Sunday, December 10, 2017

TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down (Signed Book)
Aza describes her world as “an ever-tightening spiral.” Her OCD behavior has her constantly fearing the worst. She obsessively changes a bandage covering a cracked callus on her thumb. She is convinced it will become infected and kill her or she’ll end up in the hospital where she’s given antibiotics which will result in a fatal case of C. Diff.

Her mental frailty combined with the loss of her father has Aza spending time with her therapist and counting on her best friend Daisy for support. She doesn’t need anything else to complicate her life, but along comes Davis and his younger brother. Their billionaire father has disappeared, and Aza becomes involved in the hunt to find Mr. Russell Pickett.

Can she overcome her psychological fears enough to follow the clues and handle the budding romantic feelings she has for Davis Pickett? Is she too wrapped up in her own problems to sympathize with her friend when she breaks up with her boy friend? Can she find a way to cope with losing her father without increasing her mother’s stress?

Popular author John Green has finally returned to his fans with TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN. It is definitely a book to read and savor, and then reread again.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down

Author Jason Reynolds writes a frightening tale of revenge called LONG WAY DOWN.

Young Will is mourning the loss of his brother Shawn. He's pretty sure he knows who's responsible, and one of the laws of his world is get revenge no matter what. Will wants to follow the rules, but his conscience has him questioning if he is capable.

Written in verse and in the unique setting of an elevator ride down seven floors, Jason Reynolds takes readers into the mind of a teen trying to come to terms with the loss of a loved one and how he might justify getting even. Ghosts of Will's past haunt his thoughts and may eventually influence his decision either right or wrong.                                       

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

SLIDER by Pete Hautman

Slider

Have you ever watched an eating contest? I will never forget watching a televised contest in which the contestants had to eat mayonnaise. Oh my! That was totally gross! 

SLIDER by Pete Hautman involves eating contests, but fortunately mayonnaise is not on the menu.

David has come to the conclusion that his sole talent is eating. His older sister is basically perfect. Away at college, her grades are stellar and to his knowledge she has never done anything wrong. His brother, Mal, is autistic, but that's a word his family doesn't like to use. David feels stuck in the middle and totally ignored.

Fascinated by eating contests, David attempts to purchase a famous half a hot dog that was the downfall of one of his heroes. The "Gurge" lost a hot dog eating contest by half a dog, and when David sees it for sale on BuyBuy.com, he has to bid. When his bid mistakenly goes from $20 to $2000 and he realizes that's the amount now charged to his mother's credit card, he has to find a way to pay her back. What better way than winning the Pigorino's Pizza eating contest with a grand prize of $5000?

Author Pete Hautman takes readers on a humorous journey into the world of championship eating contests. From sliders to pizzas, David learns not only how to eat large volumes of food at break-neck speed, but he also learns the meaning of family and friendship. Perfect for middle grade readers.



Thursday, August 31, 2017

SOLO by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

Solo (B&N Exclusive Edition)

Author Kwame Alexander has captured the hearts of readers with his books CROSSOVER and BOOKED. Now he has partnered with Mary Rand Hess to create another story that is sure to increase his fan base.

SOLO is the story of Blade Morrison. He is the son of rock and roll sensation Rutherford Morrison. Blade lives a life of privilege in Hollywood. His world revolves around music and a girl named Chapel. Despite outward appearances, Blade is struggling.

Although his father's music has provided the best of everything for his family, tragedy has struck. Blade's mother, Sunny, died years ago, and his father never truly recovered. In between concerts and tours, the famous musician has dealt with multiple stints in rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. Blade's world begins to crumble when Chapel's parents forbid contact with Blade because of his father's destructive behavior.

To further complicate Blade's chaotic life, he learns that he was adopted as an infant. Angry because his parents kept this a secret, he vows to find his biological mother. His search takes him to Ghana and the most unlikely of adventures.

Alexander and Hess use verse to paint a stunning picture of Blade's struggle to understand his true self and how he fits into the world. Despite his life of wealth and privilege, his story is not always pleasant and the those around him are not always helpful. His determination and resilience make for an inspirational read.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

PRISONER OF WAR: A Novel of World War II by Michael Spradlin


                                                        Prisoner of War: A Novel of World War II
Henry "Tree" Forrest is fifteen years old. In order to avoid another beating from his vicious father, he decides to enlist in the Marines. He barely makes it through boot camp and finds himself fighting beside grown men in the Philippines.

Henry's height earns him the nickname Tree, and his courage and bravery earn him the respect of the men in his unit. When the tide of the war turns after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tree experiences the true evils of war. The Japanese constant air and ground attacks force the allied soldiers to retreat and surrender.

Tree and his fellow soldiers become prisoners of war. The conditions are horrendous. The defeated and exhausted men are marched from the shores of the South China Sea into the interior of the island. Denied food and water and medical treatment, many men don't survive.

Once at Camp O'Donnell, Tree suffers beatings he could never have imagined from his father. With the constant encouragement of a veteran soldier named Gunny, Tree digs deep to find the strength to withstand the beatings and the miserable conditions for years.

Author Michael Spradlin has explored the world of war in his previous novel THE EMENY ABOVE. This new release takes readers into the mind of a young boy as he experiences unbelievable horrors. Written in a voice and pace that will definitely hold the attention of even the most reluctant of readers, PRISONER OF WAR is perfect for a library or classroom collection.

THE PANTS PROJECT by Cat Clarke

                                                        The Pants Project
Liv is excited to start middle school except for one thing. Liv's school is the only one in the area that requires girls to wear skirts. Wearing a skirt might not be so awful if Liv thought of himself as a girl, but he doesn't.

Not even Liv's two moms know Liv's secret. Born a girl, Liv doesn't feel that is the right sexual definition. He believes he was meant to be a boy. That's a pretty big secret that is difficult to express. The fact that Liv will have to wear a skirt every single day once school starts might just be a big enough deal to get him to share his secret with someone.

Author Cat Clarke dives into the subject of transgender identification in her new book THE PANTS PROJECT. With the help of a new friend, Liv decides to protest the school's new rule. As the fight for his right to wear pants unfolds, Liv deals with bullies, disgruntled administrators, and people who don't readily accept that it's amazing to have two moms.

Aimed at a middle grade audience, THE PANTS PROJECT is an excellent addition to a library or classroom collection for teens of any age.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

AFTERCARE INSTRUCTIONS by Bonnie Pipkin

Aftercare Instructions
Genesis Johnson is facing a decision that will change the rest of her life. She believes that she and her boyfriend Peter are on the same page when it comes to this decision, but she quickly learns that isn't true.

Genesis enters Planned Parenthood with Peter. She is called back for her procedure. She remains brave as the doctor terminates her pregnancy knowing that Peter is waiting outside to take her home. When she returns to the waiting room, Peter is nowhere to be found.

Phone calls and text messages are not returned, and Genesis can't believe he has just left her there. She's stranded in New York City.

With no support from home and fearful of telling anyone but her closest friend, Genesis must navigate the aftermath of one of the worst days of her life. Did the love Peter professed even exist? How could he leave her when he had declared she was his "forever" love?

In a combination of prose and script-style dialogue, debut author Bonnie Pipkin explores the consequences of a life-changing decision. Her protagonist is struggling with multiple personal issues, and at the same time, trying to hold together a fractured family after the death of her father. Even if you don't agree with Genesis's decision, you'll find her journey both heartbreaking and hopeful.

Friday, July 21, 2017

THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE by Matthew Quick

The Reason You're Alive
David Granger is a Vietnam vet. He saw intense action fighting the Vietcong in the jungle during the war. He has a few fellow vets with whom he shares some of his memories, but he has always protected his family from the horrors he experienced.

Recently, Granger crashed his BMW as the result of a seizure. Doctors determined he had a brain tumor. Granger blames Agent Orange. After surgery to remove the tumor, Granger attempts to return home. He is determined to face his memories of the war and find closure by returning a ceremonial knife to its rightful owner.
Following another seizure while visiting a museum with his son and grand-daughter, Granger's son insists that he stay with family. Since Granger's relationship with his son really revolves around his deep love for his grand-daughter, Ella, this temporary stay proves to be tense at best.
As the days pass, the two men begin to communicate in a way they never have before. Granger's son learns that his father isn't the bigoted, old man he thought him to be. Opening up to each other helps to heal some of the pain from their pasts, and father and son come to respect the choices each have made.
BOY 21, EVERY EXQUISITE THING, and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK by author Matthew Quick are popular with YA readers in my classroom. THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE should also be of interest to mature YA readers even though the focus is on an older protagonist. Today's teens are not familiar with the Vietnam War, but Quick's book might spark an interest to learn more.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

BERSERKER by Emmy Laybourne

Berserker
Hanne and her siblings suddenly find themselves embarking on a journey from their native Norway to America. The original plan was for Hanne's older brother Stieg to make the journey, get settled, and then send for the others. That plan quickly dissolves when Hanne flies into a rage and murders three intruders threatening her family's safety.

With their father dead, the four siblings take their inheritance and flee to America. The new plan involves crossing this new country in search of an uncle who will hopefully help them make sense of an ancient Norse curse that haunts their family.

Both Hanne's parents carried the Nytte curse. Odds were their children would be born with the "gift" of the Nytte. Three of the four siblings have already exhibited their gifts. Knut has incredible strength, Stieg has the power to blow powerful cold or warm blasts of wind, and Hanne has the power to kill. Known as a Berserker, Hanne flies into a killing rage whenever she or a family member is threatened. Until now Hanne's gift, in combination with Knut's powerful strength, has allowed them to provide for their family while serving as butchers for neighboring farmers with livestock.

Soon after arriving in America, Hanne and her siblings meet Owen, a cowboy down on his luck. He is willing to escort them to Montana in search of their uncle. For a fee he outfits the group with horses, clothing, and needed supplies, and their journey begins. Unfortunately, news of the tragedy that forced them to leave their home in Norway follows them and they are soon fleeing for their lives.

Author Emmy Laybourne has earned a loyal fan base with her MONUMENT 14 series and her novel  SWEET. With the October release of BERSERKER, she is sure to thrill those fans and many new ones as well. BERSERKER combines the adventure of the American frontier with the mystical intrigue of a legendary curse. Likeable characters and a bit of romance round out this must read thriller.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

THE YOU I'VE NEVER KNOWN by Ellen Hopkins

The You I've Never Known
Ariel's family is her father. The two of them have been on their own since Ariel's mother ran off. Ariel was only a toddler at the time and has been raised to believe that her mother was a lesbian whore. Life for the father and daughter has been a blur of different cities living in their car or with a string of women Ariel's father has charmed.

Recently, Ariel has found comfort in Sonora, California. She is attending school and has even made a few friends. There's Monica, a girl who frightens Ariel because her look and touch stir something in Ariel that would likely have her father labeling her a lesbian whore just like her mother. There's also kind and supportive Gabe, the nephew of Ariel's father's recent lady friend and drinking partner.

Maya speaks in journal-type chapters writing to her daughter Casey. Maya is trapped in a marriage of her own making. She used her teen pregnancy as a way to escape life with a cult-obsessed mother, but it landed her in a marriage to an enlisted man about ten years her senior. She wishes for more for her daughter as she writes about her struggle to be a good mom and share her love with the only positive thing in her life.

Author Ellen Hopkins works her magic in this combination of verse and prose to weave together two lives whose connections are sure to surprise her readers. Both Ariel and Maya show courage and determination as they explore their individual identities and where they fit in the world. I found THE YOU I'VE HEVER KNOWN as compelling as Hopkins's IDENTICAL.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone

Dear Martin

ARC courtesy of publisher at ALA conference.


DEAR MARTIN is a novel ripped from the headlines. Like THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas and HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon, debut author Nic Stone takes readers into the current issue of racism and police brutality. One unique difference is the main character's attempt to reach out to the late Martin Luther King Jr. as he struggles to make sense of the often tragic world around him.

Justyce McAllister is a senior in high school. His mother works hard so he can attend a prestigious school that will prepare him for a chance to earn a spot at a good college. Her sacrifice pays off when Jus learns he is accepted at Yale.

Unfortunately, Yale is still a year away and much will happen before Jus gets to begin his college career. First, comes the traumatic experience of being handcuffed by police after simply trying to do the right thing. The event haunts him as he tries to negotiate the difficult journey of attending a mostly white school filled with rich, privileged kids who never had to struggle one day in their lives. Stereotypes prevail but Jus is determined to succeed on the debate team and make his mother proud.

One day Jus finds himself stopped at a traffic light in a car with his best friend Manny. Some white guy in the neighboring car demands that Manny turn his music down. There's an unpleasant exchange that ends with Manny turning the volume up. Three gunshots follow that will forever change Justyce's life.

Author Nic Stone uses a variety of text styles to tell the story of a young black teen trying to do the right thing. Readers will see the private thoughts of Justyce as he writes letters to the late MLK hoping to be inspired to live a life that will make his family proud. News accounts of several shootings reveal the tremendous inequality and tension between black teens and law enforcement and will take readers in a totally different direction and help them relate to a current issue facing teens around the country. DEAR MARTIN is a powerful, must-read novel for both teen and adult readers.

THE ELLIE MCDOODLE DIARIES: HAVE PEN, WILL TRAVEL by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Have Pen, Will Travel (Ellie McDoodle Diaries Series) (reissue)
THE ELLIE MCDOODLE DIARIES originally began in 2007. Having recently read HAVE PEN, WILL TRAVEL, I will now be suggesting the series for young girls looking for their own Wimpy Kid style reading experience. Author Ruth McNally Barshaw has created a dynamic female character that will inspire girls everywhere.

Due to the death of an elderly uncle of her father's, Ellie finds herself embarking on a camping adventure with her cousins. Everything about the impending week with her Aunt Mug, who spits when she talks, her Uncle Ewing, whose neck turns red when he's mad, and her three cousins promises to be the worst experience in her young life.

Arriving at the camping site, Ellie immediately discovers that this family doesn't do "camping" the way it was intended. Where are the tents and campfires and yummy, toasted marshmallows? Instead, she finds that everyone will be crammed together in a tiny cabin. How will she ever survive?

Ellie's passion for writing and drawing help her make some sense of this tragic week. She chronicles her adventures as she spies on her relatives and reluctantly participates in their crazy family antics. As she records events in her sketch diary, she begins to realize that some of the activities are kind of fun, and some of the people she is forced to be with have personalities she can sort of appreciate.

Readers of Ellie's vacation journal will find laugh-out-loud word play and unique visual representations of Ellie's week with a family she soon comes to know and love. Ruth McNally Barshaw will be part of an author panel at Siena Heights University's Celebration of Children's Literature on September 21, 2017.


Camping with

Saturday, June 17, 2017

BLOOD FAMILY by Anne Fine

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

Cyclone
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 by Rupi Kaur

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

Ultimatum
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 by Arin Andrews

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 EXTINCTION by Paul Acampora

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

Shutter
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.