Friday, August 29, 2008


Moxy Maxwell is the worldest biggest procrastinator.

In an earlier review readers learned that she does not love writing thank you notes. In this first of her adventures, readers get to watch as Moxy finds every possible way to avoid reading her summer book assignment - Stuart Little.

Mrs. Maxwell lays down the law and insists that Moxy finish the dreaded book before her big swimming performance later that evening. But Moxy just can't seem to get started. She quickly realizes that the hammock in the backyard would surely be more comfortable than her bedroom, so she heads that direction. Once there she thinks she ought to return to the kitchen for a peach - just the snack she needs to concentrate. Not being able to stop with one peach, she makes another trip back to the kitchen. It's then that she has her best idea - why not plant a peach orchard. It would probably provide enough income to pay for her college education which would be sure to please her mother and also save her from reading some silly book about a mouse.

This little book (less than 100 pages) is a fast and funny read. Moxy's adventures in procrastination will no doubt sound familiar to all of us with that nasty habit of putting things off.

PURGE by Sarah Darer Littman

Janie believed it was under control. What began as just a little something to relieve that "full" feeling after a big meal at a Chinese restaurant, became the focus of her life. Janie can admit now that she is bulimic. What she can't understand and admit is why she has let this disorder consume her.

Perhaps her family is to blame. Her father dotes on her "perfect" older sister. That older sister only pays attention to her own "perfect" wedding plans. Janie's mother not only has a career to attend to, but also that "perfect" wedding to orchestrate.

The boy of her dreams finally asks her out, but after only a few short dates expects her to sacrifice her virginity. Afterward she doesn't feel loved, she just feels like a slut. Embarrassment keeps her from confiding in her real friends which causes hard feelings and separation.

Now after total humiliation at her sister's wedding, Janie finds herself at Golden Slopes, a treatment facility for eating disorders. She is now one of the Barfers waiting in frustration for the Starvers to straggle in for every scheduled meal. In between therapy sessions, she shares her thoughts in a journal. More than anything she wants to go home, but first she must confront her situation and come to terms with the root cause of her constant desire to purge.

Author Sarah Darer Littman brings a fresh voice to this growing problem among teens today. Her story proves how wide-spread the problem of eating disorders has become. Among her cast of characters, readers will hear from males as well as females, the well-to-do as well as the disadvantaged, and even someone well beyond her teen years who has fallen victim to the disease.

Littman highlights the seriousness and the life-threatening effects of eating disorders, but at the same time through humor and the results of positive treatment, provides hope and encouragement. PURGE due out in April 2009 is one you won't want to miss.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham

BEFORE I DIE is the emotional story of Tessa, a sixteen year old facing cancer and the final months of her life. Author Jenny Downham captures the frustration, fear, anger, and determination of Tessa's experience.

It has been four long years of treatments, transfusions, and promising remissions, but now the end is near. How does Tessa want to live her last months? She decides to make a list of the ten things she wants to do before she dies. Number 1 on the list is sex. With the help of her older friend Zoey she crosses off number 1 and moves on to the rest of the list.

Life has become a roller-coaster of emotions, not only for Tessa, but also for her family and friends. Since her diagnosis, her father has dedicated his life to her care. It takes all his energy to keep track of treatment schedules, medications, and online research for possible new cures. Tessa's new approach to "living" her final days has him anxious and worried. Each new adventure on her list leaves her weaker, and her recovery time lengthens. But even after setbacks, Tessa is determined to experience as much as possible.

Although some of the items on her list seem fool-hardy at best, Tessa learns much about the truth of life. Her wreckless early sexual encounter is followed by a later relationship that allows her to experience true love and total commitment. She is able to understand and appreciate all that has been special about her short life.

Readers will be quickly drawn into Tessa's world. They may shake their heads at some of her choices, but they will also recognize what drives her to live as much as she can. Anyone who tries to imagine how they would spend their remaining days, if those days were numbered, will not judge Tessa, but most likely admire her strength and courage. I know I certainly did.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


All who hate writing the dreaded "thank you" note will love Moxy Maxwell and her wacky take on the subject. Peggy Gifford's new book is a great pick for the 9-12 age group.

Moxy and her twin brother Mark are excited about their upcoming trip to Hollywood. They are going to visit their father who is considered to be a "big mover and shaker" in the Hollywood scene. They haven't seen him in three years, a fact that greatly distresses their mother. That's sort of what has Moxy confused. Her mother wants them to make this important visit, but at the same time, she is insisting that Moxy write all her Christmas thank yous in one day before she leaves.

Thank you notes seem incredibly pointless to Moxy. Since Granny George lives with them, she sees her every day, but when Moxy tells Granny thank you verbally, her mother says she will still need to write a thank you note. She says it is the polite thing to do. So Moxy starts the tedious process, but she soon begins to get ideas about ways to make the job easier.

Some of those time-saving ways involve her little sister Pansy, an off-limits, brand-new copy machine her step-father got for Christmas, a broken La-Z-Boy chair, and a can of gold spray paint. Moxy's creative ideas wreck havoc on the entire household, and surprisingly don't accomplishment much in the way of completed thank you notes.

Readers will have great fun observing Moxy's crazy schemes and shortcuts. Just as most of us feel, her ideas seem like a good idea at the time, but good ideas don't always come with good results. After reading Moxy's thank you note adventure, I'm definitely going to get a copy of her other book, MOXY MAXWELL DOES NOT LOVE STUART LITTLE.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

TWEAKED by Katherine Holubitsky

TWEAKED is a powerful book about addiction, its wide-ranging effects, and the toll it takes on all those it touches.

Gordie's older brother is addicted to crystal meth. He has watched his brother go from a normal teen to a strung out junkie. At first Gordie was the only one in the family to recognize the symptoms, but soon everyone had fallen victim to Chase's habit.

Gordie watched as Chase skipped class to get high. Then his grades tanked and he dropped out. He sold or pawned everything he had, and then he started stealing from their parents and "borrowing" from Gordie. When crimes outside the family ended in Chase's arrest, things began to sink in for their parents.

Now the unthinkable has happened. Chase brutally attacks a meter reader - a young man with a wife and child. The man is in intensive care hooked up to machines. If he dies, Chase will be charged with murder. All Gordie can hope is that this will turn things around for Chase. Court ordered detox should help him cleanup his act so he can return to school and some sort of normal life. But that's not the story with crystal meth. Addiction is often too powerful to beat.

TWEAKED is a hard-hitting story of the power of a very popular drug. Katherine Holubitsky tells a truthful and emotional story. Readers will sympathize with Gordie and marvel that he can hold on to his own values as he watches his brother self-destruct. Although the novel is filled with harsh details, Holubitsky is able to communicate her story without using the vulgar street language of the drug scene. By doing so, younger readers, even some tweens, could read and learn from this powerful book.

BIG GUY by Robin Stevenson

Derek is seventeen. He has dropped out of school and is working in a nursing home. He lives alone with his less-than-supportive father who looks down on everything in Derek's life. Derek can't even imagine what his father would do if he knew the truth - Derek is gay.

Recently, Derek has been exchanging email with Ethan. They have established a real friendship over the internet. In fact the friendship has blossomed into much more, at least for Derek. There's a problem, though. Derek sent Ethan a picture that doesn't really resemble the Derek of today. It was taken some time ago before Derek's mother left to join a cult. He has put on some extra weight since the picture was taken, and now Ethan has just broken the news that he wants to meet in person. Should he tell the truth or break things off?

This sounds like a fairly shallow storyline, but much more is revealed about Derek's struggle to accept his unforgiving father, his absent mother, and himself. BIG GUY is a fast read that should appeal to any reader looking for a story of self-acceptance and the determination to carry on.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

MIDDLE ROW by Sylvia Olsen

The cover pic should be enough to interest most YA readers, however, adults, don't panic, the subject matter is quite tame.

Vince and Raedawn have been riding the same bus to school their entire lives. There is a social seating heirarchy involved in most bus riding, and theirs is no exception. There are the back seat riders - usually the cool kids, and the front seat riders - usually the less secure or nerdy type. The middle rows can be easily ignored and that is just the problem when Dune suddenly stops riding the bus. There are only two people who even notice that the quiet, loner has not gotten on the bus since the first day of school, and they also seem to be the only ones concerned.

Raedawn convinces Vince that something needs to be done. They start asking questions - the bus driver, the school counselor, and then the administration. No one knows anything and the tendency is to brush the whole issue under the rug. Finally Raedawn enlists the help of her Uncle Dave, and long hidden secrets begin to emerge.

MIDDLE ROW provides a mystery that unfolds at a fast pace in this 100 page book. Readers will easily become intrigued by the missing Dune, as well as the personal stories connected to Vince, Raedawn, and Uncle Dave. An added criminal element also helps hold the attention of most readers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

PAIN & WASTINGS by Carrie Mac

Ethan Mingus Kirby was born to a mother whose life became filled with heroine, poverty, and prostitution. They lived in the ghetto neighborhood at Main and Hastings, nicknamed Pain and Wastings. At the tender age of six, Ethan witnessed his mother's brutal murder.

This short novel picks up after Ethan has spent years in numerous foster homes and developed a bitter attitude toward life in general. He has a run-in with the law and is given the choice of a five shift ride-along with the local paramedics or a stint in juvie. Ethan chooses the paramedic adventure never dreaming that he will be reliving that horrible time in his past when his mother died.

One of the high interest, lower reading level series by Orca Publishing, Pain & Wastings is one young man's emotional journey into the past to deal with his demons. It is hoped that by dealing with the issues of the past he can build a more successful future.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

LOCKDOWN by Diane Tullson

LOCKDOWN by Diane Tullson is about a situation that is unfortunately becoming all too common today - school shootings. Josh is the kid who is different. He's the kid who blends in. He is also the kid who stutters and is the butt of frequent jokes. One day it is all too much and he snaps.

Adam tells Josh's story. They worked together in class once, and Adam recognizes the real Josh. When it becomes obvious that Josh is the gunman terrorizing the school, Adam attempts to intervene.

Although I would have appreciated a bit more plot development, this short novel (103 pgs.) highlights the issues of bullying and teasing and the dramatic and often tragic results. Those readers looking for a quick read about a current problem will find LOCKDOWN worth their time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins is Survivor with a twist. It is a future version of North America, and things have changed. For most life is difficult. Food is scarce and times are hard. No one knows this better than Katniss Everdeen.

Since her father's tragic death in a coal mine explosion, Katniss has been responsible for the health and welfare of her mother and younger sister, Prim. She supplements their meager food supply by illegal hunting in a restricted area known as the Meadow. By trading and selling some of what she and her friend Gale kill, her family holds off starvation. However, if she thought life was rough, it is about to get even worse.

The twelve districts that make up the country are about to celebrate an annual event called the Reaping. It has become tradition that every year at a special gathering the names of two teens (one male and one female) are drawn, and those two are given the honor of representing their district at the Hunger Games. To call it an honor, however, is misleading. The Hunger Games are a fight to the death televised for the viewing entertainment of the nation.

At the Reaping Katniss is horrified when her little sister's name is drawn. To protect Prim, Katniss rushes to the podium to volunteer as her replacement. The next thing she knows, she is on her way to the Capitol most likely to die for her district.

What follows will keep readers turning pages at an astonishing pace. Along with great action and amazing twists, the plot captures the horrors of a society gone horribly wrong. The scary thing is, that society is at times not much different than our own. THE HUNGER GAMES is sure to score top ratings with readers everywhere.

Monday, August 11, 2008

13: A NOVEL by Jason Roberts Brown & Dan Elish

Evan's life is out-of-control. After his father falls in love with a young flight attendant, Evan's mother decides to leave New York City and move in with an old college friend. That's how he finds himself in Appleton, Indiana, a town that barely has a Main Street.

To make matters worse, Evan will soon be turning 13, and as a young Jewish boy, he should be preparing for his bar mitzvah. His mother wants things to be as normal as possible so she sets about finding a rabbi and planning the big event. It doesn't take a genius to guess that there isn't a single Jew in Appleton, Indiana. Evan's mom finds Rabbi Weiner on the internet. He is an old guy with stinky breath and not a lot of patience.

Spending every afternoon with Rabbi Weiner doesn't help Evan make friends and settle into Indiana life before school starts. However, he does get lucky and meets the girl next door. She isn't exactly his ideal vision of a first new friend, but it is tough to be picky when you are new in town. Patrice likes to read and watch old black and white movies. It doesn't take Evan long to realize she isn't part of the popular crowd. Evan does eventually meet the popular kids, but they don't turn out to be the friends he hoped for.

Evan faces his challenges with a sense of humor that will have readers laughing aloud. They will also cheer for him and feel for him as he falls in and out of the popular crowd. The Brown/Elish writing team has also created a musical titled 13. If it is even half as funny as this book, it should be a hit.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR: Keeper of the Grail Bk. #1 by Michael P. Spradlin

Tristan is fifteen. An orphan raised by a group of monks, he never knew his parents or anything of his history. Now he is faced with taking his vows and remaining at the monastery forever or finding his true calling elsewhere. The decision is made for him one day with the arrival of a group of men on horseback.

A regiment of the Knights of the Templar come to the monastery seeking a place to rest themselves and their horses. Tristan is sent to the stables to tend to the horses and that task turns his life upsidedown. One of the knights, Sir Thomas, approaches Tristan with an offer. He has recently lost his personal squire and is in search of a replacement. Seeing how skillfully Tristan handles the horses, he invites the boy to join the regiment as his squire.

Although Tristan is reluctant to leave the monks and the only place he has ever called home, he recognizes this as the chance of a lifetime and accepts the position. Suddenly he finds himself headed off with some of the world's most famous knights to fight in the Crusades.

THE YOUNGEST TEMPLAR: Keeper of the Grail is the beginning of a new series by Michael P. Spradlin. Readers might think that an adventure set in 1191 would be dry, historical reading, but in this case those readers would be totally wrong. Tristan's adventures are anything but dry. Though they may be historical at times, they are packed with one exciting event after another. Imagine the excitement of a young boy actually meeting the king, King Richard the Lionheart, and learning that he is about to join him in battle. What follows takes Tristan from England to the Holy Land into a battle to save the city of Acre. There are bloody battles with plenty of flying arrows and clashing broad swords as the knights attempt to defend the King's lands. In the middle of all the fighting, Tristan is shocked to discover he is being given the responsibility of guarding the most valuable item imaginable - the Holy Grail.

This new series is sure to grab the attention of middle grade and teen readers. They will speed through this first book and be anxiously awaiting the second due out next fall.

Friday, August 8, 2008

ELEPHANT RUN by Roland Smith

ELEPHANT RUN is filled with Roland Smith's usual action and adventure. It is set in Burma near the end of World War II. Nick Freestone lives in England with his mother and step-father. During a bombing their apartment is destroyed, and Nick's mother fearful of his safety, decides to send Nick to live with his father on a teakwood plantation in Burma. That's when the adventure truly begins.

Nick was born on the Burma plantation, but left when his mother and father separated. It's been more than 10 years since he has been in his old home. Anxious to return and see his father, he is also excited to see the elephants. They are trained and handled by the Burmese men to move the timber on the plantation.

Once Nick arrives, he only gets to spend a few days with his father. He barely gets to meet the local residents of the nearby elephant village before the Japanese capture the plantation and take his father and many of the village men as prisoners.

What follows is Nick's struggle to survive in the jungle and then back on the plantation as a slave for the Japanese. He works in the garden by day and is locked up in his old nursery by night. With the help of an old elephant handler (a mahout), he learns about the secret passages in the main house and works to plan his escape.

Roland Smith is the author of wonderful adventure books for ages 12 and up. Among them are THUNDER CAVE, JAGUAR, THE LAST LOBO, and SASQUATCH. His characters are definitely not couch potatoes; instead they take readers on action-packed journeys around the world.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

BREAKING DAWN by Stephenie Meyer

There already are, and there will no doubt be even more, reviews of BREAKING DAWN so I will offer just a few thoughts.

The TWILIGHT saga was a fun ride. It brought more than the usual drama, romance, and adventure to the vampire genre. It made serious readers out of many reluctant teens and young adults. I say serious readers because picking up not one, but four volumes the size of the TWILIGHT books is digging into some serious wordage. It attracted the attention of adults wanting to know what the excitement was all about, and it made many of them fans as well. It brought another "regular" person into author fame. Stephenie Meyer stayed humble and genuine despite her rapid rise to fame.

As a reader and lover of realistic fiction, I found enough in the series to carry me to the bookstore to purchase each additional book. BREAKING DAWN satisfied me in the end. After the time invested in reading Bella's tale, I'm certainly glad there was a "happily ever after" conclusion. Meyer's brand of vampire deserves respect and the right to a peaceful existence in the world. Overall, I'm glad I read the series, and I'm glad it is out there for others to enjoy.

Monday, August 4, 2008


There is a new contest over at The PageFlipper. You can win a cool collection of bookmarks courtesy of some YA authors. It's easy to enter. Just stop by her blog and add a comment. Doesn't get much easier than that!

Also, coming soon right here on The Roost - a review of BREAKING DAWN by Stephenie Meyer.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Wow! Just think, I'm quietly blogging along and BAM! I get nominated for Brillante Weblog. Who would have thought?! Thanks Kyle over at Book Review Maniac. I'll do my best to fulfill the requirements.

Here is what to do when you get nominated.

1)Put the logo on your blog. (What an honor!)

2)Add a link to the person who awarded you the nomination.

3)Nominate at least seven other blogs.

4)Add links to those blogs on your blog.

5)Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.
I am nominating these terrific blogs:

Candy Cana - She is a fellow reviewer for

Cybils Book Awards - This was the blog where I learned all this blogging was going on.

Jessica Burkhart's Blog - She's only 21 but has been in the blogging biz for quite some time.

Boys Blogging Books - Who says boys don't read, huh?

Karin's Book Bytes - Karin is a librarian/media diva with a passion for YA books.

The Compulsive Reader - Found this blog one day when following links from here to there. She's been on a roll with some great vampire stuff lately.

Bookburger - This blog was one of my favs, but it hasn't been very active lately. I'm hoping a nomination will get them posting again.

Well, it's been a pleasure. I can't wait to see who is nominated next.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Looking for vampires, werepersons who shape-shift into not just wolves, but also armadillos, cats, and vultures, then grab yourself a copy of TANTALIZE by Cynthia Leitich Smith. She has created a vampire world with more twists and turns than a treacherous mountain road.

Meet Quincie Morris. After the death of her parents, Quincie finds herself under the guardianship of her Uncle Davidson who is not much older than she is. It has fallen upon the two of them to run the family business - an Italian restaurant called Sanguini's. In an effort to revitalize the restaurant, Uncle D. has the idea that they should transform into a theme establishment with a focus of the dark side - vampires.

As the story begins, Quincie is struggling with her lifelong attraction to Kieren. Things have been difficult since Kieren is half-wereperson and his parents have been pressuring him to leave the Austin area and seek acceptance in a wolf pack of his own. Quincie, without much of a family of her own, doesn't understand why a family would go to such great lengths to push a loved member out into the world so permanently.

There is also the pressure of remodeling and restaffing the restaurant. As the deadline for reopening approaches, Quincie and her uncle are thrown into a sad and desperate situation when their chef and dear family friend is found murdered in the restaurant kitchen. Extensive police questioning makes everyone nervous but doesn't produce much in the way of evidence. Now in addition to mourning the loss of their friend, they are faced with the frustrating search for a new chef. And not just any chef, but one with the knowledge and expertise to produce a unique menu for their vampire-inspired theme.

Smith not only "tantalizes" the characters in her tale, but also the readers. Just when you think you have an idea about who might be a murder suspect, she pulls a fast one and points suspicion in a different direction. Readers who become hooked on TANTALIZE will be happy to learn that a second book is underway - ETERNAL. It can't show up in bookstores soon enough.

Friday, August 1, 2008


A big thank you to one of the incoming fifth graders in my middle school for introducing my to the DEAR DUMB DIARY series. After reading the book and loving it, she and her mom kindly donated it to my classroom. I read it this afternoon and fell in love as well. It is the female answer to the currently popular DIARY OF A WIMPY KID series.

Jamie Kelly attends Mackerel Middle School. She opens her diary with some serious threats to anyone's personal safety if they read these secret, sacred pages. Fortunately, most folks who have the giddy pleasure of actually holding someone else's private diary in their hot little hands will risk threats of physical harm and dive right in. (Trust me, you won't be disappointed.)

Jamie's diary is filled with typical adolescent troubles - parent issues, teacher and grade problems, dreaded cafeteria food, and the hated but ever popular classmate. These may be common concerns, but Jamie's view of the world is fantastic. She is a bit warped and twisted and not above doing most anything to get life to go her way.

One of my favorite parts is when Jamie complains about her mother's numerous "Food Crimes." Let me just give you a sample. "Last night she made a casserole with 147 ingredients, and it still tasted bad. It's hard to believe that out of 147 ingredients, not one of them tasted good. Of course I ate it anyway. If you don't eat it, Mom gives you the speech on hard work and how the hungry children in Wheretheheckistan would just love her casserole. It seems to me the kids in Wheretheheckistan have enough problems without dumping Mom's casserole on them, too."

It is not just Jamie's quirky take on things that will capture reader interest, but also the terrific illustrations. She includes her own visual take on whatever she happens to describe in her daily entries. The whole thing is a hoot and a half! Thanks again for the introduction to the DEAR DUMB DIARY books.