Friday, August 19, 2016

Middle Grades Pick: Just Like Me

Just Like Me
by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
2016
256 pages
ISBN: 978149260427

"Tween readers will find much to identify with in this charming and refreshingly wholesome coming-of-age story. . . Filled with slapstick humor and fast-paced action, the novel will engage reluctant readers, while offering fuel for deep contemplation by those ready to tackle questions of identity and belonging."
says School Library Journal

"From pillow fights to pinkie promises, sock wars to s’mores, a red thread connects this energetic summer-camp story with Julia’s deeper journey to accept herself."
Megan McDonald, award winning author of the Judy Moody series and Sisters Club trilogy

My Review:

Who can resist a summer camp story? 

Just Like Me is more than just a summer camp feel good story about the woods, campfires, s'mores, canoes, and singalongs. It's a voyage of self discovery and self acceptance for main character and narrator Julia. She worries how she will ever get through a camp with her two Chinese "sisters." Though not sisters by blood, Julia, Avery and Becca were all adopted by American families from the same Chinese orphanage during the same time period. Avery and Becca live close to each other and  become best friends who love everything from the birth culture. They eat Cheetos with chopsticks and fan themselves with delicate Chinese fans. The girls are even learning Cantonese and Mandarin. Julia, on the other hand, is the "odd one out." She identifies with her adopted family's heritage: half Italian, half Irish but  decides to throw in half Chinese. Julia's mother pushes her to camp telling her it's a great time to be closer to her sisters.

Told through a series of introspective journal entries, the reader will see Julia become more accepting of herself and the others as the book progresses. When the three "sisters"  find themselves as roommates in a cabin with super-competitive campers and competition stars Vanessa and Meredith and Vanessa's "sort of" cousin Gina,  they must learn to work together to win camp games. 

Spot-on tween dialog makes this read a winner! Julia's journal entries add to the action of each chapter and allow the readers to connect with Julia's inner thoughts.

The cover art is a thing of beauty. Right away, you know the book is about summer camp. The girls in three canoes, a bottle of suntan lotion, a captured butterfly in a jar, dirty knees, mosquito bites covered with band aids and the perfect serene blue of the water capture that lazy summer day on the lake. The cover is sheer bliss!

For all those kids who never got a chance to go to camp (like me!) Just Like Me is that summer story they will embrace.
Highly recommended grade 4-7. Cavanaugh just gets it right!

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

For the Love of Football! Interfence

Interference
by Kay Honeyman
Arthur A. Levine Books
2016
352 pages
ISVB: 9780545812320

Available September 27,  2016

 

Review

Advance Praise for Interference

"I loved reading about Kate, who uses her street smarts and political know-how to go after what she knows is right. With its winning combination of football, politics, and a swoony small-town romance, this story stole my heart." -- Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan and Defending Taylor

"If you've ever messed up big time and yearned to hit restart, you must read Interference. Kay Honeyman's big-hearted exploration of life after a scandal reveals the true meaning of love, forgiveness, and courage." -- Justina Chen, author of North of Beautiful and A Blind Spot for Boys

"Kay Honeyman scores a touchdown with Interference, a fabulous read about new beginnings and family politics, freshly spun with humor, scandal, football, and a little romance." -- Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club and Better Off Friends
 
My Review:
 
Refreshing and light, a true winner!
 
Fleeing Washington, D.C.,  and a scandal, Kate's family travels back  to Red Dirt, Texas, where her career politician and Congressman father is  the local legend and is known as the town's best high school star quarterback. For Kate, Red Dirt can help her get community service hours she needs. She also wants to work on her photography portfolio for entry to college. What she finds to photograph is red dirt and lots of it! A boy she meets  helps her see the beauty of he west Texas sunset.
 
Kate's parents are so involved in politics and spinning the story, they don't think of anything else, including their own daughter and living in the moment. At first, Kate decides to opt out of her father's race and concentrate on her photography and classes.
 
Kate takes a volunteer job with her curmudgeonly Aunt Celia at the animal rescue where she  works with   Hunter who seems like he's only trying to help. To Kate, his "interference" bothers her; she wants to be independent and show people she's strong. She does not need or want a boy helping her or sticking up for her. Hunter gets exasperated that Kate is so stubborn.
 
When Kate tries to play matchmaker for Ana and Kyle, she makes a big mess of things and almost loses the high school football team's hopes for a championship  and her dad threatens to send her back to Washington. Even in a small town, politics can get dirty and Kate will have to use her smarts if she wants to make it in Red Dirt.
 
Interference is that small town, feel good book where boy meets girl, football is KING and Friday Night Lights, politics are dirty, and gossip travels faster than  a Texas brushfire.
 
Readers will embrace Kate who is clever and creative. She does not act like a pampered Washington debutante. Shoveling pig stys and birthing calves is not exactly glamorous, but Kate pitches in like a champ. Kate has moxie by the boatload. This girl is a real winner! Hunter is swoon worthy and the perfect "burr" under Kate's saddle (for those not from Texas, that means he's a pain).
 
Recommended grade 7 and up. No profanity, no sex. This Scholastic book will probably be on fall or spring middle school book fairs.
 
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fantasy Middle Grade Book Giveaway! The Girl Who Drank the Moon

 
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers
2016
 
Simply magnificent!
 
I have TWO FREE copies of this exciting middle grade stand alone title. Kelly Barnhill has accomplished sheer magic with The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I feel it is the best fantasy since Harry Potter! Can anyone say Texas Bluebonnet? This is THE book everyone will be talking about. Magical, poignant, sweet, and soaring, the prose sings off the pages like poetry! scroll down to see my review of this title.

For a chance to win, simply post a comment to the blog. Please include your first name, email, city and state. Deadline for posts is noon MST on Thursday, September 8. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Please check your email the afternoon of September 8. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York.

What are you waiting for! Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Friday, August 5, 2016

Fantasy Pick: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin Young Readers
2015
386 pages
ISBN: 9781616205676

Editorial Reviews

Review

Top Ten Fall 2016 Indie Next Pick
A Booklist Top Ten Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror Pick (August issue)


Guaranteed to enchant, enthrall, and enmagick . . . Replete with traditional motifs, this nontraditional fairy tale boasts sinister and endearing characters, magical elements, strong storytelling, and unleashed forces.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Rich with multiple plotlines that culminate in a suspenseful climax, characters of inspiring integrity, a world with elements of both whimsy and treachery, and prose that melds into poetry. A sure bet for anyone who enjoys a truly fantastic story.”—Booklist, starred review

“An expertly woven and enchanting offering for readers who love classic fairy tales.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Barnhill crafts another captivating fantasy, this time in the vein of Into the Woods . . . Barnhill delivers an escalating plot filled with foreshadowing, well-developed characters, and a fully realized setting, all highlighting her lyrical storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review


“Kelly Barnhill is a skilled storyteller, and she crafts wonderfully imperfect characters with poetic prose, warmth and wit. Rather than a strident good and evil face-off, Barnhill's complex story of relative truth allows each character to make his or her own choices, even very questionable ones. The resiliency of the heroes may be partly because of magic, but also because of critical thinking, empathy, deep love and the strength of family in all its unconventional manifestations. The Girl Who Drank the Moon takes a probing look at social complexity and the high cost of secrets and lies, weaving multiple perspectives, past and present, into one cleverly unfolding fairy tale. The knots of miscommunication, habit and assumption that tangle Barnhill's characters may inspire readers to question the stories we're told. It takes brave and creative young people with their power to transform reality to clear the air and spread some light. Thoughtful and utterly spellbinding.”—Shelf Awareness

“A misunderstood witch, a poetry-spouting swamp monster, a tiny dragon with a simply enormous heart, a girl fed from moonlight and a town filled with tragic sadness all come together in this brilliant new novel from the author of Witch’s Boy. Fans of Maile Meloy, Alice Hoffman and Shannon Hale will devour this sad, funny, charming, clever stand-alone fantasy adventure.”—Angie Tally of The Country Bookshop for Pinestraw Magazine (Southern Pines, NC)

 
 
My review:
 
 Refreshing, magical, oftentimes comical, and full of adventure and heart, The Girl Who Drank the Moon soars off the pages! Readers will be enrapt in a spell that will sing to them and wrap them up in a finely woven tapestry of  fantasy and magic. Few storytellers have the gift of so deftly arranging a fantasy or building a world so magical that readers want to live there, but Kelly Barnhill is the best at her craft. If you loved The Witch's Boy, you will love The Girl Who Drank the Moon even more!
 
Each year, the people of the Protectorate take a baby to a clearing in the forest and leave it as a sacrifice for  the witch. Xan, an old woman who lives with the poetic Swamp Monster and a tiny dragon with a huge heart, always rescues each  baby and travels through the forest to the other side where she will find a suitable family to adopt the baby. The baby will be loved and cherished and much better off than left in the woods to be eaten by wild animals.
 
One year, Xan is particularly tired, and after picking up the baby, finds herself stopping again and again to rest. As she rests, she feeds the baby goats' milk and then starlight. But
Xan makes a huge mistake. She was so tired and  must have dozed off and fed the baby moonlight. Everyone knows moonlight is dangerous magic.
 
Xan is happy to raise the child as her own. She knows of no one else who could understand and help the child learn to use her extraordinary gift. She names the girl Luna and insists that Glerk, the Swamp Monster and tiny dragon Fyrian, must learn to love the baby as much as she does. Each year Luna's magic intensifies and Xan begins to worry when and how it will "erupt." In order to quell the child's magic, Xan builds a spell that will keep the dangerous magic in check, at least for awhile. Glerk is worried. He knows that Luna needs to learn about her magic; he worries Xan will die before teaching Luna what she needs to know.
 
In the tower, a woman goes mad and begins folding paper birds that hold their own magic. Maps tell the way. A man with scars will read the maps and seek the witch. . A baby will be brought to the woods.

Luna's magic is about to be unleashed in a big way. Xan, Glerk and Fyrian will have to help Luna against powerful dark  magic in order to save the entire world.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is an instant classic and will be a book that today's children will read to their children. Yes, it's that good! I expect this book to be awarded many state awards as well as national attention. I can see this book made into  movie magic as a  treat for the eyes and hearts.

Smart choices were made with cover art. The paper birds seem to glow against a backdrop of blue. The title is centered on the moon which commands half the cover. The child seems to be walking in a near trance following the magical birds as a small dragon hovers just near her face. The dragon also appears on the spine which will be easy to spot on a library shelf. Readers will choose the book after seeing the dragon. The design of the book is sheer delight.

Highly, highly recommended. I would recommend this book over all others this year! It is honestly the best book I've read in years.

Recommended grade 4-up. There are life lessons in these pages--important ones about love, friendship, bravery, family, and heart. Everyone 8-80 should read this one.

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

  

Best Books (So Far) 2016

Pamela's Best Books (So Far) 2016
Presented at LEND conference, El Paso, Texas
June 2016
Best Books (So Far) 2016 use the link Best Books 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

Book Club Pick: Chasing the North Star

Chasing the North Star
by Robert Morgan
Algonquin of Chapel Hill
2016
308 pages
ISBN: 9781565126275

Chasing the North Star is brilliantly brought to life by master storyteller Robert Morgan.

It is the story of two slaves who use their wits and rely on the kindness (sometimes) of strangers to reach the free states where they will not face the wrath of the whip or the cruelty of a life of slavery. Eighteen year old Jonah escapes after a beating from his master. He is whipped for stealing a book from the master's library. Jonah had borrowed the book to read, but cannot admit it because slaves are forbidden to learn to read even though the mistress of the house taught Jonah and encouraged him to read the Bible. Jonah takes off one night in a rainstorm and begins his long journey North.

He encounters a slave woman at a Jubilee, and she decides to follow him. If he can seek freedom, why can't she? Jonah does not want a companion, and decides to ditch her as soon as possible. Thank goodness Angel does not give up easily and manages to follow Jonah and catch up with him at a jail where she helps him break free once again.

Breathless and harrowing, Chasing the North Star will tug at the heartstrings. It is full of life, heart, strength and spirit. Readers won't easily forget Jonah and his tenacity. This book should be on the reading list for any program featuring the American South. Students of history should be forever grateful to Robert Morgan who is able to take a period of American history and catch all its brutality and fear, yet tell that same story with bravery, insight and compassion.

Readers will love Jonah and his can-do attitude.

Highly, highly recommended adult readers and recommended for book clubs.

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




Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Spooky Middle Grades Pick: The Gathering (Shadow House, Book 1)

The Gathering
Shadow House, Book 1
By  Dan Poblocki
Scholastic
2016
224  pages  (with some illustrations)
Available August 30, 2016

"Shadow House has everything I love--strange characters, magic and the supernatural, endless danger and adventure--and a mystery I dare any reader to try to solve. I can't wait to read the whole series!"--R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps (from the ARC mailing)


Creeptastic! Suspense driven and utterly entertaining, The Gathering (Book 1) will leave young readers breathless! The Gathering (Shadow House, book 1) is the best middle grades read I've read in a long time!

 "Enter Shadow House, if you dare"...beware who you trust and try to remember the way you passed, but that won't be enough. In Shadow House, passages change, doors appear and disappear, strange children threaten from the shadows. Something bad has happened here and for the new kids, they have to solve the mystery in order to free themselves from the hold the house has over them.

Strangers orphan Poppy, twin child actors Dylan and Dash, musical prodigy Marcus, and shy girl Azumi meet at the abandoned edifice of Shadow House, each being summoned there for different reasons. Poppy thinks she's meeting her great aunt Delphina who will give Poppy a "forever home." Marcus thinks he's accepted into an exclusive music program. Dylan and Dash think they're set to star in a new series and Azumi wants to escape the Pacific Northwest, her sister's strange disappearance,  and attend an East coast boarding school. The children enter the stone building and are intrigued by its vast grandeur but mystified by the look of the place. It looks abandoned--as if lost in time. The furnishings, paintings, and even some paperwork in an office look to be decades old.

As the kids begin to investigate, they split up (never a bright idea!) I guess these children have never seen a scary movie or read a scary book. As they are separated, each encounters a strange child in an animal mask. The apparitions begin to threaten them. The kids are going to have to work together if they expect to survive Shadow House!

Wildly imaginative and spooky, readers may have to sleep with the lights on!

There is a FREE app in the works for  phones or tablets at Shadow House. Create a username and password and log in. you can read ghost stories, "...where the choices you make determine your fate."

This is a Scholastic book, so I am sure it will be a huge seller at back to school and fall book fairs. Keep your eyes open, books 2 and 3 are scheduled for January 2017 and September 2017 respectively.

Highly, highly recommended grade 3-up. Perfect for tween and middle grade readers. Reluctant readers will devour this series.

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



Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Club Pick: The Children

The Children
by Ann Leary
St. Martin's Press
2016
246 pages
ISBN: 9781250045379

Praise for The Children:

“In this deeply satisfying novel about how unknowable people can be, intrigue builds with glass shards of dark humor toward an ending that is far from comic.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“The Children is populated by comically quirky characters reminiscent of Anne Tyler at her best. But in Ann Leary's capable hands, they come alive as funny, wise, sometimes confused but always hopeful as they navigate a plot rich with unexpected turns. Leary's unique voice and perspective make this the novel you won't be able to put down this summer.” ―Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer

"[Leary's] characters are a delightful blend of strong personalities, all with their own little touch of delicious evil, and her darkly comic send-ups of New England wealth, nouveau riche, and Internet culture should keep readers absorbed until the final, most shocking secrets are revealed."Publishers Weekly

"A witty, touching, unputdownable novel." ―Good Housekeeping

“A fast-paced, darkly funny novel.” ―Popsugar

"A read-in-one-sitting romp, Leary’s wry and searing satire of affluence and elitism comically yet steadily builds to a sobering and malevolent finale". ―Booklist


My review:


Hypnotic, fantastic, provocative, dark and oh, so very captivatingly cunning, The Children is this summer's guilty pleasure. This novel has it all: a fairy tale family who has an old  money  background, a sprawling lake front estate,  a trust that patriarch Whit Whitman has in place after his death in which his two sons inherit and his widow and two step-daughters are allowed to live in the home until Joan's (his wife) death, secrets, lies, and mysteries abound!

Twenty-nine year old Charlotte never leaves the property. Her life revolves around her secret on-line life. She writes a mommy blog about her fictional family: her handsome, loving husband and her two beautiful children--all of whom do not exist except in Charlotte's fictionalized world. She gains giant corporate sponsors who pay her to basically blog. The diaper company, of course, has no idea Charlotte is a fake and neither do her millions of followers. Her blog is so popular she's one of the Top Ten Mommy Bloggers according to The Huffington Post. She hides her true identity by not using her real name and never posting photos of her "children," and she also invents fake blog readers who comment on her blog posts as if they are her real neighbors. All this chicanery is just enough for her to gain thousands of mommy blog readers.

The story is told through Charlotte's eyes, who is an incredible and novel storyteller. Readers will not know whether to believe Charlotte's version because she is a fake and a liar of supreme proportions.

Favorite son golden boy Dartmouth educated and athletic god Spin comes home to introduce the rest of his family to beautiful and charismatic Laurel, a girl who is too good to be true. Once a celebrated skier of Olympic talent, she sets her dreams for gold aside after an injury but still manages to excel in yoga and gains online near celebrity status. Stepmother Joan and her grown girls are ready to hate Laurel. Charlotte begins to engage in Internet sleuthing to discover flaws in Spin's new fiancé. Step-sister Sally doesn't question anything about Laurel's past and seems to accept Spin's choice.

There's something about Laurel. Something sinister. Behind that perfect smile and beautiful face lies the mind of a sociopath, and although she suspects something Charlotte has no idea of the consequences Laurel will bring upon everyone involved.

The property is worth millions, but sons Spin and Perry can do nothing to it as long as Joan lives. Their fate is sealed by their father's trust. Wedding plans are set into motion and everything leading up to the wedding begins to snowball.

Secrets are about to be revealed and readers will savor every gleeful word. If you loved The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, you will love The Children.

I LOVED this novel! The narrator choice is sheer genius. Pick this one up and you won't be disappointed.

Highly recommended for adult readers. Book clubs will love this book!

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Romantic Travel Pick: Two Summers

Two Summers
by Aimee Friedman
Point
2016
368 pages
ISBN: 9780545520072

Sweet, upbeat (for the most part), fun, and entertaining, Two Summers will find its audience who long for a quick beach read. A fresh take on a parallel stories book. Summer Everett is excited to be going to France for the summer to see her absentee, somewhat famous painter father. He skipped out on Summer and her mother after being noticed by the art world. Summer's mother is less than optimistic to see her only child visit her father. Summer has conflicting emotions of whether she should stay home and watch while her  best friend Ruby falls in love or should she go into uncharted territory and visit her dream country France?  What if her mother is right? What if her father is less than thrilled to see her?

She opts for France. On the airline ramp, Summer's phone rings. It's nearly dead and she decides not to answer it. This one decision is the turning point of the book. It is the ring of an unanswered phone that seals the fate; it is the kismet that changes the outcome of each story. One story tells the story of Summer landing in France, finding her father's house, discovering his living situation and his absence (once again!), finding romance, following her mother's footsteps during her college years, seeing the same sights her mother saw, and learning that decisions made early in life have lasting repercussions.

The other story is the story of Summer staying home and seeing how a possible crush will play out. Either way, Summer will have to go through changes and make decisions. Family secrets are reveled that will change Summer forever.

A light, quick read for those long, hot dog days of summer. YA romance readers will be thrilled.

Highly recommended grade 8-up. Mature situations. Family drama.

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


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fantasy Romance Adventure Pick: Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands
by Alwyn Hamilton
Viking
2016
314 pages
ISBN: 9780451477538


Editorial Reviews

Review

Raves for REBEL OF THE SANDS:* “Romantic, thrilling, hilarious, and just plain great fun.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “This atmospheric fantasy combines magic, mythology, and the Wild West to create a riveting tale...an exciting, romantic adventure that is unique and all its own.”—Booklist, starred review

* “If the best of the Old West and the coolest parts of Arabian Nights had a baby who then rebelled by going steampunk, the result would be this gem of a book.”—BCCB, starred review

* “Readers will be drawn into the story and won’t want to put this book down.”—School Library Connections, starred review

Rebel of the Sands is a winning bit of storytelling, as well as a homage to storytelling itself. It evokes such disparate influences — 1,001 Arabian Nights, Hindu lore and Navajo myth, as well as, inevitably, the triumvirate of Tolkien, Lucas and Rowling — that at times you wonder whether Hamilton can pull it all off. She can. She has circled a spot on the map and claimed it for her own.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Debut author Hamilton combines elements of Western and Middle Eastern civilization and lore with her own mythology, crafting an enticing, full-bodied story . . .  successfully mingles romance with thrilling stakes, and hints at a welcome sequel.”—Publishers Weekly“A perfect combination of American Westerns and Arabian myths . . . Fans of Sarah Maas and Victoria Aveyard should give this one a try.” —VOYA

Rebel of the Sands is vivid, romantic, and wildly entertaining. You will cheer for Amani the whole way as she escapes the bonds of oppression and finds her own power, and you will mark your calendar for the sequel.”—Rae Carson, bestselling author of the Fire & Thorns trilogy

“Buckle up for a wild ride! Rebel of the Sands is a stunning debut full of irresistible energy, heart-stopping action, and a new voice that sings.”—Alison Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of Eon and Eona

As sweeping as the sands of time, the epic story of Amani Al'Hiza and the kingdom of Miraji, will excite and delight scores of readers. Amani refuses to be pigeon holed as just a lowly girl in this male dominated  kingdom. Amani can shoot a gun better than any man. She is fierce and a fighter, competitive in every aspect of her being. She longs for escape from the small and backward desert outpost of Dustwalk. Its sad shops and even sadder people are stifling.

Hoping to win a shooting match, Amani disguises herself as a boy and enters (I think, give a girl a gun, and I'm in). It is soon clear that even if she wins, the crowd of betters and thugs will never let her escape with her winnings. It's down to three competitors. The blue eyed Bandit (Amani), a handsome foreigner, and a very drunk, very loud behemoth. Amani and the newcomer make a deal to throw the game and the house will still pay them and the drunk will win. An epic brawl breaks out with Amani and the man fleeing.

Now penniless, Amani doesn't know what to do. The gods are smiling upon her when a Buraqi enters her village. If she is able to catch the magic beast, she can use it to escape and later sell it at a huge profit. Amani and Jin escape the town and the Sultan's forces by train, This is the first leg of their journey which will test their strength and spirit.

Secrets will be revealed and old magic will come alive as Amani and Jin manage to keep each other alive and on the move. Vivid world building and breakneck action will keep readers turning the pages. Think Arabian Nights and  epic western. Some may find the foreign names a bit of a mouthful, but like Russian novels, if you can get past the names, the story is intense.

Highly recommended grade 8-up. Mature situations.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Southern Charmer: Tupelo Honey

 
Tupelo Honey
(Kindle)
Lis Anna-Langston
Mapleton Publishers
2016
247 pages

Now available as Kindle

Tupelo Honey will tug at your heartstrings and sing off the pages.  Set in the 1970s in a small Southern town, the story of young Tupelo begins with a picture of her daily existence. Tupelo's home life can only be described as broken and painful. Her mother is a wretched, broken, mean drug addict with a salty mouth and she shows Tupelo no motherly love but instead inflicting  intense abuse--both  physical and mental. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Mother's then boyfriend Nash is charming and sweet to Tupelo and believes in her. He becomes a constant in her life even though her crazy mother continues to push him away. Eventually Nash is lost to Tupelo when her mother grabs her and takes a "vacation" to California. Tupelo is homesick and using her wits figures out a way to trick a cop into sending her home. What Tupelo lacks in parents, she makes up in moxie.

Another coping mechanism is the existence of Moochi, Tupelo's imaginary dog/man friend who helps her out in tight situations. Tupelo is able to hold conversations with him and he gives her good advice and ideas.

Grandmother Marmalade does all she can for her granddaughter--taking her in when her own daughter has a bout with drugs or booze. Marmalade has her hands full with her two grown sons. Mental illness cuts a large swath in this family with both of Tupelo's uncles suffering from possible schizophrenia.

Readers will love Tupelo and empathize with her struggles to find a home and be loved. Through heartbreak, pain, fair, loss, desperation, Tupelo never loses her enthusiastic voice. Tupelo Honey is a wonderful book that teaches us  many lessons about love and family. It is a shame that it contains profanity which may keep it off of middle grade and middle school lists. I understand the use of the profanity. It is used primarily by Tupelo's drugged out, no good mother.

Readers will cheer for  Tupelo as she navigates the problem adults which seem to plague her life. When she sees Nash again I wanted to jump up and down for her! This is one book that proves that although  you can't choose your family, you can  choose where you belong.

Highly recommended grade 5-up with warning of profanity, drug abuse, violence.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

YA Pick: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett
Sourcebooks Fire
Chelsea Sedoti
2017
400 pages
ISBN: 9781492636083

Available January 2017

Twisted and taut, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett will pull at your heartstrings, make you angry, and leave you breathless. Set in a small town that nobody cares about and where nothing interesting ever happens, the story opens with the disappearance of a popular cheerleader. Lizzie is the golden girl that every boy dreams about and every girl tries to be or at least align herself with in the glorified atmosphere that surrounds Lizzie.

Introvert, passive Hawthorn throws  herself into the search for clues in Lizzie's disappearance. Although she hates Lizzie and is secretly jealous of her, Hawthorn will do anything--literally--to find the truth.  Driven by curiosity and a strange passion for wild storytelling, Hawthorn paints a picture of what might have happened to Lizzie.

Did she just disappear? Or did someone wish her harm? Hawthorn does not buy the idea that Lizzie's boyfriend Enzo did it. Maybe Lizzie somehow magically shed her human form and became a wolf. She was--after all--fascinated by wolves. Hawthorn begins to research werewolf lore obsessed with the idea that something magical must have happened to Lizzie.

In order to carry out her ruse, Hawthorn takes a job (Lizzie's old job) at a nearby diner. There she meets tortured musician and Lizzie's ex-boyfriend Enzo. Now Hawthorn is in the position she's always wanted. She is living Lizzie's charmed life. She has the boyfriend and the job.

The closer Hawthorn gets to  Enzo, the more she finds herself falling in love with him. This is all wrong. Enzo is an adult--several years older than Hawthorn. That, and the possibility that he's a murderer should be enough to give Hawthorn a pause, but it doesn't. If anything, it seems to drive her into his arms. Hawthorn's thoughts are  almost too painful to read at this point.


Hawthorn has a difficult time processing what really happened to Lizzie. With her imaginative storytelling behind her, Hawthorn is forced to face facts. How many times does a person lie to herself and to others? What if your entire persona is a lie? What if reality and persona are completely at odds? Wise Yoda-like hippie Sundog tells Hawthorn, "You only know the part of the story people want you to see."

The book comes to an end with Hawthorn learning about real life, not the magical dream world she seems to have built. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett is difficult to digest. It will haunt readers long after they have finished the book.

Recommended grade 9-up. Teen behavior, mean girls, bullying, mature content, teen sex.

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






Tuesday, May 17, 2016

32 Innovative Tools

Noodle Tools Article--32 Innovative Online Tools To Use

Educators and students need to know about these tools! Includes math tutorials, videos, presentations tools, even a tool that can help you manage time, and what about a tool that automatically dims your computer screen to lighting? These are AWESOME!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Middle Grade Pick: Save Me a Seat

Save Me a Seat
by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan
Scholastic Press
2016
240 pages
ISBN: 9780545846608


* "A novel treatment of a familiar situation delivered with fizz and aplomb." --"Kirkus Reviews, "starred review


My Review:

Save Me a Seat is a solid middle grade pick with short chapters and told in alternate chapters by two narrators. Ravi is a recent immigrant from India and new to America and New Jersey. Although his has a genius I.Q.,  he is mistaken for needing special attention. Ravi is hurt and mystified. Don't these grown ups know it's his accent that is hampering him, if anything. Joe is much bigger than his classmates. He lumbers around and has trouble concentrating when there's background noise around him. Due to this, his teachers think he's "slow."

Ravi knew it would be hard starting out in a new school, but it's more like going to a different planet. In Ravi's old school in India, he had been the top of the pecking order: the best and brightest. At his new school, he's the foreigner who talks funny and eats weird smelling food for lunch.

Ravi and Joe don't seem like they'll become friends, but when a school bully strikes, it may be time to unite. It's much easier to face a bully, when you have a friend along.

Grown ups in Save Me a Seat are absolutely clueless as to how bullying works and how to stop it. Every suggestion one of them makes only makes the problem worse. The boys will have to deliver their own comeuppanse .

Recommended middle grades and reluctant readers and anyone new to a school. A great immigrant story which will resonate with many.

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

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Kizoa Video Texas Library Convention

Texas Library Convention 2016

Check out this short Kizoa presentation of images from the Texas Library Convention in Houston, Texas, April 19-22, 2016. Free books, swag, awesome events and luncheons and authors, authors, authors!