Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Giveaway: Kill Me Softly--May 30-June 13

I have 5 copies of this great new ya novel up for grabs. Read my review here

Your teens are going to want to read this one! A mix of fairy tale gone terribly wrong and paranormal romance gone deadly wrong.

Simply post a comment to the blog. Include your first name, city and state. Please include your email so that I can get in touch with you if you win. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is June 13 at noon MST. Winners will be notified by email June 14. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Egmont.

Start posting and good luck!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Once (Eve trilogy, book #2)
by Anna Carey
Alloy (Harper)
368 pages

Available July 3, 2012

view the book trailer for Eve (book one)

Just in time for the 4th of July and colorful, brilliant fireworks displays, Once riotously explodes onto the ya teen scene. Readers may remember that at the end of book one, Eve had entered a safe haven in Califia and Caleb was turned away--no men are allowed. They are forced to separate to keep Eve safe; the King and his soldiers are searching for her still.

Eve finds safety and work in the little settlement of women, but then hears a rumor that Caleb might be hiding somewhere nearby and that he's hurt. Arden and Eve run from the "safety" of the women with Heddy, Arden's adopted dog. They find Caleb and then they find trouble. I can take a lot of things as a reader: vampires, zombies, blood, and tons of gore, but don't you dare make a dog suffer and don't ever kill a dog! Heddy is killed by the men who take Arden and Eve prisoner.

The soldiers take Eve to the City of Sand (Las Vegas) where she appears before the King. (I can't give you details here--it's a HUGE SURPRISE! If I shared the details, it's a HUGE SPOILER!) I will say I didn't see this plot twist coming. Anna Carey, that was way out of left field!--but also way cool.

The reader finds out that the Plague nearly toppled civilization and if not for the King, humanity would have ceased to exist. The King has restored elecricity, oil, water, gas, and cars are on the road. The City of Sand is thriving he explains to Eve. She doesn't want to hear all the great things the new regime has done; she remembers all her friends pushed into a life of slavery--kept prisoner and forced to produce the regime's offspring. They can't even keep their own children; the children are taken from them and offered to the wealthy for adoption. Eve longs to escape the City of Sand.

In the second book, I feel more empathy for Eve--she's grown up a bit and seems to have more compassion for others. She tries to help her friends and is overcome with sadness for their plight. She begs the King for mercy to no avail. The King lies to her and forces her into a marriage of convenience. Eve and Caleb have no future together, but Eve gains a secret new ally in the palace. One note here: I didn't feel as much empathy for Caleb--he seemed very one-dimentional--readers will not get to know his personality.

Book three will be eagerly anticiapted for Eve fans. Will Eve ever be able to escape the King and topple his kingdom? Will Caleb ever go free?

Highly, highly recommended for dystopian romance fans and everyone who has read book one. If you haven't read book one, be sure you read it first.

Grades 9-up. You make the choice if you want it for grade 8--Caleb and Eve spend the night together--no graphic details. Women are baby machines. The King and his soldiers are quite sadistic; Caleb suffers a great deal. A dog is killed.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Bad Apple
Merits of Mischief series, book #1
by T.R. Burns
Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)
352 pages

Quirky, captivating, and comic, The Bad Apple is the first book in a planned series. Seamus Hinkle always plans to be first in the cafeteria line on Tuesdays for fish sticks; he just loves fish stick Tuesdays. When his teacher is absent, the substitute won't allow Seamus to leave the classroom early for the "bathroom." He runs to get the first fish sticks, but sadly, the school bullies pour milk over the remaining sticks. Seamus resigns himself to a salad and sits by himself in the cafeteria. Suddenly, a fight breaks out and Seamus sees the substitute teacher Miss Parsippany and feels the urge to "save" her. He grabs an apple and throws it at the bullies. Sadly, the apple catches Miss Parsippany in the head and she dies. Seamus is now a murderer!

The school kicks him out and his parents have no choice but to find him a new school, but the Kilter Academy for Troubled Youth isn't what it seems. Seamus finds out that the Kilter Academy isn't worried about rehabilitating youth at all. In fact, Kilter gives out demerits for good behavior and earning a gold star means you need to show more bad behavior.

The Academy wants to train professional troublemakers. Seamus is having a hard time fitting in. It seems every time he turns around, he earns more gold stars. This new type of school is going to take some getting used to.

While Seamus is an interesting protagonist, other characters were not as well-thought out. The novel may not appeal to many girl readers. Boys who like rebellious boy novels will like this one.

Recommended for grades 4-6. Some older students may also enjoy it, but it seems more of a younger read.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paranormal Pick: Darkness Before Dawn

Darkness Before Dawn
by J.A. London
342 pages

Available May 29, 2012 (date from publisher's website)

Read more about the Vampire world from the authors' website

Just when you thought vampires were passe, just when you were glad that vampires were so last year, just when you decided that vampires are over-done, just when your mantra became: I'm so over vampires--a new vampire thriller appears and changes all of that. Darkness Before Dawn is compelling and clever with a title that plays on the main character's name: Dawn. Dawn's name means, "the first appearance of daybreak; overcoming darkness." Darkness Before Dawn--Dawn will face darkness; she is, after all, a delegate for humanity; she works for the Agency, the human council that oversees vampire/human agreements. She is the youngest human ever chosen as the go-between the human world and the world of the vampires led by the powerful Lord Valentine. Even the name Valentine is a play on words: Valentine's Day with its red roses, red hearts, red arrows, red blood, true love.

Darkness Before Dawn is the best paranormal of the year; it has everything a reader could ever want: a high-speed rocket of a plot, a dark and brooding love interest who is hell-bent on putting things right, a feisty and clever heroine, and a mother/son writing team who flex good old solid writing chops. The pages just kept turning for me; I was hooked from page one and couldn't put this one down, and I double-dog dare you to try to put this book down!

Humans lost the war with the vampires and a treaty was agreed upon. VampHu rules allow humans to remain safe in their cities IF they provide enough blood through blood donations to the vampires outside the walls. Lord Valentine controls the vampires outside of Denver. He insists that the city of Denver provide double the blood rations. Dawn is in a predicament. Humans are giving less blood than ever; how will she ever be able to meet Lord Valentine's crazy demands?

Dawn goes to a party near the wall with her friend Tegan--she's knows it's dangerous but wants a little fun before facing the Dark Lord. Tegan's drink is drugged and soon she's a mess; Dawn grabs her and takes her from the party, half-carrying the now unconscious Tegan. They are lucky enough the catch a streetcar, or are they?

Attacked by the vamp conductor and two other vampires, Dawn fights back; she's been trained by the best vampire killers and she uses her training and strength, but she's losing the battle. When seconds make the difference between life and death, Dawn and Tegan are rescued by a mysterious guy; Dawn believes he's a Night Watchman, a human trained to defend the city against rogue vampires. Victor saves the girls and takes them to a safe place, an old movie theater. Later, he drives them to Dawn's house in his car--he must be very rich to own a car--only the very rich have cars after the war.

The name Victor means champion and was a popular saint's name in Christian Rome. Yet, Dawn discovers that Victor is also the son of Lord Valentine, the most powerful vampire. She is disgusted by him and hates the fact that she thought he was handsome and chivalrous before she knew his true identity. Yet he saved them--Tegan and Dawn. Victor assures Dawn that he is a "good" vampire, out to rid the city of the rogues and monsters. He is protecting the peace between the vampire world and the humans. Dawn tries to believe him, but all her training tells her not to believe anything a vampire says or does.

There's sparks between them that neither of them can deny. Victor says,"I know I should resist. Vampires and humans...they never work out." Victor has a secret and he's about to let Dawn in on it. Together, they will have to face the enemy.

Highly, highly recommended for any paranormal fans and fans of paranormal romance will love this one. Way better than Twilight and its sequels. Girls will be Team Victor from now on. Dawn is a tough talking human with strength and moxie; she is no sniveling, weak-minded Bella Swan (Twilight).

Book Two, The Blood-Kissed Sky is not to be missed; there is no publication date yet.

Grades 9-up. Underage drinking, kissing, vampire gore, bloodlust.

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Father's Day Pick: Drop Dead Healthy

Drop Dead Healthy
by A.J. Jacobs
Simon & Schuster
402 pages with extensive index

Just in time for Father's Day, this gem of a self-help book will have fathers rolling on the floor laughing--it may be the best exercise yet. A.J. Jacobs, best-selling writer and editor at large of Esquire Magazine, takes on the topic of good health and turns it into a laugh riot. He tackles each body system with a passion reporting his findings in this very funny self-help book. This is the perfect gift for any man in your life: brothers, uncles, fathers, husbands and sons. Any male who is trying to improve his health will appeciate Jacobs' dry wit.

When he begins his experiment, Jacobs has a middle age paunch and tries never to exercise. He devotes almost a year to reading self-help books and hooking up with experts, gurus, doctors, and wacky individuals whose ideas run the gamut: the Caveman Workout, the Running Barefoot Movement, acupuncture, self-massage, chewdaism, relieving stress, and conquering noise pollution.

Jacobs tries everything. He spends a week trying out each new exercise or diet regime. He even tries to sleep with a mask that helps people who suffer sleep apnea, and he records his findings in this book inluding how many miles he's racked up on his treadmill "desk"--he writes the book while walking on his treadmill--how many pounds he's lost/gained, and he even records hours of sleep he gets each night.

To give a snapshot of the extensiveness of his research, here is a partial list from the index:

aerobic exercise, 348
brainpower, boosted by, 174-5
for eyes, 329
for Finger Fitness, 305-7, 309
in guerrilla exercises, 353-54
longevity linked to, 44-45
schedule for, 33
slow fitness vs., 158-61

When Jacobs goes to meet Paul McGlothin, director of research for a non-profit group, Calorie Restriction Society, he says,

"He's skinny, but not the POW skinny I was expecting. More like lead-singer-of-an-emo-band skinny." Funny, right? His observations are spot-on and comedic.

Jacobs spends three hours in Central Park "huffing and puffing" and acting like a Caveman with a few other New York exercise enthusiasts. He decides to give up on the Caveman regime after meeting over-achiever Caveman Vlad.

I learned a lot about health and healthy ideas from this book, and I was entertained the entire time. When was the last time you actually laughed about calories, dieting and exercising?

From "The Ten Best Pieces of Food Advice I've Gotten All Year":

"Don't eat white stuff unless you want to get fatter.
Make it crunchy.
If you are going to eat meat, make it a side dish.
Protein and fats for breakfast.
Eat your colors.
Buy a steamer."

Do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy today. You'll spend hours laughing with and at A.J. Jacobs.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone with a sense of humor who is interested in health, nutrition, exercise, and good plain fun. Recommended for health and fitness collections.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book after reading about it in a magazine aboard a Southwest flight. I purchased it for myself.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Super Sleuth Pick: Poison Most Vial

Poison Most Vial
by Benedict Carey
215 pages

What a breath of fresh air! In a market teeming with paranormal and dystopian fiction along comes a little old mystery, Poison Most Vial, a new murder mystery that features a smart and quirky girl named Ruby Rose who has to do some sleuthing to clear her father of murder charges. Ruby enlists her best friend, gangly but loveable T. Rex and a mysterious elderly neighbor the kids see watching the neighbohood's every move (shades of Hitchcock's "Rear Window").

When Dr. Ramachandran is found poisoned at DeWitt Polytechnic University, the police suspect Ruby's father. After all, her father has access to all the labs, he was present the night Ramachandran was found, and he served the professor hot tea on the night in question.

Ruby has to do something and do it quickly; her dad is her only relative, and if she loses him, she'll have no one. With T. Rex's help, Ruby writes a letter to the Window Lady, the neighborhood snoop. They're surprised when she leaves them a note with name of a lawyer who can help Ruby's dad and access to the city's medical examiner. It seems that Window Lady is a retired toxicologist; she really knows her poisons.

The kids begin investigating the murder and as they delve deeper and deeper into it, several things become clear: Ruby's father is innocent, there is more than one person who may be guilty, and the college is keeping secrets of its own.

It takes a murder and a poison to bring Mrs. Whitmore, the Window Lady, out of her apartment, but when she finally emerges, she's the driving force behind the investigation.

I loved the play on the title Poison Most Vial--the vial used in science labs instead of "vile" meaning disgusting. The cover is an eye-catcher and should entice fans of science and mysteries. From Library Media Connections: "it (the book) should be on hand in every elementary and middle school library." I loved the fact that the kids were afraid of the lurking and mysterious neighbor who hid in her apartment but she ended up befriending them. This just goes to show--don't make snap judgements.

Recommended grades 5-up. Early readers may not be able to follow the chapters about insulin, poison, and vials. No language.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Series Pick: Num8ers: Infinity (book 3)

Numb8ers: 1f1n1ty(book 3, Num8ers series)
by Rachel Ward
Chicken House (Scholastic)
256 pages
Hardcover May 1, 2012

Num8ers: 1nf1n1ty
paperback edition
Available June 1, 2012

Cryptic, chaotic, cutting, caustic, and uber-clever, 1nf1n1ty completes Rachel Ward's terrific and compelling dystopian trilogy.

It is after the chaos that destroyed the world as they knew it. There are no televisions, no computers, no screens or phones anymore. Ater the earthquake and years of fallout, people are just trying to survive the elements and find enough food and warm shelter. Hospitals and pharmacies have been raided; there is no medicine. If someone gets sick, it's likely a death sentence.

Adam and Sarah have been on the run and are avoiding big cities, dangerous gangs, and the corrupt government. Framed for a murder he didn't commit, Adam swears never to be captured or caged again;it looks like someone is searching for him now.

Adam becomes more and more paranoid, wanting to keep away from any other humans, fearing that they will hurt them, but Sarah convinces him to join another seemingly friendly group. When Sarah is captured by a paramilitary gang, Adam is forced to confront his worst fears.The numbers are everywhere and Adam sees them. He wishes to God he didn't, but he is the "prophet" who saw the end coming, the date of the end of the world as they knew it. For this, he is a savior to some, to some an entity to study.

When Mia's number is able to change, suddenly she becomes the target. Who is this miracle child? What is her secret? And how can science use her to create immortality? What if you could change your number? Would you kill for someone else's number? What would you do in order to live forever?

Told in alternating chapters by Sarah and Adam, the novel erupts into non-stop action that will have teen readers frantically turning pages in a frenzied race to the thrilling end. I was sorry when the trilogy ended; it left me wanting more, and I can certainly see where a second set of three books is possible.

Highly, highly recommended for dystopian fans and anyone who is following the series. This series offers a lot of food for thought--genetic engineering, medical and government ethics, corruption, chaos, and terrorism.

Grades 9-up. Language and mature situations.

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Non-Fiction Pick: Walking On Earth & Touching the Sky

Walking On Earth & Touching the Sky:
Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School
Edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin
Paintings by S.D. Nelson
Foreward by Joseph M. Marshall III, Sicangu Lakota
Abrams Books for Young Readers
80 pages with full color illustrations

Beautiful, vibrant, amazing, and poignant, the images, poetry and prose in this collection speak to the humanity in all persons. Native paintings contained throughout are touching and deeply moving. The students of the Red Cloud Indian School share their innermost thoughts and feelings about misery, silence, spirit, and dreams among their people and families. The editor lived at the reservation and taught at the school. In time, he gained the students' trust and understanding; they shared their work with him.

From student Julia Martin:


Silence is the loudest noise I ever heard. The wind blowing gently across the prairie grass. The horses galloping around the field, the birds flying quietly to the trees. Silence is the loudest noise I ever heard."

and from Isaac Red Owl:

"Silence is the darkness of night when the moon shines bright and the pine trees make the only sound, the sound of a hundred cars on the freeway. Then, when the wind stops, there are no more cars, just silence."

In the section titled Spirit, student Tia Catches writes with wisdom, "Words of Life and Death,"

"The words of life are words of joy,
but the words of death are sad and lonely.
And often, death is soft and peaceful,
and life is often stale."

The foreward explains that life on the reservation is often a fight. The students and families face poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence. The suicide rate is high, but still there is hope among the Lakota. Their paintings and their words will stay with the reader for a lifetime.

Several students voiced the need to write, the need to express their anger, resentment, and rage and at the same time, channel that energy for the good.

Two students voice their thoughts in Why Do I Write?:

from Dusty Black Elk:

"When I write, it comes from my heart. When I write from my heart, I do not want to stop. I want to write until I pop. When I write from my heart, nothing but the truth comes out. I can make up stories with my mouth, but not on paper. When I write, it's like a dream."

and from Christina Cordier:

"I write to get away from the world, to be on my own for just a little while. I write to get all my feelings into just one sentence. I write to remeber that day forever..."

My favorite piece in the collection expresses what I hold to be true of imagination and creativity. A haiku by Isaac Red Owl:

Will always exist for me
Never dies for kids"

From the foreward by Joseph M. Marshall III, he explains the significance of the students' work:

"Not only are the feelings and thoughts expressed intensely personal but they are also unique in that they reveal and represent the experiences of being Lakota in today's world."

This is a rare and important book not only for the Lakota but for all American people and scholars of American history. It is the fabric of our times and lives. This book should be in every non-fiction and poetry collection.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves history, art, and poetry. Highly recommended for all non-fiction collections and poetry collections.

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't Miss this Must-Have Mind Blowing Fantasy Pick: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt(Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)
368 pages

Available June 5, 2012

Watch the book trailer here

Watch a video of historical images that inspired the author

Just what is Tsarpunk anyway?

download a free excerpt here

Beautiful, beguiling, mesmerizing, and magical, this epic tale of good versus evil set in the 19th century in a war-torn kingdom resembling Russia will captivate hordes of readers who will make Shadow and Bone the next must-have trilogy. I expect movie rights are already being secured in Hollywood.

Shadow and Bone is the best debut novel I have read this year. It is everything a reader could possibly want: an sweeping epic tale, a quest for justice, a feisty female protagonist with a mind of her own, a dark, brooding sexy villian, a heroic and strong male love interest, a kingdom at war with itself and a monarchy in peril.

The world of the Grisha is rich in history; they serve the King and practice using elements in science to release energy in a magical fashion. Grishas are born with their powers but must practice to use them and channel their energy.

Alina and Mal are both orphans who grow up together in a rural castle home until they become soldiers for the King. Alina becomes a mapmaker and Mal is a fighter. They journey to the Shadow Fold, a vast, dark wilderness that they must cross to reach the True Sea. It is here that many perish. When their regiment is attacked by Volcra, giant meat-eating birds that live in the dark and prey on humans, Mal dives on top of Alina, saving her life and somehow she saves his.

Alina is taken to the Palace and questioned by the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha, feared by the people and right hand man to the King. The Darkling realizes Alina is the one he has all been seeking all these years--she is the fabled Sun Summoner, the most powerful Grisha in history. She is whisked away into hiding and trained by the Darkling's trusted servants.

Mal is far away and Alina pines for word of him. She writes to him, but her letters go unanswered. She finds herself wondering about the Darkling--he is so mysterious, yet sexy. When he kisses her, there are real sparks, but then she questions her feelings for Mal.

Palace life is rife with gossip, but Alina stays away from most of it. When her old teacher comes to her at night telling her that she must flee the palace and warning her that the Darkling may not be her hero after all, Alina can't believe it! In fact, Alina is in serious danger if she stays at the palace. Mal comes back just in time to help her escape and they are on the run from the King, the Darkling and all the King's horses and all the King's men.

Shadow and Bone is a fantastical world where magic exists and the line drawn in the sand between good and evil is disappearing. The Darkling is the best villian since Darth Vader, but Alina is no wimpy Princess Leia--she is a sexy super-hero who speaks her own mind.

Books two and three promise to be just as amazing. Leigh Bardugo has created a rich and gorgeous world full of breath-taking scenery and horrible monsters, a world where spoiled royalty bask in their wealth and abundance while the peasants starve in the fields and their soldiers are killed in wars and in the Shadow Fold. This is a world ripe for revolution and revolt. Who knows what part Alina and Mal will play in the next edition?

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up with this warning. The Darkling kisses Alina and it's pretty steamy, but they are interrupted before things get carried away. There are shows on prime time television with streamier scenes, so you'll have to make the decision to purchase the book or not. Violence; the Darkling cuts a man in half with his power. Again, other books have this much gore, too.

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Different Kind of Paranormal Thriller: Shift

Em Bailey
304 pages

Available May 22, 2012

Complex and taut, creepily compelling, chillingly engrossing and highly, wickedly entertaining, Shift is a solid page turner that will have teens reading into the wee hours of the morning. It was impossible to put this book down once I had started reading it. From the first page, Em Bailey intrigues the reader with:

"There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile before she'd even started at our school. The first was that she had no parents--they were dead. And the second? They were dead because Miranda had killed them."

Instantly, the reader wants to know: why? How did the parents die? Why did she kill them? Just who is she anyway? The truth is: Miranda is a mesmerizing and enigmatic femme fatale who can "shift" into anyone she wants to become. Olive begins to believe that Miranda is a shape shifter, someone who can become the "host" that they choose--the shifter begins sucking the life force of the host--like a parasite--until the host dies and the shifter becomes stronger each time.

Vulnerable loner Olive watches in horror and sick fascination as Miranda becomes Katie--the popular and cute girl all the other girls seem to follow around. Katie starts losing weight and looking pale; soon Katie gets sick and is hospitalized. Then, Olive begins to think that maybe she was wrong about Miranda--maybe Olive's own "sickness" and meds are causing her to be paranoid. After all, sometimes she doesn't know the truth and reality from the imagined and fake. What if Miranda is really just a nice girl that no one seems to understand? Miranda befriends Olive and starts weaving her magic web of deceit and manipulation--can Olive escape before it's too late?

A cute new guy at school keeps trying to be friends with Olive but she's too busy feeling sorry for herself/blaming herself for her parents' divorce to let Lachlan have a chance. It's a good thing for her that Lachlan won't take no for an answer--he's always in the right place at the right time to save Olive. Girls will love handsome and sexy Lachlan and cheer his chivalrous actions.

The cover image of a beautiful girl changing her appearance will draw teen readers to the book and the back cover has the opening lines (see above). This book reminded me of Choker--one of last year's most memorable books.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. One instance of underage drinking but it's Miranda--the bad girl--Olive insists that she doesn't want a drink but Miranda forces it upon her. A couple of kisses, but that's it.

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

Monday, May 7, 2012

Football Fan Pick: Game Changers

Game Changers
by Mike Lupica
Scholastic Press
224 pages

Available May 8, 2012

Mike Lupica continues to deliver high energy boy books that center around sports. The latest, Game Changers, features Ben McBain, a likeable eleven year old with a passion for all sports and a special love for football. Ben likens himself to Doug Flutie--who, like Ben, was considered undersized and too short to be a quarterback, but who won the National Championship for Boston College and went on to have a terrific NFL career. No one expects the coach to select Ben as starting quarterback even though he has the speed, skills, heart, soul and arm to tackle the job (pun intended).

The team is surprised that Coach O'Brien has moved to town from a successful career in the NFL and having sold his chain of restaurants, has ample time to coach them. His own son Shawn is a great quarterback, too. It comes as no surprise when the coach's son becomes the starting quarterback even though he does not perform consistently. Ben, on the other hand, is nothing if not consistent. Every play, every down, Ben gives it his all. Ben doesn't think that Shawn has the same love of the game that he does.

The two boys are in competition for the entire season. Ben is the harder worker and is motivated to win. Shawn seems to be motivated because he wants his dad's approval and love, not because he wants to win. When the team wins the championship, it's Ben's big day, and Coach gives Ben the game ball. The little guy is really the biggest guy on the team, after all.

An uplifting book for any kid who has ever been told that he/she is too short, too little, too light to play a sport.

Recommended for boys and girls who love sports and football.

Grades 5-up.

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

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fairy Tale Girl Pick: Falling In

Falling In
by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
April 2012 (paperback edition)
245 pages

Mesmerizing, memorable, magnificent, and magical, Falling In has everything a great girl book must have: a fantastic, fierce, and feisty female protagonist, a quirky quest, a magical setting, fantastical beings, all controlled by the rules of a fairy tale world.

Isabelle marches to the beat of her own drummer; she hates "girly" things that all the other middle school girls seem to like. She hates the mall, preferring to find her own clothes--near a garbage can or at the consignment store. Her favorite boots are a little too big and very red, but they make her stand out. Isabelle dislikes school, too. The teachers are sad and boring most of the time. About teachers, Isabelle says:

"Teacher's colleges had equipped them to handle nose pickers, fire starters, back talkers, hitters, biters, and whiners. But quiet girls who weren't shy, girls who talked in riddles but were never actually rude, girls who simply refused to comb those confounded bangs out of their eyes, well, girls like that were beyond them."

When Isabelle gets in trouble and sent to the principal's office, she never actually makes it there. First she sits down to admire her boots and then watches a classmate enter the nurse's office. Seconds later, she hears a scream. She investigates, of course. Charley swears she's seen a mouse--not an ordinary field mouse--this mouse seemed about ready to have a conversation with her! Isabelle opens the closet in the nurse's office and FALLS IN and finds herself in another world entirely. There are doors like that, you know, doors that lead to another possibility if you'd only open them (a wink to the author).

The first kids Isabelle meets mistake her for the witch who has been terrorizing their little towns, devouring innocent children and babies. Then she meets Hen, a girl in the woods who needs help finding her friends. After twisting her ankle, Isabelle is "saved" by a woman named Grete who seems strange to Hen but seems magically soothing to Isabelle.

Isabelle feels at home in this fairy tale world where cures are herbal and natural and life is slower and wiser. It suits her pace and sense of whimsy. She tells Grete that she's decided to stay. As fate would have it, Isabelle FALLS OUT and returns to her mother, but realizes that her mother has a magic of her own. Isabelle says:

"The doors are out there. If you could just twist a few out-of-the-way doorknobs, check the custodian's closet at your school, pay attention to the ground under the soles of your shoes--If you feel a buzz beneath your toes, let me know."

Most of the story is told by Isabelle, but the author interrupts now and then to tell the reader some back story about fairies or magic. I loved the way the author spoke directly to the reader, admonishing her to pay attention or warning her about some fairy magic.

Highly, highly recommended for any reader who enjoys a funny story about a stange girl who doesn't really ever want to "fit it" with the popular kids, a girl who really wants to meet a witch and believes that she herself is a changeling planted in the real world by fairies. Isabelle will have many avid followers and that band of merry misfits will cheer when a true individual wins.

Grades 4-up.

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Giveaway: Timepiece

Timepiece (Hourglass, Book 2)
by Myra McEntire
Available June 12,2012

Win a copy before you can buy it! Be the first to read Timepiece!

I have 5 copies of Timepiece (book 2, Hourglass) a fantastic ya paranormal thriller. Part mystery, part sci-fi, part paranormal and all parts thrilling, Timepiece is a great new young adult read.

Post a comment to the blog and include your email contact address, your city and state. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Deadline for posting is May 30 at noon MST. Winners will be notified May 30; please check your email. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email with their mailing address.

Books will ship from New York City.

Good luck and start posting!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

High School Thriller Pick: Kill Switch

Kill Switch
by Chris Lynch
Simon & Schuster
169 pages

Mesmerizing, quick, taut, tense, and terrifying, Kill Switch is a smart espionage thriller full of national secrets and stealthy missions...or is it?

College is just around the corner for Daniel and he knows it's his last chance to connect with his aging grandfather--known as "Da." Da has been a constant in Daniel's life--he taught him to ride a bike, how to pick a horse, they have shared countless adventures together but now Da seems to be forgetting things. He has moments of clarity and then slips off somewhere else in his mind. Daniel knows that this is the last few days they will be able to spend together.

Da begins talking about crazy things--about his missions outside the U.S.--about his secretive career. Daniel knows this can't be right. Da works in agriculture or agri-business, not terrorism, but when a couple of Da's old "friends" and co-workers show up and seem to threaten Da to keep quiet, Daniel knows there's more to Da's rants than fiction.

Could Da really have been a government secret agent? Are his outlandish stories for real? The fact that his crazy stories could possibly be real scare Daniel and he takes matters into his own hands. With the help of his stoner cousin, Daniel flees with Da to a remote college campus. The three of them hide out until their cover is blown.

Da seems to be slipping even farther into his dementia. How long can Daniel hide him? What will Daniel do to keep his grandfather safe?

Kill Switch is a taut and crisp page turner with a rocket pace and savvy cool secret agent tone. Daniel will tug at the reader's heartstrings as he comes to grips with the real truth. Is he just like his "Old Man"?

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who likes a quick and satisfying thriller.

Grades 9-up. Some violence, language, drug use.

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