Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BLENDED by Sharon M. Draper

Blended

Isabella "Izzy" knows both her parents love her, but she also knows that their constant fighting that ended in divorce is a fact of life she must accept. Since her father moved back to Ohio, her life is a back and forth tug of war. One week she lives with her mom. One week she lives with her dad. In between there's Exchange Day when everyone meets at the mall in front of the Apple Store for the handoff.

Both her parents have new significant "others" and there's even Darren whose mother is Izzy's dad's new girlfriend. Izzy has a room in each house, clothes in each closet, and even a different backpack for each week.

One thing has been bothering Izzy a lot lately. Her mother is white and her father is black. This never used to be an issue, but recently Izzy has been feeling like she doesn't really belong anywhere. Her skin tone identifies her as black to most who see or know her, but is that who she truly is and does it really matter? She knows, of course, it does, but with the rest of the turmoil in her life, Izzy isn't sure how to talk about it.

BLENDED is author Sharon M. Draper's latest book. Izzy's story highlights how lucky she is with loving parents and an awesome ability to play the piano, however, even when outward appearances indicate happiness, Draper draws attention to issues that often lurk in the shadows. Labeled for an 8-12 year old audience, BLENDED has much to offer for readers of any age. It is definitely one to check out soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

SAVING WINSLOW by Sharon Creech

Saving Winslow
SAVING WINSLOW is the latest book by author Sharon Creech. It is the heartwarming tale of a tiny donkey and the boy who promises to love and care for it. Creech fans will want to add this to their already awesome collection of her books.

Louie has had some rather depressing experiences with animals in the past. Whether it is fireflies, worms, goldfish, hamsters, or kittens, they either die or run away within a few days. When Louie's father brings home a tiny, newborn donkey, Louie swears this time will be different. No one else seems to be supportive, but Louie begs them to "Think positive!"

There are some rough patches, but the donkey Louie christens Winslow thrives. Many positives come from raising the little fellow. Louie makes a new friend, Nora, who gradually warms up to Winslow and the rest of Louie's family. Winslow also helps Louie occupy his mind when he is missing his older brother who is far away in the army.

At just over 100 pages with short chapters, SAVING WINSLOW is perfect for any reader or animal lover looking for an inspiring read. I'll be sharing it with some 5th graders in the near future. I'm sure they will love it.


COUNT ALL HER BONES by April Henry

Count All Her Bones

The all-star cast of characters from GIRL, STOLEN is back! Author April Henry returns to Cheyenne's story to let readers know what happens next.

Several years ago Cheyenne and her mother were in an accident that left her mother dead and Cheyenne blind. Not long after the tragedy, Cheyenne was mistakenly kidnapped when the family car was stolen with Cheyenne sleeping in the backseat.

Griffin Sawyer stole the car for his father's chop shop, but when it's discovered that the daughter of the head of Nike is part of the package, Griffin's father, Roy, decides to demand a ransom.  Cheyenne is ultimately rescued and Roy is sent to prison.

COUNT ALL HER BONES picks up with the start of Roy's trial. Cheyenne and Griffin are scheduled to testify, but Cheyenne's trusting nature results in a second kidnapping. Readers will be on the edge of their seats as the imprisoned Roy sets a complicated plan into motion. Will Cheyenne's self-defense training pay off? Is Griffin part of the new plot or is he also a victim?

COUNT ALL HER BONES is a must read for fans of April Henry. A big thank you from this reader for letting us know what happens next.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P by Alex Gino

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P!

Jilly can't wait until her little sister is born. She is already planning how she will teach her little sis how to make the perfect PB&J sandwich.

The day finally arrives. Her sister is born and she approves of the name her parents choose, Emma. Before Emma even leaves the hospital, it is discovered that she has a significant hearing loss. Special doctors and audiologists quickly become part of Emma's young life. Once Jilly's parents find a support group, some the confusing information begins to make sense. Jilly gets busy researching and vows to learn how to sign (ASL) so she and Emma can communicate.

Jilly also finds a source of information and support in the chatroom of the online game she plays. It  turns out that "Profound" as she knows him is a member of the support group. His real name is Derek, and he is as just as dreamy in real life as he Jilly thinks he is when he's gaming online.

Jilly's colorful extended family welcomes baby Emma, but another uncomfortable situation develops at a holiday meal when her uncle and even her grandmother make hurtful, racist remarks toward Jilly's aunt and cousins. There is much to learn about people's feelings and how hurtful words are often disguised as innocent comments. Jilly is beginning to understand the need to speak up and take a stand when others need her help.

One thing Jilly learns is that not everyone makes hurtful comments on purpose. Aunt Alicia explains,
"It's like the difference between stepping on someone's foot by mistake and kicking them. Only one is mean, but they both hurt. Sometimes you don't have to be trying to hurt someone. You just have to say the wrong thing."

Author Alex Gino covers quite a bit of controversial territory in YOU DON'T KNOW EVERYTHING, JILLY P. Hopefully, readers will be inspired by Jilly's commitment to speak up and make a difference in the world around them.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

DEAR EVAN HANSEN: THE NOVEL by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel (B&N Exclusive Edition)
I'll be perfectly honest and say that I knew nothing about the hit show of the same name, but after reading the novel, I'd now love to see the Broadway version.

Evan is in therapy and medicates himself to get through the day. He is happiest when he is blending in and not the center of attention. However, there are times when he wishes someone would "see" him. His mother is always working or attending classes. His father has remarried, moved to Colorado, and is about to have another child. Evan dreams of Zoe Murphy but knows she'll never give him the time of day.

According to Evan's therapist, writing letter to himself will help him deal with his depression. During the summer he wrote one of the letters every day, but it didn't seem to help. Lately he's been ignoring the therapy assignment. On the day Evan decides to type up a letter while in the computer lab, Connor Murphy picks up the letter from the printer and keeps it. Evan doesn't think too much about it until he realizes he won't have a letter to show his therapist.

What follows is a complicated web of lies stemming from Evan's letter. After Connor commits suicide, Evan finds comfort in leading people to believe that he was Connor's only friend. Thinking this will somehow help comfort Connor's parents and sister Zoe, is the main motivation for the lie, but Evan finds strange comfort himself when the Murphy family begins including him in their lives.

DEAR EVAN HANSEN illustrates the lengths a lonely person will go to be seen by others. Connor's emotional issues and Evan's depression are all too common. This novel may help bring the problem to light.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

KNOCKOUT by K. A. Holt

Knockout
Levi is back! When he appeared (and almost died) in HOUSE ARREST by K. A. Holt, he was only a sickly little kid. Now he is in middle school and his health has improved. His older brother Timothy is studying for the MCAT test and hoping to head off to medical school. His mother is busy working, and he has been able to connect with his dad who he sees every other weekend. Things are definitely looking up.

Levi loves to make people laugh and he loves hanging out with his best friend Tam. Unfortunately, Tam has discovered a new friend, Kate, and Levi worries that people are laughing at him more than with him at times. One weekend his dad suggests that Levi find a sport. He even offers to pay for fees and equipment for any sport Levi wants to try.

Sports have never been on Levi's radar. He's always been on the small side. His lungs have always been his worst enemy. He still makes regular trips to a Cincinnati hospital to have his airway checked. There are times when he describes breathing like trying to breathe through his mother's coffee stirrer. Exactly what sport would be possible?

Turns out that boxing has a special appeal for Levi. Being small has its advantages when it comes to speed and agility. His dad is all excited, except for the cost, but Levi thinks he's figured a way around that problem. The real issue is his mom. There's no way she is going to approve of a contact sport like boxing, and Timothy is so wrapped up in his studying that he might as well not even exist.

KNOCKOUT by K. A. Holt is the sequel to her novel in verse called HOUSE ARREST. Fans of the first book will easily fall back into the rhythm of Holt's "shaped poetry" and fall back in love with Levi and his crew. Check out both of these great books!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST by Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die First
Petula's life is filled with crushing guilt. Although no one else does, she blames herself for the death of her baby sister. Since the tragedy, Petula has vowed to be ever watchful. She holds everything together for her mother and father by doing her chores, fixing dinner, and cleaning up after the houseful of cats her mother has rescued. She trolls the internet for stories of tragic deaths and keeps the printouts in a scrapbook.

It isn't until Petula meets Jacob in a small art therapy group at school that she begins to see life with a more positive outlook. Jacob has experienced tragedy of his own, but his passion for film and his ability to convince Petula to face some of her fears opens the possibility of a relationship Petula never dreamed she would have.

OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST is another book by author Susin Nielsen. I'm so glad to have recently discovered her heartfelt yet humorous tales. Her characters are sure to grab readers from the start and make them seem like long lost friends. With just the right combination of tension and lighthearted humor, Nielsen is able to surprise and entertain.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES by Susin Nielsen

We Are All Made of Molecules
Boy-genius Stewart and high school popular girl Ashley are thrown together when Stewart's father and Ashley's mother decide to fall in love and move in together. Stewart's mother died a few years back, and Ashley's father suddenly decided he was gay and moved into the little house in the backyard. Now Stewart and Ashley have to decide if they are going to join forces as siblings or continue to ignore each other as much as possible.

The world conspires to keep throwing the two together. When Stewart transfers from his old school to the one closer to his new home, Ashley is shocked to discover that brainy Stewart gets to skip a grade and lands in her ninth grade classes. How can life get any worse?

Stewart finds a few friends, but he is also faced with bullying especially from a kid named Jared. At the same time Ashley's popularity soars when she begins dating the same person victimizing her annoying, soon-to-be stepbrother. While Ashley is in love, Stewart is living in fear.

Author Susin Nielsen takes readers into the inner workings of a family trying to remake themselves. There are positives and negatives galore. Characters with quirky habits and passionate ideas provide an entertaining and inspiring story.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

FROM YOU TO ME by K.A. Holt

From You to Me
I picked this one up a Scholastic book sale. A fan of K. A. Holt after reading HOUSE ARREST, I needed to read this one.

FROM YOU TO ME focuses on Amelia Peabody and her struggle to recover after the death of her older sister Clara. It's been three years since the boating accident at the lake. During those years Amelia has watched her father spend months shut away in his bedroom before finally quitting his job and throwing himself into becoming a locally famous BBQ expert. Her mother is finally back to work part-time and trying to convince Amelia it is time to move on.

As the new school year begins, Amelia is determined to turn things around. When tradition dictates each eighth grader is given letters they wrote to themselves back in sixth grade, Amelia is mistakenly given Clara's letter. The letter contains a bucket list of sorts. Amelia reads Clara's list of goals for her eighth grade year - goals she never got to complete. Amelia immediately decides she will complete the list for her dead sister.

With the help of family and friends, Amelia discovers that everyone has their own ways of dealing with loss. No one way is better or worse, and that leaves Amelia determined to find what works best for her so she can honor her sister and find a path that will help her carry on.

GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION by Jake Burt

Greetings from Witness Protection!

Nicki has been in five different foster homes in the five years since Grammy died. Now she lives at the Center hoping for a placement that might finally work.

Raised by Grammy, Nicki mostly remembers living on the edge and surviving on Grammy's latest con and shoplifting and picking pockets at the mall. Snatching random items is the only thing that keeps Nicki calm and grounded in an otherwise chaotic world.

That chaos takes a different direction the day U.S. Marshals come to the Center looking for a young girl. The next thing Nicki knows she is being whisked away to a training facility where she meets her new "family." Nicki will now be called Charlotte. She now has a mom and a dad and a younger brother named Jackson. She will be a solid B- student and keep a low profile. Nicki is now part of government witness protection.

Author Jake Burt makes his fiction debut with this crazy adventure. Everyone knows the concept of witness protection, but Burt helps readers become insiders in this government program. Tightly controlled by strict rules and regulations, Nicki and her new family must conform for their own protection, but they will find that's easier said than done.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

LOUISIANA'S WAY HOME by Kate DiCamillo

Louisiana's Way Home (B&N Exclusive Edition)
A curse, a pet crow, a seedy hotel, and a stuffed alligator are among the interesting things readers will encounter in LOUISIANA'S WAY HOME by Kate DiCamillo.

It was 3:00 AM when Granny hustled Louisiana to the car. She insisted that they needed to hit the road now. Not long after leaving their home state of Florida, Granny begins to complain about her tooth. Soon she has collapsed in the back seat moaning and begging for a dentist. Driving can't be too difficult Louisiana thinks as she gets behind the wheel and heads toward a town she hopes has the needed dentist.

Dr. Fox tells Louisiana that ALL of Granny's teeth are a problem, and he proceeds to pull them all. The Good Night, Sleep Tight Motel is stop number two. Hopefully, Granny can recuperate, and Louisiana can figure out what to do next.

Author Kate DiCamillo reveals that some people are helpful and others are not as she tells Louisiana's tale. Used to lies and secrets, this young girl finds out that telling her story in the best way she knows how might help her end up with the friends and family she has always dreamed of.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

ANYTHING BUT OKAY by Sarah Darer Littman

Anything But Okay
ANYTHING BUT OKAY, author Sarah Darer Littman's newest book, hits home on several current issues. Veterans returning home with mental and physical injuries, the hot button issues of immigration and racism, and the hateful nature of politics and viral social media are all part of the complex plot of this new release. It is chock full of discussion topics for teen readers and adults alike.

Stella's parents both served in the military, and now her brother Rob has just returned from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Although Rob has no visible scars from battle, he is suffering from PTSD.

Stella doesn't really understand the true impact of her brother's struggle until she invites him to see a movie at the local mall. After the show she suggests getting ice cream at the food court. For most a simple after movie treat, but for Rob it turns into a nightmare. He is arrested and charged with a felony. Now Stella has a better idea about why her parents have been so focused on Rob since his return from the Middle East.

Rob's actions are misinterpreted by a local politician running for governor, and the hate spills over onto Stella's best friend's family. Between what is happening to her brother and best friend, and the discord she sees at school where she is running for junior class president, Stella is completely confused. Why are people so cruel? Why do they believe what they see in the media without checking the facts? And finally, is it better to do the right thing or is it better to win no matter what?

Littman uses first person narrative combined with letters, text messages, and conversational dialogue to capture readers and take them directly into the minds of Stella and her brother. Readers will see glimpses of themselves and no doubt their friends and family members as they observe Stella's world. ANYTHING BUT OKAY is a must read!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

OTHERWOOD by Pete Hautman

Otherwood
Nine year old Stuey loves wandering in the woods his great-grandfather once owned. According to his grandfather, the area was once a golf course until it closed and the wild of the woods took over. Stuey's favorite spot is a deadfall where a number of trees fell creating a tepee-like structure that makes the perfect secret place.

Speaking of secrets, Stuey's grandfather had something to say about secrets, too. He told Stuey that secrets can split reality. If you have a secret from someone, that means that you live in one reality with the secret and they live in another reality without the secret. Grandfather also believed in ghosts.

All of Grandfather's wisdom usually confused Stuey, but after the old man died and Stuey met a new friend named Elly Rose, secrets and ghosts came to have a more important meaning. The threat that the woods were to be destroyed to build a mall and then the disappearance of Elly Rose change things forever for Stuey.

Author Pete Hautman combines reality and fantasy in this unique tale. Readers will ask questions about the real possibilities of parallel worlds and ghostly intervention after they read about the friendship of Stuey and Elly Rose and their adventures in Westdale Wood.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

BANG by Barry Lyga

Bang
What happens when you are the one mentioned in this headline? Boy, 4, Shoots, Kills Infant Sister.

Sebastian Cody was four years old when he picked up his father's gun and aimed it at his four month old sister. He is now fourteen. Every day he asks himself if today is the day. He knows one shot killed his sister, and he knows one shot could end his pain, end his life. So far the voice in his head has told him the time is not right for the final shot.

Meeting Aneesa gives Sebastian a different view of life. She helps him take on his mother's challenge to do something productive this summer. Sebastian combines his love of making pizza with Anessa's creative thinking to launch a YouTube channel that takes his mind off the past. But what will happen when Anessa learns the truth? The voice may be telling Sebastian it's not the right time to fire the final shot, but losing Aneesa might give him a reason.

BANG by Barry Lyga deals with heartbreak, gun violence, and grief. Lyga reveals Sebastian's pain and his constant struggle to deal with the guilt of having killed his sister. His sketchy memory of the actual event, the breakup of his family, and the fact that his name is forever connected with the tragedy make moving on a challenge that may be more than he can survive.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

HERE TO STAY by Sara Farizan

Here to Stay
Life would be simple for Bijan Majidi if it just involved basketball and figuring out a way to let the popular and beautiful Elle know that he loves her. For Bijan life means going to an elite private school on an academic scholarship and being the son of Middle Eastern parents.

Bijan spends his free time working on basketball skills, reading graphic novels, and hanging with his best friend Sean. Lately, he has been pretending that he's interested in a group of students trying to change the school's mascot, but that's really only because Elle is part of the group. Instead of getting her attention, it seems the group's organizer, Stephanie, is crushing on him.

Usually one to hang out under the radar, Bijan becomes the center of everyone's attention when the basketball coach calls him up from the JV squad to help the team get to the playoffs. Only a junior, Bijan's place on the varsity threatens several of the seniors and he becomes a target for taunts. Things come to a head when someone emails a photo of Bijan dressed as a terrorist to the entire student body.

He wants to find out who is responsible, but it may be safer to just go with the flow and not make waves. Coach wants everyone to focus on the game and Bijan agrees, but this attack on his heritage hurts more than he expected.

Author Sara Farizan captures the hate all too prevalent in today's society. Multiple storylines also highlight further racism and homophobia that make life difficult for some of Bijan's classmates as well. HERE TO STAY is sends a powerful message about the cultural divide and the need to educate people about hateful behavior.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany D. Jackson


Allegedly

Nine year old Mary Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. Now Mary is almost sixteen and has been released from juvenile detention into a group home. She still insists she is innocent, but during her years in detention she remained silent during psychological testing and therapy so no one really takes her seriously.

When Mary is not following orders around the group home, she is attending cosmetology classes and fulfilling required volunteer time at a local nursing home. Her mother visits once every other week, but is more focused on her own craziness than on the rehabilitation of her daughter. The other girls at the home bully Mary, steal her things, and taunt her about her alleged crime. The only friend Mary has is Ted, another volunteer at the nursing home. 

It could be said that Ted is more than a friend. Mary feels safe and loved when she is able to steal alone time with Ted. In fact, she is several months pregnant. When she tells Ted the news, he is excited and the two begin planning how they can be together and raise their child. Mary knows that keeping her baby is out of the question unless she can convince people of her innocence. That means convincing her mother to confess the truth about the death of little Alyssa.

In this debut novel, author Tiffany D. Jackson dives into the psychic of a young girl with a traumatic past. Jackson gives readers a frightening look at the justice system, the detention system, and the hopelessness of a girl attempting to make something of herself despite the odds stacked against her. From the facts of the crime to the resulting punishment, nothing is quite as it seems. ALLEGEDLY will keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

NO FIXED ADDRESS by Susin Hielsen

No Fixed Address
Felix and his mother Astrid are constantly scrambling to make ends meet. They may not have a lot, but they have each other.

When Astrid loses her two part-time jobs, their precarious financial situation becomes dire. Forced to leave their home, they shuffle around through a series of housing arrangements until they end up living in a VW van Astrid "borrows" from a man named Abelard when he moves to India.

Living in a van is exciting at first, kind of like a long camping trip. But, lack of a toilet and shower, and always having to move to a new location to avoid suspicion, soon gets old. Felix finally realizes he and his mother are truly homeless.

After months of keeping the truth of their nomad existence from his friends and his school, an opportunity to change their lives arises when Felix is selected to be a contestant on his favorite TV game show Who, What, Where, When. If he would win, his life could head in a whole new direction. But, will having no fixed address ruin his chances and be the end to his friendships with his best friends Dylan and Winnie?

Author Susin Nielsen combines a tragic societal issue with heart and humor to create NO FIXED ADDRESS. Readers will find themselves cheering for Felix, booing at the villains he encounters, and laughing at his hijinks. Nielsen's new novel is perfect for middle grade and teen readers.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

SOMEONE ELSE'S SHOES by Ellen Wittlinger

Someone Else's Shoes
Always a fan of Ellen Wittlinger, I was thrilled to see she has a new book. It didn't disappoint. I read it in two days and loved every page.

Izzy is used to being an only child. Although, her parents are divorced, she is close with both her parents. Living with her mom, she doesn't see her father as much as she would like, but they share a passion for comedy so when they do get together, they spend hours watching Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen Degeneres, and old SNL episodes.

Life changes for Izzy when her aunt commits suicide and her uncle and young cousin come to live with them. Uncle Henderson spends most of his time in his room, and Oliver is quiet and a bit odd. Izzy tries to connect with her cousin, but knowing what to say and how to act isn't easy.

Things become more complicated as Izzy's mother begins to date the local dentist, and Izzy learns that her father and step-mother are expecting a new baby. Izzy starts to feel invisible, especially when her mother offers to let the dentist's son, Ben, stay in the basement while he is out of town taking care of his sick mother.

When Uncle Henderson disappears with no explanation, Izzy, Oliver, and Ben team up to find the missing man. Their adventures teach Izzy that caring about others is the most important thing in life.

SOMEONE ELSE'S SHOES is perfect for middle grade and teen readers.


OF JENNY AND THE ALIENS by Ryan Gebhart

Of Jenny and the Aliens
Derek will be eighteen in a few weeks. Several things are happening that could not only change Derek's life but potentially the entire world.

The president is on the verge of declaring war on a Middle East country. The move is controversial and could put the lives of 200,000 troops at risk.

Ten years earlier Earth sent a message to the distant planet of Pud 5. Studies and exploration showed that the planet might support life. Well, Pud 5 has responded not only with recordings, but according to Derek, by sending an alien to Blue Grass Island off the shore of the Maumee River.

Another thing affecting Derek's life is the possibility that his long-time crush, a girl named Jenny, may actually be interested in pursuing a relationship. Derek is thrilled at Jenny's attention. After she claims his virginity and continues to want to hang around with him, he's pretty sure he is in love.

Readers will soon learn that not everything is as it seems. Are aliens really interested in our planet? Will calm heads reign in a possible war in the Middle East? Is Jenny as faithful to Derek as he hoped?

Ryan Gebhart, also the author of THERE WILL BE BEARS, combines sci-fi adventure with romance in this unique tale. This reviewer found OF JENNY AND THE ALIENS especially entertaining since the setting of Maumee, Ohio, is familiar territory. Mentions of many well-known locations and landmarks made for fun references throughout.

Friday, September 21, 2018

THE THIRD MUSHROOM by Jennifer L. Holm

The Third Mushroom
THE THIRD MUSHROOM is the sequel to Jennifer L. Holm's THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH. Ellis's grandfather returns after touring the country on a bus. It turns out that he has missed Ellie and her mother and been a bit bored.

Ellie is still interested in science and Grandfather Melvin is still living as a teenage boy after self-injecting one of his experiments. When Ellie learns about the science fair and the possibility of earning extra credit in science class, she suggests that she and Melvin team up. She knows Melvin will accept the challenge because it means being able to spend time in the school's newly remodeled science lab.

What follows is an experiment with fruit flies, Ellie's first official date, an appendicitis attack, a large, orange tabby cat, and much more. Ellie learns to expect the unexpected and that science once again is involved in everything.

Author Jennifer L. Holm again includes fun facts about famous scientists along with humorous characters and an action-packed plot. Hopefully, Ellie and her grandfather will return for future adventures.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm

The Fourteenth Goldfish
Ellie is starting middle school. Things are definitely different than fifth grade. Her best friend's interests have totally changed directions. Brianna is more into volleyball than the monster movies she and Ellie always loved to watch. Looking for a new friend isn't something Ellie is looking forward to, and she certainly never dreamed that the new middle school friend she would make would end up being her own grandfather.

A phone call from the police ends with a surprise houseguest for Ellie and her mom. Ellie's grandfather was caught trying to break into his science laboratory. It turns out that the teenage boy using her grandfather's keycard was actually her grandfather. He was recently experimenting with a compound made from a rare jellyfish and discovered a way to reverse the aging process. Ellie's grandfather is now in middle school just like Ellie.

THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH by Jennifer L. Holm is a hilarious read. Grandfather Melvin as a teenager provides lots of laughs. Ellie connects with her grandfather on a whole new level and comes to appreciate science in a way she never has before. Holm includes vital facts about a number of famous scientists and their contributions to mankind. Stay tuned for a review of the sequel titled THE THIRD MUSHROOM.

EXPELLED by James Patterson and Emily Raymond

Expelled
Just weeks before the end of his junior year, Theo is expelled for posting an inappropriate photo on his Twitter account. Theo swears he didn't do and vows to find out the real culprit and clear his name.

Theo isn't the only one expelled. Parker, the school's most popular jock, happens to be front and center in the photo with drink in hand. Jude is also booted from school since he appears dressed as the school mascot performing a lewd act in the background of the picture. Sasha's expulsion is for an entirely unrelated crime, but she's convinced to become part of the plan to clear Theo's name.

EXPELLED is the perfect quick read for teens. They will easily relate to the stresses of high school as well as the cliques and the inappropriate use of social media. Patterson's partnership with Emily Raymond results in a page-turner that includes intrigue, romance, and family issues.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

TIGHT by Torrey Maldonado

Tight
Bryan loves quiet places and quiet times that allow him to read and draw in peace. Why does that earn him the name Nerd from the other dudes? He likes to hang out with his mom at her work where he gets his own little "office" for homework and reading comics. Why does that seem strange to his frequently incarcerated father?

At the urging of both his parents, Bryan hooks up with a kid named Mike. He and Mike have some common interests - comics and drawing. They love quizzing each other on superheroes and which ones they wish they could be. It seems like the perfect friendship until Mike's true nature surfaces.

When Mike suggests cutting school, hopping the subway for free, and more, Bryan joins right in, but his own conscience questions the actions. Breaking the rules and acting tough is what his father does all the time, but Bryan knows it means trouble. He knows he should stop hanging out with Mike, but his mom and pop still think Mike is helping Bryan change his quiet ways.

Torrey Maldonado, also the author of SECRET SATURDAYS, captures the frustration of a young boy living in a poor neighborhood in NYC as he struggles to find what's right for him in a world of peer pressure and parental expectations. Readers will immediately connect with Bryan and his love of comics as he explores an alternative that he recognizes may lead him in an unwanted direction.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

THE OPPOSITE OF INNOCENT by Sonya Sones

The Opposite of Innocent
Fourteen year old Lily is so excited that family friend, Luke, is returning from a research trip in Kenya. She hasn't seen him forever and now he will actually be living with her family until he finds an apartment. Lily's fondest memory of Luke is when she told Luke she hoped to grow up and marry him. His response was that he would definitely wait for her.

Lily is thrilled by Luke's initial response to her maturing teen body. She decides to spend as much time as possible with him to convince him that she is more grown up than people might think. She is sure that she is receiving signals from him that indicate he thinks of her as more than just his good friend's daughter.

One afternoon on the beach, Luke kisses Lily and assuring her she is worthy of his affections. Soon stolen moments are followed by more than kisses, and Lily lets it slip to her friends that she is interested in an older man. At first the steamy make out sessions are exciting, but after a short while, Luke begins expecting Lily to satisfy his needs in a way that leaves her feeling uncomfortable and lonely. Now fear has Lily afraid to confront him or confide in someone who might help her deal with the out of control relationship.

Author Sonya Sones uses her trademark verse to show readers an example of a #metoo situation that is becoming all too familiar. In a final author's note, she urges readers to understand the actions of Luke are totally inappropriate and Lily is not to blame. Sones gives sound advice for readers should they find themselves in similar situations.

Friday, September 14, 2018

MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner

Maggot Moon
Standish Treadwell is fifteen. He can't read and he can't write, but that doesn't mean he isn't a creative thinker. He and his Gramps live in the Motherland in Zone Seven. Since their disappearance, Standish doesn't like to think about his parents.

Standish and his friend Hector are planning to build a spaceship so they can travel to the planet Juniper. That is until Hector disappears behind the wall. Standish is positive there is an important secret behind that wall, but proving it will be a challenge.

In the meantime, all the people in the Motherland are talking about is the upcoming moon landing planned by the government. There's something mysterious about that, too. Could the secret behind the wall, the disappearance of Hector, and the moon landing have anything in common? Standish must be very careful as he searches for answers.

Author Sally Gardner combines bits of history and popular conspiracy theories to create this unique tale. Readers will root for Standish as they follow him through the twists and turns of his strange story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HOOPER by Geoff Herbach

Hooper
If you are looking for basketball action mixed with family, friendship, and life in general, then HOOPER by Geoff Herbach is for you.

Adam Reed describes basketball as his "passport." He knows if he focuses on his game, it could take him anywhere. Unfortunately, the rest of Adam's life threatens to interfere with that focus.

Born in Poland, Adam was adopted and brought to the United States. His mother, a single mom, has worked hard to help Adam adjust, but it hasn't always been easy. Learning to speak English and deal with schoolwork has been a challenge. Adam's temper caused problems in Pennsylvania so he is now trying to fit in to a new school and team in Minnesota.

Adam's natural basketball talent has earned him a spot on a travel team. Through basketball Adam meets Carli. Recovering from a recent knee injury, she coaches him from the sidelines and drills him to improve his skills. Adam would like to express his true feelings for Carli, but his confidence is shaken by taunts from bullies and the fear that he might lose control of his temper.

HOOPER shows how Adam learns to accept the support of family and friends as he learns to trust himself and navigate in his new surroundings.