Cover Reveal for The Battle of Junk Mountain by Lauren Abbey Greenberg

I am so excited to get to host the cover reveal for this April 2018 middle grade novel by Lauren Abbey Greenberg!

The book sounds amazing and I can not WAIT to get to read it soon. 

About the Book

The Battle of Junk Mountain by Lauren Abbey Greenberg
(Running Press – April 2018)

Twelve-year-old Shayne Whittaker has always spent summers on the Maine coast, visiting her grandmother Bea and playing with her BFF Poppy. Both Shayne and Bea are treasure seekers, in their own ways: Bea trolls flea markets and garage sales for valuable finds, while Shayne revels in golden memories of gorging on lobster rolls, searching for sea glass, and weaving friendship bracelets with Poppy.

This summer, though, everything has changed. Poppy would rather talk about boys than bracelets, and Bea’s collecting mania has morphed into hoarding. Only Linc, the weird boy next door who is obsessed with the Civil War, seems to care about her. Turns out Linc’s coveting a treasure of his own. What begins as the worst summer of Shayne’s life becomes the most memorable as she learns when to hang on, when to let go, and how to find treasures in unexpected places.

About the Author

Lauren Abbey Greenberg was a freelance writer/producer for many years and worked on a ton of cool projects such as TV spots for Discovery Kids, educational videos for National Geographic, and a film for Mount Rushmore National Memorial. She is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and has written stories for Highlights for Children and Knowonder! She lives in Maryland with her husband, children, and dog, but has spent summers in Maine for the last twenty years. The Battle of Junk Mountain is her first novel. Follow Lauren on Twitter at @LAGreenberg1

Lauren’s thoughts about the cover:

The designer at Running Press Kids put a lot of careful thought into this cover, and I’m absolutely thrilled with the way it turned out. Many of the details are clues about the story, from the medal dangling out of the box to the masking tape title across the top. I also love how the girl carries the pile of junk all by herself, which symbolizes the weight of the problems the main character, Shayne, faces. The golden sunset with a hint of fog in the background perfectly captures summer on the Maine coast. Can’t wait to share this coming-of-age story with all of you!

Are you ready for it???

I absolutely LOVE IT and think it will definitely appeal to the middle grade readers at my schools!


Isn’t it amazing? 

Add this one to your Goodreads TBR lists or go ahead and pre-order it!



Things that Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

Things that Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari
(Balzer + Bray – August 22, 2017)

Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing me with an advance copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

Oh, how I love this book! I read it in one morning and halfway through reading it I messaged the author and told her my very personal reasons for just why I loved it so much ~ reasons that I won’t go into here, but reasons that give me an insider’s opinion on just how RIGHT this book is.

THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU is at first glance a middle grade novel about a girl heading into middle school and dealing with the typical agonies of friendship and fitting in. And is that, in a perfect way, but it is also a searingly real look at living with a sibling with an eating disorder and the way diet culture pervades young girls’ lives. Maschari has completely nailed how to write about this topic in an non-preachy way, without making anorexia appealing to readers…….which so many novels about eating disorders do. We want books on this topic, but we do NOT want books that introduce this disease in an appealing way to more children. This book treats anorexia as the horrible disease that it is and heartbreakingly conveys the impact it has on entire families.

Oh wait! There was so. much. more that I loved about this book! I loved Emily’s innocence and her adoration of the world of Unicorn Chronicles, and the fact that her teacher introduces her to Anastasia Krupnik may just be my favorite thing on earth. The issue of divorce is a large part of the story, and that was so so real to me as well. She just wants her family back! Don’t we all, as middle schoolers AND adults, want life to be the way it was before things got hard?

As Emily struggles to make herself a better person and fit in, she realizes that what she thought she wanted may not be so appealing as she dreamed it would be. I can’t recommend this book enough – it is a required purchase for middle school libraries and classrooms.


One lucky winner will receive a copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU (U.S. addresses).


One grand prize winner will receive a Crafty Unicorn Kit!  The prize includes a fun craft kit, a copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, unicorn stickers, and puzzle cards! Enter here.


Jennifer Maschari is a classroom teacher and the author of THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE and THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. She is hard at work on her next middle grade novel with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide, visit

Y Is For Yesterday by Sue Grafton

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
(Putnam – August 22, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been in love with the Kinsey Millhone series since I started with A IS FOR ALIBI in the mid-90’s – this series is an absolute nostalgic favorite of mine.

Thanks to Putnam for providing me with a galley of this title for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

When you have reached book #25 in a series that you have been reading for over 20 years, writing a review isn’t really necessary. It’s more of a letter to an old friend – a friend who has been with you for decades and whom you will stick with no matter what, despite any ups and downs. That’s what this series is for me. I have been immersed in Kinsey Millhone’s private detective career and the world of Santa Teresa, CA for so long that sometimes I forget that they aren’t real. The fact that the books take place in the 80’s, and ALWAYS have, makes me so happy and I adore reading about Kinsey typing up her case reports on her typewriter and using her landline and NO INTERNET. This all just adds to the nostalgic feeling I have for the series. The funniest thing to me now is that when I started reading these books in my teens, Kinsey being 30-something was OLD…….and now she’s my age! I read her entirely differently now that we are peers and I appreciate her even more so now.

This latest mystery has a LOT going on, with a completely new case mingled with an older one, and due to the nature of the series, I wouldn’t really recommend trying to start the series with this newest book. Go back and get a copy of A IS FOR ALIBI, put away your cell phone, and immerse yourself in a simpler time…….and get ready for the entire alphabet of mysteries! It also just hit me that there will only be 1 MORE KINSEY BOOK and I just don’t know what to do with that – it’s the end of an era for sure.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young
by Gabrielle Zevin
(Algonquin – August 22, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Feminist, timely and uniquely constructed, this novel is a commentary on motherhood, womanhood and politics.

Thanks to Algonquin for the review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

Young Jane Young’s heroine is Aviva Grossman, an ambitious Congressional intern in Florida who makes the life-changing mistake of having an affair with her boss‑‑who is beloved, admired, successful, and very married‑‑and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the Congressman doesn’t take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. She becomes a late‑night talk show punchline; she is slut‑shamed, labeled as fat and ugly, and considered a blight on politics in general.
How does one go on after this? In Aviva’s case, she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. She tries to start over as a wedding planner, to be smarter about her life, and to raise her daughter to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, she decides to run for public office herself, that long‑ago mistake trails her via the Internet like a scarlet A. For in our age, Google guarantees that the past is never, ever, truly past, that everything you’ve done will live on for everyone to know about for all eternity. And it’s only a matter of time until Aviva/Jane’s daughter, Ruby, finds out who her mother was, and is, and must decide whether she can still respect her.
A novel about a world that continues to want to define what women are and what they can, and cannot, do, Young Jane Young follows three generations of women, plus the wife of the Congressman. Told in varying voices through e-mails and even a Choose Your Own Adventure section, it captures not just the mood of this particular, highly charged moment but is an accessible, witty, smart take on the double standards that are alive and well and waiting to trip up ordinary and extraordinary women alike.


I don’t often read the word “slut” in books and still keep reading – this is a word that I DETEST and I will publicly call out a book for portraying slut-shaming as okay. However, this book is ABOUT slut-shaming and the insanity of it, and THAT is okay in my world. YOUNG JANE YOUNG tells the story of a congressional intern who had an affair with a congressman, but it’s actually mainly the story of how the public outcry impacts the other women in her life – her mother, her daughter, and the wife of the congressman. I loved that the book was narrated by these different women, and also that different sections were in formats such as email and a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

Zevin’s essay about this book in the Algonquin Reader gives insight into her experience as a child with the double standards in politics, and also speaks to the current climate for women in politics – basically, a woman putting on a suit does NOT magically make her equal to men in the eyes of the voting public.

I really, really enjoyed this book and read it in one day – I love the motherhood focus and getting into the heads of all of the different female characters. Highly recommended as a light read for readers interested in feminism and politics!

This book was covered on NPR Weekend Edition too! Check it out here.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

When your puppy chews up a book jacket, you really do have to be creative……

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
(Knopf – August 22, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A striking debut and a fascinating commentary on marriage, polygamy and fertility, set in Nigeria between the 1980s and 2008.

Thanks to Knopf Publishing for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.


STAY WITH ME is powerful and grief-stricken, filled with Nigerian proverbs and rituals surrounding fertility and parenting. It wasn’t a happy read by any means, but reading Yejide’s story brought the heartbreaking reality of infertility and polygamy to life and exposed me to Nigerian culture that I have not read or learned about before this book. Woven throughout the story are political events and commentary that add another layer of richness to the narrative.

This novel was a bit disconcerting at times because narrators switched with no indication, making it a book that needs to be read with a close eye. There is also one part of the plot that seemed a bit beyond belief, but I’m willing to overlook that given the overall strength of the book.

Recommended for fans of literary fiction and world cultures, this book will surely open eyes and provoke a desire to read more stories with a Nigerian setting.

View all my Goodreads reviews

How to Disappear by Sharon Huss Roat

How to Disappear
by Sharon Huss Roat
(Harper Teen – August 15, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my top 5 YA books of 2017 and a mandatory read for parents, teachers and administrators, this story of social anxiety, depression and the lure of social media to replace real life is frighteningly real.

BOOK DESCRIPTION (from Goodreads)

Vicky Decker has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight, quietly navigating the halls of her high school undetected except by her best (and only) friend, Jenna. But when Jenna moves away, Vicky’s isolation becomes unbearable.

So she decides to invent a social life by Photoshopping herself into other people’s pictures, posting them on Instagram under the screen name Vicurious. Instantly, she begins to get followers, so she adds herself to more photos from all over the world with all types of people. And as Vicurious’s online followers multiply, Vicky realizes she can make a whole life for herself without ever leaving her bedroom. But the more followers she finds online, the clearer it becomes that there are a lot of people out there who feel like her— #alone and #ignored in real life.

To help them, and herself, Vicky must find the courage to face her fear of being “seen,” because only then can she stop living vicariously and truly bring the magic of Vicurious to life.

In this beautiful and illuminating narrative, Sharon Huss Roat shines a light on our love of social media and how sometimes being the person you think you want to be isn’t as great as being the person you truly are.


I just want to first give a shoutout to a fellow school librarian Carli Sauer (@the_loudlibrarian on Instagram) for bringing this book to my attention pre-publication – I immediately pre-ordered it for my HS library after reading her “READ THIS BOOK” review of it, and then when it showed up on release day I completely inhaled the entire book that very evening.

HOW TO DISAPPEAR is a book about social anxiety, depression, friendship, dating and most of all, social media. The isolation of today’s teens due to social media, and the ability to create an entirely new identity using it. Instagram is the focus of the book and Roat has written the world of likes, followers and obsessive fixation on it to an absolute T, with the female protagonist Vicky being an incredibly relatable character. I was nodding along with so much of the book and toward the end was reading with tears streaming down my face while I raced through the pages to discover the outcome.

This release of story is perfectly timed for the beginning of a new school year and needs to be read by every adult in every teen’s life. Parents, teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, administrators. Teens will love it and relate to it too, of course, but they are already well aware of the world Vicurious inhabits – not all adults are.

In addition, these two articles were published right before the book was released and I read them before I even read the book – they speak of the REAL issues that the book addresses and the timeliness of the text, and are also mandatory reads for adults working with and raising teens:

THE ATLANTIC: Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?

SLATE: Smartphones Haven’t Destroyed a Generation

View all my Goodreads reviews

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
(Simon Schuster – August 15, 2017)

Thank you so much to the author for providing #KidLitExchange with a finished copy of this book for review purposes! All opinions are my own (as always).

“What goes around, comes around”……Karma Khullar’s namesake has her on a quest to fit in and stop the teasing from her 6th grade classmates, while still maintaining her sense of self.

Reading KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE took me instantly back to middle school, to reading and identifying with ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET, and to just wanting to understand why I didn’t fit in perfectly with everyone else. For this generation’s tweens, Karma will be THEIR Margaret. While they may still be chanting “I must, I must, increase my bust”, they will be able to identify with Karma and her quest to rid her face of facial hair and reconcile her racial, cultural and religious identities with those of her classmates. I adored Karma and my heart ached for her as she strove to understand why she was being taunted and why her best friend wouldn’t stand up for her. Her father’s new role as a stay-at-home parent while her mom is working more and more as a university professor really doesn’t help matters, either.

Required purchase for middle school libraries and classrooms as we fight to teach kids that “….sometimes the silence hurts worse than the teasing.” (p. 161)

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by Kristin L. Gray

Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge by Kristin L. Gray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heartwarming and feisty, Vilonia is a breath of fresh air in the middle grade genre!

Thanks to the author for providing @kidlitexchange with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

You can almost hear and feel the country twang in this sweet and sassy middle grade (mid-to-late elementary) novel about baseball-loving, obituary-writing and pet-dreaming Vilonia Beebee. Her determination to help her family during her mother’s depression and prove that she is responsible enough for a pet make for a wonderful story that will appeal to a wide audience. It’s also an ode to the classic BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE by Kate DiCamillo.

This story would be an excellent read aloud in grades 3-5 and should be handed to any child who is like Vilonia and is dying for, aching for, dreaming of the pet their parents won’t let them have. Depression is treated with rose-tinted glasses, which fits the mood of the novel, but may seem unrealistic to children whose parents have descended much deeper into it than Vilonia’s mother did. However, it is a welcome inclusion of an issue that isn’t always shown in this genre. The obituary-writing is just so sweet and such an unusual twist – I loved that! Other topics dealt with are grief and military deployment of a parent. The sour cream pound cake recipe at the end of the book is a wonderful bonus!

Highly recommended for middle grade classrooms and libraries.

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How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
(Crown Publishing – August 15, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quirky, French, intellectual and like no other story I have read in recent memory.

Thanks to Crown Publishing for providing me with a free finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn’t quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist–she’s already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don’t, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them if he doesn’t run away from home first.

Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.


You know how sometimes you just fall into a book and mark almost every single page and feel like this book was written FOR you? That’s how I felt with this one. I had zero expectations going into it and was pleasantly surprised to be so captivated by this coming-of-age story narrated by a French preteen boy. I mean, who’d have thought this was my genre? I absolutely loved this family with all of their self-recognized pretentiousness, PhDs, dissertation defenses, their father they refer to as “the father”, and most of all their mother. Oh, the mother. She is my new parenting hero with her gazillion kids and blatant love for them mixed in with benign neglect (this term being used in the most loving way). She says all the things I want to say in the way I want to say them – she’s perfect.

And the children as a group reminds me, strangely, of my favorite childhood fictional family – The Melendy’s of the Elizabeth Enright series. You know, THE SATURDAYS, THE FOUR STORY MISTAKE, etc. And if you don’t know that series, well, that might explain it if you don’t love HOW TO BEHAVE IN A CROWD as much as I do. I folded corners over on the majority of the book for passages I want to go back and savor and quotes I need to remember.

This was a very personal favorite read for me, and I know it’s definitely not for everyone. But if you know and love (or know and hate) academia, and love France and innocent/astute observations on life, death and knowledge, grab a copy of this. If you’re like me, you’ll want it on your forever bookshelf.

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Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini
(Doubleday – August 15, 2017)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A raw, honest and exquisitely foreign look at early 1990’s Los Angeles through the eyes of a not-so-innocent teen girl. (NOT a YA book)

Thanks to Doubleday books for providing me with a finished copy for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

When a book opens on an early 90’s LA beach with an Italian family (including the grandmother) sunbathing in the nude, you just know it’s not going to be a typical story. And oh my goodness, it surely wasn’t typical! THINGS THAT HAPPEN BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE takes place in the time period between the 1992 riots in LA and the big earthquake in 1994, and follows a family from Rome who has moved to LA for the movie business. Or, for the father to try to make it in the movie business, that is – the rest of the family is just along for the ride. Eugenia, the 16-year-old narrator, and her younger brother Timoteo are vehemently opposed to the move and struggle to assimilate as they must navigate US public schools for the first time, along with American and LA culture in general.

Eugenia and her narrative style are oh so Italian, and oh so unflinchingly brash. There is sex, and there is NO holding back on the description of it. The sex isn’t always happy and it is rarely pretty, and it’s used as a literary tool in the telling of Eugenia’s coming of age story. There are drugs, and there are hints of impropriety in various parent-child relationships and there are just a whole lot of down-and-dirty gritty descriptions of people and the Los Angeles setting. All of these things made this story a bit of a wild ride for me – one minute I was grimacing at a description of a sex act and then the next Eugenia was back on an Italian island for the summer and it was achingly beautiful and my heart just melted at this new look at the same girl. I ended up kind of falling in love with her and her determination to assimilate to this wild new world despite her eccentric family and the otherworldly nature of LA.

Highly recommended for eyes-wide-open readers willing to take the plunge into a raw coming of age story told from a unique perspective, as well as for LA-lovers in general.

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