Sunday, November 27, 2011

LOST AND FOUND by Anne Schraff

Darcy misses her father, but he's been gone for five years now and she has moved on.  She gets good grades in school, helps her mother around the house, and makes sure she comes home right after school to take care of her ailing grandmother so her mother can get to work.

Lately, Darcy has been losing patience with her little sister.  Jamee is only in the eighth grade, but she acts like she's older than Darcy.  When Darcy hears rumors that Jamee is hanging around with a no-good character from Bluford High, she confronts her.  Jamee says it's none of Darcy's business who she hangs out with, and as Jamee's attitude toward family and friends worsens, Darcy becomes even more concerned.

Another concern Darcy faces is the sudden appearance of a strange man in a Toyota.  She sees him parked outside the school and right in front of their apartment building.  A call to the police one evening when Darcy's mother is at work reveals that the man is actually their father trying to find a way back into their lives.  Things really heat up when Jamee goes missing.

Author Anne Schraff has created this less than 140 page quick read for the Bluford High series published by Townsend Press.  Packed with complicated issues, it offers reluctant readers a chance to read about teen problems much like their own.

DARK INSIDE by Jeyn Roberts

Mason's mother saved his life.  Her car accident got him called out of school early,and being at the hospital when the explosions destroyed his school, saved his life.  Unfortunately, his mother died from her injuries, and all his friends died in the blasts.

Aries watched as the man on the bus began rocking back and forth.  She leaned over to whisper to her best friend Sara who agreed the man must be crazy.  The moments that followed were a nightmare Aries would never forget.  The ground beneath the bus exploded sending everyone toppling.  By the time the bus came to rest on its side, Aries was one of the few left alive.  After a frantic search with help from a stranger, Aries found Sara - dead.

Mason and Aries are among the lucky few who survive what turns out to be a worldwide disaster.  Earthquakes and the resulting fires, plus bomb explosions cause widespread devastation.  Those left behind have the challenge of surviving without power, cell phone service, or any means other communication.  Complicating matters is that some of the survivors are infected by some disease or possessed by some evil and are now killing machines to be avoided at all costs. 

DARK INSIDE by debut novelist Jeyn Roberts is the beginning of a new series involving a group of survivors on the hunt for remaining family and friends and a new place to call home.  They must learn to live without most modern conveniences, limited food supplies, and the constant threat of the humans turned monsters.  Roberts provides plenty of intense action along with interesting back stories making DARK INSIDE a fast-paced read with the potential to be the next great YA series.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Author Jeff Kinney continues to entertain with his latest WIMPY KID book called CABIN FEVER. 

Greg knows Christmas is just around the corner, and he also knows he needs to clean up his act or Santa won't be happy with him this year.  "Santa's Scout" a little elfish doll his mother says keeps an eye on kids for Santa, seems to be following him around.  It could be just a trick played by his older brother Rodrick, but it's still creeping him out.

As usual things go wrong for Greg at home and at school.  No matter what he tries to do to make himself look good for Santa, it seems to backfire.  His dad isn't impressed when the kid Greg claims is bullying him turns out to be a kindergartner.  He also isn't very popular after he uses a hose and sprinkler to clear the snow from the neighbor's driveway.  He and Rowley also strike out when they try to start their own fund-raising carnival in competition with the one put on by the school. 

There are many more crazy schemes that go wrong, and the story finally ends when Greg, Rodrick, Manny, and their mother are snowed in for days.  Readers won't be disappointed with the new DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: CABIN FEVER.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Imagine my surprise when I discovered the local Dollar General store has some pretty cool YA books for just $3!!!  When I saw this one, I snatched it up for a giveaway contest.

All you have to do to win this copy of PARANOID PARK by Blake Nelson is fill out the form below.

Contest deadline is December 15 at midnight.


Father/son relationships are tricky, and Mike's relationship with his father is no exception.  The Professor is a genius with high hopes for his son.  Disappointed in Mike's grades, his father wants to find a way to improve Mike's math skills so Mike won't "end up on the street someday."  Mike is more realistic about his math abilities.  He knows no matter what he does, math is never going to be his strength.

Since his mother's death, Mike and his father have been on their own.  Actually, Mike has been holding things together for the two of them.  His father suffers from a condition that doesn't allow him to learn and recognize faces of even those closest to him so Mike is lucky that his father even remembers his name.  As far as the day-to-day running of their household, his father might be a genius and a college professor, but if paying the bills and grocery shopping was left to him, they wouldn't have a roof over their heads or a thing to eat.

When Mike's father announces that he is going to be lecturing at a university in Romania for the summer, Mike begins preparing himself for the trip.  However, Mike is informed that he will be going to live with a great aunt and uncle in some remote Pennsylvania town.  Mike isn't thrilled to be spending the summer with people he doesn't know, and he is also concerned about how his father is going to function in some foreign country without him.

Another part of Mike's summer living arrangement involves working with his great uncle Poppy on an engineering project with something called an Artesian screw.  According to his father, Mike will gain valuable mathematical and engineering skills.  Once in Pennsylvania, Mike finds a huge mix-up that involves everything but an engineering project.

THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF MIKE by Kathryn Erskine is filled with crazy adventures involving Mike's great aunt Moo who can't see and has trouble finding the correct words to express her sometimes off-the-wall thoughts, his uncle Poppy who refuses to leave his easy chair and eats only scrapple, and the town's desire to help a single minister in the community adopt a young Romanian boy.  Mike finds himself in charge of a community festival and a fund-raising effort to raise the $40,000 needed to bring little Misha to the United States. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

THE END OF THE LINE by Angela Cerrito

Life for Robbie was fairly normal when he met Ryan.  Having a new student at Red Brick Elementary wasn't that unusual, but Ryan was.  That first day Robbie watched as the new kid spent the day crouched under his desk, and then for some reason, it was Robbie who finally made friends with him.

The first time Ryan came to Robbie's house he stayed for dinner.  Robbie watched in awe as Ryan grabbed the food in his hands and shoved it in his mouth.  He ate and ate like he had never eaten before.  It didn't take long for Ryan to become a part of the routine at Robbie's house.  He came over every day after school and usually stayed through supper.  He loved the kids in Robbie's mother's daycare and entertained them like no one else could.  He even began to spend the night.

But Ryan was weird, and Robbie didn't always like sharing his mom and dad and his Uncle Grant.  As time passed, the boys often argued.  Robbie learned more about Ryan, including that his mother was in a hospital somewhere, that his father had been shot, and that he lived with his grandparents in what he had always considered to be the haunted house a few streets over.  When Ryan started asking Robbie to sneak out at night and visit the nearby construction site, Robbie wasn't sure he wanted to get involved.

Author Angela Cerrito presents her story about Robbie and Ryan in a unique style.  Readers learn about the boys through alternating chapters.  In chapters titled "River Falls" readers hear about the day to day activities of the boys and their families.  In chapters titled "Great Oaks School Prison" Robbie slowly reveals his own story and why he murdered Ryan.  Cerrito cleverly unveils the real story in tempting bits and pieces that keep the reader hooked from page one until the very end.  

BLOOD IS THICKER by Paul Langan & D.M. Blackwell

Learning that his father has cancer is bad enough, but when Hakeem is told that the family is leaving California and moving to Detroit, he can't believe it. The financial hardship of dealing with cancer treatments means that Hakeem's parents can't afford their home anymore so the decision has been made to relocate to Michigan where they can live with Hakeem's uncle until they can get back on their feet.

Their possessions are packed and Hakeem, his parents, and his twin sisters are on the plane headed for Detroit almost before Hakeem has a chance to say goodbye to his friends at Bluford High. Even though he knows his father can't help what happened, Hakeem is beyond angry about the changes he faces. He'll be starting at a strange, new school in the fall, and in the meantime, he'll be sharing a room with a cousin he hasn't seen since grade school.

Although, his aunt and uncle make them feel welcome, Savon is moody and barely civil. It is obvious that his cousin is not happy with the arrangements and doesn't waste any time trying to renew their childhood friendship. Hakeem had hoped to get to know him again and maybe meet some of his cousin's friends, but instead he finds himself being drafted to work in his uncle's furniture store. Afraid to disappoint his own father, Hakeem goes to work every day and does whatever his uncle asks of him. At night he watches as his cousin sneaks out after dark, probably up to no good.

Added pressure is heaped on Hakeem when his uncle asks him to talk with Savon and act as a role-model in an effort to straighten him out. As information of robberies in the neighbor around the furniture store surfaces, Hakeem is increasingly concerned that his cousin might have something to do with the crimes. How can he be expected to keep the peace between his uncle and cousin and also deal with his own father's illness?

BLOOD IS THICKER is another book from the Bluford High series. The focus is on changing family structures and the conflicting dreams and goals of fathers and sons. Once again the fast pace and less than 200 page length will attract many teen readers who might not otherwise be readers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

THE LOST SONGS by Caroline B. Cooney

Lutie Painter and Doria Bell come from two different worlds, but their lives are connected by music. 

Lutie's great-great-grandmother worked every day doing laundry for white people.  While she worked, she sang.  Her songs became known as The Laundry List, and she passed them down to Lutie.  Lutie loves the songs, and the people of Chalk love to listen to her sing them. 

Miss Veola, the minister of Lutie's church, believes that Lutie should share the songs with the world.  If the songs were recorded and sold, the money could be used for great benefit.  Lutie just doesn't see how she can give up the precious gift she inherited.

To Doria music is playing the church organ.  She loves the act of playing and the response of an appreciative audience.  Hours of practice make her indispensable to many area churches.  Those who want the Laundry List songs think Doria may be to one to convince Lutie to share her knowledge.

If life was just about music, both girls would be happy, but living in or near Chalk puts them in danger.  The neighborhood might be friendly and safe during the day, but by night the safety of trusting girls is in question.

Author Caroline B. Cooney reveals the deep heritage of Southern traditions and combines it with the love of family and music.  Readers will quickly connect to her richly developed characters and carefully crafted prose.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


The residents of West End, Montana, live in the midst of Yellowstone National Park.  They are surrounded by tourists every summer and live a solitary existence all winter.  Some of the residents make their living as cattle ranchers, and a federal program reintroducing wolves into the park system has them fighting mad.

KJ Carson lives with her father and works with him in his sporting goods and supply store and sometimes helps in the fishing/hunting guide business he also runs.  Her fascination with the wolves is not really shared by her father considering that hunting is a major source of their family income.

Watching the wolves and following their movements tracked on several internet sites had always been enough for KJ, but her involvement changes when she begins writing for the school newspaper.  The journalism teacher even makes KJ the editor and encourages her interests in the wolves.

When an environmental scientist and her teenage son arrive in West End to study the wolves, KJ learns even more about the mysterious animals.  Their arrival creates a bit of a distraction though when KJ falls for the scientist's son Virgil.  As the friction between the ranchers and the wolf supporters increases, KJ isn't sure whether her budding relationship with Virgil will be helped or destroyed.

WOLVES, BOYS, & OTHER THINGS THAT MIGHT KILL ME is the debut work of author Kristen Chandler.  It features small town living, a clash between nature and perceived government interference, and a touch of romance.  Chandler's strong female character reminds me of veteran YA authors like Joan Bauer and Ellen Wittlinger.