Monday, February 25, 2013

PREGNANT PAUSE by Han Nolan

Elly is only sixteen and she is pregnant.  She hasn't made the best choices in her young life, and now her parents tell her she is paying the price.

Lam is the father.  Elly and Lam have had some great times together, but now their parents have decided the best idea is for the two to get married and spend the summer working at the kids' weight loss camp Lam's parents run.  It looks like their parents want Elly and Lam to think about what it will be like to have this baby and raise it by themselves.  When the teens come to their senses, the adults hope they will decide to give the baby up to either Elly's sister who has been trying to have a baby for years or to Lam's parents who lost a child to illness long ago.

The last place Elly wants to be is a summer camp.  She's physically uncomfortable and watching Lam continue to have fun and party without her makes her furious.  She wavers back and forth about whether or not to keep the baby or sign her rights over to someone else.  All she knows is that she regrets all the decisions that got her in this mess.

PREGNANT PAUSE is filled with little side stories in addition to Elly's pregnancy.  Campers with issues provide both drama and comic relief.  The counselors also have their adventures as they interact with campers and each other. 

Readers will definitely feel the emotional turmoil as Elly wavers from moment to moment.  Her determination to prove her parents wrong and her search for the love she feels she has been denied combine to create a roller coaster that will have readers turning pages and hanging on for the ride.



Friday, February 22, 2013

THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE by Brent Hartinger

ARC courtesy of NetGalley.com

Russel is determined to survive his breakup with Otto.  It was a mutual decision that their long distance relationship was probably not going to work, however, they both agreed that their friendship would continue.  Now Russel is swearing off love, but his other close friends, Min and Gunnar, don't believe that is possible.

Russel, Min, and Gunnar begin a new adventure the day they observe two teens climbing out of the dumpster behind their school.  The two identify themselves as Wade and Venus and surprise Russel and his friends when they also identify themselves as "freegans."  They explain the freegan lifestyle by offering to show Russel, Min, and Gunnar how they live.  According to Wade and Venus, they live using the things that the rest of society throws away.  They take Russel and his friends to a camp where local homeless people are living and show them how the castoffs of others are used to help these homeless folks survive.

This lifestyle is fascinating, but Russel is even more fascinated by the fact that Wade is gorgeous.  He decides maybe he should give love another try.  Russel finds every possible opportunity to get together with Wade.  They begin spending more and more time together, and Russel begins to think there might be a possible relationship forming.  Things begin to crumble when Gunnar's passion for documenting his life on film uncovers a possible terrorist-like plot that may change what they think about the freegans.

Author Brent Hartinger continues the saga he started in THE GEOGRAPHY CLUB.  His characters have many adventures in the series that started with the formation of the club, and they continue in THE ELEPHANT OF SURPRISE.  Russel and his friends have their eyes opened to an unusual lifestyle and also to the fact that not everyone around them has good intentions.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

LINDSEY LOST by Suzanne Marie Phillips

Lindsey is a star runner with Olympic potential.  Her brother Micah is a star baseball player.  Their world revolves around their sports.  Lindsey spends countless hours on the track even in the off-season, and Micah hits the batting cages to keep in shape.  Together, they support and encourage each other.

When Lindsey suddenly disappears, Micah can't believe she is gone.  According to his father, he was found unconscious in the driveway on the afternoon she went missing.  The last thing Micah remembers was talking with Lindsey at the track after school.  He knows she was upset but the rest is all a blur.  When he tries to think about it, there are only glimpses of her running through the orchard.

The days that follow are filled with endlessly questions from the police, and then the unthinkable, Lindsey found dead in the orchard.  First Micah is a suspect, then his father, and even Lindsey's coach Kelly.  If only Micah could remember what he saw, he would know if he was a killer or a witness.

LINDSEY LOST is the author Suzanne Marie Phillips' first suspense novel.  It is filled with twists and turns right to the end.  I was happy to read on the cover blurb that she is at work writing her next thriller.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE by Christopher Paul Curtis

Deza Malone is quite a character.  She loves school, she loves reading and writing, and she loves her family.  Deza, her mother and father, and her older brother Jimmie live in Gary, Indiana.  It's the 1930's and the depression has made life hard, but this family knows that family is what makes life worth living.

When she is not in school, Deza is at the library.  Her thirst for knowledge and her ability to communicate through speaking and writing are going to be the things that assure her success some day.  Everyone is sure her brother's success will come from his beautiful singing voice.  They are a couple of great kids and they make their parents proud.

After unbearable disappointment while looking for work, Deza's father decides he must leave the family and head back to their original home in Flint, Michigan.  If he can find work there, he can save some money and send for the rest of them.  The plan holds promise until Deza and her mother and brother are sent packing by their landlord.  What follows is their uncertain journey hopping trains until they arrive in a temporary camp outside Flint.  Their struggles there continue as they wait to hear from the husband/father and the job he has hopefully found.

Well-known author and Flint native, Christopher Paul Curtis, has once again created a fascinating tale with clever characters involved in an emotional and inspiring story.  Fans of BUD, NOT BUDDY and THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM --1963 will fall in love with THE MIGHTY MISS MALONE. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

BOY21 by Matthew Quick

When Finley's basketball coach pulled him aside and asked him to take the new kid under his wing, Finley could never have imagined what was in store.  He never would have guessed that the oddest friendship he had ever experienced would benefit him in any helpful way.

Finley lives in a rundown town controlled on one side by black thugs and on the other side by the Irish mob.  He lives with his dad and his wheelchair-bound pop, where talking about his mother's death is off limits.  Two things make life worth living - his girlfriend Erin and basketball.

The only white kid on the basketball team, Finley plays point guard and does it fairly well.  The day Coach asked Finley to keep an eye on a new kid named Russ and help him transition into school and hopefully onto the basketball team, Finley agreed because he always did what Coach asked.  Finley is given the details about Russ but asked to keep them a secret.  The kid is from California and was a star basketball player courted by all the big college scouts.  Everything fell apart for him though when his parents were murdered.  According to Coach, Russ is moving in with his grandparents and trying to recover from the trauma of losing his folks so violently.  Coach also mentions that Russ only wants to be called Boy21 and insists he is from outer space.

The strange friendship is created and with Finley's help Russ begins to open up.  As Russ's secret becomes known, Finley finds secrets from his own life begin to surface and threaten to destroy all he values in life.

Author Matthew Quick uses basketball as the centerpiece of an unusual story of friendship, love, and loyalty.  Finley's story is sure to touch the hearts of readers from start to finish.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

THE FINAL FOUR by Paul Volponi

Wow!  This is the best Paul Volponi book ever!!

It's the Michigan State Spartans and the Trojans of Troy University in the semi-finals of the NCAA Championships.  It's March Madness at its best!

Volponi creates an amazing story that focuses on the final few minutes of the semi-final game and the multiple overtime periods that follow regular play.  The play by play action is fast paced and intense, but what will really grab readers is how Volponi weaves in the back stories of four of the key players from the two teams.  Readers will learn what brought each player to this important game, what drives them to succeed, and what they dream of beyond the basketball court. 

Malcolm is a freshman who sees this opportunity as his ticket to the NBA and his chance to get his family out of the projects of Detroit.  Koko, a native of Croatia, is grateful for the education he is getting at an American university.  Crispin's focus on his cheerleader girlfriend threatens to take his attention away from the game just when his teammates need him the most.  Finally, MJ, named after the great Michael Jordan, just wants a chance to prove he is deserving of his name and his place on the team.

Volponi combines the game action sequences with news articles, journal entries, broadcasters' commentary, interviews, and background narratives about the players' personal lives.  Everything flows smoothly and makes THE FINAL FOUR nearly impossible to put down.

BLACK BOX by Julie Schumacher

Elena is watching the self-destruction of her older sister Dora.  Dora is caught in the clutches of depression.  When Dora refuses to get out of bed and doesn't respond to the treatment her parents have tried to provide, it is decided she should enter an inpatient program at a local hospital.

The girls' parents want the best for Dora, but at the same time they want to shelter Elena.  Not knowing what is going on frustrates Elena.  She wants to communicate with Dora and offer her support, but she is kept in the dark.  Jimmy Zenk, a neighbor, seems to have some experience since his mother is a psychiatrist.  In his own odd way he offers Elena much needed moral support.

BLACK BOX by Julie Schumacher follows one family as they deal with mental illness.  Schumacher reveals the pain of a depressed teen and the complicated feelings created within a family.  Her story also communicates very real warnings involving depression and the dangerous side effects of medications for teens.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

SOMEBODY, PLEASE TELL ME WHO I AM by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis

SOMEBODY, PLEASE TELL ME WHO I AM by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis is the recent winner of the Schneider Family Book Award.  It was an excellent choice!

High school senior Ben Bright surprises everyone when he decides to postpone college to enlist in the reserves.  He is determined to serve his country so his family and fiancee reluctantly support his decision.  Not expecting immediate deployment, he heads off to boot camp.

Ben does get an Iraq assignment right out of boot camp.  He assures his family he will be going into friendly territory, and he'll be home before they know it.  His fiancee Ariela heads off to college and his best friend Niko works on finishing his last year of high school. 

Life changes for everyone when an IED explodes destroying Chad's unit's Humvee.  Chad suffers a traumatic brain injury that leaves him in a coma and leaves his family and friends waiting to see what long term damage has been done. 

SOMEBODY, PLEASE TELL ME WHO I AM follows Chad and his family through the early stages of the recovery process.  Author Harry Mazer tackles the subject of modern warfare and the horrific injuries our veterans and their families are struggling with every day.  Chad's story is heartbreaking yet inspiring and will give teens a different look at what war means.

DUNK by David Lubar

OK, this is one of those books that grabbed me right from the start, but I know it's going to be a tough review to write.  For some reason, the books I really like are the toughest to review.  Does anyone else feel that way?

Summer on the New Jersey shore is all about the boardwalk entertainment.  Chad and his friends walk from one end to the other every day.  With little money to spend, they carefully pick and choose which games, rides, or food vendors will get their meager funds. 

This summer Chad's best buddy, Jason, is intent on playing volleyball nonstop.  Volleyball isn't Chad's thing; he is fascinated by the dunk tank and a particular Bozo who works the game.  The guy is amazing!  He picks his mark out of the crowd and hurtles comedic insults with laser precision.  Chad watches him every chance he gets and wishes he could climb into the tank and yell at the world, too.  When Chad first discovers the Bozo working in the dunk tank is the same guy renting their upstairs apartment, he isn't pleased, but when the guy offers to coach him on the finer points of comedy, Chad can't wait to get started.

The summer takes a bad turn when Chad's friend Jason ends up in the hospital.  Normally, a healthy athlete with energy to burn, Jason develops an autoimmune disease that threatens not only his summer volleyball, but maybe even his life.  Chad's summer becomes going back and forth from the hospital to his job picking up balls around the dunk tank.  He desperately tries to use his new love of comedy to help inspire his sick friend's recovery.

Author David Lubar explores the bonds of friendship and the healing elements of laughter in DUNK.  Chad learns that friendship is about love and laughter and trusting enough to share the good times and the bad.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS by Dayna Lorentz

When a strange device is discovered strapped to a ventilation duct in the Stonecliff Mall, the decision is made to immediately quarantine every shopper and employee in the shopping complex.  Security announcements suggest that shoppers stay in the stores until the emergency situation can be investigated.  Amazingly, people don't panic.  Instead, they keep shopping and business carries on.

Four teens become involved in the chaos that follows.  Marco, Lexi, Ryan, and Shay each have their own problems as investigators reveal that the mysterious device has released a nasty flu-like virus. 

Marco works in a restaurant on an upper floor.  He was the one who discovered what he thought to be a bomb in the ventilation shaft.  Now he is using every break he gets to try to find a way to get out of the mall. 

Lexi was having breakfast with her parents when her mother, Senator Ross, received a call informing her about the crisis.  She was the official who made the decision to issue the quarantine that trapped everyone inside the mall.

Shay and her grandmother and younger sister were spending the Saturday afternoon shopping.  As time passes Shay's grandmother requires medication for her diabetes.  The elderly woman is not doing well, and Shay is frantic.

Ryan would rather be anywhere besides the mall, but he is stuck.  To top it off, he finds himself being watched over by a couple of football thugs who have promised his older brother they will look after him. 

People begin to show symptoms of the virus.  A makeshift medical center is set up in an office supply store.  Soon people are actually dying from the illness, and it is becoming obvious that there is more to the situation than the officials are revealing.

NO SAFETY IN NUMBERS by Dayna Lorentz grabs readers in the first chapter.  Suburban malls are like playgrounds for many teens, and Lorentz's idea of an out of control, deadly virus will inspire just the right amount of fear and thrilling curiosity in teen readers.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

GHETTO COWBOY by G. Neri

As they drive out of Detroit, Cole knows his mother is fed up with his delinquent behavior, but he doesn't realize how upset she is until they arrive in Philadelphia and she stops the car in front of a rundown building.  Cole's mother announces she is leaving him with his father.  Cole is sure she is kidding until his stuff is unloaded and she is gone.

Cole hasn't seen his father in years.  Now he is face to face with a guy dressed like a cowboy, and when he follows the man inside, he is shocked to discover a horse living in an abandoned part of the building.  What kind of place is this?

What Cole soon discovers is that right in the heart of Philadelphia is a horse stable that has been saving horses and keeping kids off the streets and out of gangs for years.  It doesn't take long for Cole to set aside his Detroit lifestyle and begin to adjust to a life of mucking out stalls and brushing horses.  He becomes friends with a rescued horse he names Boo.

When city officials threaten to close this last remaining inner-city stable, Cole fights to save the horses and the program that has helped so many young boys stay out of trouble.

Author G. Neri says GHETTO COWBOY was inspired by an article in Life magazine about inner-city cowboys.  The unique mix of urban life with that of the old west cowboy should appeal to teens looking for a different adventure.