Monday, August 30, 2010

MEANICURES by Catherine Clark



Catherine Clark makes her debut in middle grade fiction with MEANICURES.  What happens when some of your so-called friends turn into the mean girls?

Seventh grade is bound to begin with changes, but Madison definitely wasn't expecting some of the changes she encountered.  Most of her friends understand the challenges Madison faces when it comes to her mom and her crazy hair experiments, but when seventh grade begins with Madison trying to hide the hideous green streaks caused by her mother's latest product testing, she discovers several of her former friends use it as an opportunity to taunt and tease.  And that's just the start of their new mean girl attitude.

Madison and her two remaining friends, Olivia and Taylor, are determined to figure out a way to separate themselves from the other girls who seem to consider it their full-time job to make life miserable for them.  Ignoring them doesn't appear to make any difference so Madison plans a way to use a magic spell to repel their negative energy.  The only problem is, it seems that the spell reverses itself and is now turning Madison, Olivia, and Taylor into mean girls, too.

MEANICURES may be just the book to get real girls thinking about their own relationships.  Catherine Clark uses humor, the fear of bad hair days and public humiliation, along with typical middle school behavior to entertain as well as make a point about difficulties of young friendships.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins



It's over.  The trilogy is finished.  There will now need to be a new series that will have people waiting impatiently from year to year for the next installment.  *Sigh*

MOCKINGJAY begins with Katniss shuffling through the ashy remains of District 12.  Having survived her second Hunger Games, she has recovered enough from her injuries to visit the little that is left of her former home.  Her concussion ravaged brain is still trying to make sense of all that has happened.

When she is returned to the safety of District 13, Katniss must be gradually reintroduced to those from District 12 who survived, and she must find her place in her new surroundings.  Her mother and Prim are busy every day caring for patients in the hospital, and Gale continues his recovery and slowly begins to work for the rebel cause in District 13.  Katniss fills her days ignoring her district required schedule as she wanders from one isolated hiding place to the next.

It doesn't take long for 13's leaders to make it clear that they plan to be the ones to lead the rebels to victory against the Capitol and President Snow.  Katniss is once more expected to be the symbol for that victory.  She knows their goal is to make her the Mockingjay, but she hesitates to step forward immediately.  Does she want the responsibility?  Is she ready for what will most likely be her final living act?

When Katniss finally accepts the role of Mockingjay, she does so with stipulations, two of which are that Peeta and the other Hunger Games survivors most be rescued and she must be the one to end the life of President Snow.  Her demands are met and the preparations begin.  What follows is non-stop action filled with violence, torture, attacks, and destruction. 

After reading HUNGER GAMES and CATCHING FIRE, I should have guessed that author Suzanne Collins would not make things easy for Katniss and friends.  She filled this last book with twists and turns as well as her usual direct, "in your face" moments that had me gasping through the first two books.  Without including any spoilers, I'll say I found the ending acceptable and on-course with what I expected from both Collins and her characters.  This is definitely a series that will be enjoyed by readers for years to come.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord



The residents of a small island community off the coast of Maine have been told their island school is in danger of being closed by the state.  The news has some of those residents taking action.  Here's the plan - a few families have agreed to take foster children into their homes hoping that the added students are enough to save their school.

Tess Brooks has reason to be doubly excited about the arrival of thirteen year old Aaron.  First of all, her mother is the one and only teacher at their small school, and closing the school would mean her losing her job.  If that happens, Tess knows her family would be forced to move from the island to the mainland so her mother could get a new job.  All Tess has ever known is an island life.  Moving would mean leaving the best place on earth.

The other reason Tess has to be excited is that Aaron's arrival means she will have a big brother.  He may be only two years older, but Tess is used to being the oldest and she thinks it would be nice to have someone else as a companion besides her usually annoying little sister.

What Tess is not expecting is that Aaron might not love the island like she does.  He is polite enough, but he's mostly moody and quiet and not even interested in exploring his new home.  Aaron spends his time in his attic room playing his trumpet.  It takes all Tess's skill and patience to convince him to join her in enjoying the summer on the island.  As Aaron comes out of his shell, Tess discovers his secrets and concerns and vows to help him solve his biggest problem.

Cynthia Lord's new book TOUCH BLUE is the emotional story of a group of well-meaning people and how they touch the life of one lonesome, confused boy.  Readers will enjoy Lord's humor as well as her colorful descriptions of the picturesque little island and its interesting mix of inhabitants.  I also enjoyed that each chapter begins with one of the superstitions Tess religiously believes help to guide through life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

EVERWILD by Neal Shusterman



Using the same cast of characters, plus some fascinating new ones, Neal Shusterman continues the adventures of EVERLOST. 

Nick now known as the Chocolate Ogre, Allie the Outcast, and Mary Hightower who has comfortably assumed her role as Sky Witch, are off on separate journeys.  Nick's is to find Afterlights ready to make their way to the end of that tunnel of light by holding the previously forbidden coin each possessed when they entered Everlost.  Allie is out to discover more about skinjacking on her way to find her family.  Mary wants to repopulate her airship with Afterlights and carry on what she believes is her mission to help them find the peaceful repetition she believes provides the only satisfactory reward in Everlost.

As each sets out on his/her individual mission, more and more of Everlost is revealed.  Vapors (groups) of Afterlights are everywhere, and each group has its own pace and personality.  The one constant Nick, Allie, and Mary hear repeated time after time is that there is an end to Everwild.  It stops at the Mississippi, and they are warned not to journey farther.

In EVERWILD Shusterman definitely takes EVERLOST to the next level with more complications as the characters battle forces and situations that threaten who they are and what they believe in.  It is sure to keep the attention of EVERLOST fans who will eagerly await the final installment whenever Shusterman has it ready.

AT LAST!!!



The book I've been waiting for forever is finally available.

Why, oh why did I pre-order it online?  Now I must continue to wait until it arrives in "2-3 business days". 

*Sigh*

Monday, August 23, 2010

IT'S CONTEST TIME!!!



Thanks to the generosity of author Catherine Ryan Hyde I'm hosting a new contest!

Catherine is always very supportive of bloggers, and this time she offered a signed, hardcover copy of LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE.

You can read my review here and read a great interview with her here.

Here's all you need to do to winner that signed copy.

+1 - comment on the contest on this post.
+1 - comment on the review.
+1 - comment on the interview.
+1 - for being a new follower.
+2 - for already being a follower.

Please leave an email address so I can contact you and a list of all points you have earned.

*US residents only.
**Deadline - September 15 at midnight.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

EVERLOST by Neal Shusterman



There was an accident.  Two lives were lost.  Did they travel on into heaven or hell for eternal reward or punishment?  No, they traveled to Everlost - a place not quite where either one wants to be.

Allie and Nick end up in Everlost.  They soon discover it is a place between living on earth and dying and going wherever souls go for eternity.  Everlost is populated by children no longer with the living but not completely with the dead either.

They are forced to quickly learn the rules of this new place.  They must not stand in one spot too long or they will sink to the center of the earth.  There are dangerous monsters to be avoided like the McGill and the Haunter.  There are places where those in Everlost may congregate, but life there may be either dangerous or an endless repetitive cycle of meaningless activity.

More than anything, Allie wants to go home.  Her first wish is to find out if her father survived the crash, and her second hope is that perhaps she isn't truly dead.  Together with Nick and their new companion Leif, they travel beyond their Everlost forest to search for others like them.  They eventually arrive at another Everlost site, the fateful twin towers of New York City, only to discover that this place of promise might not be all that it appears to be. 

EVERLOST is the start of a three part journey created by author Neal Shusterman.  Readers will be fascinated as he reveals this amazing place.  Populated with the spirits of children, it is a place teen readers can well imagine and even envy until they turn the pages and uncover the truth.  Shusterman uses his unique voice to write about a world so realistic, readers will be grabbed by the adventure and captivated as they follow the paths of Allie and Nick.  EVERWILD is the second in this incredible series, with part three yet to come.

Friday, August 20, 2010

FOOTBALL GENIUS by Tim Green



I've been purchasing Tim Green's books for my classroom ever since I discovered them, but this is the first one I've read myself.  Now from firsthand experience, I can say they are an excellent pick for middle grade readers.

Call it ESP or some other psychic ability, but whatever it is, Troy White has it.  For as long as he can remember, he has been able to watch a football game and anticipate what the other team plans to do.  If only he could convince the people around him that his skill is for real, he might be able to help his own team win and maybe even the local pro team, the Falcons.  Unfortunately, his family and his two best friends are the only people who have faith in his talent.

Troy plays quarterback on a sixth grade football team.  Most of his time is spent on the bench because the coach's son is usually playing the quarterback position, and quite poorly, I might add.  As he sits on the bench, he watches and accurately predicts the moves of the opposing team.  When Troy finally gets a chance to play and doesn't listen to the coach's playing instructions, he finds himself running laps and riding the bench again.

When Troy's mom gets a PR job with the professional team, the Falcons, Troy's dream is to convince his favorite star player, Seth Halloway that he can help pull the team out of a losing slump.  Getting the attention of his favorite player and then getting past the team's hot-tempered defensive coach is much harder than Troy expected, and his attempts might even jeopardize his mother's new job.

Author Tim Green adds just the right amount of football action with just the right amount of fantastic fun to grab the attention of middle grade readers, especially boys.  I'd recommend this one to Matt Christopher fans looking for a more challenging read.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME by Rachel Cohn



Miles and Laura were like sisters.  Although, they really only cousins, the two were in separable, but then there was high school.  By then the differences between the girls was causing their tight bond to unravel.

Laura had everything.  Her single father was a wealthy political force in Washington, D.C.  She went to the best school, wore the best clothes, and partied with the best.  And if that wasn't enough, she was beautiful, too.

Miles and her mother lived in the guest house courtesy of Laura's father.  Miles only saw her own father once year during summer vacation when he came to stay with her while her mother took off for parts unknown.  Overweight and interested only in books and writing stories of her own, Miles still loves Laura but senses that their relationship is changing.

As little girls, the two cousins spent hours in the tree house creating fantasy stories for entertainment.  Now their time in the tree house is occupied by getting high on stolen prescription meds.  Miles knows that Laura is prone to bouts of depression, but when her beautiful cousin commits suicide, Miles world spins out of control.

YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME details Miles's life after losing her closest friend.  It's a summer that stretches endlessly ahead as she misses her friend, deals with another good friend's sudden romantic involvement with another girl, and puts up with unwanted attention from her part-time dad.  Miles must find herself and prove she is worthy to carry on without the most important person she's ever known.

Author of the GINGERBREAD series and co-author of NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST, Rachel Cohn uses her unique insight to connect to the odd, misfit character of Miles.  Full of gritty scenes of D.C.'s teen culture and plenty of soul-searching, fans of Cohn will likely find this a rewarding read.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL by Michelle D. Kwasney



According to Dictionary.com, blue plate special is defined as "a specially priced main course, as of meat and vegetables, listed as an item on a menu, esp. in an inexpensive restaurant."  According to author Michelle D. Kwasney, our lives hand us our own "blue plate specials", and we must make the best of them.

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL follows the stories of Madeline, Desiree, and Ariel.  Their stories are both heart-wrenching and inspiring.  They involve tortured childhoods, rocky mother/daughter relationships, and lost and broken loves.

Madeline struggles with weight issues and a disfiguring burn on her arm.  Her mother is either wasted or out looking for her next loser boyfriend.  A lonesome teen with more bullies on her list of acquaintances than friends, Madeline constantly dreams of a better life.  Things just might change after she meets Tad.

Desiree only knows that her father was killed in a car accident.  Her mother hasn't been the same since.  The world revolves around her mother's pain leaving Desiree to fend for herself.  Things hit an all-time low when Larry, her mother's latest boyfriend, offers Desiree a ride home that ends in rape.  But wait!  Things can get lower because as a result, Desiree becomes pregnant.

Ariel has a good mom.  Their life together has been a struggle.  The only father Ariel knows has been in prison for most of her life.  He's guilty of killing a man, but his reasons were truly justified in the eyes of his family.  This challenging family history may be the reason Ariel feels drawn to Shane.  Despite her mother's disapproval and the warnings of her best friend, she believes they make the perfect couple.

BLUE PLATE SPECIAL is an amazing novel.  Kwasney deftly weaves a plot that magically unfolds as each character shares the details of her life.  I found myself rushing to get to the end, but at the same time wishing the book would last forever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ANYTHING BUT NORMAL by Melody Carlson



My first experience with Melody Carlson books was reading the DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL series.  It filled a spot on my classroom shelves for girls looking for a good, Christian based read.  When I noticed ANYTHING BUT NORMAL, I decided to give it a try.

In this stand-alone novel the focus is on Sophie.  She's an honor student heading into her senior year.  Dreaming of a career in journalism, she is hoping to be chosen as editor of the yearbook and maybe even the school newspaper.  Her parents are supportive of anything that will earn her some college scholarship money, but as far as involvement in her actually daily activities, her parents are a bit too busy to keep up.  That doesn't seem to matter much to Sophie since sometimes the less parents know the better. 

Over the summer Sophie worked at a church summer camp as a counselor with the middle school campers.  That's where she began a relationship with Dylan.  It was hard to believe he would be even remotely interested in her.  When he ended up being the one to give Sophie her first kiss that turned into a heavy make out session, she felt a bit guilty since she knew her best friend Carrie Anne had had a crush on Dylan for years.  During the weeks at summer camp, Dylan proclaimed his love for Sophie and despite her purity pledge; she gave herself to him twice. 

Now that the camp job is over and her senior year is starting, Sophie is shocked to realize Dylan hasn't even looked at her, and she may have a secret too terrible to reveal.

When Sophie finally admits to herself that she is pregnant, she can't imagine how she is going to tell her parents, her best friend, and all the people who think of her as a "good" girl.  How could this happen?  She has watched it happen to other teens and always judged them harshly.  Even though she is struggling with how to deal with her own situation, her eyes are being opened to the facts and fate surrounding other teens dealing with similar issues.

Author Melody Carlson combines a very present teen problem with its potential impact on Christian values.  Sophie isn't a Bible thumping religious fanatic, but she is a teen struggling to live a respectable life that honors her commitments to a church she believes represents the values she views as important.  Carlson illustrates what might happen when choices are made that compromise those beliefs.  Readers will see both positive and negative reactions from Sophie's family, friends, and church community that are a fair representation of how the real world might react.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

BRUISER by Neal Shusterman



Ever since reading Neal Shusterman's UNWIND, I've been a fan.  That book was fantastic!

BRUISER, Shusterman's latest, also doesn't disappoint.  It only took a couple of sentences to let me know I wasn't going to want to do anything but read until I had it finished.

Tennyson and Bronte are twins living fairly normal teen lives.  They suffer the usual sibling rivalry, yet are supportive of one another when it comes to the ups and downs of family and friends.  Currently, they are nervous about their parents deteriorating relationship.  Last year it was complicated by their father's affair, and this year their mother seems to be retaliating with an affair of her own.  Despite rocky times at home, they are managing to carry on.

Things change when Tennyson and Bronte become involved with a fellow high school student everyone calls Bruiser.  His real name is Brewster, and he has always been a loner.  Bronte begins to have a romantic interest in Brewster which puts him on her brother's radar.  Soon the twins are knee-deep in Brewster's strange and unusual life.

Brewster lives with his scruffy little brother and their hot-tempered uncle, and most of his classmates totally misunderstand his rough, unfriendly exterior.  It isn't until he meets Tennyson and Bronte that Brewster's secret life is revealed.  Now the problem is that having friends for the first time in his life might just kill him.

BRUISER is a book readers will not want to stop reading.  Filled with short chapters written in alternating voices, the pace never drags or threatens to be boring.  Get your hands on this one as soon as you can.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AN INTERESTING CONNECTION TO LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE...

Here's an interesting video link courtesy of author Catherine Ryan Hyde and her friend David Alonzo of Wide Angle Studios.
http://www.youtube.com/user/cryanhyde

LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE by Catherine Ryan Hyde



LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE by Catherine Ryan Hyde packs an emotionally whollop.  About the amazing power of love and the true meaning of family, it's a book I'm so glad I took the time to read.

Little Leonard loves his mother with what he calls "forever love", and that's no doubt that's what keeps him pressing on when she disappears.  He is filled with many happy memories and believes even though she is physically absent a part of her has remained to help him deal with whatever life sends his way.

One day Pearl leaves Leonard with her neighbor, a computer programmer named Mitch.  She never returns.  Having watched Leonard before, Mitch likes the little guy so slipping into the role of caregiver isn't difficult at all.  Several years pass with Mitch and Leonard becoming as close as father and son.  Mitch filled the role well with a strong emotional bond and by providing for Leonard's daily needs as well as medical care for his asthma and vision complications caused by his premature delivery. 

When Leonard turns seven, it is determined that maybe a more traditional home with both a mother and father would be best for the young boy.  Mitch makes the painful decision to turn over Leonard's care to a loving couple.  A strong connection remains between Leonard and Mitch, and both know they will reunite at some point.

The plot of this amazing story can't really be that simply expressed.  Hyde tells the story using the voices of several of her characters.  Readers are drawn into the deepest thoughts of Pearl, Mitch, and Leonard, but it isn't until the end that all the facts are revealed.  Through each character readers experience many variations of love and the impact and importance it plays in shaping the lives it touches.  Many boundaries are stretched and broken in LOVE IN THE PRESENT TENSE making it a vehicle that illustrates that love is perhaps one of the most powerful forces in life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

HEART TO HEART by Lurlene McDaniel



Lurlene McDaniel's newest novel explores the idea of cellular memory as experienced by some transplant patients.

Kassey and Elowyn are best friends.  They have grown up together playing on the same teams, having sleepovers, and even vacationing together.  They can finish each others' thoughts and sentences.  They are almost inseparable until the night Elowyn runs off the road and hits a tree. 

A traumatic brain injury puts Elowyn in a coma and leaves her parents with the difficult decision of honoring her request to be an organ donor.  Her family and friends are devastated, but their tragedy is the answer to Arabeth's prayers. 

Arabeth has suffered with a crippling heart condition for years.  She and her mother have supported each other through the death of Arabeth's father in Afghanistan, and now Arabeth is struggling to hang on as she waits for a heart transplant.  Elowyn's accident provides that heart, and Arabeth and her mother will be eternally grateful. 

Almost immediately after the transplant, Arabeth begins having unexplainable experiences.  She suspects it might be associated with receiving the heart of another young teen, but she is hesitant to share her thoughts until she meets two of Elowyn's good friends, Kassey and Wyatt.  The feelings and sensations are rather unsettling, and cause emotional stress that could threaten Arabeth's peace of mind about surviving with the heart of another.

Lurlene McDaniel fans will be thrilled with HEART TO HEART.  It examines life, love, and loss from several perspectives.  It's a sure success for those looking for an emotionally stirring read.

THE MORGUE AND ME by John C. Ford



A summer job at the morgue?  It's not for everyone, but it's just right for Christopher.  Mystery, intrigue, and some day working as a spy are what fill his thoughts.

When Christopher overhears his boss agreeing that a recent death at a local motel was the result of suicide, he doesn't think too much about it.  That is until he gets a peek at the body.  There are five gunshot wounds in the guy's chest.  That's hardly what most medical examiners would rule a suicide.

There's a mystery to be solved, and Christopher is on the case.  When he tries to take the evidence he's found to the local newspaper, he meets up with a new reporter named Tina.  Not only is she interested in the case, but she's pretty hot, too.  Together they are determined to find out the truth. 

THE MORGUE AND ME is a real whodunit kind of mystery.  The two amateur detectives find themselves wrapped up in a complicated scenario that involves local business people, a couple of lawyers, the sheriff, and more.  Not only are Christopher and Tina in danger, but also Christopher's kid brother.  Can they find the evidence they need to convince the authorities that the would-be suicide victim was actually the victim of murder?

Both teen readers and adults will find this quirky mystery filled with plot twists and turns a satisfying read.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

DOG LOST by Ingrid Lee



In recent years pit bulls have been the center of controversy.  Between illegal dog fighting rings and unprovoked attacks on innocent victims, pit bulls have earned a bad reputation.  Is it the fault of the owners or of the breed itself?  These are questions without real answers, but author Ingrid Lee has written a heart-warming story about one pit bull that might change minds everywhere.  DOG LOST is a book no animal lover will want to miss.

Mackenzie is suddenly the owner of a dog.  A puppy named Cash is literally thrown at Mackenzie one night by his hot-tempered father.  He can hardly believe it, but one thing he does know is his father won't let him keep the dog if it doesn't behave.  Mackenzie immediately sets out to make Cash the perfect dog.

All goes well between boy and dog until the puppy makes the mistake of growling at Mackenzie's dad.  It was simply a protective gesture when Cash thought his young owner was in danger, but Mackenzie's dad reacts with violence.  He viciously kicks the dog and then goes a step further.  He grabs the animal, shoves her in the trunk of the car, and travels to a trash littered field at the edge of town and dumps the dog off. 

Still just a puppy, Cash is forced to quickly adapt to survive on her own.  Her new home is surrounded by hazards.  Everywhere she turns she is faced with physical danger as well as a lack of food and water.  She follows her instincts and manages to tough it out on her own.

Sprinkled throughout DOG LOST are instances of pit bull attacks, animal abuse, and all the political uproar caused by both.  Readers will no doubt connect to these stories, perhaps on a very personal level.  However they feel, they will admire the determination of both Mackenzie and Cash as they beat the odds in their efforts to reconnect.  Don't miss this emotion-packed little gem.

GOD IS IN THE PANCAKES by Robin Epstein



Ever since she can remember, Grace has thought of pancakes as comfort food.  They were perfect for the Sunday breakfasts with her dad and cozy evening suppers with everyone around the kitchen table.  Unfortunately, Grace is discovering that pancakes don't fix everything.

Her parents have split up.  There is the occasional phone from her father, and she misses him more than she can explain.  Work and financial pressures are making things difficult for her mother so their relationship is strained.  Topping off her issues at home, Grace just witnessed her sister's boyfriend kissing another girl.  Pancakes just aren't enough.

Grace looks forward to her after school job as a candy striper at the Hanover House Retirement Community.  Her favorite resident is an elderly gentleman named Mr. Sands.  The light-hearted and often sarcastic relationship they have developed seems to benefit both of them.  However, Grace is beginning to notice that things are getting more difficult for Mr. Sands, and after speaking with a Hanover House staff member, she learns he suffers from ALS -  often called Lou Gehrig's disease.  After hearing the news and learning there is no cure and life will only get worse for Mr. Sands, she isn't really surprised when he asks her to help him die.  Although she is not surprised, she's pretty sure there's no way she can promise him her help.

Attracted by the title GOD IS IN THE PANCAKES, I fell in love with this book by the end of the first page.  Grace is dealing with incredibly complex issues, but author Robin Epstein handles them with grace and humor.  The characters seem like people I might actually meet and who would enrich my life as much as they enrich Grace's.  It reads quickly and is sure to stay with readers long after they return it to the shelf.

Friday, August 6, 2010

OUT OF HIS LEAGUE by Pat Flynn



Take an Australian rugby player and stick him in the middle of Texas high school football, and you have OUT OF HIS LEAGUE by Pat Flynn.

Austin "Ozzie" Eaton lives with his grandfather in the Australian outback.  He spends his days helping his grandfather on the farm and playing Rugby League.  He and his pals have dreams of playing professionally in Brisbane.  While waiting for this dream, Ozzie is offered the opportunity to travel to Texas as an international exchange student.

He arrives in Hope, Texas, and quickly learns that American football is the passion of the town.  As he watches the team in its pre-season practice sessions, Ozzie realizes he might have something to offer as a player.  His tackling skills impress the coach, and before he knows it, he is on the team.  When he suggests using rugby plays to spice up the 30 year old plays in the playbook, he is encouraged by both the coach and several of his fellow players.  He becomes an asset to the team and an admired part of the community.

OUT OF HIS LEAGUE captures the American high school football craze with excellent play-by-play action and the tradition of longtime arch rivals.  Ozzie's talent is appreciated by most, but causes some jealousy from other outstanding players.  Life is also complicated by a romantic connection that threatens the relationship Ozzie has with a girl back in Australia. 

Author Pat Flynn draws readers into the football action and into the experiences and emotions of a young man struggling to fit in far from home.  It's an excellent choice for guys, and most girls should find it a satisfying read as well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

CRASH INTO ME by Albert Borris



Four teens are ready to end their lives. Each of them have attempted suicide at least once; several of them multiple times. What has drives someone to this point?


Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have been communicating online and sharing their thoughts. They've agreed to form a suicide club that involves a road trip to visit the grave sites of celebrity suicides. The plan is to end the trip in Death Valley where the four will complete their own suicide wishes.

Narrated by Owen who is also recording the trip in an online journal, he tells the story as the four head across country. After a successful first stop, the route begins to change. Other stops are suggested, and as long as it heads them in the right general direction, they agree to be flexible.

Conversations and remembered online discussions let readers in on the personal stories of each teen. There are family problems, self-esteem issues, and complications caused by alcohol and abuse that have paved the way for the final decision each teen has made. Now the question is - can each one find a reason to continue living when they reach their final destination?

CRASH INTO ME is an edgy novel that will have hit the right notes for teens, and at the same time, probably make adults a bit nervous. By the way, that's not always a bad thing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

AIRBALL: MY LIFE IN BRIEFS by L.D. Harkrader



The orange sign above the scoreboard reads: "Welcome to Stuckey.  The Basketball Capital of Kansas.  Home of the Great Brett McGrew".  Folks, that's Stuckey, Kansas, population 334.  Their one claim to fame is a star NBA player. 

Kirby Nickel has grown up hearing all about Brett McGrew.  Kirby knows how important basketball is to everyone in his town, unfortunately, he can't play basketball.  Although he loves the sport, he is skinny and uncoordinated and completely lacks any recognizable athletic talent.  This is something that has really had him stumped ever since he found his baby photo album wrapped in Brett McGrew's #5 jersey.

Kirby lives with his grandmother.  He doesn't remember much about his mother, and he never even knew his father, however, his discovery has him convinced that the Great McGrew must be his father.  Now all he needs to do is prove it.  Some amazing news announced by the local school board just might give him the chance he has been waiting for.

According to school board president, Mrs. Zimmer, the seventh grade basketball team is invited to the Kansas University Jayhawks game where they will be retiring Brett McGrew's #5 jersey.  The only catch is she demands the team have a winning record before they attend the game honoring the hometown hero.  That could be a problem since their team is known for record losses, not record wins.  Kirby sees this as his one and only chance to meet McGrew and introduce himself as his long, lost son.

Kirby decides to join the team and hope for the best.  With his positive attitude and some strange new "uniforms", Kirby and his teammates are out to set a record and earn their way to the big Jayhawks game in Lawrence, Kansas.

Kansas author L.D. Harkrader has created a fun-filled basketball adventure about a group of misfits and their determined coach.  Middle grade readers will enjoy the excellent play-by-play action and the hilarious twists and turns as Kirby battles to claim his own place in Stuckey history.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

HOUSE RULES by Jodi Picoult



Jodi Picoult's latest novel takes readers into the world of autism, Asperger's syndrome to be more specific.  Eighteen year old Jacob was diagnosed years ago, and with the help of his mother and dozens of therapists, he has been able to attend public school and interact with others to the best of his ability.  When surrounded by those who understand his limitations, he feels comfortable and successful. 

As with anyone on the autism spectrum, Jacob functions best in familiar situations.  When faced with new people and places, he often suffers from what his mother and brother refer to as meltdowns.  Is it one of these meltdowns that cause him to react violently enough to cause the death of his beloved social skills tutor, Jess Ogilvy?

Using her distinctive style, Jodi Picoult tells Jacob's story by alternating the voices of Jacob, his mother, his brother, a police detective, and the young attorney who defends him.  Readers experience what it is like to live with Asperger's on a very personal level.  Jacob explains it from a firsthand perspective while his mother and brother detail what it is like to live with someone who can't express emotion or make a connection with those he supposedly loves.  Picoult combines the twists and turns of a criminal investigation with the emotional challenges of raising a child with a disability to create HOUSE RULES.  Her fans will not be disappointed.