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
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
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

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

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
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

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.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

GHOST BOYS by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys
Jerome was only twelve years old the day he was shot and killed by police officers. He was innocently playing with a toy gun given to him by a new friend when the police rolled by in their car and, fearing for their lives, shot Jerome in the back.

Jerome returns as a ghost to observe the preliminary hearing that will determine if there is enough evidence to charge the police officer with murder. As he watches the testimony, Jerome realizes that one person in the courtroom can actually see him. Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, watches Jerome carefully. Although they cannot touch, they are able to communicate. Jerome knows that Sarah is trying to understand how her father could possibly have shot and killed a boy her own age.

Other ghosts appear during the court proceedings and interact with Jerome. They are all young black boys, victims of violent deaths. One in particular connects with Jerome. It is the ghost of Emmett Till, a young Chicago black boy who was killed while visiting relatives in Mississippi.

Sarah researches the story of Emmett's death and shares it with Jerome. The more she learns about others who died because they were black, the more she wants to be the proponent of change for the future.

Author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells Jerome's story as he remembers it up to the day he was shot and beyond as his ghost observes the reactions of the world and those he loves. Even though his life ended tragically, he expresses his gratitude for a new friend made in the days before his death and the friendship he discovered with Sarah after he died. GHOST BOYS is perfect as a connection to the history of white on black crime and is sure to spark productive discussion among its readers.

Monday, September 3, 2018

HARBOR ME by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me
It all began the day Ms. Laverne told six students to pick up their bookbags and follow her. She led them to the old art room and told them they would be meeting there every Friday from 2:00-3:00 to talk. No adults allowed.

Four boys and two girls - all some shade of brown except for one - christened the room the ARTT room - "A Room to Talk" and communication began.

Ms. Laverne explained that she wanted the students to express themselves and learn what it means to "harbor" one another. Esteban was the first to share. He told of his father being taken from work and put in a detention center in Florida. He was to be deported, and Esteban fears he will never see him again.

Haley, fondly called Red by the kids in the ARTT room, decides to record their conversations. She has a feeling that important things will be shared and she wants to create a historical record. Once the students learn to trust one another all barriers come down, and they closeness they feel in the room begins to spread beyond it.

Author Jacqueline Woodson uses the conversations of these six young souls to tell us all that communication and sharing could be the answer to understanding each other better and making the world a kinder place. As the children's stories unfold, readers will hopefully feel a part of the ARTT room and carry some of what they learn out into the world and their own lives.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


People Kill People
Popular YA author Ellen Hopkins has done it again. In PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE, Hopkins combines her signature verse with prose to take readers into the lives and minds of six teens contemplating the place guns have in their day to day existences.

Guns have vital meaning for each of the characters. Grace's father was shot and killed in an incident of road rage. Silas sees weapons as a method to promote his neo-Nazi philosophies. Rand would like to end the life of his childhood abuser, and his wife Cami thinks having a gun might be a good idea when she delivers for her drug dealer. Daniel and Noelle also think a gun would be useful to take care of their problems.

These teens range in age from 17 to 19, all on the threshold of adulthood. Past experiences and current life issues have them turning to the possibility that guns could be the solution to their troubles. Whether it be revenge, protection, or self-destruction, each teen is rationalizing the use of violence as the answer.

The blurb on the book flap states, "Someone will fire. And someone will die." Hopkins sets up numerous scenarios as she describes the each character. Readers will no doubt make predictions as the stories unfold which is part of the novel's appeal. Hopkins also drives home the meaning of the title by pointing out that people kill people with more than just guns. This reviewer believes PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE is Hopkins's most thought-provoking novel yet.