Monday, July 25, 2011

Non-Fiction Pick: Wicked Plants:The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Mysteries
by Amy Stewart
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
233 pages with bibliography

Blogger's Note: I never review non-fiction books--until now! I found this book fascinating and entertaining!

Wickedly entertaining and full of fun facts, this engaging non-fiction book will appeal to non-fiction readers and anyone who has a passion for weird and/or macrabre pearls of wisdom. Did you know that if a human eats only corn in his diet and nothing else, he will develop pellagra--a niacin deficiency? Or that the common spud (potato) is related to the much-maligned deadly nightshade plant?

The author teaches that plants are beautiful but many are deadly. Deadly plants are used in magic, too; for example, in the popular Harry Potter series Professor Snape brews wolfsbane (aconite) to assist Remus Lupin in his transformation to a wolf.

Plants are divided into categories of deadly, intoxicating, illegal, destructive, and dangerous. Deadly plants include corn, rhubarb, red kidney beans, potatoes, and cassava. Plants that we normally eat can make us deathly ill and even cause death in some cases.

Intoxicating plants are the betal nut, wormwood (absinthe), and tequila.
Illegal plants include coca, tabernanthe iboga, and opium poppy.

This entertaining compendium will amuse and enlighten. Even the grass we choose for our yards can be dangerous!

Highly recommended for ages 12-up, grades 6-up. Reluctant readers will find this small book fascinating and a quick read.

FTC required disclaimer: I saw this title at the local bookstore and then saw if offered by the publisher. I received this novel from the publisher. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Giveaway: Spoiled by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Up for Grabs! You will want a copy for your readers! Don't miss this one!

5 copies of Spoiled--a seriously entertaining romp through fashion and the world of spoiled Hollywood celebutants written by two very funny, very catty, very savvy authors responsible for the fashion site Go Fug Yourself!

Post a comment and include your email address so that I may contact you. Also, please let me know city and state just because I'm nosy.

Deadline for posting is Thursday, July 28 at noon MST (Mountain Standard Time)

Winners will be notified by email. Please check your email within 24 hours of the deadline. Winners who do not reply back to me will forfeit the book and the title will be given to the next comment on the blog. Copies will ship directly from the publisher. Good luck! Pamela

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Funny Fashionista Pick: Spoiled

by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Poppy (Hachette Book Group)
360 pages
ISBN: 978-0-316-09825-0

Funny, cocky, cock-sure (one author's last name is Cocks, for goodness sake), quirky, mean-spirited, and fashion-forward, Spoiled is a laugh-out-loud, in-your-face commentary of what it's like to grow up rich, spoiled and bitchy in Beverly Hills. Part "90210," part "Mean Girls," part "Pretty Little Liars" this novel will appeal to savvy readers with a passion for fashion and a penchant for naughty, haughty runway model ideals and diva behavior.

Brooke Berlin is the sixteen year old daughter of macho, masculine, and beautiful man-hunk Hollywood action movie star Brick Berlin. Brick has never met a camera, or a woman, he didn't like. His hazel eys, his brooding good looks, and his stone cold abs leave women fainting in his wake. Brooke hopes to use her father's celebrity to open her own doors. When she's out power shopping on Rodeo Drive--her favorite past-time--she manages to catch the eyes of the papparazzi, stealing the thunder from "one of the lesser Kardashians." (funny, right?)

Her life is sweet--being the pampered princess in a huge Hollywood mansion--the mansion so huge that their house "embarrassed mansions" nearby--armed with an assistant named after a creamy French cheese--Brie, and a best friend named after a peppery, fancy lettuce--Arugula, and able to spend unlimited amounts of cash and credit on fashion finds should make a girl happy, but Brooke longs for her father's undivided attention--she needs some serious "face time" with Poppa. Just once, she would love five minutes alone with her famous father--without interruptions from his agent, his publicist, his assistant, his assistant's assistant, his astrologist, his trainer, or any of the other minions who flock to his famous feet. Poor, spoiled Brooke remains a Paris Hilton wanna-be with serious daddy issues. Her mother escaped Hollywood years earlier without looking back and has no relationship at al with her only daughter.

Enter Molly. Molly arrives out of nowhere from Cairo Park, Indiana. Her mother Lauren has just died after battling cancer, and on her death bed, announces that Molly is the secret daughter of Brick Berlin, famous Hollywood movie star. They met when Lauren was a costume designer on one of Brick's films. His films are quirkily titled like "Tequila Mockingbird" where his character "rescued his fiancee from South American sex slavery." Molly has no other living relatives, and she is shipped off to Hollywood to meet her famous new father and her half-sister.

There is no way Brooke is going to share the spotlight with some hayseed from Indiana and no way she's going to share a precious moment with their father--HER father. Brooke begins a campaign to let Molly know just how unwanted her presence is.

Enter Shelby, spoiled daughter of the entertainment industry's seedy tabloid magazine Hey! She makes it her job to befriend Molly, ruin Brooke, and gather notoriety for her own celebrity reporting. Shelby's an evil schemer who craves drama and spreads gossip. She invents half-lies and rumors and has the two celebrity siblings soon fighting.

The Hollywood glamour set always has had their bizarre behavior--from throwing parties for their pets to naming their kids. Spaulding, for example, is the the daughter of a professional tennis player who sold the naming rights to his kid (Spaulding tennis balls). Molly--the "normal" mid-west girl says, "Good thing he wasn't in NASCAR...she would have been named Valvoline!"

This novel has it all--sister in-fighting, abandonment issues by a parent, absent mother figures, clique-ish high school behavior, severe cattiness, and finally a happy ending.

Spoiled was a gift to read--impossible to put down and tickled my funny bone. Girls will love the unforgettable characters of Brooke and Molly and laugh at the fashion and celebrity jokes, like Brooke's nerves "were as frayed as a pair of tights on Taylor Momsen." (I know, funny, right?)

Recommended grades 7-12. Younger girls may not "get" the puns and fashion jokes or the snarky comments about the Hollywood in-crowd.

No sex. One f-bomb but it is well-deserved. The authors write the fashion blog Go Fug Yourself--check it out--clever and catty.

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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Girl Pick: Series: Canterwood Crest #12: Unfriendly Competition

Canterwood Crest #12: Unfriendly Competition
By Jessica Burkhart
Simon and Schuster 2011
178 pages

Blogger's Note: This is a guest review from my BFF and fellow reviewer and blogger Leslie Rush. Leslie is a high school teacher and avid ya reader, reviewer and blogger. This is her fourth book review.

“Tween” friendship drama, very light romance.

Sasha Silver continues her journey of boarding school drama and competitive horsemanship in book #12 of the Canterbrook Crest series. Sasha and her BFFs Brittany, Alison and “frenemy” Heather --apparently in a previous book there were some serious middle-school conflicts-- are preparing for the Huntington Classic, as members of the Youth Equestrian National Team (YENT).

In the very first chapter, the girls are whisked into the headmistress’s office, Someone is blogging about the school and its students, spreading rumors and lies as only 7th and 8th grade girls can do. It could be anyone--including Sasha’s former BFFs Paige and Callie. Or Julia, who is a friend and roommate but didn’t make the YENT.

The IP address for the blog has been traced to the girls’ dorm, and unless someone comes forward within two weeks‘ time, they will all be (OMG!) expelled.

Armed with designer clothes, Blackberry Messaging, the perfect teen boy crush, and the fav lip gloss flavors from Lip Smackers, Sasha and her BFF/ teammates try to figure out who is behind the nasty blog, and plan a birthday party for Heather.

Meanwhile, their trainer Mr. Connor has a frightening riding accident the week before the competition, which unnerves the whole team. Then Lauren, a new student and excellent rider from Sasha’s old school, shows up. Competition, perhaps?

Working through these conflicts and dramas teaches Sasha the value of loyalty and teamwork. Horse lovers and fans of the series will enjoy this book. Ages 9-13.

Note: The jacket synopsis is not a true picture of the story. The arrival of Lauren is not the focus of the book, as she shows up in the last 30 pages.

FTC Required disclaimer: I/We received no monetary compensation for this review. I received this book from the publisher.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chick Pick: Moonglass

by Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster
232 pages

Poignant, touching, and fresh, Moonglass is a triumph of a first novel. Anna is only seven when her mother walks out into the surf and drowns. Now at age sixteen, her father is uprooting Anna to go live in the small beach town of Crystal Cove, California. Anna is not looking forward to the move--she doesn't want to make new friends or live in a new place.

Things start to look up when she sees the beachfront cottage they get to live in. The next day she meets a motormouth girl named Ashley who assures her that they will be BFF's and she meets Tyler, a hot lifeguard. Maybe this won't be such a bad place after all.

Sadly, Anna keeps remembering the night her mother walked into the ocean--maybe it's because they are now living in the little town where her parents met and fell in love. What was it that her mother was looking for in the surf? Why are some of the cottages abandoned? Who is the strange man who crawls the beach every day? Why is Joy so interested in telling Anna about her mother?

Part romance, part mystery, but all mesmerizing, Moonglass is a sure winner.

Highly recommended ages 12-up. Some skinny-dipping but no graphic details, no sex.

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

Ghostly Pick: Queen of the Dead

The Queen of the Dead
by Stacey Kade
272 pages

Will Killian and Alona Dare are quite an impressive team--with Will's good looks and kind manners and Alona's vivacious smile and homecoming queen demeanor, they are laugh out loud funny and verbally spar throughout the novel. Only one thing is wrong-Alona is dead, yep, dead. She hasn't been able to "move on" and has found Will, a spirit-talker. She becomes his ghost talking sidekick as they try to figure out why she can't seem to find her way into the after-life.

When Will realizes his "gift" is not the only one around, and that there's a whole society of people like him, he gravitates toward them leaving Alona alone and jealous.

Poor Alona--so alive and popular in life, now dead and dissed by her "almost" boyfriend and soon to be forgotten by her parents. Her mother has started cleaning her room, throwing out Alona's possessions and her father has remarried and now has a baby girl on the way. What's a ghost girl to do?

Starving for attention from Will and trying to reconnect with her parents, Alona visits Mina, a classmate who is in a coma. Somehow Alona and Mina get combined or merged and Alona's now trapped in Mina's body. How will she reach Will now?

Fun, funny, serious ghost-busting paraphernalia, and high school hi-jinks!

Recommended grades 8-up. You don't have to read book one to understand this novel but it may make more sense to start with The Ghost and the Goth.

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

Summer Reading Club Pick: The Help

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Berkley Publishing Group (Penguin)
530 pages with reader's guide

Once in a lifetime, an achievement in literature comes along that literally sings itself off the pages! The Help held this reviewer spellbound from the opening paragraph. Told in chapters by black maids and nannies with a few chapters told by Jackson debutante Skeeter--who, by the way, is ashamed of the way her friends and even her own mother treats "the help." Skeeter is appalled by what she sees and hears at the oh, so righteous, white dinner tables and ladies teas. She begins to get an idea--why not ask some of the maids what they think about their treatment? How do they feel when a white woman acts that way? How do they feel when they can't even use the same bathroom as a white lady? How do they feel when they have their own plate, cup and utensils, and they have to keep them separate and wash them separately from the white folks' dishes?

This forward thinking is likely to get Skeeter into big trouble--her white friends may disown her and force her to leave town. But the trouble that faces her black informants will be much worse. In 1962, America is facing the Civil Rights movement at a time when lynching is not unheard of in the American South. It is during these years a church burns with three little girls inside, Medgar Evers is shot in front of his home and his children watch him die, a reverand marches to Washington to declare "I have a dream..." While most of the country watches on television, the events unfold in Jackson, Mississippi. The residents, both black and white, are a part of the country's seedy past.

Skeeter takes down the ladies's stories, typing them on her trusty old typewriter. She contacts a publishing company in New York and an editor agrees to take a look at her draft. When Skeeter realizes that the stories may actually be published, she works at a frantic pace, but she insures that the ladies' names and information is private. If anyone from Jackson knew what she was doing, or that black "help" was a part of this book, there would be blood to pay.

Book clubs around the country are going to snatch up this engaging read. The Help should be required reading in English classrooms throughout the country. It is this generation's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Highly, highly recommended for mature high school readers and adult readers. This novel has clear cross-over appeal to the ya market.

FTC Reguired Disclaimer: I had heard about this book from a friend and knew it was going to come to film. I picked up my copy one Saturday at Sam's Club for $9.99--the best thing I ever purchased for $9.99! I started reading it on Saturday morning and found that I could not put it down except to sleep. Don't miss this book. The cover says it all, "If you read only one book...let this be it."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Win a free book: The Hot List by Hillary Homzie: Interview With the author

The Hot List by Hillary Homzie

A great new tween novel that girls will love! Hillary Homzie is graciously giving me 5 copies of this new novel for readers of my blog. Simply post a comment and be sure to include an email contact and your location (city, state) only because I'm nosy! I'll contact winners via email and they will provide mailing addresses. Hillary will ship copies to the winners!

Giveaway opens July 6 at 12:01 a.m.
Deadline for posting comments is July 13 at noon MST. Good luck, everyone!

Here's a smiling photo of Hillary herself! She must be dreaming up her next book!

Interview with the author Hillary Homzie

Hillary agreed to answer some questions about her book The Hot List, being a writer, and being a tween. Here is the interview. Please post your comments after this interview! Thanks, Pamela

1. In your new novel The Hot List, the BFFs Maddie and Sophie dream up the idea of a list of the 10 hottest boys and girls in their school. Where did you get this idea?

Oh, that’s a good question. I have three kids and two of them are in the middle school age range, which means I have lots of middle schoolers in and out of my house. Let’s just say that I enjoy my unofficial job as mother and spy. I want to be the house that kids feel comfortable hanging out at, and, please, I want you to know I’m not spying all of the time. I mean, I do have things to do like fold laundry, make dinner, and, um, write books. But, yes, I am a big eavesdropper and have been known to ask lots of questions, too. And the hot list is something that I found out about. In other words, there is a middle school somewhere in Northern California with one of those lists. And yes, they wrote it up on the stall of the bathroom. Sometimes I think I should write non-fiction books. But nobody would believe my stories… (blogger Pamela grins at this).

2. Sophie is quite the daredevil when it comes to writing on the bathroom wall/defacing school property, yet she seems very introspective, too. What qualities do you share with Sophie?

I’m definitely an introvert but I’m learned through the years to become an extroverted introvert so if you met me, you might even think, hey, she’s really outgoing. But it’s a learned behavior but I’ve come to enjoy being outgoing. But like Sophie, I do have an adventurous side to me, for sure. When I was 22, I headed to New York and sought out a career as a sketch comedian. Looking back, I have to say it was pretty brave. And I’ve backpacked with a bunch of friends in Mali right after College when that country wasn’t exactly stable. We all were thrown in jail due to trumped up charges and I was able to negotiate our way of jail due to (1) my ability to speak French and (2) some fast thinking on my feet that amounted to a desperate lie that I was the American ambassador’s cousin (the future fiction writer at work) and (3) remembering that what they mostly wanted was money. And lastly, like Sophie, I had a parent pass away when I was young. My father died when I was an older teenager and I knew the feeling of weirdness when your parent begins to date other people. I definitely feel empathy for Sophie on the dating score. But in truth, once you learn to let go, watching your parent meet another person can be a wonderful growth experience.

3. You have 3 boys of your own and no daughters--where do you go/search/dream up the girl-y catch-phrases and girl-y-isms?

The truth? As mentioned, I’m a big eavesdropper.

4. Sophie is a list-maker. Are you a list-maker? How does making lists help/hurt? What does list-making say about a person?

Oh, I’m a huge list maker. I write on everything, especially little scraps of paper. And I feel so much better after I do it. The biggest problem for me is that I write on little scraps of paper which end up scattered throughout my house and when it comes time to find that little bit of info that seemed so crucial at the time, I can’t find it. I feel a bit like Sisyphus in that regard. But, nevertheless, the very act of making a list prompts my brain to remember things. The dangers of listmaking—well, if you write things that you don’t want others to see and then you leave it in the house where they can see. Not a good idea. I have finally figured out the art of writing in one dedicated notebook. The only problem is sometimes I can’t find my notebook…

5. Who is Squid modeled after? A real boy or someone in the media? Someone you may have known as a young girl? One of your own sons?

Squid is not based on any one person that I know, although he’s definitely an amalgamation of many boys that I know. I mean I do have three boys and they have friends those friends have friends so it’s pretty easy to take a pinch of that and a pinch of this. That being said, my middle son is fantastically limber and definitely shares some Squid like personality traits. I have to confess to really liking Squid.

6. What is Sophie's favorite food?
Oh, gosh, she loves pretzel sticks.

7. Favorite cake?
Flourless chocolate cake.

8. Favorite soft drink?

She’s a Sprite girl. It’s mostly because her dad won’t let her have caffeinated drinks yet so that might change in the future. When she younger, she loved orange. But Sprite she feels is much more grown-up.

9. If you were Sophie's age, would she be your BFF?

Actually, probably not. I would have been too introverted and she would have been too introverted and so it would have been hard for us to get to know each other. But if I had lived next door to her and actually gotten a chance to know her, I would have LOVED her. I think it would be much easier to get to know Sophie as she appears at the end of the book. When it’s easier for her to reach out to girls other than Maddie.

Now for questions to you, the author:

10.What made you decide to write for the tween crowd?

It’s odd but I remember my tween years better than any other age. The first children’s story I ever wrote was for tweens and I sold it to Teen Magazine when I was 22. I think I’m emotionally stuck there and in the children’s writing world, it turns out to be a good thing!

11.What novel/genre haven't you tackled--but you would like to in the future?

Oh, I really want to try YA! It’s harder for me because I was never a classic teen so I don’t really have classic teen memories. My college years were probably closer to conventional teen years.

12.Are you one of those people/authors who walks around with a notebook and writes down stuff you hear/observe?

Um, see answer #4. I write on little pieces of paper ALL OF THE TIME!

13. What traits do you have personally that make a good writer?

I love to observe and read.

14. What traits do you wish you had?
I wish I was a better speller. Spell check is my best friend.

15. What advice would you give tween girls on navigating the cliques and problems of middle school?

Be who you are and those who are like-minded will naturally gravitate towards you.

16. In five words, what is the best advice you ever got?

Write five days a week!

17. What is your mood at this moment?

Happy because I’m on vacation. Always remember that downtime is good for the soul!
Thank you, Hillary, for your interview and for sponsoring 5 copies of your fun novel to giveaway! Smile....