Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Here's a little something different this week. My earlier post listed the books my 8th graders chose as the best of the year. Now here is a list of the books they are looking forward to reading as soon as they can get their hands on them!


WOLF ISLAND by Darren Shan
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
TRICKS by Ellen Hopkins
MIDNIGHT SUN by Stephenie Meyer
THE 4TH ERAGON book by Christopher Paolini


NEW MOON and ECLIPSE by Stephenie Meyer
TENTH GRADE BLEEDS by Heather Brewer
CRANK by Ellen Hopkins
BURNED by Ellen Hopkins

BEST BOOKS WE READ THIS YEAR (according to my 8th grade students)

I asked my 8th graders to share their favorite reads of the school year. Here's the list.
GRIEF GIRL by Erin Vincent
TWILIGHT saga by Stephenie Meyer
FREEZE FRAME by Heidi Ayarbe
THE BOY WHO COULDN'T DIE by William Sleator
DAEMON HALL by Andrew Nance
DEATH'S SHADOW by Darren Shan
BUSTED by Phil Bildner
LITTLE LIARS novels by Sara Shepard
BIG RED by Jim Kjelgaard
TEST by William Sleator
LITTLE BROTHER by Cory Doctorow
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
BATTLE FLEET by Paul Dowswell
BRISINGR by Christopher Paolini
THE BLACK TATTOO by Sam Enthoven
THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

Monday, April 27, 2009

WHO WILL TELL MY BROTHER? by Marlene Carvell

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After recently reading Marlene Carvell's CAUGHT BETWEEN THE PAGES, I went in search of her other books. WHO WILL TELL MY BROTHER? is her first book and winner of the IRA Children's Book Award.

This novel in verse tells the story of Evan Hill. His family heritage connects him directly to the American Indian and drives him to protest his school's mascot, the face of an Indian. Evan is not the first to lodge a complaint. His older brother attempted to bring about a change in the school's policy but had no luck.

Evan finds his battle with the school board a one-sided fight. Although he has the support of his family, no one else in the school is willing to add their voice to his objections. As a result, he becomes a victim of taunts and bullying directed at his Indian heritage.

Carvell states in the Afterword that the character of Evan Hill is based on her own son and his struggle to change his school's mascot. She mentions that the change did not occur until after her son graduated. A wolf is now their mascot

Saturday, April 25, 2009

KNUCKLEHEAD by Jon Scieszka

Last year Jon Scieszka was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. His goal was to "reach the reluctant reader." Since his first book THE TRUE STORY OF THE 3 LITTLE PIGS! he has created books that speak to not only reluctant readers, but to readers of all ages. KNUCKLEHEAD is no exception.

Subtitled "Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka", this book tells what it was like growing up in Flint, Michigan, in a Catholic family with six boys. Scieszka's young fans will be able to relate to the zany stories of sibling adventure, and older readers, even adults, will find great humor in the colorful tales of Jon and his gang.

Complete with illustrations and family photos, KNUCKLEHEAD is an entertaining read. I'm planning to use it as an end-of-the-year read aloud for my 8th grade students. Hopefully, it won't give them too many "ideas" about how to keep busy over the summer.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A SEASON OF EDEN by J.M. Warwick

A SEASON OF EDEN is not your typical student/teacher romance. J.M. Warwick has crafted a story that offers both the temptation of forbidden romance and a life lesson to benefit all readers.

Eden lives a privileged life. Although she lost her mother to cancer years ago, Eden has always gotten whatever she's wanted. Her father remarried less than two years after her mother's death, and the younger woman who has occupied the place of stepmother to Eden has been anything but loving and kind. Despite the circumstances, Eden lives the life of one of the most popular and sought after students in her exclusive high school.

When she enters the music room on her first day in the concert choir, Eden has thoughts of nothing other than filling her last semester as a senior with easy classes. She heads toward the back row intent on staying away from the lower classmen and as far from the teacher as possible. Imagine her surprise when Mr. Christian enters the room. He is fresh out of college and dressed in a nerdy, yet strangely appealing jacket. She has never seen anyone like him, and she quickly transports herself to a seat at the front of the room.

The more Eden sees and learns about Mr. Christian, the more she wants to become not just another one of his students. Surprising everyone, she breaks up with her boyfriend Matt and begins arriving at school earlier and offering to do menial tasks like taking attendance and handing out sheet music. She is the first to admit her amazement at how much she enjoys the classical music the new teacher plays with such talent.

Could it be possible that Mr. Christian (James) has similar feelings for her? Or is she dreaming the impossible?

J.M. Warwick treads on the edge of some dangerous territory as she develops the relationship between student and teacher. Many readers might shy away from this topic, but hopefully, they will give A SEASON OF EDEN a chance. Eden may be headed toward trouble, but through her experience she learns a lot about herself and the often unpleasant person she has become over the years. Teachers and librarians should consider Warwick's book as a worthwhile pick for YA collections.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I'm always anxious to see what E. Lockhart has to offer.

THE TREASURE MAP OF BOYS due out 7/28/09 continues her story started in THE BOYFRIEND LIST and THE BOY BOOK, both popular books in my classroom. Gotta love the cover, too.

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

Ruby is back at Tate Prep, and it’s her thirty-seventh week in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks are bad, her love life is even worse, and what’s more:

Noel is writing her notes, Jackson is giving her frogs, Gideon is helping her cook, and Finn is making her brownies. Rumors are flying, and Ruby’s already-sucky reputation is heading downhill.

Not only that, she’s also: running a bake sale, learning the secrets of heavymetal therapy, encountering some seriously smelly feet, defending the rights of pygmy goats, and bodyguarding Noel from unwanted advances.

In this companion novel to The Boyfriend List and The Boy Book, Ruby struggles to secure some sort of mental health, to understand what constitutes a real friendship, and to find true love—if such a thing exists.

MUDSHARK by Gary Paulsen

MUDSHARK is a great addition to any Gary Paulsen collection. It's not the HATCHET adventure type, but rather one of the crazy, mad-cap mishap stories like HOW ANGEL PETERSON GOT HIS NAME and LAWN BOY.

MUDSHARK is actually Lyle Williams. He got his name for his lightning speed and his incredible observation skills. These are skills he honed while keeping an eye on Kara, Sara, and Tara his triplet sisters. When they became mobile, life became one accident avoidance after another.Most of Mudshark's skills are put to use helping his friends at school. He has a certain knack for finding anything that goes missing. The main adventure, in what I hope is Paulsen's first in a series of Mudshark adventures, is locating the school's mysteriously missing erasers. Yes, gradually every eraser in the school has disappeared.

The cast of characters in MUDSHARK is quite colorful. There's a talking parrot in the library, a easily excitable English teacher, a culturally educated custodian, and a "free-range" gerbil just to name a few. I especially enjoyed the principal's announcements that opened each chapter. His running commentary on some sort of out-of-control situation in the faculty restroom was a hoot!

Aimed at an audience of 8-12 year olds, MUDSHARK is one of those fabulous Paulsen books that can be enjoyed by anyone from a beginning chapter book reader to a senior citizen who remembers what it's like to be a kid. At only 83 pages long, MUDSHARK is a quick way to pass the time and enjoy a laugh or two.

Monday, April 20, 2009


What would you do if you were suddenly in possession of your English teacher's private journal? Destroy it? Give it back? Or read it?

PJ Barnes got a lot more than he bargained for when he stayed after school to catch up on his missing English homework. It wasn't like he chose to stay - he was told to stay, and he was watched every minute by Mrs. Jordan. Not only did he have to sit there and do worksheets, but she also sent home a pile of stuff and expected it back pronto!

When PJ gets home, he dumps his backpack and is shocked to discover what is among the papers - Mrs. Jordan's private notebook. It must have gotten mixed with the worksheets, and now it's there demanding attention. When he takes a look, he's interested to see that it's not terribly exciting, but it does contain some interesting insight into many of his fellow classmates and even some members of the school staff.

The journal simply adds to the complications already filling PJ's life. He's already dealing with a nagging mother, a disinterested stepdad, a constantly yelling soccer coach, and grades that barely show up on the grade scale. When Mrs. Jordan asks the class if anyone has seen her blue notebook, PJ doesn't have a clue what to do. He could give it back and say he didn't even realize he had it until she mentioned it, or he could hang on to it and see if it might prove useful.

CAUGHT BETWEEN THE PAGES is the story of a teen struggling to find his place in life. PJ is dealing with personal issues and at the same time trying to stay afloat in school and hang onto the few friends he feels lucky to have. Despite his efforts to stay under the radar, he becomes the center of attention for way more people and situations than he ever thought possible.

Author Marlene Carvell has created a story that is sure to appeal to teens, especially the guys. PJ and his problems are easy to relate to and should keep readers on the edge of their seats. This would make an excellent addition to any YA collection.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

LUCKY BREAKS by Susan Patron

LUCKY BREAKS is the second book in Susan Patron's THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY trilogy. It continues the story of Lucky who lives in the middle of the desert in a tiny town called Hard Pan.

Lucky is about to turn eleven, and she can hardly wait. She is sure that being eleven will cause her life to be much more exciting than being ten. After all being eleven is at "the door of becoming a teenager."

Not a whole lot has changed in Lucky's life. She still lives with Brigitte, her French adopted mother. She helps run the Hard Pan Cafe which is open on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Business is good, and Lucky is proud that Brigitte has made it such a success. When she's not helping at the Cafe or busy at school, Lucky spends time with her two good friends, Lincoln and Miles. Lincoln, also eleven, is a world-class knot tyer determined to win a knot competition that could earn him a chance to live and study in Europe for a year. Miles is about to turn six. He has been tested at school and told he has a genius IQ. With the help of Lucky and Lincoln he is studying to be a brain surgeon. Together they make an interesting and unforgettable trio.

Not much changes in Hard Pan, but one day Lucky meets a new friend. One of the guests at the Cafe is another eleven year old named Paloma. She turns up with her uncle, a geologist, and becomes fast friends with Lucky. Lucky can't believe what she has been missing. Having a girl as a best friend is much more satisfying than hanging around with two boys.

Lucky continues to think of herself as self-sufiicient and independent, but being so enthusiastic and adventurous almost turns out to be Lucky's downfall. She and Paloma venture into the desert on a mission that almost ends in tragedy. Her experience teaches her lessons about respecting danger and preserving friendships.

Author Susan Patron won the 2007 John Newbery Medal for THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, and this second book is surely medal quality as well. She keeps Lucky true to her original character and adds just the right combination of adventure and new intrigue to keep readers waiting anxiously for the final episode. I applaud Lucky's freshness and purity, and Patron's determination to include plot elements previously attacked by critics.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

GAMER GIRL by Mari Mancusi

Maddy Starr's world has come to an end. Her parents just divorced, and now she's living with her mother and her 8 year old sister in the unicorn-infested house of her grandmother. Yikes! Could it possibly get any worse?

Yep, it can get worse. On her first day at her new high school, Maddy is humiliated. As she's about to leave for school, her grandmother declares she will not allow her granddaughter to go to school looking like "a dead prostitute." When Maddy protests that this is her style and she has nothing else to wear, her grandmother promptly hands over something of her very own wardrobe - grandma-style jeans and a sweatshirt adorned with sparkling unicorns. OMG!

It doesn't take Maddy long to figure out that school is not going to be like it was back in Boston. Arriving in a unicorn sweatshirt is bad enough, but she quickly becomes the victim of a group of popular kids she dubs "the Haters." Lucy, Chelsea, Chad, and the biggest bully, Billy, pretty much consider it their job to make life miserable for Maddy.

One bright spot in an otherwise dark world, is the birthday gift Maddy gets from her dad. He gives her a subscription to an online fantasy game called Fields of Fantasy. She has watched him play the game for years and has always dreamed of joining as a real gamer. The game is fun to play and gives her some great inspiration for the manga drawings she enjoys creating. An added bonus comes in the form of an online friendship she develops while playing. Even if everyone at her new school hates her, at least Sir Leo seems to appreciate and understand her online character, Allora.

GAMER GIRL offers readers a look at popular online gaming, the increasingly popular genre of manga, and a glimpse of the frustration of fitting in and dealing with bullies. Mancusi has created a fast-paced story that will surely interest teen readers. They'll not only be able to relate to the characters, but also be encouraged to explore their own talents and be themselves.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Having been a Caroline B. Cooney fan for as long as I can remember, I'm looking forward to the May 12th release of IF THE WITNESS LIED. I love the mention of "gripping thriller."

Summary courtesy of Barnes and Noble:

Choices do matter and forgiveness is possible.Jack Fountain knows that what’s happened to his family sounds like the most horrible soap opera anyone could ever write. But it happened—to Jack; his parents; his sisters, Smithy and Madison. And to his baby brother, Tris. What made it worse was that the media wanted to know every detail. Now it’s almost Tris’s third birthday, and everything’s starting again. Aunt Cheryl, who’s living with the Fountain children now that their parents are gone, has decided that they will heal only if they work through their pain—on camera. The very identities they’ve created for themselves are called into question. In less than twenty-four hours their fate will change yet again, but this time they vow to not be exploited and to discover the truth.

In this gripping thriller, Caroline B. Cooney details how love, devotion, and forgiveness make resilience—and recovery—possible.

Monday, April 13, 2009

HEART OF A SHEPHERD by Rosanne Parry

HEART OF A SHEPHERD is a beautiful book by first time author Rosanne Parry. It draws the reader right into life on an Oregon ranch and into the life of a spiritual family dedicated to the land, their country, and one another.

Brother is the youngest of five boys raised on the family ranch. Soon Brother will be gone to a high school boarding school, but for now it's up to him to help his father, grandpa, and grandma with the running of the place. As each day passes it seems he is given more responsibility. Brother decides that's proof that they think he's growing up and will soon be man enough to handle his share of the work. When news breaks that his father's reserve unit is about to be shipped off to Iraq, Brother realizes he doesn't have a choice. Ready or not, he will be the only one left to help his grandfather run the ranch.

With his father gone, he pitches in and learns how to handle everything from raising the bum lambs, literally lending a hand/arm with the calving, and making decisions like whether to use traditional branding or acid branding. Constant chores keep him busy, but he still has time to worry about the safety of his father commanding troops in Iraq. He knows he is not alone since many in the community have fathers, mothers, and sons serving their country leaving just a few family members to do what needs to be done here at home.

HEART OF A SHEPHERD is an interesting mix of young and old. The experience of the old is passed to the young when it comes to handling ranch chores as well as the rules of life in general. There is a strong sense of spirituality among the characters with the incorporation of a variety of faiths - Catholic, Quaker, and Baptist. It is evident that a higher power plays a major role in the lives described in HEART OF A SHEPHERD. The appeal of this book should reach far beyond its YA audience. I look forward to reading more by Rosanne Parry in the future.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I predict that Voss will be the next cult-hero in tween and YA fiction. At least I think he's going to popular with the readers in my middle school.

Vospop (Voss) Vsklzwczdztwczky, his father, and his crazy uncle come to America from their native Slobovia. They are illegal immigrants who smuggle themselves into a shipping container filled with $100,000 worth of counterfeit Cheese Puffs. Using a series of letters sent back home to his friend Meero, Voss shares the trials and tribulations of being new to America.

Voss's first letter begins as follows: "You won't believe this my friend. We made it out of Slobovia! We are bound for America! We have smoggled ourselves aboard a great big sheep, the cargo freighter SSS Windmill. And Meero, we are headed for dipp, dipp trobble."

The travelers arrive safely in America and settle in the illegal Slobovian section of the city. That's when Voss's adventures begin. He is surprised to be greeted by Leena, the girl from Slobovia fated to be his wife. Even though she is fixated on this future union, Voss has serious doubts about having this overenthusiastic, oversized girl as his wife.

Voss realizes he must find a job, but things start off in the wrong direction when his simple attempt to travel by subway earns him only some unpleasant taunting and a foot-long submarine sandwich. Who knew an eating place could be confused with mass transportation?

Amazingly, Voss is able to keep track of his crazy uncle, his gloomy father, and avoid the angry owner of the counterfeit Cheese Puffs (Chiss Poffs), long enough to meet a beautiful and extremely rich American girl whose father offers him the astonishing salary of $100,000 to act as her escort. Maybe America really is the land of opportunity, but how long can it last?

David Ives has created an incredible character and a story to match. Voss is an adventurer, a patriot, a bit of a detective, and a brave young man who is bound to entertain readers from the first page until the last. Voss's story is heart-warming and humor-filled. I certainly hope this will not be his last adventure.

Friday, April 10, 2009

COLD SKIN by Steven Herrick

Set in a small Australian town and the area surrounding it, COLD SKIN is the story of brothers Eddie and Larry Holding, their parents, friends, and townspeople. What ties them together besides community connections is the disappearance and murder of a young girl.

Eddie Holding is on the edge of adulthood. He'll be finished with school soon, and his dream is to put his size and strength to good use by working in the mines. It's a dangerous occupation and his father disapproves, but for years Eddie has watched the local young men leave school to work the difficult job and make a decent wage. His father, on the other hand, fought hard in the war and then came home to do a boy's job working at chore-like jobs for a neighboring farmer. Eddie has never understood why his father puts up with ridicule from the locals about his cowardly job.

An observer of people, Eddie watches those around him. He watches as his older brother Larry drinks himself into a stupor each night at the local bar and then comes home to vomit in the garden and snore in bed until morning. There's the local mayor who never got a chance to fight in the war with the rest of the town's men. He spends his time bragging about his uncontested victory and gathering votes to assure he continues as leader of the town. Mr. Butcher, a high school teacher, leads a mysterious double life. During the week he teaches at the local high school and each weekend heads to the city. Eddie decides to follow his teacher one weekend and discovers he has a fondness for young girls. And speaking of young girls, Eddie experiences his first love with Sally and at the same time, fantasizes about Colleen whose disappearance and death tear apart the town.

Author Steven Herrick tells the story of Burruga, Australia, in prose verse. The alternating view points give readers a glimpse into the minds and hearts of all the characters. Young Eddie guides the fast-paced story and provides the connections necessary to understand the people of the tiny town.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL by Nora Raleigh Baskin

April is Authism Awareness Month. There are more and more tween and YA books focusing on the subject. I recently heard of ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL by Nora Raleigh Baskin and decided to pick up a copy.

Jason Blake is twelve years old. He lives with his mother and father and his younger brother. He also lives with autism. Diagnosed at an early age, Jason tells his story so everyone else can observe and maybe better understand the condition.

This look inside the thinking processes of an autistic individual is a truly eye-opening experience. Communication is Jason's major challenge. Although extremely intelligent and able to read and write beginning at age four, speaking and carrying on a dialogue with others is almost beyond Jason's abilities. He reveals that despite what others think, he has feelings and emotional attachments, but he has trouble expressing himself. Those close to him can understand and almost read his thoughts, making communication with them much easier.

Given his difficulties Jason recognizes that most days it's just a matter of time before something goes haywire and spirals out of control. Most often the problem is at school and involves teasing from bullies or misunderstandings with teachers.

One place Jason feels the freedom to express himself is the online writing site called Storyboard. For quite some time he has been creating his own worlds by writing stories and posting them for other Storyboard members to read. He develops an online connection with a young girl calling herself PhoenixBird. She shows an appreciation for his writing talent and asks for his constructive criticism on one of her stories. Perhaps PhoenixBird will offer him an outlet for his frustrated communication attempts.

If you are interested in checking out the subject of autism this month, I highly recommend ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I'm a huge Gary Paulsen fan, so a book I'm waiting on is MUDSHARK due out on May 12, 2009.

Summary courtesy of Barnes and Noble:

Mudshark is the go-to guy for any mysteries that need solving. Lost your shoe? Can’t find your homework? Ask Mudshark. That is, until the Psychic Parrot takes up residence in the school library and threatens to overturn Mudshark’s position as the guy who knows all the answers. The word in school is that the parrot can out-think Mudshark. And right now, the school needs someone who’s good at solving problems. There’s an escaped gerbil running rampant, an emergency in the faculty restroom, and all the erasers are disappearing from the classrooms.When Mudshark solves the mystery of who’s stealing the erasers, he discovers the culprit has the best of intentions. Now he has to think of a way to prevent the Psychic Parrot from revealing the eraser-thief’s identity. With a bit of misdirection and a lot of quick thinking, Mudshark restores order to the chaos . . . just for the moment.

WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

WINTERGIRLS is Anderson at her best. The story of Lia takes readers into the world of anorexia. Most stories of this type become endless descriptions of horrific self-denial and skin and bones, but Anderson delves much deeper into Lia's thought process. Even more insight is provided as Lia deals with the death of her friend Cassie.

Many plot lines help draw readers into WINTERGIRLS. Lia is the product of divorce. She explains that her parents should never have been together, but pregnancy forced the issue. She has experimented with living with her mother, a work-a-holic heart surgeon, and as the book begins, she's been living fairly successfully with her father, his new wife, and a stepsister who adores and worships Lia. The character of Cassie provides yet another look at eating disorders as her method of choice is to binge and purge.

Lia's self-image and eating disorder are not new. She's already been in a treatment program twice, and everyone plays a role in monitoring her behavior in hopes of preventing a relapse. However, since Lia's habits have become her lifestyle, she is an expert at avoiding detection. Even though her friend Cassie is gone, Lia feels her influence and encouragement from the grave. Lia also finds support from an online network of young people just like herself. When family, therapists, or others threaten her need to control food, she resorts to cutting as a way to relieve the pressure. Voices constantly haunt her and hold her prisoner inside her wasting body.

It is difficult to summarize WINTERGIRLS as one would a typical novel filled with action and events. Lia's story is more of a mind game that readers will become part of and anxiously follow to its conclusion. WINTERGIRLS will cement Anderson's place as a fantastic YA author.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

RESPONSE by Paul Volponi

Noah has grown up in East Franklin, a predominately black area. One night when he and two friends decide to head on over to nearby Hillsboro (about 95% white) to boost a car, life changes dramatically for Noah.

The three friends never get to commit their intended crime because they run into three white teens bent on keeping their neighborhood free of blacks. The white boys verbally abuse and threaten Noah and his friends, and it's when they begin to chase them that things take a turn. Noah trips and falls. An angry youth nicknamed Scat swings a baseball bat and fractures Noah's skull.

The quick response of paramedics and the quality treatment at the Hillsboro hospital work together to save young Noah. He's plagued with headaches and will live with a metal plate stitched into his head, but he will live to finish high school and be around to be a father for his baby daughter.

When it was determined that the three Hillsboro teens had no way of knowing Noah and his friends were there to steal a car, arrests were made and the three were charged with a hate crime. The actual attack was horrific, but now Noah and his family must live through the stressful experience of a trial. They learn the hard way about harassment and plea bargains as they attend countless meetings with county provided attorneys.

Paul Volponi brings headline material to life in RESPONSE. He portrays a black family working together to educate their son and help him and his teenage girl friend raise their own child. In Noah, readers will meet a frightened, yet determined young man learning how to make his way in a not so friendly world.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Here's a list of books my students think would make great spring break reading.


I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder


OR GIVE ME DEATH by Ann Rinaldi

HEAD CASE by Sarah Aronson

FEVER 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

GOSSIP GIRL series by Cecily von Ziegesar

BE MORE CHILL by Ned Vizzini


GLASS and IMPULSE by Ellen Hopkins

CHEATED by Patrick Jones

MISSING by Catherine MacPhail

BLUE BLOODS series by Melissa de la Cruz

CANDY by Kevin Brooks

RAIDERS NIGHT by Robert Lipsyte

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS series by Sara Shepard


AFTER by Francine Prose


LORD OF THE RINGS series by J. R. R. Tolkien



BLACK AND WHITE by Paul Volponi

IF I GROW UP by Todd Strasser
I'm off on spring break and with my stack of books, I'm going to need an extra suitcase. Can't wait to get started!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Stop on over at Reader Rabbit. There's a great contest going on!


Oops, missed Wednesday, but better late than never. Here's a book I'm anxious to read.

DESTROY ALL CARS by Blake Nelson

Release date is scheduled for May 1, 2009.

Summary courtesy of Barnes & Noble:

James Hoff likes to rant against America's consumerist culture. He also likes to rant against his ex-girlfriend, Sadie, who he feels isn't doing enough to change the world. But just like he can't avoid buying things, he also can't avoid Sadie for long. This is a fantastic, funny, sexy, cool masterpiece from one of the best YA writers at work today, an anti-consumerist love story that's all about idealism, in both James's relationship with the world and his relationships with the people around him.

BULL RIDER by Suzanne Morgan Williams

BULL RIDER by 2K9 author Suzanne Morgan Williams offers a unique combination of topics - rodeo bull riding and the Iraq War.

Young Cam O'Mara comes from a ranching, bull riding family, but his interest leans more toward skateboarding. Bull riding has never really held any attraction for him, at least until now.

The O'Mara family gets the dreaded news that their oldest son Ben has been wounded while fighting in Iraq and life changes for everyone. The explosion of an IED caused brain trauma and paralysis. Ben returns home but is in for months of hospitalization and therapy.

Cam always looked up to his older brother, and seeing him in such a weakened condition, he is at a loss about how to help his brother or provide the encouragement needed for a successful recovery. One thing does occur to Cam - he could honor his brother's name and maybe provide need money for the family if he took on the challenge of riding a massive bull named Ugly.

Readers are in for a bit of wild ride as Cam explores his newfound interest and at the same time tries to keep up his grades, hang on to friendships, and do his work on the ranch. BULL RIDER reveals a family facing difficult times as they work to support an injured family member and keep the family business from being destroyed by financial hardship. There is a strong message of the determination and sacrifice required to hold a family together through tough times.