“You know what?” Minnie said with a dramatic pause. “This is how horror movies start.” (58) And so it is in Gretchen McNeil’s Ten.  A seemingly innocent weekend house party on exclusive Henry Island turns deadly in less than 100 pages where best friends since middle school, high school seniors Meg and Minnie, are two of 10 guests invited to the most popular girl in school’s private party.  Other guests come from 2 other high schools in town and while the hostess is delayed on the mainland, the group of 10 make themselves at home.  Predictably, a torrential storm sets in, knocking out the power,Read More →

The voices in Ry Burke’s head have been quiet for nearly nine years following the trauma he suffered in the Black Glade forest which grows beside his family’s farm. During this time, he and his family has been able to return to a resemblance of normalcy, escaping Marvin Burke, the abusive father Ry helped to put in prison. But, with the oncoming of a meteor shower, Ry hears the voices of his “friends” rising to the surface again just as his family is informed of an explosion at the nearby prison. As the meteors begin to fall and the threat of Marvin’s return looms, theRead More →

Middle school readers with a penchant for super heroes and super villains will likely appreciate the conflict presented by Jeramey Kraatz in The Cloak Society.  Set in Sterling City,Texas, the story opens with a description of supervillainy as a passion and a way of life, not something one joins like an after-school club: “It’s not all doomsday devices and dramatic entrances.  All of your days are spent plotting, strategizing, inventing, training” (1) so as to emerge victorious when facing a nemesis. Early on, readers identify with Alex, a villain with a moral conscience who values life and is terrified of the Gloom, a wretched place createdRead More →

This book is not for the fainthearted.  It’s also not for people who get frustrated by what is either poor structure and editing or a purposeful writing strategy that is at best confusing and at worst, amateur.  I figured from the beginning I was in for a rough emotional ride, but from someone as accomplished as Joyce Carol Oates, I had expected a finer hand at what could have been a powerful, if not entirely original, story. Tink d**d in the spring of junior year, and pretty much everyone is convinced she k****d herself, but no one knows for sure.  Her closest friends, the girls whoRead More →

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher, is a touching story about a young boy named Jaime Matthews whose sister, Rose, died in a terrorist bombing. Jaime was five years old and Rose was ten when she passed away in London. After the terrorist bombing, Jaime’s mother became very distant and left the family. With Jamie’s world crashing in around him, his father decided to move him and Jasmine, Rose’s twin sister, to the quiet countryside. Jaime is constantly reminded of his sister’s death; Rose is sitting on the fireplace mantelpiece and Jaime’s father constantly puts down Muslims and refuses to acknowledge themRead More →

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I know when a book is good because it’s full of check-marks, underlining and dog-eared pages.  And the latest from one of my favorite authors, A.S. King, Ask the Passengers, has 14 page corners that I turned down and boatloads of check-marks and underlining throughout.  It’s full of funny quips, true-to-life sarcasm, poignant revelations, and emotional truths that kicked me in the gut. With an emotionally vacant set of parents (workaholic rarely-leaves-the-house mother and a pot-smoking dad), a younger sister who is a mystery to her, friends who have a secret life Astrid has sworn to protect, a rampant small-town rumor mill, and secret yearningsRead More →

A lazy, last-day-of summer holiday was the perfect day to read Jane Smiley’s latest, Pie in the Sky.  An exquisitely crafted character-focused story, gently told, meditatively plotted and rich with detail, I couldn’t put this book down.  Its first fans will be young women in love with horses and all things equine, but readers who devour richly textured character-driven stories (my favorite!) will be hooked within the first few pages as well. As the summer of 1966 bleeds into Autumn, fourteen year old Abby Levitt, whose life revolves around the meditatively hard work of training and caring for her family’s horses, finds herself and her beloved geldingRead More →

How would you feel if all of your friends had super powers and you had none? Jealous? Insecure? Left out? What if you suddenly manifested the power to steal the powers from those around you, your friends; a power shared by a recently defeated super villain who had stolen the powers and memories from a hundred generations of “supers”? This is especially disconcerting to Daniel Corrigan, as he was the one who helped vanquish this villain, Herman Plunkett aka The Shroud. This new power appears as Plunkett’s grandson, Theo, returns to Noble’s Green and things begin to go awry in a disturbingly familiar way. Shadows,Read More →