“Moving Day: A Thriller” Jonathan Stone

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. ARC. To be published June 1, 2014. Thomas & Mercer.

MovingDaySeventy-two year old Stanley Peke and his seventy-year-old wife Rose were ready to move to California, where they planned to enter the last phase of their lives. When the moving men showed up a day early Peke didn’t think anything of it, figuring his 72-year-old brain had forgotten such a small detail. The crew carefully loaded all the possessions he’d built up over the years, and all the memories of the life he’d made for himself from the time he arrived in America as an orphan to the life he’d lived with his wife, children and grandchildren.

Peke had never spoken of his past to anyone, and not even Rose knew of the struggles he’d gone through to survive from the Nazis in the woods as a seven-year-old Jewish child. As a Polish immigrant he’d changed his name, and put his past behind him despite having it continually residing in the depths of his being. His long-lost past returned to haunt him with a vengeance when the moving crew turned out to be a ring of thieves who stole away his life along with his possessions.

With revenge on his mind, Peke sets out to track down the thieves and get back his possessions. What follows is a cross-country chase, two similar yet different men fighting for dominance over what they considered to be theirs, a run-in with Skinheads, and a look into Peke’s past which would soon become his reality.

Stone has crafted a novel that will keep readers on the edges of their seats empathizing with Peke and understanding the resourcefulness, impetuosity and ingeniousness he employs to regain the person he’d lost 60 years earlier.

Recommended for Adult readers.


“Me Since You” Laura Wiess

Rated 5 stars ***** Published February 18, 2014. ARC. Simon & Schuster.

MeSinceYouSixteen-year-old Rowan Areno is tired of her strict parents telling her what she can and cannot do. Her best friend Nadia’s parents allow her to leave the house in cute little shorts and tops, and let her do whatever she wants. Roe is jealous of their leniency, and frustrated because her police officer father runs a tight ship. Having been caught in the past, she is extra careful the day she decides to cut school with Nadia to meet a couple of guys. Within minutes of their arrival Nadia is convinced to go to a beach party with them and, despite knowing Roe has to be at work in a few hours so can’t go, has no problem ditching her.

Of course Roe’s dad catches her but, when he takes her home for the usual lecture, he is called out on a call for a suicidal jumper at a nearby bridge. Roe has no idea this call will forever change her life because it results in her dad falling so deeply into depression he commits suicide.

She and her mother are left to pick up the pieces of their lives, with both falling deeper and deeper into their own sadness and depression. Roe is angry with her dad for leaving her without a reason and without a note, and is not willing to be lifted out of the dark hole of sadness she’s dug for herself. It takes months but soon, the only thing keeping her head above water is her relationship with Eli. Eli had also been at the bridge with her father on that infamous day and, since his dad had been killed in Iraq, his empathy enables her to slowly climb out of the pit she had dug for herself and realize life can go on for those left behind.

“Me Since You” takes a usually-not-seen look at suicide and the effect it has on those left behind who suffer through the stares, suspicion, and questions of “why?” Wiess uses a term called the “ripple effect” to teach readers how one seemingly random act by one individual can affect a multitude of people.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.


“Zane and the Hurricane: A story of Katrina” Rodman Philbrick

Rated 5 stars ***** Published February 25, 2014. ARC. Blue Sky Press (Scholastic). Includes a map showing The Path of Hurricane Katrina, a Katrina Timeline 2005, Interesting Facts about New Orleans and the Great Flood and an Author’s Note.

ZaneandtheHurricaneThe horror of Hurricane Katrina, and the sufferings of the people of New Orleans, are told through the eyes of twelve-year old Zane Dupree.

Zane’s father was killed before he was born, so no one is more surprised than he when his mother insists he travel to New Orleans to spend time with Miss Trissy, a great-grandmother he never knew existed. He reluctantly agrees to go as long as his dog Bandit can come, but immediately hates the heat and smells of New Orleans.

It doesn’t take Miss Trissy long to set Zane straight on his heritage, reminding him he’s not “multiracial or biracial” as he’d previously called himself but is mixed. Even though Zane looks white she reminds him his dad’s face is what she sees, not his blond hair or green eyes. Zane had never looked at himself that way before, and this lesson is just the first in many he learns during his stay in New Orleans.

When news of an impending hurricane reaches them, they plan to evacuate. However Bandit runs away, Zane runs after him and is separated from Miss Trissy. When the hurricane hits, he and Bandit are stranded in Miss Trissy’s house as the floodwaters reach to the attic where they have gone for safety. He is rescued by a passing boat but soon learns the hurricane and the flood it generated affected thousands of lives besides his own. Half drowned, starving, and unable to find shelter anywhere, including in the overcrowded Super Dome, he and his rescuers stumble on seeking help that is short in coming.

“Zane and the Hurricane” uses real life events and accounts from real people to tell the story of the people of New Orleans who were abandoned by those in authority who should have helped but didn’t. Their sufferings during and after the storm are recounted for those who may have forgotten, or didn’t know about what happened that fateful day in 2005.

It is an eye-opening read and is recommended for readers aged 10-14.

“The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore” Kate Maddison

TheIncredibleCharlotteSycamoreAfter sneaking out of Queen Victoria’s palace to meet her best friends Peter and Jillian for some fencing practice, they and Charlotte were attacked by rabid mechanical dogs. Rabid dogs had been attacking others throughout London, and they were its latest victims.

With Peter and Jillian under medical confinement, Charlotte enlisted the help of her friend Benjamin to help find clues about the dogs. With rabies coursing through her own system, she only has a short time to find out who created the dogs, why they would do such a thing, and search for an antidote.

Despite herself, Charlotte finds herself dreaming romantic thoughts about both Benjamin and Peter, knowing they are in a lower class of palace workers and that she is engaged to be married to someone she’d never met. In the midst of trying to solve this mystery, she manages to find time to become the Robin Hood of medicine for the city’s poor.

Maddison does a somewhat credible job in her first novel but, by putting Charlotte in a higher social position than Peter, Jillian and Benjamin in 1854 London, she creates a huge gap between them and nullifies much of Charlotte’s feelings. I was not pleased with her open ending, so will leave it up to you to decide if you want to Read it or Not.

“Mountain Dog” Margarita Engle

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published August 13, 2013. Henry Holt and Company. 212 pp. Includes “A Note to Readers” by the author.

MountainDogEleven-year-old Tony has had a rough life with his abusive mother and her fighting pit bulls. When she is arrested, he winds up in foster care with great-uncle Leo, who he’d never met. Leo lives high on the Sierra Nevada mountains in a log cabin with his dog Gabe and, from the beginning, is kind and understanding of the rough life Tony has led.

For his part, Tony is confused by feelings of anger and helplessness from his former life, and by the unsettled thoughts he gets from visiting his mother in prison. He is sure Leo will give him up or that he’ll have to return to his mother and leave the peace he has finally begun to find with Gabe. He is also confused because Leo knows Spanish and came from the same Island as his mother, yet he doesn’t know anything about that side of his life. His curiosity about who he is, and what his future holds, knows no bounds.

Gabe, a Search and Rescue dog (SAR) trained by Leo to look for lost hikers in the woods, also takes turns with Tony in alternating chapters to tell the story of his love for Leo, Tony and all things round. Gabe’s patience and love gradually help Tony feel a sense of oneness and ownership with his surroundings, himself, and his new family.

Newbery Honor Winner and Pura Belpre Award winning author Margarita Engle, once again, pens a beautifully crafted story in poetic style. The love and commitment shown by Gabe and Tony to each other will endear their story to all readers aged 9-12, who will also learn much about the important work of Search and Rescue teams, inspired by the work done by Engle’s husband and his SAR team.

“Soldier Dog” Sam Angus

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Macmillan. USA edition published April 2013 by Feiwel and Friends. (247 pp.) Includes Historical Note, Photo Gallery, Author’s Note and a Select Bibliography.

SoldierDogIs there an unspoken rule somewhere that says books about dogs will make you cry? If so, “Soldier Dog” lives up to form, requiring readers to have a box of tissues available while reading it.

Prior to reading this book, I had no idea dogs were used as messengers during World War I. I knew they had used pigeons, but not dogs. The author based the book on a messenger dog called Airedale Jack. Jack worked for the British army in 1918. Despite getting shot several times and painfully crawling on three legs and with a broken jaw, he managed to get his message to his handler, and saved his battalion.

In “Solder Dog,” readers are introduced to 13 year-old Stanley. Stanley’s mother passed away, and he lived with his fierce and uncommunicative father. He loved dogs and missed his older brother Tom who was in the Army. After his father took his favorite puppy, Soldier, and drowned him, Stanley decided to run away and join the Army to find Tom. Despite being underage, he became a Dog Keeper in the British Dog Messenger Service. There he learned firsthand of the horrors of war while training, and falling in love with, the dogs he trained.

Through Stanley’s experiences, readers aged 9-13 learn of the experiences of Messenger Dogs and those who trained them, as well as what happened during several key World War I battles. “Soldier Dog” is a wonderful read, and will grab the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. Don’t forget your tissues.

“Buddy” M.H. Herlong

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 13, 2012. Viking (Penguin). 296 pp.

When I began reading “Buddy” a few hours ago, I couldn’t put it down. It held my interest from the beginning, as should good books about good dogs. I will admit that, being a book about a dog, it made me cry. That seems to be a prerequisite when reading a book where a dog is the main character, and I’m sure it will make you cry too.

Li’l T is about to be 13 years old, and has always wanted a dog. When his father accidentally runs over a mangy dog, Li’l T takes it as a sign the dog is to be his and names him Buddy. From that day on, he and Buddy are inseparable. The family is poor, but Li’l T becomes quite enterprising in the ways he earns money for Buddy’s food. He loves Buddy, and Buddy loves him.

A few months later, the family has to leave their home in New Orleans because Hurricane Katrina is coming. They expect to return from Mississippi in a couple of days so, since their car is too small, they leave Buddy home. When Li’l T finds out that New Orleans is flooded and Buddy is gone, his heart is broken. It seems nothing can ever be the same again for Li’l T. His grandpa has died of a broken heart, while his home, friends and dog are all gone.

However, New Orleanians are tough. Rebuilding their homes and communities also includes rebuilding what once seemed to be lost forever. When Li’l T learns Buddy is not lost, he is ecstatic but will need a lot of help to get him back. It will take a village to put everyone’s life back on track, including his own.

Li’l T and Buddy’s story will make even the most stoic reader shed tears, not only for their story but for all that was lost, and found, during the devastation of Katrina. Students, especially boys aged 9-13, will enjoy Buddy’s story.