Thursday, August 29, 2019

THE LOST by Natasha Preston

Natasha Preston of Wattpad fame has done it again. Her new thriller THE LOST is sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats from start to finish.

Teens have been disappearing from a small town. Most have been listed as runaways. Piper and her friend Hazel are usually homebodies. Hanging out at each other's houses, watching movies, and just chilling is their usual entertainment. Their concern for the missing teens turns them into investigators. They want to find out what is happening.

Heading to a beach party, Piper and Hazel accept a ride from an attractive young man. Piper, who had briefly met Caleb, was thrilled to have a chance to get to know him a little better. It quickly becomes obvious that Caleb and his friend have other plans for the girls.

Piper and Hazel find themselves with several other teens in a secluded building. Their captors welcome them to the "game." If they don't follow directions and endure a variety of tortures, they will be killed, or possible be forced to kill one another.

If you haven't experienced Natasha Preston's writing, THE LOST is the perfect place to start.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

CRACKING THE BELL by Geoff Herbach

After Isaiah's sister Hannah was killed by a drunk driver, Isaiah fell apart. He had worshipped his older sister, and her loss ruined his parents' marriage and sent him barreling in the wrong direction. His delinquent behavior ended in his father offering him a choice - join the football team or return to the juvenile detention facility that hadn't worked for him the first time. Isaiah chose football, and his life turned around.

Now a senior and about to turn eighteen, Isaiah is a star player, star student, and seemingly a star son. In the game against Lancaster, Isaiah messed up. Headed for a tackle, he put his eyes down and slammed into his opponent. He was out cold. He came to and jumped to his feet before his teammates suspected the severity of his injury. Despite the fact that he heard what he described as "witch whistles" and a constant deadly shriek, he went through the motions at the end of the game and headed home.

By the next morning it was clear Isaiah was hurt. A trip to the emergency room with his parents revealed the diagnosis as a severe concussion. It also became evident that this was not his first concussion. NO MORE FOOTBALL! At least that's what his mother declared.

Since Isaiah believed that football had brought him back to life after losing his sister, the idea of not playing sent him over the edge. How could he survive without the game? Would the promise of a scholarship from Cornell University disappear? What was the point of hard work, good grades, and good behavior if what he lived for was gone?

CRACKING THE BELL explores the dangers of sports injuries, specifically concussions. The threat of second impact syndrome is real, and players, parents, and coaches around the country should be concerned. Thankfully, fictional Isaiah had a strong support system of family and friends, and the strength of his determination to see him through a physical and emotional struggle.

Anyone who plays football or cares about someone who plays football should read CRACKING THE BELL. Author Geoff Herbach's smooth flowing style makes reading ten pages feel like barely reading two. He makes Isaiah and his story leap off the page and demand to be read.

Thank you to the author for generously sharing this ARC. Release date - Sept. 2019.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

GIRLS OF JULY by Alex Flinn

When Alicia "Spider" Webster posts an ad for teen housemates to join her in her family's cabin in the Adirondacks, she never expected it to be a life-changing experience. Spider's grandmother Ruthie was concerned about the reclusive nature of her granddaughter's lifestyle. Suffering from chronic joint pain, Spider spent most of her time at the cabin immersed in her dreams of movie making. Ruthie hoped that inviting a few girls to spend the month of July might inspire Spider to expand her adventures beyond her camera and computer.

Britta, Meredith, and Kate answer the ad, and after sending payment, embark on their July adventure. Britta and Meredith are from Florida. They are acquaintances at best. Britta, into drama and parties, is the complete opposite of Meredith who has taken the SAT multiple times, taken every possible AP class, and plans to spend the summer writing college application essays. 

Kate is from a small town near Atlanta. She is escaping a scandal involving her politician father. The trip to the backwoods might also help her forget her breakup with Colin.

The four girls are as different as night and day which creates stressful moments that threaten to derail Ruthie's hopes that Spider will overcome her hermitlike behavior. Britta's constant chattering, Kate's worry about family issues and lost love, and Meredith's passion to write the perfect essay don't make for much fun. 

It isn't until the girls each find an interest out of the ordinary for each of them that their summer begins to offer promises they never expected. Kate befriends a precious little boy whose family is going through hard times that make her problems seem insignificant. Meredith develops a relationship with a local boy named Harmon who has her questioning whether all her dreams about an Ivy League education are hers or what she thinks her parents expect. Britta's dramatic flair surprisingly combines with Spider's movie making talents to uncover a secret about Spider's grandmother that shocks everyone.

In this reviewer's opinion, GIRLS OF JULY by Alex Flinn is the perfect read. I'm a total fan of alternating voices, and Flinn handles it to perfection. Each girl's personality sings brightly from the start. Flinn also deftly switches voices at just the right moment to create suspense making readers rush on to find out how each scene will evolve. GIRLS OF JULY is a great summer read or for that matter, any time of year.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

THEY CALLED US ENEMY by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

George Takei, who played the role of science officer Sulu on the Star Trek series, tells the story of his family's time in two Japanese Internment camps during WWII. The use of a graphic format with drawings by Harmony Becker allows readers to see as well as read this powerful story.

Takei shares the gripping story of his family being ripped from their home and business and transported by train to a camp in Arkansas. Only four years old at the time, Takei recalls trying to stay strong for his younger brother and sister despite the fact that he didn't understand what was happening. The family of five where forced to live in a horse stall in the first camp. Later they were transferred to another facility where they shared two small rooms.

Takei's father was elected to leadership roles in the two camps. He was instrumental in helping educate and instruct other Japanese Americans as they navigated their way through the government imprisonment. He could also understand and interpret the various laws passed by the U.S. government that further removed the rights of these Americans simply because of the circumstance of their births.

There are definite comparisons made between the internment camps and what is happening to migrant families today. It seems that the U.S. government hasn't learn from the lessons of the past.

Artwork by Harmony Becker furthers the story and allows readers to easily visualize conditions in these camps. Takei includes discussion with his father after their release as he tried to understand why the government mistreated Japanese Americans. THEY CALLED US ENEMY provides an important look at a terrible time in U.S. history.

Friday, August 2, 2019

I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal

Thank you to Teenreads.com for the sneak peek of this powerful book!

This is Campbell's first football game at her new school. She volunteered to sell concessions hoping she might meet a few possible new friends. She quickly learns that the other students working with her aren't very committed to the job, but she'll try her best.

Lena is stopping by the game to catch her friends' dance performance at halftime. As soon as she can, she plans to hook up with her boyfriend Black. That will be the real highlight of her evening.

When a huge fight breaks out between students of the two rival schools, both girls find themselves huddled in the concession stand hoping to avoid the melee. When the police show up, the fighting tension escalates. Lena and Campbell make a break for a nearby classroom where they hope to collect Campbell's backpack and use her phone to call for rides. 

What follows is their desperate journey to find Lena's boyfriend and avoid more violence erupting in the city streets. The girls are soon in the middle of racial tension with shots fired, police threats, and looting mobs. 

Authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have created a powerful story with strong characters and ripped from the headlines events. The voices of Campbell and Lena are authentic and relatable. I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT is a must read that speaks to current racial issues.