Tag Archives: Fiction

Gem & Dixie by Sara Zarr

Gen & Dixie by Sara Zarr. April 4, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 288 p. ISBN: 9780062434593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Underage drinking

 

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Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Though she does reasonably well in school and stays out of trouble, Gem doesn’t have it easy. She is constantly on her mother’s case to be a more responsible parent, which puts her at odds with her sister, Dixie, who enables their mother in more ways than one. When their estranged dad shows up, Dixie is enchanted and Gem is wary, but when they discover a backpack full of money he’s left in their room, Gem and Dixie ditch their phones, run away, and spend a few days—and a few thousand dollars—figuring out what to do next. But will the money really provide Gem the independence she so desperately craves? In this illuminating, graceful novel, Zarr demonstrates how privation can reverberate through many areas of a teen’s life, and nicely emphasizes that problems don’t need to be violent or catastrophic in order for one to ask for help (which, thankfully, Gem eventually does). In addition to the powerful portrayal of poverty, Zarr teases out a moving story of sisters navigating their relationship. In Gem’s measured, worried voice, readers will discover a gulf of difference, even resentment, between the sisters, as well as a deep, affectionate solidarity in their unique circumstances. With a vivid, well-rounded cast of characters, including the adults, and a poignant portrayal of family dynamics, Zarr’s frank, resonant story is both bittersweet and triumphant.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Two sisters attempt to sort out their relationship, which is badly strained by years of living with their troubled and neglectful parents. Seventeen-year-old Gem struggles to get enough to eat each day, eventually resorting to bumming spare change off other students at her Seattle high school. Meanwhile, her 14-year-old sister, Dixie, for whom Gem served as protector when they were younger, is able to charm and flirt her way into free sandwiches, cellphones, and more. Despite their drastic outward differences, neither has any sense of safety or well-being in their tenuous living situation with their mom, who, like their absent dad, battles a substance-use disorder. When their dad suddenly returns, their lives are upended yet again, and a situation arises in which both sisters face many hard decisions. Tough, earnest, angry Gem narrates in a matter-of-fact, confessional tone, filling in the heartbreaking back story of her poor, white family in a pair of brief essays she writes at the behest of her school’s kind, supportive psychologist. Gem’s prickly, agonizingly real internal monologues quickly bring readers into her corner, and her messy, layered interactions with Dixie are heart-wrenching. As the unpredictable turns of events progress, Gem’s quietly growing convictions about her own future are hard-won and nuanced. A poignant and smart family drama with broad appeal. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of five novels for young adults, most recently The Lucy Variations, and co-author with Tara Altebrando of Roomies. She’s a National Book Award finalist and two-time Utah Book Award winner. Her novels have been variously named to annual best books lists of the American Library Association, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, the Guardian, the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library and have been translated into many languages. She is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has served as a judge for the National Book Awards. Sara lives in Salt Lake City with her husband.

Her website is www.sarazarr.com.

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Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy

Just Fly Away by Andrew McCarthy. March 28, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781616206291.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

“Ever wish that you could just fly away?”

When fifteen-year-old Lucy Willows discovers that her father has a child from a brief affair, a eight-year-old boy who lives in her own suburban New Jersey town, she begins to question everything she thinks she knows about her home and her life. How could Lucy’s father have betrayed the entire family? How could her mother forgive him? And why isn’t her sister rocked by the news the way Lucy is?

As her father’s secret becomes her own, Lucy grows more and more isolated from her friends, her family, and even her boyfriend, Simon, the one person she thought understood her. When Lucy escapes to Maine, the home of her mysteriously estranged grandfather, she finally begins to get to the bottom of her family’s secrets and lies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Drugs

 

Author Interview

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 7-10. When Lucy learns about Thomas, her half brother, she feels betrayed by her dad’s infidelity and her parents’ secrecy. Lucy finds solace in a new relationship with her friend’s older brother, Simon. Meanwhile, her curiosity about Thomas—who lives mere blocks away in her New Jersey town—motivates her to cross paths with him. She freaks out after meeting him, and takes an impromptu trip to visit her grandfather (who is estranged from Lucy’s dad) in Maine. They enjoy several days together before he suffers a ministroke and Lucy’s dad arrives. The first-person narration emphasizes Lucy’s intense reaction to finding out about her father’s other child. This YA debut suffers from an overload of story—a family drama, a romance, a road trip, and a renewed intergenerational relationship. Other flaws include occasional awkward phrasing, a random musing about race that doesn’t fit the overall tone, and a road trip that drags the pace. Strengths of the book include Lucy’s realistic response to her dad’s revelation, as well as other personal connections, and McCarthy’s fame as an actor will add interest.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Fifteen-year-old Lucy’s world is rocked when her father confesses to her and her sister that they have a half brother, the result of a brief affair. Though their mother has been aware of the existence of Thomas, who’s 8 and lives in their same New Jersey town, for many years and has made her peace with her husband’s infidelity, Lucy reels when she learns about him. Her realistically described reaction of fury and indignation builds until she finally embarks on an impulsive road trip without telling her parents, ending up at her larger-than-life grandfather’s house in Maine. This family drama is appealingly narrated in Lucy’s wry, confessional voice, and a romance she stumbles into with her friend’s stoner brother is sweetly fumbling and awkward. All the major characters seem to be white; musings about the ethnicities of various people Lucy encounters while on her clandestine trip, including a passage in which she wonders whether her own implicit bias might be at play in an interaction she has with a black man, underscore her new determination to seek out answers to questions that have gone unasked in her sheltered upbringing. A poignant, character-driven coming-of-age novel that, despite a too-tidy ending, will appeal broadly to teen readers. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Andrew McCarthy is the author of the New York Times bestselling travel memoir, The Longest Way Home. He is an editor at large at National Geographic Traveler magazine. He is also an actor and director. He lives in New York City with his wife, three children, two fish, and one dog. Just Fly Away is his first novel.

His website is www.andrewmccarthy.com.

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Just Fly Away on Amazon

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour. February 14, 2017. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 234 p. ISBN: 9780525425892.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…

Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Author Interview

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 9-12. It’s the winter break during Marin’s first year at college, and she is facing the holidays thousands of miles from her San Francisco home. Since her grandfather died the previous summer, Marin feels set adrift. Not only has she lost Gramps, her sole caretaker, but he’d been keeping secrets, and when she discovers the truth, it shatters everything she believed was true about her life. Engulfed in pain and feeling alone, she shuns her best friend Mabel’s numerous calls and texts. But Mabel flies cross-country, determined to help her friend deal with her grief. Marin is afraid that Mabel regrets the physical intimacy that had grown between the two girls while she was still in California, and braces herself for more heartache, but Mabel surprises her in more ways than one. With the most delicate and loving strokes in Marin’s first-person narrative, LaCour paints a captivating depiction of loss, bewilderment, and emotional paralysis. Images of the icy winter surrounding Marin in New York contrast sharply with her achingly vibrant memories of San Francisco. Raw and beautiful, this portrait of a girl searching for both herself and a sense of home will resonate with readers of LGBTQIA romances, particularly those with bisexual themes, and the poignant and affecting exploration of grief and betrayal will enchant fans of character-driven fiction.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2016)
“If only lonely were a more accurate word. It should sound much less pretty.” It’s December in New York, and college freshman Marin is in her dorm room, contemplating a solitary monthlong stay after everyone else has left for winter break. Her single respite will be a brief visit from her best friend, Mabel. Marin is dreading the stay for reasons that are revealed in flashbacks: she fled San Francisco without informing anyone after the sudden death of her beloved Gramps, who raised her. Over the course of three days, secrets about Gramps, Marin’s long-dead mother, and the girls’ complicated relationship are revealed in short, exquisite sentences that evoke myriad emotions with a minimum of words. “I must have shut grief out. Found it in books. Cried over fiction instead of the truth. The truth was unconfined, unadorned. There was no poetic language to it, no yellow butterflies, no epic floods.…The truth was vast enough to drown in.” A surprise arrival at story’s end leads to a tearful resolution of Marin’s sorrow and a heartfelt renewal of her relationship with Mabel and her family. Mexican-American Mabel speaks Spanish, while an absence of markers indicates Marin is likely white. An elegantly crafted paean to the cleansing power of truth. (Fiction. 12 & up)

About the Author

Nina LaCour grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her first job was at fourteen in an independent bookstore, and she has since worked in two others. She has tutored and taught in various places, from a juvenile hall to a private college. She now teaches English at an independent high school.

Nina lives in Oakland, California with her wife and their two cute cats.

Her website is www.ninalacour.com.

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We Are Okay on Amazon

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Frank by LJ Alonge

Frank by LJ Alonge. February 21, 2017. Grosset & Dunlap, 128 p. ISBN: 9780451533593.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: 4.0; Lexile: 690.

An action-packed basketball series from author LJ Alonge set on the courts of Oakland, CA.

Frank’s not great at staying out of trouble. He’s also not great at driving cars. After his joyride ends in a crash, he’s stuck with a court-appointed Community Mentor for the summer.

But it’s not too bad. Officer Appleby’s all right. And if anyone can handle a basketball team, a police officer, and a new girl on the horizon, it’s Frank Torres.

Sequel to: Janae

Part of Series: Blacktop

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

About the Author

LJ Alonge has played pick-up basketball in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, Kenya, South Africa and Australia. Basketball’s always helped him learn about his community, settle conflicts, and make friends from all walks of life. He’s never intimidated by the guy wearing a headband and arm sleeve; those guys usually aren’t very good. As a kid, he dreamed of dunking from the free throw line. Now, his favorite thing to do is make bank shots. Don’t forget to call “bank!”

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Frank on Amazon

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Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail. February 27, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 320 p. ISBN: 9780670013081.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3;l Lexile: 620.

Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.

It turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J. s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.

It s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A.J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor. Emmett and Gracie have been best buds since they were little, and there’s nothing they won’t do for each other. But when Gracie turns 14, she’s not certain if she can handle some of the shifts and changes that begin to take place. This modern, middle-school retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is heartwarming, funny, and tender, offering a story of young love and loyalty, friendship and family. Characters are pitch-perfect for middle-school musings and milieu: a whirlwind of activity and emotional confusion that is the bane and fuel of any early teen’s existence. Call it cute, call it clever—Vail fluently captures the spirit of today’s American middle-schoolers. See Kristina Springer’s Cici Reno (2016) for another tween take on Cyrano.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
As eighth grade comes to a close and her fourteenth birthday approaches, Gracie Grant discovers she has a problem. Out of the blue, Gracie realizes she like-likes longtime and suddenly very attractive classmate AJ Rojanasopondist. But that’s not the problem. AJ like-likes someone, as well–Gracie’s best friend, Sienna. Despite nursing a mild heartache, Gracie sincerely tries to be happy for her bestie, so much so that when Sienna panics about what to say to AJ in a text, Gracie helps compose it for her. Then she writes anotherâç¦and another, until eventually Sienna hands over her phone, and all texting of AJ, to Gracie. As their correspondence unfolds, Gracie is surprised by AJ’s sense of humor, which feels oddly familiar–kind of like Gracie’s close friend Emmett. Guilt over playing Cyrano to Sienna’s Christian, exacerbated by complex family dynamics (Gracie’s sister died as a young child) and Gracie’s tendency to overthink things, makes her prone to brief but intense emotional outbursts and moments of painful awkwardness in nearly all of her relationships. Gracie’s breakneck narration is presented in and out of text messages, folding in an effortlessly diverse cast, including Latina Sienna and Filipino-Israeli Emmett. Through her protagonist’s rollicking commentary, Vail captures the anguish and hilarity at the heart of middle school. anastasia m. collins

About the Author

Rachel Vail is the author of children’s books including Justin Case, Sometimes I’m Bombaloo, and Righty and Lefty. She is also the author of several books for teens and middle grade readers, including If We Kiss, You Maybe, Gorgeous, Wonder, and Never Mind, which she wrote with Avi. Vail was born in New York City and grew up in New Rochelle, NY, just down the street from her future husband, though she didn’t know that until much later. She attended Georgetown University, where she earned her B.A. in English and Theater. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.rachelvail.com.

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Well, That Was Awkward on Amazon

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Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan

Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan. April 25, 2017. Candlewick, 272 p. ISBN: 9780763690342.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life and the promise of love emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s.

And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage drinking; One instance of strong language; Characters offered marijuana and they declined

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 7-12. Sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley has a rich and contented life. Tiny Bayou Perdu, a shrimping and fishing town in Louisiana, offers all she needs: best friends, family, salt air, gumbo, and pure peace when she’s on the water. During a local festival, she meets Tru, a Vietnamese boy she can’t get out of her mind; but shortly thereafter, Hurricane Katrina forces evacuation. Chaos and destruction push them away, as the Rileys seek refuge with an aunt in Atlanta. There Evangeline feels lost and restless, craving home and the familiar, while her family struggles to rebuild their lives. When she and Tru discover they attend the same high school with other Katrina “refugees,” they forge an unbreakable bond. However, life remains unstable for them both, and when Evangeline’s family is given a FEMA trailer back home, not everyone in the Riley family wants to return. O’Sullivan’s debut novel excels in its expressive language and the use of place: a colorful home, a city that contrasts with the one Evangeline lost, and the aftermath of the storm that destroyed almost everything she holds dear. Told in a strong, purposeful voice filled with controlled emotion and hope, the impact of Katrina on families is as compelling as Evangeline’s drive to regain her sense of self and belonging.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2017)
Heartache and deracination wrapped in the lyrical sigh of an epic poem unfold into one girl’s story of struggle, devastation, and survival. O’Sullivan’s soulful debut follows the Beauchamp clan of Bayou Perdu from the days before Hurricane Katrina scattered the shores of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast to the aftermath that turned natives into refugees and temporary shelters into homes. Evangeline, a “white, mostly” Cajun girl, loves the tiny speck of paradise she and her family inhabit 66 miles from New Orleans. What separates Evangeline’s story from the myriad others that have come and gone in the wake of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters is O’Sullivan’s deft lyricism. One minute, Evangeline is just a girl managing her crush on Vietnamese-American shrimper and musician Tru, a girl who loves where she lives and doesn’t yearn for much else. Then the swirling white blur on the weather forecast stirs up sediment and trees and lives and hopes and tomorrows. Evangeline and her family go from lifetime residents of a close-knit fishing community to refugees in landlocked Atlanta. Displaced, confused, and resentful, the Beauchamps are adrift. O’Sullivan pairs the ache of her Evangeline with the anguish felt by the Acadian protagonists of the famous Longfellow poem. O’Sullivan’s light touch and restraint will allow readers to follow Evangeline as she stands howling into the wind that howled into her. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Joanne O’Sullivan is a journalist for the Asheville Citizen-Times. She lived in New Orleans for several years and returns to southern Louisiana frequently. Between Two Skies is her debut novel. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and children.

Her website is www.joanneosullivan.com.

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Between Two Skies on Amazon

Between Two Skies on Goodreads

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Between Two Skies Publisher Page

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams

The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams. March 14, 2017. Groundwood Books, 241 p. ISBN: 9781554989416.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

The Guy decides to have a house party while his parents are out of town. The Girl is adjusting to life in a new country. The Artist has discovered that forgery is a lucrative business. And his Ex, mother of his baby, is just trying to make ends meet.

As Guy, a feckless high-school senior, plans the party of the year, Rafi worries about her mother, who is still grieving over the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother back in Bolivia and haunted by the specter of La Llorona, the weeping ghost who steals children.

Meanwhile, Rafi’s uncle is an art dealer involved in a scheme to steal one of the most famous paintings in the world, but he needs the forgery skills of Luke, a talented artist who has just split up with his girlfriend, Penny, who wants nothing more than to get him back to be a proper father to Joshie, the baby Rafi babysits.

Engaging, provocative, darkly humorous and fast-paced, with a shocking and near-tragic ending, when Rafi’s mother’s grief tips over into mental illness.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Attempted infanticide

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. The titular guy is a teenage guy named, well, Guy. The girl is Rafi, who lives with her single-parent mother, who has never recovered from the drowning death of Rafi’s little brother. The mother blames La Llorona, the weeping woman of Latin legend, for the death. The artist is Luke—and a successful artist, too. And the ex is Penny, the erstwhile partner of the artist and mother of their baby son. These characters are fleshed out through flashbacks, and then connections are established as the narrative moves from one to the next. Finally they all become involved in one way or another with the theft of an invaluable Picasso painting called—what else?—The Weeping Woman. Then what had started almost as a lark turns serious, even potentially tragic, and readers will find themselves in sudden suspense. Williams does an excellent job of making that transition and subsequently ginning up page-turning excitement. A sophisticated entertainment, this book has intrinsic appeal to adult readers as well as its primary teen target.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
The lives of four young people intersect in unexpected ways as the result of a spectacular art heist in Melbourne. In August 1986, a valuable Picasso painting is stolen off the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria and held for ransom. In alternating third-person chapters, readers learn that Luke, the talented young Artist with his star on the rise, is involved in a plot to steal the painting and return a forgery in its place. He also happens to be the Bastard Ex of Penny, a white 23-year-old trying to raise their baby, Joshie, on her own. Penny lives next door to Rafi, the Girl, a 17-year-old dealing with the eccentricities of her grieving mother, who never got over the drowning death of Rafi’s younger brother in their home country of Bolivia. And who is the Guy (his name as well as his role)? Guy is a white high school senior who unwittingly throws the biggest party of the year, which sets into motion a series of events that gets him mixed up with the lives of the Girl, the Artist, and the Ex. This fully realized cast of characters is rounded out by a supporting cast of sympathetic friends and family, all flawed in their own ways. Williams’ prose is wise, knowing, and sympathetic, her tag-team story moving along at a steady clip toward a heart-thumping climax and a satisfying denouement. A winning, offbeat romp for all ages. (Fiction. 15 & up)

About the Author

Gabrielle Williams has worked in advertising, recording studios and television. Her first YA novel, Beatle Meets Destiny, was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and was named a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth.

Her website is www.bookbookblogblog.com.

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The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on Amazon

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The Guy, the Girl, the Artist, and His Ex on JLG

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Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose. February 7, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780399168116.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 750.

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now—even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.

Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who’s long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine—all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.

In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
News that gold’s been discovered in northern Canada has just arrived in 1897 Seattle; learning that his brother, Mel, has joined the stampede of amateur prospectors, Jasper, 11, follows him north.With their mother dead and their father alcoholic and unemployed, Mel, 16, was the family breadwinner. Feeling hurt and abandoned, afraid Mel might send him home, Jasper sneaks onto the ship that will take them to Skagway, Alaska. Jasper’s brought along their father’s gold pocket watch and mother’s washboard; resourceful and determined, he trades his laundry services for a place to sleep and money for food, avoiding capture as a stowaway. The prospectors embarking on this long, dangerous journey to the Klondike as winter approaches are rough, dishonest, and highly credulous (even Jasper questions whether Yukon gold litters the ground or grows on trees). But like them, Jasper’s spellbound by the story of One-Eyed Riley, an unhinged prospector who abandoned his valuable claim but left clues to its whereabouts. Untold riches await the miner who solves the riddles. Jasper narrates in the present tense, his homespun voice evoking both emotion and adventure. Rose milks the setting for all it’s worth. Jasper and Mel are both white. Villains and allies provide colorful melodrama, but it’s the brothers’ struggle to survive the Yukon wilderness with its harsh beauty and unforgiving cold that will keep readers entranced. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-The dreams and dangers of the 1879 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure. By the end of the first chapter, news of the strikes reaches 11-year-old Jasper and 16-year-old Melvin’s rural Washington town. The brothers quickly forsake their abusive father and set out for the gold fields of Canada. Harsh weather and physical challenges aren’t the only perils along the way. Stampeders are more likely to steal from than help one another, especially two boys traveling alone. Tall tales of gold that grows on trees keep the brothers’ hopes high; Jasper is spurred on by the legend of a million-dollar stake abandoned by miner One-Eyed Riley, who left behind a series of riddles leading to the gold. It’s unlikely that readers will be able to solve the riddles and locate Riley’s claim on the included map, but that won’t deter them. Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem -Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels in verse May B. and Blue Birds. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.carolinestarrrose.com.

Around the Web

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine on Amazon

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Overturned by Lamar Giles

Overturned by Lamar Giles. March 28, 2017. Scholastic, 352 p. ISBN: 9780545812504.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Nikki Tate is infamous, even by Las Vegas standards. Her dad is sitting on death row, convicted of killing his best friend in a gambling dispute turned ugly. And for five years, he’s maintained his innocence. But Nikki wants no part of that. She’s been working on Operation Escape Vegas: playing in illegal card games so she can save up enough money to get out come graduation day.

Then her dad’s murder conviction is overturned. The new evidence seems to come out of nowhere and Nikki’s life becomes a mess when he’s released from prison. Because the dad who comes home is not the dad she remembers. And he’s desperately obsessed with finding out who framed him—and why.

As her dad digs into the seedy underbelly of Vegas, the past threatens everything and Nikki is drawn into his deadly hunt for the truth. But in the city of sin, some sinners will do anything to keep their secrets, and Nikki soon finds herself playing for the biggest gamble ever—her life

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol; Smoking; Gambling

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. If she knows anything, Vegas native Nikki Tate knows cards. She’s trying to earn enough money to escape Vegas after high school, and she comes by the trade honestly: her casino-owning father, Nathan Tate, was a big deal, until he was convicted of murder five years ago. Now, though, that conviction has been overturned, and Nathan Tate joins a long line of wrongly convicted black men. But the man who returns is not the father Nikki remembers, and the circumstances surrounding the murder he was imprisoned for have not disappeared. As Nathan digs into the past, Nikki, too, becomes more entangled in Vegas’ seedy underbelly, and the stakes are higher than she’s used to. Giles deftly imagines the tense, sinister atmosphere of underground Vegas, while grappling with the issue of race in the justice system. Nikki’s friendships and burgeoning relationship with the son of a rival casino titan are three-dimensional, and she herself is a tough-talking, sometimes impulsive heroine who’s smart even when she’s scared. A fast-paced, endlessly intriguing mystery.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2017)
A fast-paced mystery uncovers a truth hidden by the bright lights of Las Vegas.To bankroll her future escape from Las Vegas, Nikki plays illegal poker games, using her natural skill and training from her father, Nathan “The Broker” Tate. Those skills also help her run the family’s failing casino, which languishes because her father is on death row for murdering his business associate. After five years, though, her father’s conviction—like so many other black men, he’s found to be wrongfully convicted—is overturned and he returns home. Nathan is determined to reveal who framed him, only to quickly end up dead. So Nikki takes up her father’s quest and tries to untangle the mystery. Even her blossoming relationship with Davis Carlino—son of local magnate Bertram “Big Bert” Carlino—won’t get in the way of finding the truth. Then Nikki discovers how Big Bert and her father are connected…and that Davis could be part of it, too. Is Nikki about to become another Vegas cautionary tale? Nikki is a totally appealing character: gutsy, practical, and strong, at the head of a cast of well-drawn supporting characters. The interracial romance between Nikki and Davis, who is white, is handled deftly, as is Giles’ skillful evocation of the townies-vs.-tourists nature of Las Vegas. An utterly compelling whodunit. (Mystery. 14-18)

About the Author

L. R. Giles hunts monsters. When he catches them, he locks them in stories. His work has been featured in the Dark Dreams anthology series, he’s won the prestigious Virginia Commission for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, and he was a Top 10 Finalist in the international SciFi Now/Tor UK War of the Words competition. He resides in Chesapeake, Virginia with his wife.

Her website is www.lamargiles.com.

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Overturned on Amazon

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Overturned  Publisher Page

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman. March 7, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062300058.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 4-7. Korman’s action-packed caper series comes to a satisfying close in this final installment. After facing a surprising double-cross at the end of the last book (Criminal Destiny, 2016), Eli and Tori get separated from Amber and Malik, but that doesn’t stop each pair of kids from continuing to follow clues to track down the criminals from which they were cloned. They have good intentions, but they can’t help but use their inborn skills, and soon they all begin to feel lured in by the ease of breaking the law. But as the cinematic plot, laced with red herrings, daring escapes, and mostly harmless minor crimes, trundles on to a tropical resort, where the foursome confronts the mad scientist responsible for their existence, the kids realize that their loyalty to one another and the skills they’ve learned from each other are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow (for now, at least). With a masterful balance of humor, thought-provoking questions, and adventure, this finale offers just the right closing note to an entertaining trilogy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In this trilogy closer, the four escaped clones from Project Osiris are still on the run, trying to avoid capture, discover the truth behind their criminal origins, and rescue the rest of the clones from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hammerstrom.Amber and Malik travel to Chicago to question Malik’s DNA donor, crime boss Gus Alabaster. Posing as his long-lost son, Malik is able to infiltrate his inner circle, but other than the confirmation that he is Gus’ clone, the trip is futile. Meanwhile, Tori and Eli go to California to visit serial killer Bartholomew Glen. There, they find that the Osiris conspiracy is bigger than they imagined. The four use a combination of their innate criminal abilities and their learned kindness to survive. Whether it is stealing a car, selling stolen Girl Scout cookies, or hacking computers, they will do whatever it takes to find the truth. This final installment in the trilogy that began with Masterminds (2015) is packed with surprising twists, high-speed chases, and plenty of near misses. Though the novel sidesteps racial differences, the question of nature versus nurture adds a thoughtful layer to a book that relies heavily on some convenient coincidences and improbable scenarios. (The dimly lit cover depicts the kids as either white or ambiguous.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Action-packed, high-speed fun. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

Around the Web

Masterminds: Payback on Amazon

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Masterminds: Payback on JLG

Masterminds: Payback Publisher Page