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.