Saturday, July 15, 2017

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Orbiting Jupiter is a story about Joseph, a troubled teenager who is placed with a foster family on a farm in rural Maine. The story is told by Jack, 12, a member of the foster family. When Joseph moves in, Jack knows only three things about him: he almost killed a teacher, he used to be in a juvenile detention center and he has a daughter. Joseph has arrived damaged and withdrawn and believing that there is no one in his life that can be trusted.

Despite struggles at school and home, Jack and Joseph eventually gain each other's trust, create a life-long friendship and discover the true meaning of family and the sacrifices it requires. Just when Joseph has begun to believe he'll have a future, he is confronted by demons from his past. Jack narrates a hopeful, yet tragic story that will give readers a fresh perspective on the unfairness of judging other people. This is a heartfelt story about a boy doing his best in bad circumstances and the people who recognize his worth and go out of their way to help him. A good read for lovers of realistic fiction.

Orbiting Jupiter has been nominated for the 2017-2018 Golden Sower Award.


A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen

Gerta is twelve when the Berlin Wall goes up overnight, dividing the city of Berlin into East Berlin and West Berlin. Her family is now separated, with her father and one brother on the West side and her mother and other brother on the East side. Because of her father's political history, the police monitor their family closely and this monitoring becomes more intense when Gerta's best friend's brother is killed while trying to cross the wall.

One day Gerta sees her father through an opening in the wall. She is convinced that his actions contain clues for their escape. Gerta becomes certain that her father wants them to dig a tunnel underneath the wall. But this seems impossible to without getting caught. The Germans have instilled such fear in neighbors that none can be trusted with secrets. Gerta's mother believes the wall is only temporary and any attempts to flee are a risk to great to take. Desperate to reunite her family, Gerta and her brother Fritz begin digging a secret tunnel. But when a nosy neighbor asks too many questions, Gerta, Fritz and their mother realize that they are almost out of time,

A Night Divided has been nominated for the 2017-2018 Golden Sower Award.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key

Terror at Bottle Creek is an adventure story set in the swamps of Alabama. Cort's father is a local expert on hunting and swamp lore and has been teaching Cort everything he knows. When a category 3 hurricane makes landfall, Cort must put all his survival skills to the test. As the storm rages, Francie disappears with Cort's dog, Catfish forcing Fanncie's older sister, Liza, and Cort to go out into the storm to save her. The trio ends up being swept into the raging river, battling winds, cold, darkness, and rising waters.

While angered that his father was tending to Cort's estranged mother while leaving kids at home alone, Cort must keep his focus on getting them to Bottle Creek Indian Mound. Unfortunately, this is also where wild, scared,  hungry animals have fled in their own attempts to survive. Amid miles of storm-thrashed wetlands filled with dangerous, desperate wild animals, it's up to Cort to win or lose the fight for their lives.

Terror at Bottle Creek has been nominated for the 2017-2018 Golden Sower Award.


The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Sunshine Griffith and her mother Kat move to Ridgemont, Washington. From the moment they arrive, Sushine feels her world darken and grow cold. Their old house can only be described as creepy.

In the days that follow their move, things become strange. Sunshine is followed around the house by an icy breeze, a phantom wind slams her bedroom door shut and she hears sounds no one else can hear. The child's laughter that Sunshine hears on her first night soon evolves into sobs and the spirits haunting her house become more and more frightening. As her mother becomes more distant, Sunshine soon realizes that Kat is in danger. Sunshine must accept what she is and pass the test if she is to save her mother from a fate worse than death,

If you like Mary Downing Hahn stories and  Famous Last Words, then this is a another ghost story you will want to pick up. Be sure to check out The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

The Girl in the Blue Coat is a historical fiction novel set in Amsterdam during World War II.  Hanneke, a Dutch girl, makes a living making black market deliveries while at the same time trying to deal with the painful memories of losing her boyfriend in the war. When one of her customers asks her to find a missing Jewish girl, she is drawn into a mystery that will bring challenges, tragedy and impossible choices that will change her life. Hanneke, like most children during World War II is forced to grow up too fast, but in the process changes from a reserved, grief-stricken girl to a courageous heroine who puts her own life in danger to save a girl she has never met.

If you liked   Projekt 1065, Prisoner B-3087 or Between Shades of Gray, you'll want to pick this one up.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Kennedy Waters never believed in ghosts...until the night one tried to kill her...and her entire world began to unravel. And, why all of a sudden did identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart appear out of nowhere to save her?

The brothers reveal that Kennedy's mother was part of ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon.

When all five members of this society are murdered on the same night, a new generation of Legion members (including Kennedy) begin a quest to find the truth and the only weapon that might destroy the demon. This young adult book is a chilling paranormal fantasy filled with suspense, romance and dark adventure. Kami Garcia is the author of another popular paranormal series, Beautiful Creatures.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Code Name Komiko by Naomi Paul

Lian is the smart, obedient daughter of an affluent family living in Hong Kong. An exceptional student and talented violinist, Lian also lives another life unknown to her family and friends. She is a "teenage hacktivist" who, with the aid of her online group calling themselves 06/04, attempts to expose government and corporate wrongdoing.

When a corpse washes up on the beach and evidence of the death completely disappears, Lian stumbles upon a link between the dead girl and one of her father's business partners, Rand Harrison.  Liam's investigation becomes even more complicated when Mr. Harrison's son Matt shows up at her high school.  Liam and 06/04 soon find themselves risking their own safety to uncover evidence of Harrison's crimes despite corrupt government and law enforcement officials. Code Name Komiko is a fast-paced mystery full of danger, high speed chases, narrow escapes, and some great twists. If you are a fan of mysteries/thrillers, be sure to check this one out!

Read an excerpt

Monday, July 25, 2016

Frostborn by Lou Anders

Karn, being the first born son, is destined to take over the family farm. Unfortunately, he would rather play the board game Thrones and Bones and dream about traveling to see other places in the world. Thianna is half human and half frost giantess. Too tall to be human, too short to be a giant,  she doesn't feel like she completely fits into either world.

When Karn and Thianna are forced to flee their homes, their paths cross and soon they have to rely on each other to stay alive. Survival can be challenging when you're being chased by a 1,500 year-old dragon, Helltopper, the undead warrior and his undead minions, an evil uncle, wyverns, trolls, and giants. The adventure that begins as a desperate attempt to save their own lives turns into a strategic plan to save each of their families.

Frostborn is a fantasy tale likely to pull in fans of Rick Riordan and the likes. It has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award.

Friday, July 22, 2016

It's World War II and the Germans are getting closer and closer to London. Most parents are anxious to get their children out of the city and to somewhere safe. For Ada and James, it is just as much about escaping poverty, hunger, and daily abuse from their mother. Ada was born with a clubfoot and is constantly the victim of her mother's cruelty. Ada decides that she and her younger brother will board an evacuee train without their Mam's knowledge. Anywhere has to be better...

There is only one person willing to take in these two filthy and malnourished kids - Miss Smith, who lives by herself and has become a recluse since the death of her best friend. In spite of not really wanting the children, Miss Smith provides food, clothing and security and for the first time, a loving home. For Ada, this is the first time she is allowed to go outside. She is determined to learn to ride Susan's (Miss Smith) pony and in spite of her mistrust of people, Ada learns that she has more courage than she realizes and begins to learn the meaning of love as she experiences a real home for the first time.

This is a wonderfully written story by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author of Jefferson's Sons. The War that Saved my Life has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sealed with a Lie by Kat Carlton

Sealed with a Lie is a sequel to the romantic spy-thriller Two Lies and a Spy but can also be read as a stand-alone mystery book. Kari Andrews is the daughter of two international spies. Believing that she and her little brother Charlie have been abandoned by their parents, Kari is living in Paris and also being trained to become a spy. When Charlie is kidnapped, Kari some of her friends from Generation Interpol (G.I.) find themselves  in a race against time to save her brother's life.

The voice on the phone tells Kari that she needs to jailbreak a jewel thief, steal a valuable substance from a high-security bio lab, and deliver the goods. The likelihood of this being a double-cross is great, but there seems to be no other choice. The question looming before all of them...can they suceed before Charlie pays the ultimate price?

If you liked the Harlan Coben or Ally Carter mysteries this book will be one you'll want to pick up. The violence is a little graphic at the end of the story, but this is one that will definitely keep you turning the pages.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Fifth-grader Albie has just been kicked out of his fancy Manhattan private school because he couldn't keep up with the other students. He always feels like he's just a little bit behind everyone else - even at his new public school. Albie rarely gets more than 4 words correct on his spelling tests, math is hard, and his dad can't understand why he can't do better.

Only a couple of grown-ups seem to understand Albie. Mr. Clifton, the math club teacher who tells terrible math jokes every day, and Calista, Albie's nanny/babysitter. Mr. Clifton helps Albie to do math without even having to think about it. And Calista has a remarkable ability to see Albie for who he is, instead of who he should be. Somehow she can always make him feel like he might be okay after all.

Absolutely Almost deals with issues of friendship, loyalty, self-worth and bullying while emphasizing the importance of being caring, thoughtful and kind. It reminds readers that there are things to be proud of that don't involve fastest times or even perfect scores. Absolutely Almost has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Addie lives in the Compound - a place the normal world doesn't know anything about. People living inside the Compound all have "special abilities." Addie's ability is that of a Searcher. When faced with a decision, she is able to see into the future and experience in her head how each path will play out. While searching, Addie feels like she is really living each path, and in the end searching helps her to make the best decision.

When her parents announce their divorce and ask Addie which parent she wants to live with it seems like her world is falling apart. Worse yet, her mother plans to remain in the Compound, while her father is going to live a more normal life outside the Compound. In attempt to make the right decision, Addie searches weeks into the future and sees two different scenarios, neither of which is ideal. Both paths show good and bad and each would meaning giving up someone she loves, making the decision even harder.

Pivot Point will be a good read for those liking science fiction, realistic fiction, a little romance, and unpredictable twists.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown

Arty, real name Arcturus Betelegeuse Chambers, was named after the Alpha star in the constellation Bootes. All of the Chambers family is named after stars. And Arty LOVES anything having to do with space. He has been working on a machine that will connect to Mars and eventually find Martians. While out looking at the night sky, Arty and his friends become suspicious of Arty's next door neighbor - nicknamed "Mr. Death." In fact, they suspect he is a zombie, because every night he goes behind their house in his black hoodie with his trash bag and a box and doesn't come back until morning.

Chaos strikes Arty's household when his father informs the family that they are moving to Las Vegas. Just before the move, Arty discovers that Mr. Death loves space just like he does and they become friends. Arty and Mr. Death work on Arty's space machine together and all seems to be going well - that is until Arty has to move away from his friends and until he discovers a terrible secret about Mr. Death.

This is a story full of humor and space facts. It's also a story about relationships and following your dream. Life on Mars has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award. 


Grandmaster by David Klass

Grandmaster  follows Daniel, an average high school student who joins the high school's chess team. Not a good player at first, he is surprised to be invited to a weekend parent-child chess tournament. Daniel doesn't understand why his teammates want him to go so badly until he discovers that his father was once one of the most promising young Chess players in America. Daniel also learns that his dad couldn't handle the pressures of the game and had to eventually give up chess to save his own life and sanity.

As the story develops, readers learn why Daniel's father swore off chess forever, and explores Daniel's journey to discover chess for himself. The pasts of both characters are slowly revealed and although Daniel was really just looking for acceptance, the secrets he uncovers about his father will force him to make some surprising moves himself. Don't be surprised to like this book much more than anticipated. Grandmaster has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper


Stella by Starlight, by award-winning author Sharon M. Draper, (Out of My Mind) is set in the segregated South of 1932. This story is told through the eyes of Stella, an 11-year-old African-American growing up in Bumblebee, North Carolina. Life is hard and everyone is struggling to survive the Great Depression. There are places in town where Stella is not allowed because she is "colored." And, although many people in Bumblebee are pleasant, others are unbelievably cruel.

One late night Stella sees something she isn't supposed to see. In the distance a group of Ku Klux Klan members are burning a cross. Their reappearance in the area sets everyone on edge, wondering what will come next. Stella's father, along with two other brave black men decide they are going to exercise their right to vote. A night later, one of their homes is burned to the ground by the Klan.

Although this book recreates some of the sad and sometimes violent events of this time in history, the bad events are overshadowed by the love and resourcefulness of the community. Stella by Starlight has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler's Atomic Bomb is a tale of science and espionage, adventure and tragedy. Although confusing at first, Neal Bascomb weaves many characters into this story - German scientists attempting harness nuclear power to build a bomb, mixed bands of Norwegian patriots risking everything to free Norway from German oppression, and British and American bomber crews trying to destroy the "heavy water" plant at Vermork.

While Americans are working on The Manhattan Project, allies discover Germany's plans for harnessing nuclear power for their own version of the atomic bomb. After two British operations fail to stop the Nazi's deadly designs, the task falls to a group of Norwegian commandos armed with little more than skis, explosives, and great courage. These men will need to survive months in Norway's snowy wilderness and elude extensive manhunts by German soldiers...all to execute two of the most dangerous acts of sabotage in World War II.

Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler's Atomic Bomb  has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award. If you liked Neal Bascomb's The Nazi Hunters, this will be another great nonfictions read.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat by Graham Salisbury

Hunt for the Bamboo Rat is based on a true story of a Japanese American during World War II. Zenji Watanabe, 17, is fluent in both the Japanese and English languages. He is recruited by the Army and sent to Manila undercover as a civilian to gather information on the Japanese in the Philippines. If discovered, he will be executed as a traitor.

Several months after arriving in Manila, Zenji gets news that Pearl Harbor has been bombed. Shortly afterward, the Philippines is also attacked and Zenji is recalled to base where he assists his commanding officer with translations and interrogations. When the Japanese invade the Philippines, the Americans are forced to retreat and eventually surrender. Zenji is captured by the Japanese and faces unbelievable torture at the hand of his captors. Hunt for the Bamboo Rat is an action-packed story of survival and is also an amazing testament to the strength of the human spirit.

This is the fourth book in the Prisoners of the Empire series. (book one - Under the Blood Red Sun) It has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Nina is going into the summer following her freshman year of high school. She is struggling and missing her grandmother. Her parents are both lawyers and intently focused on their careers and law practice. Her brother has become distant and troublesome and her best friend sometimes acts like someone she no longer knows.

To change things, Nina decides to use her summer doing one good deed for each day of the summer. Following her grandmother's advice about the importance of simple things, Nina sets out to better her community, but also comes to understand the positive impact it has on her own life along the way.

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days is a quick read for those who like realistic fiction. The book contains a wide range of interesting characters, a little romance, and a great message about how one person can make a difference. It has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

As sixth-grader Ellie adjusts to the challenges of middle school, her grandfather moves in with her and her mother. Ellie's grandpa is adjusting to changes of his own. He is a scientist who has discovered a formula to reverse the aging process and has turned himself into a teenager. Even more crazy, Ellie and her grandpa, "Melvin" are attending the same middle school.

Melvin is convinced that his new discovery will earn him a Nobel Prize. But before he can reveal the secret of immortality, he must break back into his laboratory to finish his experiment. While helping her grandfather, Ellie discovers that she has much more in common with him than either of her parents. She has a natural curiosity and aptitude for observation and research. Melvin captivates her with stories of famous scientists and their discoveries and also introduces her to the world of "possibilities." But as time goes on, Ellie begins to question whether Melvin's quest for fame will eventually be more destructive than beneficial. The Fourteenth Goldfish contains just the right amounts of humor and substance. It has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

No Summit out of Site by Jordan Romero (with Linda LeBlanc)

At age 9, Jordan Romero decided he was going to climb the Seven Summits - the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents. Since his dad and stepmother were adventure racers, he had a vague idea of what training for a goal like that would involve. After much discussion and consideration, his parents finally gave their approval. On July 22, 2006 Jordan ascended his first summit, Mount Kilimanjaro at an elevation of 19,341 feet. At ten years old, he laid claim to a world record as the youngest documented climber to make the summit. Little Jordan know, though, how incredibly and increasingly difficult his climbs would become.

Jordan's adventure describes overcoming unbelievable odds - climbing at elevations of 18,000+ feet, facing gale force winds and temperatures of 40 degrees below zero, hiking in whiteout conditions, experiencing a deadly avalanche first hand, and depending on the support of one single rope to save his life in case of one mis-step. But mostly, this book tells the story of the frustrations and joys as he relentlessly strives toward his goal. Favorite quote from the book: "It's not the mountain you conquer, it's yourself." If you are someone who loves the outdoors or just has that drive to achieve great things, this story will motivate you to set your goals high and strive to do even more.

No Summit out of Sight: The True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Ally Nickerson has become very good at keeping her learning challenge a secret. She can't read. Each time she lands at a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating disruptive distractions. Ally deals daily with her greatest fear - that everyone will find out she is as dumb as they think she is. But when their teacher takes maternity leave the substitute, Mr. Daniels, sees how bright and creative Ally really is and helps her to understand that great minds don't always work alike. His analogy - "Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.

With Mr. Daniel's help Ally's dyslexia is diagnosed, lessons are adapted, and Ally's confidence begins to grow. She begins to learn that there is a lot more to her - and to everyone - than a label. Fish in a Tree is an uplifting story about overcoming challenges and embracing one's strengths. This will be a great read for those who liked Out of My Mind, Rules, and Counting by 7s. Fish in a Tree has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Intermediate Golden Sower Award.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender


Willa just moved to Hollywood with her mom and her new step-dad Jonathan, a famous director. Moving into a huge mansion in a famous city should be every girl's dream, but Willa hasn't moved past her father's death or the feeling that she was responsible.  Soon life becomes even more unstable as Willa begins to see things that seem impossible - like a dead body floating in her swimming pool, messages on her walls that no one else can see...It's like someone or something is trying to send her a message.

In the meantime, there is a serial killer loose in Los Angeles who reenacts famous classic murder scenes just before killing his victim. And there is Wyatt, a quiet, nerdy classmate who is obsessed with the murders. Also Reed, a very cute, young assistant that works for her step-dad. Willa soon learns that all of these pieces in her life have something to do with her strange visions and especially the unsolved murders. As tension builds and as the visions become more frequent, Willa comes to understand that she has to confront the possible ghost in her house, or she might lose her mind...or her life.

Famous Last Words is nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award and is nearly impossible to put down. Don't be surprised if you read this book all in one night - especially if ghost stories and/or mysteries are your genre of choice.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Loot: How to Steal a Fortune by Jude Watson

March McQuinn is the son of master jewel thief Alfie McQuinn. On a dark night when March is supposed to meet his father, Alfie falls from a rooftop to the wet pavement below. As sirens wail in the distance, Alfie manages only to get out a few last words to his 12-year-old son.  These words, which seem to make no sense, turn out to be cryptic clues and instructions. What March hears as "find jewels" turns out to be "find Jules," the twin sister he never knew he had. The reason for the separation at age two appears to involve seven missing and purportedly cursed moonstones.

Led by clues left by their deceased father, the twins, along with two juvenile delinquents, Darius and Izzy, begin a race against time to find the moonstones and claim a $7 million dollar reward. If they fail, they know the consequence will be entering the foster care system...or worse.

Loot: How to Steal a Fortune is filled with suspense, mystery, and action. Fansof the 39 Clues series will find much to love about this book too. Great mystery, fascinating schemes, and unending adventure. Loot has been nominated for the Intermediate 2016-2017 Golden Sower Award. Pick this one up and you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Jersey Cameron, 17, lives with her mom, stepdad Ronnie, and 5-year old sister Marin in Elizabeth, Missouri. She has always loved a good storm and after years of practicing tornado drills, it has become difficult to take tornado warnings seriously. But as the weather grows increasingly dangerous and warnings become more frequent, Jersey finally retreats to the basement hoping that her mom and little sister are also finding shelter in a safe place.

Everyone knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound, but few are prepared for the aftermath of a violent and destructive storm. And Jersey could never have been prepared for what she sees when she emerges from the basement. Her town has been devastated by a tornado. Her house is gone. Her family is gone, She is alone in a town where few buildings are left standing. The destruction is unimaginable as are the dark days to follow.

Torn Away is a story about love, loss, hope, and survival. Jersey learns as she struggles to overcome her grief that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy. Readers who love realistic fiction will find this book to be both tragic and heartwarming. Author Jennifer Brown pulls no punches as she describes the spectrum of the human experience - from selfish and ugly family members on one side of Jersey's family to loving and caring grandparents on the other side of her family, whose unconditional love teaches Jersey about the most important things in life. Torn Away has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby is a fantasy detective story told through the voice of Abigail Rook. Abigail has just arrived in the United States from Europe in 1892. Like her anthropologist father she is well-educated, but is bored with her private boarding school life and is in search of adventure. Upon arriving in New England, Abigail has very little money with which to find a job or lodging. Finally, she happens upon an advertisement from R.F. Jackaby, resident PI of the small town of Fiddleham. But Jackaby isn't your normal private investigator. Abigail soon discovers that he has a keen eye for the extraordinary - including the ability to see supernatural beings. When Abigail accepts a job as the detective's assistant, she also inherits a ghostly neighbor, a man who has been turned into a mallard, and a third floor attic that looks and acts suspiciously like a woodland glade.

Her first day on the job, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it is an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it's a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police deny. If you enjoy both mystery and fantasy, Jackaby may be a great next read. It has been nominated for the 2016-2017 Young Adult Golden Sower Award.