Monday, September 26, 2011


STORM RUNNERS by Roland Smith ends with Chase and his new friends trying to stay alive during one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history.  Book #2 - THE SURGE picks up just as Chase, Nicole, and Rashawn arrive back at the Rossi farm.  The Rossi's house has been destroyed, an escaped leopard has been seen running by with a little monkey dangling from its jaws, and Nicole's grandmother Momma Rossi is standing by ready to help a pregnant elephant deliver her calf.

While Chase and Nicole try to battle the storm to get gas for the generator, Rashawn gets to know Momma Rossi.  Having lights in the big barn will be necessary when the elephant is ready to give birth.  Rashawn just hopes that Chase and Nicole survive the attempt to locate the gas cans and return safely to the barn.

At the same time Chase's dad is working with several news crew members to find a way to get from town out to the farm.  Their vehicle flips over in the storm, but they are able to right it and keep it running until they arrive at the local hurricane shelter.  After convincing news anchor Richard Krupp that they have every intention of getting to the farm no matter what, he agrees to let them take the station's news van as long as he gets to go along.  With camera in hand, they set off toward the farm hoping to arrive before the storm causes anymore damage and before any of the captive wild animals escape and attack.

Author Roland Smith keeps readers on the edge of their seats as he relates the non-stop action facing his characters and threatening their very survival.  Between Books #1 and #2 barely twenty-four hours passes leaving the area devastated and people fighting for their lives.  Watch for STORM RUNNERS: ERUPTION, the conclusion of the series, coming in March.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Imagine LOST or SURVIVOR with a cast of self-centered, ill-equipped celebrities and you have ARE YOU GOING TO KISS ME NOW?   This book is filled with page after page of mishaps and craziness.

Francesca is tired of dealing with her parents' breakup, and when she hears that her father is about to be a father again with his twenty-something new love interest, she takes action.  She uses her writing talent to enter a nonfiction writing contest.  In the entry she details the tragic (though fictitious) death of her father, and low and behold, her entry wins.

When the representative from Seventeen magazine calls to congratulate Francesca, she thinks it must be a joke; but she is soon packing for a celebrity tour of Madagascar and eastern Africa.  She will be reporting on the celebrities' involvement in a GLEA - Girls' Literacy East Africa an organization that promotes educating underprivileged African girls.

Flying the plane is an elderly actor/amateur pilot, and her fellow travelers include the pilot's illegitimate, young son, a teen heart-throb, a couple of young actresses worried more about their hair and makeup than poor, illiterate African girls, and a celebrity blogger.  As Francesca quietly observes her self-absorbed travel mates, she can hardly believe she is part of this amazing trip.  She is furiously texting her best friend Jordan about everyone and everything.

The great humanitarian journey is cut short when the plane crashes on a deserted island, and that's when the real action begins.  The pilot is stricken with grief for causing the disaster and retreats into his own private place of misery.  Jonah turns to his faith in God and his overconfident survival skills.  Milan and Eve mourn the loss of all their beauty products and life essentials while Cisco and Chaz argue about the best way to handle their situation.

In an attempt to keep her sanity, Francesca continues texting her friend even though all communication with the outside world has ceased.  Even the imaginary conversation is better than dealing with the craziness that surrounds her.  Each of the celebrity characters has a truckload of issues that test any possible survival skills any of them might possess.  But as the days pass, Francesca finds little positive tidbits that have her thinking of them as potential friends.

Readers will be entertained by the antics of these castaways, and just when things seem to be looking up, there is a twist that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.  Author Sloane Tanen hits just the right note with her stereotypical celebrities and slips in well-timed surprises that keep ARE YOU GOING TO KISS ME NOW? fresh from start to finish.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Author Robin Jones Gunn has made her mark in contemporary, Christian teen fiction.  Her Christy Miller series offers a fresh approach to YA fiction featuring a popular teen facing the challenges of the teenage world as a practicing Christian.  A second series focuses on Sierra Jensen who experiences some of the same challenges.  DEPARTURES combines two re-released stories from these series.

In NOW BOARDING AT GATE 10, Christy travels with her family back to the town where she grew up.  Her grandparents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and a party is being planned by the local church ladies.

Several years earlier Christy's father moved the family from the small Wisconsin town to California in search of a more stable financial situation.  The move worried Christy, but she managed to adjust and make some great friends.  Now she is actually nervous about returning to her hometown.  Will she still fit in?  Will her childhood friends remember her and welcome her for the brief visit?

Christy has barely arrived when she comes face to face with her old crush Matthew.  Maybe it's because of her recent breakup with Todd, but she finds her old feelings for Matthew resurfacing.  He seems to remember her fondly and immediately pulls her away from boring family duties for a whirlwind tour of her old stomping grounds. 

Matthew seems very interested in not only showing Christy a good time, but also rekindling their past relationship.  Christy is totally taken by surprise that Matthew isn't actively dating anyone and appears to be eager to make a connection.  Although, her instincts urge her to be cautious about diving into a new romance that might only disappoint in the end.

Sierra Jensen's story is titled IN THE EVENT OF A WATER LANDING.  She is traveling with her friend Jana, Jana's brother Gregg, and his friend Tim.  They are headed off to join their families on vacation.  Their late arrival means flying by themselves which has the adults worried. 

Perhaps they have cause to worry since the teens end up missing one flight and then a second before they actually arrive at their destination.  Once safely at the Montana lake, they join in the vacation activities.  Sierra plans to have a great time, but her friend Jana seems fixated on a romantic interlude with whatever cute guy is available. 

Sierra watches with disapproving eyes as Jana flirts with first one guy and then another.  It's not like Sierra is jealous; she is getting plenty of attention from the boys herself.  She just isn't sure she is comfortable with the kind of attention they are directing her way.  She wants to be friendly, but she also wants to be true to her beliefs and her promise to let God lead the way.

Fans of Robin Jones Gunn will be thrilled to see these two "lost" novellas and will have a good time reacquainting themselves with Christy and Sierra.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

PERFECT by Ellen Hopkins

She has done it again!  Ellen Hopkins new book PERFECT is described as a companion to her previous book IMPULSE.  Hopkins has a gift for following her characters through life, and as a reader, I appreciate this skill and her willingness to dedicate writing time to keeping her characters growing and changing from one book to the next.

PERFECT follows the lives of those changed by Conner's suicide attempt in IMPULSE.  The family has kept the details of Conner's "accident" hidden from most, but this has left his twin sister Cara struggling with problems of her own.  Cara is dealing with a mother worried more about what her bridge club will think than what is happening in her family.  Her father spends as much time as possible away from home. 

At first Cara hopes Sean will help her deal with her confusion about Conner's absence, but she soon realizes he will not be providing the answers she needs.  He is having his own issues as he deals with the pressure of excelling in academics and sports, his ticket to the college of his dreams.  In his drive for perfection, he turns to steroids which turn him into a raging menace bent of having Cara no matter the cost.

An afternoon of snowboarding ends with Cara finding the perfect person destined to rescue her both literally and figuratively.  Unfortunately, Cara discovers that finding her perfect person could potentially reveal that Cara herself may not be the "perfect" person her parents envision.

Conner's actions have changed another life - Kendra's.  She was sure the love she shared with Conner would last forever.  When he didn't return to school and no one seemed to know the real reason why, she turned all her focus on the modeling career of her dreams. 

The pressure to fit the perfect ideal of a runway model has Kendra starving herself to the point of collapse.  Any chance of loving intervention is lost in her own dysfunctional family.

Finally, there's Andre.  Connected to the story through his plastic surgeon mother's relationship with Kendra and his chance meeting with Kendra's sister Jenna, Andre enters the story on his own search for perfection.  His ambitious parents have a definite plan for his future, but those plans are far different than Andre's own dreams.  He recognizes the warning signs of self-destruction in the risk-taking Jenna but seems to miss similar signs in his own life.

Ellen Hopkins masterfully intertwines the lives of her characters as she takes readers on a journey revealing the power and potential destruction in the search for perfection.  Hopkins uses her talent to present a no-nonsense, direct message that being perfect is about self-respect and not about the perfection imposed upon us by others.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Beatrice is about to make the biggest decision of her life.  She was born in the Chicago of the future.  Her childhood has been spent along the swampy shores of what was once said to be a great and magnificent lake.  Raised wearing nothing but gray and learning that self-sacrifice is the most important thing in life; Beatrice is now sixteen and is on her way to complete her aptitude test and then attend the Choosing Ceremony.

In the Choosing Ceremony she will decide which faction is to be her future home.  Raised in the Abgenation faction to believe in selflessness, she must choose whether to stay or switch to the Amity faction and its peaceful ways, the Dauntless faction and live a life of bravery, the Candor faction where honesty rules, or the Erudite faction which represents intelligence.  Whatever she chooses, it could mean leaving her parents and her brother and never seeing them again.

When Beatrice's aptitude test is complete, the results are inconclusive.  The test usually indicates the faction that will be the best future fit for each teen, but Beatrice's abnormal score must be manually recorded.  Her inconclusive score means she is classified as Divergent forcing the testing official to manually record Beatrice's native Abgenation is as her final result.  Now in the Choosing Ceremony she will have to decide if that is indeed the direction she will take.

When Beatrice chooses Dauntless, it comes as a surprise to her parents and even her brother Caleb whose own choice of Erudite causes shock waves of its own.  After the Ceremony Beatrice must hurry to pack and say her quick goodbyes before she is hustled off to begin her life in the Dauntless faction.

Bravery and courage above all else is now the future for Beatrice who selects the name of Tris.  She and her fellow initiates face one frightening test after another.  The first is leaping onto a moving train followed by later jumping off the speeding rail car onto the roof of a multi-story building.  To earn the right to become an official member of the Dauntless faction, Tris must pass tests of physical strength and endurance, and prove that she has the mental stamina to face her hidden fears.

The pressure is on for every sixteen year old to earn a spot in their chosen faction.  If they fail, it means living the rest of their lives in factionless poverty.  Tris has the added complication of being secretly labeled as Divergent, and her life is at stake if anyone finds out.

DIVERGENT is author Veronica Roth's first book.  Fans of dystopian fiction will be thrilled to learn that this exciting novel is just the first in a series.  Filled with danger, intrigue, and romance DIVERGENT is on track to be a huge success.

Monday, September 5, 2011

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver

High school senior Samantha "Sam" Kingston is a lucky girl.  She's popular, has a supportive family and a hot boyfriend, and she knows where's she's headed after graduation.  But as the result of one day in February, her life may be over. 

Sam's alarm clock jolts her awake on February 12, followed by a wake-up call from her annoying younger sister.  The only thing worth getting up for is that today is one of her favorite days at school - Cupid's Day.  It's the day anyone who is popular lives for.  Sam knows she will be the recipient of a respectable number of roses today.  Each rose will have a note attached with a message from her friends, her boyfriend, or simply someone who admires her amazing life.

All goes as planned.  Roses are delivered, class work is completed, and Sam has some extra fun when she and a friend skip English class and head to TCBY for a snack.  Everyone is talking about a party at Kent's house, and even though she finds Kent weird and annoying, she knows she will go at least until she hooks up with Rob for a "special" night he's been looking forward to for a long time.

Things start to go wrong when Sam leaves the party with her girl friends.  They've all been drinking and an ice storm has hit the area.  Slippery conditions, speed, alcohol, and the sudden appearance of a white shape in the road combine to cause the crash.  Sam is about to learn whether or not her life will flash before her eyes as she dies.

What Sam doesn't expect is that she is once again awakened by her alarm and the prodding of her little sister.  It appears that she will be given a chance to relive the last day of her life.  There might be a few things she wants to change, especially when she discovers she will get the chance to relive the day seven times!

In her debut novel author Lauren Oliver takes readers on an incredible journey.  Oliver takes a close look at the life a privileged young girl who, when given the chance to make amends, makes some interesting life choices.  Sam Kingston's experiences will remind readers of the constant impact we have on the lives of others.  Perhaps we all have experiences we could improve on if we had the chance for a do-over. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra is in therapy trying to deal with issues from her past.  She has only recently been able to admit that she was sexually abuse from an early age.  Although, she now realizes the abuse did happen, she isn't able to remember the identity of her abuser.

Exploring these repressed memories has not been easy for Kendra.  She has the full support of her therapist, but feels her parents just don't understand.  Her mother is an artist more wrapped up in her art than in resolving her daughter's issues.  Kendra has always been close to her father, but the recent downsizing of his job has made it difficult for Kendra to feel able to share her pain with him.

Two things enable Kendra to cope - her new relationship with Meghan and cutting.  When the pressure builds, Kendra tries to seek release by confiding in Meghan, but when that isn't enough, she turns to her blade.  Hiding this addiction from those around her hasn't been a problem until now.  First Meghan discovers Kendra's dangerous obsession, and then her therapist Carolyn uncovers the truth.

As her therapy sessions advance and her relationship with Meghan deepens, Kendra realizes she is coming closer to recalling the identity of her abuser.  She wants to face the past, but remembered threats from her attacker and the presence of a mysterious stalker terrify Kendra.

Author Cheryl Rainfield takes readers into the mind of a teen coming to terms with a horrible past.  Rainfield is able to reveal the chilling memories of Kendra's early sexual abuse and allow the reader to imagine the horrors without using disturbing graphic detail.  Complications in Kendra's relationship with her mother, her desire to express herself through her art, and the acceptance of her own sexuality all combine to make this an emotion-packed read.