Saturday, June 17, 2017


Blood Family
Author Anne Fine has created a psychological novel ripped from headlines seen all too often. Full of pain, emotion, and the will to survive, readers will remember it long after the last page has been turned.

Edward "Eddie" is only four years old when he remembers being locked up with his mother. An evil man he knows as Harris bests Eddie's mom and deprives them of life in the outside world.
After years of abuse, Eddie and his mother are finally rescued. His mother is hospitalized with mental and emotional issues so Eddie is sent to live in a temporary foster home. He blossoms while under the care of an older couple and is disappointed when he learns he can't stay there indefinitely.
Eddie moves to a new home where another younger couple adopt him. He now has new parents and a sister named Alice. He's catching up in school and enjoying his new life with two exceptions.
Visiting his mother and seeing her barely recognize him as she babbles on about her latest craft project is almost more than Eddie can handle. His new family seems to understand and doesn't push too hard.
The day that Eddie is shown an picture of his possible future appearance is the day his new, normal life begins to crumble. The image shows a view of Harris and reveals the horrible truth that the man who held him captive and beat his mother is none other than Eddie's own blood - his father.
Readers will quickly fall for Eddie and cheer him on as he attempts to turn his mixed up life into something close to normal. When life throws him yet another curveball, readers will rush on to find out if Eddie is able to learn that blood is not the only thing that makes a family.

CYCLONE by Doreen Cronin

One ride on a rollercoaster can change your life. Nora experiences this fact firsthand when she blackmails her cousin Riley into riding the Cyclone on Coney Island. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when the ride is over and Riley collapses, Nora realizes life might never be the same.

Riley is rushed to the hospital where it is determined that she has suffered a stroke and has a heart condition no one knew about. As she lays in intensive care, Nora's guilt mounts.

When she is finally able to see her cousin, nothing seems to get better. First there is the coma, then the gradual awakening followed by the realization that Riley can't speak or walk. Does that mean that the horrible threat Nora made to convince her cousin to ride the coaster will remain unknown by the rest of the family? Is losing Riley as a friend because she'll never be normal again worth protecting Nora's terrible secret?

Author Doreen Cronin, known for her children's book CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE, has ventured into middle grade fiction, and this reviewer is thrilled that she has. Cronin's main character is facing the serious illness of a relative for the first time. Faced with an illness that doesn't normally hit someone as young as her cousin, Nora is frightened and confused. Understanding and dealing with the hustle and bustle of the hospital and mind-boggling medical terminology, Nora adjusts as best she can. As she deals with numbing guilt and a family in crisis, Nora learns life is rarely predictable. I'd recommend CYCLONE for ages 12 and up.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Milk and Honey
This book was first recommended to me by my 27 year old daughter. Then I saw it in the hands of one of my 11th grade English students. Her copy was loaded with post-its marking favorite poems. So, I ordered a copy.

Poet Rupi Kaur tells an extremely personal story through a powerful series of poems. Divided into four sections titled The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, and The Healing, Kaur takes readers on a journey through her experience as a young woman. The beginning and end of relationships, abuse, rape, and finally the recognition of what she deserves as a woman are vividly and graphically described in the hope of helping empower other young women as they learn to define themselves.

Early pages in the book are heart wrenching in their directness, but growth is clearly the goal and message of Kaur's wise words. My favorite section was The Healing. Her message here is that loving oneself is essential to love someone else. She also stresses the importance of taking control of one's own body and life and not allowing someone to hold that power.

MILK AND HONEY is a must-read for older teen girls and young adult women.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

ULTIMATUM by K.M. Walton

My students and I have enjoyed K. M. Walton's previous books, CRACKED and EMPTY, so I was excited to see this new book. Her focus on psychological drama between brothers didn't disappoint.

Oscar and Vance are in the middle of a terrible experience. Their alcoholic father has been checked into hospice care and has only days to live. Liver failure after years of drinking is not a pleasant way to go and having to watch their father's final days has both teens struggle to make sense of the pain.

Oscar's portion of the story is told in "real" time as he sits next to his father's bed counting the frequency of his respiration. His older brother Vance inhabits the same room, but communication is at a minimum.

Vance's story tells of several years leading up to their father's last moments. He recalls the chaos of their lives after their mother's death. There were pleasant memories before she became ill, but after her calming influence was removed, their father became more of a bartender for himself instead of for the customers in the local establishment he owned.

While Vance tried to fight back, Oscar became more and more withdrawn. Now the brothers are faced with the fact that after their father is gone, they will only have each other. Will they stick together? Can they pick up the pieces of their lives and help each other cope?

Author K. M. Walton takes readers on a messy journey. Death is difficult enough, but when the only person there to help you is someone you feel you don't know anymore, the problems multiple.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen
Arin Andrews is ready to share his story with the world. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED is described as "The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen."

Arin was born Emerald. Although his family didn't accept it at first, he always knew the body he was assigned at birth was not the body he believed belonged to him. Living and dressing as a girl felt alien. In his story Arin tells how he tries to convince his family that he was meant to have short hair, dress in flannel shirts and jeans, and live the life of a male.

With the help of counseling and a support group of other transgender individuals, Arin was able to educate his parents. In this honest and upfront story readers will hear Arin's tale. From coming out as male through testosterone injections and top surgery, Arin reveals the emotional journey to the person he is today.

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED is perfect for readers looking to better understand the transgender issue. It is clear that Arin story is just beginning, but his willingness to share his story is to be commended.

Friday, February 24, 2017

ALL IN PIECES by Suzanne Young

All in PiecesI definitely had to pick up a copy of this one since Suzanne Young's THE PROGRAM series was such a hit with my high school students.

What happens when you stab a pencil into your ex-boyfriend's hand? If you are Savvy Sutton, you are now enrolled in Brooks Academy with other incorrigible students. That's where Savvy meets Cameron.

Of course, Cameron has issues, but he seems like a nice guy. Right now, Savvy needs nice. Her little brother has autism and her father is a drunk. It has been up to Savvy to raise her brother and try to make ends meet even when her dad can't hold a job.

When Aunt Kathy decides to demand full custody of little Evan, and Savvy best friend Travis ends up in rehab, she turns to Cameron. Hopefully, he isn't just a spoiled rich kid. Savvy needs a friend she can trust.

Very different from THE PROGRAM, in ALL IN PIECES Suzanne Young takes her readers into the  Savvy's dysfunctional world. It won't take long for teens to be rooting for this determined high school student as she struggles to keep things under control.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


How to Avoid ExtinctionSince the death of his grandfather, Leo’s family has been concerned about his grandmother. She’s forgetful and tends to wander off. Somehow it became Leo’s responsibility to watch out for her.

When Gram decides to go on an adventure involving in search of her favorite dinosaurs, Leo and his cousin Abby become her traveling companions. Abby will help with the driving and Leo, well, he’ll probably help with everything else.

Their adventure takes them to unlikely places and they meet some of the most colorful characters along the way. Keeping track of Gram isn’t an easy task, but Leo is guaranteed to learn a lot and might actually enjoy himself as he gets to know more about his beloved grandmother.

Paul Acampora is also the author of DEFINING DULCIE and I KILL THE MOCKINGBIRD to name a few. HOW TO AVOID EXTINCTION explores families and taking care of those we love.

Monday, January 2, 2017

SHUTTER by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Day Connor has grown up watching her parents both fight for justice for others so when she discovers a runaway teen accused of killing his father, hiding in her barn, she doesn't immediately call the authorities. It isn't in her nature to jump to conclusions that someone is guilty without checking out the facts.

Julian Roman is on the run. According to his version of the story, he arrived home on May 4 to discover his mother dead in the bathtub from an overdose and his father dead from a blow to the head. As the prime suspect, he is sent to juvie, but he escapes and ends up in Day's barn.

Through her photography Day has learned to look for details. When she listens to Julian's story on the news and compares it to the actual Julian hiding in the barn, she believes he may have been falsely accused. Following the clues like her parents would and asking pertinent questions, Day is determined to find out the truth.

While he waits in the barn, Julian writes in his journal and tries to make sense of not just the deaths of his parents, but also the death of his brother Steven. Ever since the car accident that claimed his young brother's life, Julian's family has struggled to keep things together. That may explain his mother's depression and his father's rage, but is Julian also a victim of his brother's death?

Author Laurie Faria Stolarz has crafted a thought-provoking thriller sure to fascinate her many fans. Also the author of PROJECT 17, WELCOME TO THE DARK HOUSE and its sequel, and the BLUE IS FOR NIGHTMARES series, Stolarz never fails to disappoint.