Wednesday, March 28, 2012

HORSE CAMP by Nicole Helget and Nate Leboutillier

 ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: May 8, 2012

Penny, Percy, and Pauly have been shipped off to Uncle Stretch's farm.  The adventure was described as a fun summer at "horse camp," but the truth is quickly revealed.

Uncle Stretch has two elderly horses too old and grumpy to ride.  Instead of a fun-filled adventure, they are put to work.  Their days are filled with chores and exposure to the messy end of farm life. 

Being the youngest, Pauly makes the best of the unpleasant situation because he doesn't really understand why the three siblings have been dumped there in the first place.  He spends his time following closely on the heels of Percy and annoying him as much as possible.

Percy ends up moving out to the granary which gives him a bit of peace and quiet.  When he's not busy with chores and preparing his chicken for the fair, he disappears for hours into his own imagination.

Penny is the most upset about their circumstances.  She records her thoughts in a journal and writes letters to her parents hoping to make sense of what has happened to their family.  Their father is a minister, and most of their lives they have lived as missionaries in distant places.  He preaches about life according to the Bible which makes it difficult for Penny to understand why he would abandon his own children forcing them to live with a grumpy uncle.  Her mother spent their time in the faraway villages providing medical care as a nurse.  She is now in prison because she was distributing prescription drugs to sick villagers illegally.

Penny desperately tries to come to terms with her parents' choices and how their family has been torn apart.  Her bitterness is clearly expressed in alternating chapters with her twin brother Percy telling his side of the story in the others.  As Uncle Stretch shows them the ways of the farm and introduces them to his girlfriend Sheryl and her daughter June Bug, Penny and Percy begin to adapt to their new life and even learn to understand what true family love can look like.

Authors Nicole Helget and Nate Leboutillier use clever humor and childhood angst to entertain in this unusual story about three children trying to find their way in the crazy world of adult decisions and mistakes.  HORSE CAMP proves that adults don't always make the best choices, and in some cases, would probably be better off if they took the lead from a younger generation.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


After his father dies in a car accident and his mother lands in rehab, Mickey ends up living with his Uncle Myron.  He's trying to make the best of things, but memories haunt him and strange new events are quickly filling his life.

As he passes the creepy house local kids make a point of avoiding, the house's mysterious inhabitant calls out to him claiming his father is not really dead.  At about the same time, Ashley his new girlfriend disappears.

Mickey enlists the help of a character nicknamed Spoon and a goth girl known as Ema as he searches for Ashley and tries to make sense of the an old woman's message and a stranger in dark glasses who is following his every move.

Adult mystery writer, Harlan Coben, has ventured into the world of YA fiction.  SHELTER is fast-paced and quick-witted.  Coben has probably found himself a whole new fan base.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I love all of Joan Bauer's books, but BACKWATER is probably my favorite.  She is an expert at creating strong female characters.

Fill out the form below and you will be automatically entered in the contest to win your own copy of BACKWATER!

Contest deadline is midnight on April 5th.

RED HEART TATTOO by Lurlene McDaniel

ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: July 24, 2012

Morgan Frierson loves Trent Caparella, and even though they would both be heading off to different colleges soon, she is sure their love will last.  Morgan is student body president and one of the most popular kids at Edison Middle School/High School.  Trent plays soccer and is part of the popular crowd, too.

Stuart "Roth" Rothman didn't have the privileged upbringing of Morgan and Trent.  After watching his parents die in the explosion of their meth lab, he has lived in a series of foster homes until his uncle was discharged from the military and took over his care. 

Roth is fascinated by Morgan, but he may have lost any chance with her when he makes the unwise decision to set off a box of fireworks under the goalpost at the football pep rally.  It seems like the perfect prank at the time, but it causes quite a disturbance.  Because of this prank, Roth becomes the main suspect when two other students plant a bomb in the school atrium.  The bombing kills nine people, critically injures fifteen, and blinds another.

Everyone feels the effects of the bombing that rocks the small Michigan community.  Lives are changed forever, and relationships are ended.  Despite the trauma and tragedy, some good does come from the disaster, and many lessons are learned.

Author Lurlene McDaniel illustrates how trauma shapes the lives it touches.  Her teenage characters ring true as she describes the love, the loss, and the long journey toward recovery.  Fans will want to watch the bookstore and library shelves for the July release of RED HEART TATTOO.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Jordan Sonnenblick has done it again!  CURVEBALL: THE YEAR I LOST MY GRIP is fantastic!

Nightmares of his final pitch and devastating elbow injury plague Peter Friedman.  His dreams of joining his friend and fellow pitcher AJ as the stars of the high school JV baseball team are gone forever, and the thought of starting high school without that dream is terrifying.

In addition to giving up his life as a pitcher, Peter is dealing with his grandfather's confusing behavior.  He fondly remembers all the time he has spent by his grandfather's side learning all about photography.  As the owner and sole photographer of Goldberg Photo, Peter's grandfather has suddenly decided he's retiring and he's giving all his valuable equipment to Peter.  As far as Peter's mother is concerned, the timing is perfect since she insisted that Peter sign up for the freshman class Introduction to Photography.

Peter's teacher quickly figures out he should be across the hall in the advanced photography class.  Peter suddenly finds himself in the middle of a class filled with upperclassmen.  He is pleasantly surprised when the cute freshman girl he noticed in the other class is also sent over to join the advanced group.  Angelika becomes not only his class partner but also his confidant through some pretty tough times.

Author Jordan Sonnenblick takes readers into the confused teenage mind of a young man dealing with his own crumbling dreams, his first intense relationship with a girl, and the crushing reality that his grandfather is slipping into another world.  Sonnenblick uses a unique combination of humor, stark reality, and compassion to create a story that will make a lasting impression on his readers.

REBEL MCKENZIE by Candice Ransom

ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: June 26, 2012

Twelve year old Rebel McKenzie calls herself a paleontologist.  If she had her way, she would be spending the summer at the Ice Age Kids' Dig and Safari camp, but instead she is living in Frog Level in a trailer park and babysitting for her nephew Rudy. 

Rebel's older sister needs some help, and Rebel is graciously "volunteered" for the job.  The only reason she agrees is because she hopes to earn enough money to attend the second summer session of the Ice Age Kids' Dig and Safari.  Unfortunately, she learns that her babysitting gig will be unpaid.  She'll be helping out her sister who is starting beauty school in hopes of getting a better job, but the last thing Rebel wants to do is stay in an unair-conditioned mobile home watching over a finicky eater who likes to have lunch with God.

It turns out that Rebel's summer is filled with interesting adventures.  There's Doublewide, a huge cat trained to tinkle in the toilet, a vicious little neighbor girl who lives with her doting father, ukulele- playing Bambi whose mother enters her in every kiddie beauty pageant she can find, and a friendly old neighbor who was once a famous hand model.  Rebel learns a little something from all of them and discovers the true importance of beauty at the same time.

Author Candice Ransom's new middle grade novel is sure to capture the hearts of her readers.  Her quirky characters and quaint hometown adventures combine to make an entertaining story with an uplifting message.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Finally, STORM RUNNERS book #3 has arrived.  I can't remember a more anticipated book as far as my 7th grade students are concerned.  After reading book #1 and #2 to them this year, they are all fighting over who gets book #3 first.  I ended that debate by announcing I get it first which meant I needed to finish it in record time or risk a riot when school resumed after the weekend.

ERUPTION is everything I could have hoped for in the conclusion of the series.  After surviving Hurricane Emily in Florida, Chase Masters and his father John Masters are headed to a new disaster.  The circus family they met in Florida has people in Mexico running the winter circus circuit.  News of an earthquake has Chase and John forming a rescue team to help the Rossi family as well as the family of Tomas who also works for John Masters.

The earthquake has destroyed most of the roads in and out of the area, and to make matters worse, a volcano is spewing ash and toxic gases over the area.  Chase and his father split their group in two and head in two directions looking for the people they hope to rescue.  Both groups run into difficulties as they discover damaged circus vehicles trapped in earthquake fissures, human and animal casualties, and the possibility of escaped lions, tigers, and bears.

Fans of Roland Smith's STORM RUNNERS and STORM RUNNERS: THE SURGE should be satisfied with the way he wraps up the adventure series.  There is plenty of action right up to the end, and I'm not ruling out a return of some of these characters in a future book or series.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012


ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: March 13, 2012

Working at Pete's Pizza has been a life-saver for Drew.  His mother's meth habit means he has to take care of himself so the money he makes at Pete's helps pay the bills and keep food in the frig.

The night Drew took the order for three all meat pizzas seemed like any other night.  Kayla left as usual to make the delivery, but she never returned. 

The police found Kayla's car with the door open and the pizzas scattered on the ground.  Further investigation nearby revealed a blood streaked rock.  Witnesses reported seeing a white pickup in the area, but no other evidence could be found.

Gabie also works at Pete's.  On the night Kayla disappeared, Gabie was scheduled to work the deliveries, but she and Kayla had traded nights.  Gabie is convinced that Kayla is still alive.  She and Drew, motivated by their combined feelings of guilt about Kayla's fate, join forces to solve the mystery.

THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED is told in multiple voices including Drew, Gabie, Kayla, and her assailant.  Other additions to the story include the transcripts of 911 calls, news accounts of Kayla's disappearance, police interviews, and more.  Author April Henry creates complex twists and turns that make this book difficult to put down.  This one won't be gathering dust on the shelves when my students get their hands on it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

THE CATCH by Rick Jasper

ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: March 1, 2012

THE CATCH by Rick Jasper is a fast, action-packed baseball adventure.  It is just the right length for reluctant readers, but packs enough punch to satisfy and challenge a more seasoned reader.

When talented young player Danny makes "the catch," his life changes.  Not only does his team win the game, but he is also attracting the attention of some interesting people. 

The representative of a European sports equipment company wants to make a deal.  If Danny will wear their sports clothing line and make sure all the fans see the company's logo, they are willing to pay him well.  As an amateur, the money will have to be placed in a trust fund, but he is assured it will be there waiting for him when he is able to use it.

Not everyone is happy about Danny's little sideline arrangement.  The team already has uniforms and a sponsor, and his teammates aren't too pleased when Danny seems to think more about his endorsement deal than about the games he has to play.  Can Danny stay focused enough to keep making miracle plays and keep his sponsors happy at the same time?  Or will a lack of focus cost his team a chance to make it big?

Author Rick Jasper illustrates the importance of dedication and teamwork in this story involving the often fleeting aspects of fame.

SHOOTING STARS by Allison Rushby

ARC ebook courtesy of
Release date: February 28, 2012

Josephine "Jo" Foster may be small in stature and younger than most, but she is respected in her field.  She is following in her father's footsteps.  She is one of a notorious and often hated group.  She is a paparazzo.

Jo is a talented photographer and also talented at getting into private nightclubs, parties, and just about anywhere the stars gather.  Her pictures are in demand enough that the most popular celebrity magazines are willing to pay her, and pay her very well. 

Jo has a goal set for all that money, too.  She wants to go to school to study photography with a focus on portrait work.  Her dad, also a paparazzo, believes she should focus on the career she already has started.  She has the potential to be big, and he's always reminding her how good the money is.

Things change when Jo gets a special assignment.  She is going undercover to capture some shots of a famous young singer spending some time at a fancy rehab spa.  All she knows is he is not dealing with alcohol or drug issues, but her employer expects some juicy photos of the young star while he "rests" at the spa.

Having met the attractive young singer once before, Jo is a bit star-struck, but she's sure she can still complete her assignment.  It takes all her talent to blend in among the other young people trying to straighten out the problems in their lives.  She must act like she has her own issues and at the same time use her fake ipod/camera to snap as many pictures as she can.

It takes awhile for Jo to realize there is something not quite right about the subject of her assignment.  Is he really who he says he is?  She begins to think there is something strange going on, and she plans to get to the bottom of it.

Author Allison Rushby takes readers into the unsavory world of the paparazzo.  Our fascination with the rich and famous makes us forget that they are people too with problems of their own.  Rushby's main character has always seen these stars and their fancy lives as a way to make some easy money, but when she comes face to face with the reality of how one of them is actually suffering, she begins to take a long, hard look at her own life.  Readers will find SHOOTING STARS a real page-turner as they peel away the layers of intrigue surrounding a young photographer and her subject.