Bergers Book Reviews

Code Red (Faith Flores Science Mystery)

Code Red
Authot: Janie Chodosh
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1929345281
Pages: 298
Price: $10.95

Author’s website
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After solving her mother’s murder in Death Spiral, Faith Flores is off to Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a summer internship in science, working with genetically modified chiles. She’s never met her dad, but knows he grew up in Santa Fe, and plans to look him up while she’s there. Soon after arriving, Faith learns of a dangerous teen drug on the local market called liquid gold, which has suddenly become more plentiful.

Family matters quickly get out of hand as her search for her dad takes an unexpected turn, but they’re not as complicated as Faith’s romantic life. A new boy in the internship program, Clem, rivals Jesse back home, and she needs to sort out how she feels about both of them. And when a girl Faith meets at a party dies from an overdose of liquid gold, Faith’s antenna goes up. After watching her mom battle addiction, Faith is determined to stop others from being traumatized by this deadly drug.

Faith is a tough-minded teen who’s not afraid to tangle with the bad guys. Nothing holds her back from her investigations, even when trouble is lurking all around her. But in Code Red, we also see Faith’s softer side, as she grapples with her family discoveries. I really enjoyed this book, and I can’t wait to see the next installment in this series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

February 16, 2017 Posted by | mystery, teen | Leave a comment

Chloe by Design: Balancing Act

Balancing Act
Author: Margaret Gurevich
Illustrator: Brooke Hagel
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-62370-258-8
Pages: 384
Price: $14.95

Buy it at Amazon

In winning the Teen Design Diva contest in Making the Cut, Chloe is given the chance of a summer internship with a designer in New York City. She hopes that working for Stefan Meyers will hone her design skills and help her to be successful in her career.

Chloe is lucky to be rooming with other interns in an FIT dormitory, and will be able to share her joys and accomplishments with girls who have also been there. But one of the interns is jealous of Chloe’s success and tries to bring her down every chance she gets. Balancing a high-pressure job with a potential love interest proves to be more difficult than Chloe imagines, but her few dates are a source of pleasure. As Stefan Meyers guides his staff toward a successful Fashion Week, Chloe is thrown into the chaos and given the chance to shine. But is it enough to be a part of the event, or does she really want to showcase her work?

Balancing Act shows us Chloe at her very best. For such a young girl, she’s amazingly mature in how she handles her work responsibilities. She consistently shows up on time (or even early) for work, stays late, tries to always do her best, and even chooses work over dating. And outside of work, she always takes the high road when dealing with difficult personalities. Chloe is a great role model for teens, who will love her for the exciting career she’s chosen. As there is no mature material in these books, this series is appropriate for younger girls, also.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 21, 2016 Posted by | teen | Leave a comment

The Shadow of Seth

The Shadow of Seth
Author: Tom Llewellyn
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Teen / Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-92934-518-2
Pages: 186
Price: $10.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Seth Anomundy lives in a small apartment in the back of a boxing gym, on the poor side of Tacoma, with his mother, a cleaning woman. And now she’s dead, apparently murdered. The cops don’t seem interested in finding out what happened to her, so Seth needs to take matters into his own hands.

On a delivery run for the clock repairman he occasionally works for, he meets one of the rich girls in school, who immediately takes an interest in him. As he speaks with his mother’s clients, he retraces her steps that fateful night, narrowing down the suspects. The cops have issued an arrest warrant for the woman he considers a second mother when she disappears after the murder, and Seth wants to clear her name. But he also needs to steer clear of King George, a teenage thug who suddenly wants him dead.

The Shadow of Seth is an interesting whodunit. Clues are carefully presented and the reader is able to follow along as Seth figures out what happened. But some of the characters’ actions don’t ring quite true, and Seth acts more like he’s researching the death of a stranger rather than his own mother. Fans of simple and straight-forward murder mysteries without too much emotional involvement will enjoy this novel.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

July 18, 2016 Posted by | mystery, teen | Leave a comment

Chloe by Design: Making the Cut

Making the Cut
Author: Margaret Gurevich
Illustrator: Brooke Hagel
Publisher: Capstone Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-62370-112-3
Pages: 384
Price: $14.95

Buy it at Amazon

Chloe Montgomery is addicted to the fashion reality show Design Diva. So when the producers announce a new contest – Teen Design Diva – Chloe knows she has to enter. But before she can make it to the TV show, she first has to pass auditions. Only 15 designers will make the cut, and she’ll have to work hard and smart.

Navigating the challenges the judges give them is difficult enough, but she also has to worry about her rival, Nina, trying to sabotage her efforts. Doubts in her own abilities surface, and she faces the very real fact that others in the contest might be better than she is. But she keeps on pushing herself, ever hopeful that she’ll be awarded the championship.

Beautiful watercolor drawings of Chloe’s and other contestants’ designs fill the pages, giving color to the descriptions of these interesting fashion pieces as they’re created. Teen girls who love fashion and reality shows will find themselves absorbed in the whirlwind of activity Chloe suddenly finds herself in. Making the Cut is a great read, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Chloe by Design series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

June 21, 2016 Posted by | fashion, teen | 1 Comment

Beyond Suspicion

Beyond Suspicion
Author: Catherine A. Winn
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1-9293-4510-6
Page: 230
Price: $10.95

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Shelby really wants to go to her best friend’s birthday party, and she’s disappointed when she finds out she’ll be stuck at home, babysitting her baby brother. Since her mom got married to Roger and had a new baby, Shelby’s life has been hard, and she vents her frustration to her friends before taking her one year-old brother, Josh, out for a walk in the park. A small fireworks display distracts Shelby, and when she turns around, Josh is gone.

The situation goes from bad to worse when the police won’t believe her story and instead blame Shelby for Josh’s disappearance. She has no one to turn to except a new boy, Matt, who suddenly decides to help her. Unexpected support also comes from Roger, who defends her to the police and hires an attorney to clear her name. Following a couple of hunches leads Shelby to Josh, but she soon finds herself and Josh in danger. Only her quick thinking can save both their lives before it’s too late.

Beyond Suspicion is a fast read that will keep young adults interested from the first page. Shelby’s predicament with difficult parents is easy to relate to, as is her determination to find her baby brother. There are a few scenes that may require the reader to suspend disbelief, but overall, this is a nicely written story that teens will enjoy.

WARNING: Contains violence.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

March 16, 2016 Posted by | mystery, teen | Leave a comment

Scenes for Teens

Scenes for Teens
Author: Mike Kimmel
Publisher: CreateSpace
Genre: Acting / Teen
ISBN: 9781497557031
Pages: 142
Price: $14.99

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Teenage actors don’t always have good drama and comedy scenes to practice on, while attempting to hone their skills. Much of the material out there is offensive or simply not appropriate for teens. Mike Kimmel saw the need for clean scenes, and that was why he developed Scenes for Teens: 50 Original Comedy and Drama Scenes for Teenage Actors.

These two or three page scenes are designed to be played by two actors. Roles are identified as A or B, and there is no gender indicated, so anyone can play either part. Although a few of the scenes handle moral issues, most are simply casual conversations between two friends, but they don’t include foul language, inappropriate topics, or any kind of mischief. Teens are encouraged to act the part the way they feel inspired, with no stage directions given.

Scenes for Teens is appropriate for aspiring actors of any age – even the younger set. Teens who want to improve their acting skills would be wise to pick up a copy. I highly recommend it.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

February 16, 2016 Posted by | acting, teen | Leave a comment

NeverSaid

NeverSaid
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Teen
ISBN: 978-0-310-74661-4
Pages: 304
Price: $16.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Sarah doesn’t know what has happened to her fraternal twin sister, Annie. Until a year ago, Annie was always the beautiful and popular one. But now she’s dropped out of the beauty pageants and gained weight. Annie won’t say what’s wrong, and Sarah is too caught up in her own problems to really worry much about it. But in one week, everything changes, as the sisters spend more time talking and listening to each other.

NeverSaid alternates between Sarah and Annie’s viewpoints. Sarah tells her story in first-person narrative, while Annie only speaks in poetry. Just as Sarah is kept guessing, so is the reader, until all is finally revealed. Several current issues are explored in this coming of age book, including fat shaming, self-esteem, bullying, and social disorders. As both girls come face to face with the crisis at hand, they finally realize they have the power to change things and move their lives forward in a positive direction.

Although Annie has had to deal with something traumatic, I felt her extreme behavior was not quite believable. Through most of the time this situation was happening to her, Annie was willing and happy to go along with it, so it didn’t seem natural that she would act out the way she did. But if the reader can accept this behavior as normal, this is an interesting and absorbing read.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

September 28, 2015 Posted by | teen | Leave a comment

Mr. Samuel’s Penny

Mr. Samuel's Penny
Author: Treva Hall Melvin
Publisher: The Poisoned Pencil
Genre: Mystery / Teen
ISBN: 978-1-9293-4504-5
Pages: 264
Price: $10.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Lizbeth Landers is spending the summer of 1972 with relatives in Ahoskie, NC. Soon after arriving, she finds herself at the Danbury Bridge, looking on in horror as Mr. Samuel and his baby girl are pulled from his submerged car. His hand clutches a penny, which mysteriously vanishes from the police evidence the next day. The two deaths are determined to be murder.

Collecting pennies is Lizbeth’s passion, and she realizes this particular penny is special. After witnessing Mr. Samuel’s widow’s grief at losing her husband and baby, Lizbeth is determined to find the missing penny and discover the murderer. There are plenty of places to search for pennies, and she won’t rest until it’s in her possession.

Mr. Samuel’s Penny is not just a clever murder mystery, but also gives the reader a glimpse of the south during a time of racial unrest. As a black girl, Lizbeth feels discriminated against by some of the white members of society. Over the summer, she discovers that not everything is exactly as it seems.

Full of interesting plot twists and side stories, Mr. Samuel’s Penny is an enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more books in this new Elizabeth Parrot Landers mystery series.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 17, 2015 Posted by | mystery, teen | Leave a comment

Summer by Summer

Summer by Summer
Author: Heather Burch
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Teen / Romance
ISBN: 978-0-310-72963-1
Pages: 288
Price: $12.99

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Summer is working as a nanny for a couple vacationing in Belize. When their oldest son, Bray, arrives, Summer takes an instant dislike to him. Bray is a college party guy, and Summer is a conservative and modest girl. Their values are far too different.

When a violent storm strands them alone together on a remote island, they’re forced to get along in order to survive. Both discover hidden depths in each other as they work through challenges in finding food, water and shelter. As the weeks progress, they find themselves falling in love.

Being a teen romance, Summer by Summer is full of drama and physical attraction between Bray and Summer. Since their whirlwind romance takes place over a mere month, there is little substance to their relationship. Summer’s faith in God and a purity promise hold them back from taking things too far, but Bray has no such restrictions, other than his respect for Summer.

Maybe I’m just a little too old for teen romances, or maybe the drama in this book is a bit too much. But although this is a fast and engaging read, the story left me feeling unsettled at the end. Summer and Bray are both too immature to be making a lifetime commitment.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

August 10, 2015 Posted by | romance, teen | Leave a comment

Hit Count

Hit Count
Author: Chris Lynch
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Teen / Sports
ISBN: 978-1-61620-250-7
Pages: 368
Price: $17.95

Buy it at Amazon

Arlo Brodie is obsessed with football from the moment he puts on his junior varsity uniform in high school. Determined to make varsity by sophomore year, he trains hard and hits harder. By the end of his freshman season, he’s made a name for himself.

But Arlo, or “Starlo” as his teammates taunt him, doesn’t know when enough is enough. Now possessed by the idea of making it to a Division I college and the NFL, he thinks of nothing else. Pushing his girlfriend, his friends, and his family aside, he keeps on training and hitting hard.

Hit Count addresses concussions in contact sports, and Arlo soon racks up several. Although his mother warns him about constant head injuries, Arlo brushes off her concerns, choosing to deal with the after-effects on his own, with little complaint. But when his hit count gets too high, there will be consequences.

Maybe it’s just because I’m female and have never played contact sports, but I had a very difficult time relating to Arlo. I can’t fathom why someone would punish his body relentlessly the way Arlo did, and how easily it became such an obsession for him. But I suspect teen boys would probably enjoy this hard-hitting book.

Reviewer: Alice Berger

June 21, 2015 Posted by | teen | Leave a comment