Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Conspiracy Theory Pick: Adaptation


Adaptation
by Malinda Lo
Little, Brown and Company
2012
386 pages

Compelling, clever, twisted, and tense, Adaptation will have you looking under your bed and in closets, hurrying down dark streets and worrying that the guy in a dark suit might be following you.

Reese and David are at Phoenix Airport waiting on a flight home to San Francisco. They were just in a debate tournament and are looking forward to getting home. Reese knows she blew their chances at the win and worries that David is blaming her. She watches as birds begin falling from the sky onto the tarmac outside. Something’s wrong, Reese feels it. Then news stations start reporting plane crashes all over the country. Birds are downing aircraft. The president cancels all air traffic and Reese, David and their teacher are trapped—along with everyone else flying that day.

Suddenly there’s no cell phone reception either. The kids convince Mr. Chapman to rent a car and drive back home. When they stop for gas, Mr. Chapman is carjacked and shot. David starts the car and he and Reese race away from the crime scene as the gas station blows up. As the kids race through the desert, they are in a car accident.

When Reese wakes up, she doesn’t realize she’s been in a coma for twenty seven days. Where is Reese and why are the doctors keeping everything so hush-hush? David seems okay, too, but they both feel “different” somehow. After signing a non-disclosure agreement from the government, the kids agree to keep their treatment and the facility a secret and they are escorted home.

While they were in comas, the country has been put on lock-down. In many cities, rioting has occurred and the feds have enforced curfews and taken back the streets. Reese’s friend Julian has been working with a “conspiracy theory” Internet guru, and finds out about a government plot to keep the bird problem a secret. The government is hiding a lot more that a few thousand dead birds and Reese and David are right in the middle of the government’s secret program. A girl named Amber befriends Reese and soon they become much more than friends, but what is Amber’s secret? She says she’s trying to help Reese, but is she? (She immediately became suspect for me).

Reese and David notice that they’re not themselves. Their wounds heal in minutes and they are starting to understand each other’s thoughts. When Julian starts digging into Area 51 and uncovering government secrets, he unleashes a storm of publicity. Just what is going on in the Nevada desert? What happened to Reese and David?

The government conspiracy was easy to believe and even the fact that aliens had visited Earth was conceivable, but I felt the relationship between Amber and Reese was unbelievable; suddenly a girl wakes up from a coma, is greeted by government agents, is lied to, is forced to sign an agreement that places her in grave danger, and she turns around and trusts a complete stranger immediately with her secrets and her love? When Reese’s mother catches the two girls kissing, she has no reaction. Also, Reese’s mother is a lawyer with friends in high places, yet she accepts the fact that the government has had held her daughter for 27 days and returns her, yet she still has no reaction, legal or otherwise. It seemed almost as if Reese’s mother was involved in the conspiracy.

Recommended grade 8-up. Girl on girl kissing. Reese questions whether or not she is gay, but realizes she likes David, too. She has a discussion with Julian about whether she might be bisexual. The Amber/Reese relationship does not go any place and it’s over before it begins. Since there are gay characters in most prime time network television shows, students will likely look past her brief “like” with Amber. No language. Some violence.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Early Reader Pick: I Loathe You


I Loathe You
By David Slonim
Illustrations by the author
Aladdin
2012
24 pages

Hilarious and creepy monsters play a back and forth game of who loathes who the most. Big Monster claims he loathes Little Monster, “…more than chicken pox, more than stinky, sweaty socks. More than garbage in a dump or splinters sticking in my rump.”

Little Monster proclaims, “I loathe you more than bellyaches!”

Their funny banter and rude insults make them both all the more lovable for

any little monster…er, reader. Kids with a great sense of humor will adore the Monsters and their antics. Playful illustrations of Little Monster finally taking a bath and losing his fleas will have young readers laughing. Little Monster worries what if someday he might lose his stink? Would Big Monster still loathe him? Of course he would!

Highly recommended for young readers age 4-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)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pamela's Picks: Best Books 2012 (middle and YA)

Pamela’s Picks 2012

These are the best books I’ve reviewed this year. I may have missed some great ones (I’m sure I have, but here’s my picks); these are the books I’ve read, reviewed, enjoyed, and decided that they represent the best reads for 2012.

Best books for middle school:



The Last Dragonslayer—quaint, quirky, and clever with quick banter and a bodacious female protagonist and a dragon you will fall in love with.




The Normal Kid—sweet!




Spy School—great pick for reluctant reader; clever writing, great story! Fun spy stuff!



The Quick Fix—middle school angst and pranks; one very savvy middle school private eye

Best books YA and high school:

First, let me say it was a big year for zombies!

Best zombie books:




A Bad Day for Voodoo—a cross between "Shaun of the Dead" and "Revenge of the Babysitter." Very funny! You will laugh out loud…





Undead—another great zombie book!

And all the others:




BZRK—very thrilling thriller that rockets along; this one made my skin crawl due to its “ick” factor




Butter—a poignant story of a high school boy who gets bullied and abused because of his weight






The Raven Boys—book one in the new trilogy by Stiefvater who just keeps getting better with each new book; this one’s a ghost story




Ditched: A Love Story—Prom night from hell! Funny as heck!




Sons of the 613— a great story of two brothers who find common ground and understanding; poignant ending




Cold Fury—this is one girl who can kick some serious butt!






Between the Lines—never read a story quite like this one; charming!




Unwholly—takes Unwind to a whole new level




Skylark—the cover drew me in, but the story sold me

Terror Pick: Adult Fiction




What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz—his most terrifying yet, and I’m a lifelong Koontz fan. Trust me on this one.

Best Book Covers 2012




Skylark—simply beautiful but disturbing




Cold Fury—I wanted to read the book when I saw the cover and the premise; mafia teen princess running from the bad mafia guys? I’m in!



Undead—who doesn’t love a cheerleader holding an axe dripping with blood?




Skinny—again, the cover sells the book and it helps to have the quote from Lauren Myracle on the front cover.




Obsidian—smoldering good looks and the words “They’re not like us” sells the book


Happy reading! And here's to 2013--another great year for YA books! Pamela

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chick Pick: Decked With Holly


Decked With Holly
by Marni Bates
Kensington Publishing
2012
244 pages


Funny, snarky, quaint and heartfelt, Decked With Holly is a great Christmas surprise! The cover--with its seasonal red and green title, the mistletoe, the girl in the Santa hat and the Christmas tree--will welcome readers to pick it up. Julie Kagawa says, “Fans of Meg Cabot will find Marni’s voice equally charming and endearing.” I loved the seasonal cover but I think the girl on the cover looks much older than a teenager.

After Holly embarrasses herself in front of an entire mall full of festive shoppers and their children by slapping a perverted, drunk Santa and then falling over the Christmas tree and wrecking the decorations, she embarks on a cruise with her entire family: her beloved grandpa, her mean-spirited, bullying aunt and two model thin girl cousins from hell.

Holly is seasick and puke-y and finds herself roomless kicked out of her stateroom by her evil cousins. She grabs a blanket and heads for the deck thinking that she’ll spend the night in a deck chair. A wave of nausea overcomes her and she ducks into the nearest open door, finding the bathroom and vomiting. Next thing she knows, she’s leaving the bathroom and someone yells and mistakes her for a zombie and sprays pepper spray in her face.

Nick is 1/3 of a rock band called ReadySet; they are the “next big thing” and have hordes of screaming teen females stalking them and paparazzi vying for their pictures. Nick takes a break from the crazed fan-hoopla and books a cruise. He doesn’t know that a deathly sick girl is puking her guts up in his bathroom. He sees someone leaving his bathroom and freaks out, spraying that someone with pepper spray.

When they are both caught by the "paps" and photographed, Nick has to spin the story the right way for the band’s sake. Holly agrees to be Nick’s fake girlfriend for the duration of the cruise. Nick and Holly display wonderful back and forth banter that runs the gamut from sarcasm to ugly insults. Holly makes fun of Nick’s celebrity status, and Nick calls her “The Mess.”

When the fauxmance is over, what is left? Readers will love Holly—a believable character who’s not the typical romance novel drop dead gorgeous—she’s a “normal” girl. They will love Nick, too; he’s a rock star who’s a real guy. Girls will be smitten by this frolicking read.

Highly, highly recommended grade 8-up. No sex, but the mention of sex and virginity does come up. Some kissing and holding hands. No language except “slutty” and Holly gives a wave with her middle finger extended.


FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for myself because I need a "light" girl-y read after so many dark dystopias. I will add it to the library shelves for more mature readers. It is pretty tame even by television standards. "Gossip Girl" is way more scandalous.

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, December 13, 2012

Tooth Fairy Pick: A Very Beary Tooth Fairy

The Very Beary Tooth Fairy
Arthur A. Levine
Illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen
Scholastic Press
2013
32 pages

Available February 1, 2013

Delightful and colorful illustrations will thrill young readers and art lovers of all ages. Using watercolors and graphite, illustrator Sarah S. Brannen brings young Zach the bear to life.

Zach lives with his mother and sister Leah and has been warned to stay away from humans because, “They are dangerous and unpredictable…” but Zach wanders too close to a campground and sees a human family. He spies on them and sees a boy asking his mother about his loose tooth. The boy’s mother tells him to leave the tooth alone and later it will come out and he can leave it under his pillow in hopes that the tooth fairy will visit. Zach wonders if the tooth fair is a bear or a human. He asks his mother if the tooth fairy could be a bear. She tells him that anyone can be a bear.

The next day, Zach loses his tooth and worries if the tooth fairy is human she might be dangerous. When the fairy visits, she explains that she is a bear. She leaves Zach money and the picture of Sandy Koufax over his bed magically changes into a bear-like Sandy Koufax and Zach’s human-looking doll is magically turned into a bear.

Recommended age 3-up. This is a cute book with beautiful art and a kind message. The fact that humans are dangerous and unpredictable may be frightening for some little ones unless it is explained that bears might fear humans.

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)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Short Story: "Jenny's First Adventure"--View for Free


To check out “Jenny’s First Adventure”, click here


From the publisher:

In My Epic Fairy Tale Fail (March 2013), Jenny is back with an all new adventure. Her new mission is in the Land of Tales, the crazy place where all the fairy tales come from and also the place her parent disappeared seven years ago. Jenny must battle an evil witch and complete three impossible tasks. Being an adventurer may be no fairy tale, but this is one mission Jenny can’t fail.

About the author: (from the publisher):

About The Author

Anna Staniszewski lives outside of Boston with her husband and an adorably crazy dog. She was named the Boston Public Library's 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Discovery Award. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and jumping rope with mermaids. Visit her at www.annastan.com




Monday, December 10, 2012

Dystopian Fantasy: Magisterium


Magisterium
by Jeff Hirsch
Scholastic Press
2012
320 pages

Read the first three chapters here

Unique and creepy, mysterious and dangerous, magical and dreadful, Magisterium is the second novel for YA author Jeff Hirsch (The Eleventh Plague).

Glenn remembers her mother vaguely. She went away years ago and no one has heard from her since. Glenn’s father became depressed and retreated into his workshop spending long hours working on The Project, a nonsensical invention he’s been tinkering with—sometimes for days on end. Glenn has to remind him to eat and to come in and sleep.

Then, her father discovers what he’s been looking for. Proof that the Rift was on purpose; proof the government has been covering up its secrets. Beyond their walls, there is a world out there—a world where his wife has disappered.

Glenn panics and tells her doctor about her father’s outlandish tale; the doctor works for the government and turns in Glenn and her father. Glenn’s father is taken away by armed guards, but Glenn escapes with her friend Kevin. They flee the fence and are soon in a strange land where magic is possible. Is her father right? Is Glenn’s mother here and will Glenn find her? What’s so important about the bracelet her father gave her? Why would the government kill for it?

Part science fiction, part dystopian novel, part fantasy and a little bit of romance, Magisterium will take readers to places they’ve never dreamed of.

Recommended grades 7-up. Some violence. No profanity.

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)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Early Reader Pick: Lucky Ducklings


Lucky Ducklings
by Eva Moore
Illustrations by Nancy Carpenter
Orchard Books
2013
32 pages

Available February 1, 2013

Using digital media and charcoal, illustrator Nancy Carpenter brings a duck family to life in this charming and sweet modern story about a quaint town near a serene pond.

Mama Duck takes her brood to the city park. The Duck family enjoys eating what some people have discarded, then, they waddle down the street. Mama Duck leads her family of Pippin, Bippin, Tippin, Dippin and “…last of all…Little Joe. “ When they reach a storm drain, Mama plows on ahead not realizing her little ducklings are in any danger. The little ducks fall into large openings in the drain and are under the street, crying for help. Mama Duck is afraid for her ducks. Luckily, some people saw the incident and call for help.

Three firemen show up and a smart man named Perry takes a cable from his pickup and ties it to the drain grate. He is able to lift off the grate and the firemen rescue the ducklings to Mama Duck’s delight. The onlookers cheer.

This true incident happened in June 2000 and because of it, the town of Montauk, New York, changed the grates for their storm drains to ones with smaller openings so that no more unsuspecting wildlife would fall in. Hooray for lucky ducklings!

Young readers will love the spunky, little ducklings and giggle at Little Joe, who’s always last and always trying to keep up--that's him on the cover, bringing up the rear, as usual. He waddles to the beat of his own drummer, for sure.

Highly,highly recommended for young readers ages 4-up.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

YA Pick: Crash (Visions, Book 1)


Crash
Visions, Book 1
By Lisa McMann
Simon Pulse
2013
256 pages

Available January 8, 2013

Don’t make any plans to leave the house because you won’t be going anywhere once you open the pages of book 1 in this new thriller series! This unputdownable novel grabbed me from the first page.

Two Italian immigrant families own competing pizza places near one another—years ago, the two patriarchs had a knock-down drag-out fight and since then, neither man wants anything to do with the other and they have forbidden their children from seeing or speaking to each other.

Jules is fine with her father’s rule, that is until she starts seeing a vision—she sees a snowplow careening into rival’s restaurant, a big explosion, and nine body bags in the snow. First, she sees it on a billboard, then in windows, then on television, and as the day draws nearer, she can’t stop the vision. It’s everywhere like a movie loop in her mind. Jules is forced to warn Sawyer Angotti that she sees his restaurant exploding and him in a body bag—and she admits to herself that she’s carried the torch for Sawyer since age seven. She’s been secretly watching him for years, hoping he would speak to her or approach her. Once she’s warned him, Sawyer thinks Jules is a little strange and warns her to stay away from him and his family’s restaurant.

Jules goes undercover sneaking around their restaurant parking lot and scoping out the scene; she even begins wearing disguises and sneaking out at night, secretly driving the pizza delivery truck and parking down the street.

Jules is forced to tell brother Trey about her visions. Trey thinks she may need to see a doctor but agrees that he won’t tell their parents. Jules begs him to give her until Valentine’s Day…she’s figured out that the accident will happen on that day and she must warn Sawyer one more time, even if it means she’ll never have a chance with him.

Is Jules seeing the future? And what caused that rift between her family and the Angottis anyway? Why can’t they bury the hatchet and move on? Why is her father so angry when he catches Jules talking to Sawyer? Can Jules change the future? And what about her family’s past?

I loved, loved, loved Jules DeMarco! She's funny, self-deprecating, quirky, sweet, caring, and a little unbalanced. Jules is a spunky list-maker and a real go-getter. Readers will root for Jules and Sawyer to work things out and get romantic; book 2 promises even more romance.

The ending leaves the reader balancing precariously at the edge of a steep precipice-- a real cliff hanger. Teens will be sorry when this book ends and breathless for the urgent release of book 2. McMann has another winning series with Visions. I can see how this YA novel would make a great teen movie; are you listening, Hollywood?

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. One long, romantic, steamy kiss, but prime time television features kisses like this one. Some light profanity and the term virgin and virginity are brought up, but Jules is a “good” girl. Jules’ brother Trey is gay but no mention of anything sexual or inappropriate, just that he may be crushing on Sawyer.

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)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

High School Pick: Butter


Butter
by Erin Jade Lange
Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers
2012
294 pages

Poignant and real, Butter will resonate with teen readers who have ever had a weight problem or known someone who battles food demons.

For morbidly obese Marshall, life revolves around food. He can easily eat an entire bag of Doritos, a sack of M&Ms , a tub of ice cream and still have room for more. The saxophone is the only outlet he has from food--that, and chatting online with Anna. Anna thinks she’s talking to a boy from another school who plays the saxophone; she has no idea she’s talking to the fat kid in her class.

School is misery for Butter (Marshall). No one really talks to him, and he has no friends. He sits alone in the cafeteria, shunned by the pretty, the popular, and the slender. He has a special bench he sits on since he can’t fit in any of the regular seats.


Butter gets angry when he sees a news report of how an airline will begin charging overweight people for two seats instead of one. Butter sets up a website and calls it “butterslastmeal.” He invites others to comment on his plan to literally eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve.

He expects to get insults and rude comments, but instead he finds popularity for the first time. Mean guys who forced him to eat an entire stick of butter, and then nicknamed him Butter are now his BFF’s. They move his bench to their table and seemingly care about having an actual conversation with him. Students rally around Butter’s plan; they have a morbid fascination to see if Butter will go through with his suicide plan.

Anna is waiting for New Year’s Eve when she will finally meet “Saxman,” her internet crush. Butter plans to go to the party on New Year’s Eve where all the events will unravel. Will Butter go through with it? What if he does? What will happen if he doesn’t?

Highly recommended grade 8-up. Some language, some drinking at a party, coke is mentioned but no one actually has it or does it, bullying, and some mature themes. I purchased this book for the library but would warn others that the language issues and underage partying may be offensive.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for the library. 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, December 4, 2012

Non-Fiction Pick: Texas Got It Right!


See a story about the book here

Texas Got It Right!
By Sam Wyly & Andrew Wyly
Foreward by Walter Isaacson
Melchor Media
2012
176 pages with index
Full color photos

Okay, I admit it. I am a bit biased being a Texan and all, but Texas Got It Right! This quick read pays homage to that pioneer, secessionist spirit Texans are so proud of, and for good reason, it turns out.

Did you know that Texas has the most miles of public roads of any state? Texas has the greatest number of airports and miles of frieght railroads? Did you know the convenience store was invented in Texas and the fast food hamburger—our very own Whataburger born in Corpus Christi? If you folks have never had a Whataburger, you’re really missing out. Their green chili double cheeseburger is simply sublime!

Not only #1 in freight, Texas has become #1 in exporting kerosene, cement, concrete, molasses, crude oil, aluminum ore, gasoline, plastics and sorghum. Texans, at heart, are still cowboys, and Texas leads the nation in beef production. Texas leads the nation in energy production and produces more wind energy than anyone else as it does in shale gas and natural gas.


As enterprise and industry come to Texas so do people. “In the last decade, 850,000 Americans moved to Texas, while 1.5 million fled California.” New residents flooded into Houston and the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro areas to seek employment. Corporations are leaving California in droves and moving into Dallas and Austin areas. J.C. Penney, Bubba Gump Shrimp, and Tenet Healthcare have all become Texans companies. Apple and Google have expanded or moved their headquarters to Texas, too.

Texas has always been known for its wild-cat spirit and maverick ways, but was celebrated by General George S. Patton who said, “Give me an army of West Point graduates and I’ll win the battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies, and I’ll win the war.” Texas A & M Aggies sent 14,000 troops into WWII and 29 Aggies became generals.

Texas can also brag about being home to Whole Foods, Mary Kay and Southwest Airlines. The home of America’s team--the Dallas Cowboys-- is in Texas. Friday night lights happen every fall Friday in Texas towns all over the state, and colleges clamor for Texas high school players.

All in all, Texas Got It Right!
Highly, highly recommended for any fact or trivia lover and any Texan will eat this 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)

Magic Most Foul


The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Magic Most Foul)
by Leanna Renee Heiber
Sourcebooks Fire
2012
336 pages


From the publisher:

· Foul Magic: In DARKER STILL, Natalie steps through a painting and discovers that magic and demons exist in 1880 New York City. Find out what makes a story have just the right amount of magic, mystery and suspense as Leanna lets us in on key elements that make her stories so thrilling.

From the author:

My love of historical fiction was always entwined with my fascination with fantasy and the paranormal. The Victorian era is a perfect time to entwine spirits, ghost stories, magic and more because the time period was so fascinated with those topics. So I’m tapping in to a part of the Victorian psyche just by infusing my tales with fantastical themes. The trick is always balance. One aspect of the novel can’t entirely dominate over the other; my world-building on the magical sense can’t outweigh the development of characters, suspense aspects can’t get in the way of growth for a character, characters have to grow within their circumstances and I have to find the most tension-filled way to do so while still making it “believable”. If the magic, suspense and mystery can all work together to flesh out the historical world, to reveal character and to keep the plot humming along then I’ve created a finely-tuned novel. All the elements of a book have to take turns and pass the relay torch of the journey smoothly and equally.

A lot of help comes in the editorial department, and my editor was key in really helping me trim off the extra fat that didn’t further the plot or tension. A good book requires a few good exterior eyes that can see to the meat of the novel and bring it forward. I’m very good at taking direction and I think that makes me not only a better writer but also someone an editor wants to work with. Also, knowing your characters intimately; what makes them tick and also what makes them scared, it helps draw the reader along in suspense when the character dynamic is viscerally strong. I think the way Natalie’s nightmares play into the Magic Most Foul saga gives the reader a very intimate view into private fears and horrors, and that helps ratchet up the tension from one chapter to the next. My favourite genres as a reader are Fantasy, Mystery and Horror, and I’m not invested in the story if there isn’t a romance somewhere within the plot. I merely have blended all my favourite genres together into one series, and because I want to give each genre equal play, it ends up balancing out.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ghostly Pick: Unbroken (Ruined series)


Unbroken (A Ruined Novel, book 3)
by Paula Morris
Scholastic
2012
291 pages

Spooky and satisfying, Unbroken takes the reader back to New Orleans and the French Quarter. Rebecca Brown is seeing ghosts again; one in particular—a handsome young boy with startling blue eyes. He asks for her help in finding a lost locket entrusted to him by painter Edgar Degas.

Frank worked the docks in both New York and New Orleans. He was on his way to deliver the locket to artist Edgar Degas’s cousin’s home in the Quarter when he was murdered. As a ghost, Frank can’t pick up or deliver things—he needs a human to intervene on his behalf. When he sees Rebecca walking with Lisette—a ghost she helped last year—he knows that Rebecca can see ghosts and will likely help him.

Rebecca arrives in New Orleans with her friend Ling and her father—who is in the city for work. She can’t wait to see Anton—a boy she was crushing on. The fact is—he can’t wait to see her either. He tells her that Toby may be in town and will probably cause trouble for them.

As Rebecca gets closer to finding the locket, Toby closes in on her. Ghosts are popping up everywhere, some friendly like Frank and others not so friendly at all.

Morris paints a picture of New Orleans with its moss hung trees, lively jazz bands, raucous street festivals, the din and clamor of the Quarter, and its ghostly architecture and lonely graveyards with family mausoleums and statues of saints and angels. Publishers Weekly raves, “A haunting love letter to New Orleans.”

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. Anyone who loves a ghost story will love the Ruined series.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. 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, November 30, 2012

Funny Pick: The Quck Fix

The Quick Fix
By Jack D. Ferraiolo
Amulet
2012
291 pages

Spunky, funny, clever, and quirky, The Big Fix is a hilarious mix of middle school angst and super-sleuthing. Matt Stevens is back on the job doing what he does best: solving mysteries. Pretty cheerleader Melissa hires Matt to follow her basketball star boyfriend and try to figure out what he’s up to. She doesn’t suspect he’s cheating, but he’s clearly worried about something, and he gave her a certain something to hold onto and hide for him.

Vinny, a fat, brutal middle school scumbag thug, also hires Matt to find a certain something. Matt is confused. Is Vinny looking for the “thing” that Melissa was asked to hold? Vinny has quite a crime enterprise with his candy sales and gambling ring. He uses his “muscle” to force Matt into working for him.

Matt is a sarcastic wit with biting charm and a keen vocabulary to match. Vinny, try as he might, cannot keep up with Matt’s adept brain power. The worst thing that could happen for Matt is if Vinny or one of his thugs puts Matt on the “Outs”—basically kids on the “Outs” become social outcasts and whispers of their former selves. Adult supervision is non-existent at Matt’s middle school, so he’s going to have to watch out for himself.

As he gets closer to the truth and solving the cases, danger lurks everywhere. Just what is going on and who is calling the shots?

Highly, highly recommended grades 6-up. Reluctant readers will enjoy this one! You do not have to read the first book The Big Splash first, but readers will enjoy both books. If you know a reluctant reader, buy both books for him/her for Christmas.

Don’t forget I have 5 FREE copies up for grabs. Scroll down the blog. Deadline for comments is December 18, 2012.

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, November 29, 2012

Horror Pick: What the Night Knows

What the Night Knows
by Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
2012
442 pages

Read an excerpt here


An open letter to Dean Koontz:

Dear Dean,

You totally creep me out! I mean it—I have never been more terrified—What the Night Knows is your creepiest, most fantastical, bizarre, and terrible thing of beauty you have ever written. We have been through a lot over the years and over the many, many books. You were only toying with me with The Face and Dark Rivers of the Heart—playing with comedy through Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd and Odd Hours, introducing me to characters I could love with Seize the Night and Fear Nothing, painstakingly building your craft with The Vision and The Face of Fear, but toying no more, not with this opus—you have me as a fan forever.

What the Night Knows preys upon people’s darkest fears: evil in its most incarnate--evil able to enter anywhere and do anything. Evil that can enter anyone and use them. Evil that can lay dormant in a dwelling and wait. No one can escape it; no one can be saved.

John Calvino is a police detective with a wonderful, loving family, but twenty years ago, he was just a boy when his entire family was murdered by a man named Alton Turner Blackwood—a man with three names—just like all infamous murderers in history. Blackwood is the most savage killer the police have ever seen. Now, it’s twenty years later, and John Calvino discovers a family murdered in exactly the same fashion as twenty years prior. This time, the murderer is fourteen year old Billy Lucas who murders his own family. Calvino visits him at the state hospital to interview Billy. He leaves disturbed by Billy’s answer: “Ruin.”

Dean, the way you built upon the character of each of the children: dear, sweet Zach who wants to be a brave marine someday, fanciful and naïve Naomi who lives in a world of unicorns and wizards, and wonderful, all-knowing, all-seeing Minette, “don’t call me Mouse,” gives the reader hope that this family can be saved. The appearance of their trusty golden retriever Willard is a ray of sunshine that this family can depend upon. The strength of the marriage between Nicolette and John has to--just has to-- survive this ghostly and ghastly peril.

I must say, Dean, you had me at, “What year these events transpired is of no consequence. Where they occurred is not important. The time is always, and the place is everywhere.” This gentle and SCARY reminder that evil is always and everywhere is downright cryptic and horrible. I spent a few toss and turn-y nights while reading What the Night Knows. I slept with the nightlight on, and like Zach, I had a “weapon” at my bedside—although a baseball bat is no match for any ghost demon. I turned on lights before entering darkened rooms and I was careful not to peer too long into any mirrors lest I catch a glimpse of something I really didn’t want to see. I heard noises and thought of an evil so great that it could be anywhere and everywhere. Yeah, Dean, I lost sleep!

Dean Koontz, you are truly the master! I applaud your literary prowess. It’s a huge undertaking to mix a ghost story, a story of evil, a police drama, a fairy tale, a psychological thriller and a murder investigation, yet you do all of this with a deft hand and make the story plausible.

I have always loved your word choice and What the Night Knows is no exception. Just when I think I know your favorite, oft used words like ululation and susurration, you come up with seldom used words. What other writer uses words like louche, outré and effulgent? Reading your prose is a spectacular exercise. You never fail to amaze me.

Oh, and let me comment on your use as dogs as symbols of good. Your short piece written as an homage to Trixie, your beloved golden lab, brought me to tears. Trixie (and Willard) will always be an angel. Kinky Friedman once said that all your pets will come running to greet you in heaven; I know Trixie will be there for you, Dean.

So highly, highly recommended that I will shout it from the rooftops: Read What the Night Knows! Don’t miss this one. You’ll be sorry you did. Any fan of Koontz will love this latest scary tale.

Grade 9 and up. Not suitable for middle school due to adult themes, violence, sex, and language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own reading pleasure. It was a pleasure that scared me nearly to death! I will send this book over to the high school.




Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Giveaway: The Quick Fix--Middle School Pick

The Quick Fix
by Jack D. Ferraiolo

I have 5 copies of this very funny, in-your-face middle school crime noir.

Matt Stevens, middle school Private Eye, is on his newest case and he's about to make a whole bunch of enemies. Maybe the case goes deeper than just his school--could Matt find secrets from his own past? The deeper he digs, the weirder his case gets!

To enter: post a comment on the blog and include your first name, city, state, and email contact. Deadline for posts is December 17 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified by email on December 17. Please check your email on that date. Winners will have 24 hours to contact me with their mailing address information. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Abrams and Laura--thanks, Laura!

More about the book:

From the publisher's website:

"In this much-anticipated sequel to The Big Splash, junior high detective Matt Stevens is back on the case, bringing us another hilarious middle school noir.
When the star of the basketball team is blackmailed, it’s up to Matt, the lone voice for justice in a morass of middle school corruption, to figure out who’s behind the scheme. Is it eighth-grade crime lord Vinny “Mr. Biggs” Biggio, who has made his name peddling forged hall passes and leading a crew of social assassins who send enemies to the Outs with a humiliating squirt-gun blast below the belt? Or is it his lieutenant and Matt’s former best friend, Kevin? Or a pair of scheming twins who sell Pixy Stix to sugar-addicted classmates? One thing’s for sure: There won’t be a quick fix for the trouble at this middle school." (Abrams website)

Start posting and good luck! Pamela


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

High School Pick: My Beautiful Failure


My Beautiful Failure
by Janet Ruth Young
Antheneum Books for Young Readers
2012
304 pages

After his father’s sickness, Billy longs to help others. He signs up for Listeners, a suicide hotline advertised on billboards. His job is to listen and only listen to the voice on the other end of the line. He is not to offer any information about himself. He is not to get involved emotionally or meet the person face to face. His is not allowed to know personal information like the person’s last name or address.

That is until Jenney. Jenney is struggling. She is remembering repressed memories of child abuse and a crime so impossible it’s no wonder she suppressed it as a child. Her parents are monsters. The more Jenney remembers, the more she wants out. Billy tries desperately to help her. He waits for her calls, he longs for her voice, he believes he is the only one who can help Jenney save herself.

Jenney is Billy’s beautiful failure. She is the girl he falls in love with. She is broken and beyond repair.

Poignant and compassionate, My Beautiful Failure is not a “feel good” read. Readers who love a tear-jerker with believable characters will love this YA novel. Girls will empathize with sensitive Billy and likely admire his bravery and capacity for caring.

Recommended grade 8-up. Adult themes. Child abuse, infanticide, and suicide.

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)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wimpy Pick: The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 7)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The Third Wheel
by Jeff Kinney
Amulet
2012
217 pages (paperback)

Greg Heffley is back again with his trusted sidekick Rowley. This time, love is in the air and the Valentine's Day dance is just a few days away. Greg doesn't want to be the only one who goes stag, but he doesn't know how to ask a girl out. His mooch of an uncle tries to help him out. Uncle Gary has "...been married something like four times already, so he's an EXPERT on relationships" Greg realizes. Greg asks for advice from wise old Gary.

The illustrations in the seventh installment are just as funny as the earlier books. Kinney seems to have a natural talent for all things boy and all things wimpy.

Manny (the younger brother) is growing up but still has invisible friends and Greg finds it impossible to tell whether one of the invisible friends is sitting on the couch or not, so he avoids "hurting" one of Manny's friends. Rodrick, the evil older brother, makes a brief appearance as does Greg's dad, but the story revolves around Greg and his funny attempts to appear "date-worthy." No matter what he does, Greg seems to lose.

Uncle Gary finally wins the lotto and is able to leave the Heffley's couch. Rowley gets the girl, but Greg is okay with it. Middle school is rough for the wimpy kid, heck, it's rough for everyone. Middle school--it's not for sissies!

Highly, highly recommended grades 5-up. No language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. 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, November 19, 2012

Picture Book Pick: Owly and Wormy, Bright Lights and Starry Nights!


Bright Lights and Starry Nights! (Owly & Wormy)
Written and illustrated by Andy Runton
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
2012
40 pages

Masterful storytelling uses few words and with vibrant artwork, Runton shows his genius through his characters’ facial expressions and gestures. When a picture book is this vibrant, no words are necessary. The story becomes what the reader makes it.

Owly and Wormy are out to look at the stars through their telescope, but they realize they are going to have to climb down the tree so they can get an unobstructed view to the stars. Scary noises in the forest have them shaking in their shoes. When Owly tries to find his telescope, he runs into a friendly bat. The bat brings his friends along and all the characters are amazed by the panorama of stars.

Owly is a fun character with heart. His expressions are joy, sadness, confusion, fright, wonder, and amazement. Runton accomplishes all this with just a simple position of Owly’s eyes or changing the way he holds his mouth!

This simple picture book has a lot going on. A great picture book can be studied for the art alone, and Bright Lights and Starry Nights certainly fills the bill.

Illustrations are easy on the eye in hues of violet, purple, blue, green, and black.

Highly, highly recommended ages five and up and for all art lovers.

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, November 15, 2012

Giveaway: The Jaguar Stones bookmarks!



Click here for more informatiion on the series


I have FIVE packages of 100 count bookmarks from The Jaguar Stones book series up for grabs. Simply post a comment on the blog and include your first name, city, state, and email contact address.

Deadline for posts is November 26 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer and contacted on November 27. Please check your email. Winners have 24 hours to contact me with their mailing information.

The packs of bookmarks will ship from New York thanks to Egmont. Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Paranormal Pick: Obsidian


Obsidian
Lux, Book One
By Jennifer L. Armentrout
Entangled Publishing
2012
335 pages with bonus material

The cover art of Obsidian will help sell this YA novel. That and the back cover, “The hot alien next door marks me…you heard me. Alien.” Who knew aliens could be so darn sexy?

Daemon is unforgettable and beguiling; the smoldering tension between him and Florida transplant Katy erupts the minute she sees him. He is beyond hot; he is a Greek god—the boy next door is seductive and scintillating, that is, until he opens his mouth. Then, he’s arrogant and rude. Katy is sorry she ever thought he was hot.

Daemon tries to keep his sister Dee from becoming friends with Katy. It’s like he has something against her. Katy soon realizes that this little town in West Virginia her mother moved her to is a strange community. The people are strange. They stare at Katy. They are secretive and untrusting.

Katy has a run-in with a “mugger,” and Daemon saves her. Then he saves her again from being run over. Katy sees there’s something out of the ordinary about Daemon. Is he a vampire? He laughs at this idea—really, Katy, a vampire?
Daemon tells Katy about his past and his family’s secrets. Will Katy be able to keep his secrets safe? And what if the Arum come after Katy? Will Daemon be able to protect her once more? Will obsidian save Katy?

Steamy kissing and make out sessions, language issues, violence.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Not for middle school due to adult theme and language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library, primarily because I spotted it at Barnes and Noble, and it screamed off the shelf at me. I will send this book to the high school library due to language and kissing.

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, November 8, 2012

Tween Pick: Genie Wishes

Genie Wishes
by Elisabeth Dahl
Amulet
2013
288 pages

Available April 2013 (exact date not yet available)

view the trailer here


Charming and sweet, Genie Wishes is sure to enchant younger readers.
Genie Kunkle begins her fifth grade year with excitement and anticipation. When she’s named 5th grade class blogger, she’s thrilled. She asks Mr. Saylor, her teacher, what to write about. He guides Genie to write about the class’s thoughts, wishes, and dreams.

Genie begins with Junk Food Lunch. All the kids are sad when the school stops Junk Food Lunch day, but the adults think it’s for the kids’ own good. A lot of kids post comments on Genie Wishes, Genie’s class blog.

Before long, Genie has to worry about bras, shaving her legs, getting her period, wearing make-up, and a thousand other things a girl should not have to worry about. Genie’s dad considers dating, and Genie pushes him to an Internet dating site. Ian, Genie’s older brother, is horrified and lets his feelings be known.

Genie and Sarah have always been BFF’s, but when mean girl, snooty Blair joins them, Genie feels like three’s a crowd. Blair is everywhere, too. Her opinion is usually loud and all the girls think Blair is right all the time. There is friendship drama and Genie feels jealous and sad.

Genie Wishes chronicles Genie’s entire school year. Genie says goodbye to elementary school and looks forward to middle school.

Recommended by the publisher for ages 8-12. Personally, I’m not sure how parents will feel having eight year olds reading about puberty and periods. Use you own judgment. I am adding it to my middle school library, and our school is grade 6-8. Genie Wishes is a light, girl-y read that is perfectly tame for ages maybe eleven and 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)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Picture Perfect Pick: Here Comes Trouble!


This is the picture of Always in Trouble, an earlier book. The dog is the same one in both books. The cover of Here Comes Trouble not yet available.

Here Comes Trouble!
by Corinne Demas
Illustrations by Noah Z. Jones
Scholastic Press
2013
34 pages—page count of F & G from the publisher; final page count unavailable
Available January 2013 (exact date not yet available on Scholastic’s webpage)


Toby the dog doesn’t like cats—not slinky ones, or snooty ones, or snobby ones or spunky ones. He really doesn’t like the cat that lives next door. Pandora is all the things Toby hates, and worse, she never pays any attention to Toby. He tries all kinds of bad dog behavior but in oh-so-typical, detached cat behavior, she ignores him.

Then the neighbors go on vacation leaving their beloved Pandora in the care of Toby’s owners, Emma and her parents. Pandora soon becomes pet #1 with Emma who showers affection on her. Pandora does all types of nasty cat things like clawing the sofa and jumping on the kitchen counters. She never gets into trouble, but when she finds herself up a tree, literally, Toby comes to her rescue. His humans ignore his barking and running around in circles. They don’t realize that their dog is trying to communicate. Then Toby has to spell it out for them—again, literally!

Charming and heroic Toby is sure to have young readers laughing and cheering for the underdog (get it? underdog?) Colorful and comic illustrations are a perfect balance of whimsy and spunk. The author shows literary craft in choosing words that describe each character: Pandora “prances” and “pirouetted” ; she “slinked” and she “winked.” Toby “trotted,” barked,” “clawed,” leaped,” “chewed,” “grumbled,” and “growled.”

From the title, I thought the dog’s name would be “Trouble.” The cat’s name is Pandora, after all. Nothing like a little Trouble to go with Pandora, but maybe that’s too obvious.

Highly, highly recommended for early readers. This one is too cute to miss!

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)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Paranormal Pick: The Raven Boys


The Raven Boys
The Raven Cycle, Book One
By Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press
2012
408 pages

Read the free teaser here

Only in the capable hands of a superior storyteller like Stiefvater, could the Raven boys capture teen hearts. The author uses her writer’s chops and subtle finesse to tell a ghost story, a love story, a magical story, and the beginning of what is surely to become the most anticipated trilogy in years. Highly, highly readable and entertaining, teens will stay up until the wee hours frantically seeking what will happen to Gansey and Blue.

When Blue Sargent meets Gansey, a wealthy Raven boy, in a premonition, she knows he doesn’t have long to live. That’s not all, it has been prophesied that Blue will cause her true love to die. Her mother has been protecting her since birth, warning that she never kiss a boy and never fall in love. What’s a sixteen year old girl to do? Living in a house full of card readers and clairvoyants hasn’t been a real childhood, and now that she’s sixteen, Blue longs for a “normal” life.



She goes with her aunt to an old church on the corpse road on St. Mark’s Eve. No one ever celebrates St. Mark’s but the dead always do. Aunt Neeve wants to make contact with the other side and help the spirits of the deceased move on. She takes Blue along because when Blue is around, her magic is amplified. It is here that Blue meets and speaks to spirit Gansey. Later, she meets human Gansey and his rich boy crowd.

Just how rich are the Raven boys? Of Dick Gansey II (Gansey’s father) and Dick Gansey III (Gansey), Stiefvater writes, “Both of them could trot out logic on a nice little leash, wearing a smart plaid jacket, when they wanted to.” Gansey (the son) owns an abandoned factory which he lives in with his roommates (they live gratis) while he attends the Academy. He doesn’t realize that picking up the tab and offering to pay for everything may not sit well with others like Blue or Adam, who come from much humbler beginnings.

There’s something magical happening In the town of Henrietta; first, nearly famous Aunt Neeve shows up out of the blue (pun intended), then Gansey and his friends start poking around in the woods, a teacher at Aglionby Academy is looking for something magical and dangerous, and the ley lines are nearly buzzing with spiritual energy. Blue begins to meet the boys on the sly to help them hunt for a long lost legend of Welsh history that legend says slumbers somewhere near the town. To the one who wakes Glendower, that lucky person will be granted everything. The problem is that the kids aren’t the only ones obsessed with finding Glendower.

Gansey’s friends consist of Adam, a boy from the poor side of town who is working jobs to attend Aglionby, Noah—a quiet boy who has secrets of his own, and Ronan—an extremely foul, unlikeable misanthrope who is seriously deep and drew me back to him at the end of the book—with only seven little words of dialog. Now, I really like Ronan and want to know more. The novel sets up for book two nicely, and I can’t wait to read what Stiefvater has in store for Blue, Gansey and the boys.

The ending is a crash-bang in-your-face-world-gone-crazy ending that had me guessing until the very end. What a rollicking thrill! Several plotlines converged and a few unexpected zingers caught me by surprise. It’s refreshing when a book entertains and surprises at the same time. This one will leave readers breathless.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. There is the mention of the B word—a child born illegitimately and the boys talk about “balls” as in grow a pair, but this is tame compared to most YA fiction. Ghost story fans will love this must-read!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. 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, November 1, 2012

Horror Pick: What the Night Knows

What the Night Knows
by Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
2012
442 pages

read an excerpt here


An open letter to Dean Koontz:

Dear Dean,

You totally creep me out! I mean it—I have never been more terrified—What the Night Knows is your creepiest, most fantastical, bizarre, and terrible thing of beauty you have ever written. We have been through a lot over the years and over the many, many books. You were only toying with me with The Face and Dark Rivers of the Heart—playing with comedy through Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd and Odd Hours, introducing me to characters I could love with Seize the Night and Fear Nothing, painstakingly building your craft with The Vision and The Face of Fear, but toying no more, not with this opus—you have me as a fan forever.

What the Night Knows preys upon people’s darkest fears: evil in its most incarnate--evil able to enter anywhere and do anything. Evil that can enter anyone and use them. Evil that can lay dormant in a dwelling and wait. No one can escape it; no one can be saved.

John Calvino is a police detective with a wonderful, loving family, but twenty years ago, he was just a boy when his entire family was murdered by a man named Alton Turner Blackwood—a man with three names—just like all infamous murderers in history. Blackwood is the most savage killer the police have ever seen. Now, it’s twenty years later, and John Calvino discovers a family murdered in exactly the same fashion as twenty years prior. This time, the murderer is fourteen year old Billy Lucas who murders his own family. Calvino visits him at the state hospital to interview Billy. He leaves disturbed by Billy’s answer: “Ruin.”

Dean, the way you built upon the character of each of the children: dear, sweet Zach who wants to be a brave marine someday, fanciful and naïve Naomi who lives in a world of unicorns and wizards, and wonderful, all-knowing, all-seeing Minette, “don’t call me Mouse,” gives the reader hope that this family can be saved. The appearance of their trusty golden retriever Willard is a ray of sunshine that this family can depend upon. The strength of the marriage between Nicolette and John has to--just has to-- survive this ghostly and ghastly peril.

I must say, Dean, you had me at, “What year these events transpired is of no consequence. Where they occurred is not important. The time is always, and the place is everywhere.” This gentle and SCARY reminder that evil is always and everywhere is downright cryptic and horrible.

I spent a few toss and turn-y nights while reading What the Night Knows. I slept with the nightlight on, and like Zach, I had a “weapon” at my bedside—although a baseball bat is no match for any ghost demon. I turned on lights before entering darkened rooms and I was careful not to peer too long into any mirrors lest I catch a glimpse of something I really didn’t want to see. I heard noises and thought of an evil so great that it could be anywhere and everywhere. Yeah, Dean, I lost sleep!

Dean Koontz, you are truly the master! I applaud your literary prowess. It’s a huge undertaking to mix a ghost story, a story of evil, a police drama, a fairy tale, a psychological thriller and a murder investigation, yet you do all of this with a deft hand and make the story plausible.

I have always loved your word choice and What the Night Knows is no exception. What other writer uses words like louche, outré and effulgent? Reading your prose is a spectacular exercise. You never fail to amaze me.

So highly recommended that I will shout it from the rooftops: Read What the Night Knows! Don’t miss this one. You’ll be sorry you did. Any fan of Koontz will love this latest scary tale.

Grade 9 and up. Not suitable for middle school due to adult themes, violence, sex, and language.


FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own reading pleasure. It was a pleasure that scared me nearly to death! I will send this book over to the high school.

High School Pick: Out of Reach (finalist National Book Award for Young People's Literature


watch the book trailer here

Out of Reach
by Carrie Arcos
Simon Pulse
2012
250 pages

Out of Reach will grab teens up and take them along on a road trip to find a lost soul. Micah is Rachel's older and deeply troubled brother. Rachel feels guilty that she didn't try to stop Micah from falling deeper into the drug life. She knows he's headed for trouble, but she ignores it and then realizes that maybe...just maybe...she could have done something or said something that would have saved him.

Rachel reaches out to Tyler, Micah's best friend. Although Tyler hasn't been hanging around Micah much during his downfall, he may be her best bet in finding and saving Micah. They drive down to San Diego and search the beaches and streets looking for some sign of Micah. Everywhere they turn, they find people who don't want to talk. There are some dealers who may know Micah, but they won't talk to Rachel.

Rachel knows that Micah was in trouble--probably with one or more dealers. When she finds a woman who knows Micah, the news is not good. Rachel comes to the realization that sometimes people who get lost don't ever want to be found. She becomes closer to Tyler and learns to let her brother go.

Out of Reach is a touching and poignant story of a family broken by drug abuse. It is a story about a teen girl coming to grips with the loss of her brother and learning to forgive herself. She has to let him go in order to heal and live.

Recommended grade 9-up. Drug references, shady people, adult situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this novel 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, October 30, 2012

Coming of Age Pick: Sons of the 613


Sons of the 613
by Michael Rubens
Clarion
2012
320 pages

Sons of the 613 is wry, dry, cut with comedic crass, filled with teen sarcasm and snark, and peppered with quick Woody Allen-esque teen angst and funny dialog.

In this coming-of-age novel, Isaac is just weeks away from his bar mitzvah. He has been pretending to learn the Hebrew chants and as the day gets closer, he is nervous to the point of possible mental breakdown. Not only that! His parents have just informed him that they are traveling to Italy and leaving older college age brother Josh in charge. Josh? In charge? That’s like leaving the drug addicts in charge of the pharmacy…or the criminally insane in charge of the institution.

Isaac knows he’s in for big trouble, but he has no idea what is really in store for him. Josh is home a little early from college, and although Isaac knows something is up, he’s not about to ask Josh what happened. Isaac fears Josh, and rightly so. Josh is an undefeated high school wrestler, a huge, beefy MMA fighter, and a street brawler. He doesn’t take any lip from anyone. Isaac has seen Josh go from zero to eighty in a second. When Josh snaps, there is only rage and violence.

Although Josh is a heathen about most things, he knows his Torah inside and out; Josh helps Isaac learn the 613 tenets of the Jewish faith, but he suddenly realizes that it isn’t enough to say to the world, “Today, I am a man.” Josh knows Isaac is a wimp and not a fighter. He worries that Isaac will never be able to stand up for himself, so Josh dreams up “The Quest”—a series of Josh-made events that are supposed to make Isaac a “real” man. It involves crashing a motorcycle, jumping off a cliff, stealing a lawn ornament from a neighbor’s lawn which is patrolled by four ferocious devil dogs, visiting a strip club and talking to semi-naked girls, fighting, standing up to bullies, meeting drug dealers, and visiting bars.

Isaac is upbeat about most of his tasks; he knows Josh will accept no excuses and will probably pound him if he doesn’t do what Josh wants, but when he meets Leslie, Josh’s ex-girlfriend, Isaac falls hopelessly in young love. He’s got it bad, too. The more Isaac moons over Leslie, the harder Josh pushes him. The truth finally comes out about why Josh isn’t at college.

The novel ends the only way it possibly could. Isaac realizes his own worth and becomes a man in the eyes of Jewish tradition. Josh goes forward to bigger and “better” things becoming a hero in the process. Isaac becomes the man that Josh always wished he could be.

This novel is a real tearjerker, but it is also uplifting. It is the story of one boy’s search for what it is to be a “good” man—a man of honor. I loved this book! The family dynamic between the parents and the boys is beyond hilarious. Their mom especially is witty and sarcastic—the kind of funny mom every neighborhood should have.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Profanity, nudity, adult situations. The publishers recommend age 12-up, but you may get challenged for the drug dealers, strippers, and profanity.

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)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dystopian Pick: Unwholly


Unwholly
by Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster
2012
402 pages

Disturbing, chilling, dark, and sickly dystopian, Unwholly is a tour de force. This is the second book in the Unwind series, and Shusterman is superb!

Captivating but broken characters carry the plot along. Unwholly is set in the not so distant future where medicine can cure just about anything. Parents who can no longer “parent” turn to a system that can take their errant teen off their hands. The kids get shipped off to a facility where they are unwound, or basically taken apart and sold for parts. One arm here, one eye there, one spinal cord over there. Of course, the parents think they’re doing the right thing—allowing their broken teen to live on in many other people. Imagine, a blind boy getting new eyes, a cripple walking, a car accident victim given another limb. What a great program, the parents think.

Some teens are able to escape and form a resistance movement. Led by the Akron AWOL, or Connor Lassiter, the teens live in the Phoenix desert holed up in an airplane graveyard. Connor is getting nervous. He knows the Juvies, sadist cops who turn in Unwinds, know about the graveyard and know that there are hundreds of kids living there. Why aren’t they making a move, Connor wonders. Why are they leaving us alone, he asks. When he finds out there’s a traitor in his own camp, he realizes that the kids may have to make a run for it.

Risa, Connor’s sometime girlfriend, is captured and becomes the face of Proactive Citizenry—the organization responsible for thousands of teens’ unwindings. Not only that, Proactive Citizenry has a new project on its hands—it’s produced the very first artificially developed human Camus. Camus is a scientific and genetic miracle to behold. He is made from over 100 different Unwinds and was developed to show the public what the future holds. Cam falls in love with Risa but she turns on him; he promises he will never let her go; he will search for her forever.

The camp is compromised and the kids are in for a huge fight. Just when Connor and Lev think it’s over, they see the milk of human kindness. Unwholly sets up nicely for book 3—where some important questions will be answered and the plot will UNWIND (pun definitely intended).

Shusterman belongs in the ranks of sci-fi giants George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. Unwholly is wholly great! I raced through this book, and teens will, too. Don’t pick this one up unless you’re ready to stay up until the wee hours.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No sex. One g-word.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. 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, October 26, 2012

Book Giveaway: The Last Dragonslayer--Don't Miss This One!


I have 3 copies up for grabs!!!!

The Last Dragonslayer
by Jasper Fforde
Harcourt Children’s Books
2012
304 pages

Clever, cute, quirky and quaint, The Last Dragonslayer has everything: masterful storytelling, snarky dialog, a teen heroine who is equal parts brave knight, fearless leader, and mistress of sarcasm, magical beings, a Quarkbeast who is lovable if not huggable, a beat up 1958 VW, a missing wizard and a dying dragon.

For the review, see the blog post below.

To enter: Simply post a comment on the blog and include your first name, city, state and email address. Deadline for posts is noon MST on October 31, 2012.

Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be contacted October 31 and have 24 hours to respond to my email. Please check your email on Octover 31.

Books will ship from New York courtesy of Harcourt Children's Books.

Good luck, and start posting! Pamela

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dragon Pick: The Last Dragonslayer

This is the cover of the UK edition

This is the US edition. I'm not sure why they changed the cover...

The Last Dragonslayer
by Jasper Fforde
Harcourt Children’s Books
2012
304 pages


Clever, cute, quirky and quaint, The Last Dragonslayer has everything: masterful storytelling, snarky dialog, a teen heroine who is equal parts brave knight, fearless leader, and mistress of sarcasm, magical beings, a Quarkbeast who is lovable if not huggable, a beat up 1958 VW, a missing wizard and a dying dragon.

The Great Zambini has been missing quite awhile, so Jennifer Strange, his apprenticed foundling, has taken over the reins of Kazam, an employment agency and old folks home for aging magicians, seers, and movers. Magic has been dwindling and there’s almost no call for it anymore, but Jennifer manages to keep the place running by sending magicians to unclog pipes and using magic carpets to deliver pizza. Then, something begins to happen. There’s a new electricity in the air and the magicians are feeling their powers surge. Some begin to experience visions that the last dragon will meet his end. Some whisper that Big Magic is on the horizon.

Jennifer has to deal with all the outrageous personalities of the live-in magicians and train her new foundling Tiger Prawns. Not only that, she’s destined for far greater things.

Quick witted dialog and puns run amok. For example, when Jennifer introduces her new assistant to some elderly sisters,
“”Tiger, these are the sisters Karamazov—Deirdre and Deirdre.’
‘Why do they have the same name?’ he whispered.
“An unimaginative father.’”

Never have I loved a dragon more! Maltcassion is an old dragon, still regal, and waiting for Jennifer Strange. He knows all about the world, magic, humankind and Big Magic, but he needs Jennifer’s help to ensure the “status quo.” After “meeting” Maltcassion, I want to know him personally—he’s that wonderful! And don’t get me started on Quarkbeast! He’s a living doll—just make sure you have plenty of dog food and metal for him to chew on!
Jennifer has her work cut out for her: she has to slay a dragon that she admires, avoid being thrown into the King’s dungeon, thwart a civil war, stop greedy land-hungry citizens from grabbing the Dragonlands, find the Great Zambini, save Kazam and the residents who live there, train an assistant, and figure out her destiny—and she only has until Sunday!

The first page will draw even the must reluctant readers in: “Once, I was famous. My face appeared on T-shirts, badges, commemorative mugs and posters. I made front page news…The Daily Clam called me ‘the year’s most influential teenager.’ Two people tired to kill me… (I)had fifty-eight offers of marriage, and was outlawed by King Snodd IV…in less than one week. My name is Jennifer Strange.”

Highly, highly recommended grades 6-up. No language. No sex.


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