Tuesday, May 28, 2019

SQUIRM by Carl Hiaasen

SQUIRM is the latest offering from author Carl Hiaasen. I am a fan of his adult novels as well as his adventure novels for middle grade readers. If you have a young reader looking for suspense and humor, I suggest checking out Hiaasen's books.

Billy Dickens knows very little about his father. The man left his family behind years ago. Billy has grown up with his mother and his sister Belinda. His mother's love of bald eagles has resulted in a fairly transient lifestyle. They move every couple of years as Billy's mother needs to live close to an active eagles' nest. Billy has learned that making friends only brings disappointment so he keeps to himself and instead spends time exploring the Florida habitat.

When Billy discovers an envelop with a return address for Dennis Dickens, he uses his mother's credit card to book a flight to Montana. Surprisingly, his mother is supportive of his desire to meet with his father.

When he arrives in Montana, Billy is annoyed to learn that his father is off on some secret assignment leaving him with only his new stepmother and stepsister. Montana is pretty cool, though, and exploring what nature has to offer keeps Billy entertained. A mysterious drone sighting seems to be connected to his father's secret job. Billy's short visit to Montana leaves him with more questions than answers even after he meets his dad.

SQUIRM takes readers on an adventure from Florida to Montana and back again. Billy is surrounded by bald eagles, snakes, grizzly bears, and poachers. SQUIRM definitely qualifies as a real page-turner.

Thursday, May 16, 2019


Lacey Burke and her friends Evita and Theo are completely disgusted by the sexual abstinence policy promoted in their senior seminar class. Abstinence hasn't stop teen pregnancies in their high school. In fact, they recently met Alice, a pregnant teen who chose homeschooling because she felt uncomfortable at going to school.

Lacey has always felt comfortable when discussing sexual topics with her mother. Lacey was the result of her mother's teen pregnancy so Lacey knows the difficulties first hand. Her mother works as a labor and delivery nurse at the local hospital and has encouraged Lacey to train and volunteer as a doula who assists mothers during labor. 

When the discussion of healthy sexual habits begins in senior seminar, Lacey and Evita are frustrated that the use of condoms is not part of the lecture. Even though Lacey has never even been kissed, she knows the importance of protection during sex. It becomes obvious from her classmates' responses that most of the students are not only uncomfortable about the discussion of condoms, but also don't understand the proper time to use them or even where to get them. Lacey decides to make it her mission to educate her fellow students.

Lacey, Evita, and Theo work together to create an educational pamphlet explaining the use of condoms and even dental dams for protection during oral sex. With the help of her mother, Lacey gets free condoms and other items for protection against sexually transmitted infections. Their new friend Alice volunteers her currently empty locker as a place to distribute the pamphlets and condoms, etc. Lacey also uses one of the girls' restrooms as an information center where students can freely ask questions about sexual activity.

Helping their fellow students makes sense until the locker distribution system is discovered by school authorities. Accused of providing lewd materials, Lacey and her friends find themselves defending their right to offer alternatives to the school's abstinence policy.

THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND YOU AND ME is the debut novel of author Olivia Hinebaugh. She combines friendship and music with the difficult questions and feelings about teen sexuality. Some readers may be surprised by her upfront, honest discussion of sexually active teens, but this is a book perfect for 2019 and the attempts to take away personal control over our bodies, especially for women. 

NOTE: I just learned about a service called The Pill Box which offers birth control options by subscription through the mail. Check it out!

Friday, May 10, 2019


Author Tony Medina and illustrators Stacey Robinson and John Jennings are the creators of this powerful graphic novel focusing on gun violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. Readers will experience the emotions of Alfonso as well as those left behind after his death.

Alfonso convinced his best friend Danetta to help him shop for his first suit. He is planning to wear it when his father is released from prison. Alfonso barely knows his dad who was found guilty of a crime he didn't commit. DNA evidence has proven that he didn't do the crime and after years in prison he is about to be released.

All the celebration comes to a sudden halt when Alfonso is shot by a store police officer/security guard. While trying on suit jackets, Alfonso handled a clothes hanger. It was mistaken for a gun, and he was shot multiple times. He didn't survive.

After his death, Alfonso's ghost joins others who died violently at the hands of the police. He rides the ghost train as he tries to make sense of his death and the impact it had on those he loved. He will never play the role of Hamlet in his school play. He will never learn if Danetta is destined to more than just his best friend. And, Alfonso will never welcome his father home from prison.

I AM ALFONSO JONES honors victims of police shootings and the senseless deaths that have become all too common in society today. This is a must-read book that should be in every classroom and library in the country.

Friday, May 3, 2019


Maverick is the smallest kid he knows. Starting sixth grade known as a shrimp has Mav thinking of ways to make the year tolerable. On the first day of school he slips the plastic sheriff's badge his father gave him into his pocket and vows to be a hero.

The first day of school is actually a half-day so Mav figures it should be smooth sailing. Little does he know that he will find himself in the assistant principal's office twice worried that he might get kicked out of the place before he's even started. 

Knowing that his late father was a hero in the war has always helped Mav through difficult times. When his mother started drinking and dating guys who hit her more often than they hugged her, Mav tried to rationalize that life was just tough without a dad. When he witnesses his mother's latest boy friend smack her and then walk out the door, Mav knows things have to change.

Admiring superheroes like Captain America and Spiderman might be the motivation Maverick needs to stand up to the bullies at school, but he really isn't a superhero, just a short kid trying to stay out of trouble and keep his crappy home life a secret.

Jordan Sonnenblick, author of DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE, uses his trademark humor and knowledge of the kid mind to create a realistic view of bullying and one boy's attempt to rise above it all. Readers will be rooting for Maverick as soon as they meet him. With tons of relatable characters and situations, THE SECRET SHERIFF OF SIXTH GRADE will connect with Sonnenblick's fans and earn him many more.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

BLOOD MOUNTAIN by James Preller

First, I'd like to thank the author, James Preller, for an early peek at BLOOD MOUNTAIN. Second, I suggest you put this one on your pre-order list for its October 2019 release. You are going to want to read it as soon as it comes out and share it with friends!

Grace, Carter, and their father set out to hike Blood Mountain, but their plans quickly change. Dad just isn't going as quickly as the kids would like so they take off ahead with the family dog, Sitka. 
When their father begins feeling chest pains and other scary heart attack related symptoms, the kids are too far away to give him the help he needs. 

Excited by the sights and sounds, Grace and Carter keep hiking on. Their difficulties begin when Grace slips and slides down a cliff. When she lands, she has an ugly gash on one leg, a possibly broken ankle on the other, and most likely several broken ribs. Leaving the dog to guard Grace, Carter heads back to find their father and get help.

What follows is a breathless adventure involving a dangerous mud bog, an escaped mountain lion, and a mountain man intent on keeping his whereabouts unknown. A local ranger becomes involved in the rescue. When she learns two kids are missing on the mountain, she is determined they won't be lost on her watch.

In BLOOD MOUNTAIN author James Preller tells a fast-paced, action-packed story that is filled with intense moments and well-researched outdoor information. From the detailed description of the father's heart attack symptoms to facts about mountain terrain/wildlife, and knowledge of traumatized veterans, Preller nails it. Readers will be pulled from start to finish hoping for a satisfying conclusion.