Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sci-Fi Pick: The Rains

The Rains
by Gregg Hurwitz
Scholastic Inc.
2017
352 pages
ISBN: 9781338216486

The Rains is an exciting and entertaining science fiction YA  book that (almost) delivers on premise. A meter shower occurs and soon after even stranger things begin to happen. Plants grow in seconds and their spores infect people turning them into monster/machines. . At least all adult people. Anyone who is eighteen or over is infected with whatever "disease" or air-borne pathogen was released by the "invasion." Brothers Chance and Patrick have always been close and hard working. They have no idea how their brotherly bond will be tested over the next days and weeks.

The adults aren't just infected they are controlled  by something or someone. The men walk  in patterns: right angle, march, march, march, right angle with their eyes downcast as if they are mapping the terrain. Their eyes are no longer eyes but look like lenses or cameras. The teens don't know who is filming the terrain and what they are doing with the information.

The teens and children are able to set up camp in the local high school. Chance and Patrick see other children and teens being rounded up and put in cages by the infected adults. Whatever is in store for them can't be good. The brothers have become the leaders of the group and must decide to stay or to go for help.

The deus ex machina insertion of a "good" alien in the end was not only far-fetched but unbelievable and a tragic flaw from both the author and editor.

Recommended grade 8 and up. This book is on the middle school book fair for Scholastic Books.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Magical Pick: The Last Magician

The Last Magician
by Lisa Maxwell
Simon Pulse
2017
512 pages
ISBN: 9781481432078

Magical, captivating, entertaining, and a delightful romp from present day to 1902 New York where thieves and thievery are celebrated and men in charge become powerful through tricks of magic and tomfoolery (sounds like modern day politics!). The Last Magician is the best book of this year!

Few people have an affinity (magic) in present day New York and those who do are afraid to show it. The Mageus have been underground for decades, prisoners in Manhatten. They dare not leave the island as they will die on the Brink, a dark force placed there to hold them prisoner by the Order. Esta is a practiced thief. She can steal anything and escape before anyone knows she's even been there. Her affinity allows her to move and travel through time. The Professor is counting on her to travel to 1902 and find the ancient book, steal it from the Order, bring it to the present and outsmart the Magician.

Most of the tale takes place in 1902 where Esta meets politicians, bosses, mobsters, second story men, thieves, brutes, policemen and magicians. She will have to find her way into the heart of the Order's fortress and steal the book. Her future depends upon it. Trouble is, the Magician is quite taken by her. One chance meeting and he is smitten. Esta is taken aback by the Magician. He is charming and witty. Surely this is not the man who destroys the future!

Esta is one moxie heroine! Readers will want to be her and travel with her. She is gritty, savvy and perfect in every situation.

At 512 pages, this read may frighten some readers. Please hold their hand and tell them it will be okay. This is by far the best 512 pages I've read this year!!!! Readers will feel all the feels and embrace 1902 New York like a native. Maxwell manages to take readers on a journey into brothels, dark streets, cramped tenements, high stakes poker games, dens of iniquity and mansions of New York mobsters and bosses.

If you haven't read The Last Magician, RUN to the book store, click the ICON, ORDER this book into your HANDS and ENJOY. You're welcome.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Some adult situations and seedy (but AWESOME) characters. Honestly, this book is a crossover into adult. It is less YA than adult but the heroine is a teen. Adults will love this book even more than YA readers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Middle Grade Pick: Hello Universe

Hello, Universe
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow Books
2017
320 pages
ISBN: 9780062414151

Guest Review by Timothy Judd, Library Media Specialist, Ernesto Serna School 
(grades K-8) in El Paso, Texas. 

This sweet coming of age story is told through four middle school points of view. Eleven year old Virgil was sent to the resource room for extra help with his class work gaining the attention and full wrath of the school bully who calls Virgil "Retardo" every chance he gets. Virgil's best friends are an eleven year old psychic and Gulliver, his guinea pig. 

The characters are well developed and diverse and readers will be drawn to Virgil who is quiet and kind. The universe, coincidences, visions, and crystals all play a part in the story and Virgil learns about real friendship. 

Recommended grades 4-6. This book is available on Scholastic Book Fairs.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did Reviewer Timothy Judd. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

YA Review: Guest Review: Carve the Mark

Guest Review by Oscar Porras, Library Media Specialist at Ysleta Middle School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Oscar on Twitter @oporras_LMS

Carve the Mark
by Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegan Books
2017
480 pages
ISBN: 9780062348630

For fans of space operas comes an intergalactic journey that flips the stereotypical gender rules on its head.

In Carve the Mark, everyone has a gift or  currentgift, bestowed by a magical current that surrounds the galaxy. While the currentgifts are considered a blessing, for Cyra and Akos, they are a curse. Cyra's power is to deliver intense pain, while Akos's power controls others' powers. He alone can stop Cyra from feeling pain. 

Akos's father is murdered by the neighboring group, the Shotet because Akos and his brother are favored--meaning that their fate will never change. Akos is sent to train with Shotet warriors and gifted to Cyra to help control her currentgift. Akos and Cyra go from subordinate to equals as the book progresses. Cyra trains him to fight with grace and Akos teaches her to make a potion that will control her pain. In return, Cyra is compelled to help him and his brother escape the Shotet and asks the rebels for help. Nothing is ever as it seems and the book lends itself to the next in the series

Recommended with Reviewer's Note* for grade 8 and up due to violence. Fans of Roth's Divergent are sure to read this one.

Reviewer's Note: "This book proved to be an infuriating read. The overall supporting character cast has caused some consternation with other reviewers. Roth writes that the Shotet people (Cyra is Shotet) are an inferior dark skinned race who act like barbarians, their language coarse and rough, while the Thuvhe (Akos) are light skinned and seen as superior and far more intelligent that the Shotet, their language graceful." -Oscar Porras, LMS

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did guest reviewer Oscar Porras.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Big Foot Hunters Pick: Sasquatch, Love and Other Imaginary Things

Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things
by Becky Aldredge and Carrie DuBois-Shaw
Merit Press
2017
270 pages
ISBN: 9781507202807

A fun frolic of a rom-com meets reality show and Jane Austen, Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things is a sure winner!

Sam's Jewish family is big on Bigfoot and she is happy to help her father on "Myth Gnomers," a reality television show, to hunt Sasquatch. Her dad is an expert in the field of cryptozoology and a respected sasquatch hunter in their home state of Ohio. Sam's sisters and mother go along in support, but her father relies on Sam in all his hunting adventures. While Sam's sisters preen for the camera, Sam's mother has trouble keeping her lipstick on her lips and off her teeth. The cameras catch every cringe-worthy moment and make Sam aware of how unrealistic reality t.v. really is.

The family meets their match when they go head to head with a fancy prep school team whose equipment probably cost more than Sam's family's car. Sam was excited by the prize, thinking she could use the money for college, but she is even more determined to win when she finds out their home is in danger of repossession. If  she can help her father win that prize, they can stay in their home!

Sam doesn't trust the other team. They are a bunch of rich, spoiled brats she believes until she realizes that Devon, like her, is a person and has his own problems. The romance blooms and it is precious but not too sweet.

Readers will love Sam and her no-nonesense view of television and popularity.

Recommended grade 7 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

YA Pick: Bad Girls with Perfect Faces

Bad Girls with Perfect Faces
by Lynn Wiengarten
Simon Pulse
2017
304 pages
ISBN: 9781481418607

Available October 31, 2017 

Xavier has just turned seventeen and best friend Sasha is eager to celebrate with him. She weighs each moment deciding when will be THE moment to tell Xavier that she loves him. LOVES him, loves him. As more than a friend. When she spots Ivy, Xavier's no-good, cheating ex-girlfriend, she knows the moment has passed. Later, she spots Xavier in Ivy's arms and knows that he'll never give her up.

Sasha knows that Ivy is a dangerous drug. She knows she can help Xavier break the habit if she can show him just how devious Ivy really is. Sasha posts a fake profile on social media and pretends to be a guy interested in Ivy. When Ivy goes for the bait, Sasha gets drawn in deeper. The thing about pretending to be someone you're not is that you might actually become someone you're not!Twisted acts and personalities keep the pages turning.

 Teen readers may not empathize with Sasha as she tries to "help" her friend. She is, after all, helping Xavier out of personal gain. She hopes he will run into her arms and that Ivy's true colors will emerge. In this tale of teen passion, it seems, everyone loses.


Perfect cover art will sell this book off the shelves

Recommended for readers who like a twisted love tale.

Grade 9 and up. Mature situations. NOT for middle school readers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Picture Book Pick: Rodzilla by Guest Reviewer Jenifer J. Hansen

Rodzilla
by Rob Sanders
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Margaret K McElderry Books
2017
ISBN: 9781481457798

Guest Review by Jenifer J. Hansen, Principal, Horizon Heights Elementary School, in El Paso, Texas. Follow Jenifer on Twitter @HHeights_ES

Wobble-woble-wobble. The distant sound of a giant monstrosity can be heard as Rodrizlla tears through the city of Megalopolis. He ducks behind a row of giant skyscrapers. Down below, news anchors try to keep him in their line of sight as they dodge slime missles coming right at them!

Rodzilla holds his tummy. Could it be? Yes, it looks like he is hurt. No, it seems that nothing can stop him. He continues his destruction through City Central Park as he wobbles down the street overpowering the high pressure hoses the firefighters are unleashing on him. He countinues. Seems that Rodzilla is unstoppable.

Brave citizens stare up above as he commands a toothless grin. Could he actually be smiling at them?

Told as a news report, this quaint encounter with a little monster is sure to bring smiles. Even a sweet child can be a rambunctious toddler sometimes.

Preschoolers are bound to say, "Read it again!" Rodzilla is a gem!

Highly recommended ages 18 months-4 years.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. Jenifer Hansen did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Middle Grades Pick: My Top Secret Dares and Don'ts

My Top Secret Dares & Don'ts
by Trudi Tureit
Aladdin Mix
2017
261 pages
ISBN: 9781481469043

Guest Reviewer: Shanon Ortega, Library Media Specialist, Horizon Heights Elementary School, El Paso, Texas.

Follow Shannon on Twitter @SOrtega_HHES

Twelve year old Kestrel "Little Bird" Adams is looking forward to spending the summer before middle school with her best friends. That is until she learns her family has to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, to bail out her Grandmother Lark's ski lodge.

The Blackcomb Creek Lodge was built from the ground up by Kestrel's grandfather and is her grandparents' dream. It is in danger of going bankrupt due to numerous online negative reviews. Kestrel can't believe someone would try and sabotage her grandmother's dream. Enter Breck, a cute boy who works at the lodge, a famous rock star, evil twins who try to thwart Kestrel at every turn and millions of tiny, endangered toads.

A fan of list making, Kestrel invites readers into her mindset throughout the investigations. Kestrel learns and grows in her appreciation of nature and family. This enjoyable read is full of heart and humor. This entertaining read will appeal to middle grade readers who love a spunky heroine.

Highly recommended grade 4 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did reviewer Shannon Ortega.

Friday, September 22, 2017

YA Pick: Warcross

Warcross
by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam's Sons
2017
353 pages
ISBN: 9780399547966


Goggles on. Enter Warcross. 

Warcross is not just a game; it's an alternate reality lifestyle embraced by millions worldwide. In a decade, professional gamers and ordinary people have become hooked on a lifestyle that enables them to escape the mundane of every day. Hooked is the key word. Some people are so wrapped up in Warcross, they illegally bet all their money and end up homeless or dead.

Warcross inventor Hideo Tanaka becomes a billionaire. Emika Chen is just a girl when she sees his photo for the first time. She follows his career and learns code due to her infatuation for him.

Emika  is a bounty hunter who collects money when she catches illegal betters on Warcross, but she's beyond living paycheck to paycheck. She's living meal to meal and her landlord is threatening eviction. Emika corners a criminal worth a hefty $5000 only to lose him again.  Distraught, Emika is about to give up and become homeless when she slips on her Warcross  neurolink.

Emika is not a pro by any means but she knows code and she's discovered a few weak areas  of the game.  Never before has she thought of sneaking in, but times are tough. Emika slips into the game and steals a valuable piece which captures  Hideo's attention. She is just the type of girl he's looking for. Hideo contacts her, pays her debts and hires her. Hideo needs someone for security. Someone sneaky. Someone no one in his company knows. Emika is the perfect person. No one will suspect a player to be security.

Soon Emika becomes a worldwide celebrity of the game. The matches are bigger than the Super Bowl, but Emika has a job to do. She has to find out who is bugging the game and why. Emika is living a surreal experience: she has fantasized about meeting Hideo for years and now she's working for him. All is not as it seems.

Warcross is a slam dunk and a high powered adrenaline rush. Gamers will delight. If someone doesn't develop Warcross as a real game, it's a missed opportunity. Cover art is spectacular. Kudos to the marketing and graphic arts team.

Highly, highly recommended grade 8 and up. Reluctant readers who enjoy video games may be intrigued.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.




Thursday, September 14, 2017

Middle Grades Giveaway: Quicksand Pond


Quicksand Pond
by Janet Taylor Lisle

I LOVE this book! Read my review here


I have FIVE FREE copies of Quicksand Pond up for grabs! Post a comment on the blog. Include first name, city, state and email contact. Winners will be selected by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is September 21 at NOON MST. Winners will be contacted on Sept. 21. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will by shipped by the publisher from New York.

Good luck and start posting!
Pamela

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

YA Pick: A Map For Wrecked Girls (Guest Reviewer Oscar Porras)

A Map for Wrecked Girls
by Jessica Taylor
Dial Books
2017
368 pages
ISBN: 9780735228115

"An exciting, high-stakes adventure." --School Library Journal 

Guest Review by Oscar Porras, library media specialist,  at Ysleta Middle School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Oscar on Twitter @oporras_LMS

A Map for Wrecked Girls is a gripping gem that YA readers will fall in love with. Emma narrates the story of her life both before and after she is shipwrecked with her sister Henri (Henrietta) and a boy named Alex who will change their lives.

Before the wreck, Henri and Emma live in San Francisco. Their father left the family to begin a new life with his girlfriend. The sisters'  lives are upended and their relationship falls apart. They travel to Puerto Rico with their mother who is attending a conference there. The three teens are shipwrecked together and forced to survive the island and each other. The two sisters must confront their past as they struggle to see a future. This is a book of survival, growth, personal demons and forgiveness.

Readers who are drawn to romance, thrillers and survival stories will love A Map for Wrecked Girls.


Highly recommended for grade 9 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.




Friday, September 8, 2017

Middle Grades Mystery Pick: Twisted Summer (Guest Reviewer Julia Evans)

Twisted Summer
by Willo Davis Roberts
Simon Pulse
2017
186 pages
ISBN: 978148148623

Guest review by Julia Evans, Library Media Specialist from Hueco Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Julia on Twitter @jevens_hes

Fourteen year old Cici is excited to return to her family's summer home in Crystal Lake, Michigan, after missing last summer. Cici cannot wait to see her crush Jack. Things are not as she hoped they would be. Jack is not around and Jack's mother, who worked for Cici's family is not at the lake house as usual. Cici finds out that Jack's older brother Brody has been wrongly accused of strangling Zoe, a girl they all knew.

Jack and his mother believe in Brody's innocence but everyone else is convinced he
is guilty. Cici sides with Jack and his mother. She feels compelled to find out the truth about the murder, solve the mystery and free Brody once and for all,  but the answers she finds lead to her own family. Just what happened at Crystal Lake? Could Cici be the next victim?

Highly recommeded grade 6-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did the reviewer.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fantasy Pick: Dividing Eden (Guest Reviewer Erin Sanchez)

Dividing Eden
by Joelle Charbonneau
HarperTeen
2017
336 pages
ISBN: 97800032453846

Guest review by Erin Sanchez, library media specialist at Helen Ball Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Erin on Twitter @librarian_HBES

Twins Carys and Andreus have always been close, so much so that Princess Carys hides her brother's secret, tarnishing her own reputation and watching as her brother gains his way into the hearts of their people. Older brother Prince Micah is to inherit the throne of their father, but when their father, the king, and the crown prince are assassinated, the Queen is next to ascend tot he throne.

The Queen is mad with grief and it is left to the Council of Elders to make the drastic decision of trusting Imogene, a seer, who reveals an option for crowning the successor. Carys and Andreus will compete for the throne of Eden.

The kingdom of Eden is on a dark path. Andreus betrays his twin as tragedy and secrets unfold. A hidden curse comes to the surface. Many things are possible as the first book ends. Readers will have to wait until book two to discover Eden's secrets.

Dividing Eden is the first of two books in this YA fantasy duology.

Recommended grade 8 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation nor did guest reviewer Erin Sanchez.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Guest Review: Middle Grades Pick: Who Killed Darius Drake?

Who Killed Darius Drake?
by Rodman Philbrick
The Blue Sky Press
2017
192 pages
ISBN: 9780545789783

Available September 26, 2017

Professional Reviews: 


"A smart and worthy mystery."--Kirkus Reviews 

"Dropping tantalizing hints of grisly events to come, Philbrick leads readers to a melodramatc denouement. 
An artful mix of clues, cons and violence with prizes at the end that glitterr both literally and figuratively." --Booklist

Guest Reviewer Julia Evans, librarian at Hueco Elementary in El Paso, Texas. Follow Julia on Twitter @jevens_hes

Guest Review:

What reader can resist a mysterious letter written in BLOOD? Philbrick dangles this enticing carrot in front of middle grade readers and every reader will be up for the mystery.

Bully for hire Arthur Bash agrees to help genius orphan Darius Drake uncover the culprit behind the bloody letter, and he agrees to join the hunt for the price of two mere candy bars. Little do the boys know that they are about to uncover a perilous secret from the past. Darius's grandfather was involved in the disappearance of a priceless diamond necklace. The boys decide to become sleuths and find the necklace themselves. They are not the only ones looking for the loot.

As the duo uncovers clues and unearths secrets, they are in danger. Someone is watching their every move. They discover the car accident that killed Darius's parents was no accident at all. They were murdered and the murderer is still out there.

The boys learn more about themselves as the delve deeper. Arthur is a big presence due to his size but his body hides his inner fraidy cat. Scrawny Darius hides a massive brave lion. Together they are unstoppable.

This fast paced read drops clues like breadcrumbs for hungry readers. Who Killed Darius Drake? has it all: mystery, murder, theft, buried secrets, treasure, jewels, and an unlikely friendship.

Highly recommended grades 3-7.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review, nor did Julia Evans.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

YA Pick: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue


The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee
Katherine Tegen Books
2017
528 pages
ISBN: 978006238280

It is rare that a YA book delivers a wallop and a romp that entertains, enlightens, and enraptures.  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is one of the best of this year! Get ready for awards, Mackenzi Lee, your book child is genius! Henry Montague is everything a reader could ever want in a character.

Lovable and irrepressible cad Henry (aka Monty) Montague is quite the ladies man and quite the man's man as well (he is bisexual). Monty is in love and lust with his boyhood friend Percy. The two have grown up together and Monty finds himself head over heels falling for his friend/companion. Henry is always in trouble. He's a rich ruffian who sleeps all day, languishing in  bed after a night's debauchery, rising only to eat and get ready for another drunken night of gambling, drinking and frolic. Percy is his steadfast sidekick.

Lord Montague has had enough. His son Henry and Percy are of age for the Grand Tour, a yearlong event in which young gentlemen of fortune travel the continent seeing and learning the finer things. Sister Felicity is along and will be dropped off in France for school. The Tour is supposed to teach young men the art of meeting people, socializing and bonding with others of their class. After a Tour, gentlemen settle in and marry raising a family and building their family's business or estate. Henry is expected to take over his father's estate and become a proper British lord.

Monty's father hires Mr. Lockwood to watch over the boys. Under Lockwood's eagle eye, the boys are will be exposed to great art, opera, architecture and food. Monty has other plans. A yearlong trip abroad with his love Percy is more than Monty can even dream of. The only problem he has is Mr. Lockwood.

Readers will fall in love with Monty (Henry) who is at times a spoiled child, yet the child no one can punish. Monty has many flaws but his fierce love and friendship are solid. The threesome--Monty, Percy, Felicity--are winsome and exciting and their adventures are epic.

This YA novel explores sexism, racism, bigotry, snobbery, and society in the eighteenth century.

The cover is spot-on and the title sells this book off the shelf. The marketing team (the author?) who came up with the design and title are genius. This is how you sell a book!

Highly, highly recommended grade 9 and up. NOT for middle school. The title alone should tell would be readers everything they need to know about content.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.