Tournaments, Cocoa, and One Wrong Move

Saturday, October 30, 2010
“You tested positive for steroids, Cassidy.” 
“Steroids! I wasn’t – I mean, I’m not – taking steroids…” I let the words trail off as another voice whispered, ‘they’re supplements – experimental, perfectly safe…’

Book: Tournaments, Cocoa, and One Wrong Move by Nancy Rue, Zondervan Publishing, 2010

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-19
Subjects: Perfectionism, parent relationships, friendships, dating relationship, steroids, showing love to others
Summary: When an injury to her knee sends Cassidy off to the emergency room, a chain reaction begins. Her father starts insisting she’s fine and trying to speed up her improvement by force, her mom starts hanging around more, her brother blames her for his not getting the money he needs to buy a house, and her brother’s fiancĂ©e, a medical student provides a way out of it all, a way that she tells Cassidy is perfectly safe and ok. However, when a random drug test shows this harmless drug to be steroids her world falls apart. The school won’t let anyone caught doing drugs play any sports – ever again. Until now basketball has been Cassidy’s whole world, the one thing she lives and breathes for. A mysterious book labeled “RL” claims the answer is found in Yeshua and in living for Him instead. Cassidy isn’t interested, but the more things in her life fall apart, the more she finds herself turning to this book for direction.
Notes: Once again, I was blown away by Nancy Rue’s book. She challenges so much in her writing. Her books are very realist, sometimes painful to read, but she always points the way towards truth. No hiding answers here. God’s Word, the Real Life book in the story and His quiet still voice inside Cassidy are truth and the answers to Cassidy’s problems. She makes good friends, but Nancy Rue does not even leave it at that. Cassidy had to learn to turn to God for the wisdom she needed, not just have a good set of friends or good moral values as many Christian Teen Fiction books imply. I very highly recommend this book, especially to any young girls struggling with trying to be perfect.  This is the 3rd book in her new series [Real Life].
Recommendation Scale: 5/5 (Can I give it a 10 out of 5!?)
Reviewer: J:-)mi
James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Last Dance

Sunday, October 24, 2010
Dj didn't know what to say. Really, all this was so outside of her comfort zone. She couldn't believe they were sitting in McHenry's talking about sex and being pregnant. What happened to the days when they would sit here and talk about soccer, or the latest movie?

Book: Last Dance by Melody Carlson, Zondervan Publishing, 2010
Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-20
Subjects: Teen Pregnancy, popularity, depression, friendships, dating relationships, jealousy
Summary: No one is allowed to talk about what happened over spring break, but Eliza has carried that too far - she has not even let her parents know what happened to her. And now she's desperate to push it aside and become prom queen. So she puts the pressure on all the Carter House girls to help her campaign. School is finishing up - the final push to get the grades necessary for graduation is here. Letters are arriving from colleges accepting or denying applicants - there's even a daily show of hands at the table in the cafeteria to see who has been accepted to which Ivy League Schools. Of course DJ's grandmother is planning another fashion show for the girl. DJ finds herself agreeing to a summer job she in a field she doesn't even like - modeling -  in order to make it possible for Taylor to do it. But to top everything off, one of the girls has gotten pregnant and has a boyfriend demanding she get an abortion and not tell anyone. Will the stress finally send them all over the edge or will Casey, Kriti, and Eliza finally realize their desperate need for a Savior?
Notes: This is the end of the series, wrapping up a lot (but not telling all!) of the loose details. It deals with teen pregnancy and abortion - it's one thing to say you're pro-life, but quite another to be 18, unmarried, pregnant and have your boyfriend making demands on you, especially when you have no parents around supporting you. It makes for a challenging decision - stay true to what you believe is right, or give in to the pressure? It's also a look at how to help your friend in the midst of such struggles.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Spring Breakdown

"A phone call", she gasped as she came into the room and sank down on a bed. "A man on the other end. He said that he had her. He said that he wanted ransom money. He said not to call the police, or something terrible would happen."

Book: Spring Breakdown by Melody Carlson, Zondervan Publishing, 2010
Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 15-19
Subjects: Dating relationships, friendships, dating strangers
Summary: A model show of the latest swimwear while staying in Florida at a condo should be a dream, but for DJ, Taylor and the other Carter House girls, it's just another big mess. As usual, the guys have managed to secure connections to come as well, and as usual some of the girls are more than ready to party. This time though, without intending to, DJ and Taylor become a part of it in that some of the guys decide they like them better than their girlfriends. Pretty soon one of them in particular is furious and running off with a complete stranger. It isn't long before she discovers just why that isn't a great idea. DJ, Taylor and Rhinnon get to work praying, but is it already too late?
Notes: This book shows a lot of the same things as the last books. Eliza and now Casey's drinking problems, Kriti's self-confidence struggles, the jealousy and cat fights over boys, and the careless choices made by some of the girls that lead them into quite a bit of danger. It's not the first time their poor choices have put them in danger, but it shows perhaps more than any of the books, just how severe the consequences could be.
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 5:17 - Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

New York Debut

Saturday, October 23, 2010
It's time to announce which lucky models will make their big New York debut next week. The girls all let out an excited cheer... and suddenly DJ felt really concerned. What would happen when Taylor showed up? Or would Taylor even show up? Either scenario seemed packed full of potential problems.

Book: New York Debut by Melody Carlson, 2009

Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 15-19
Subjects: Friendships, dating relationships, annorexia
The Carter House Girls will be modeling in New York for Fashion Week and the house is a buzz. Not only are the Carter House Girls going, but two others are going as well. As they start preparing though, DJ and some of the others realize that Kriti is having serious problems and starting to dabble in annorexia. Then as they start helping some of their friends prepare and work to get chosen, DJ learns that Taylor is planning on coming back from rehab, but is sworn to secrecy about it. Slight problem here. That means only 1 of the 2 girls chosen will actually get to go, because Grandmother will definitely pick Taylor. DJ doesn't know what to do. How can she encourage her friends to work for something she knows they can not acheive? But how can she not encourage them without revealing Taylor's secret?
Notes: I liked a discussion at the end of this book. A character has become a believer, but hasn't told anyone, afraid she won't be able to change enough and will be viewed as a hypocrite. DJ explains that everyone messes up sometimes, but turning to God is what makes you a Christian, not being perfect.
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Lost in Lost Vegas

 Was that the only reason Grandmother was agreeing to this totally outrageous idea - because she wanted DJ to go out to Sin City to act as Taylor's bodyguard? Just to ensure that Taylor would be around to participate in Fashion Week? Talk about bizzare! Suddenly, DJ wondered what she was getting herself into!

Book: Lost in Lost Vegas by Melody Carlons, 2009

: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 15-19
Alcohol Addiction
Summary: Taylor is utterly bored. So is DJ. So when Taylor extends an invitation to DJ to come join her in Las Vegas, DJ agrees. She quickly realizes though, that all the adults have backed out of responsibility for Taylor and are hoping that DJ can keep her under control. How exactly does one teen girl keep another out of trouble when she is determined to go clubbing and drown herself in alcohol every night? Then it becomes even more difficult when Eliza flies in to join them for a few days. Then it's both Eliza and Taylor against DJ! Is there any hope at all? 
Notes: This book portrays a character with a very serious alcohol addiction. It discusses the issue of it quite a bit throughout the course of the book.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
Ephesians 5:18 - Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Viva Vermont

By Wednesday of the following week, DJ had received thirty-seven anonymous text messages - each one sounding more hateful and threatening than the previous one. 

Book: Viva Vermont! by Melody Carlson, Zondervan Publishing, 2008
Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-18
Subjects: Alcohol - drunkenness, dating relationships, mental disorders, friendships
Summary: DJ's leg is healing up well, but life isn't getting much easier. She's working on the whole forgiveness thing with Connor and Haley, but then when Connor decides he'd rather date DJ again, she has a decision to make. Then the General announces that all the girls are invited to spend a weekend at his lodge skiing and snowboarding. Great right? It seems exciting to DJ... until Eliza and Taylor take steps to get all the guys to come as well and start making plans for partying - including getting rid of the grownups! Then comes a scare - DJ starts getting threatening text messages on her cell phone and when the truth is discovered, a life hangs in balance. 
Notes: This book deals with some heavy issues. The big focus is the partying/drinking/drunkenness. Teenagers loose with lots of alcohol and no adult supervision leads to nothing but trouble in this book. Then, it addresses Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in one of the characters. It even throws in some sexual opportunities. One thing examined a bit in this one is what a true friend will do when you want to go partying and get drunk. Does a true friend join in, stand back and watch, or intervene by calling the cops?
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Ephesians 5:18 - Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Secret of the Burning House

"God, please get me out of here!"

Book: Secret Of The Burning House by Gayle Roper, Chariot Books, 1992
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Girls 9-14
Subjects: Change, friendships, God's presence - never leaving you
Summary: Dee hates it! It's ugly and horrid and it is NOT home! Her family has just moved from Indiana to Pennsylvania and she is devastated.The very first night in their new home makes her focus shift a bit though! She wakes in the middle of the night to a terror - fire! The house next door is burning down. Soon Dee has a chance to help Cammi, the girl who's house burned down. Unfortunately, helping becomes dangerous and she discovers some secrets about how Cammi's house was set on fire. 
Notes: Dee has to learn that the God she left in Indiana, didn't stay there. He's the God of Pennsylvania too. He has never left her and never will!
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Hebrews 13:5- Because He Himself has said, "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you".


Yeah... well... not everyone is into your brand of haute couture style. Some of us are quite happy to be comfortable and environmentally aware. Why can't On The Runway carry those types too? I just read that there's going to be an earth friendly design show during Fashion Week in New York. They seem to get the importance of it, and I, for one, plan to be there for it."

Book: Catwalk by Melody Carlson, Zondervan Publishing, 2010
Genre: Modern Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-20
Subjects: Fashion, popularity, protecting the environment, sister relationships
Summary: Paige and Erin's TV Show has taken off and now they're headed to New York for Fashion Week to interview the models and designers. Erin is weighed down with the responsibility of trying to keep her sister out of trouble and trying to convince her to promote and feature eco-minded designs. Unfortunately, Paige has a tendency to get into some pretty serious trouble and Erin has to figure out how to help her. She knows Paige would benefit from going to Church with her, but Paige isn't willing.
Notes: This one was disappointing. There just wasn't much of a spiritual element. Erin promotes protecting the environment more than faith. You assume, from the fact that she goes to a Church group that she is a Christian, and her sister makes a comment about "doesn't being a Christian mean you have to forgive" but that's not a huge part of her life. Of course things like drunkeness and dating guys who are known for getting into trouble, are portrayed as wrong, but not because of faith, just because of good morals or wisdom. At the end, there is a good statement about praying for people and a note that someone has a strong solid faith. The book as a whole though, teaches a lot more about fashion than faith.
Recommendation Scale: 2/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Proverbs 31:30 - Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Homecoming Queen

Sunday, October 3, 2010
Homecoming nominations were made today. Both Eliza and Taylor made the final cut. I'll bet in the meantime things will get pretty mean. 

Book: Homecoming Queen by Melody Carlson, Zondervan, 2008
Homecoming Queen (Carter House Girls, Book 3)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-18
Subjects: Dating relationships, friendships, drugs, popularity
Summary: Things are getting more intense all the time at the Carter House. DJ gets into an accident trying to save a child's life. Taylor & Eliza are both competing for homecoming queen. Rhinnanon and Taylor are competing for the same role in the play. Taylor is determined to see Casey punished for the humiliation she caused her. Someone starts stealing DJ's pain medication and using it as a drug. Eliza tries to force everyone to pick sides in the homecoming race. An old girlfriend of Connor's moves back to town. DJ isn't sure what to do with all this pressure. But God has some interesting plans of His own that surprise them all!
Notes: This book deals with the issue of forgiveness, it deals with friendships of course, and it takes an interesting look at being judgmental. It's easy for DJ to come down harshly on Taylor, but every once in a while something happens to make her rethink that. Sometimes things aren't what we think.This book does a good job presenting the issues from the right perspective, but it doesn't take it as far spiritually as it could.
Recommendation Scale: 4
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Romans 12:18 - If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Stealing Bradford

"Rhinnon's mad at me. She thinks I'm trying to get Bradford."
"Are you?"
Taylor just shrugged. "I can't help it if guys like me."
"Right." DJ just shook her head. Connon was right. That was was a man-eater.

Book: Stealing Bradford by Melody Carlson, Zondervan Publishing, 2008
Stealing Bradford
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 16-18
Subjects: Dating relationships, friendships, Growing spiritually, forgiveness, revenge
Summary: DJ wants to start living out the new commitment she made last night, but Taylor is seriously pushing the limits of showing DJ's ability to show love and forgiveness. And DJ isn't the only one who is furious. And not everyone else has DJ's desire to try to forgive. How could Taylor go after Rhinnon's boy of all people? Rhinnanon is kind to everyone and Taylor has her pick of any guy at school. Yet, that's exactly what she does - steals Bradford right out from under Rhinnon, leaving Rhinnnon disappointed and the other Carter House Girls furious. It looks as though Mrs. Carter's experiment in running a boarding house for teen girls may wind up in a disaster. 
Notes: This book covers a lot of subjects as it details the life of ordinary teenage girls. There's the friendships, the dating relationships, the issue of sexual interactions outside of intercourse is even brought up. It gets into cyber bullying, and of course, growing in the Christian walk as DJ is a brand new Christian who is seeking to find out how God wants her to live.
Recommendation Scale: 5
Revewier: J:-)mi

Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you


I'm expecting her to be a wise and mother. Is that too much? She's always been too involved in her career.

Book: Erica by Eileen Pollinger, Bethany House Publishers, 1985
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 15-19
Subjects: Erica's mom is missing in action and Erica is furious! Her mother has decided to mvoe to Boston for a year. Is her career really more important to her than her family? Shouldn't her family always come first? Besides, her mother is especially needed right now. Someone is slandering and attempting to destroy her father and his newspaper business. Erica's little brother has been sleuthing for a while, but is taking it to a new and dangerous level. Then there's Erica's personal needs. Where is her mother when she has a new guy showing interest in her and some major spiritual decisions to make? 
Notes: Erica's mom is a career woman and it frustrates Erica. She sees her mom's focus on her career as a sign that she doesn't care about her family. When her parents agree that her mom should take the temporary job increase and move to Boston for a year, they first consider all going as a family. But Erica has no desire to up and move during her senior year, so her mom winds up moving to Boston alone for the year while her dad stays back with the family and newspaper business. This is the final blow to Erica. It's just the proof she needed that her mom truly doesn't care about them at all. Then when a new boyfriend and his family tell her about Christ, Erica realizes she may need to rethink some of her conclusions. This book gets into an interesting discussion on what a godly woman looks like - comparing homemakers and career woman.
Recommendation Scale: 4/5
Revewier: J:-)mi

Colossians 3:23 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

Jana’s Journal

“But is it so wrong to want to feel good about yourself? To have all that self-confidence and self-esteem Ms. Langdon talked about? I mean, even out pastor and all those youth speakers are always talking about that.”

Book: Jana’s Journal by Jeanette Windle, Kregel Publications, 2002
Jana's Journal: A Novel
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 14-19
Subjects: Self-esteem, showing love to others
Summary: Jana is tired of being taken advantage of. Her mom expects her to always be available to babysit her younger brother so she can run off and do what she wants. The teacher who runs the school newspaper doesn’t give her the position she wanted, but then places more responsibility on her when things go wrong, the choir director gets mad if she can’t play the piano for them, the youth pastor makes her feel guilty for speaking or not speaking during youth group. Finally, a counselor comes to the school and tells Jana just what she wants to her: She needs to feel good about herself and put herself first. Jana takes that advice to heart and begins telling people off. But that doesn’t seem to work either. Another person gives her a much harder answer: think of others first, in fact, he convinces her to come work in an inner city youth center where she encounters some extremely dangerous things and learns a few things about what’s really important.
Notes: Jana has to learn a balance between being a doormat and having people walk all over you and only thinking of yourself and treating others like garbage. It’s a fine line and not easy to find, but the lessons in this book are taught well. Jana undergoes a lot of change between the different sections of the book and learns a lot of valuable things.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
Philippians 2:3 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility, consider others better than yourself.

Changing Faces

“If I had a Changing Faces makeover at Sephora, I might as well die. Nothing else in life would compare.” Olivia laughed. Jane could be such a drama queen.

Book: Changing Faces by Wendy Lawton, Moody Publishers, 2004
Changing Faces (Real TV, 1)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Target Audience: Girls 13-19
Subjects: Stress/Busyness, friendship, homelessness
Summary: Oliva is stressed to the max. A daily planner controls her every second of the day. Between school – having to have grades good enough to be the valedictorian, Church, family commitments, and now having to fulfill a large number of volunteer hours in order to be considered for valedictorian, friendship and God are taking a back burner. Time to watch Changing Faces with her best friend Jane just isn’t happening any more. When the opportunity of a lifetime comes up it drives a wedge even further between her and Jane.
Notes: This book shows a character who has to take a different look at her life and priorities. Oliva’s goals are giving her an attitude towards others that earns her the nickname “Chip” for the chip on her shoulder. Through her experiences at the homeless shelter she learns to reevaluate her attitude towards the homeless and really her attitude towards life in general – including her relationship with God. For anyone who feels like they’re always going 100 miles an hour with no idea how to slow down or how to make time for priorities, this book is definitely worth reading!
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
Matthew 11:28 - Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

Dark Sons

“He calls himself my father. So why is he sending me away?” 
“He’s supposed to be my dad. What is he thinking leaving Mom in the first place?”

Book: Dark Sons by Nikki Grimes, Hyperion Books For Children, 2005

Genre: Historical Fiction/Poetry
Target Audience: Boys 12-18 primarily, but really, anyone over 12.
Subjects: Relationship with parents, divorce, siblings
Summary: Ishmael from the Bible and Sam from a modern day time share the same problem: fathers that won’t continue to father them. Ishmael is sent away when his little brother Isaac comes, Sam’s dad leaves his family when another woman becomes more attractive to him. Both wrestle with the questions of where God is and how He can claim to care when He has left them with fathers who care more about others than them.
Notes: This book is extremely creative!! First of all, the very idea of it: writing a story about Ishmael. We all know the stories of Isaac, but what about that son in the background, the one that was passed over in favor of Isaac. How must he have felt? Second, comparing the Biblical story to a story that is all too common in our times today, makes the Biblical story come to life and so easy to relate to. Lastly, the form it took: poetry. Each boy, particularly Ishmael writes in poems as they pour out their frustration and hurt and anger at their fathers and at the God who proves to be the Father they can continue to turn to when their earthly fathers abandon them.
Recommendation Scale: 5/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi
Matthew 28:20 – And I will be with You always, even to the end of the age.

Mystery Of The Secret Code

Out of the semidarkness he glimpsed a moving shadow. Not one shadow, but two, moving stealthily down the driveway toward the bar. He swung around to face the girls. “I think I just got a glimpse of our first treasure seekers.”

Book: Mystery Of The Secret Code by Ruth Nulton Moore, Herald Press, 1985
Genre: Mystery
Target Audience: Boys and Girls 10-13
Subjects: Showing love to others in need
Summary: School has started and Sara and Sam have been assigned their first big project: A history research project based on their town. Sara pairs up with Amy, the girl who used to live in the house their family has just moved into. They decide to see what they can learn about Amy’s ancestor who used to live in their house. When rumors of a treasure being to fly though, it seems others might be interested in the same project!
Notes: This is primarily a mystery story, but Sara and Sam have a chance to reach out to and show love to someone that is in need. Amy’s mother is in the hospital and the bills forced them out of their house. It takes time, but Sara is able to become an encouragement to Amy.
Recommendation Scale: 3
Reviewer: J:-)mi

Matthew 25:40 - 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Caleb & Kate

"Just don't fall in love with that Kalani boy and everything will be just fine."

Book: Caleb & Kate by Cindy Martinusen-Coloma, Thomas Nelson, 2010
Caleb + Kate
Genre: Realsitic Fiction/Romance
Target Audience: Girls 15-19
Subjects: Dating Relationships, Family Relationships, Love
Summary: Caleb knows before he arrives in the mainland that he is not to fall in love with Kate. And Kate gets warned of the same soon after Caleb arrives. Yet, from the moment their eyes make contact, there is an attraction, a seemingly impossible pull towards one another. And so begins the forbidden romance.
Notes: This book is supposed to be a play off of Romeo & Juliet with all the suspense or cruelty. It's also supposed to teach about the love of God - which it does in one section in particular as the character realizes that God truly is love, that this statement isn't just a random phrase, it is truth. Love comes from God, that's why it can exist in a broken world. However, the romance between the characters is definitely off. You see them acting like they're in love before either one has spoken a word to each other. Then they admit to falling in love so soon after knowing each other. From the beginning, people are predicting or warning against their falling in love - before there is a reason for it. They claim they are in love, but from the beginning, their "love" is portrayed merely as extreme physical attraction to one another. This makes it tough to see this as a book to teach us about love. For the short lesson on the love of God, I'll give the book a 3. Outside of that, it's just a romance novel.
Recommendation Scale: 3/5
Reviewer: J:-)mi

1 John 3:16 - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

Total Pageviews