“Clap when you land” Elizabeth Acevedo

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Hot Key Books. To be published May 5, 2020.

Clap when you landThis novel of verse is dedicated to the memory of the 265 people killed when AA flight 587, headed to the Dominican Republic, crashed into a Queens neighborhood on November 12, 2001. Over 90% of the passengers were Dominican. I lived in New York at the time, and remember vividly how this loss shocked the city so soon after the losses of September 11th.

Sixteen-year-old Camino lives in the Dominican Republic with her aunt. Her mother died when she was six, and her Papi lives in New York but visits every summer. After he’s killed in a plane crash Camino is beset with grief and worries for her future. Papi paid for private school, but what will happen to them without his monthly checks? When she finds out he has another daughter in New York City Camino is angry because Yahaira had led a rich life while she has to struggle. However, though that girl stole her father, she’s also her sister.

In New York City Yahaira’s father is killed in a plane crash, but sorrow is mixed with anger because she’d found out a year earlier that he had another wife in Santo Domingo. When she finds out he had a daughter there too she’s angry that this girl stole her father, but is happy to have a sister. Against her mother’s wishes she’s determined to travel to the Dominican Republic to meet her new sister, Camino.

In alternating voices, Yahaira and Camino tell their stories of grief, loss, love, discovery and forgiveness as the beauty of the Dominican Republic, and the love its people have for their country, is clearly verbalized. Once again Acevedo weaves a story that will keep readers glued to their seats. I finished it in just a few short hours, feeling a great affinity for all the strong women described in its pages. I won’t be surprised if this book wins a few more awards for its author in the 2021 ALA Youth Media Awards.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

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


“The bridge home” Padma Venkatraman

Rated 5 stars *****. 2019. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House). 187 p. (Includes “Glossary” and “Author’s Note.”)

TheBridgeHomeEleven-year-old Viji and twelve-year-old Rukku’s mom was abused by her husband, but always believed him when he said he was sorry. Viji knew Rukku had special needs, and had always taken care of her older sister but, when her father hit them in a fit of rage, she knew they’d have to run away.

With nowhere to go and only a bit of money, they bus to the city where Rukku becomes attached to a homeless puppy, and they become friends with two homeless boys living on a bridge. There they build their own ramshackle tent, and the boys help her forage for recyclables in stinking trash dumps with other homeless children that they sell for pittances.

Hunger dulls their strength but, as time passes, the four forge strong bonds of friendship. Though they wind up living on a grave under a tree in a cemetery after marauding men destroy their home on the bridge, Viji tries to keep believing in her dream of becoming a teacher. Each day of looking for food in trashcans, and hoping to earn money on the dump, makes her dream seem impossible.

This moving story, based on real children’s first-person accounts, is an eye opener for many who might be unaware of the plight of over 1.8 million children living on the streets of India, working and eating from its many garbage dumps while trying to avoid abuse and slavery.

Recommended for ages 10-14.

“Mirror me” by Rachel Sanderson

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2018. Amazon Digital Services, LLC.

Mirror meWhat do you do when your mother forces you to leave your best friend behind in the big city to move hours away to a broken down hovel in the middle of a forest – far away from wifi and civilization? How do you act when everyone at your new school avoids you like the plague – except for one douchebag? Who can you talk to when you feel so alone?

How do you act when you find out you look exactly like Becky, a girl killed a year ago in this same small town? When you start receiving notes telling you to get out of town, what should you do? Where do you go and what do you do when you find yourself dreaming about Becky’s murder, and feel as if you HAVE to find out more about her and why she died?

These questions and more plague sixteen-year-old Abbie as her life is suddenly meshed with Becky’s life. Though her obsessiveness with finding out more about her is driving everyone crazy, Abbie feels as if something HAS to become clear. However as the truth about Becky’s last night on earth is revealed, it’s done in a way that’s more terrifying than anything Abbie had ever experienced. It seems as if the killer hasn’t finished his job…

I absolutely LOVED this book. The author did a great job stringing me along, with clues placed deliciously about, waiting to be chewed and digested. I had my ideas as to who did what, and was glad to have my suspicions verified.

I don’t want to reveal any more of the exciting plot, so will end this review by saying you need to read “Mirror me” ASAP. You’ll love it just as much as I did.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Wedgie & Gizmo” by Suzanne Selfors

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2017. Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollns). Wedgie & Gizmo #1.

Wedgie & GizmoIn this laugh out loud book, young readers are introduced to Wedgie, a superhero dog, and Gizmo, a guinea pig evil genius. Gizmo is not happy his loyal servant Elliott took him to a new place and abandoned him to Jasmine, who is not a good servant. He is not happy because he has to live in a very pink Barbie dollhouse, and he’s REALLY not happy that Jasmine dresses him up in pink tutus. All these things are interfering with his evil genius plans for an Evil Lair and world domination. He’s also not happy with the dumb canine.

Wedgie knows he has superpowers because Jasmine gave him a red cape. Now he’s Super Wedgie! When he runs in circles around and around near the door, it opens and he takes someone for a walk. Only wearing his super cape lets this happen! He loves taking Elliot’s mom, sister and dad for a walk. They’re his pack and he loves them. He loves his stick and loves Squirrel Tree. He ESPECIALLY loves the Furry Potato who just came to live in Jasmine’s pink dollhouse. He’s sure the Furry Potato loves him too. He really, really loves the Furry Potato.

In alternating voices Gizmo and Super Wedgie tell readers their views of the world and each other. Their conversations and actions are especially funny, with Wedgie being my favorite. Young readers, especially reluctant readers, will enjoy following their antics and will look forward to future books in the series.

Highly recommended for ages 8-12.



“The Titanic” by Katrina Charman

The TitanicRated 5 stars ***** 2018. Hachette Book Group. Survival Tails #1. Includes “Timeline,” Titanic facts, “Animals on the Titanic,” “Animal facts,” Glossary,” and a “Further reading” section which includes books, websites, and a documentary.

Almost everyone knows the story of the Titanic, the so-called “unsinkable ship” which struck an iceberg and sank in the early morning of April 15, 1912. However, did you know there were animals on board? Though those animals couldn’t tell us their stories, Katrina Charman will tell you the story of three specific animals who were on the Titanic and who COULD talk.

Mutt, a mangy dog, met up with King Leon, a wily rat, when he was trying to sneak aboard to search for his human. He knew she was in third class with her father, but didn’t know how to find her. King Leon helped him figure out how to get on the ship but Clara, the captain’s cat, discovered Mutt and put him in charge of three motherless kittens she’d found hiding in a lifeboat.

In between recounting true facts about the Titanic and its final hours, Charman entertains readers with Mutt’s adventures, King Leon’s food conquests, and Clara’s queenly attitudes. Readers are drawn into their stories, which give new meaning to the tears we shed when the Titanic does sink, as it must do.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“The inexplicable logic of my life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 452 p.

The inexplicable logic of my lifeWho am I? The year he turned 17, Salvador’s mind was full of unanswered questions. He had always been able to tell his best friend Samantha anything, as she was like a sister to him, but he felt he couldn’t tell her he didn’t want his wonderful and supportive gay father, who adopted him and who he dearly loved, to know he was thinking of his real father. He’d been getting into lots of fights; leaving him wondering if the anger he felt came from his real dad. Was he an offshoot of his dad? Did he inherit his dad’s anger issues? Who is he really? Sal doesn’t know.

Sal knows he doesn’t want to go to college, doesn’t want to write his admission essay, and doesn’t want his beloved grandmother Mima to leave him. He loves his family but has lots of questions about his place in the world. While Sal tries to figure out some answers to the craziness going on in his head, stuff keeps happening. Death, sadness, grief, anger and sorrow keep entering his life; along with the love that comes from a close knit family and good friends. Why does his life feel so messed up? Who is he really?

Many of Sal’s questions will ring true with teen readers, along with his emotional ups and downs. I was moved to tears by Mima and Sal’s friend Fito’s problems, and loved the strong friendship between Sal and Sammy. The strong and powerful love given to Sal by his dad is an example for all dads to follow. Once again Sáenz pens a winner.

Highly recommended for readers age 14 and older.

“I escaped the California Camp Fire: California’s deadliest wildfire” by S.D. Brown & Scott Peters

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. 2019. I escaped book #2. Best Day Books for Young Readers. (Includes Facts about the Paradise fire, Study guide, Timeline, Q & A’s, Books about fires, and a Red Cross resource.)

I escaped the California camp fireWhen his parents planned a trip and left him in charge of his little sister Emma for the night, fourteen-year-old Troy expected to pig out on junk food, and binge watch TV. What he didn’t expect was to be rudely awakened by his dog. Though it was just 9:15 in the morning, everything was smoky dark due to an oncoming fire.

Troy knew their only route of escape was for him to drive his father’s Bronco, even though he didn’t have a license. He manages to get his sister, dog and cat on the road, however, traffic is barely moving and the fire is coming fast. With split second timing Troy will have to figure out the safest and quickest route to freedom if he wants them all to survive.

This book was a very quick read, with short, cliffhanger chapters. It’s a good choice for reluctant readers, especially boys. There are some references to God, faith and prayer, but they’re not enough to turn this into a “Christian” book. I see it as an adventure/survival story, not a “Christian” adventure/survival story. This “I escaped” series seems very similar to the “I survived” series, written by Lauren Tarshis.

Recommended for ages 11-15.

I received an e-copy of this book from the Publisher in return for an honest review.

“The grand masquerade: Bold women of the 19th century #1” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Lillis and James. (Includes Author’s Note.)

TheGrandMasqueradeFourteen-year-old Sydnee Sauveterre lived with her father Victor and his slave Margarite in a broken down cabin on the Natchez Trace. Customers stopped by his tavern for a drink, fortunetelling, and Sydnee, who her father forced to comply. She had a gift when it came to animals, and had been taught Hoodoo from Margarite. Valued only for the money they earned Victor, they scraped out their existence on the lonely Trace.

After their deaths Sydnee walked for weeks searching for a new beginning, and was hired to work in New Orleans for a wealthy man’s 16-year-old son. Instead, she and Tristan became the best of friends. He introduced her to his neighbor Isabel, who became her first female friend, and a stable worker Mortimer. Soon the four were inseparable.

As the years passed Madame Sauveterre matured into a lovely young woman, and Tristan made sure she had a place in high society. The four friends continued their deep bond of friendship, made ever closer due to secrets they all shared. In time this deception will lead to them making decisions that will change the courses of their lives.

I enjoyed reading about the friends and their grand masquerade, even though Sydnee’s rise from poverty, and Isabel’s deep secret seemed a bit far-fetched to me. Though labeled as #1 in Hughes’ new series, “Grand Masquerade” is a standalone book.

Recommended for Adult readers who like a bit of history and romance in their stories.

“In case you missed it” Sarah Darer Littman

Rated 1 stars * ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Scholastic Press. 305 p.

incaseyoumisseditSammy’s junior year is ruined when protestors at her father’s bank hack its server. Along with personal texts and emails, her online journal (where she’d written her deepest thoughts and crushes) is revealed to her entire high school world. Besides having to deal with the fallout of having her personal thoughts shared on social media, she’s lost her best friends, and has to deal with the stress of upcoming AP exams, as well as the loss of her crush. She is officially persona non grata, and it looks like there will never be any relief. Just when she thinks life can’t get any worse, it does.

I wasn’t a fan of this book. Sammy sounded much more immature than a junior in high school, as her issues and constant whining sounded middle schoolish to me. Her brother RJ also presented as immature. Though he was supposed to be 14 years old, his dialogue and behavior was more like a 6 or 8 year old.

Overall I felt the storyline wasn’t interesting, and Sammy’s petulance didn’t help. However I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“House of Echoes” Brendan Duffy

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Ballantine Books (Random House). Published April 14, 2015.

HouseOfEchoesBen Tierney and his wife Caroline live with their baby boy and eight-year-old son Charlie in a Manhattan apartment. When Ben’s grandmother dies, he and his brother inherit a sprawling mansion called the Crofts built between two mountains in the small upstate New York town of Swannhaven. Charlie has endured severe bullying at his school, so Ben is sure he and his family should start a new life at the Crofts. In a short time, the Tierney’s move to Swannhaven to renovate and turn the mansion into an inn has become a reality.

As time goes on creepy things begin to happen at the Crofts, and Ben finds himself facing questions that don’t seem to have any answers. Why does Charlie keep disappearing into the forest? Why do the villagers look at them so strangely? Why does it feel like someone is watching his family? What is really going on at Swannhaven? These questions and more will keep readers at the edges of their seats.

“House of Echoes” has many similarities to the 1973 novel “Harvest Home,” by Thomas Tryon. It is such a creepy and shocking read, I suggest you read during the day. If you must read at night, make sure you have plenty of lights on in the house! Duffy doles out the creepiness in enough doses to keep readers turning pages, eagerly trying to find out what will happen next to the Tierney family.

Recommended for Adult readers.