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Monday, August 30, 2010

High School Pick

Reality CheckReality Check
by Peter Abrahams
Harper Teen, 2009.
330 pages

When his girlfriend goes missing, star quarterback Cody drives across the country to find out what happened to her. Clea disappears in the woods and her horse comes back without her. A renowned equestrian, Clea would not just fall off her horse, and Cody knows that Bud would never leave her in the woods alone. The whole town searches for the missing girl for days until weather forces the search called off. Cody accepts a job at the stables where Clea boarded her horse and noses around for clues. He meets an ornery stable manager, Clea's new "boyfriend" Townes Dewitt, and a nosy cop, Sgt. Orton. The more Cody digs, the more secrets are uncovered and an illegal gambling syndicate emerges. Cody doesn't realize how much danger he is in. If he doesn't save Clea, who can?

Part mystery, part YA thriller, part football story, Reality Check is a sure page-turner.

Recommended for high school collections, grades 9-12.
Some sex, some language, some violence.

FTC Required Disclosure: Originally I purchased this book for my middle school library, but after reading it, I sent it over to the high school library due to sex, language, and violence. I believe it better suited for grades 9-12. My review was in no way influenced by this fact.

Paranormal Pick

A Taste for RedA Taste for Red
by Lewis Harris
Sandpiper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Stephanie (Svetlana) Grimm is new to Sunny Hill Middle School, and there's nothing good about being a new student. The kids seem overly nosy and Stephanie...ahem..Svetlana thinks they're actually spying on her. Even worse, Sandy Cross and her cronies--clones of Barbie dolls--Marsha and Madison are insufferable. School was going to be horrid and boring,that is, until science class.

Ms. Sylvia Larch is a creepily beautiful creature with blood red fingernails, raven black hair, and whiter than white skin. Svetlana gets creeped out when she realizes that she can actually hear Ms. Larch's thoughts. Always believing that she (Svetlana) is a vampire, she now realizes that the truth is even more horrifying.

In a publishing world rampant with vampire fiction--much of it sub-par--A Taste for Red is a welcome departure. Svetlana is the funniest, snarkiest, in-your-face sarcastic teen heroine in ya fiction. Her metaphors are sheer genius. This novel is highly readable, laugh out loud funny and hugely entertaining.

Recommended for YA collections grades 6-10.

FTC Required disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher. My review was in no way influenced by this fact. I received no monetary compensation for my review.

169 pages

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

YA Picks: Sports and Such

Payback TimePayback Time
by Carl Deuker
Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt
298 pages

Since grade school Mitch True has dreamed of becoming a real reporter--a hard-nosed investigative reporter like the ones he saw in the movie All the President's Men. At the beginning of his senior year, it is looking good that Mitch will become editor of Lincoln High School's paper. When Alyssa Hanson is named editor, Mitch nearly quits. She gives him "Sports." Who does she think she is? He is the most senior reporter on the paper--why does he get such a low-life job like sports?

Mitch almost quits, but sees an opportunity to break a story--maybe someone will get busted for steroids or maybe there'll be a huge story in football scholarships.

He teams up with school photographer Kimi Yon and together they find a story in a transfer student named Angel Marichal. Who is this mystery football player, and where did he come from? And what's his secret? Why is Coach McNulty hiding Angel's past? Could it be that the coach and the student are cheating for the championship? This could be the story of the year!

There is an underlying secret in Angel's past--a secret so dangerous that it will threaten the championship and change all their lives.

Carl Deuker not only writes for sports fans but anyone who loves a good read. Solid sports writing with a great story for the non-sports fan.

Not just for boys. Anyone who loves journalism will love this book.
Recommended for reluctant readers. Recommended for all YA collections grades 7-12.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I received no monetary compensation for my review, and this review was not influenced by the fact that the publisher sent me a copy. In fact, I probably would not have reviewed a "football" book at all, but since it was sent to me, I decided to read it. I found it highly interesting and will recommend it to my students to read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Out of This World Fiction

Stuck on EarthStuck on Earth
by David Klass
R.R. Donelley & Sons, Co.
227 pages

Stuck on Earth is the most hysterical laugh-out-loud book I have read this year. Snarky, crude, obnoxious, boisterous--boys will LOVE this read. David Klauss had found the middle school-high school niche in humor reads.

Ketchvar III is sent to Earth by his superiors to find out if Earthlings are worth saving. If not, the Gagnerian Death Ray will destroy the human race and our planet will be given to another more deserving type of alien.

Ketchvar III invades the brain of the typical 14-year old boy. Of course, who does he pick?--none other than the most geeky, nerdy, and bullied 14-year old in the whole town. Tom's family is not the best model for the American dream family either--they are uber-dysfunctional.

Tom Filber is not happy to have a space alien in his brain, but Ketchvar is able to control everything about Tom.

With Ketchvar in control, Tom begins to sound very formal and nearly British. His mother asks him where he's been, and Ketchvar/Tom eanswers, "Good evening, Mother. You're looking quite well. I was just out for a brief constitutional."

Ketchvar sends messages to his ship via Tom's "old-fashioned" lap-top. He encodes them and gives the files names like, "Old Hip-Hop Songs That Sucked" and "How to Saute a Skunk." He figures with titles like those, no one will want to open them.

Ketchvar's commentary on the human race is spot-on, almost a Will Rogerian insight. Ketchvar's view on school is that "..we observed that nearly all of the bad habits manifested by adult humans can be traced back to their early develpment and were acquired and reinforced during a twelve-year period of voluntary daily incarceration known as school."

Stuck on Earth is a wickedly funny book. If you don't find this one humorous, you may need to have your funny bone examined.

Highly recommended for YA collections grades 6-12. Readers who enjoy humor will enjoy this one. Recommended for reluctant readers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my middle school library with school funds. I was not influenced by any publisher to buy or review this book. I received no monetary compensation for the review.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spooky Pick

The Ghost of Crutchfield HallThe Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

The Ghost of Crutchfild Hall
by Mary Downing Hahn
Clarion Books(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
153 pages

Thomas Crutchfield has been looking for his orphaned great-niece for seven years. Finally located, Florence is finally able to escape the dismal orphanage in London to travel to her great-uncle's estate in the English countryside. Crutchfield Hall is so different from London. Set in the countryside, its gloomy and forbidding exterior and Gothic appearance remind readers of the Bronte sisters' novels with their vast, wet moors and haunted mansions.

Uncle Thomas is polite enough and takes great care to welcome Florence. Her great-aunt Eugenie, on the other hand, is quite rude and downright cruel to Florence. The only other occupants of the manor are a few servants and cousin James, a sickly, bed-ridden little boy who is not able to play with Florence. She is so lonely--she longs to be back at the orphanage where her friends are. One other occupant roams Crutchfield Hall--Cousin Sophia, a ghost. Sophia is not a nice ghost--she wants revenge on James and blames him for her death. She is not happy when Florence moves in either.

The author is a solid ghost story writer and popular with the tween segment. Readers who like Hahn's other books will flock to this one. Entertaining and spooky.

Recommmended for tweens and younger, grades 4-8.
Recommended for those readers who love ghost stories.

FTC Required Disclaimer: the Advance Readers copy was furnished to me by the publisher. This fact does not influence my review in any way. I was not paid to review this book.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

High School Pick

Wide Awake
Wide Awake
by David Levithan
Alfred A. Knopf, 2006
221 pages

Set in the near future, political groups are no longer Democrat or Republican parties. After the Great Recession, America is reeling. The Jesus Freaks and God Squad are spreading joy and love. The Decents are calling for love of the country and family values. Family values do not include gay or "unAmerican" values.

When the Stein/Martinez camp wins the Presidential election, shock waves spread over America. The first Jewish President also happens to be openly gay, and his vice-president is a lesbian. Duncan and his boyfriend Jimmy are energized. They see this victory as a victory for all gay people. Duncan and Jimmy are deeply in love and committed to each other. When the state of Kansas calls for a recount of the votes, the boys join other friends and hire a bus to take them to Kansas.

The novel follows a political campaign and fall-out after the election. Duncan begins to question not only his own beliefs but those of his closest friends. Kids who love politics and fighting for what's right, will love this novel. Provocative and compelling, Levithan has once again hit his niche--high school readers who love a good story.

Recommended for high school collections, grades 10-12. Mature themes, language, some sex.

FTC Disclaimer: I got this book from the publisher to read and possibly comment on. This in no way affected my review.

Friday, August 6, 2010

YA Thriller

Read Chapter One here

Girl Stolen
by April Henry
Henry Holt and Company, 2010.
213 pages

Girl Stolen is a YA thriller that delivers. It's a real page-turner with a twist. Cheyenne Wilder is having a bad day. She has pneumonia and is waiting in the Escalade for her stepmother to fill a prescription for her. Feeling ill, Cheyenne is resting under a blanket in the back seat when her whole world goes crazy!

Someone gets in the SUV and starts driving. Cheyenne knows it's not her stepmother--she can smell cigarette smoke but her stepmother doesn't smoke. Cheyenne can sense the intruder but can't see him. You see, Cheyenne is not only ill, she is legally blind.

Griffin thought he was stealing a "sweet" ride but gets more than he bargained for. How was he to know there was a sixteen-year old blind girl with pneumonia in the back seat? Now he's not just a car thief--he's a kidnapper. If Roy finds out, Griffin is in real trouble.

Two sixteen-year old kids caught up in a crime gone horribly wrong. Readers will root for Cheyenne--she's spunky, tough, resilient, and smart. Readers will yearn for Griffin to do the right thing. Bestselling author April Henry has another winner on her hands.

Highly recommended for YA collections. Grades 7-high school. This novel is available September 28, 2010.

FTC required disclosure: This book was mailed to me by the author as part of a mail chain. I dedided to review it after reading it. In no way is my review influenced by the Advance Readers Copy furnished by the author. I mailed the book copy to the next reviewer on the list.

Highly recommended for YA collections. Grades 7-high school. This novel is available September 28, 2010.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Magical Pick

The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas
Simon & Shuster (Aladdin), 2010.
281 pages

The Wish Stealers is a treasure of magic, wishes, and lucky Indian head pennies. However, some pennies can be unlucky, as Griffin Penshine soon finds out. After meeting a very old lady in an antiques shop, Griffin becomes the new caretaker of a box of "lucky" pennies. The lady warns Griffin that the pennies are wishes stolen from people years before, and that the holder of the wishes must return them to their rightful owner or be forever cursed. If Griffin tells anyone about the unlucky box, she will never have any of her wishes come true again. And, she can't throw away the pennies or the box.

Griffin only wishes for a few things: she wants to be the best bass guitar player in history. She wishes her grandmother's health will improve, and that her mother will deliver a healthy baby. But a wish stealer's good wishes never come true--only her bad wishes happen.

How will Griffin outsmart the curse of the pennies? And how can she, a sixth grader, achieve the hardest penny of all: World Peace? The Wish Stealers is a fun read with real humor and whimsy. Half mystery, half comedy, this novel is sure to delight girls ages 9-13. Readers of the Ramona series will like Griffin Penshine. Recommended for collections--grades 4-7.

FTC Disclaimer: This book and others were sent to me to review by another blogger who receives MANY books from publishers. The book was at no cost to me. This review is in no way influenced by this fact.