Saturday, March 29, 2014


Hope Is a Ferris WheelEven though the place is called Treasure Trailers, it doesn't hide the fact that Star Mackie lives in a trailer park.  The kids at school poke fun at the fact that the park is located next to the dump, that the residents are drug addicts, that a number of trailers still have their Christmas decorations up, and that Star's blue-tinted black hair is cut in a mullet.  Star is sure her life would improve if she could find a friend and some day meet her father.

Since moving from Oregon to California, Star's mother has been busy with her new job and Star's sister Winter is focused on her own problems.  Star decides to see if her teacher will give her permission to start an after school club.  Maybe she could start a Trailer Park club and convince kids that living in a trailer park is actually cool. 

When that idea falls flat, Star reinvents her club.  Inspired by a poem quoted by her teacher, she decides to create an Emily Dickenson Poetry Club.  She is overjoyed when a girl named Genny agrees to join the club.  But when the girl's brother, one of the bullies who constantly taunts Star, comes along with the membership deal, Star isn't sure things headed in the right direction.

As she deals with frustrations at school, Star also worries about her sister's recent moody behavior.  When Winter suggests the two of them sneak away to return to Oregon to visit their deadbeat father, Star is more than willing to join her.  Memories of her absent father revolve around a trip to the carnival, a ferris wheel ride, and a missed opportunity to meet the man she has never known.  Going with Winter would answer so many questions and renew her hope that life has more to offer than a trailer park and bullies.

Author Robin Herrera's debut novel stars a main character who will capture the hearts of readers in the very first chapter.  Star's innocence and fresh perspective even when life puts up one roadblock after another make for an inspiring reading experience.  HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL is a sure winner for any middle grade collection.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


The Body in the Woods
Review copy courtesy of
Release date June 2014

Being part of the Portland Search and Rescue team known as SAR is a new experience for Alexis, Nick, and Ruby.  Alexis was told joining SAR would look good on her college applications and she could use any help she could get.  Nick hoped training and working with SAR would improve his popularity at school and at home where he was used to being invisible.  A fascination with CSI type shows and anything medical was the reason Ruby wanted to be involved with the Portland rescue group.  Whatever their reasons for attending the hours of evening and weekend training sessions and being on constant call for SAR, the teens never dreamed they would be involved in a search for a serial killer.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have their first search experience when an adult autistic man goes missing in an area of the city known as Forest Park.  When the parents of the man call the authorities frantic with worry about their missing, disabled son, SAR springs into action.  The three nubies hope to be the ones to find the missing man, but after following the trail and seeing only regular park visitors who haven't seen anything unusual, they begin to lose hope. 

Although it is against the search rules, Nick heads on up the trail ahead of the girls, and eventually all three are separated.  Alexis is the first to notice a body a short distance off the path.  A quick investigation reveals it is not the missing man but instead a young girl.  Alexis uses her alert whistle to get the attention of Nick and Ruby and together they report the find to the team leader.  From the evidence it appears the young female victim was strangled.  The three young SAR members can't believe their first search has ended with a murder victim.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby acquainted mainly through the SAR program, each have their own personal issues that make up much of the story in THE BODY IN THE WOODS.  Readers will learn what problems each teen faces and how these personal dramas could impact their involvement on the Portland rescue team.  When another body is found and there are also possible connections with a dead female found a month earlier, the young rescuers and their private battles become intertwined. 

Author April Henry's talent for plot twists and turns will have readers hanging on every word and trying to guess repeatedly who is responsible for the deaths of the young women.  Just when one suspect seems to be the guilty one, Henry takes the story in a different direction.  This whodunit is sure to please her many fans.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Summer SanctuaryAccording to Matthew, this summer is going to suck.  With his friend Kyle away visiting his grandparents' farm, there won't be anyone to hangout with except his annoying brothers and his pregnant mother.  And what's up with that?  Aren't four sons enough for one family?

Being homeschooled by his mother and minister father, Matthew decides to throw himself into a science research project so he can spend the long summer at the local library.  One of his first days at the library he meets a strange girl.  She confides that she is currently living in a nearby park.  Her name is Dinah, and she tells Matthew she has to live on her own for twenty more days until her mother comes back.  He agrees to keep her secret, but is puzzled about just exactly where her mother could be.

Even though a year apart in age, the two hit it off immediately and begin spending time in the library or perched in an old nearby tree.  Matthew shares his lunch and Dinah shares her poetry.  A few days after the meet, Matthew come up with a plan to leave the back door of his father's church unlocked so Dinah can sneak in every evening and spend the night. 

SUMMER SANCTUARY by Laurie Gray is the heartwarming story of a young boy who discovers the true meaning of friendship.  The messages in his father's sermons have always been just words, but helping Dinah survive and becoming her friend teaches Matthew the real importance of caring for others.

WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney

When You Were HereDanny is eighteen and about to graduate from high school.  He can't believe he is making decisions like whether or not he will keep the family home in California and the apartment in Tokyo, Japan.  When his father died suddenly six years ago, it seemed like such a life-changing event, and then shortly after that his mother was diagnosed with cancer.  Her promise to hang on to see him graduate didn't happen, and now he is trying to carrying on without the two most important people in his life.

In the two months since his mother died, Danny has been surviving with the help of his mother's best friend.  There have been some difficult moments since the woman is also the mother of Danny's ex-girlfriend Holland.  When Holland returns from her first year away at college, she tries to help fill the void in Danny's life, but all he can think about is how she dumped him when he needed her most.

Danny receives a message from the mother and daughter who watch over the Tokyo apartment.  Kana, translating for her mother, mentions several things left behind in the apartment and wonders if Danny has any special instructions for the items.  Since Holland's constant attention is wearing on Danny, he decides to travel to Tokyo and try to find some answers about his mother's life in the country she always loved. 

Once in Tokyo Danny finds Kana extremely helpful and lots of fun.  She takes him to all his mother's favorite places and offers to help him talk to the Japanese doctor who introduced his mother to a unique holistic cancer treatment.  Danny begins to understand his mother's spiritual connection to all things Japanese, and as the days pass, he discovers a secret side of his mother's life that involves much more than he bargained for.

WHEN YOU WERE HERE is a tenderhearted story about a young man trying to find his way after a terrible loss.  Readers will be touched by Danny as he learns about the depths of love and friendship and how to find new meaning in life.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

TORN AWAY by Jennifer Brown

Torn AwayReview copy courtesy of
Due for release in May 2014

Watching her little sister Marin dance is the last thing Jersey wants to do.  She is trying to watch TV, and Marin will not leave her alone.  Jersey just wishes her mother and Marin would leave for the dance studio so she can relax in peace.  She never realized that these were the last few precious minutes she would be spending with both of them.

Shortly after her mother and little sister depart for Marin's dance class, an approaching storm threatens to become serious.  Jersey watches nervously as the sky darkens.  When the tornado siren begins to wail, she follows the family emergency procedure and heads to the basement.  Hoping her sister and mother have arrived at their destination safely and her stepfather has been able to pull over on his way home from work, she waits and worries.  The noise of the storm increases and with a roar, the tornado attacks Jersey's town.  The power and pressure of the twister are terrifying.  Jersey cowers under the pool table as her house is torn apart around her.

When the storm passes, Jersey makes her way out of the basement to find complete devastation.  Her neighborhood has been leveled for as far as she can see.  After learning that her best friend and neighbor has survived along with his family, she picks her way through the debris and makes her way to the dance studio in search of her mother and sister.  The studio is totally gone and there is no news of her loved ones.

Returning home, Jersey waits to hear from her stepfather.  He eventually makes his way home, but the news he brings with him is heartbreaking.  Jersey's mother and sister had left the dance studio to rush across the street to the safety of the grocery store.  Once in the store they were killed by falling shelving units before they could make it to the safety of the walk-in cooler.  How will they carry on with half their family gone?

Author Jennifer Brown captures the terror of surviving a powerful tornado and the difficulty of dealing with the aftermath.  The physical devastation is bad enough, but when Brown adds the complication of a homeless teen and her painful loss, readers will be caught in the grip of this all too real story. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

NOT A DROP TO DRINK by Mindy McGinnis

Not a Drop to DrinkDo not miss this book!!!!  Author Mindy McGinnis tells an awesome story that will have you hooked immediately.  I was captivated by her characters and drawn into their incredibly challenging lives from the very first page.

Lynn is a teen who has never had ice cream.  She has heard of a computer but never seen or used one, but she does know the dangers of cholera and the importance of the pond located next to her home.  Lynn and her mother spend most of their waking hours watching that pond and both have killed to protect it.

Set in the not-to-distant future, NOT A DROP TO DRINK will have readers imagining a global water shortage that resulted in a widespread cholera epidemic.  Drinking contaminated water causes a quick and painful death.  The result has the remaining population doing whatever is necessary to insure their personal survival.  People are killing and looting to gather enough supplies to eek out an existence in whatever shelter they can find.

Lynn was a mere toddler when the world changed so she doesn't know any other life.  The only human contact she has is her mother and a lone neighbor who has only visited once.  Their days are filled with hauling water from their pond to be purified through a crude heating process.  When they aren't hauling water, they are tending a garden, hunting for wild game, or chopping enough wood to keep them warm through the harsh winter.

Tragedy strikes when coyotes attack and Lynn accidentally shoots her mother.  Now all alone and trying to survive, Lynn is approached by their only neighbor.  He has news of others attempting to live by a nearby river.  When he and Lynn investigate, they discover a pregnant woman about to deliver her baby with the help of a teenage boy and a young girl.  After the stillbirth of the baby, the boy pleads with Lynn to take over the care of the little girl while he deals with the grieving mother.  Although Lynn has no idea how to proceed, she finds taking responsibility for the girl helps her deal with the loss of her own mother.

NOT A DROP TO DRINK is a powerful novel of determination and survival.  McGinnis describes a brutal lifestyle filled with one tragedy after another.  Nothing is sugar-coated as readers experience the horrific lives of these modern-day pioneers.  There is a frightening reality that makes this dystopian thriller seem all too possible.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

BOY PROOF by Cecil Castellucci

Boy ProofInspire by John Green's 18 Books You Probably Haven't Read, I found my copy of BOY PROOF by Cecil Castellucci.  It has been on my classroom shelf for some time, but for some reason I've never read it.  Thanks for the suggestion, John.

With a mother who is an actress and a father who is a respected makeup and special effects artist, one would think that Victoria's life would include one amazing event after another.  The reality is Victoria, who prefers to be called Egg, goes out of her way to be a loner.  Believing herself less attractive than her beautiful mother and not as interesting as her talented father, she works hard to avoid friendships and as her mother calls it, makes herself "boy proof." 

Her fascination with the sci-fi movie Terminal Earth inspires most of Egg's actions including the name, her appearance, and her oddly-designed fashion choices.  Her goal is to be valedictorian and have the choice of the best colleges, but trigonometry is killing her butt. Although, she has acquaintances in life, Egg avoids close friendships as a rule.  That is the case until she meets Max.  The two have a lot in common and sharing their thoughts about those common interests has Egg becoming strangely attracted to Max.  The resulting confusion has her rethinking most of her life choices.

Author Cecil Castellucci takes readers on a wonderful journey through Egg's transformation.  Anyone feeling lonely or left out will be inspired by Egg's courage as she confronts her preconceived notions about how she fits into the world around her.


The First Phone Call from HeavenKatherine Yellin is the first person to publicly mention the phone call she received from her sister.  Normally, this wouldn't spark any special interest, however, Katherine's sister is dead.  According to Katherine, her sister indicated that she was calling from Heaven.

Other members of the Coldwater, Michigan, community began to mention similar experiences.  Some spoke with passion, others reluctantly.  Several citizens of the small town who received phone calls from deceased loved ones chose to keep the knowledge to themselves.  Those who chose to comment publicly began to attract attention, and soon the community was in the news.

Could this really be happening and why was this phenomenon limited to just this little Michigan town?  As news of the amazing phone calls spread, Sully Harding recently released from jail and also the recipient of one of the calls, decides to get to the bottom of this seemingly impossible miracle.  Events in his life have left him in doubt where God is concerned, and some of the coincidences surrounding these calls makes him believe there is someone responsible.  Sully aims to find out the truth.

Once again author Mitch Albom has created a story that touches the spirit and inspires thought.  His smooth story-telling style makes THE FIRST PHONE CALL FROM HEAVEN a quick and addicting read.