Tuesday, December 31, 2013

REALITY BOY by A.S. King


Some of the most popular TV programming today involves reality shows of one kind or another.  REALITY BOY is about one boy's experience as part of one those all too familiar "English nanny to the rescue" shows.

Gerald Faust was five years old when his family was featured on the show.  His dysfunctional family included a work-a-holic father, an emotionally distraught mother, and two older sisters.  Gerald's eldest sister was an undiagnosed psychopath who literally tried to kill Gerald and his other sister on numerous occasions.  The fake English nanny whose job was to sweep in and change the family dynamic, did more to damage the situation than repair it.

As a tormented and helpless five year old, Gerald retaliated by depositing piles of poop in random places whenever the pressure of family and show got to be too much.  He became known as the Crapper, a nickname that followed him into high school where his disturbed mother forced the school to qualify him for special education services.  Gerald views the safety of the SPED room as he calls it and the job he has working concessions at the local hockey arena as the only places he is free of his terrifying sister and complacent parents.

When Gerald finally works up the nerve to speak with a co-worker named Hannah, he discovers that he isn't the only one with a dysfunctional family.  At first neither of them are willing to reveal their crazy home lives, but as they become more comfortable, the truth comes out.  Together they may be able to conquer their fears and overcome the negative influences of their crazy families.

Author A.S. King has put together another winner.  Readers will immediately connect with Gerald and root for him and Hannah.  What could have been a life of tragedy and failure, becomes an inspiring story of how to beat the odds and take control of one's own destiny.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

BIG FAT DISASTER by Beth Fehlbaum


This book was like riding a roller-coaster of emotions.  There were highs when I was so angry I could spit, lows when sadness and pity brought tears to my eyes, and times when the ride made me feel flat because I couldn't even imagine the tremendous evil that motivates some people.  This book had me talking to the characters and sometimes wanting to throw my shoe at them.  If you want to feel involved and invested in a book, pick up BIG FAT DISASTER by Beth Fehlbaum.

Colby's life has just exploded, and she believes it is entirely her fault.  She discovers evidence of her beloved father's affair with another woman, and this inadvertently leads to the discovery that he has been misusing campaign funds from his run for senator.  The result is that Colby and her mother and two sisters find themselves homeless and forced to move into a rundown trailer behind her aunt's house in a place called Piney Creek.

Complicating matters is the fact that Colby is nothing like her beauty pageant mother and beautiful blond sisters.  She takes after her soon-to-be in prison father.  She is overweight and seems to gain more every day.  Colby's mother doesn't understand how her daughter can be so out of control when it comes to food and makes it a point to berate her every chance she gets. 

Moving to Piney Creek is Colby's worst nightmare.  She is taunted and teased not only because of her weight, but also because of her father's indiscretions and because of an incident the previous year involving her cousin Ryan.  She finds herself in the middle of angry, hurtful people at a time when what she needs is love and support.

Author Beth Fehlbaum doesn't hold back as she drags readers right into the middle of Colby's chaotic life.  Filled with gut-wrenching honesty, BIG FAT DISASTER takes readers to the lowest of the low and yet is able to inspire at the same time.  Thank you to the author for sharing an ARC of this incredible book!

Friday, December 27, 2013

BEING HENRY DAVID by Cal Armistead


A seventeen year old male wakes up in NYC's Penn Station with no ID and no idea who he is.  With nothing but a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau, he senses something has gone wrong in his life but doesn't have a clue what it could be.

Figuring maybe the book could reveal some answers to his many questions, he adopts the name Henry David (Hank) and heads out into the city.  An unpleasant experience with a couple of runaway teens and their drug dealing benefactor quickly convinces Hank he needs to find another place to begin his search.  He heads toward Concord, Massachusetts, and the home of Thoreau.

Once in Concord, Hank is disappointed in the commercialism of Thoreau's Walden Pond, but hopes the wise words of the American philosopher will guide him to the answers he is seeking.  A man named Thomas and a girl named Hailey provide the support Hank needs as the details of his past begin to surface.  What follows is the painful realization that his actions have caused suffering for those closest to him, and now he must decide how to face the past and plan for the future.

Author Cal Armistead combines thought-provoking quotes from Thoreau's Walden with the mystery of Hank's past to hook readers and keep them on the edge of their seats to the very end.  Although, it is obvious that Hank's amnesia is hiding some terrible tragedy, Armistead keeps readers guessing as to the specifics and then wondering what decisions Hank will ultimately make to pull together the crumbling pieces of his life.  After reading BEING HENRY DAVID, I can't wait to see what this author offers her readers next.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

GOING VINTAGE by Lindsey Leavitt


After hearing Lindsey Leavitt speak at the ALAN conference, I headed to B&N to order this one.  The light-hearted humor I heard in her author talk comes through in GOING VINTAGE loud and clear.  I will definitely be checking out her other books soon.

Making lists gives Mallory special pleasure.  Now that she has broken up with her boy friend Jeremy, many of her lists focus on strategies to show him a thing or two.  The breakup involved her finding out that Jeremy had a "cyberwife" on a social networking game called Authentic Life.  A little online investigating reveals hundreds of emails between Jeremy and his avatar "wife."  Mallory decides it's something she can't tolerate.

Mallory's fascination with all things vintage helps take her mind off her failed relationship.  At the same time she stumbles across a list her grandmother made back in the 60's while she was in high school.  Mallory is determined to give up modern technology and focus on trying to complete her grandmother's list.  That's how operation 1960's begins and also how Mallory discovers another unexpected relationship and many other interesting things about herself.

Leavitt has created a cast of unique, quirky characters and combined them with the challenge of giving up the technology that drives our modern day lives.  Mallory's story is filled with humor as well as a dose of reality for those of us more focused on our gadgets than on our relationships.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

CAGED WARRIOR by Alan Lawrence Sitomer


Set in inner-city Detroit with the backdrop of MMA cage fighting, I predict that CAGED WARRIOR will be a sure-fire hit with teen boys.  Author Alan Lawrence Sitomer takes readers into a violent world of no holds barred wrestling and the corrupt business that goes along with it.

McCutcheon Daniels "MD" goes to a rundown, neglected high school, and he is well aware of the fact that his father expects him to drop out as soon as he is sixteen.  MD's father had hoped to have his own championship boxing career, but when that fell short of his expectations, he decided to groom his son to be a wrestler.  Unfortunately, his father's desire for money and fame above all else, pushes MD into the most dangerous form of wrestling - mixed martial arts.

MD does enjoy the power and adrenaline rush he gets from his fights.  He skips out on school every afternoon to train at a local gym.  After his exhausting training session, he heads over the elementary school to pick up his five year old little sister so they can head home, do their homework, and fix dinner from whatever they can scrape together.  MD is solely responsible for little Gemma since his mother left years ago and his father is usually drunk in some local bar.

When MD is offered the chance at a scholarship to attend a prestigious Detroit private school, he knows his father will not be in favor of the idea.  It would interfere with his development as a championship fighter and cut into the prize money that keeps a roof over their heads.  But, a tour of the school and the promise of a normal life and a future may be more than MD is willing to sacrifice even for his tyrannical father. 

CAGED WARRIOR combines vicious, bloody fight scenes with family drama and connections with organized crime that will keep readers turning the pages.  Not due for release until May 2014, this is one to add to your wish list.

Friday, December 20, 2013

IN MEMORY OF NED VIZZINI...



I met Ned Vizzini twelve years ago when I invited him to visit Morenci Middle School to talk about his first book TEEN ANGST.  He was a huge hit!  He made an immediate connection with our small town Michigan kids.

Ned made a return visit after he wrote BE MORE CHILL.  Once again he was a hit with the students in both the middle school and high school, some of whom were already his fans.  Unfortunately, some members of the school administration at the time of this second visit were not as open-minded as the student body, and I was criticized for inviting an author who would have the nerve to use the term "masturbation" in the presence of a teen audience. 

Well, I knew that Ned's genuine voice truly spoke to teens and inspired them so I worked with our public library and arranged two more visits with Ned over the coming years.  He was greeted by enthusiastic audiences and new readers were exposed to his wonderful writing.  Each time he came to Morenci, Michigan, he expressed his love for our tiny town and hoped to some day bring members of his family to visit.

In October Ned agreed to Skype with the college students in my Children's Literature class at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan.  He talked about HOUSE OF SECRETS and answered questions about his TV writing career.  He was hilarious as usual and full of excitement about his family and his new career adventures. 

I will always remember Ned and his contributions.  He will be greatly missed.

Monday, December 16, 2013

PICTURE ME by Lori Weber


PICTURE ME by Lori Weber follows the lives of three teen girls each with their own unique issues.  The three teens also represent the bully, the bullied, and the guilt-filled bystander. 

Tessa lives with her mother and younger sister.  She has spent the last five years coming to terms with the loss of her father who was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside IED.  Quiet and reserved, she is friends with Krista, and together they work hard to earn good grades and cultivate good reputations that will ensure they get into good colleges and make something of themselves.

Krista is battling her own demons.  Her mother is a dedicated neonatal nurse who tirelessly works the night shift leaving Krista and her father to manage with takeout menus and evenings filled with TV.  Krista is overweight and very self-conscious about the problem.  She is taunted by classmates but tries to ignore the insults and carry on.

Chelsea is the bully.  She and her posse of girl friends are constantly finding new and more evil ways to make Krista's life miserable.  The final straw comes when they tape an unflattering picture on Krista's locker and wait nearby to watch the results. 

Tessa has had enough and retaliates by attacking Chelsea.  Both girls are suspended but the actual bullying problem is swept under the proverbial rug.  School staff and parents are not aware of the real underlying problem which results in a life-threatening situation for Krista and potential future problems for Chelsea since no one realizes the true source of her emotional turmoil.

Author Lori Weber captures the current controversial issue of bullying in stark detail.  Her characters ring true to real life situations today.  This is a must read for teens, parents, and teachers concerned about bullying.

UNSOULED by Neal Shusterman


Fans of Shusterman's UNWIND series will not be disappointed with the final book.  The cast of characters returns to meet many new challenges.  Everyone is on the run and trying to either avoid being unwound or coping with the effects of being reassigned various body parts and the side effects they create.

The country is still divided in its opinions about the legal and moral issues of unwinding, but now another element has entered the equation.  When some one receives an organ or body part from an unwound victim, the side effects may go beyond the physical.  Camus Comprix is the prime example.  Completely reassembled from parts of the unwound, his questions about the soul he now possesses may be more than any one can answer.

Readers will be challenged to follow the threads of all the characters as they come from far flung places to battle those who threaten their very existence.

Monday, December 9, 2013

FROM NORVELT TO NOWHERE by Jack Gantos


Crazy life continues in Norvelt, Pennsylvania.  Jack is still helping Miss Volker write obituaries for the newspaper and taking care of things around her house, but things are about to get even crazier.

Another Norvelt old lady dies under suspicious circumstances renewing Miss Volker's belief that the murderous Spizz is still hanging around.  Jack and the old lady are working together once again to find the killer and bring justice to Norvelt.

When Miss Volker learns of the sudden death of her sister in Florida, she convinces Jack's mother to allow him to travel with her to retrieve her sister's body so she can be buried in Norvelt.  Jack isn't sure about spending time on a train with the old lady, but he decides the adventure might be worth it if it means not spending the summer on the watchful eye of his mother.  His father has been making plans for the family to move to Florida anyway so this will give him a chance to check it out.

What follows is a wild and wacky trip involving history, a would-be detective, surly train attendants, and learning how to drive a stick shift.  Author Jack Gantos continues his fun-filled tale loosely based on his own boyhood experiences in FROM NORVELT TO NOWHERE.  The story is filled with twists and turns that are sure to please Gantos' many fans.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

SICK by Tom Leveen

 


A comment on the back of this book mentions that it is a cross between the Breakfast Club and the Walking Dead.  That should be enough to grab the attention of most teen readers and maybe even some adults.

High school is tough enough without adding a mysterious virus that infects some of the students and staff turning them into zombies.  The remaining students take cover wherever possible hoping to be rescued.  It only takes a short time for it to become apparent that it isn't just the school that is affected.  The strange illness is causing chaos everywhere leaving the students to fend for themselves for the foreseeable future.

Brian, usually focused on how he can manage to cut class with his buddies and hang out anywhere besides school, finds himself stuck in the drama wing of the building with a bunch of theater geeks.  Once he helps to secure their safety, he turns his energy to finding out where his younger sister and his recent ex-girl friend are.  He can't believe that his little sister managed to survive leukemia several years ago only to face this bizarre situation.

The few remaining students arm themselves with theater props and power tools to battle the zombies intent on snacking on their bone marrow.  Can they survive long enough to be rescued?  Will Brian be able to find his loved ones and get them to safety?

SICK joins the ranks of recent zombie novels, but author Tom Leveen puts his own personal touch on the details and turns it into a real page-turner.  The ending suggests there will be a sequel which makes this reviewer happy.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

REMEMBER DIPPY by Shirley Reva Vernick


Summer is about to begin, and Johnny can't wait.  It promises to be even more exciting than a regular old summer in his tiny town when his mother announces she has a new client and will be heading to upstate New York for an interior design job in a museum.  Johnny thinks that sounds like the perfect way to spend his summer until his mother breaks the news that he will be staying with his aunt instead.  Johnny knows that staying with Aunt Collette means babysitting for his cousin Remember.

Yep, the kid is two years older than Johnny and his name is really Remember Dippy.  Remember is weird.  He spends most of his time watching the weather channel, eating the filling out of Twinkies, and repeating whatever anyone says to him.  Johnny will be in charge whenever his aunt is at work at the local 7 Eleven.  Johnny will probably spend the summer fighting off bullies like Dirk the Jerk when he's not mowing his lawn and his aunt's lawn and watching endless hours of the weather channel.  He certainly isn't expecting to become friends with Remember and maybe even ending up with a girl friend, too.

Author Shirley Reva Vernick explores the world of autism and proves that friendship can turn up where you least expect it.

Friday, November 29, 2013

GRANDMASTER by David Klass


I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of David Klass's newest release at the ALAN conference.  I even got to meet him, chat with him at a publisher's dinner, and have him sign my copy.  (Please excuse the geekiness.)

Morris Pratzer is a grandmaster, but no one knows - not his wife or daughter or more importantly, his son Daniel.  Mr. Pratzer's secret chess life is revealed when Daniel's chess club teammates do some research for a father/son tournament that promises $10,000 in prize winnings. 

Two of the prep school top players are hoping to find the perfect club member to fill out the six member tournament team.  A little research on the Internet uncovers the fact that Daniel's father was a chess champion as a teen.  He reached grandmaster status but mysteriously chose to leave competition at the age of sixteen.  When the two players approach Daniel about recruiting his father for the tournament, Daniel can't believe his quiet accountant father could possibly be the person they think he is.

Mr. Pratzer acknowledges that he is indeed ranked as a grandmaster, but he insists he has given up the game for good.  Daniel isn't surprised that his father is refusing to compete because the two have never been close.  Daniel knows his father loves him, but outward signs of that love have only been evident on rare occasions throughout Daniel's short life.  It takes a private closed-door discussion between Daniel's mom and dad for his mother to convince Mr. Pratzer that he owes it to Daniel to participate in the chess event.

The majority of GRANDMASTER takes place during the three day chess tournament in New York City.  During this time Daniel learns more about his father's past and the intense toll playing high level competitive chess has taken on the secretive man.  Readers will experience Daniel's fear that his father may crack under the pressure as well as Daniel's own personal growth experience as he competes with the hope of winning the big prize.

Author David Klass played competitive chess as a teen and then gave up the game for many years until his own children recently became involved in tournaments.  His exceptional skill as a writer brings the stress and excitement of the game to life and will likely win him some new reading fans.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles


The PERFECT CHEMISTRY series is extremely popular with the girls in my 8-10th grade classroom.  The books are never on the shelf because they are constantly being passed from reader to reader.  After reading the first book, I believe I understand the appeal.

PERFECT CHEMISTRY is the stereotypical tale of forbidden love between the privileged girl and the "bad" boy.  Set in the suburbs of Chicago, the story has the romance, drama, and personal/family problems that connect to with teen readers everywhere.

Brittany is a pretty blonde member of the pom squad.  She may be one of the most popular girls at Fairfield High School, but she has managed to avoid being a "mean" girl type.  Perhaps that is because she secretly faces challenges at home that keep her grounded in reality.  Brittany's socialite mother expects Brittany to be perfectly dressed, perfectly behaved, and involved with only perfect people.  Brittany is convinced all this emphasis on perfection is to hide the fact that she has an older sister who is far from perfect.  Shelley has cerebral palsy and must be cared for 24 hours a day.  She is unable to feed herself, clothe or bathe herself, and is only able to communicate using her own language of grunts and nonsense noises.  Despite their incredibly different worlds, Brittany and Shelley are close, and Brittany lives in constant fear of her parents' threats to send Shelley to live in some institution they claim is better suited for her needs.  Brittany believes they are simply trying to hide away their oldest child to make their own lives easier.

Alex is Hispanic and survives because of his wit and street smarts.  Being a member of the Latino Blood gang is not what Alex wants, but it is the only way he can assure the safety of his family.  The secret he harbors is the dream of college and a better life away from the gang lifestyle, but there are days when that seems like a impossible dream.  It is difficult to keep up appearances with the gang and also meet the demands of family and school.  His tough guy reputation makes him an easy target for a school administration looking to place blame for anything that upsets the regular routine of Fairfield High.

When a demanding chemistry teacher pairs Brittany and Alex as lab partners for the year, interesting things begin to happen.  Brittany's boy friend Colin is pressuring her to have sex, and Alex's buddies make a bet that he can't get his pretty, blonde lab partner into bed.  Thrown together as lab partners, the two try to hate one another, but "chemistry" seems determined to bring them together.

Author Simone Elkeles connects with teens with just the right amount of drama and romance.  The complications in her characters' personal lives create an appeal that has readers forming attachments that pull them eagerly from one book in the series to the next.  Once one reader is hooked, more will follow.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO by Gae Polisner


It's been four years since Francesca's little brother Simon drowned.  It was an afternoon at the beach when the tragedy changed her family's world.  The guilt Francesca feels has changed her relationship with her mother and changed her normally outgoing personality.

With summer beginning Francesca knows her friend Lisette will be expecting her to hang out, but Francesca knows things will be uncomfortable since she has a secret crush on Lisette's boy friend.  To complicate matters, Francesca is fairly certain that her father is having an affair with a woman who lives across the street.  She knows that following the death of her brother, her father's affair is the last thing her fragile mother needs.

One afternoon Francesca follows the neighbor woman to the local country club sure that her father is planning to meet the woman there.  She doesn't see her father, but she does meet a little four year old boy named Frankie.  To her surprise, several days later, she has a job as a mother's helper watching over the active young boy. 

As the summer passes, Frankie and Francesca become inseparable.  Frankie's behavior and often random comments seem so much like Francesca's little brother that she begins to believe he may be the reincarnation of Simon.  When her feelings about Frankie collide with family and friend problems, Francesca has more than she can handle.  Can she deal with the powerful emotions that threaten to overwhelm her or will this confusing summer end up helping her put her life back together?

Author Gae Polisner explores love and loss and the reality that life goes on.  THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is the inspirational story of one girl's attempt to make sense of heartbreaking tragedy.  Be sure to watch for its release in March of 2014.

Monday, November 18, 2013

THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Jennifer Lynn Barnes' newest offering is perfect for YA readers who are also fans of popular TV shows like Criminal Minds.  In THE NATURALS teens are gifted profilers and are recruited to work with the FBI to train and work on cold cases.

Cassie is one of those naturally gifted with the ability to read personalities and motivations of almost any one she meets.  When she is approached to join the program, she sees it as an opportunity to find the answers to her own mother's mysterious murder.  Raised by caring relatives since she was twelve, Cassie has always sought closure in the violent death of her loved one.  Having been the first person to stumble into the bloody dressing room scene of her mother's death, Cassie's vivid memories of past have haunted her.  Now maybe she can discover the answers to her mother's untimely end.

Cassie joins Michael, Dean, Lia, and Sloane at a secluded house near FBI headquarters in Virginia.  Several special agents are in charge of grooming the talented teens as future crime fighters.  Along with the others, Cassie practices and sharpens her skills in mock crime situations hoping to become involved with cold cases the FBI has been unable to crack. 

As the teens work on their skill development, the FBI agents respond to new crime scenes that seem to be ever increasing and becoming suspiciously closer to resembling the details Cassie's mother's murder.  It is becoming easier and easier for Cassie to visualize the profile of the killer.  Is her mother's killer now focused on her life?

THE NATURALS promises to be the first in a new suspenseful crime series aimed at a YA audience.  I am eagerly awaiting Cassie's next adventure.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

ASYLUM by Madeleine Roux


Dan Crawford was ready for a change, and the special summer college prep program at New Hampshire College seemed like the perfect thing.  He loved his adoptive parents, but at sixteen he needed to put some distance between himself and his loving parents as well as his sometimes not so caring high school acquaintances.  Dan signed up for the five week program never dreaming what was in store for him and the new friends he would meet.

New Hampshire College campus was quaint and exactly how Dan had pictured it from reading the program literature.  There was one unexpected change though.  The normal student dormitories were under renovation so Dan and the other students enrolled in the summer program would be staying in Brookline, a former mental hospital.  Dan's first reaction as a history buff, was that this was pretty cool, but the situation began to become bizarre on his very first day there.

After hearing his roommate talk about the old, unused office of Brookline's former warden, Dan and two of his new friends decided to explore.  The three young people found the abandoned office area was filthy and decaying, but they pushed on into the inner recesses of the old asylum.  One room lead to another and then down into lower levels that revealed the true evils of Brookline's past.

Both Dan and his new friend Abby discover strange connections to the asylum's warden and past patients.  Dan is captivate by the fact that he shares the name of the long gone warden, and Abby learns that her aunt was once a patient.  As the two begin to research their finds, they uncover much more than they bargained for, some of which may even threaten their very lives.

Author Madeleine Roux takes readers into the inner workings of an old psychiatric hospital.  Be ready to meet an evil doctor experimenting on his patients, a psycho serial killer, and other unfortunate characters connected to the old institution local residents would like to see destroyed forever.  The creepiness factor of the story is doubled by the inclusion of old photos that illustrate the patients and their surroundings.

Monday, November 11, 2013

MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND by Matthew Dicks


A fellow reader suggested this book saying she was only halfway through it, but she thought I would enjoy it.  She was right.  MEMOIRS OF AN IMAGINARY FRIEND is a unique book.  It is one of those books that make me wonder how authors do it.  How do they come up with such unusual stories and such interesting ways to tell them?  Guess that's why I'm a reader and not a writer.

Budo is the imaginary friend of a little boy named Max.  Budo explains that in the world of imaginary friends he is quite special.  He has been Max's friend for over five years which is an extremely long time for an imaginary friend to be alive.  In the first few chapters Budo shares some very interesting facts about other imaginary friends he has met.  Some live only a few days or weeks.  Some look fairly human while others lack body parts or might even be as simply constructed as a dot on a wall.  Budo feels very lucky to be Max's friend and to very closely resemble the human form.

Max is in the third grade.  He is most likely on the autism spectrum which causes some tension between his parents.  His mother would like to have him tested while his father thinks that Max will outgrow his problems.  Budo understands that Max doesn't like to be touched, is wary of strangers, and would rather play alone than join in with the other kids.  Budo knows that Max is smart and that his excellent imagination is what has given and continues to give Budo his life.

Budo's abilities as an imaginary friend are tested when Max is abducted by one of the paraprofessionals at his school.  Since Budo can only be seen and heard by Max, he must find some way to tell someone where the woman has taken Max, or he must figure out some way to rescue Max on his own.  Budo utilizes every resource he can think of, including the help of other imaginary friends.  His own remarkable creativity is put to the test as he races against time to save his friend.

Author Matthew Dicks transports the reader into the world of imaginary friends.  Anyone who remembers their own childhood imaginary friend will connect to this unique narrator.  I found Budo's world fascinating, and the drama of Max's situation made this book difficult to put down.  So glad it was recommended.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

OUT OF THE POCKET by Bill Konigsberg


Being one of the most talented high school quarterbacks in the state of California should mean life is pretty perfect, but that's not the case for senior Bobby Framingham.  If he can keep his team going on its current winning streak, Bobby has a chance of attracting the top college scouts and from there, hopefully it will be on to pro ball.  Everyone is rooting for him.

On the surface it all looks good for Bobby, but underneath he is struggling with a life-changing issue.  Bobby is attempting to come to terms with the fact that he is gay.  He has known for a while now, but he hasn't confided in anyone.  Coming out of the closet means possibly alienating family and friends, and he isn't sure he's ready for that.  Besides the issues of friends and family, Bobby doesn't think a single college or professional football player has ever come forward to admit that they are gay.  Would publicly acknowledging his sexual preference be the end of his future before it even starts?

During a candid conversation with a student reporter for the school paper, Bobby lets down his guard and mentions that he is gay.  When the news breaks in the school paper, Bobby realizes it's out of his control.  Although reactions aren't as bad as he expected from classmates, the reaction of some of his teammates proves to be even more negative than he anticipated.  What Bobby wants more than anything is to play football, but his announcement could mean the end of his dream.

Author Bill Konigsberg tackles the sensitive topic of homosexuality in the locker room.  As I began reading, I immediately liked Bobby and cheered for him as he made his brave decisions.  Konigsberg does an excellent job combining football action with the drama and tension surrounding Bobby's coming out and the backlash of his announcement.  OUT OF THE POCKET is a worthwhile read.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

CONFESSIONS: THE PRIVATE SCHOOL MURDERS by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro


Teen detective, Tandy Angel, solved her first case when she proved that she and her siblings were innocent in the mysterious murders of their mother and father.  Now she is on to her next case.

After the horrible ordeal involving her parents' deaths, Tandy finds herself deep in another case.  This time it is her older brother who has been accused of brutally murdering his girl friend and their unborn child.  Tandy knows the anger her brother is capable of showing, but she is convinced that he is innocent of the crime that has him behind bars.

As Tandy and her siblings attempt to get used to a new live-in guardian, a man named Jacob, who says he is a step-uncle of sorts, Tandy gets down to business trying to find the proof that will save her brother.  As if she isn't busy enough trying to keep up in school and focus on her new detective career, the apartment building they call home is infested with poisonous snakes and spiders.  Everyone is in a panic as pest control experts scour the building to find the source of the problem.  Naturally, Tandy's detective skills lead her to the thought-to-be-vacated apartment where the creatures are living.  Despite the frightening scene she discovers there, her discovery serves to validate her talent for investigation and problem solving.

Another complication that derails Tandy's focus on her brother's trial is the murder of several private school girls.  The crimes took place in a nearby park, and since the girls are about the same age as Tandy, her natural instinct is to start work on solving that case as well.  Police detective Caputo thinks she should keep her nose out of police business, but when she once again discovers the answer everyone else has been missing, he has to give credit where credit is due.  Tandy is on a roll, but the case she wants to solve even more than her brother's is still eluding her.

Author James Patterson joins forces with Maxine Paetro to continue the Confessions series.  If you haven't already checked out their first novel, CONFESSIONS OF A MURDER SUSPECT, get to your library or bookstore today!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

CHERRY MONEY BABY by John M. Cusick


Cherry is happy with her life.  She is proud of her work at Burrito Barn because she rolls the perfect burrito every time.  School is not really Cherry's thing, but she is getting through it and plans to graduate even if she isn't planning on continuing her education by going to college like her father wants.  Recently, her longtime boy friend proposed and she accepted.  She knows her life won't be exciting, but there's nothing wrong with predictable and secure.

All that secure predictability changes on the day that she saves the life of a famous movie star.  When Ardelia Deen begins choking on a piece of meat from her Burrito Barn burrito, Cherry leaps into action and performs the Heimlich maneuver saving the life of the star. 

The next thing Cherry knows she is being invited to crazy parties, meeting other movie stars, and being offered a job.  That job is to help select the lucky woman whose womb will carry the baby of Ardelia Deen.  For some reason Ardelia believes Cherry has a special talent as a kind of advisor like no one else surrounding the famous star.

Will Cherry's sudden catapult into the world of Hollywood change her simple down home nature?  Will the temptations of parties with unlimited supplies of drugs and alcohol and handsome, sexy actors make Cherry forget those who really matter?

Author John M. Cusick captures the world of the rich and famous to a tee.  Readers wanting glitz, glamour, and romance are sure to be attracted to this book.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

BANG by Lisa McMann


Jules is returning to school for the first time since she saved the day and the life of her boy friend Sawyer.  Her internal injuries are healing and her arm is still in a cast, but the visions that got her into the mess are thankfully gone.  Another positive is now that Sawyer knows how she feels about him, he has revealed he feels the same way about her.  It seems that all the drama is over. 

Although she may be grounded, she is able to be with Sawyer when they are at school, and with her brother Trey's help, she might be able to figure out other ways to be with the guy she now realizes she loves.  If she can avoid her crazy father and work hard in the family restaurant, she may be able to regain her parents' trust and life just might return to normal.

Normal doesn't last long when Sawyer admits to Jules that he is now experiencing a vision that involves several gunmen and a school shooting.  Why is Sawyer now having these frightening visions?  What could it mean and will Jules be able to help him?  When things start getting out of control, Jules and Sawyer accept Trey's help as they try to figure out exactly when and where this new tragedy will unfold.  They are determined to stop it or at least warn someone in time to lessen the destruction Sawyer sees predicted in his vision.

Author Lisa McMann continues her Visions series with BANG.  The action is immediate and intense just as readers have come to expect from McMann.  This fast-paced read won't disappoint.

Friday, October 18, 2013

THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Robyn Schneider


According to Ezra Faulkner, everyone will experience a tragedy that will forever shape the rest of their lives.  In other words, an event that will be "the beginning of everything."

In the first few pages he tells of the tragedy that shaped the young life of his childhood best friend Toby.  Although, their friendship lost some of its closeness after the event, Ezra still admired his friend's ability to carry on after the horrific incident.

Ezra, an excellent tennis player and ok student, about to wrap up his junior year by taking his hot girl friend to the prom, almost loses everything when he is severely injured in an accident with a hit-and-run driver.  Now permanently sidelined from tennis, he is walking with a cane and trying to pick up the pieces of his life. 

Surprising things begin to happen when Ezra meets Cassidy.  She is different than the other girls in his circle of friends, but since those folks have pretty much abandoned him, he decides it's time for a change.  He begins hanging out with his old friend Toby again as well as this new girl Cassidy and their fellow members of the debate team.  Will these people turn things around for Ezra or will his world be turned upside down just when he thinks he has started living again?

THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Robyn Schneider is a must read.  Both guys and girls can relate to Ezra and his determination to put his life back together again.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

FALLOUT by Todd Strasser


Todd Strasser takes readers back to mid-1962 to experience the tension and fear created by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the impending threat of nuclear attack.  Although, the Cold War never became an actual war and no missiles were fired, many bomb shelters were constructed in private homes across the country.  Strasser's own family had such a shelter, and during the early 1960's he grew up in fear of what would happen if there was an attack.

Scott Porter's father built the neighborhood's only bomb shelter.  It wasn't a secret, and in fact, made Scott and his little brother Sparky the butt of some ugly jokes. 

When they weren't busy with school and homework, Scott and his friends played ball, watched Rocky and Bullwinkle, and snuck into the Lewandowski's garage to steal frozen cheese cake.   If they took the time to pay attention to the news and the adult world, they heard talk of President Kennedy and an evil Russian leader threatening the safety of the United States.  Some of Scott's friends dismissed the talk as boring and unimportant, but Scott paid attention and spent sleepless nights worrying about the terrifying possibility of war with Russia.

When the unthinkable happens and the sirens go off, Scott's father hustles them down the ladder and into the shelter.  Before he can secure the heavy metal hatch, the neighbors arrive and some of them are able to force their way into the dark, subterranean room.  The space meant for a family of four now had more than twice that number trying to get comfortable for the two week stay until it was reportedly safe to return to the surface. 

What would happen when the food ran out, tempers flared, and living conditions deteriorated? 

FALLOUT focuses on a terrible time in our history that today's teens know very little about.  Snippets of information in history class can't compare to the first hand experience Strasser brings to this story.  It's definitely one you won't want to miss.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A REALLY AWESOME MESS by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin


I'll be completely honest - I totally judged this book by the cover.  Love it!  How could you pass this one up?  And, what's inside the cover didn't disappoint.

Justin and Emmy meet at Heartland Academy.  It's not exactly what they had planned for the summer, but their less than positive attitudes and behaviors resulted in their respective families packing them up and shipping them out.

Justin downed a handful of Tylenol in what he called a "cry for help."  That cry was misunderstood, and when it was topped off by his father walking in on a mind-blowing sexual experience between Justin and an attractive young girl, Justin found himself with a one-way ticket to Heartland. 

Emmy's temper and frustration with a failed relationship cause her to make some colorful comments on Facebook that land her at Heartland.  She ends up in therapy for anorexia and her conflicted feelings about having been adopted from China.  Although she desperately misses her sister, she refuses to acknowledge the issues she has with her adoptive parents.

Along with a colorful cast of characters, Justin and Emmy are adjusting to the mandatory therapy sessions and restricted activities of Heartland (jokingly referred to as Assland) Academy.  By putting their heads together, they manage to plan a crazy caper than involves a road trip, the state fair, and a barn full of prize-winning hogs. 

Authors Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin create a story about troubled teens that lives up to the cover blurb, "Living takes a lot more guts than giving up."  Don't miss this one!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

MY MOTHER'S SECRET by J.L. Witterick


Author J.L. Witterick captures the incredible fear and sacrifice during WWII for those who hid to avoid death and those who risk it all to provide the hiding places.

Helena begins the story with memories of her mother's bravery.  When Poland is brought into the war and the Nazis invade, Helena watches as her mother bravely opens her home to German officers and soldiers at the same time she offers hiding places for two Jewish families and a frightened young German soldier.

As the pages are turned, Witterick reveals the stories of those hidden by Helena's mother.  One family is squeezed into a tiny cellar while the other is crowded above the pigsty in the barn.  Neither knows of the others' existence.  The German soldier, afraid for his life, welcomes the cramped attic as his hiding place.  Amazingly, all survive and all are forever grateful for the sacrifice of a brave Polish woman.

MY MOTHER'S SECRET is an excellent complement to other Holocaust stories like ANNE FRANK: DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL and NIGHT.  Based on a true story, it gives readers a real look at one of the most horrific times in modern history.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SMOKE by Ellen Hopkins


One night in a backyard shed, life went up in smoke for Pattyn and Jackie.  Pattyn had already lost her true love Ethan and the baby they would have shared. Jackie had lost her innocence at the hands of the one person she thought she could trust.  The final blow comes as Pattyn is forced to defend her sister from their father's cruel fists and is left standing in the shed with a smoking gun.

Pattyn hates to leave her distraught sister and her other siblings, but she knows her actions would probably result in a long prison term.  If she flees and lets some time pass, maybe her mother will come to her senses and tell the authorities the actions of her oldest daughter were justified.  Pattyn packs a few meager possessions and all the money she has, hops on a bus, and heads for California. 

Jackie is left at home to deal with their father's funeral and the hateful looks of the members of their judgmental congregation.  Stunned that her mother not only ignores her daughter's rape at the hands of a teen bully, but also shockingly refuses to allow anyone to press charges because she smitten with the father of the young rapist.  Without Pattyn to protect her, Jackie fears she might lose her mind.

Both teens struggle to recover from current events and past tragedies to regain control of their lives.  Will they learn to trust again and find love in their new lives?

Author Ellen Hopkins takes the characters from her previous novel BURNED to the next level.  In SMOKE readers will get a chance to reconnect with Pattyn following the loss of her baby and Ethan, and her sister Jackie, another victim of their father's ugly treatment.  Hopkins's fans will not be disappointed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? by Jordan Sonnenblick


Rich Barber is fifteen and completely annoyed with his parents.  Having older, over-protective parents who don't let him do anything is really cramping his style.  It's almost impossible to have a girl friend and even more difficult to develop his talent on the guitar when playing in a band usually involves staying out later than his parents allow. 

In an effort to advance his relationship with Courtney, Rich agrees to figure out a way to attend a protest rally to play his guitar.  After lying to his parents, Rich joins Courtney at the protest and begins to play some of the standard 60's protest songs.  When no one reacts to his music, Rich starts to think maybe he should have paid more attention when Courtney mentioned what the group would be protesting.  The group is a rather strange mix of people including an ancient old lady in a wheelchair complete with oxygen mask and IV.

Rich is relieved when Courtney tells him the old woman has a request.  It's a Bob Dylan tune most people recognize by the title "Everybody Must Get Stoned."  It seems like a strange request, but Rich knows the song and begins to play.  That's when all hell breaks loose.  The next thing Rich knows, he is sharing a jail cell with his father.  Needless to say, Dad isn't happy and the argument that follows results in the most amazing experience Rich could ever imagine.

Author Jordan Sonnenblick takes readers on a time traveling adventure back to the 1960's, the era of hippie culture and the three wonderful days of Woodstock.  To the teens of today, this may seem like ancient history, but Sonnenblick uses the universal love of music to communicate his story.  Rich's experience allows him to better appreciate his father's past, and both father and son learn to connect on a whole new level.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

SYLO by D.J. MacHale


Living on an island isn't for everyone.  Tucker Pierce and his family moved to Pemberwick Island in Maine from Connecticut, and he loves island life.  Some of his friends feel differently and want to leave as soon as possible.  That time might actually be sooner than they think.

There is a mysterious death and then a second one.  Tucker and a couple of his friends witness a flying shadow like object and a startling explosion along the beach.  Suddenly a secret branch of the U.S. Navy known as SYLO lands on the island and begins a takeover. 

Tucker and his friend Quinn think something is fishy.  When they both discover that their parents are somehow involved with SYLO, they conclude the mysterious virus blamed for the continuing deaths of the islanders is a fabrication of SYLO, and they plan to blow the whistle.  The first thing they have to do is get to the mainland, but that's not going to be easy.

D.J. MacHale is the creator of a new series sure to attract fans of dystopian fiction and apocalyptic dramas.  SYLO promises enough thrills and chills to keep readers up all night to finish.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

TO BE PERFECTLY HONEST by Sonya Sones


It is a fact, Colette lies.  In fact, she lies all the time.  Maybe it's because her mother is a famous actress and once people find out, they don't have any interest in Colette, or maybe it's just because adding embellishments to real life makes it more exciting.  Whatever the reason, just remember, it's better not to believe a word Colette says.

When the story starts, Colette and her little brother Will, are headed off for a summer on location for their mother's latest movie.  The original plans were a trip to Paris where Colette expected to hangout with friends, and her brother had hoped to climb the Eiffel Tower, but plans change.  Colette's mother wants them to be with her so they are headed north to a sleepy town where Colette will spend the summer babysitting for Will while they wait around to spend time with their mother whenever she can spare a minute or two.

Fifteen year old Colette doesn't mind spending time with her little brother.  He is smart as a whip, and his cute smile and little lisp make him endearing to everyone he meets.  The problem is that Colette meets Connor, and when you've met the most gorgeous boy on the planet, having your little brother tagging along can really complicate things.  Telling a harmless fib once in a while seems perfectly innocent if it means getting some time alone with Connor.  But, when Colette becomes the victim of someone else's lies, she comes to the conclusion that honesty is the best policy.

Fans of Sonya Sones will be flocking to bookstores and libraries for this new novel.  Written in verse like her other best sellers, TO BE PERFECTLY HONEST is a quick read I found difficult to put down.  Although the plot is fairly predictable and a tad goofy at times, I was drawn in by Colette and little Will and wanted to know that things all worked out for them.  I'm sure there will be a waiting list for this one in my classroom.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

QUARANTINE: THE LONERS by Lex Thomas


This new series by writing team Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies is being compared to THE HUNGER GAMES and LORD OF THE FLIES.  I'm sure that alone will be attractive enough for many readers.

McKinley High is like most high schools.  A busy place teaming with students representing high schoolers everywhere.  When a huge explosion rocks one of the wings of the massive, three story school, it becomes anything but normal.

Within minutes of the explosion, all the adults die.  Their deaths are painful and gory as a mysterious virus attacks their bodies causing convulsions as they vomit up their own organs.  The school is quickly quarantined confining all the students to any areas not destroyed by the explosion.  In a few short weeks the school becomes a community of teens surviving on food and other supplies dropped through a containment dome.  They soon create little communities identifying each other by wild hair dye colors.  There are the popular kids, the pretty girls, the skaters, the freaks, and more.  As each group fends for themselves and attempts to protect their possessions, a year quickly passes.

Not given much information from the outside, the students do learn that the deadly virus gradually neutralizes as students reach the age of eighteen.  A testing station is set up by those on the outside that verifies the absence of the virus in older students so they are allowed to "graduate" and return to the outside world.  Two brothers, David and Will, are hoping to survive until they can return to their former lives, but life inside the school is a cutthroat situation.

QUARANTINE: THE LONERS is filled with non-stop action in a world teen readers will find frighteningly familiar.  Fans will be glad to know #2, QUARANTINE: THE SAINTS is already available.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

PERSEPOLIS: THE STORY OF A CHILDHOOD by Marjane Satrapi


My local library is one of 125 libraries across the nation awarded a grant for a program titled Let's Talk About It: Muslim Journeys.  PERSEPOLIS is one of the books participants will be reading and discussing. 

PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi is a memoir written as a graphic novel.  It explains Satrapi's childhood growing up in Iran.  Beginning in 1980 when Satrapi learns she must begin wearing "the veil," she recounts her country's history and the Revolution and its impact on her life as a young Islamic girl. 

Satrapi recalls her early faith in god, views that sometimes oppose those of her parents, and her gradual political involvement and eventual disillusionment.  The story is at times brutal, while at the same time, Satrapi's humor shines.

The graphic format presents the rather complicated history of a country extremely different from our own, but the simplicity may make the subject more relatable for readers who might not make this particular topic a first pick.  I will be eagerly awaiting word on the discussion it inspires during the Muslim Journeys library program.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by Matthew Quick

Leonard Peacock has plans for his eighteenth birthday.  They involve a haircut, an antique P-38 Nazi handgun, and the real show stopper - a murder/suicide.

Leonard's mother spends most of her time in the city knee-deep in her fashion design business.  Left to his own devices, Leonard can be found at school, watching old movies with an old neighbor named Walt, or hanging around the train station doing what he refers to as research.  His research consists of observing the adult world trying to figure out if any adults are truly happy.

Loneliness combined with a childhood secret are driving Leonard to desperate measures.  Asher Beal was once Leonard's best friend, but now Leonard has decided that Asher must die.  He plans to use his grandfather's old WWII weapon to first kill Asher and then kill himself, but first he has four presents to deliver.  One to his old movie buddy, one to his guidance counselor, one to his favorite teacher Herr Silverman, and one to a church girl he met in the train station.  It may seem strange that he is the one delivering presents considering this is all scheduled to take place on his eighteenth birthday, but that's part of the ironic plan.  No one, not even his mother, remembers Leonard's birthday.  Although, after he finishes his plan, maybe they will.

Matthew Quick, author of SORT OF LIKE A ROCK STAR, BOY 21, and THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, has done it again.  FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK is the powerful story of a depressed teen desperate to be noticed and remembered in a world that often seems to be filled with the cold and heartless.  Sometimes reaching into the future to grab hopefully at the better things ahead is the only way to carry on.

OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg


Knowing you are gay and making that clear to the world at a fairly early age should make things easier, right?  Well, it worked for Rafe for a while, but lately he has been secretly wondering what life would be like without the label.

Rafe came out as gay in eighth grade.  His family and his best friend Claire Olivia accepted and embraced his openness.  He didn't particularly have any problems at all.  His mother leaped into his gayness by becoming active in the Boulder PFLAG, and Rafe became known as the gay kid in the community.  Life was good for Rafe.

But inside, Rafe was curious what it would be like to just be one of the guys so he came up with a plan.  He decided to apply to an all-boys boarding school near Boston and keep his life choice a secret.  No one there or back in hometown Boulder was to know his plan.  He would just blend in and live like one of the guys.

Rafe was actually surprised at how easy it all worked, at least at first.  He was accepted and even welcomed for his running speed on the soccer field.  He became a friend of jock and oddball alike.  He was appreciated for his intellect and humor.  However, one fellow student, the amazingly attractive and thoughtful Ben, might turn out to be more than just one of the guys. 

Will Rafe be able to keep his secret?  His writing journal gives him a place to confront his conflicting thoughts, but can it keep him from revealing who he truly is?

OPENLY STRAIGHT by Bill Konigsberg provides a unique look at a well-adjusted gay teen determined to experience life from a new perspective.  A perfect read for questioning teens or anyone looking for a bright main character surrounded by quirky characters and witty dialogue.

Monday, August 19, 2013

EXTREMITIES by David Lubar


I scored this ARC at ALA in Chicago in July!  Thirteen great horror stories perfect for YA readers who have grown up addicted to David Lubar's stories.

In EXTREMITIES Lubar journeys into the dark and dangerous meant for the more mature reader.  With titles like Running Out of Air, Patterns of Fear, Blood Magic, Morph, and Evil Twin, readers are in for a terrifying treat.  Shape-shifters, revenge killings, a haunted house, and a ghost ship are just a few of the creepy scenarios awaiting those brave enough to turn the pages.  The cover boasts the following: Tales of Death, Murder, and Revenge.

I found EXTREMITIES was a case of "you can't just read one."  Once I started, it kept me up late into the night.  I have plans to use some of the selections as inspiration for my students' future creative writing assignments. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

SECOND IMPACT by David Klass & Perri Klass


This book is not going to gather any dust on my classroom shelf.  I predict it will be a popular read with the 9th and 10th grade guys and even some of the girls.

After reading several reviews prior to ordering the book, I was a little worried, but I don't have the common complaint of the other reviewers.  The book is written as blog post entries, and other reviewers (both recreational and professional) have criticized this format.  Personally, I was not bothered by this aspect of the book at all.  Since the blog posts and occasional emails alternate between the two main characters, to me, it just read like alternating chapters.  I enjoy books written using alternating voices so I didn't find this to be a problem at all.

SECOND IMPACT is about a New Jersey high school football team out to win the state championship.  Jerry is the star quarterback grateful to be back on the team after a drunk driving accident that had him on probation and doing community service work to regain the trust of the school and the right to rejoin his team.  He wants to make his senior year one to remember.

Carla is the star journalist for the high school newspaper.  She also uses her writing talents on a newly created school blog.  Recently, she convinced Jerry to begin posting his view of the football season on the blog.  He is nervous at first, but he finds it challenging and rewarding.

The blogging gets a bit complicated when Jerry and then his friend Danny receive some hard hits on the playing field.  Their injuries bring up the danger of playing football, especially the studies being done related to head trauma.  Carla decides to do some in depth investigating into the dangers of football brain injuries, but many, including Jerry, believe she is overstepping the bounds of responsible journalism.

Written by accomplished YA author David Klass and his sister Perri Klass, a pediatrician, SECOND IMPACT combines the fast-paced action of high school football with facts about the risks behind the nation's favorite sport.  Teen readers should find the book entertaining as well as thought-provoking.  I'm glad I purchased it for my classroom.

Friday, August 16, 2013

THE STORYTELLER by Jodi Picoult


Two "grown-up" books in one summer.  Hope my neighbor is proud of me!

Just a few short comments - Jodi Picoult never disappoints, and since some of my high school students are ready for a little something beyond YA books, I try to keep a few on hand.  THE STORYTELLER will be an easy sell to teens interested in the Holocaust aspects of the story.

Sage Singer's facial scars have caused her to create a life that keeps her busy at night and out of sight during the day.  She is a baker who learned her craft from her grandmother and has made it her art.  Her friendship with an elderly German man leads her to the discovery that he was a former Nazi and possibly guilty of atrocious war crimes.  Readers will be taken on a journey through stories that reveal a truth that involve family questions and how history influences the future.

Monday, August 12, 2013

ARTICHOKE'S HEART by Suzanne Supplee


Rosemary's mother owns and operates Heavenly Hair salon in Spring Hill, Tennessee.  It is where all the ladies come to get their hair done, to get their nails done, and to get the latest gossip.  Rosemary helps out in the salon but tries to keep a low profile which isn't easy since she weighs 200 pounds. 

Everyone has an opinion about Rosemary's weight.  Her mother spent $700 on a treadmill, and her aunt insists that weight loss isn't difficult if she just applies herself.  Rosemary does apply herself at school where her grades are exemplary and her pleasant attitude is appreciated by the teachers.  She would like things to be different, but she has always turned to food for comfort.

Over the holidays Rosemary's eating threatens to take her over the 200 pound mark.  She knows she needs to make a change, and she desperately wants to impress Kyle Cox.  She is fairly certain he has glance her way several times recently, and possibly even smiled.  At the urging of the cashier at the drugstore, Rosemary purchases a diet plan that includes shakes and snack bars guaranteed to melt away the pounds.

Rosemary's battle with her weight is almost derailed when her mother is diagnosed with cancer.  With the help of a new friend, the hunky football player, and an understanding therapist, Rosemary muddles through to take charge of her life and become the girl she has always wanted to be.

Author Suzanne Supplee combines humor and determination to create an inspirational story that will speak to many teens.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

IMPERFECT SPIRAL by Debbie Levy


WARNING!  Stock up on tissues for this one.

IMPERFECT SPIRAL by Debbie Levy combines the tragic death of a wonderful five year old boy, the guilt of a teenage babysitter, and illegal immigration into a hypnotizing page-turner.

Little Humphrey Danker is hit and kill by a blue van on his way home from the park.  His babysitter Danielle is crushed.  She is assured by everyone, including Humphrey's parents, that the accident was not her fault, but as the weeks and months pass, she can't believe how much she misses the little guy.

As a result of the accident, two issues take center stage.  One is the safety of Quarry Road.  Should there be streetlights, sidewalks, and crosswalks installed to do more to protect the children of the community? The other issue is illegal immigration.  When it is discovered that the van driver, a longtime resident of the area, is in the U.S. without proper documentation, angry groups form demanding the removal of all these dangerous illegal aliens before they destroy the country.

Danielle shares her story complete with her oppressive guilt about the accident, complicated friend and family issues, and her irrational fear of public speaking.  Author Debbie Levy will impress her audience with this multi-layered story of love, blame, and justice.

Friday, August 9, 2013

TORN by David Massey


Ellie, a young British medic, thought her training would prepare her for anything, but front line action in Afghanistan inspires terror in even the most battle-hardened soldiers.  On Ellie's first day in her new unit, she deals with an IED explosion and the death of a young Afghan boy.  She never expected to see youngsters aiming and shooting guns almost bigger than themselves.

Thrown right into the action, Ellie quickly learns that her superior officer, another medic named Heidi, is moody and definitely dealing with some unpleasant emotional issues.  Several of the guys in the unit welcome her with good-natured ribbing and the nickname Buffy after spying on her during her first outdoor shower.

After the IED incident, Ellie is given the job of questioning a young village boy about a hidden stash of weapons being used by a group of renegade youth who seem to be out to shoot and kill both the enemy Taliban and the friendly troops attempting to bring peace to the area.  She is gradually able to gain his trust until the arrival of a group of American Navy SEALS sent to the village on some sort of mysterious mission. 

Ellie is also driven to find out the identity of a ghostly young Afghan girl in a blue dress who seems to appear during moments of tragedy only to vanish after the dust clears.  Many of the soldiers claim to have seen the mystery girl, but no one can explain her presence.

TORN is filled with war trauma and intense action that capture the front line action in one of the most controversial wars of modern times.  Young adults who have an interest in the military or connections through friends and relatives who have served or are serving their country may find appeal in this debut novel by English author David Massey.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

INHUMAN by Kat Falls


INHUMAN, set for an October 2013 release date, is the perfect book for readers wanting non-stop action, border agents, smuggling, and a dangerous virus.  I already know several teens who are going to love it.

Delaney "Lane" McEvoy doesn't really remember a time when the world wasn't a dangerous place.  She has grown up taking self-defense and survival classes at the insistence of her father.  After a deadly virus known as Ferae wiped out everyone east of the Mississippi, those living in the West have been separated from the area called the Feral Zone by a huge wall.  The virus much like rabies has no cure and no vaccine has been created to fight against it, leaving the Feral Zone an empty wasteland except for mutant monsters somehow able to survive.

Lane's mother died of cancer, causing her father to be even more protective of his only child.  When Lane is hauled in by government officials asking questions about her father's whereabouts, she isn't sure what to make of it.  As far as she knows he is traveling on business as usual, but they seem to think she is hiding information.  Gradually, her interrogator convinces Lane that her father may actually be a known "fetch", someone who sneaks passed the wall into the Feral Zone to smuggle coveted items back over to the West.  All for a hefty price, of course.

Now Lane is faced with a task - travel to the other side of the wall and find her father.  If she is successful, the government has promised to spare his life and even forgive his indiscretions.  But the threat of landmines, heavily armed border guards, and mutant creatures could end her mission almost before it starts.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

THE LAST BUFFALO by Ed Kienzle


The last free-ranging wild herd of buffalo is located in Yellowstone Park, but it can hardly be described as "free."  The buffalo are in constant danger of death because the cattle ranchers argue that they carry a strain of brucellosis that threatens to destroy their cattle.  Because of this belief, any buffalo that leaves the confines of Yellowstone is shot.  This is the story of Little Kettle and his nephew Wyman who make it their goal to protect the remaining buffalo.

Little Kettle stands guard at the boundary of Yellowstone in hopes of stopping the death of any more buffalo.  He believes that his nephew Wyman is destined to do the same, but Wyman is reluctant to join the fight.  That is until he begins having strange dreams that involve the buffalo and especially a young buffalo that always remains out of sight in the strange dreams.  Upon hearing of the dreams, Little Kettle insists they are "visions" not simple dreams, and he offers them as proof that indicate the path Wyman is bound to follow.

When Wyman goes to stay with Little Kettle, he meets two other young people whose lives are connected to the Yellowstone herd.  A girl named Alex also admits to having dreams and with her help Wyman begins to face up to the mysterious visions.  By comparing dreams it is revealed that there is a white buffalo that only they have seen but many desire to capture or even kill.  It becomes their goal to protect the special buffalo and join in Little Kettle's crusade.

Author Ed Kienzle an outdoor enthusiast has crafted an adventurous novel about the preservation of an endangered species.  THE LAST BUFFALO is filled with visions, Indian lore and spirits, cattle slayings, a pet bear, and more.  Kienzle brings some of the excitement of the old west into a modern story of two young people trying to make a difference.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

COUNTING BY 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Willow Chance is a twelve year old genius.  She has an amazing retention for medical facts and a real knack for plants and nature.  One of her favorite pastimes is counting by 7s.  Although she doesn't have many friends, she lives a happy, full life with her adoptive parents.

All the happiness ends when Willow's parents are tragically killed in a car accident.  With no relatives available to care for Willow, she ends up in temporary foster care with a Vietnamese woman and her son and daughter.  Willow had meet the two young teens after a session with the school counselor never dreaming she would soon be living with them behind their mother's nail salon.

Willow's unique view of the world gives her insight into many things most people would miss.  In her own quiet way she touches the lives of her new guardian and the people who step up to take care of her.  As she learns to cope with her new circumstances she also improves life for all those around her. 

COUNTING BY 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is an inspirational story about a courageous little girl on a journey to reclaim life after tragedy.  I was captivated by Willow's story immediately and suggest readers get their hands on a copy as soon as it is released August 29, 2013.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

BEFORE YOU GO by James Preller


It's been seven years since Jude's little sister Lily drowned in the backyard pool.  His mother spends most of her time behind closed curtains self-medicating to get through her days.  His father goes to work and comes home and then jogs to try to outrun his memories.  Jude has the biggest guilt to deal with since he believes that he is to blame for his sister's death.

Junior year is almost over and Jude thinks maybe a summer job would help keep him busy.  Living near the boardwalk means there should be a job available.  He ends up working a concession stand at West End Two.  When he's not serving customers or cleaning gum from underneath the tables and chairs, he is watching Becca one of the cashiers.  He tries to arrange his break times so he will bumped into her and is pleasantly surprised when she is willing to chat.

Once school is out, Jude's days are filled with working, running, and partying with his friends.  It seems like a fairly carefree summer before he has to buckle down for his senior year, but his developing relationship with Becca has him opening up about his sister like he never has before.  Little does he know another tragedy is about to change his life even more.

BEFORE YOU GO is author James Preller's first young adult novel.  Jude will capture the hearts of readers as they learn about the family tragedy and observe as Jude deals with his memories and comes to terms with his guilt. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) by K.A. Barson


45 POUND (MORE OR LESS) is a must read.  Not only is it an entertaining story, but it speaks to increasing concerns about body image and eating disorders.  Its message will come through loud and clear to those dealing with weight issues, and even extends to friends and family of those struggling with their weight.

Just like most of us, Ann has dieted many times, and usually ended up weighing more than when she started.  Inspired by an infomercial promising easy, quick results, Ann invests her entire savings in the Secrets 2 Success diet plan.  Simply follow their exercise program and eat their specially formulated meals and she is guaranteed to lose that weight.

Ann is also inspired by the fact that her aunt is getting married in several months and has asked her to be a bridesmaid.  The thought of trying on dresses terrifies her.  Hopefully, she can lose 45 pounds in time for the wedding.

Complicating matters for Ann is a mother obsessed with staying slim, a cute guy with dimples who keeps showing up at the mall where she works, and a stereotypical "mean" girl who works with her at The Twisted Pretzel.  Ann desperately wants to lose weight, but when she sees how her dieting obsession and her mother's fixation with weight is effecting her four year old sister, she decides to take matters into her own hands.

45 POUNDS (MORE OR LESS) is the debut novel of author K.A. Barson.  Her combination of humor, quirky characters, and insight into issues of weight and dieting make this a novel that should be read by all girls and their moms.  I can't wait to see what she has to offer next.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

EVIL BEHIND THAT DOOR by Barbara Fradkin


This is the other complimentary copy I received from the Rapid Reads collection at Orca Book Publishers.  Once again it offers a high interest/low level solution for older YA readers.

Cedric "Rick" O'Toole makes ends meet by working as a handyman.  When he is asked to help clean up an old farmhouse for a high school classmate recently released from prison, he has concerns about what he might be getting himself into.  Rick and Barry weren't exactly the best of friends, but Rick knows Barry is dealing with some heavy stuff at the moment so he agrees to do the work.

Several issues add to the mystery of EVIL BEHIND THAT DOOR.  First, Barry's parents have both mysteriously disappeared.  Searches have turned up nothing so Barry has inherited the family property and wants to sell it as soon as possible.  Another issue arises when Barry sees Rick trying to enter a locked room in the basement.  Barry immediately stops Rick telling him that there is evil behind that door and he should never open it.

As one would expect, Rick does open the door, and what he finds is indeed evil.  Readers will anxiously turn the pages to get the answers to what Rick finds and the mystery of Barry's missing parents. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

PICTURE ME GONE by Meg Rosoff


Twelve year old Mila is looking forward to an adventure with her father.  Traveling from their home in London to visit her father's best friend in New York should provide something to brag about when she gets back home.  She promises her mother she will watch out for her absent-minded father and they depart.

The first disappointment comes when Mila discovers "New York" means a thinly populated area of upstate New York not the hustle and bustle of New York City.  The second unfortunate element of the trip happens when she and her father arrive at the home of Matthew and his wife Suzanne to find that Matthew has disappeared. 

Sensitive to the tension in their hosts' home, Mila begins to consider all sorts of scenarios involving the missing man.  He left behind his wife and young son as well as his loyal dog, all the while knowing his best friend had planned a visit.  Talk about strange! 

More details reveal that as son about Mila's age died in a car accident three years earlier.  Matthew was the driver of the car and had been prone to depression since the death of his son.  His wife Suzanne suggests that perhaps Matthew has gone to a cabin farther north so Mila and her father head off in that direction.

PICTURE ME GONE follows young Mila and her father as they attempt to solve the mystery of a missing friend.  Mila's unusual relationship with her father and her uncanny ability to interpret people and situations will keep readers on their toes as each new twist and turn is revealed.  This thought-provoking new novel by Meg Rosoff is due for release in October 2013.