hookers as neighbors and keeping the landlord off his back about the rent, made Trent's lifestyle far from the American dream but at least Melanie could get off the street and sleep on his couch in relative safety.

Not long after moving in with Trent, she is offered a job at the same doughnut shop where he works.  With both of them working, the rent money might be easier to come by.  For a short while things are looking up, but then Trent makes the boss angry and he gets fired.  Can they keep things together until he gets another job? 

LAST CHANCE portrays two teens trying to manage on their own.  Their families have failed them, but together they try to do the impossible - support themselves, stay in school, and beat the odds against them.  Author Lesley Choyce doesn't make the journey an easy one for Melanie and Trent.  Their inspiring story will serve to show teens what guts and determination can accomplish.

RECKLESS by Lesley Choyce



Riding his dirt bike through the forest is Josh's way of clearing his mind.  That's where he heads most days after school.  Although, he follows his parents' rules about leaving a note and wearing his helmet, he isn't always as careful as he should be. 

One afternoon the sound of his engine and the feel of the forest floor beneath his tires leads him to be a bit reckless.  Before he realizes exactly what happened, he is steering wildly to avoid hitting a bearded man directly in his path.  His attempt to miss the man fails.  Josh is thrown from his bike, but he quickly scrambles to his feet and to the side of the fallen man.  The guy is dressed in rags and smells awful.  Josh considers his meager first aid training and decides not to move the man.  He checks to see if he is breathing and attempts to communicate.  As he watches the man slowly come around, Josh guesses that he has stumbled across the Loggerman Creek hermit.

Much to Josh's surprise, the man gradually gets to his feet.  The man questions Josh about his reason for disrupting the quiet forest, states "You need to be taught a lesson," and then lifting Josh's broken bike, walks off with it into the trees.

Losing his bike in such an embarrassing encounter means Josh can't mention anything to his parents.  He talks with his friend Kyle and together they decide the man must be the Vietnam vet rumored to have lived in the wild for some forty years.  Josh finds out the man has a few friends in the community who deliver supplies from time to time.  He decides he will make a visit to the man and try to retrieve his dirt bike.

What follows amazes Josh.  He discovers the man's name is Jonathan.  His experiences in the war turned him into a hermit - distrustful of everyone and terrified of helicopters.  For some reason Jonathan allows Josh to befriend him.

Many Vietnam vets have found it difficult to assimilate back into their old lives.  Author Lesley Choyce gives readers a peek into Jonathan's tortured memories.  Josh learns about respect and honor in his relationship with Jonathan.  RECKLESS combines the fast and furious world of recreational dirt biking with the emotions and life-changing effects of war.

Friday, June 25, 2010

RADIO FIFTH GRADE by Gordon Korman



RADIO FIFTH GRADE is a lively adventure about a group of fifth graders who host a radio show.  Benjy is dedicated to excellent journalism, but he discovers that's not always easy when you're working with a group of amateurs.

The kids have a pretty free hand with their programming because advisor Mr. Morenz usually has his nose deep in some sci-fi thriller.  Only Mr. Whitehead, the show's sponsor and owner of a local pet shop called Our Animal Friends, seems interested in what the kids broadcast.  His sole interest in the programming is to demand that his advertising dollars turn into more people spending more money in his store.

The radio show normally includes things like school news, student stories, and some crazy editorial comments, but when the fifth grade teacher wins the lottery and leaves her job, things change.  The new fifth grade instructor, Ms. Panagopoulos, arrives and their educational environment changes dramatically.  She begins something she calls "seminar" and expectations of student performance increase.  Fortunately, for the students, Benjy figures out a way for the radio show to help them with their grades.  It's genius, really, but what if Ms. Panagopoulos finds out?

Written a bit earlier in Gordon Korman's career (1989), RADIO FIFTH GRADE still rings true today.  Readers will find the story entertaining, and it might even inspire unique hands-on classroom activities.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

FLYING FEET by James McCann



When he is not busy doing homework and getting straight A's, working with his ESL tutor, and acting as translator for his mother who doesn't speak English, Jinho is practicing tae kwon do.  He enjoys the physical activity and the discipline required by the sport.

Following his performance in a competitive event, Jinho is approached by a man who calls himself Austin.  Austin hints that he would be interested in having Jinho train and fight for him.  He leaves his business card and says he hopes to hear from Jinho.

Sensing that Austin is inviting him to become part of something illegal, Jinho is still inexplicably drawn to the offer.  He calls Austin and suddenly finds himself involved in MMA, but it is martial arts with no holds barred.  He survives what he later learns is a type of initiation beating and begins training with Austin.  Before he knows it, he is being offered fights that allow him to use moves he has formerly only dreamed of.

Jinho soon realizes that getting involved with Austin has him lying to his mother and his friends.  He is also suffering some of the worst physical injuries of his martial arts career.  Is this freestyle fighting worth the risk?  Is it possible to get out once he has become part of it?

FLYING FEET by James McCann is one of Orca Publishers newest sports collection titles.  It is filled with action and reads quickly.  There aren't a lot of martial arts stories out there, so this ought to help fill a void in teen fiction.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

OSTRICH BOYS by Keith Gray



OSTRICH BOYS is about friendship and loyalty.  Blake, Sim, and Kenny just lost their best friend, Ross.  Hit by a car while riding his bike, he is gone and they can hardly believe it.

After the boys attend his funeral, they decide the ceremony didn't do their friend justice.  Ross was so much more than a collection of words and hymns.  As a sort of revenge for the fact that he was taken in such unfair circumstances and at an early age, they concoct a plan to honor him in their own way.

Ross always dreamed of visiting a town of the same name, Ross, Scotland.  The three remaining friends "kidnap" Ross's ashes and head to Scotland.  The removal of the funeral urn from Ross's home didn't go as smoothly as planned so their scheme to take a train to Scotland and back in just two days turns into a sort of escape that has Ross's family and the families of the three boys frantic.

Just before leaving Ross's house, his father confronted Blake about the possibility that Ross may have taken his own life by riding his bike into the path of the car.  Blake is shocked by the question, as are Kenny and Sim, but shortly into their journey there is word that they have been on the evening news.  Speculation is that the three boys are part of a suicide pact, and now the hunt is on.

OSTRICH BOYS is filled with action and adventure.  Each boy is unique - Blake is known as the intelligent one, Kenny is the computer whiz and happens to be the bankroll for their trip until he unfortunately forgets his bag while switching trains, and Sim possesses an amazing knowledge of collective nouns that is sure to fascinate and provide remarkably useless information for readers.

Author Keith Gray combines bungee jumping, wild train rides, quirky characters, and the emotional upheaval of losing a close friend to create an incredible tale.  A bit of a slow start might discourage some readers, but if they are encouraged to stick with it, most will find it a rewarding read.

CONTEST REMINDER!!! DEADLINE IS JULY 10!



Come one!  Come all!  It's easy to enter.

If you would like to win LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer, simply leave a comment with your name and an email contact.

*Deadline is July 10.

**Open to US mailing addresses only.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

THE KILLER'S DAUGHTER by Vivian Oldaker



It's hard enough to move and leave your friends behind to start over in a new town and a new school, but think about doing that as the daughter of a man once accused of murder.  That's what happened to Emma. 

Almost immediately Emma became the target for bullies.  Even though her father was accused of murdering her grandmother, the jury eventually declared him not guilty.  That doesn't seem to matter to a group of very vocal students in her new school and even other folks she meets in her new community. 

Fortunately, Emma meets Bruce who lives and works with his grandfather in a local shop.  Bruce becomes a sort of protector and confidant for Emma.  Together they embark on a plan to prove Emma's father innocence beyond any doubt.

Using a school trip as cover, they travel to the scene of the crime hoping to discover new evidence.  Secrets are revealed that give Emma just the information she needs to settle things once and for all, but she puts herself in a dangerous position that might ruin everything.  What would her father think if he knew his daughter risked her life in defense of his?

THE KILLER'S DAUGHTER by Vivian Oldaker is a book designed to satisfy fans of mystery and suspense.  Oldaker takes the likeable character of Emma and places her in a stressful and compromising position.  Readers will root for Emma as she struggles to make her way through a new situation and as she tries to return to the past to right a terrible wrong.  Most teen readers will be able to relate to Emma's frustration with adults who don't always appreciate her insight and maturity, but at the same time, worry for her as she takes some dangerous risks to prove her point.

Friday, June 18, 2010

HOTHOUSE by Chris Lynch



Two local firefighters are heroes.  They are dubbed Outrageous and Courageous.  Members of the fire station known as the Hothouse, they have rescued many in their careers.  Even in this last big fire, they managed to save an old woman, but unfortunately not her cat or themselves.

Russ and DJ are the sons of those two brave firefighters.  The boys are just beginning to adjust to the losses in their lives.  The funerals are over and the mourners have left.  Now the remaining family must learn to carry on. 

Over the years the two boys have grown apart.  Best of friends in the early years, they worshipped their fathers and dreamed of following in their footsteps.  After awhile they headed in separate directions, different schools and different interests, but now this tragedy has brought them back together.  Although each is mourning in his own way, they lean on one another for support.

After a huge neighborhood celebration honoring the two fallen men, life begins to calm down, and the boys get ready to return to school.  They step back into the reality of their old lives just when news reports are released indicating the possible involvement of drugs and alcohol in the deaths of their dads.  Russ's reaction is to fight back and prove the rumors untrue, and he is totally shocked that DJ doesn't share the same feelings about the situation.  How can people believe that these fine men were anything other than honorable and brave?

In HOTHOUSE Chris Lynch portrays two teens struck by tragedy struggling to make sense of the events and connect them to the memories they have of their lost loved ones.  Their story is proof that facts can dramatically change when someone scratches below the surface, and what is discovered in the process will often impact the lives of many.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

GIVEAWAY CONTEST AND A CHANCE TO HELP NEEDY READERS



Here's a chance to win LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  It's the first in a series about what life would be like if a meteor hit the moon and changed life here on planet Earth. 

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your name and an email contact.
*Deadline is July 10.
**Open to US residents only.


Sounds easy enough, but here's a chance to earn extra entries.  Check out this cool eleven year old who is collecting books for a good cause.  I've sent a copy of LIFE AS WE KNEW IT to Lexie for her Kyle Busch Foundation book drive.  If you let me know that you have stopped by to check out her awesome project, I'll give you an extra 2 entries in my giveaway contest.  Plus, I encourage you to help out Lexie if you can.

ROCK STAR by Adrian Chamberlain




Finding a place to fit in has always been a problem for Duncan.  He has some close friends, but let's face it, they are all pretty nerdy.  He and his best friend Jason have been working on making a goofy film based on Raiders of the Lost Ark, but lately Duncan has been thinking that's totally lame.  He needs some new interests and maybe some new friends.

Duncan is surprised to find out Jason has answered an ad for a bass guitarist in a rock band.  When Jason says he answered it for Duncan and encourages him to go for it, Duncan decides to take a chance.

One of the band members named Grant speaks up for Duncan and convinces the group to give him a try.  Just like that, Duncan is part of Primal Thunk.  At the same time he learns that his father has started dating a woman named Terry.  It is kind of a surprise, but she seems nice enough.  He even discovers that she is into some fairly hip music, and she introduces him to her musician brother.  Things are looking up.  Then again, maybe it's too good to be true.

ROCK STAR by Adrian Chamberlain is a fast read, centered around heavy metal and rhythm and blues.  Chamberlain takes a look at a teen searching for his niche.  It takes some trial and error, but the character finds his direction in the end.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

THE DEADLY SISTER by Eliot Schrefer



Abby has always been the perfect older sister.  She has protected Maya, been her alibi on countless occasions, and remained positive when everyone was ready to give up.  Now something has happened, and Abby may not have the power to save her little sister this time.

While out for a late night run, Abby stumbles across the body of Jefferson Andrews, the most popular guy in high school.  As she tries to wrap her head around the gruesome scene before her, she notices something familiar sticking out of the mud.  It is Maya's phone.  Yes, Abby had mentioned that Jefferson was going to be meeting up with some girl named Caitlin, but she was just trying to prepare Maya for the fact that she was simply his latest conquest in a long line of "love em and leave em" relationships.  How could she have predicted that Maya would follow him and ... she can hardly imagine it ... kill him?

From the moment Abby discovers the cell phone, she finds herself in a desperate race to cover for Maya.  Her younger sister's life has been off track for years now.  Through their parents' divorce and reconciliation, Maya has been causing nothing but trouble.  Her multiple piercings, refusal to go to school, experimentation with drugs, and her week long disappearances have frustrated and worried her parents until they have finally given up.  But now that Maya may be involved in a situation that could jeopardize her freedom and perhaps her life, Abby can't just sit back and do nothing.

What follows is a journey full of enough plot twists and turns to keep readers' heads spinning.  Abby is pulled in countless directions as she attempts to protect Maya, please her parents, and persuade the police investigators that her sister is innocent.  Is Maya the killer?  Could it be the victim's own brother or some other jealous ex-girlfriend?  Author Eliot Schrefer keeps his readers guessing right up to the end.  THE DEADLY SISTER is a perfect summer thriller.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BOOM! by Mark Haddon



If you are looking for a middle grade, sci-fi story, look no farther.  BOOM! by Mark Haddon should interest even reluctant readers who think summer is for anything other than reading.

Jim and Charlie are in for the adventure of their lives.  It all starts when they decide to "bug" the teacher's lounge with a set of walkie-talkies.  Instead of hearing teacher gossip and talk of what terrible kids they are, they hear two of their teachers speaking in some odd, mixed-up language.  Since these two teachers are the least likely among the school's employees to be goofing off or playing some silly game, the two boys decide an investigation is required.

As Jim and Charlie attempt to learn more about the situation, they discover the two teachers, as well as several other individuals, wear strange metal bracelets.  When they touch these bracelets, they behave strangely.  The boys also witness an eerie blue light in the eyes of those who wear the bracelets. 

Before they are able to find out anything substantial, except that a location in Scotland might be part of the mystery, Charlie mysteriously disappears.  Because of the strange bracelets and the eerie blue eyes, Jim hesitates to involve any adults in the search for Charlie.  Instead, he turns to his older sister Becky.  She may make a habit of treating him like a stupid younger brother, but for some reason he feels she can be trusted.

Together, Jim and Becky hop on a stolen motorbike and head to Loch Coruisk in a remote area of Scotland.  When they come in contact with a "helpful", bracelet wearing gentleman, they know they are headed in the right direction.  What follows is a fantastic adventure filled with tremendous booms, blue pillars of light, monkey-spider creatures, floating balls, and much, much more.

BOOM! by Mark Haddon is a mix of mystery and sci-fi action that pits good against evil.  Readers will cheer for Jim and Charlie as they use plain old kid power to outwit supposedly super-intelligent life forms from outer space.  BOOM! is a fun, fast read that will keep kids reading even during the summer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

CARTER'S BIG BREAK by Brent Crawford



In CARTER FINALLY GETS IT, freshman Will Carter feels like he has truly made it.  He scores the lead in the school musical Guys and Dolls, and he has an incredibly hot girlfriend.  Yeah, his grades still stink, and his best friend EJ has gotten way more "lucky" with the ladies, but life is looking pretty good.

It would be nice to get a summer job as lifeguard at the local pool, but that's looking fairly iffy.  Right now the only employment prospect involves helping his dad tear off the old deck and rebuild.  That's when Carter hears Hollywood is actually planning to film a movie in his little hometown of Merrian.

After his success in Guys and Dolls, Carter has a fascination and an appreciation for acting.  He and his girlfriend Abby decide to try out for the movie.  They are familiar with the script based on a book Down Gets Out, which is a book written by a native of Merrian.  C. B. Down came to town to see the school musical and even praised Carter's work leaving Carter hopeful about landing a part in the movie.

His dream comes true when he is cast as the lead, a young C. B. Down.  Unfortunately, Abby only gets the understudy role for the female lead.  That's a bummer for Abby, but not so much for Carter since it means he will be acting opposite Hilary Idaho, an incredibly popular young star.  It's the chance of a lifetime, and he knows his pals are going to be totally jealous.

Despite the movie producer's doubts, Carter is a natural.  His improvising pleases everyone, but he finds out acting isn't as easy as it looks.  The stress causes him sleepless nights and constant upheaval in his relationships with friends and family.  As time passes he sees the same stress take its toll on Hilary, his fellow actor.  She is spinning out of control, and Carter begins to notice that he is the only one who seems to care.

Fans of Brent Crawford's first CARTER novel will be jumping at the chance to find out about Carter's latest adventures.  This second book features typical Carter antics and humor; however, there is a bit darker cast to the plot.  Crawford shows Carter dealing with some life-changing experiences and facing some tough facts about how people treat one another.  Carter is growing up, but so are his fans who will take these changes in stride just as they will in their own lives.

Friday, June 11, 2010

BOYS WITHOUT NAMES by Kashmira Sheth



In BOYS WITHOUT NAMES author Kashmira Sheth takes readers into the world of child labor and exposes the unbearable conditions and incredible horrors suffered by millions of children around the world.

Economic conditions drive Gopal and his family from their tiny village into life in the city of Mumbai.  Their trip from village to city is complicated by lack of money and difficulty with the language.  Gopal, his mother, and his twin brother and sister are forced to live for several days on the street when Gopal's father goes in search of the uncle who was supposed to meet them at the train station.  Not able to read directions and street signs, Gopal's father is lost leaving the remaining family to struggle on without him.

When they finally find him, Uncle Jama is able to provide food and shelter for them while he begins the search for Gopal's missing father.  Gopal attempts to look for ways to earn money and help out.  One day he meets a boy who promises work if Gopal will follow him immediately.  Gopal is drugged and taken to a sweatshop where he and five other boys are forced to make beaded picture frames by a cruel boss Gopal names Scar.

The boys work long hours, are given very little food, and are able to bathe only once a week.  Their days and nights are spent breathing toxic glue fumes in a poorly lit, stuffy attic.  At first them work quietly, each dreaming of returning to families they miss, but as the weeks and months pass, Gopal begins to tell the group stories to pass the time and soon the others add stories of their own.  All the while Gopal plots his escape.  The idea of leaving becomes more complicated as the six boys become like a family.  How can all of them manage to gain their freedom from under Scar's watchful eyes and locked doors?

BOYS WITHOUT NAMES is a story of survival and the determination not to give up even when facing insurmountable odds.  Readers will be inspired by the courage and stamina of the six young boys as they endure terrible living conditions as well as physical and emotional abuse.  Little more than slaves, they still remain hopeful that they will some day be reunited with family and friends.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE by Robin Benway



Robin Benway's new novel could have been just another parents' divorce and siblings try to move on type story, but she takes it over the top into some brand new territory.

April, May, and June are stair-step sisters.  Life has thrown them a curveball.  Their parents are divorcing, their father is moving to Texas, and they are relocating to a new place and a new school.  That should be enough to test even the hardiest of souls.  But wait there's more...

The three sisters have suddenly discovered they have "super powers."  April can see into the future, May can become invisible, and June can read everyone's mind.  If you think you have annoying siblings, give this situation a try. 

April the oldest is falling for Julian.  Finding a way to connect with a cute boy in a new school is difficult enough, but imagine trying to figure things out when your youngest sister can read your thoughts and your other sister has trouble keeping it together enough to remain visible to the naked eye.

Middle sister May misses her father more than she cares to admit.  Plans to visit him in Texas are postponed causing her to wonder if he cares enough to make time for her.  Her frustration with her absent father and her increasingly aggravating sisters causes May's grades to drop, and now she finds herself stuck with a nerdy history tutor whose main goal in life is to attend Stanford University.

Little June the mind reader wants to be popular for the very first time in her life.  She will try just about anything to get in with the right crowd, and having the ability to read minds may definitely work to her advantage.

Filled with humor and genuine teen emotion, THE EXTRAORDINARY SECRETS OF APRIL, MAY & JUNE is just the thing for summertime beach reading.  There's lots of goofy adventure, plenty of witty dialogue, and exciting close calls.  Robin Benway truly hits the mark with this one.

Monday, June 7, 2010

CHECKERED FLAG CHEATER by Will Weaver



The point season in racing is about to start for Team Blu and its star driver Trace Bonham.  It's been a wild ride so far.  Trace is still getting used to seeing his picture on billboards and being recognized by just about everyone he sees. 

He decides to take a quick break from the racing world and head home to go to his high school prom.  Even though he is currently taking his courses online, he figures he has a right to show up for the prom.  After an adventure trip back home, it turns out he's not as welcome as he would have liked, but he does get a chance to catch up with a few friends and check in with his folks along the way.  The whole experience lets him know he has probably made the right choice with his racing career, and he heads back to start the circuit.

The Team Blu stock car is running great.  In fact, Trace doesn't seem to be able to do anything wrong.   Even when the luck of the draw has him starting way back in the pack, he gets the needed bursts of speed to take him into first place at the checkered flag.  Although, he should be gaining confidence in his ability as a driver, his first place finishes are drawing criticism from the crowds.  The accusation of "cheater" is being repeated much too often for Trace's comfort.

In addition to racing, Trace is struggling with some personal issues.  His online class work has been slipping and Laura has sent Tasha to check up on him.  She gives him an assignment that involves research and a final report, and Trace is irritated when she requires his research include a trip to an actual library and finding information from an actual printed source, not just internet information.  But when she lets him choose a topic he thinks is fairly interesting, he finds out it's not that bad.

Mel is also on Trace's mind.  He has the chance to hook up with lots of girls, but Mel has a special place in his heart.  She seems ready to take the next step, but she has conditions that force him to wait.  She's Mel, though, and he's willing to do whatever it takes. 

Fans of Will Weaver's new series of Motor novels will be thrilled with this latest edition.  CHECKERED FLAG CHEATER takes Trace and the team to a new level.  The sponsoring company has high expectations and Trace's team seems willing to do whatever it takes.  Author Will Weaver presents his character with challenging decisions as he experiences the reality of the racing world.  Readers will observe Trace as he determines if the end will justify the means when it comes to his sport and his desire to advance.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

REACTION by Lesley Choyce



The reaction to the announcement that a teenager is pregnant is fairly predictable.  In the case of Zach and Ashley, people react in the usual ways.  There is shock, disappointment, and the placing of blame.  What is not quite as predictable is Zach's reaction.

Zach feels especially guilty about Ashley's pregnancy.  Even though their relationship is only three months old, he has strong feelings about her and the fact that they could be parents in the near future.  He insists that he wants to be there for her so he is right by her side when she suggests going to the Planned Parenthood clinic to discuss their options.

The clinic presents the following three options: abortion, keeping and raising the baby themselves, or adoption.  Leah's reaction changes depending on the day.  She considers all three options at one time or another.  Zach's focus, however, continues to return to the option of keeping the baby and sharing the responsibility.

Author Lesley Choyce takes readers through the challenging decision process as the teens and their families adjust to their life-changing situation and all make their feelings known.  The path to a decision is not easy and the final outcome might even change, as Choyce uses the experiences of Zach and Leah to underline the fact that teen pregnancies impact many lives and all should be considered carefully.

PLASTIC by Sarah N. Harvey



Jack is a confessed boob connoisseur.  According to an opening statement, he has seen exactly four real naked human breasts and knows 138 words for them.  With a start like that one might think this book is inappropriate or at least in pretty poor taste.  That could not be more wrong.

Although, Jack is a normal, red-blooded male when it comes to the female body, he has his principles.  Raised by two parents who have vast amounts of experience protesting causes, Jack never thought he would carry a protest sign of his own.  That changes when his best friend announces that she is having breast augmentation surgery.

Leah's mother is one of those vain women addicted to plastic surgery.  Leah has never shown any interest in changing her physical appearance, but she tells Jack that her mother is giving her breast implants for her 16th birthday.

Immediately concerned for his friend's safety, Jack fires up the internet.  The facts he uncovers scare him even more.  There are doctors out there disregarding the standard of doing unnecessary surgery on adolescents, and that gets Jack making a picket sign and hitting the pavement outside Leah's doctor's office.

PLASTIC will grab the attention of readers of all backgrounds.  The focus is on body image and its importance in teenage society.  Through her book, author Sarah N. Harvey encourages teens to be patient and let time dictate their happiness and comfort with personal body issues.  Overall, PLASTIC is a fast read with a worthwhile message.

Friday, June 4, 2010

BEAR MARKET by Michele Martin Bossley



Hunting is popular with some, but most who hunt do so for the sport and end up making use of the animals they kill for food and the occasional mounted trophy.  This is not true of poachers.  They are out for one thing and one thing only - MONEY!

Robyn, Nick, and Trevor are amateur sleuths, and when they hear about the discovery of an unexplained dead bear in a nearby woods, they are on the case.  The odd thing about the bear's remains is that its gall bladder is missing.  It appears that the killer had expert knowledge about the anatomy of bears because the gall bladder was removed very carefully.

Being interested in the environment and the survival of endangered animals, the three teens are anxious to find out who is responsible for the senseless killing.  Using their observation skills and boldly asking questions, they track down three men from Virginia who seem to be likely suspects.  Little do they know that when they begin digging deeper, they will find a very unlikely person connected to the crime.

BEAR MARKET is a fast-paced, who-dun-it type story.  At just over 100 pages it is excellent for reluctant readers.  The subject matter involving illegal hunting and the preservation of endangered animals should also appeal to readers looking for a quick read.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray



When Cameron finds out he has Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, otherwise known as Mad Cow disease, he can't believe it.  Yes, his body has been doing some crazy things lately and his thinking processes have really been letting him down, but he was sure he just had a "bug" of some kind.  A little rest and an antibiotic or two and things should be just dandy.  Nope, the doctors are saying there's no cure and the end is just around the corner.

One of the major problems with this disease is that it does mess with your mind.  It's hard to tell what's real and what's some weird result of this thing that's eating away parts of his brain.  When Cameron starts seeing a pink-haired, punk rock angel whose tells him her name is Dulcie, he doesn't know if he should trust his naturally curious nature and go with the flow or close his eyes and pretend she doesn't exist. 

Once Cameron's illness lands him in the hospital, he is ready to try anything so he starts listening to Dulcie.  She seems to be telling him that it is his responsibility to save the world, and in the process, possibly find a cure and save his own life.  All he has to do is hook up with his new hospital roommate, a dwarf named Gonzo, and follow the clues.

Filled with crazy adventures and tons of humor, GOING BOVINE is an amazing roadtrip story different than anything you've ever read.  Libba Bray, known for A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY and the rest of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, has outdone herself.  Be sure to put this one on your summer reading list.