“Alien superstar” by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. To be published Oct. 1, 2019. Book #1. Amulet Books. 254 p.

Alien superstarCitizen Short Nose (birth name XR 23 Zeta 5466) is escaping from his planet because he turned 13 years old and his sensory enhancer will be deactivated. Without it he’ll become a robot, so he’s on the run. His grandmother knew this time was coming so she built a spaceship, setting the coordinates for Universal Studios in Hollywood.

Short Nose had to leave his grandmother behind, but managed to land in Hollywood. There he comes up with the name Buddy Cheese Burger, landing a role playing an alien on a comedy TV show where his “costume” helps him become a hit. As his fame grows, Buddy worries everyone will realize he really IS an alien. When he begins to lose the ability to transform to a human, his secret is in danger of being revealed. With time ticking away Buddy is desperate to find a solution.

I enjoyed reading about Buddy’s escapades, and the very open ending left no doubt that it’s part of a series. I found a little glitch in the ARC. On p. 141 a little girl is described as having 6 pigtails with ribbons, but the image on p. 146 shows just 2 pigtails and no ribbons. Hopefully that image (or the text) will be corrected in the final copy.

As an alien Buddy takes everything literally, so readers will have fun figuring out his many Buddyisms. Henry Winkler even put in a reference to himself when Buddy meets an actor named Luis whose lunchbox has a picture of Fonzie. Buddy instantly recognizes the guy as being on a show called “Happy Days.” Pretty cool!

Winkler has written many books for children, including his well-known “Hank Zipper” series, but this is his first solid foray into the middle grade world. Buddy is so likable I believe he’ll also be a hit with the younger folk. I’ll definitely have a copy in my elementary library! I got a copy of this ARC at the recent American Library Association’s annual conference in D.C. where I got to meet Henry AND he signed my ARC. I was THRILLED, as I LOVED him as Fonzie when I was a teenager! Below is a pic from that memorable meeting.

I’m not biased, because it really is a good book, so I’m definitely recommending it.

Recommended for ages 8-14.

Henry Winkler




“In the country we love: My family divided” Diane Guerrero

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Henry Holt and Co. 247 p.

InTheCountryWe LoveWanting a better life for their young son, and unable to make a living in Colombia, Diane’s parents obtained a four-year visitor visa and left for the United States. A few years later, Diane was born. Knowing they’d overstayed their visas her parents worked hard at various menial labor jobs, paying people who promised to help with citizenship papers but who ran off with their hard earned money.

Though Diane’s older brother became increasingly disillusioned at the lack of job prospects due to his immigration status, her parents were hopeful. They were sure that if they didn’t get into trouble, stayed below the radar, and kept paying the “lawyer” who’d promised to help, that they’d become legal citizens.

When Diane was fourteen years old, her parents were arrested by ICE for being in the country illegally and deported to Colombia. Left alone, and forgotten by the government, Diane had to figure out how to live without her family. “In the country we love” is the story of people who helped her survive, and the long road of pain and sorrow she endured on her way to becoming a famous television star.

According to the Migration Policy Institute 2016 study, “5 million children under the age 18 have at least one parent who is in the United States illegally. Out of that number, 79 percent are U.S. citizens.” Guerrero puts a face to one of those children. Her story is a must read.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Seven ways we lie” Riley Redgate

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2016. Abrams.343 pp.

sevenwayswelieOlivia hates that her mother walked away from her family three years ago. Kat holes up in her room with Internet games. Matt fills his days getting high. Juniper is the perfect queen of Paloma High. Valentine is a loner. Lucas is everyone’s go to guy for beer and weed. Claire wonders why she can’t be like Olivia and Juniper.

When the news breaks that someone is involved in a secret affair with a teacher, everyone is shocked. Each of these students has the power to reveal the truth, yet they all have their own secrets. Are someone else’s secrets more important than your own? As truth and lies blend, this unlikely group of students become bound together in ways they never imagined.

“Seven Ways to Lie” was very thought provoking, with each character having their own chapter to articulate their issues and thought patterns. She challenges her readers to think about the “why” of situations, reminding them that things are not always as they seem.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Perdita” Faith Gardner

3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. 2015. Merit Press.

PerditaArielle and her sister Casey have never gotten along, but she adores her sister’s best friend Perdita who always has time to talk. The last time Arielle saw her, she had gotten into an argument with Casey and slammed out of the house. The next time she saw Perdita, she was dead.

With Casey now off at college and her best friend Chloe off with a new boyfriend, Arielle feels at odds with everything. Since Perdita’s drowning death, she keeps revisiting the emotions of having seen her own brother drown 10 years earlier when she was only 6 years old. She even begins to feel as if she can see ghosts – especially Perdita’s. The only bright light in her life is Tex, Perdita’s brother. She and Tex are in theater class together, but even their relationship seems strange. When she finds out Perdita was murdered, she realizes her ghost has been trying to tell her something. Arielle is afraid to listen, but even more afraid of not listening.

I liked the storyline, but felt it took too long for something “ghostlike” to actually happen. I also didn’t like that Chloe’s relationship with her overly possessive boyfriend was never explored, which made me feel that the author missed an opportunity to let readers know it is not okay to become a completely different person for the sake of a boyfriend. Chloe was a robot to her boyfriend’s whims, and the only one who knew this was Arielle. I think Arielle should have confronted her about it.

I thought the book was ok, but because of the dragging storyline and the Chloe issue I could only give it 3 stars.

Recommended for 14 and older.


“The Cresswell Plot” Eliza Wass

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. To be published June 7, 2016. Disney-Hyperion.

TheCresswellPlotCastley Cresswell and her 5 brothers and sisters live with their father and invalid mother in a rundown shack in the middle of the woods. Their father is convinced he is a prophet of God, and that his children need to marry each other because they are the only ones who will make it to heaven. Everyone has spent their lives praying, reading Father’s religious writings, shunning everything from “the outside,” and allowing him to punish them in ways that redeem their souls.

Now a junior, Castley is looking forward to taking Advanced Drama with her sister which is a release from her life. When their schedules clash her teacher partners her with George, a local boy. Knowing Father has expressly forbidden her to be with boys, Castley decides to overlook the rule so she can enjoy class.

Over time Castley begins to enjoy normalcy, as George helps her see she could be more than a Cresswell. She begins to question her life, but her brothers and sisters believe she is the devil. They don’t want to leave their Father’s grip, even when he announces they have to go to Heaven. With time running out Castley will have to put on the biggest performance of her life to save her family from the man she once loved.

“The Cresswell Plot” is an interesting read, but started out very slowly. It took me a little while to get “into it” but, when I did, it sucked me in.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“A Midsummer Night’s Scream” R.L. Stine

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published July 2, 2013. Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan). 249 pp.

AMidsummerNight'sScreamHave you ever watched one of those really horrible “B” movies like “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” while cringing at the terrible acting and “special” effects? Have you ever STARTED watching then turned the channel because you couldn’t take it anymore? Well then you’re all set for R.L. Stine’s latest book. Just by its title alone “A Midsummer Night’s Scream” would make you think it’s based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” You would be wrong.

Claire and her friend Delia are so excited to be cast in the lead for the remake of “Mayhem Manor.” Sure, three teen actors had been brutally murdered during the filming of the original 1960’s movie, but that wouldn’t happen in the modern version. Would it? Of course it would.

Blood gushing everywhere, fake acting, people dropping dead, terrible plot, you name it and “A Midsummer Night’s Scream” has it. If you look very, very carefully you might even seen the teeniest, tiniest allusion to Shakespeare’s play in that Claire loves Jake but Jake loves Delia, while Delia loves Shawn who really loves Claire. Oh yeah, and the person causing all the mayhem just happens to be named “Puck.”

So there you have it. I forced myself to read since I had to review it, but it was like taking tablespoons of cod liver oil. Blech! I suggest you don’t torture yourself too, but those in the 12-14 year age bracket might take a shine to it. Who knows? Stranger things have happened…

“Lucid” Adrienne Stoltz and Ron Bass

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published October 2, 2012. Razorbill (Penguin). 343 pp.

At the age of 17, Maggie has opted to test out of school so she can be available for auditions. She resents her mom for not paying attention to her and her little sister Jude. With the pressure of auditions, and falling for Andrew, an older NYU film student she meets in Central Park, Maggie feels like her life is spinning out of control. She doesn’t dare confide to anyone that when she sleeps her dreams take her to an alternate life. In this life, she becomes Sloan. In fact, she believes she really is Sloan.

Sloan loves her parents and little brother. She and her best friend Gordy have grown up together, and are stunned at the sudden loss of their other best friend Bill in a car crash. The shock of the crash draws them closer together, but their friendship is strained when Sloan falls for James, the new kid in school. Unsure of her feelings for either of them, Sloan is also confused because of the dreams she has about Maggie every night. Maggie’s life is so real. Before long, Sloan believes she really is Maggie.

Told in alternating voices, “Lucid” left me scratching my head. With each girl’s story achingly and rawly laid out by each of them, it was difficult to figure out who was real and who wasn’t. Towards the end, as both Maggie and Sloan got into each other’s heads, even they were confused, which made me even more confused. Some high school readers might have a difficult time interpreting the action between the girls, while some might enjoy the complexity of sorting through Maggie and Sloan’s stories. I will admit the actual explanation was not at all what I’d expected. I’ll leave the decision up to you as to whether or not you want to read “Lucid.”