Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HIT THE ROAD, MANNY by Christian Burch

Are you ready to take a trip with a mom, a dad, four kids, and one manny (a male nanny)? If you are, you are in for one heck of a ride.

Keats Dalinger is having a birthday. He's not quite sure what to think when his father announces his birthday surprise - a cross-country trip in a rented RV. They are headed for LasVegas.

Keats shares this hilarious adventure which includes his parents, his older sisters India and Lulu, his younger sister Belly, and their live-in caregiver "the manny." (Readers may be familiar with the manny from a previous book called THE MANNY FILES.) Their adventures include the Wizard of Oz Museum, the excitement of staying at a hotel with an indoor/outdoor pool, being stopped by the police, a four-day stay at the manny's parents' farm where they witness the birth of a calf, plus much, much more.

Suggested cataloging is under the topics of family life, automobile travel, self-acceptance, nannies, brothers and sisters, and homosexuality. It is difficult to describe the content of this wonderful adventure. Practically every paragraph has laugh-out-loud humor involving some aspect of this weird and wacky family. Anyone that has vacationed with relatives will no doubt find some experiences similar to their own. HIT THE ROAD, MANNY will have readers laughing and grinning from the first page until the last.

FREE READING ... download PRIVATE by Kate Brian

Are you interested in reading PRIVATE by Kate Brian? Stop by to download the entire book. It's a pretty cool idea - let people download and read the first book in a series for free and then maybe they'll go out and buy the rest.

Monday, December 29, 2008

THE ICE CREAM CON by Jimmy Docherty

THE ICE CREAM CON is a rolicking adventure set in a Scottish housing project. Jake Drake is tired of the criminal element in his neighborhood. Growing up disadvantaged is hard enough and Jake is sick of having a bunch of louts bullying him for his grandmother's grocery money every time he heads to the market.

Jake along with his buddies decide to take matters into their own hands. It is agreed that Cortesi the local "godfather" needs some competition. Their answer is the Big Baresi. By creating this powerful but imaginary crime boss, they hope to fight back against the injustice present in their underprivileged neighborhood.

News of the Big Baresi travels quickly and strikes fear in the hearts of many. The problem is that the fictious character may be more real than they think, and controlling the thing they have created may become more than they can handle.

THE ICE CREAM CON is an action-packed story filled with determined kids, a farting grandmother, cold-hearted criminals, and wild car chases. Written for the 9-12 age group, it offers a fun alternative to the many fantasy offerings of late.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

RES JUDICATA by Vicki Grant

Cyril MacIntyre is furious at this mother, Andy. That's not unusual. She is always doing things the infuriate Cyril. She is careless, competitive, cheap, and she's a constant worrywart, and she is forever involving Cyril in her crazy legal cases. Andy is an overzealous attorney who gets wrapped up with some of the most bizarre cases and weird clients, and somehow Cyril ends up helping her fight her courtroom battles.

Andy's most recent case has her defending a local college custodian. Newspaper stories first heralded Chuck Dunkirk as a hero, but his attempt to save the life of a famous scientist was quickly turned into an accusation of murder. It seems that Chuck was present when a small laboratory fire ignited, and when he came to the scientist's rescue by throwing a substance known as Power Powder in an attempt to put out the blaze, the opposite happened resulting in an explosion that killed the poor man. Now the scientist's widow is pressing murder charges. Cyril's mother has taken the case.

Having helped with so many previous cases has given Cyril a certain knack for recognizing when things don't look quite right. That combined with the fact he has decided to use this case as the subject for a school project, causes Cyril to examine the details of the case even closer, and he soon begins to question the true identity of Chuck Dunkirk. There are certain facts that don't quite add up.

RES JUDICATA, which in legal terminology means "the thing has been decided" is filled with quirky characters and great detective work. Cyril's off-beat life provides a colorful backdrop for the action, and readers will be kept on their toes right up until the end. Cyril's adventures can also be enjoyed in another novel by Vicki Grant called QUID PRO QUO.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SHIFT by Jennifer Bradbury

Chris and Win have convinced their parents that after graduation they should have a summer of adventure. They will both be starting college at different universities in the fall, and as best friends they have a plan to bike cross-country from West Virginia to Seattle.

If they were honest, their reasons for the trip may be a bit different. Chris's mother has made it perfectly clear that she thinks a summer job to earn college money is what he should really be doing. When he breaks the news of the trip to his parents, his dad takes his side and encourages the idea over protests from his wife. Chris later learns that his father once had similar plans and perhaps is using this adventure to live a little through his son.

Win, however, doesn't have the backing of such a supportive family. When he announces their plan, his father barely gives him a glance and instead says Win shouldn't plan on being rescued if he gets tired or in trouble. On the actual day of departure, his mother is busy catching a plane for a trip of her own. Win's privileged background has often made him crass and wreckless, but one thing is certain - he can't wait to put distance between himself and his self-absorbed parents.

The trip is truly an adventure of a lifetime, and the young men immediately begin gathering tales they will tell for years to come. But as they travel further, Chris finds things that puzzle him about his long-time friend. There's the lack of contact with his folks back home, his vagueness about the uncle they will be visiting once they reach Seattle, and the huge wad of cash that Chris stumbles across in Win's pack.

The mystery only deepens when within a day's ride of the west coast, the guys have a falling out over a coyote and flat tire. Win rides on leaving Chris to change his flat. That's the last Chris sees of his friend. He finishes the trip alone and returns to West Virginia and then school in Atlanta. He figures Win has done the same until the day an FBI agent arrives at Chris's dorm asking all sorts of questions.

Debut author Jennifer Bradbury has created a mystery that will grab readers on the first page and won't let go until the last. With vivid chatacters and plenty of plot twists and turns, Bradbury shows a talent that promises to bring the YA world many fantastic books in the years to come.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Run! Don't walk! to your nearest bookstore and pre-order this book. ABSOLUTELY MAYBE is fantastic!

Maybelline, "Maybe" to her friends, is living above her mother's Charm School. She is surrounded by glamour and future pageant hopefuls, but she feels anything but glamorous. Depending on the day, Maybe's hair color might be red, green, or blue thanks to endless boxes of unsweetened jello. Her baggy black T-shirts, her goth eyeliner, and dark lipstick have her mother frantic. That is when her mother isn't busy trawling for her next husband.

Maybe's best friends, Ted and Hollywood, are the only things that keep her going. Their support helps her tolerate her mother's boyfriends turned step-fathers until the most recent, Jake, makes an attempt to turn Maybe into more than an innocent step-daughter. When her mother sides with her pervert husband-to-be, Maybe decides it is time to follow through on her life-long dream to find her mysterious biological father. Ted and Hollywood join in the adventure as they head to L.A. in search of all their dreams.

Their arrival in California is followed by terrific opportunities for Ted and Hollywood, but not so much for Maybe. After weeks of living homeless, she finally searches out her mother's husband 2/4, the only one who made Maybe feel anyone ever cared for her. At least now she has a place to call home while she continues her search for the father she never knew.

What makes this an excellent read is the talent of author Lisa Yee. Her characters draw readers right into their lives. You'll root for some and curse others, but no matter what, they'll make you anxious to turn to the next page and sad when you arrive at the last one. I can only hope that Maybe returns someday to let readers know about the next chapter in her awesome life.

Monday, December 22, 2008

SPIRAL by K.L. Denman

Abby's life has been derailed by a tragic accident. It started as a part-time job, then a seemingly innocent request to change a burnt-out lightbulb, and then a fall in unsafe working conditions. A broken back has left Abby a paraplegic.

The world around her has changed. Her father picks her up from the hospital in an ugly beige mini-van, and she finds out he traded in his super-hot Mustang for this handicap equipped ride. When she gets home there's an obscene ramp built right over top of her mother's prized herb garden, and her upstairs room has been relocated to the den off the kitchen. Everyone tries to make the best of the awful circumstances, but Abby doesn't feel much like living anymore.

A surprise visit from Jim, another accident victim she met in rehab, adds some unexpected excitement in Abby's life. Jim offers her a sort of escape when he introduces her to cocaine. She hesitates but then decides a little might help fill the emptiness and frustration she experiences on a daily basis. It does make those feelings disappear, but soon it takes more and more of the cocaine to even begin to take the edge off. Abby's new world explodes when her younger brother catches her and calls in her mom and dad.

The next thing Abby realizes she is living at Spiral, an isolated treatment center miles from home. As the only live-in resident of the center, Abby learns she has been signed up for a six month course of treatment. Can it get any worse or can a place like Spiral have the answer for someone like her?

At just over 100 pages, SPIRAL by K. L. Denman, tells the story of one girl's plunge into life with a severe physical disability. Her reaction to her circumstances is not a surprise, but many might be surprised about where she finds help and a way to cope with the life changes she faces.

THIS FULL HOUSE by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Finally the conclusion of the MAKE LEMONADE trilogy by Virginia Euwer Wolff will be on store shelves in February of 09. It has been 15 years since the first book about LaVaughn and Jolly. Having just finished the ARC, I can say it was worth the wait.

High school student LaVaughn and single mother Jolly first met in MAKE LEMONADE. LaVaughn reluctantly took on the job of babysitter to Jolly's two young children. Watching Jolly struggle as a single, teen mother makes LaVaughn realize the importance of getting an education and making something of herself. What follows in the trilogy is TRUE BELIEVER and even more experience watching and helping Jolly make ends meet for her little family. THIS FULL HOUSE provides a satisfying conclusion and a hopeful future for both LaVaughn and Jolly.

An interest in science and medicine along with a determination to attend college gives LaVaughn the encouragement to apply for a program designed to give girls like her a unique opportunity. The program, WIMS - Women in Medical Science, is run by Dr. Moore. She has dedicated her life to medicine and wants to offer other girls the chance to thrive and succeed as well. Every Tuesday and Wednesday LaVaughn has the privilege of attending lectures and working in labs to study and learn the science that has always fascinated her.

LaVaughn's life is filled with the WIMS classes, her own final high school classes, a job in the hospital laundry, watching Jolly's two kids while Jolly studies for her G.E.D., and juggling anything else that comes her way. With the encouragement of those around her, LaVaughn is beginning to think college might actually be in her future. However, the constant desire to help her friend Jolly find the answers to her mysterious past are about to possibly derail the future she has fought so hard to plan. LaVaughn thinks she might have found the long missing mother Jolly so desperately needs and wants in her life.

Those readers who have yet to discover this remarkable trilogy should stop by the library or bookstore and get their hands on a copy of MAKE LEMONADE. Meeting LaVaughn and Jolly in that first book will bring readers back until they reach the conclusion in THIS FULL HOUSE. It was definitely a story worth waiting for.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


FAR FROM YOU release celebration and contest!

Lisa Schroeder, author of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, is celebrating the release of her upcoming YA novel, FAR FROM YOU, and hosting a contest with LOTS of great prizes!For three days leading up to the book's release date of December 23rd, you can watch VLOGs and hear some excerpts read from the book.

The VLOG schedule is as follows:

Sunday, December 21st – Liv's Book Reviews -

Monday, December 22nd – What Vanessa Reads -

Tuesday, December 23rd – Lisa Schroeder, author - AND

Help spread the word, and you might win a fabulous prize!Copy and paste THIS entire blog entry into your blog between now and December 21st, then come back to Lisa's blog at either Livejournal OR Myspace and leave a comment with the link to your blog and you will get TWO enteries to win a number of prizes.Wondering what you might win?
Here is the list (there will be multiple winners):~

An Advanced Review Copy of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, by Carrie Ryan~

An Advanced Review Copy of SOMETHING, MAYBE, by Elizabeth Scott~

Young adult novel GIRL, HERO by Carrie Jones~

Young adult novel, THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD by Donna Freitas~

Young adult novel, UGLIES by Scott Westerfield~

Pair of YA fairy tale retellings by Cameron Dokey (BELLE and BEFORE MIDNIGHT)~

TWILIGHT movie soundtrack~

$15.00 Barnes and Noble gift card along with some Harry & David's chocolate moose munch~

And of course, a signed copy of FAR FROM YOU.

For more chances to win, watch one or all of the VLOGs and leave a comment on that vlogger's page, and you get another entry. That means if you post the schedule on your blog AND comment on all three VLOGs, you can have FIVE entries for the contest!

A live drawing with winners announced will be done by Lisa Thursday morning, December 24th, in a special holiday VLOG.

Friday, December 19, 2008

BURN by Suzanne Phillips

Cameron Grady never imagined high school would be such torture. Other than a personal interest in running, he's never been much of an athlete. He's smaller than the average freshman, and that along with his long hair and keep-to-himself attitude have made him the target of abuse. Rich Patterson and his jock buddies are making it their daily job to ridicule Cameron with verbal abuse and physical assaults.

Cameron knows the horrors of domestic violence thanks to an abusive father. He and his younger brother Robbie are thankful that their mother finally packed them up and left her cruel husband. Talking to her about his school situation though is difficult. She's busy with work and trying to make her relationship with Randy a local cop work out. He knows she loves him and his brother, but telling her what he suffers daily at the hands of bullies is not something he is able to do.

The constant torture reaches a peak the day Patterson and his buddies corner Cameron in the locker room. Naked and defenseless, he is savagely beaten, and the insult continues when he is able to drag himself to his next class in the computer lab, only to discover pornographic pictures featuring his humiliation are being broadcast throughout the school. It is more than Cameron is willing to take.

Running releases some of the built up pressure, but he only finds true relief in the presence of fire. First it's lighting matches and letting them burn to his fingertips, but after a while the feeling of relief only comes with more dangerous stunts. After the locker room incident Cameron finds his inner "firebug" is almost out of control. Unfortunately the thrill he gets from his brush with danger inspires him to plan revenge against his tormentors.

BURN gives readers an inside look into the horrors of bullying. Author Suzanne Phillips portrays not only the victim, but also the sad reality that many victims suffer while observers of the violence remain mute or simply choose not to notice or admit that bullying exists. BURN is a powerful story that will hopefully speak to a growing problem in today's classrooms and school yards.

Monday, December 15, 2008

PLAIN TRUTH by Jodi Picoult

Every once in a while I slip off the YA wagon and read a "grown-up" book. This time the call of Jodi Picoult was one I couldn't resist. I've read several of her books, and I'm glad to add PLAIN TRUTH to that list.

Katie Fisher, a young 18 year old Amish girl, and Ellie Hathaway, a hard-core defense attorney, find their lives joined together by the possibility of a terrible crime. Young Katie is unmarried and pregnant; not something one usually associates with an Amish girl. Having hidden her pregnancy, Katie goes into early labor and heads toward the family barn where she gives birth to a premature baby boy. The following morning the dead baby is found wrapped in a shirt and hidden under the hay.

Ellie Hathaway stumbles onto the case while visiting her aunt. A new case, especially this one, is not what she is looking for at the moment, but as a distant relative of the accused girl, she agrees to take the case. The circumstances of having an Amish client in what they refer to as an "English" courtroom requires bending some rules and sort of inventing some new ones. Ellie finds herself living with the Fisher family and getting a firsthand experience with Amish life.

In typical Picoult fashion, this novel unfolds quickly and provides readers with many twists and turns. She masterfully paints a picture of Amish life in contrast to the world as viewed by the American court system. I was fascinated by this different life I've only glimpsed when travelling through parts of southern Michigan and northern Indiana. Picoult offers heartwarming relationships and heartwrenching drama in PLAIN TRUTH. Although I review this as a "grown-up" book, it certainly has a place as a reading selection in any high school collection.

Friday, December 12, 2008


It is 3:47 A.M. in Palmville, California, and there has just been an earthquake. Portia is used to that sort of thing, but it still comes as a surprise when it happens at night. Freddy Fred Frederick, Portia's cat never seems to get used to the rock and roll of earthquakes. His reaction is to hide under Portia's bed, and even tasty treats used a bribes won't lure him from the safety of his hiding place.

Portia is surprised when her mother wakes her later that morning. She had been dreaming of far-away places and the father she never really knew. When she hears school has been cancelled due to the earthquake, she has time to contemplate this most recent dream of her wandering father. Portia focuses on the unique quality of her dreams. Her sleeping mind invents amazing adventures and imagines her father as a mysterious detective. Each dream places him in some new location and Portia receives "dream postcards" with mysterious and unreadable messages. More than anything, Portia would like to know about her absent father, but earthquake damage requires her immediate attention.

Since there is no school, she is drafted by her mother to help clean up the family business. Indigo, Portia's mother, owns and runs a health food cafe called Contentment or The Tent. It has sustained considerable damage from the quake and its aftershocks. While helping to clean Indigo's office, Portia finds a possible clue to the mystery of her father. The clue gives her the courage she needs to begin a serious search to locate him.

Readers of PORTIA'S ULTRA MYSTERIOUS DOUBLE LIFE are in for a treat. Portia's tale is cleverly told with humorous twists and turns. Quirky characters fill the pages as the community of Palmville attempts to make their earthquake ravaged town beautiful again. The community effort is inspiration for Portia to begin the adventure unraveling the mysteries of her missing parent. Young teens will find much to like about Portia and her situation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER by Sally Nicholls

A big thank you to one of my 8th grade students for bringing this book to my attention. She told me it was excellent, and I do agree.

WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER tells the story of the last 4 months in the life of eleven year old Sam McQueen. Sam was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of six. He successfully battled the disease twice, but this third bout will be his last. Now at home and taking drugs, not to cure the disease, but only to gain him some extra time, he decides to write his story.

With the help of Felix, another terminally ill young boy, Sam puts his thoughts and feelings on paper. He details his daily activities, his frustrations with his illness, and the many unanswered questions he has about the end. He makes a list of what he would like to do before he dies, including things like "be a teenager", "ride in an airship", and "go up down-escalators and down up-escalators."

Sam's straight-forward approach to his situation and those connected with his life provide an emotional, yet inspiring story. There are humorous moments and heart-wrenching times as Sam lives his remaining days with both amazing curiosity and humble dignity. It is a powerful story I'm glad I didn't miss.

HURT GO HAPPY by Ginny Rorby

HURT GO HAPPY is the story of a young deaf girl and her struggle to adjust to the hearing world around her. Her story combined, with a grumpy old scientist and a rambunctious chimp, make for a book that is sure to be successful with readers both young and old.

Joey lost her hearing at the age of six. Things haven't been easy for her since her communication with others is limited to lip-reading which isn't as easy as it might seem. She is not able to understand her little brother or even her step-father who wears a drooping mustache. Joey's mother is her only real connection with the world, and she refuses to allow Joey to learn sign language because she believes it will draw attention to her disability. School is a struggle most days, and Joey looks forward to returning to the safety of her family and the nature surrounding her country home.

One afternoon while hunting for mushrooms, Joey stumbles onto the property of Dr. Charlie Mansell. At first the grouchy old man orders her off his land, but then he recognizes her disability and invites her into his home. Charlie reveals that he was raised by deaf parents, and he is shocked to learn that Joey has not been allowed to learn American Sign Language. She forms a special friendship with Charlie and the chimp he rescued from the horrors of a science lab. The scientist and the chimp work together to teach Joey how to sign.

Complications arise when Joey's mother finds out about the secret lessons. Their mother/daughter relationship begins to crumble as Joey asserts her independence and demands that she be allowed to continue with her new relationships. The mysterious cause of Joey's hearing loss seems to be the motivation as her mother continues to object to the use of sign language. Charlie is insistent that Joey cannot hope to live a normal, productive life without it.

Ginny Rorby has created an emotional and touching story with likeable human characters and one fun-loving chimpanzee. Readers will be entertained as well as educated about life with a disability and the cruelty of animal testing.

Sunday, December 7, 2008



These are the books the 8th graders think would make the best holiday gifts.

TWILIGHT SAGA by Stephenie Meyer

DEATH'S SHADOW (latest book in the Demonata series) by Darren Shan

HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins (and we wish she would hurry with the second book)

RUNNER by Carl Deuker


UNINVITED by Amanda Marrone


LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow

BLISS by Lauren Myracle

IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins


ZANE'S TRACE by Allan Wolf

THINGS CHANGE by Patrick Jones

BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham


SHE SAID YES by Misty Bernall

BOX OUT by John Coy

SKATE by Michael Harmon

CIRCLE THE SOUL SOFTLY by Davida Wills Hurwin

*And I'd like to add PAPER TOWNS by John Green

Have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte

Just a brief comment about a brief, but powerful book. T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte, a novel in verse, is an excellent follow-up book for any literature or history class studying the Holocaust.

LeZotte tells the story of a young German girl caught up in the threat of Hilter's Tiergartenstrasse 4 program. As Nazi forces attempted to exterminate the Jews, they also created an evil program aimed at those of any race, class, or nationality who they determined to be defective due to physical or mental frailty. Paula Becker, a young deaf girl, was one such example. Simply because she was deaf she became the target of T4.

This short novel tells the tale of her struggle to avoid the gas chamber. She relates a life of constant movement. With the help of a young man she calls Poor Kurt, she is able to move from one safe haven to another to avoid discovery and certain death. Her story reveals the frightening facts of how the medical profession was used to justify the deaths of innocent victims simply because of their unfortunate handicaps.

T4 is yet another example of the horrors of the Holocaust and the awful evidence of mankind's potential for evil.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMAN SCHOOL explores cyberbullying. Zebby and her computer savvy friend Amr decide to start a news website for their school. Zebby is especially frustrated with their current newspaper and the fact that the advisor doesn't let them print anything of importance to the students at Truman School. If they start a website not connected to the school, everyone will be free to publish whatever happens to be on their minds, and hopefully the news stories will tell the real truth about middle school life.

The initial idea behind the online news site was a good one, but things quickly get out of hand. A mysterious poster named milkandhoney starts posting mean comments aimed directly at a girl named Lilly. Zebby and Amr don't want to remove the cruel posts because they've promoted the site as one where people are free to express their views, but they are bothered by the vicious attacks on a girl they at one time considered a friend.

When links begin to appear on the Truth about Truman site that direct readers to even more nasty attacks on poor Lilly, Zebby and Amr begin to question the soundness of their original plan. Things really turn ugly as Lilly starts faking illness to avoid school, and then she actually disappears. The entire community becomes aware of the online bullying and heads begin to roll.

Many books focused on the problem of bullying can be pretty intense and often contain actions and language more appropriate for older teens, but THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMAN SCHOOL makes its point and aims its material at a middle school audience. It is a worthy addition for any library or classroom.