Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fairy Tale Pick: Egg & Spoon

Egg & Spoon
by Gregory Maguire
475 pages
ISBN: 9780763672201

Read a sample chapter

Click here for a Discussion Guide

Times are tough for Russian peasants. No longer serfs, but not better off, the people of the Russian countryside are starving. Crops and animals are dying and there is nothing to eat. Elena's father died years ago, one brother is fighting in the war, and another brother has been kidnapped. Elena alone must try and find food and medicine to keep her ailing mother alive. The village is empty except for the old "doctor"--who is really a veterinarian, an old grandmother, Elena and her sick mother, and a few women with babies.

Russia is unfair with its wealth. The poor get sick, starve and die. The rich eat succulent meats and creamy pastries and wear silk and satin finery and travel to visit the Tsar's palace. Someday Elena vows, she will go to the Tsar and tell him of her starving village and her sick mother. Surely, he will help. After all, he is the Tsar, right?

One day after a terrible storm, a beautiful train arrives in the village. The depot has long been closed. Even the elderly barely remember when trains used to stop there. Elena is curious. What caused  this fine train to  stop in her dusty village and who so rich could afford such luxury? The village has never seen such a train. The engineer explains that the bridge has been washed out ahead and will take time to repair. Until then, the train is stuck. Elena is captivated and soon discovers a girl her  own age on board.

Through a twist of fate, Elena leaves on the train and Ekaterina finds herself left behind in Elena's squalid village. Elena realizes that the grown ups will mistake her for the rich heiress, so she decides to go with it. She wears Ekaterina's clothing and with the help of the governess, pretends to be the rich girl.

On her own adventure the real Ekaterina ventures away and into woods where magic abounds. It is here she meets the witch of lore: Baba Yaga.

Two girls switched by fate: one poor urchin off to the palace and one rich princess off to the woods. Who would you put your money on?

Egg & Spoon is well crafted and written with a keen eye for plot development. My main concern about this book is the cover. It's not what I would call eye-catching or eye-candy for young readers. This cover will not draw them in. The mere girth of the novel is another problem--tipping the scales at 475 pages, it is not a short read for middle grades. I have a feeling this book will win awards and be recognized for its craft, but it will not be popular with middle grade readers. For that, I am sorry. It's a great read that teachers and librarians are going to have to lead readers to.

Highly recommended grade 5-up. Good readers should not have a problem with this book. It is entertaining and well-written but lengthy.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

High School Pick: Evil Librarian

Evil Librarian
by Michelle Knudsen
Candlewick Press
343 pages
ISBN: 9780763660383

Enticingly evil, freshly funny, winsomely wry, and eerily  entertaining, The Evil Librarian takes two of the must unlike characters--a librarian and a demon (hey, librarians are angels!)--and brings them forth as one new arrival at Central High School. Handsome and charismatic Mr. Gabriel (Gabriel is God's messenger angel in the Bible) appears out of nowhere one day but it only takes moments for student fall under his spell.

Cynthia's (Cyn's) best friend since childhood is totally gaga over the new librarian--seeming to walk around in a zombie-like daze. It takes a meeting with Mr. Gabriel for Cyn to realize something is wrong with their new librarian. She knows she has to save Annie from his clutches before it's too late.
Cyn is seemingly the only one immune to the evil charms of Mr. Gabriel; the trouble is--now he knows it.

As more and more students begin to walk around in the same zombie daze and when their principal has a heart attack and dies, Cyn decides that she must tell someone else. She turns to Ryan, a guy she has been crushing on. She realizes that she will probably sound like a crazy maniac but she must take the chance in order to save not only Annie but everyone in their school.

Although not totally convinced, Ryan has seen strange occurrences and agrees to enlist the help of an outsider. The two find a bookstore that houses a strange assortment of occult items. They get a quick lesson in demon capture and decide to take on Mr. Gabriel themselves.

Will Cyn and Ryan be able to stop Mr. Gabriel before he is too powerful to be banished? Will they be able to stop other demons from escaping into their school? Can they save Annie from the clutches of evil? Will Annie allow herself to be saved?

Weirdly rollicking on a sick thrill ride, Evil Librarian is great fun! Dastardly entertaining and enjoyable. YA readers will love this one!

Clever cover art depicts a library book complete with spine label and check out card pocket on the back cover. Librarians and library aficionados will laugh when they see the spine label. It says FICTION Central High School Library. Most libraries use F or FIC for fiction and all include the first three letters of the author's last name not the name of the school. How would anyone find this book in a real library?

Highly recommended for paranormal readers grade 9-up.  Some misbehavior and demon hunting.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Picture Book Pick: Where's My Homework?

Where's My Homework?
by Michael Garland
Illustrations by the author
Cartwheel Books
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545436557

Michael Garland takes the oldest homework excuse/joke in the book and makes it funny again. When a young boy can't find his homework, he asks his sister if she's seen it. She says that maybe he didn't do it at all, but he knows he completed it but now he can't find it. He looks everywhere with the help of his faithful family dog.

After a search, he comes up with implausible excuses like maybe pirates plundered his homework or Martians could have abducted it. When he realizes his beloved dog Frumpy has actually eaten it, he does what any kid in his shoes would do! He takes the dog to school to explain to his teacher that his dog ate his homework. The teacher is unlikely to believe this old story, but Frumpy saves the day!

This is a silly, feel good book for kids with a sense of humor. Brilliant illustrations jump off each page. This color drenched picture book is astounding. I loved the oversize boy and dog on the back cover. Frumpy the dog is as loveable as he is adorable. I must say I've never seen a neater child's room. There is no clutter, no clothes on the floor, no toys, no books, only a notebook on the desk.

Highly recommended for young readers. This would be a fun read for pre-K and Kindergarten students who are just getting an idea of what school is all about and will be doing homework soon.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fiction Pick: The Honest Truth

The Honest Truth
by Dan Gemeinhart
Scholastic Press
240 pages
ISBN: 9780545665766

Available January 27, 2015

Honest, open, generous, inspirational  and deeply moving, The Honest Truth will stay with you long after you've turned the last page.

Mark is a deep thinker; he writes haiku, loves his dog, takes photos with  his old camera, and wants to climb a mountain. He has to climb that mountain if it's the last thing he does. And it might be because he's dying.

Mark leaves a note for his best friend in the form of haiku. Jess figures where Mark is going, but is too afraid to tell the adults. She wants to help her friend, but is keeping his secret really helping him or not?

Mark goes off with Beau, his faithful canine companion and best dog friend whose heart is bigger than his whole  body. Beau would follow Mark into battle and fight valiantly by his side, never wavering, never backing down. They will need each other to face the elements and troubles they will face.

I cried when I read the author's note to early readers and I didn't stop even after finishing this book. There is more than one kind of hero in the world--some of them have four legs. Be ready with a NEW box of tissues at your side when you open The Honest Truth--you'll need it.

Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up. Death and dying.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Non-Fiction Pick: Undecided. Navigating Life and Learning After High School

Undecided. Navigating Life and Learning After High School
by Geniveve Morgan
Zest Books
247 pages, with resources, index and bibliography
ISBN: 9781936976324

Author Genevieve Morgan offers sound advice for anyone who is in high school or in the "gap years." Whether it's military service, volunteer work, an internship, a two year college, a four year college or the work force, Undecided will give young people much needed information about how to navigate the next few years of their lives.

Helpful and informative sidebars and tips are easy to spot in gray boxes. Readers will want to pay close attention to the information in these. Early chapters are about personality traits, being an introvert vs. extrovert and how to choose a career that will fit your personality. Money matters and the cost of a college education help students and parents plan for this drain on family finances. On-line courses may be taken by some students and preferred by many.

Maybe an internship or apprenticeship is the right idea, or studying abroad, or even opening up your own business. Whatever their choice is, soon-to-be twenty-somethings will gain insight from this new book.

A list of websites for resources is an invaluable addition.

Highly recommended grade 8-up. I would not give to a high school senior. Many of the decisions for college--what admission tests to take, how to finance college, how to apply for a loan or grant-- have to made before a student's senior year.

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blog Tour and Book Giveaway: Model Undercover: New York

Model Undercover: New York
By Carina Axelsson
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
January 6, 2014
Book Info:
Axelle Anderson is an ace at two things: solving mysteries and modeling. So when the world’s most famous black diamond is stolen from a cover shoot in New York City, it’s no surprise that Axelle is called in to work her skills as an undercover model. But with a witness who won’t talk, a blackmailing thief, and an agent intent on filling Axelle’s schedule with interviews and photo shoots, will she be able to crack the case?
Carina Axelsson is a writer, illustrator, and former model. She grew up in California with her Swedish father and Mexican mother. After high school, Carina moved to New York City to model, then on to Paris where she published her first book. She currently lives in in the forests of Germany with four dogs and a very large aquarium full of fish.

Also by Carina Axelsson:
Model Undercover: Paris
Book Info: Axelle travels to Paris to find missing fashion designer Belle La Lune in another fabulous fashion mystery!
Book Giveaway:
Rafflecopter HTML (Open 1/6-1/31) – 1 Print Copy of Model Undercover New York

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gone Too Far and Guest Post

Gone Too Far
by Natalie D. Richards
Title: Gone Too Far
Author: Natalie D. Richards
ISBN: 9781402285547
Genre: Young Adult
Age Range: 14+

Keeping secrets ruined her life. But the truth might just kill her.

Piper Woods can't wait for the purgatory of senior year to end. She skirts the fringes of high school like a pro until the morning she finds a notebook with mutilated photographs and a list of student sins. She's sure the book is too gruesome to be true, until pretty, popular Stella dies after a sex-tape goes viral. Everyone's sure it's suicide, but Piper remembers Stella’s name from the book and begins to suspect something much worse.

Drowning in secrets she doesn’t want to keep, Piper’s fears are confirmed when she receives an anonymous text message daring her to make things right. All she needs to do is choose a name, the name of someone who deserves to be punished...

Ohioan and Double RWA Golden Heart Finalist NATALIE D. RICHARDS won her first writing competition in the second grade with her short story about Barbara Frances Bizzlefishes (who wouldn't dare do the dishes). After getting lost in a maze of cubicles, Natalie found her way back to storytelling, following the genre of her heart, teen fiction. Natalie lives in Ohio with her amazing husband, their three children, and a giant dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog.
Guest Post from the author:
Icky Clicky Cliques – or Why I Get Piper
By Natalie D. Richards

So here’s the weird truth. My schooling was a weird mix of everything. A little public, a little private, a little homeschooling…I tried it all and liked not very much of it. Homeschooling—very different those days—felt very lonely for my extroverted self, but traditional school (both public and private) had the whole social silliness that was equally annoying.
Thing is, as a teenager, I was so obsessed with finding myself I think I should have had a major in high school and it should have been navel-gazing. I hung out at coffee shops wearing very red lipstick and listening to angry, emotional music while I read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass over and over. (So help me, I had an underlined, highlighted copy. I still have it somewhere in my basement!) 

At any rate, my teen years were a desperate pursuit of self-discovery.
It was absurd. I was absurd.

And between my identity focus and my ever-changing school situation, I never found a particular slot that I filled in one specific group. I drifted through social circles at a variety of high schools my friends attended, bouncing around from goth groups to theater kids to book worms. I wasn’t unpopular, but I was often a black sheep, a weird seventeen year old convinced my maturity stretched years, maybe even decades, beyond my actual age. 

Like I said, absurd.

Thing is, Piper’s got a little bit of that in her too. She knows exactly who she is and what she wants. Her future isn’t just a dream, it’s a plan and she’s taking all the right steps to make it reality. Piper is many things I wish I was in high school, but she’s
still caught up with some of the same trappings because she’s convinced she’s above all those immature high school social games.

But the truth is, she’s perpetuating some of that childishness herself. Just the act of deciding she’s more mature than everyone else puts her in a clique of sorts. The seventeen-going-on-twenty-seven-year-olds. The we-think-we’re-above-this kids. 

We all end up in social groups, some that we choose and some we don’t. With very few exceptions, those groups inevitably consider themselves better than some other group out there. That’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s the same world all around us, but the view depends on where you’re standing.
Gone Too Far takes a hard look at social groups and the good and bad that can come out of them. It was hard for me to write, because I had to be brutally honest about my own past, and how that past continued to shade my perceptions. It wasn’t always fun, but in lots of ways, writing Gone Too Far opened my eyes to a whole new world. It was a journey and I was a traveler, sometimes just hanging on for the ride. Being a travel enthusiast himself, I like to think Walt Whitman would have approved. ;-)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Giveaway and Blog Tour: Hissy Fitz

Hissy Fitz
by Patrick Jennings

I have FIVE FREE copies up for grabs! For your chance to win, post a comment to the blog. Please include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is January 12 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified January 12 shortly after noon. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting! Pamela

out Hissy Fitz
Children’s Fiction: Ages 8-12
A moment ago, I was happily napping on the windowsill in the sunshine, dreaming I was flying through the air, catching sparrows in my claws.
Now I’m awake. Georgie woke me. I wouldn’t do that to her.
A popular middle-grade writer moves to chapter books (ages 7-9) with this humorous tale about a cat that makes Grumpy Cat seem cheerful. Perfect for fans of Geronimo Stilton and Dog Diaries.
Hissy Fitz lives with some two-legged creatures who are destined to serve him in every possible way and understand his every whim. Sadly, these creatures are sorely lacking in their skills. For one thing--they touch him when they want to touch him. Don't they know that the two-legged are there for him to touch when he wants to--meaning when he wants food? Petting wakes him up! They speak to him--don't they know the two-legged should be seen--so Hissy knows where to order food--and not heard! It's becoming intolerable. What is this irascible cat to do?
Hissy Fitz is now tweeting as @thehissyfitz – please follow him!
About Patrick Jennings
Patrick Jennings grew up in northwest Indiana with a bunch of siblings and a book in his hand. He moved to Bisbee, in southern Arizona, where he taught preschool, and later left the desert to live on the coast in Washington State. He travels to schools around the country, speaking to students and parents, and runs a creative writing group for middle-graders. Patrick lives with his daughter in Washington State. Visit his website, to learn more, or follow him on Twitter @pjenningswrites.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

YA Pick: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
by Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press
301 pages
ISBN: 9780763665661

View the book trailer

Breathtaking, mesmerizing and stunning, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a brilliant debut! The prose dazzles off the pages and reads like a lyrical musical score. It's as if Leslye Walton was able to sprinkle fairy dust throughout the pages. This book makes my top four books of all times joining literary tour de force novels: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Shadow of the Wind and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.

Twins Ava and Henry Lavender are born into a family of strong women who sadly make terrible and often tragic mistakes in love. Maman, the matriarch of the family line, comes from France to make her home and fortune in a new land. Arriving in Manhattan, she is disappointed to find crowded and dirty tenements. This is certainly not her American dream. She finally is able to move the family to the Northwest. Maman loses her husband and sisters, but they continue to follow her dogged steps as ghosts.  Her daughter Emilienne gives birth to baby Viviane and loses her husband shortly after. Because the town's people think she is a witch, she is unable to make a living at the bakery her husband cherished. Until a Native American woman named Wilhelmina shows up, that is. Wilhelmina sees herself in Emilienne. She says, "Death just seems to follow some of us, doesn't it?...It's easy to spot your own kind. That kind of sorrow you can't just wash away; it sticks to you." She shows Emilienne how to perform a cleansing ceremony at  the bakery and promises that business will explode. The next day, the bakery sells out.

Baby Viviane  grows up and becomes friends with Jack, her first and only love. It is Jack who moves the plot along throughout Viviane's life. She is heartbroken when he leaves for college and returns married to another woman. Viviane births  twins Ava and Henry. Both children are fiercely loved by their mother and Wilhelmina. They are sheltered at home and rarely leave the property. Henry develops late and is a strange child, avoiding people and speech. Ava has an even stranger trait that will prove her undoing.

Viviane is blessed with certain gifts. Her sense of smell is amazing. She can tell when a woman was pregnant or how a person was feeling just by her scent. "Happiness had a pungent scent, like the sourest lime or lemon. Broken hearts smelled surprisingly sweet. Sadness filled the air with a salty, sea-like redolence; death smelled like sadness." She also knows when rain is on the way or when one of her children is in danger.

The bakery is perhaps the most important place in the book. It is where Emilienne is able to work and feed her family. It is where Viviane grows up. It is where the town people go for sustenance. Emilienne's pastries are magical. The wedding cake of Ignatius Lux and Estelle Margolis was so delectable that, "After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn't any cake left."

Sorrow follows each generation of the Roux family. The females seem destined or cursed to choose the wrong man and the wrong man always shows up. My favorite quote of the entire book comes from wise Wilhelmina, "Just because love don't look the way you think it should don't mean you don't have it." In other words, love comes from your work, your friends, your world, and does not have to involve a couple. Love can be found in other things.

This is one book I absolutely will read more than once, just to savor its flavor. In one sitting, you simply cannot take in everything: the story, the sadness, the fantasy, the painted masterpiece of magic which soars off the page. The story builds to a cacophonous crescendo that you won't easily forget. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

I will not forget Ava Lavender and her strange and beautiful sorrows any time soon. It's a story that I continue to think about.

This novel gets the HIGHEST recommendation I could ever give a book. I simply LOVE it. Do yourself a favor, get this book today.

Suitable grade 9-up. Some mature content. Pre-marital sex.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show
by Mark Sperring and Sarah Warburton
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9780545708227

Max is a mighty magician and a little too--tricky. He uses his grand magic show and top hat full of tricks to make his  bed time later and later. He'll do anything to stall for just a few more minutes. So, take your seats, ladies and gentlemen, for the greatest show on earth.

Max can make cookies disappear (by eating them), he can tame savage beasts (his family's pampered pup), he can disappear (running and hiding), he can even pull out rabbits, bears and raccoons (stuffed toys).

When he finally gets into bed, Max demands not one story...not two stories...but ten stories! Finally, even a great magician like Max gets tired...and sleeps.

Vibrant  art in reds and yellows capture the activity and excitement of Max's "tricks." Young readers will see themselves in Max and probably dream up some new "tricks" of their own.

Recommended for pre-school and beginning readers. Sure to be a bedtime favorite.

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

YA Pick: All Fall Down

All Fall Down
An Embassy Row Novel (Book 1)
by Ally Carter
Scholastic Press
320 pages
ISBN: 9780545654746

Available January 20, 2015

Another exciting series by Ally Carter hits shelves in January. All Fall Down (Book 1) will likely find new fans of Carter as she begins the saga of Embassy Row in the make believe country of Adria.

Grace Blakely remembers the day her mother died because she was there. Everyone, including her grandfather, a powerful ambassador from the United States, tries to convince Grace that her mother died in an accident. It was a fire, they say. Grace knows differently. She saw the man who killed her mother as he fled the scene. A bald man with a scar on his face. It's a face she'll never forget.

Grace is forced to move back to her mother's childhood home on Embassy Row in Adria, a Mediterranean country; she must follow the rules and play nicely or face international shame and incident. Her country is counting on her. Her grandfather is, too. Alexei, her new next door neighbor, is watching over Grace. But he's not the only one. There are others who are keeping track of her for their own reasons.

When a few of the Embassy Row kids get involved in solving "The Case of the Man With the Scar," Grace is afraid to include them but does so, grudgingly and against her better judgment. The kids explore the underground passages that connect all the embassies, and Grace comes face to face with Dominic, the bald man with the scar.

When the American President shows up for a summit at the U.S. Embassy, the group of kids knows that they must protect him above all people. Grace is getting closer to answers about her mother's death but she's putting herself in grave (literally) danger. Grace's circle of friends is about the expand, and she's not going to believe who the good guys are.

Book 1 sets up for the second book nicely. Grace uncovers  more grisly details of her mother's death, forms a new alliance, and discovers more than one secret.

Highly, highly recommended for Ally Carter fans and fans of spy and espionage. Suitable for grade 7-up.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Monday, December 15, 2014

YA Pick: What Waits in the Woods

What Waits in the Woods
by Kieran Scott
288 pages
ISBN: 9780545691123

Available March 31, 2015

Novice hiker and camper Callie Velasquez agrees to go on a four day camping trip with her BFFs Penelope and Lissa. Her new boyfriend Jeremy tags along and the group sets off into the woods. Callie is unsure of herself and terrified to admit it to the others. After a spooky story around the campfire, Callie hears a maniacal laugh coming from the woods. They aren't the only ones out in the dark--they have company.

The next day after a frightening accident, they lose their cellphones and food. A stranger appears out of nowhere and says he can help them find their way. Ted lives in a cabin a few miles away and promises to take the campers there where they can use the phone, take showers and wait for their parents to pick them up. Callie and the others are leery. Is Ted to be trusted? Why was he so far from his cabin? How did he suddenly show up where they were?

Someone is trying to scare the kids. There's a doll with blood on it. Next, there's some voodoo-like twig dolls left at their campsite. And the laugh. Someone is following them.

Plot twists and dark secrets complicate the trip until Callie isn't sure what to believe. Could someone in their group be the real killer? Can she trust Jeremy?

A few problems with believability: Why do the parents of high school girls allow their daughters out into the woods for several nights ALONE? None of them have a weapon. None of them was ever an Eagle Scout or a master tracker. None of them knows the woods like the back of their hand. They don't have the proper equipment for emergencies. They have no backup plan. Also, would a new girl like Callie trust near strangers enough to agree to go on an unsupervised camping trip? It's not like she knew any of her group for very long. If you can suspend disbelief about all of that, What Waits in the Woods is an easy read with a twist or two.

Recommended grade 9-up. Murder, suspicion, stolen moments in the woods, mental illness.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Teen Pick: Backlash

by Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic Press
336 pages
ISBN: 9780545651264

Available March 31, 2015

The trouble with the Internet is that in the click of a mouse, you can ruin lives. One click, and someone can die. One click, and someone is destroyed. One click, and someone can crack. On some sites, you can disguise who you are. You can pretend to be someone that you're not. With no repercussions unless...someone is hurt or someone dies. Then there's an investigation. As in police investigation.

Teen  neighbors Lara and Bree were BFFs in middle school, but Bree joins the ranks of the popular kids in high school and all but ignores old friend Lara completely. Bree becomes a cheerleader and Lara gets lost in the shuffle. At the next year's tryouts both girls try out. Lara is picked for the squad and she's over the moon with happiness. Bree is not picked for the squad and she drips jealousy and is out for revenge. Who knows Lara better than anyone else? Her old BFF, and she's up to no good. She begins her revenge using the Internet and it becomes bigger than her. Now she can't stop the repercussions of things she's posted, and the saddest thing is--she's not all that sorry for the fallout she's caused.

It's neighbor against neighbor and the press and police are now involved.

A cautionary tale that is all too true in today's society of "post everything" and try to get more hits than anyone else. Popularity is defined by how many followers you have. Teens are thrilled when their tweets are re-tweeted and to be "trending" is their ultimate obsession.

Recommended grade 9-up. Really, really bad behavior and bullying.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

YA Pick: Jackaby

by William Ritter
Algonquin Young Readers
299 pages
ISBN: 9871616203535

Remarkably novel, sincerely charming, and full of cheeky dialog, Jackaby is written  by an American debut novelist. William Ritter pulls off this trick by inventing an enigmatic character who harkens back to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes with a bit of Doctor Who and a bit of Grimm thrown in.

R.F. Jackaby is a young detective who is interested and specializes in "unexplained phenomena." In 1892, Miss Abigail Rook leaves port in Europe and sails to America. She is running from a life of boredom as an English housewife and running from her parents who want her to be a good girl and settle down. Abigail arrives with little money and must look for a job and a place to stay immediately. Lucky for her, Jackaby is looking for an assistant to help him pay bills, keep his correspondence, and be a sounding board during cases.

Their first case together is a bloody one. They sneak their way past the police and onto a crime scene where a man has been attacked and killed. Jackaby's keen eye and intellect spot things others miss. Abigail picks up clues as well. Together, they make a great team. Abigail's placement as a "partner" allows Jackaby to explain details of each scene and what they mean.

Soon, other murders occur and the two realize the killer may be someone close to them. Strange characters and happenings occur and only Jackaby can explain the various fairies, goblins, gremlins and beasts.

The mystery unfolds like an intricate origami masterpiece. One fold at a time. One book will not quench the reader's thirst for Jackaby. I want more! Much, much more Jackaby!  Jackaby is such a puzzle, such an enigma, such a riddle that readers will want to discover what makes him tick.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. No profanity, no sex, gore and blood only. This book gets my #1 pick of the 2014 year! I'm sure it will take top honors from many publications and ALA and YALSA.

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

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Monday, December 8, 2014

YA Book Giveaway: Jackaby

by William Ritter
Algonquin Young Readers
299 pages
ISBN: 9781616203535

I LOVE this book, and you will, too! Jackaby is an enigmatic character who is a mash up of Sherlock, Dr. Who and "Grimm."  Imagine the skills of Sherlock Holmes and sixth sense for paranormal--that's Jackaby.

I have FIVE FREE copies of this magnificent debut up for grabs! Simply post a comment to the blog and be sure to include your first name, city, state, and email address (U.S. addresses, only). Deadline for posts is at noon MST on December 17. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Please check your email on the afternoon of December 17. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from Algonquin. Good luck and start posting!

Praise for Jackaby:

"The rich world of this debut demands sequels." --Kirkus reviews, starred review

“Smooth writing and inventive . . . background touches (like Jackaby’s tenants and pocket contents) characterize this supernatural riff on the typical Sherlockian murder mystery. For a lighter read-alike, try Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer’s Sorcery and Cecilia (2004); for a darker tone, perhaps Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart mysteries.” —Booklist

“Toss together an alternate 19th-century New England city, a strong tradition of Sherlockian pastiche, and one seriously ugly hat, and this lighthearted and assured debut emerges, all action and quirk.” —Publishers Weekly

“Fans of Jonathan Stroud's The Screaming Staircase will appreciate Ritter's initial foray into the realm of supernatural . . . Avid lovers of fantasy will enjoy this quick read.” —School Library Journal