Alisha Abrams

Live Through This by Debra Gwartney

Live Through This by Debra Gwartney

What would you do if your daughters ran away? Live Through This, by Debra Gwartney, is the true story of a mother who lost two of her daughters to the grunge subculture of the 1990s. They began hating everything about her--not just two teenagers fighting with their mother but a feud. Meanwhile, they totally submerged themselves into depression. Shortly after the girls became obsessed with the movement, Gwartney lost them fully to the streets. This story is a unique account by a mother of her lost relationship with her daughters.

No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels by Jay Dobyns

No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angel

Jay “Bird” Dobyns was the first undercover ATF agent to infiltrate the notorious, American-born biker gang, the Hells Angels. In his book No Angel, Dobyns describes his twenty-one month journey into the biker gang that led him to discover a bad side of himself while uncovering the underbelly of the American motorcycle culture.

Dobyns was an adrenaline junkie; he lived for thrills. When he was shot as a rookie agent in ATF at age twenty-six he realized just how much of an adrenaline junkie he was and swore that he would never be a desk-riding agent. That just wasn’t enough.

The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol

The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol

The Shame of the Nation tries to explain the troubles within America's inner-city schools. Jonathan Kozol--a writer, teacher, and activist--explores 60 different schools in order to see firsthand the physical and mental conditions of America's educational system. There, he finds an epidemic in which school systems allow some students to fall behind the curriculum. He looks at how the country went from separate but equal schools to desegregation and back to segregated schools.

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Libba Bray’s Going Bovine is the story of 16-year-old Cameron who has always dealt with life in a standoff manner, trying to avoid social contact with his peers. Things start to get interesting for him when he begins seeing objects that others seem to miss. While alone at home he hears a noise and discovers a feather, which leads him on a roller coaster of events and introduces him to some unlikely folks.

Cameron’s parents fear that drugs must be a factor so they send him to doctors and psychologists to figure out exactly what’s going on with their son, as he is still seeing things that others can't possibly be seeing. Finally, they find a doctor who unveils the mystery of what’s happening to him--Mad Cow Disease…and he’s going to die.

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D.

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I decided to read this book because I’ve always been interested in the Dalai Lama. I really thought The Art of Happiness would be more focused on understanding Buddhist principles; instead, it’s a peculiar mix of Eastern religion meets Western medicine.

Co-author Dr. Howard Cutler is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Phoenix, and the Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk. It’s amusing to see two very different approaches to achieving happiness. The Dalai Lama’s approach to achieving happiness is more of a holistic, spiritual system that focuses on improving oneself using the power of the mind. Dr. Howard Cutler takes more of a back-seat approach in which he listens to the Dalai Lama’s suggestions and gives input about modern psychological approaches used in the United States.

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

Everything on a Waffle

Haven't you ever known something deep in your heart without reason? Primrose Squarp is an eleven-year-old girl living in Coal Harbour, British Columbia, where the only big businesses are fishing, whaling, and the Navy.  Everything on a Waffle is a story about what happened to Primrose after the loss of her parents. One day, her father is out on a fishing boat when a big storm hits the area. Mrs. Squarp puts on her rain gear and proceeds to take Primrose to the local babysitter so that she can go look for her husband. Primrose's parents don't return, but she knows that they will return someday.

Meanwhile, Primrose must navigate her life without her parents. Her babysitter, Mrs. Perfidy, agrees to babysit her. The town pays Mrs. Perfidy for her duties by using Primrose's parents' bank account. However, when money runs short the town must find someone that she can live with. They find her only known relative, Uncle Jack, to take on the responsibility of watching her. They have an interesting relationship that leaves them mutually satisfied with each others' company.

Something like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Something like Fate by Susane Colasanti

Best friends forever, Lani and Erin have been friends since they can remember in Susane Colasanti's Something Like Fate. Their lives are tied together by a tragedy that happened years ago, and neither girl can now imagine a life without one another. They have always been inseparable but their lives are rapidly changing, moving them farther away from each other.  

Lani is an environmental activist and a high school student.  In her school, it isn't exactly cool to care about the environment. Her best friend Erin is in the popular crowd, the Golden Kids. They used to both be part of the group but when Lani quit hanging out with the group and stopped going to their parties, she fell out of touch with the Golden Crowd. The best friends have a hard time spending time together with Erin hanging out with the popular kids and Lani promoting recycling and green activities.

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Anything but Typical

Jason Blake isn't a "neurotypical" kid.  Jason is an autistic 12-year old struggling to live in a world filled with "neurotypicals," who unsuccessfully try to understand the problems he faces in day-to-day life. In the book, Anything but Typical, Nora Raleigh Baskin demonstrates what it is like to be a sixth grader with autism.

Jason tries to express himself with others but finds that people don't like to take the time to get to know and understand him. The only place that Jason feels safe to communicate is online. There he writes and posts short stories on a Web site where young writers share their work amongst each other. There he meets Rebecca; they quickly begin helping each other with their writing. Jason strikes up a friendship with Rebecca but fears that they could never meet due to his autism.

Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog by Ted Kerasote

Attention all dog lovers: Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, by Ted Kerasote, is a must-read book about a dog and his human companion. This non-fiction tale takes the reader to the banks of the San Juan River where Ted, the author, finds Merle, a ten-month-old pup living on his own. Ted, who had been looking for a dog but never really felt connected to any of the dogs he had met, finds it impossible to leave this dog. Merle seems to also be looking for a companion and doesn't want to leave Ted's side either.

Merle and Ted strike up a relationship that any dog owner can understand. They share their lives together, all the while learning from each other. Merle teaches Ted how to navigate in nature and techniques for hunting, while Ted teaches about the ways of the human world. In actuality, Merle teaches Ted more about obedience and other dog behaviors than Ted teaches him. Ted uses his knowledge of Merle to translate dog behavior to human language. It's a fantastic relationship between dog and human.