Wednesday, January 30, 2019

CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate


Jackson remembers first grade and the first appearance of his imaginary friend. It was a cat named Crenshaw. Now Jackson is in fifth grade, and Crenshaw has made another appearance. What kid in fifth grade has an imaginary friend? What if that imaginary friend is a larger than life cat who loves taking bubble baths and doing cartwheels?

Life keeps throwing Jackson and his family curveballs. Money is tight even though both his parents work multiple jobs. His mother was once a music teacher, but the program was cut at her school. Now she works wherever she can get a job. Jackson's dad used to have a decent paying job, but then he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He works when he can, but he is weak and often walks with a cane.

Memories of living in the family minivan for fourteen weeks are still fresh in Jackson's mind. Two adults, a little sister, and a smelly dog make living in a car a mostly unpleasant experience. That's when Jackson met Crenshaw for the first time.

Now Jackson's family is in danger of losing their apartment at Swanlake Village. It is entirely possible that they will have to resort to living in their van yet again. Maybe that's why Crenshaw has made a reappearance. Maybe he's just the kind of friend Jackson needs at the moment.

Author Katherine Applegate explores the world of the homeless in her novel CRENSHAW. One in five children in the U.S. are hungry, and many are victims of poverty because their parents are forced to work low wage jobs that can't provide the basic necessities - food, clothing, and shelter. CRENSHAW is a tale that will connect with readers of all ages as it reveals a secret life lived by far too many.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air Series #1)
I will honestly admit that fantasy is not my thing, but I can definitely see the appeal of Holly Black's THE CRUEL PRINCE. I enjoyed it enough that I will probably read book #2 THE WICKED KING.

Jude is a mortal living in the High Court of Faerie. She has lived there with her two sisters since her parents were murdered ten years earlier. Humans are hated by most of the Faerie folk so life there hasn't been easy.

Jude's guardian, also the faerie who murdered her parents, treats her well and encourages her desire to become a knight. He even helps her hone her sword skills. Jude's twin sister Taryn is mostly interested in finding someone to marry and thinks Jude's interest in physical activity is a waste of time.

Jude's fighting talents catch the eye of Prince Dain. He selects her to be one of his spies. Her work for him will provide her with the freedom to come and go and prevents her from coming under the spell of faeries who seek to torment her for being a disgusting human.

Clever thinking and problem solving help Jude discover that things may not be as they seem in Dain's court. At his coronation as king all hell breaks loose, and Jude learns about a plot that could threaten those she cares about most.

Author Holly Black is able to create a fantasy world that grabs readers immediately. There is nonstop action and intrigue with twists and turns that kept me guessing and wanting to read more. THE CRUEL PRINCE trilogy will thrill Black's fans and no doubt earn her some new ones.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

THE TESTING by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing (The Testing Trilogy Series #1)

THE TESTING is compared to HUNGER GAMES by many. It is a dystopian adventure in much the same style.

The planet is mostly a wasteland. Various colonies have survived and each performs a special function to ensure Earth's survival. Young people are selected for The Testing upon graduation from schooling in each of the colonies. These specially chosen individuals report to Tosu City to participate in a series of four tests. Whoever successfully passes the tests will begin studying at the University. It is the hope that these talented young people will play a major role in rebuilding the world.

Cia comes from the Five Lakes Colony. It has been years since any young members of this colony have been selected for The Testing. This year four have been chosen. Cia's father warns her of potential dangers and tells her to beware who she trusts. Heeding her father's warning, Cia begins her time in Tosu City cautiously.

It is soon obvious that intelligence, creative problem solving, and cleverness are necessary to pass the multiple tests each of the young people face. Cia must be brave and often trust only her own instincts as she struggles to earn a coveted place at the University. The tests are challenging and it is soon clear that failure can result in death. Cia's resolve is seriously tested when she witnesses the violent death of one of her friends.

THE TESTING is the first book in the trilogy by author Joelle Charbonneau. The series is definitely one that will interest HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT fans.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

GRAND THEFT HORSE by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin

Grand Theft Horse
In GRAND THEFT HORSE G. Neri writes about his cousin Gail Ruffu and her battle in the courts of California to protect her beloved horse Urgent Envoy.

For as long as Gail could remember, she loved horses. Her dream of training horses to race came true, but once she was involved in the horse racing game, she learned about the often savage treatment of the beautiful animals who lived simply to run. Part owner of Urgent Envoy, she was given free reign to employ her non-violent, drugfree methods to train him. Unfortunately, the other owners wanted to see faster results and insisted that she force him to run even when he was injured. That's when Gail decided to take matters into her own hands.

On Christmas Day Gail "stole" her horse and took him to a hidden stable where she hoped he would have a chance to recover before he had to race again. What followed were years of legal battles and vile threats that led to Gail live out of her van in near poverty, yet she was still able to keep Urgent Envoy hidden and safe from the other owners.

G. Neri's fast-paced narrative and dialogue is brought to life by illustrator Corban Wilkin in this graphic novel that is sure to capture the hearts of horse lovers of any age. Gail Ruffu's heroic efforts to protect Urgent Envoy and champion the cause of humane treatment of racing horses is an inspiration to all.

TIME BOMB by Joelle Charbonneau

Time Bomb

Six high school students have a variety of reasons for being at the school before the official start of the school year. When the bombs start detonating, they are all in danger, but it is soon clear that one of them is responsible for the bombs and more could explode at any time.

Diana is the daughter of a U.S. Senator. Frankie is a popular football player. Tad is a freshman football player with a crush on Frankie. Cas admits she came to school that day with one thing on her mind - to die. Z is the tattooed bad guy with a crappy home life. Rashid is the stereotype of every Muslim seen as a potential terrorist.

As the building begins crumbling around them, they end up helping each other find safe places to wait for the first responders to rescue them. Unfortunately, it is clear as they look out the windows to the grounds around the school, there is no help coming. A brief radio announcement lets them know the bomber is still in the school and the danger of more blasts are keeping their rescuers from entering the school.

Told in alternating voices TIME BOMB by Joelle Charbonneau will keep readers guessing who is responsible. Each character has reason to be a suspect. Who can they trust to make the right decisions? Can they find a way to get out of the school to safety before another bomb goes off?

TIME BOMB is a different take on the school violence theme of many recent YA novels. Full of suspense and fast-paced action, this new release is sure to be a popular read for ages 13 and up.

Friday, January 11, 2019


The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Zoey spends her time taking care of her three siblings, observing her mother's often disturbing relationship with Lenny, and trying to stay under the radar at school. Money is tight and she's learned what it's like to manage when the food stamps aren't enough to keep the refrigerator stocked.

The target of taunts because of her clothes and her trailer park life make it difficult to develop friendships. Zoey has Fuchsia, but ever since an argument between their mothers, they only see each other at school. Fuchsia has her own problems and usually maintains a tough front with little time for Zoey's troubles.

Zoey is used to stern looks from her teachers because doing projects and handing in homework is the last thing on her mind as she juggles to care for two toddlers and a baby while her mother works nights. She's perfected the schedule of picking up two of her siblings at the Head Start bus stop while balancing the baby on her hip and planning how they will avoid Lenny once they get back to the trailer he's been kind enough to share with them. Nearly every day Zoey witnesses the emotional abuse Lenny heaps on her mother as he belittles her and blames her for anything that doesn't go right in his life.

When one of her teachers recognizes Zoey's hidden potential and encourages her to join the after-school debate club, Zoey's world starts looking up. Debate gives her a new view of how her words and perspective can influence others. For the first time Zoey is speaking up and making a difference.

Author Ann Braden takes readers into a world where privilege is unfamiliar and sacrifice is the norm. THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS will open the eyes of readers whose lives are comfortable and provide a voice for those who struggle.

Friday, January 4, 2019

WORDS WE DON'T SAY by K. J. Reilly

Words We Don't Say
Wow! WORDS WE DON'T SAY has amazing characters, spot-on dialogue, and a powerful message. High school junior Joel Higgins is struggling with the recent loss of his best friend Andy. Life just doesn't seem worth living, but Joel keeps keeping on, looking for meaning somewhere.

Following Eli's example, I'm going to make a list of some of the awesome things in this book.

Joel's imperfect, but yet perfect, parents.
Joel's tender love for his younger brother, Jace.
Does God exist? Maybe...
Being two inches shorter than the girl you're crushing on.
Benj, the new kid who may have killed his parents.
The tough, yet kind-hearted Mrs. T at the soup kitchen.
"Stealing" eggs and asparagus.
The silent veteran dubbed Rooster by Joel and Eli.
Hilarious "what-if" conversations in the drivers' ed car.
The seniors pranking Mr. Stanley the drivers' ed instructor.
Banned books.
Endless text messages saved to the draft folder.

I could go on and on because debut author K. J. Reilly grabbed me on the first page and never let go. I didn't want to say goodbye to Joel and his gang. They will be with me for a long time. WORDS WE DON'T SAY is joining my limited list of best books ever!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate

Home of the Brave

Having recently read WISHTREE and being a lover of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, I picked up a copy of one of Katherine Applegate's older books. Published in 2007, HOME OF THE BRAVE is a perfect read for our current state of affairs. Kek is a refugee from Africa. He lost his father and older brother in the fighting there and has no idea if his mother has made it to safety.

Now in America, Kek doesn't understand the language, the food, or the culture. Thrust into the world of a Minnesota winter, Kek sees snow for the first time. He and his cousin Ganwar explore Kek's new surroundings. With the help of his ESL teacher, he begins to understand the language enough to deal with the bullies and make a few friends.

What Kek misses most about Africa is the herd of cattle he helped his father tended. When he is introduced to an old woman who lives on a small farm a bus ride from Kek's new home, he is thrilled to see she has one old cow and a few other stray farm animals. Scratching the cow he names Gol behind the ears gives not only the cow pleasure, but also Kek.

Author Katherine Applegate captures the spirit of the immigrant perfectly. HOME OF THE BRAVE is written in verse making it an easy read with characters that are sure to tug readers' heart strings.