4 stars

     Samuel was a "child of the forest."  Living his entire life with his parents in a remote cabin located far from most civilization, Samuel knew the sounds, smells, and images of the forest.  He was an expert marksman and an excellent hunter - though only thirteen, his parents depended on his hunting skills for survival.  Samuel knew there were other worlds out there much different from his own - things he had only read about.  Despite that, Samuel was happy with the way things were.  Unfortunately, nothing stays the same and during the American Revolution, the madness resulting from the 8 year vicious, bloody war  would turn Samuel's way of life upside down.

   Samuel knew that something was wrong.  Hunting in the woods, Samuel suddenly felt uneasy.  After seeing smoke rise miles away, Samuel knew he had to return home quickly and check on his family.  What he found would change his life forever.  Samuel smelled the blood and smoke.  To his horror, Samuel finds his parent's cabin burned to the ground.  Samuel discovers the bodies....thankfully, not his parents, but his neighbors killed without mercy, hacked, shot. 

Samuel knows his parents were not left behind, but taken as prisoners of war by the British.  Despite the many dangers he would face, Samuel is determined to find his parents and set them free.  Together with Annie, a young girl left orphaned after the brutal attack and slaughter of her parents, Samuel embarks on his rescue mission - facing life-threatening dangers each day.  Samuel must determine who is an ally or an enemy, while using his surivial skills to keep Annie and himself alive.  The odds are greatly against Samuel surviving, but he is determined to find his parents and have his family together once again.

Gary Paulsen effectively weaves nonfiction facts, details, and statistics, along with Samuel's story, to unveil the brutalities and horrors experienced during the American Revolutionary War. 

*Recommended Read Aloud

       5 Shining Stars~!  

A book which rivals Hunger Games..

      It was the most anticipated day of their lives - the Choosing Ceremony.  Four Factions - One Choice.  Would Beatrice stay with her family and remain in the Abnegation with those who taught modesty and selflessness? Or should she show an aptitude for Candor – who valued honesty above all else?  Would she show an inclination for the Dauntless – the fighters, defenders, those with raw courage and bravery?  She could also choose the Erudite - the intellectuals or Amity -  those that believed in peace and unity.  Even Beatrice wasn’t sure in which faction she belonged.    

     The aptitude tests were supposed to reveal the prevalent faction best suited for each teen and could help him/her in making a wiser decision during the Choosing Ceremony.  Beatrice’s testing results, however, were different. Tori, the test administrator, seemed frightened when she tells Beatrice her results were inconclusive, indicating that Beatrice is a Divergent – one showing aptitude in more than one faction.  Tori warns Beatrice never to reveal what she is but make her own choice during the Choosing Ceremony.    

     Confused and afraid, Beatrice selects Dauntless and decides to never look back on her decision.  Beatrice changes her name to Tris, her appearance, and her entire way of life.  Determined to prove she was not this reserved, petite, weak Abnegation girl, Tris takes more risks than the other initiatives and soon begins to stand out.  Despite the violent, frightening initiation tests administered by the Dauntless instructors, Tris learns to find others’ weaknesses and use her own courage to excel all the way to the top of the list of new trainees.       

     Tris’s success is short-lived.  When one of her best friends tries to kill her in order to advance himself in the rankings, Tris realizes the danger not only lies in the tests they must undergo, but also within the people of her own faction. 

     Tensions continue to rise when Tris learns of the plot of the Erudites.  They will join the Dauntless in order to overthrow and murder the leaders of the Abnegation – including Tris’s own family and her father.  Tris has chosen a faction being trained to murder, not to protect.    

     Together with her newfound love, Tobias, Tris must find a way to use all of her talents as a Divergent to stop the bloody war that she and all the Dauntless trainees have been programmed to fight.Breathtaking excitement…page after page!

4.5 Stars - Another great novel by Watt Key

     Labeled a troublemaker and juvenile delinquent, Hal was determined to stay out of trouble at Helenweiller Boys’ Home in the hope that he would be released before his eighteenth birthday.  His dad had stopped drinking, was working a steady job, and Hal had met a beautiful girl named Carla who cared for him despite his rap sheet. 

     Hal actually believed he could one day have a life, especially when his attorney tells him the judge was considering early release if Hal stayed out of trouble and followed the rules.    Hal tried to make himself invisible and focused solely on getting out.  Hal, though, can only keep his temper under control for so long.  Though Hal could throw a punch and was stronger than most of the boys there, he repeatedly endured brutal beatings and harassment for his refusal to join one of the  gangs , either the Death Row Ministers or the Hell Hounds.     When Hal goes to Guard Pratt for permission to stay inside during their outside play period to avoid any confrontations, his request is denied.  Hal realizes that the director and guards often ignored the violence and seemed to even instigate conflict between the boys.    

     Soon Hal is beaten so brutally by the Hell Hounds he ends up in the infirmary; Hal begins to fear he may actually die before he is released.  All hope for release is soon gone, though, when the director falsifies conduct reports, blaming the fights on Hal and altering his medical records which detailed all the beatings he endured.      

     The enemies are not the Hell Hounds or the Death Row Ministers – it’s the Staff at the boys’ home.  

The only hope Hal has is to somehow expose the corruption and stay alive at all costs….. Companion novel to Alabama Moon

 4.5 Stars

It was supposed to be a routine trip to the pharmacy.  Cheyenne’s stepmom had agreed to leave the keys in the car while she retrieved Cheyenne’s antibiotics for her worsening respiratory infection.   In the matter of minutes, everything changed.

Though Cheyenne was blind, she knew immediately something was wrong – the slam of the car door, the smell of cigarettes, the man’s voice, cursing, as he started the car…

Griffin didn’t realize that he was also stealing her – a 16-year-old girl lying sick on the backseat.  Griffin just knew he had to bring home something that would make a profit or his dad Roy would make sure he’d pay…

Cheyenne gave the best fight she had.  She attacked Griffin as he was driving, tried to make him stop the car and let her go….Griffin had a gun, though, and Cheyenne was too weak to keep fighting

When Griffin returns home, Roy is furious at his stupid mistake.  Once he sees Cheyenne’s prominent father on television pleading for his daughter’s safe return, though, Roy decides to let Cheyenne live a little longer in order to demand a ransom from her family in exchange for her supposed safe return.

Griffin doesn’t care about the money, he finds himself caring about Cheyenne – her beauty, her honesty, her strength and kindness.  Cheyenne finds herself trusting Griffin – her kidnapper turned protector who makes sure she is taken care of and not left alone with Roy and his friends.  As time passes though, Cheyenne realizes her chances of being released alive are slim.  Despite her blindness and unfamiliarity with the area, she knew she had to escape in order to live.  Cheyenne had to take out anyone in her way – including Griffin.

*Recommended as a read aloud

   3.5 Stars - Fast paced mystery

     Logan is shocked to learn about the murder of Mrs. Donaldson, the older lady who previously owned the home he and his family just bought.  Though it was creepy that someone had been killed in his home, Logan's family assured him that it was in the past - a random murder/robbery that went wrong. 

     Logan's new neighbor Arthur thought otherwise.  After researching the cold case, both boys are convinced that Mrs. Donaldson was targeted.  She had been accused of embezzling money from Magic Forest - the town's closed amusement park.  Many people felt like the real reason the old lady was murdered was because she simply knew too much - knew who really had stolen the money - and the killer found a way to keep her permanently quiet.

     Logan and Arthur decide to investigate further.  After finding a note written by Mrs. Donaldson left in Logan's attic, Arthur and Logan are determined find the money Mrs. Donaldson had hidden so many years ago.  What seems exciting and fun quickly becomes very serious - the closer they get to finding out the truth, the closer the killer follows behind them…patiently waiting on the chance to silence the boys forever  - just as he did many years ago to Mrs. Donaldson.

   4 Stars - Hilarious hijinks
Dave's dad is determined to teach him to be responsible.  He demands that Dave spend the summer before tenth grade working a job and earning his on spending money.  Working?  What about having fun with his buddies?  Picking up chicks?  Getting a good tan?  Dave isn't alone in his misery.  His best friends' dads are all on board with this idea - demanding that Curtis and Victor also work during their summer vacation rather than "goof off."  The three teens decide that they are creative enough to fool their parents by telling them they had a summer job, but actually come up with their own ways to earn money fast and then spend the summer doing whatever they actually want.  And it almost works at first.  Almost….

   After cleaning out their most prized possessions, the three teens earn over $5,000 at a yard sale - too bad they accidentally damage a brand new sports car during the sale and have to use all the money for repairs.  Not to be discouraged, the boys keep trying.  They even do the unlikely - case out the local bank that has been robbed and are able to find out who is responsible.  Too bad an old lady heard them talking and claimed the reward money for herself!  Readers will get a lot of laughs at the trouble and BAD luck the trio keeps encountering.  Dave, Victor, and Curtis end up spending much more time coming up with ways to get out of working than they would have actually working a summer job!  In the end, though, their determination NOT to work actually pays off in a big way.  Great read for students who enjoyed Happy Kid!  and Diary of a Wimpy Kid!