Monday, November 26, 2012


There's nothing quite like curling up with a new Wimpy Kid book on a chilly November evening.  I've gotten a kick out of this series ever since the first book.  Jeff Kinney is the creator of something even adults can appreciate. 

THE THIRD WHEEL centers on Greg's attempts to score a date for the upcoming Valentine's Day Dance.  Of course, things don't go as planned; they never do for poor Greg.  He is about to give up when his friend Rowley tells him about Abigail and the fact that her date backed out at the last minute.  This may be just the chance Greg has been waiting for.

It's not all about the dance preparations.  Greg also shares stories about his mooching Uncle Gary, his memories from early childhood, a chicken pox outbreak, and his campaign to get Rowley elected to student council.  There is typical Jeff Kinney humor along with his hilarious drawings.

These books never get old.  I can't wait to discover Greg's next big adventure.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012


The school year is almost over and it's time for the annual senior scavenger hunt.  Although the students always have a terrific time, the hunt isn't exactly sanctioned by all adults.  Mary knows it's risky to trust her younger sister to cover for her, but there is no way she's missing a chance to participate.

Ever since Barbone snagged her dream spot at Georgetown University, Mary has wanted revenge.  If she can assemble a team and beat Barbone in the scavenger hunt, she is sure she can put her feelings behind and move on with her life in the fall.  The unlikely team she has in mind includes her best friends Winter and Patrick, and another friend, Dez, whose presence on the winning team would really put Barbone in his place.  Barbone will never be able to live it down if he is beaten by a team of misfits nerds.

The hunt is organized by the winners of the previous year's hunt.  Set up in two rounds, the object is to score a minimum of 1250 by the evening deadline in order to advance to round two which concludes after midnight.  Since some of the items and tasks can bend the lines between legal and illegal, many parents and members of the school administration don't condone the activity, but Mary and her friends are determined to beat the odds and succeed.

Readers of THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR (PATHETIC) LIFE become another member of Mary's team as the action takes them along for the ride.  The creativity of the group is evident as they unravel clues and seek out the necessary items to increase their point totals.  Author Tara Altebrando builds her story into much more than just a scavenger hunt as she reveals Mary's inner thoughts as she comes to terms with decisions she has made and what it will mean to move on to the next step in her life.  Friendships are tested and renewed as Mary reviews her high school years complete with fond memories and unfortunate regrets. 

This is the first book I've read by Altebrando, and I'm headed off to find the other two she's written, DREAMLAND SOCIAL CLUB and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

Friday, November 23, 2012


A group of mean girls at school have made it their goal to make Abby miserable, and it doesn't help when all Abby has to come home to are parents who constantly nag her about her lack of friends and her weight. Fortunately, an empty lot, the mysterious appearance of a fox, and several unlikely new friends give Abby's life a needed boost.

Abby's mother thinks Abby should be hanging out with her friends, but Abby can't figure out a way to tell her mother that the girls she once called friends have turned into something unpleasant.  Kristen and Georgia and their followers don't think Abby fits into their group any more.  Abby's love of candy and all things yummy mean that she is no longer what she herself describes as a "medium" girl.  Her mother seems to blame Abby for the defection of her friends, and her father only criticizes her about her weight and her need for exercise.

The only place Abby feels free to be herself is in the empty lot across the street.  She disappears there as often as possible to sit among the weeds and wildflowers with her book and her red cooler filled with frozen grapes.  It is here in the empty lot that her life changes.

One afternoon Abby is surprised by the appearance of a small fox.  She didn't even know there were foxes in the area.  The beautiful animal doesn't seem frightened by her and approaches close enough to nip Abby's finger.  That gentle nip works some sort of mysterious magic, and soon after Abby finds herself with several new friends and a real reason for living.

Author Frances O'Roark Dowell has created a refreshing tale about just how much can be overcome with companionship and the right outlook on life.  She combines unique characters, unusual friendships, and a touch of magic to lift the spirit and inspire readers with a positive message about the importance of kindness and compassion.

Monday, November 19, 2012

PERIOD 8 by Chris Crutcher

I'm still pinching myself unable to believe I scored an ARC of PERIOD 8 by Chris Crutcher.  Scheduled for release in April of 2013, PERIOD 8 is an example of vintage Crutcher combined with a dash of mystery.  I was almost breathless in the final 30-40 pages as the action rushed to a riveting conclusion.

Teacher Bruce Logsdon is about to complete his last year of teaching.  He's one of those special teachers who just seem to connect with kids in a way that goes beyond the classroom.  Logs, as he is known to his students, welcomes kids to join him in his classroom for Period 8.  Having lunch in Logs room means not just eating but also opening up in discussions about whatever is on anyone's mind.

Paulie Baum has another connection with Logs besides P-8.  Both are dedicated swimmers and workout year round.  Some say their dedication borders on insanity when the two are seen swimming in the local lake on days when the temperature barely hits forty degrees. 

Paulie respects Logs and brings his problems to this trusted teacher.  His recent breakup with Hannah has been a current topic of discussion.  It involves another girl who is mysteriously absent from Period 8 causing both Logs and the other students to suspect something strange.  It is common knowledge that the girl's father is famous for his strict rules and often unreasonable behavior where his daughter is concerned.  Paulie is hoping Logs can help them shred some light on her unexplained disappearance.

Although the students have known each other and shared Period 8 for all their years in high school, they are discovering they don't know each other as well as they thought. 

Crutcher grabs the attention of readers with intense character relationships and a quick moving plot.  The ever-changing social fabric of high school mixes with the mystery of a missing student to make this a real page turner.  I'm looking forward to spreading the news about this latest Crutcher offering.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

COLIN FISCHER by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz

Colin has Asperger's syndrome.  He has trouble understanding proper social behavior and has difficulty interpreting emotions in others' facial expressions.  To help him navigate and properly interact with others, Colin had an adult shadow with him every day in elementary school and middle school, but now he is about to start high school, and he will be on his own.

Armed with his facial expression recognition charts and his ever-present red notebook, Colin begins his freshman year.  Although he may have trouble understanding human behavior, it fascinates him.  He writes down most of what he observes in his notebook and often follows the observations with a note to "investigate."  He prides himself on his detective work and his ability to unravel even the most difficult puzzles.

The school cafeteria becomes the center of Colin's most challenging investigation.  A gun goes off in the middle of a lunch time birthday celebration.  The students scatter in terror leaving Colin in the middle of the cafeteria staring at a frosting coated handgun. 

A troublemaker named Wayne is blamed for the act of violence, but Colin knows it wasn't him.  Trying to prove Wayne's innocence is not as easy as Colin thinks, and it could end up in a lot of trouble for him.  It also might end up earning Colin his very first real friend.

Writing partners Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz break from their TV writing roots to create this latest YA offering.  COLIN FISCHER offers a look at Asperger's and bullying that not only educate but also entertain.  Teens will be able to relate to a varied cast of characters as well as the mystery of just who brought the gun to school.

Friday, November 9, 2012

DON'T TURN AROUND by Michelle Gagnon

DON'T TURN AROUND by Michelle Gagnon is being talked about as THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for teens.  Gagnon, known for her adults novels, seems pretty comfortable writing for teens.  If you are a teen looking for adventure involving a couple of tech savvy teen computer hackers, then I definitely suggest getting your hands on this one. 

Peter is a rich kid who wants for nothing, except maybe the love of his mostly absent parents.  Busy with their own lives, their idea of parenting is to throw money in their son's direction rather than spending quality time with him.  Peter has learned to cope and entertain himself by becoming a expert computer hacker with a following he calls the ALLIANCE.  Along with the help of other talented hackers, he has been responsible for breaking into and even taking down quite a few corporations.

Noa is sixteen and has never known a normal life.  She has spent most of her life bouncing from one foster home to another.  Incredibly intelligent, Noa is a self-trained hacker who uses her talents to beat the system and gain her independence from the impersonal world of foster care. 

When the story begins, Noa wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse.  She has no idea how she got there or how much time has passed.  All she knows is that she has a small incision in her chest and no memory of what took place. 

Fellow hackers, Peter and Noa connect online when Peter asks Noa for help.  His life is being threatened by a corporation known as AMRF.  Can Noa use her skills to find the information that can protect him or will her experience in the warehouse mean she is already at risk from the corporation herself?

DON'T TURN AROUND is a high tech thriller with enough twists and turns to satisfy any adventure lover.