Book Review - Efrain's Secret by Sofia Quintero

Wednesday June 30, 2010

Efrain's Secret
by Sofia Quintero
April 13, 2010
Knopf  Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Summary: Ambitious high school senior Efrain Rodriguez dreams of escaping the South Bronx for an Ivy League college like Harvard or Yale. But how is his family going to afford to pay for a prestigious university when Moms has to work insane hours to put food on the table as it is? And Efrain wouldn’t dare ask that good-for-nothing father of his who has traded his family in for younger models. Left with few options, Efrain chooses to do something he never thought he would. He embarks on a double life—honor student by day, drug peddler at night—convinced that by temporarily capitulating to society’s negative expectations of a boy like him, he can eventually defy them.

Sofia Quintero makes a stunning debut writing for young adults with this gritty, complex, and real exploration of the life of an urban teen whose attempt to leave one world behind for a better one could cost him everything.

Review:  Efrain's Secret is an edgy novel about a young Puerto Rican boy from the Bronx trying to beat the odds and make it to an Ivy League school. This modern day story follows Efrain Rodriguez in his quest to apply to numerous colleges despite having a good-for-nothing father who’s abandoned his family forcing his to mom  work an insane amount of hours just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

 Efrain is a Senior who lives in a complex urban world and longs for a normal life, longs for good things to happen to him because he is doing all the right things, not pushing or using drugs, he is focused on getting an education, maintaining his grades, and being a respectable young man.

The odds are against Efrain, even his guidance counselor discourages him from chasing his dream. His dad ran off with another woman, but still lives in the neighborhood, his mother loves and supports him, his friends support him, his teachers support him, but the cost of going away to college is astronomical.

Efrain applies for financial aid, plans to retake the SATs to get a number closer to 2100, keep his grades up, be valedictorian and have glowing letters of recommendations from teachers, all in an attempt to look more impressive to the colleges and ensure an entrance to one of the prestigious schools. Spinning his wheels and seeing no other option Efrain calls on a childhood friend to set him up with a job peddling drugs. Honor student by day, drug pusher by night. He lies to family and friends and is ashamed of what he is doing, but tries to argue away his feelings as a means to an end, saving lots of money for college.

  As could be anticipated, there are street wars that Efrain and his friend Nester are caught up in. This has dramatic results in the end, and Efrain hurts and disappoints his family and friends. I enjoyed this realistic novel and really enjoyed how the chapters all started with an SAT word and definition pertaining to the chapter. A well written and gritty story that shows all our choices have consequences one way or another.  Swearing (not overdone but realistic to the characters) makes this read more appropriate for older middle level students. Overall an entertainingly believable story that will take you through life in the rural Bronx, the many trials and tribulations facing a young Puerto Rican boy and all that he does to try to come out on top. 

Recommended!

Book Review - The Mosts by Melissa Senate

Saturday June 26, 2010

The Mosts
by Melissa Senate
June 8, 2010
Delacorte Press
Goodreads Summary: Madeline finished freshman year at Freeport Academy just as invisible as when she started. But after a summer in Italy with her sophisticated aunt, she returned as a sophomore with cool clothes, European attitude, and a hot new boyfriend, Thom.

Maddie's part of the in crowd . . . the Mosts. Her best friend, Caro? Most Beautiful. Her other friends, Fergie, Annie, and Selena? Most Stylish, Most Hilarious, and Most Hot, respectively. And Madeline? Most Popular. Her life is great. While it lasted...

Now Thom's moved to California-so Maddie's no longer the girlfriend of a popular guy. The guy Caro likes only has eyes for Madeline-can you say social suicide? And a group of misfits at school are begging Madeline to help make them over.

Madeline knows there's a fine line between being a Most . . . and being a Not. She doesn't want her status to change . . . but what if she doesn't have a choice?

Review: Summer is the time for those fun reads that you can finish in one or two afternoons while lying out in the sun and enjoying a lazy summer day.  The Mosts by Melissa Senate is a fun, fast read that will keep you turning the pages.

Sophomore Madeline Echols has it pretty good. After spending the summer with her aunt in Italy following her eighth grade year, Madeline went from a shy nobody to a sophisticated "Most" along with a hot boyfriend and the most popular kids in school as her friends.

When her uber-popular boyfriend Thom has to move across the country to sunny California, Madeline is sure they can make it work. When things start going downhill Madeline decides its time to visit Thom and her Dads wedding is the perfect excuse. But flying all the way to California is expensive and her mom and step-dads dairy farm isn't exactly made of money.

When a group of misfits enlist Madeline's help to keep them off of the "Most Nots" list at school, she has a way to earn the money for that ticket to sunny California. As Madeline prepares to help her protegees get noticed (in a good way!) she wonders if her own popularity is on the line. Was she only popular because of Thom? Her popular friends have seemed hot and cold lately and Madeline is starting to wonder...

If you enjoy movies like Mean Girls and books where the dynamics of high school popularity can make or break you, then this books if for you! Madeline is very likable and real...dealing with trying to do whats right while balancing the insecurities that most teens deal with. Family, friends, boys and school...can Madeline have it all and still stay true to herself?

Recommended for ages 12 and up

Craft Book Review - Beautiful Button Jewelry by Susan Davis

Wednesday June 23, 2010

Beautiful Button Jewelry
by Susan Davis
Available now
Sterling Publishing
Goodreads Summary: Susan Davis shows crafters how to create wonderful vintage-style buttons and turn them into attractive jewelry. The sophisticated and elegant projects are carved and stenciled, and made of such materials as metal, jet glass, pearl, bakelite, and celluloid...and every one is gorgeous. Davis presents them in historical order, and provides a little history and anecdotal description of each style.

Review: Buttons are one of those little crafty items that I truly cannot resist buying anytime I stop by a garage sale or estate sale...especially if they are old and unique!

Okay, so buttons you find on most of your clothes are nothing special...but old buttons can be really cool (not the greatest descriptive word but you get the idea!) There are people out there who actually have million dollar button collections....seriously!

The book starts off with a history of buttons with some pretty interesting facts! For example, did you know France's King Louis XIV spent $6 million  on buttons during his reign! That my friends, is a lot of friggin' buttons :)

In the "Getting Started" section there is a very detailed materials and supplies sections with tons of great pictures. There is also a techniques page with a very basic amount of instruction on crimping, wire-wrapping and making loops and eyes.

Chapters 2-7 take a look at specific kind of buttons in each chapter and have projects to go along with each type. Metal buttons, glass buttons, Bakelite, Mother-of-Pearl plus many more there are all types of projects for all types of buttons. Everything from earrings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches to funky little craft projects. If you love buttons you'll definitely find projects and inspirations in this book!
I'd like to mention that if you are a beginner you may want to have the basics down before starting these projects. Although there are great pictures of the project results, the instructions for completing them are step-by-step in writing but not with pictures. If you are comfortable with the basics you will have no problem finishing any of these beaded button beauties!

Book Review - 13 To Life by Shannon Delany

Tuesday June 22, 2010

13 To Life
by Shannon Delany
June 22, 2010
St. Martin's Griffin
Goodreads Summary: Something strange is stalking the small town of Junction…

When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.

The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.

Review: Take a modern day werewolf tale and mix it with star-crossed lovers and toss in a little Russian mafia and what do you get? A fast-paced story that you won't want to put down!

Soon after Jessica is assigned to guide new student Pietr Rusakova around the school, she realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Of course being the new guy who just happens to super hot gets Pietr a lot of attention...and due to mostly her own actions, Jessica senses that theirs is a love that is not to be.

Despite her own intentions fate seems to have other plans for Jessica and Pietr and the more they get to know each other the deeper the mystery becomes. The one connection they cannot deny is that they have both lost parents. Jessica has just recently lost her mother in a horrible accident (and whoah the complications involved in this part of the story are HUGE!) and both of Pietr's parents were murdered in a nearby town. They make a promise to each other to be together on the dates of their parents deaths no matter what.

Through out the story Pietr continues to ask Jessica "What makes someone a man, or a monster?" Something she won't fully understand until its standing right in front of her. There is a lot of detail to this story and after I finished the book I kept thinking about all the little plot points that were definitely left unanswered....I won't mention them here but I'm hoping for answers in book 2 Secrets and Shadows!

I really enjoyed this book! Mystery, murder, a love triangle, werewolves, the Russian mafia and romance...whew! That's a lot packed into one great read! I know I'll have to buy at least two copies to appease my paranormal readers in the library. Can't wait for the sequel!

Book Review - Angel Star by Jennfer Murgia

Monday June 21, 2010

Angel Star
by Jennifer Murgia
May 18, 2010
Lands Atlantic Publishing
Goodreads Summary: Seventeen-year-old Teagan McNeel falls for captivating Garreth Adams and soon discovers that her crush has an eight-point star etched into the palm of his right hand-the mark of an angel.

But where there is light, dark follows, and she and Garreth suddenly find themselves vulnerable to a dark angel's malicious plan that could threaten not only her life, but the lives of everyone she knows, and now, she is torn between one angel's sacrifice and another angel's vicious ambition.

Divinely woven together, Angel Star takes readers on a reflective journey when one angel's sacrifice collides with another angel's vicious ambition in a way that is sure to have readers searching for their own willpower.

Review: I'll come right out and say it...Angels have become my new very favorite figures in the paranormal world. There is so much there to work with! When I think of Angels I think of light and goodness but there is always that edge when I remember Lucifer himself was Angel of God before his betrayal...

Angel Star focuses on a specific kind of Angel, Guardian Angels that are each assigned to protect a specific human. What happens when a Guardian Angel takes his guardianship to a whole new level or, on the other hand, abandons his duties all together out of greed and a quest for power?

Seventeen-year-old Teagan McNeel finds herself in the middle of a battle between light and dark...and the new boy at school Garreth Adams seems to be right in the middle of it. After a tragic accident Teagan must rely on Garreth to get past her sorrow and get to the bottom of the changes that are occurring around her.

There is a little twist towards the end of the story and the final pages definitely pave the way for a sequel. It is obvious that Teagan has more challenges ahead of her...the question is will she choose the right path?

I really enjoyed this well written story and it kept me turning the pages each time I sat down to read. You know those books that have you putting off all the other things you "should" be doing? This is one of them!

Appropriate for ages 12 and up!

A Very Late In My Mailbox (40)

Thursday June 10, 2010
Softball tournaments and end-of-year school stuff has me very behind!!! So here is what I SHOULD have posted on Sunday last week :)

In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie is a way to share what new books you get each week.  They can be books you borrowed from the library, bought, traded, won or received for review.

So, without further adieu, the following are books I received this past week...enjoy!

 For review.... :)

Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash
by Wendy Van Draanen
Available now
Yearling/Random House
Sammy finds herself with three wads of cold harsh cash given to her by an old, dying man. He tells her to throw the money away, but how can anyone throw away cash? That money could be put to good use (like buying a killer bathing suit to wear to the end-of-summer pool party that Casey Acosta will be at). 

Soon there is a strange man in town asking questions about the dead guy who handed Sammy the money. Does he know about the cash, and more importantly, does he know Sammy has it, and what is he going to do to her to get it back? Money changes everything, and Sammy is about to find out just how true this can be.






The Tilting House
by Tom Llewellyn
June 8, 2010
Tricycle Press/Random House
Talking rats
Growth potions
Buried treasure

Brothers Josh and Aaron Peshik are about to discover that their new home with the tilting floors hides many mysteries. When the boys and their neighbor Lola discover the hidden diary of F.T. Tilton, the brilliant but deranged inventor who built the house, they learn a dark secret that may mean disaster for the Peshik family. Can the kids solve the riddles of the tilting house before time runs out? 

Mad science, mischief, and mishaps combine in the suspenseful and imaginative tale of The Tilting House.





Middleworld: The Jaguar Stones Book 1
by J&P Voelkel
April 27, 2010
Egmont
Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy, video-gamer extraordinaire, is furious when his archaeologist parents cancel the family vacation to go on a dig in Central America. But things go from bad to worse when Max is summoned to join them, only to discover that his parents have vanished. With the help of Lola, a fast-talking, quick-thinking Maya girl, Max embarks on a quest to find out just what’s going on. Soon Max and Lola are running for their lives in the perilous rainforest, as they unlock ancient secrets, meet mysterious strangers, and begin to understand that, in San Xavier, nothing is ever as it seems.
           
Fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to Max Murphy. But can a teen whose biggest talent is for video games rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save himself from the villainous Lords of Death?



13 to Life
by Shannon Delany
June 22, 2010
St. Martin's Griffin
Something strange is stalking the small town of Junction…

When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.

The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.



My Ultimate Sister Disaster
by Jane Mendle
June 8, 2010
St. Martin's Griffin
If there were a way to pick your family, fourteen-year old Franny might not pick her own. Her father is a hipster boutique owner, her mother is off in Kenya jumpstarting her career, and her sister Zooey is a precocious prima ballerina. Lately, Zooey’s so absorbed with her ballet career that she barely notices Franny. And since Zooey attends a top ballet conservatory, Franny’s on her own navigating the brutal hallways of her Manhattan prep school, a first-year trying to get noticed on the newspaper (and by its soulful, long-lashed editor-in-chief).

But everything changes when Zooey breaks her leg and her
ballet dreams come to a grinding halt. Unable to practice, Zooey begins to hone in on Franny’s “normal” life and friends. Franny feels terrible for Zooey, but when Zooey’s encroachment starts to extend to her long-time crush, Franny begins to wonder if her sister might just be her worst competition.

Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm
May 25, 2010
Random House
Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

The Cruisers
by Walter Dean Myers
August 2010
Scholastic
(Audio book cover but ARC I was sent has same one)
Zander Scott and his friends, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi are in trouble. Even though they’re students at DaVinci, one of the best Gifted and Talented schools in Harlem, their grades are slipping, and Mr. Culpepper, the Assistant Principal and Chief Executioner, is ready to be rid of them.
When the school starts a unit on the Civil War, and kids split up into Union and Confederate sympathizers, Zander and his crew are given a charge – to negotiate a peace between both sides before the war actually breaks out.

That’s when Zander comes up with the idea to launch an alternative school newspaper called The Cruiser. What he and his friends learn is that their writing has power to keep the peace, but that words can be weapons, too. Soon everyone at DaVinci is forced to consider the true meaning of democracy and what it costs to stand up for a cause.

The result is nothing they could have expected, and everything they could have hoped for.

Touch Blue
by Cynthia Lord
August 2010
Scholastic
Touch Blue and your wish will come true.
"Why take chances?" says eleven-year-old Tess Brooks. "Especially when it’s so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around three times or crossing your fingers." 

But Tess is coming to know that it’s not always that simple.
continued in Extended Summary... 

The state of Maine plans to shut down her island’s schoolhouse, which would force Tess’s family to move to the mainland--and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own--and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess’s wish come true or will her luck run out? 

Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord offers a warm-hearted, humorous, and thoughtful look at what it means to belong--and how lucky we feel when we do. Touch Blue, sure as certain, will touch your heart. 

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters
by Natalie Standiford
September 2010
Scholastic
The Sullivan sisters have a big problem. On Christmas Day their rich and imperious grandmother gathers the family and announces that she will soon die . . .and has cut the entire family out of her will. Since she is the source of almost all their income, this means they will soon be penniless. 

Someone in the family has offended her deeply. If that person comes forward with a confession of her (or his) crime, submitted in writing to her lawyer by New Year's Day, she will reinstate the family in her will. Or at least consider it. 

And so the confessions begin....






Not That Kind of Girl
by Siobhan Vivian
September 2010
Scholastic
Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things. 

But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you want to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out. 

Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between. 

The Clockwork Three
by Matthew Kirby
October 2010
Scholastic
Giuseppe is a busker, wrenched from his brother and sister in Italy and brought to America to play his fiddle on the streets for the ruthless Stephano.  He sees no way to escape, until the day he finds a green violin that plays magical music.  Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker, with a past he chooses not to remember, but which has left him unable to trust anyone.  His need for independence fuels a secret ambition, the drive to create a clockwork like none ever seen.  

Hannah is a maid in a grand hotel, working to pay the rent for her family’s shabby tenement and keep them off the street.  Her life is one of sacrifice and endless drudgery, until a mysterious guest moves into the topmost suite of the hotel, and Hannah overhears a rumor of hidden treasure.

The lives of the three children soon interlock, like the turning gears in a clock, and they all come to realize that each one holds a key to the mysteries and dangers faced by the others.  Their adventures sweep them across their city, from the shipyards to the opera house, from the depths of the Archer Museum to the opulence of the Gilbert Hotel, from the city’s old cemeteries to the darkness of McCauley Park.  Along the way they must learn to trust each other, and in themselves.  For they risk losing those things they hold most dear, and the dangers they face soon become all too real.

Where the Streets had a Name
by Randa Abdel-Fattah
November 2010
Scholastic
Thirteen-year-old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, as well as the checkpoints, the curfews, and Hayaat's best friend Samy, who is always a troublemaker. But luck is on their side. Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel to Jerusalem. However, while their journey is only a few kilometres long, it may take a lifetime to complete.








We Could be Brothers
by Derrick Barnes
November 2010
Scholastic
Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton meet in detention, where they discover they both had scuffles with the same person, Tariq. Although the boys have different mannerisms (Robeson is more respectful of the girl sharing detention with them) and lifestyles (Pacino lives in a sketchy part of town; Robeson lives in a huge well-to-do house), they become friends. As the tension with Tariq intensifies, Robeson is conflicted about what to do. His father insists on nonviolence. But Tariq will have none of that. And the final confrontation is fast approaching. 

Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton meet in detention, where they discover they both had scuffles with the same person, Tariq. Although the boys have different mannerisms (Robeson is more respectful of the girl sharing detention with them) and lifestyles (Pacino lives in a sketchy part of town; Robeson lives in a huge well-to-do house), they become friends. As the tension with Tariq intensifies, Robeson is conflicted about what to do. His father insists on nonviolence. But Tariq will have none of that. And the final confrontation is fast approaching.

Alcatraz vs. The Shattered Lens (Book 4)
by Brandon Sanderson
December 2010
Scholastic
The fourth and final book in the fabulously funny Alcatraz Smedry series! 

Alcatraz Smedry is on a mission to save the day! In his final adventure in the series by bestselling adult fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz has a lot to prove and, as always, little time in which to do it!

In My Mailbox

Sunday June 8, 2010
In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie is a way to share what new books you get each week.  They can be books you borrowed from the library, bought, traded, won or received for review.

So, without further adieu, the following are books I received this past week...enjoy!

 For review.... :)

Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash
by Wendy Van Draanen
Available now
Yearling/Random House
Sammy finds herself with three wads of cold harsh cash given to her by an old, dying man. He tells her to throw the money away, but how can anyone throw away cash? That money could be put to good use (like buying a killer bathing suit to wear to the end-of-summer pool party that Casey Acosta will be at). 

Soon there is a strange man in town asking questions about the dead guy who handed Sammy the money. Does he know about the cash, and more importantly, does he know Sammy has it, and what is he going to do to her to get it back? Money changes everything, and Sammy is about to find out just how true this can be.




The Tilting House
by Tom Llewellyn
June 8, 2010
Tricycle Press/Random House
Talking rats
Growth potions
Buried treasure

Brothers Josh and Aaron Peshik are about to discover that their new home with the tilting floors hides many mysteries. When the boys and their neighbor Lola discover the hidden diary of F.T. Tilton, the brilliant but deranged inventor who built the house, they learn a dark secret that may mean disaster for the Peshik family. Can the kids solve the riddles of the tilting house before time runs out? 

Mad science, mischief, and mishaps combine in the suspenseful and imaginative tale of The Tilting House.



Middleworld: The Jaguar Stones Book 1
by J&P Voelkel
April 27, 2010
Egmont
Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy, video-gamer extraordinaire, is furious when his archaeologist parents cancel the family vacation to go on a dig in Central America. But things go from bad to worse when Max is summoned to join them, only to discover that his parents have vanished. With the help of Lola, a fast-talking, quick-thinking Maya girl, Max embarks on a quest to find out just what’s going on. Soon Max and Lola are running for their lives in the perilous rainforest, as they unlock ancient secrets, meet mysterious strangers, and begin to understand that, in San Xavier, nothing is ever as it seems.
           
Fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to Max Murphy. But can a teen whose biggest talent is for video games rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save himself from the villainous Lords of Death?



13 to Life
by Shannon Delany
June 22, 2010
St. Martin's Griffin
Something strange is stalking the small town of Junction…

When junior Jess Gillmansen gets called out of class by Guidance, she can only presume it’s for one of two reasons. Either they’ve finally figured out who wrote the scathing anti-jock editorial in the school newspaper or they’re hosting yet another intervention for her about her mom. Although far from expecting it, she’s relieved to discover Guidance just wants her to show a new student around—but he comes with issues of his own including a police escort.

The newest member of Junction High, Pietr Rusakova has secrets to hide--secrets that will bring big trouble to the small town of Junction—secrets including dramatic changes he’s undergoing that will surely end his life early.



My Ultimate Sister Disaster
by Jane Mendle
June 8, 2010
St. Martin's Griffin
If there were a way to pick your family, fourteen-year old Franny might not pick her own. Her father is a hipster boutique owner, her mother is off in Kenya jumpstarting her career, and her sister Zooey is a precocious prima ballerina. Lately, Zooey’s so absorbed with her ballet career that she barely notices Franny. And since Zooey attends a top ballet conservatory, Franny’s on her own navigating the brutal hallways of her Manhattan prep school, a first-year trying to get noticed on the newspaper (and by its soulful, long-lashed editor-in-chief).

But everything changes when Zooey breaks her leg and her
ballet dreams come to a grinding halt. Unable to practice, Zooey begins to hone in on Franny’s “normal” life and friends. Franny feels terrible for Zooey, but when Zooey’s encroachment starts to extend to her long-time crush, Franny begins to wonder if her sister might just be her worst competition.

Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm
May 25, 2010
Random House
Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

The Cruisers
by Walter Dean Myers
August 2010
Scholastic
(Audio book cover but ARC I was sent has same one)
Zander Scott and his friends, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi are in trouble. Even though they’re students at DaVinci, one of the best Gifted and Talented schools in Harlem, their grades are slipping, and Mr. Culpepper, the Assistant Principal and Chief Executioner, is ready to be rid of them.
When the school starts a unit on the Civil War, and kids split up into Union and Confederate sympathizers, Zander and his crew are given a charge – to negotiate a peace between both sides before the war actually breaks out.

That’s when Zander comes up with the idea to launch an alternative school newspaper called The Cruiser. What he and his friends learn is that their writing has power to keep the peace, but that words can be weapons, too. Soon everyone at DaVinci is forced to consider the true meaning of democracy and what it costs to stand up for a cause.

The result is nothing they could have expected, and everything they could have hoped for.

Touch Blue
by Cynthia Lord
August 2010
Scholastic
Touch Blue and your wish will come true.
"Why take chances?" says eleven-year-old Tess Brooks. "Especially when it’s so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around three times or crossing your fingers." 

But Tess is coming to know that it’s not always that simple.
continued in Extended Summary... 

The state of Maine plans to shut down her island’s schoolhouse, which would force Tess’s family to move to the mainland--and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own--and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess’s wish come true or will her luck run out? 

Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord offers a warm-hearted, humorous, and thoughtful look at what it means to belong--and how lucky we feel when we do. Touch Blue, sure as certain, will touch your heart. 

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters
by Natalie Standiford
September 2010
Scholastic
The Sullivan sisters have a big problem. On Christmas Day their rich and imperious grandmother gathers the family and announces that she will soon die . . .and has cut the entire family out of her will. Since she is the source of almost all their income, this means they will soon be penniless. 

Someone in the family has offended her deeply. If that person comes forward with a confession of her (or his) crime, submitted in writing to her lawyer by New Year's Day, she will reinstate the family in her will. Or at least consider it. 

And so the confessions begin....






Not That Kind of Girl
by Siobhan Vivian
September 2010
Scholastic
Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things. 

But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you want to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out. 

Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between. 

The Clockwork Three
by Matthew Kirby
October 2010
Scholastic
Giuseppe is a busker, wrenched from his brother and sister in Italy and brought to America to play his fiddle on the streets for the ruthless Stephano.  He sees no way to escape, until the day he finds a green violin that plays magical music.  Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker, with a past he chooses not to remember, but which has left him unable to trust anyone.  His need for independence fuels a secret ambition, the drive to create a clockwork like none ever seen.  

Hannah is a maid in a grand hotel, working to pay the rent for her family’s shabby tenement and keep them off the street.  Her life is one of sacrifice and endless drudgery, until a mysterious guest moves into the topmost suite of the hotel, and Hannah overhears a rumor of hidden treasure.

The lives of the three children soon interlock, like the turning gears in a clock, and they all come to realize that each one holds a key to the mysteries and dangers faced by the others.  Their adventures sweep them across their city, from the shipyards to the opera house, from the depths of the Archer Museum to the opulence of the Gilbert Hotel, from the city’s old cemeteries to the darkness of McCauley Park.  Along the way they must learn to trust each other, and in themselves.  For they risk losing those things they hold most dear, and the dangers they face soon become all too real.

Where the Streets had a Name
by Randa Abdel-Fattah
November 2010
Scholastic
Thirteen-year-old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, as well as the checkpoints, the curfews, and Hayaat's best friend Samy, who is always a troublemaker. But luck is on their side. Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel to Jerusalem. However, while their journey is only a few kilometres long, it may take a lifetime to complete.








We Could be Brothers
by Derrick Barnes
November 2010
Scholastic
Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton meet in detention, where they discover they both had scuffles with the same person, Tariq. Although the boys have different mannerisms (Robeson is more respectful of the girl sharing detention with them) and lifestyles (Pacino lives in a sketchy part of town; Robeson lives in a huge well-to-do house), they become friends. As the tension with Tariq intensifies, Robeson is conflicted about what to do. His father insists on nonviolence. But Tariq will have none of that. And the final confrontation is fast approaching. 

Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton meet in detention, where they discover they both had scuffles with the same person, Tariq. Although the boys have different mannerisms (Robeson is more respectful of the girl sharing detention with them) and lifestyles (Pacino lives in a sketchy part of town; Robeson lives in a huge well-to-do house), they become friends. As the tension with Tariq intensifies, Robeson is conflicted about what to do. His father insists on nonviolence. But Tariq will have none of that. And the final confrontation is fast approaching.

Alcatraz vs. The Shattered Lens (Book 4)
by Brandon Sanderson
December 2010
Scholastic
The fourth and final book in the fabulously funny Alcatraz Smedry series! 

Alcatraz Smedry is on a mission to save the day! In his final adventure in the series by bestselling adult fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz has a lot to prove and, as always, little time in which to do it!

Tween Tuesdays (12)

Tuesday June 8, 2010

Tween Tuesdays is a meme I first saw at Green Bean Teen Queen and really liked because she is also a librarian who deals with teens and tweens. So, since most of my blog is devoted to YA and teen books I figured that on Tuesdays I can do posts for all the tweeners out there!









Trackers
by Patrick Carman
May 1, 2010
Scholastic Press
Goodreads Summary: In the 21st century landscape of bits and bytes, everyone leaves a digital footprint ... even the most advanced cyber criminals. And that’s where the Trackers come in. Four tech-savvy kids armed with high-tech video cameras and esoteric coding skills, the Trackers can find almost anyone, anywhere.

Told through a collage of videos, text, and websites, Trackers #1 follows Adam, Finn, Lewis, and Emily as they become entangled in a high-tech, high-stakes game of cat and mouse with Shantorian, the world’s most dangerous hacker. At least, that’s who they think they’re tracking.... 

As the four dig deeper into the shadowy world of online crime, they soon learn that things aren’t always as they seem.

Review: The first book in a new website/book adventure combo from the author of the popular Skeleton Creek series.

With the popularity of online gaming and anything computer this book will definitely intrigue readers who enjoy computer games along with a good mystery! Throughout the book there are passwords provided for readers to find clues and to even follow the criminals they are tracking on Google maps! 

A fun, interactive adventure that will keep readers interested through a combo of interactive videos and clues as well as a pretty good story line. Best suited for grades 5 - 8.


The Deadlies: Felix Takes the Stage
by Kathryn Lasky
May 1, 2010
Scholastic Press
Goodreads Summary: The Deadlies are like any other family with a loving mother and bright, rambunctious children. Except they're spiders. Really, really poisonous ones. But Edith and her children are kind and cultured. In fact, the Deadlies had been happily living in a symphony hall until Edith's son, Felix, had a . . .well... "misunderstanding" with the maestro. 

Now they're on the hunt for a new home. That is, if they can outwit the overzealous arachnologists and evil exterminators on their tail. Will they ever find a place to live in peace?

Review: A new series from the author of the Guardians of Ga'hoole that will surely be a crowd pleaser with upper elementary and tween readers.

When Felix disobeys his mother's strict rule of letting a human see him when he gets to close to the symphony director he devotedly admires things get a little out of hand. In fact, Felix looses a leg in the melee (which is thankfully regenerated later) and the conductor faints from fright. Fleeing from the exterminator they know is coming Felix and his family experience adventure as they search for a new home.

A funny, fast-paced story that will be enjoyed by early readers on up to tweens. The author infuses the story with facts about spiders and gives some details on the shy yet poisonous Brown Recluse spider at the end of the book.

Blog Tour - Wendelin Van Draanen

Monday June 7, 2010

Blog Tour - Wendelin Van Draanen 
author of the Sammy Keyes series

Sammy Keyes, who is smart, funny, and with detective skills that would give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money, has become an iconic character in children’s literature since the debut of the first book in the series back in 1998. Now 12 books later, Wendelin Van Draanen’s Edgar Allan Poe Award-winning series continues to entertain and excite fans across the country, eager to delve into the latest caper that our fearless seventh grader needs to solve. 

The latest book published in the series (paperback release was on May 11, 2010):


SAMMY KEYES AND THE COLD HARD CASH 
 Sammy finds herself with three wads of cold harsh cash given to her by an old, dying man. He tells her to throw the money away, but how can anyone throw away cash? That money could be put to good use (like buying a killer bathing suit to wear to the end-of-summer pool party that Casey Acosta will be at). 

Soon there is a strange man in town asking questions about the dead guy who handed Sammy the money. Does he know about the cash, and more importantly, does he know Sammy has it, and what is he going to do to her to get it back? Money changes everything, and Sammy is about to find out just how true this can be.



The next book in the series,  
Sammy Keyes and the Wedding Crasher 
coming in October 2010!

 For junior high detective Sammy Keyes, eighth grade begins with an accusation, an inquisition, and several assorted death threats!

The history teacher, Mr. Vince, is being threatened, which at first seems funny. He’s horrible! Every student wants Mr. Vince gone. But as the threats become more serious, the question becomes—who wants him dead and gone?

With her own name near the top of the suspect list, Sammy’s determined to get to the bottom of things. But she’s distracted by a mother bearing bad news, an almost-boyfriend ducking her calls, and a date with a poofy lavender bridesmaid dress.

This latest Sammy Keyes adventure blends mystery, comedy, and a dusting of fairy tale magic as Sammy takes off her high-tops, puts on some party shoes, and steps into a whole lot of trouble.

Guest blog post by author Wendelin Van Draanen.....


Tomorrow I’m flying home. The tour winds back to my little town, where I’ll put up one last post on my own personal blog. And just as with every physical book tour I’ve been on, I’m feeling a little quiet and introspective as I near the end.

I doubt many of you knew me from before Sammy Keyes—you know me because of Sammy Keyes. Or because one of my stand-alone books like Flipped or Runaway brought you to Sammy Keyes. But there was life before Sammy, and I remember it well.

I described the environment I lived in at an earlier stop on this tour (www.thechildrensbookreview.com). You likely got the picture: this was not a good place to be. And without going into the details, but just so you know, there were much darker days that led up to those.

The whole time I lived there, I tried to keep hope in my heart with my writing. One day, someday, someone would understand what I was trying to do with this spunky girl named Sammy and they’d give me a book deal.

I didn’t exactly have an office. I had a fold down desk at the foot of my bed and a Mac Classic that I stored underneath it. When the alarm would go off at 5:00 AM, I’d get up, flip down the desk, pull up the computer, sit on the edge of the mattress, and dive back into the world of Sammy Keyes.

When one of my babies would go “Waaaah!” I knew it was time to start my real day. I’d get them ready, and off we’d go, them to daycare, me to teach computer science and math at a high school. In the evening I’d do all the things we crazy mom-teacher people do, and if there was any time left before bed, I’d work a little more on Sammy Keyes.

This is how I wrote the first four Sammy Keyes books.

And during the writing of those books, I came home each day to rejects from publishers and agents in New York.  I really thought I was on to something with Sammy, but nobody in New York seemed to agree. And yes, I’m sure they thought I was nuts. They’d reject a book and I’d write the sequel. They’d reject the sequel and I’d write the third. They’d reject the third, and I’d write the fourth.

Who does that?

So no, the path to publication was not an easy one for me, but that may be why I so appreciate where I am now. Since my “miracle phone call” where Knopf picked up the four Sammys I’d written and optioned more, I’ve continued to keep my nose to the grindstone. I now have 25 books in print, all with the editor who pulled me out of the slush pile. I’ve won lots of awards, and my book Flipped will be a major motion picture this summer, with Rob Reiner directing. Life is a dream.

So why am I talking about all this? Because I was on book tour once, driving from one place to the next in the back of a Lincoln Town Car with my editor, and she turned to me and said, “I’m so glad you’ve stayed nice.” I gave her a puzzled look. “Nice? Why wouldn’t I be nice?” She just shook her head a little and said, “Oh, you’d be surprised.”

And I guess I would be. I can’t imagine forgetting where I’ve come from. I can’t imagine forgetting who’s lifted me to this place. And I can’t imagine ever losing sight of or appreciation for the people who keep me here.

So as this tour winds down and I fly back home, know I’ll be thinking about you, grateful to you, happy that you want to be part of my world, and Sammy’s. Thanks for your time, your support, and for joining me on this tour.  I’ll see you for one last stop tomorrow at http://etrtr.blogspot.com/ It’s where the Sammiacs hang out.


(go to Sammy Keyes to be able to participate in Crack the Code with Sammy Keyes)