Saturday, August 31, 2013


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


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


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


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


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


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 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.