Friday, August 28, 2015

Back to School Book Giveaway: Con Academy

I have FIVE free copies of Con Academy up for grabs! Score your free copy! To enter, post a comment on the blog. Include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is noon MST on September 10. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified on September 10. Please check you email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to an email from me. Books will ship from New York. Good luck! Start posting!
 
School Library Journal says:
"This plot-driven narrative is entertaining and the characters are likable." ---School Library Journal
 
 
My review (from blog post on 7/27/15):


Once you pick up Con Academy, you won't put it down!  What a fun, conniving jaunt! This speedy read is all-out raucous, double and triple crosses abound, and readers will root for Will to come out on top.


Will Shea is a new transfer student at the  prestigious Connaughton Academy, a prep school that caters to America's ultra rich and fabulous. As a scholarship recipient, it is only natural that people want to know more about him, and Will has an extraordinary story to tell. His father and mother, missionaries on a small island in the Pacific, are  killed. After their death, Will's church collects money to send him to America to study.

Except that's not the real story. Will (Humbert) is the son of career cons. He's been a con artist since age eight. After his mother died, Will's father spirals out of control and Will runs away. In order to get into the Academy, Will fakes transcripts and breaks into computer files. His con seems to be working...until he meets Andrea. She recognizes a con when she sees one. That's because Andrea is a con herself.

....
I loved Con Academy. Teen readers will,  too! My one obstacle with this book is the cover. The stack of poker chips with devil horns and a tail does not do the book justice. This is one case that readers should NOT judge the book by its so-so cover.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves a good con! Will is a loveable character with spunk and humor.  Fans of Ally Carter will love Will Shea.

Grade 7-up.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Adult Book Club Pick: The Fall of Princes

The Fall of Princes
by Robert Goolrick
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
2015
304 pages
ISBN: 9781616204204

Available August 25, 2015

From the first paragraph this sizzling, white-hot novel ignites and its tortured burn doesn't stop until the last embers die out. Our anti-hero, Rooney narrates, "When you strike a match, it burns brighter in the first nanosecond than it will ever burn again. That first incandescence. That instantaneous and brilliant flash. 1980 was the year, and I was the match, and that was the year I struck into blinding flame." I don't think I've ever read a more delicious first paragraph! Goolrick is on fire! (Having read A Reliable Wife and Heading Out to Wonderful, I had high hopes for The Fall of Princes). I was not disappointed. In fact, I am thrilled to have had the chance to read Goolrick's latest scorching tale of blistering woe. The film rights have already been optioned to "Being John Malkovich" producer  Sandy Stern and R.E.M. 's Michael Stipe. I expect this novel to be a huge seller and widely read among book clubs. In my opinion, this is one book that will be talked about for some time.

1980 is the year of free money. Trading on "The Street" can make you millions in seconds. Rooney is at the top of his game and playing for kicks. He scores a dream job at "The Firm"--one of Wall Street's hallowed, manic trading houses where if you're lucky you hope to retire before forty with enough money to jet set. If you're unlucky, you will die, burn out, or go to prison. It's too much for many a young man with his eyes set on blinding success, stunningly beautiful women, outrageous debauchery and off the charts decadence. The 80's were ripe for Wall Street and Wall Street got rich off the headiness of expensive champagne and ever more expensive cocaine.

Rooney is courted while still in college. Firms want the best and brightest. He is wined and dined. His head is spinning until that fateful day one hand of cards decides his life for him. His "interview" is a card game. He knows he's hired when he opens the box given to him by a secretary. It's a pen with the firm's name embossed on it. Rooney says, "Pay attention. You can hear the match strike. You can smell the sulfur...as the train pulls out of the station through the dark tunnels and into the brilliance of the future."

Rooney tells his own cautionary tale of 80's meteoric  success and an even more  terrific, epic nosedive  from grace. From golden boy to nearly homeless and pathetically helpless schmo barely existing in a roach infested apartment with his dreams now mere ashes of a long ago burnt out fire. He never invites the readers to feel sorry for him; Rooney is merely reminiscing on days gone by. Days of wine and roses, of hopeless abandon, drunken antics, coked up nights that somehow turn to day and time to get to the office.

The turbulence of the era, the glitz and glamour, the music of money, the sheer excess sings off the pages of The Fall of Princes and it is a glorious tune. New York's Wall Street has never seemed more exciting, exclusive and elusive than in this magnificent read.

Rooney may have lived a life of excess but he was loved and that makes up for everything. The compassion of strangers comes through in the days of squalor and that hope keeps humans alive.

I will never forget Rooney and I will never forget the storytelling genius who is Robert Goolrick.

Highly, highly recommended for adult readers and book clubs. I was sorry when this book ended. I feel like I will miss Rooney and his foibles.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)






Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Club Pick: The Hand That Feeds You

The Hand That Feeds You
by A.J. Rich
Scribner
2015
273 pages
ISBN: 9781476774589


Gruesome and terrible, The Hand That Feeds You is a psychological thriller that delivers a quick one-two punch. Graduate student Morgan Prager is finishing her thesis at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. She meets her fiancé Bennett through her studies (almost unbelievable that a woman of her intellect would date someone she met in the way she found him--but then some women are crazy). Although he can be commanding, assertive and downright mean, Morgan tells herself she is in love with Bennett. She comes home from class one morning and finds the front door open. She fears Bennett may have left the door open accidentally and worries that her three dogs may be loose. Bennett never liked her dogs and Morgan thinks he may have left the door open on purpose.

Entering the apartment, she is overjoyed to see her dogs alive but they are acting strange. Their coats are red with blood. Morgan starts operating on adrenaline and shock. She finds the body of a man she thinks may have been Bennett. It's too hard to tell because the body has been mauled, the face mutilated and a leg torn off. Morgan begins to  fear what her dogs could do to her. They obviously killed once, what if they turn on her? She backs away and locks herself in the bathroom, calls 911 and waits for help to arrive.

How could this have happened? Could her dogs really have killed Bennett? One of her Dobermans is shot by a police officer. The female  Doberman and Cloud, her Great  Pyrenees are taken into custody. Morgan is taken to the psych ward where she struggles to come to terms with the loss of her fiancée, the horrific bloody scene, and the guilt she feels for allowing her dogs to be in this situation.

Once released Morgan searches for Bennett's mother and father. When she finds only dead ends, she has to ask herself: who was this guy I fell in love with? He has no past and no family. There is no record of him being a music producer. In fact, he seems to be a ghost. Then Morgan finds other women who were duped by Bennett, including one who was recently murdered. The police are no help. Morgan turns to her brother and other close friends.

The closer Morgan comes to the truth and the release of her dogs, the deeper the secrets. Could someone have used her dogs to kill Bennett? Who is the real killer? And is he  now after her?

The Hand That Feeds you rockets off the first chapters. By the middle of the story, I felt a bit bogged down and wanted answers to come.  On the other hand, I felt the ending a little rushed.

As a dog owner and rescuer, The Hand That Feeds You really got under my skin. The ick factor creeped me out entirely. It was not just that the dogs attacked and killed; it was that they were then locked up in a terrible environment.

Recommended for adult readers. If you love animals, you may want to pass on this one. I just can't get over it!

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

HIgh School Pick: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls
by Lynn Weingarten
Simon Pulse
2015
325 pages
ISBN: 9781481418539

Dark, disturbing, defiant, thrilling and taut, Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls will keep readers guessing until the very last page. The symbolism of the three burnt matches on the cover will catch the eyes of teen browsers,  but the story and the characters will keep them reading.

Best friends June and Delia drift away from each other, and nearly a year later June is saddened and horrified to learn of Delia's death. June knows it wasn't suicide and she will not stop until she has answers.

As June begins to investigate, she finds out deeply disturbing things about her "friend." Delia was not just keeping secrets, she was lying and doing much, much worse. Just who was this girl that June befriended? No one is who they seem to be in Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls and that's the darkness (in a  good way) of this book.

Delia is a case study in friendly sociopath. She manipulates, lies, cheats and controls without any shame. She has no conscience and no soul. She asks everything, forgives nothing, and walks away from trouble and even love. June is easily coerced allowing the vibrant Delia to lead the way. Delia is a white hot supernova that will soon burn out, and June is left with mere sparks of dying stardust.

I loved the premise of the story and the first part of the book really raced along. It gets weird in the middle and weirder still at the end. Love triangles and blackmail, deception, deceit and hatred cause all the characters to act with June being the likely loser.

This is one book not for middle school. Profanity, gender identity, sex, violence, underage drinking, bad behavior. Recommended for grade 9-up.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




Friday, July 31, 2015

Adutlt Book Club Pick: Orhan's Inheritance

Orhan's Inheritance
by Aline Ohanesian
Algonquin Books of  Chapel Hill
2015
337 pages
ISBN: 9781616203740

Brilliant, gorgeous, intelligent, rare!

Deeply moving, tragic yet hopeful, layers and layers of human history unfold in Aline Ohanesian's epic tale of love lost in Orhan's Inheritance. When Orhan's beloved grandfather dies, Orhan travels to his village for the reading of the will. Orhan's father is outraged and violent  when it is revealed his own father left their family home to a stranger who lives half a world away in Los Angeles. Orhan is intrigued: why would his grandfather--stoic, hard-working, reasonable yet lately a bit eccentric--give away the beloved familial home? There must be some good reason. Orhan agrees to make the long journey and locate the mystery lady named in the will. His father tells him that he must get the woman to sign the rights to their home back to them.

Over the course of months, Orhan finally convinces the elderly woman to tell her story of a broken heart, an abandoned home, a ponce safe childhood, a family of wealth and honor, a war that purged Armenians from Turkey, a forced exile, brutality, and death. The story moves to the past: 1915 Turkey.  Armenian men are being forced from their homes and taken away never to be seen again. Soon, the army makes the women and children leave. They are marched to the point of despair and sometimes death. The mystery woman named in the will is a young girl growing up Armenian in Turkey and the war is all around her. Her home was once a safe place, luxurious even. "Within hours, Lucine's world and everything in it turns to dust."  Now, she is spit upon and treated worse than an animal simply because she's Armenian. Kemel (Orhan's grandfather) is  in love with her and vows to protect her. He does his best to protect her and her family, but the army takes them away. Their mother makes the girls  rip their clothing and rub mud on their faces. The army is known to take away "...the pretty ones."

Lucine is finally  able to escape her captors after the deaths of her family. She finds solace with a kind hearted prostitute who allows her lodging. Lucine changes her name to Seda  and becomes a completely different person. The girl of her youth is gone; the war makes certain of that. A chance meeting with Kemel allows Lucine (now Seda) an escape from Turkey.

The surprising will, the long trip, the history of war, names changed and families lost and buried family secrets finally come out. Orhan is dumbfounded. His grandfather has had the last say in all their lives.

Orhan's  Inheritance is a story that will stick with you, and you will not forget the pain and tragedy. This forced evacuation and genocide of Armenians in Turkey has been hidden away for decades, but Aline Ohanesian captures her grandmother's memories to tell the story for us today and that is a gift.

Highly, highly recommended for adult book clubs everywhere. NOT for middle school readers.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)








Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spy Sequel Pick: Evil Spy School

Evil Spy School
(A Spy School novel)
by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster
2015
322 pages
ISBN: 9781442494893

Stuart Gibb's Spy School books are  always a fun, rollicking trip with spunky, funny protagonist 13-year old Ben Ripley, aka secret spy. Ben's sense of humor keeps the reader entertained. Taking many swipes against the CIA, the government, and grown ups in general but who happen to be in charge and are also terribly incompetent, Ben says, "...the CIA was run by the government, where incompetent people didn't merely avoid being fired; they were often elected to high offices." Commenting on being in middle school, Ben states, "Junior high was mind-numbingly dull, socially distressing, and potentially dangerous..." and his teachers, "...were dumber than dirt." He tells of one Mr. Godfrey, a history teacher, "...who hadn't known when the War of 1812 took place."

Ben is ready for another year at Spy School but gets kicked out after accidentally blowing up the principal's office. Frenemy Erica seems to know more than she's letting on and Ben intends to find out what she's hiding, but before he can, he's kicked out and sent home. SPYDER kidnaps Ben and takes him to Evil Spy School, recruiting him as a rogue agent. Ben agrees to help them, but he's actually going undercover to see what SPYDER is planning against the agency. Flying blind and with no help, Ben remembers his spy school lessons. He has to act like a spy and not get caught. And he has to hope the cavalry is on the way!

New characters video gamer Nefarious and gymnast Ashley sign on to SPYDER and Ben wants to help each of them but doesn't know how without exposing his cover.

Humorous, clever, kid-friendly and entertaining, Evil Spy School shines!

Highly recommended for readers who love the series, espionage, spies, double and triple crosses, and laughing at the government.

Grade 6-up. No profanity. No adult content. Stuart Gibbs walks the fine line between humor and digs without jumping into the gutter. Kid friendly reading.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)





Tuesday, July 28, 2015

High School Pick: Stand Off

Stand Off (Sequel to Winger)
by Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
2015
416 pages
ISBN: 9781481418294

Available September 8, 2015

Andrew Smith's earlier book Winger was gut-wrenching, heart breaking, soul saddening, and grief-bound , so much so, that I worried about  Ryan Dean West. He is that kid you can't help but love. That kid you root for and want to befriend. Could Ryan Dean lose a best friend and go on? Could he pick up the pieces and be whole again? Thank goodness I was not the only reader who had questions about Ryan Dean. The answers lie in Stand Off. Ryan Dean is back at Pine Mountain as a senior  and Annie is now his actual girlfriend. Ryan misses Joey greatly. He has not yet come to terms with his loss and he suffers from guilt and anxiety attacks. He worries that NATE (Next Accidental Terrible Experience)  will follow him around forever.

That would be bad enough but the headmaster decides to send in 12-year old student Sam Abernathy to become Ryan Dean's new roomie.  Ryan Dean can't believe it! A twelve year old?! The headmaster thought that Ryan Dean would get along and guide Sam since Ryan Dean came to the school a few years back at the same age. Sam suffers from claustrophobia and insists that the window be open at all times---even in freezing weather! And he watches cooking shows non-stop! Ryan Dean struggles with Sam's cheerful Disney outlook and chirpy squirrel-y voice. And when Sam becomes the manager for the rugby team, Ryan Dean can't escape the happy-go-lucky kid at all.

Annie finds Ryan Dean's rants silly and mean. She asks him to be nice to Sam. She reminds him that when he came to Pine Mountain he was the youngest and smallest boy there. Ryan Dean slowly...ever so slowly warms up to Sam.

Sometimes friendship takes awhile and sometimes friends have been there all along. Ryan Dean re-evaluates his relationships with his teammates and Sam. Growing up is difficult and graduating is scary, but Ryan Dean begins to realize how lucky he is.

I loved Stand Off. Sequels usually can't compare to the first book, but Andrew Smith has another winner on his hands. Ryan Dean is my FAVORITE YA protagonist of all time and I'll say it again: Watch out, Holden Caulfield!

If you don't know Andrew Smith, what are you waiting for? 100 Sideways Miles and Grasshopper Jungle are also sublime reads.

Highly, highly recommended for fans of Andrew Smith. I'm sure his fan club is growing by the nanosecond. Grade 9-up. Amazon has age 12-up and grade 7-up in "product details."

WARNING: profanity, Ryan Dean thinks of sex A LOT, mature content make this book suitable for grade 9-up in my opinion.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)





Monday, July 27, 2015

Tricky Pick: Con Academy

Con Academy
by Joe Schreiber
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2015
236 pages
ISBN: 9780544320208

Available August 4, 2015


Once you pick up Con Academy, you won't put it down!  What a fun, conniving jaunt! This speedy read is all-out raucous, double and triple crosses abound, and readers will root for Will to come out on top.


Will Shea is a new transfer student at the  prestigious Connaughton Academy, a prep school that caters to America's ultra rich and fabulous. As a scholarship recipient, it is only natural that people want to know more about him, and Will has an extraordinary story to tell. His father and mother, missionaries on a small island in the Pacific, are  killed. After their death, Will's church collects money to send him to America to study.

Except that's not the real story. Will (Humbert) is the son of career cons. He's been a con artist since age eight. After his mother died, Will's father spirals out of control and Will runs away. In order to get into the Academy, Will fakes transcripts and breaks into computer files. His con seems to be working...until he meets Andrea. She recognizes a con when she sees one. That's because Andrea is a con herself.

Will and Andrea agree to the ultimate contest. Whoever can take dirt bag Brandt Rush  for ten thousand dollars will be the winner and the loser must leave the school. Game on!

Then...Will's real father shows up and threatens to ruin his school career and his con. Will can do nothing but let his father in on it, but he also asks his uncle Roy for help. Uncle Roy is one of the best cons in the country and all  up and coming cons look up  to him as a god. They decide to con Brandt using an online poker game--that they can fix, of course.

Andrea is another fly in the ointment. Will needs to manage the con, get rid of his useless dad, watch out for Andrea and study for classes. May the best con win.

I loved Con Academy. Teen readers will,  too! My one obstacle with this book is the cover. The stack of poker chips with devil horns and a tail does not do the book justice. This is one case that readers should NOT judge the book by its so-so cover.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves a good con! Will is a loveable character with spunk and humor.  Fans of Ally Carter will love Will Shea.

Grade 7-up.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bath Time Pick: Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure

Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure
by Derek Anderson
Illustrations by the author
Orchard Books
2015
 40 pages
ISBN: 9780545168465

Published reviews: what others are saying

Just DELIGHTFUL! Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure is everything a children's book should be. It's entertaining, fun, charming, colorful, silly and bursting with heart!

One lucky pig has the huge bath tub to himself--which is fine, indeed. One by one he is joined by number two, number three, number four, number five, and so on until there is no little piggy wiggle room! One clever pig fixes the problem with a super slick sly move.

The illustrations are the stuff dreams are made of! It is not often that an author/illustrator gets it so right! Anderson is able to tell the story simply through the illustrations. Each page is a gem. Children may even beg to take a bath like the pigs in the story.

This is a must have book for any child. If you buy one bath time book, make it Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure. So much fun!

Highly, highly recommended! I give this children's book the highest praise. ONE of the very BEST I've recommended!

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Storytelling Pick: The Marvels

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press
2015
672 pages
ISBN: 9780545448680

Available September 15, 2015

Brian Selznick continues to astonish, astound and amaze! The Marvels is a 672 page behemoth that tells the story of five generations of a theatre family, a shipwreck, and a beautiful house full of family secrets.

The first 300 plus pages are all Selznick's magical  art. The detail and beauty is astounding and the story tells itself. This part of the book had me enraptured and wonderstruck (ha, ha, a little Selznick humor there!) Visual learners and those who struggle with reading and budding artists will all love the story in pictures (and hey, who doesn't love a picture book?) The other part of the book, told in prose, was just not as compelling. It is like comparing apples to oranges, after all. Can one really compare a work of art to words on a page? Well, only if the words are truly genius: Shakespeare, Milton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Isabelle Allende.

The characters of Frankie and Joseph while sweet, were not as interesting as the story of a shipwreck and a surviving boy and his dog rescued by a ship and brought across the sea to England. Uncle Albert is the most interesting character in the second half of the book. I was a bit let down with the ending, expecting it to be more compelling and profound.

Still, The Marvels itself is a massive undertaking. It is a beautiful work of art and should probably be reviewed in that way. To review the second part as a book of prose does the work a true disservice. Enjoy the art, enjoy the storytelling and you decide.

Highly recommended for the art alone! Suitable for grade 4-up. Suitable for all libraries.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the "Sneak Peek" and 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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Beach Read Pick: Luckiest Girl Alive

Luckiest Girl Alive
by Jessica Knoll
Simon & Schuster
2015
352 pages
ISBN: 9781476789637

Deeply engaging and complex, Luckiest Girl Alive is often compared to Gone Girl in the press. I'm not sure why this happens. Is it because both books have a woman who is good at manipulating situations, partners and even herself? Maybe. That being said, Luckiest Girl Alive is not Gone Girl; however, it is the perfect book for your lazy day at the beach under a colorful umbrella. It is reading for entertainment, not for enlightenment. If you expect to seek deep philosophical truths in these pages, you will be disappointed.

Ani is the "typical" single white female in New York. She has clawed her way to the top, starving herself to fit into near perfect model size clothes. She has learned to cover up her modest upbringing and fit in with high society. Ani is an artful manipulator; she has to be. If she's not, her walls come crashing down and she will lose everything: the "perfect" fiancé, the high paying, fancy job, the beautiful apartment, the "friends," the entire façade of her perfectly fake life. If these people really knew her past, they would be horrified.

Ani is a difficult character to love; she is flawed but also mean. Her snarky nastiness comes off as not just a mean girl. She is evil girl, but readers will love that she is the perfect chameleon in a concrete jungle where survival is based on façade.  As the story progresses, I liked Ani more. Human beings are strange individuals and Ani proves that her past DOES indeed have everything to do with her present and her future. Buried secrets are not likely to stay buried forever no matter how much control the person with the secret has.

Ani's fiancé seemed nearly an afterthought. He has little to do with the story other than being a foil. Ani uses people for her own gains and it's difficult not to admire that in a creepily fascinating way. Everyone loves a great villain and Ani has the demeanor of Maleficent and  the chess master scheming of J.R. Ewing.

If you want to get lost in a book, Luckiest Girl Alive is your pick. I couldn't put it down and read it at breakneck pace and handed it over to my best friend. She, in turn, gave it to another friend.
This is a book that once you've read it, you will recommend it to anyone who likes an interesting and entertaining book.

NOT recommended for readers under 17.

Highly, highly recommended for adult readers and book clubs. I have a feeling this book will make the rounds at book clubs around the country.

FCC 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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


Monday, July 6, 2015

Blog Tour and Book Peek: Jesse's Girl

Jesse’s Girl
By Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire
July 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781402284823

9781402284823.jpg
Preorder Promotion:


Everyone who emails teenfire@sourcebooks.com will automatically receive an email of the EXCLUSIVE Jesse’s Girl Playlist, and will be invited to attend a LIVE online author event on July 6, the day before Jesse’s Girl goes on-sale!

In addition, if you pre-order the book and send your proof of purchase (and mailing address) to teenfire@sourcebooks.com, you’ll not only get the exclusive playlist and event invite, but you’ll also receive a signed/personalized bookplate, a super-cute custom guitar pick, and entered to win a $300 gift card to TicketMaster so you can go to a concert or musical or some other fun event.  

The same information on Miranda’s website.


BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Practice makes perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow the Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?



Purchase Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally here:



EXCERPT FROM JESSE’S GIRL:

As much as I love music, I am generally not a fan of country. I don’t like banjos. I don’t like sappy lyrics about trucks and hauling hay. Dolly Parton is my mortal enemy—my mom plays “Jolene” over and over and over and over, and it makes me want to chop my ears off like van Gogh. Yeah, yeah, I’m from Tennessee, where it’s a crime if you don’t love country, but I like deep, rumbling beats and singing loud and fast and hard. I do not like closing my eyes and crooning to a cow in the pasture. Yet here I am at a Jesse Scott concert, getting ready to meet him and to see if he’ll let me shadow him next Friday.

My school requires every senior to “shadow” a professional for a day. It’s their way of helping us figure out what kind of career we want. Like, if you want to be president when you grow up, you might get to shadow the mayor. Want to be a chef? Have fun kneading dough at the Donut Palace. When I said “I want to be a musician,” I figured they’d send me to work in the electronics section at Walmart.

I certainly never expected to shadow the king of country music.

It turns out that Jesse Scott is my principal’s nephew. Jesse won TV’s Wannabe Rocker when he was ten and has gone on to become very successful. In sixth grade, every girl in class—myself included—took the Teen Beat quiz: “Would Jesse Scott Like Your Kissing Style?” (Obviously the answer was yes.) In middle school, I had a Jesse Scott poster on my ceiling. It’s hard to believe he’s only eighteen, because he’s already won three Grammys. When he was younger, his songs were about family, fishing, and playing baseball, but lately they’re about love and making love and all things sexy.

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan anymore, but I would never give up an opportunity to learn from a professional with such a gorgeous, pure voice. I want to learn what it’s like to perform day in and day out. Despite what everyone and their mom says—that I’ll struggle as a musician—all I want is to play guitar in front of a crowd and hear people cheer for me.

I can’t believe I’m backstage at the Grand Ole Opry! I bounce on my toes. Jesus, is that an archtop Super 4, the model Elvis played? I’ve never seen one in real life. It probably cost more than my house. I’m ogling the guitar when Jesse Scott comes out of the bathroom, drying his hair with a towel. He pads across the room to the couch, wearing nothing but a pair of rugged jeans with more holes than Swiss cheese. The lighting is dim, and he doesn’t seem to notice I’m here, which is good, because I’ve moved from ogling the guitar to ogling him.

Who wouldn’t? He was one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,” and it is a truth universally acknowledged that you should stare at people who’ve made that list. The guy’s gorgeous. Like in the boy-next-door way. His wet, wavy, brown hair curls around his ears and nearly hits his shoulders, and while he doesn’t have a six-pack or anything, his body is fit. I wish he’d look my way so I can see his famous brown eyes. They always remind me of those caramel chews Poppy gives me when I visit. Jesse has some sort of Gaelic symbol tattooed on his left shoulder blade. I want to reach out and trace the design.

God, get ahold of yourself, Maya. Don’t be a horndog. Besides, he’s so not my type. I don’t do pretty boys.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Adventure Pick: Kalahari

Kalahari
by Jessica Khoury
Razorbill
2015
354 pages
ISBN: 9781595147653


Exciting and action packed, Kalahari is sure to please. This is one adventure teen readers will be glad they took!


Growing up the only child to zoologist parents in remote Africa has prepared Sarah for just about any encounter in the natural world; any encounter except with city teens her own age, that is. When Sarah's parents invite five teens to an experimental program, she is terrified of what to say to them and  how they will react with her. Her best friend is Theo. He has guided her over the years to survive in the Kalahari. He tells Sarah not to worry; that she's a teen just like them. He could not be more wrong. Sarah has nothing in common with the kids who have arrived. They are used to creature comforts like clean beds, fresh water, air conditioning and electricity.

When Theo and her father have to leave their camp to investigate what they think are poachers,  Sarah knows something has gone terribly wrong. She is now responsible for the helpless new kids. Cute arrival Sam offers to help. He says he trusts her and will help her find her father and Theo. They  must find food, water and shelter and get to the nearest town without poachers, wild animals or something much, much worse finding them first. Sarah calls upon all her skills to find the way to a small town. Anything can go wrong. They could die of dehydration or starvation. They could wander around for days without knowing if they are going in the right direction or not. The elements will take a toll on all of them unless they get to civilization fast.

The kids know something is wrong when animals begin to act strangely. Sarah spots a silver lion who threatens her. Knowing that a male lion does not attack unprovoked, Sarah searches for answers. The kids discover a lab that she thinks her mother must also have discovered just moments before her death. Could the silver lion and Sarah's mother have something in common? Where are the lab workers? Why have they fled?

Maybe not knowing the answers to all her questions is the safest bet but Sarah is strong and inquisitive. She has Sam to depend on when the going gets tough and it is getting tougher. Sarah begins to feel lightheaded and she can't blame it all on dehydration. Sam is seriously turning up the heat.

Kalahari will take readers on a wild adventure to a different part of the world than most are familiar with. They will love Sarah and empathize with her tragic discovery about her mother's death. Most of all, readers will want Sarah to survive and save the other teens from death.

Highly recommended grade 7-up. No profanity. No sex. Violence, science gone wrong, genetics gone wrong, evil scientists.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


Thursday, June 11, 2015

YA and Technology Trends: A Student from Australia Interviews Me!

Australian student Stella C. asked me my thoughts on a project she is working towards. She is (in her own words): "... a 12 year student in Sydney, Australia, working towards my HSC major work for society and culture." Her area of study is this topic:

 "What will be the impact on YA literature with the increasing reliance on technology and how must authors change to accommodate to new diverse margins of society."

 She asked me questions and I answered her as thoughtfully as I could. With her permission, I am publishing this interview. I think her questions are well thought out and insightful and help us to understand what teens are thinking about YA literature and social media  not only here in the U.S. but in Australia as well. Stella, thank you for asking me these important and timely questions and allowing me to publish them here.

Interview:


1.    What are your thoughts on young adult fiction as a popular culture?
 
YA fiction has become a part of pop culture as it moves from books and content on the Internet into movies and mainstream Hollywood. Actors who star in YA movies, think "Twilight" and "Divergent" go on to act in feature films; for example, Jennifer Lawrence gained the teen audience  in "The Hunger Games" yet went on to win an Oscar for her performance in "Silver Linings Playbooks" and was nominated for "American Hustle." She has become one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood.

 

2.    What do you think young adult fiction targets for their audience?
 
 If it is a great book the target is to entertain, to say something necessary, to bring to life characters who are amazing in some way yet seriously flawed in others, to set up events that impact the main character, to have the character face obstacles and overcome them in some way, and to have the character somehow changed by his/her journey. The reader should come away from the book feeling satisfied. Even if a main character dies, the reader should still feel good about reading the book. A great book impacts the reader; the reader will think about that book for a great long while, think To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

3.      Do you think this genre of novels is growing? And if so, why is there a dramatic change?
 
 It has been taking over the publishing market since Harry Potter. It will continue to grow as fan fiction is growing online. Many twelve year old readers are becoming writers as we speak. The next decade looks promising for publishing and fiction.

 

4.      Do you think that literature and novels will be a short-lived life?
 
 
 
 Literature will never be short lived. That's like asking if music will be short lived. Notes never go away. Words never go away. A new musician or writer will think of a new way of using them.

 

5.      Do you think easy access to movies and fan fiction ultimately persuades you to avoid written work?
 
 Absolutely not! I attend the Texas Teen Book Festival each year in Austin, Texas, which has grown to include over 150 authors per year. Thousands of readers flock to see the books and authors. I am happy to say that readers were buying tons of books in print. This is not to say that Ebooks and digital reading are not accessible. Many readers find that they like the heft and feel of the printed book. It totes well. You don't have to worry about wires or connectivity or getting it wet. You can read in almost any light source.

 

6.      What are your personal thoughts on eBooks, kindles and other source of technology which enhances the reading experience?
 
 I'm not sure this technology "enhances" the reading experience. It makes it possible to read in a variety of ways. It may help some people to learn to read. The technology makes it possible for all sorts of learners to be able to enjoy a book.

 

7.      Why is there such a stigma attached to adults who read young adult fiction?
 
 Is there a stigma? Really? The Hunger Games, Twilight and even The Diary of a Wimpy Kid did not get to the New York Times bestseller list by teens who read them. Certainly hundreds of thousands if not millions of adults read them. Fans of dystopian fiction read both YA dystopian fiction and adult dystopian fiction. In fact, there is no line in the sand between the two. I think this "stigma" is imagined--I have not seen anyone in the U.S. say that adults should not read YA. In fact, it's just the opposite. You should read what you want.

 

8.    How does social media and technology help promote young adult fiction?
 
 You are asking a blogger! The epitome of what I do is promote new and exciting titles in YA fiction. Technology makes that possible.

 

9.    How does the film industry present young adult adaptation? Why isn’t the film not targeted to a specific age group? How do you think they break the age barrier?

 Hollywood takes a book and brings it to life with film magic. A real reader does that for herself or himself. A reader imagines the "scenes" in the book and sees the action. Films make it possible for those who don't read to enjoy the stories. I think Hollywood does justice to YA novels for the most part.

 

10. Do you think the film acknowledged the author’s true ambitions of the novels’ themes?
 
It depends if the author is involved with the screen writing or not. In the case of several YA novels into films, the authors have had a say in screenplay and on the set. If the author has no say, the writers, directors and producers have a free for all if they want.

 

11. What do you think will be the next step for these authors and young adult fiction for the upcoming generations?

To continue to offer the best stories with the most compelling characters. I have heard several authors comment that writing for the YA crowd is a lot harder than writing for adults. Kids will catch all your mistakes and call you on them. Kids are less forgiving than the adult reader. And kids will call you out on social media.

 

Is there any other thoughts/opinions on young adult fiction and technology’s impact on this popular culture?
 
 I think Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media are a great tool for authors to embrace. They have up to the minute details on how their novel/work is perceived. A smart author will be a tech savvy guru.
 
My closing thoughts: Authors, you are going to have to up your game to keep up with today's YA readers. Good luck! Pamela

 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

First Look: Tales From a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen

                                                  Get Your Own Dork Diaries Wallpaper

Tales From a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen
(Dork Diaries, book 9)
by Rachel Renee Russell
with Nikki Russell and Erin Russell
Aladdin
2015
331 pages
ISBN: 9781442487697

                                                    Look What Was on My Doorstep!

The latest in the Nikki vs  MacKenzie saga opens with Nikki telling the story  ( in her diary),  but when her locker is accidentally left open, mean girl MacKenzie swoops in to grab it for "safe keeping" and making sure some nefarious person did not steal it and spill all of Nikki's secrets. Readers hear McKenzie for the first time. Poor little rich girl MacKenzie. Her daddy  is too busy making money and her mother is too busy being a socialite to devote any family time to MacKenzie. They rely on giving their little princess the world. MacKenzie claims to be fine with it and that seeing her therapist twice a week is all the friends she needs. Savvy readers will see that MacKenzie is a lonely girl bereft of friends and family. No matter how much money she has, no matter how beautiful she is, she is a timid mouse of a girl dying to be loved and accepted. She is devious to Nikki because she is actually jealous of Nikki's family and friends and her cute boyfriend, Brandon.

There is more drama between the Best Enemies Forever. MacKenzie and Nikki get into publishing. MacKenzie takes over Nikki's newspaper advice column and Nikki and BFFs Chloe and Zoey rush to stop parts of Nikki's diary from being published. Brandon is constantly on Nikki's mind even though they have a brief misunderstanding. Middle school love is so difficult, after all.

Fans of Dork Diaries will not be disappointed with the latest installment. The animal print cover is fierce and feisty. Who can resist an animal print?

Highly, highly recommended grades 5-up and for fans of the series. Squeeee! All I can say is keep them coming,  Rachel Renee Russell!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the 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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)