Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girl Pick: Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Graceful Princess

Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Graceful Princess
by Rachel Renee Russell
Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)
368 pages, with illustrations

Once again, we meet Nikki Maxwell and her BFF's Chloe and Zoey. This time the girls want to enter a skating contest hoping to get A's in  their P.E. class, do a good deed for a local charity, and win $3,000.00 to help that charity. Their biggest problem is that Nikki can't skate--well, she can sort of skate, if falling down and running into everything and everyone on ice counts. Nikki has a few days to figure it out and act like a graceful princess on ice or the girls will get laughed out of school. Of course, mean girl Mackenzie is out to prove she's the greatest thing ever seen on ice. Nikki has no love for Mackenzie and thinks of her as, "a GRIZZLY BEAR with a French manicure and blond hair extensions." Sadly for Nikki and company, Mackenzie skates like an Olympic champ.

The girls rally around a local cause, Fuzzy Friends, a pet rescue organization run by an elderly couple. Brandon, Nikki's "SQUEE" crush, volunteers his time there, and Nikki loves playing with the puppies and dogs. When they hear that Fuzzy Friends may have to close, Nikki and her BFF's are more determined than ever to win the prize money for the charity.

Throughout the book, Nikki complains about little sis Brianna, who is just about the biggest brat since Dennis the Menace. She means no harm, but she runs pretty wild. She never seems to get in trouble even when ruining a holiday performance of "The Nutcracker." Her antics are over the line, and she will probably end up a juvenile delinquent if her behavior is not addressed soon!

Brandon is just as dreamy as ever, and he's showing interest in Nikki. She's SQUEE over-the-moon. This  funny romp with  good natured fun (except for bratty Brianna), typical middle school angst, and a great female protagonist who is believeable and charming and who will resonate with fans of the earlier books.

Highly, highly recommended for fans of earlier Dork Diaries. Book 4 delivers laughs and entertainment.

Grades 5-up. No language, no sex. Some bad behavior on Brianna's part; mean girl antics and attitude from Mackenzie and Nikki is starting to stand up for herself.

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

High School Pick: Because It Is My Blood

Because It Is My Blood
by Gabrielle Zevin
Farrar Straus Giroux
368 pages

Available September 18,  2012 (expected publishing date)

Book page count and expected publication date from publisher's arc

In Book 2 of the Birthright series, Anya Balanchine finds herself just released from prison, the Liberty Children's Facility, and  she's ready to become a model citizen.  She wants to break the family mob ties to her uncle and their family's black market chocolate operation. She finds that much harder than she thought. When all the local high schools refuse her as a student due to her prison record and family background, Anya decides to travel to Mexico and learn more about the chocolate business from cocoa pod to black market chocolate bar. Things are not as quiet in Mexico as Anya expected and her heart is tested.

While she is away, she finds out that her family is in danger and she must leave Mexico immediately to save her little sister. Anya is still wounded from the fact that she's in love with Win, a boy she can never have. Win is still in love with her, too. Throughout the book, the reader keeps hoping they will be together for that "Romeo and Juliet" love story moment, but then things didn't turn out so right for Shakespeare's star-crossed duo either!

At home, Scarlet, Anya's bestie,  is in love with Gable and even Win seems to have a new girlfriend. Try as she might, Anya cannot escape the pull of the mob and the corruption of her family and the "chocolate wars." It seems every friend has secrets and everyone wants a piece of the chocolate business. When her closest alliances come into question, she will have to decide who her real friends are.  Who is the double agent? Who wants her dead?

All These Things I've Done (book 1) was compelling and complex but equally entertaining and exciting. Book 2, Because It Is My Blood , is not as taut and thrilling as book one. Anya is still one of the best and brightest heroines in young adult novels, but the storyline plodded along in places.

Readers of book one will want to read this book.

Highly recommended for fans of All These Things I've Done. Readers must read book one to understand Anya's story and background.

Grades 9-up. Mature situations, violence, mob violence, killings.

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Giveaway: High School Pick: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl--Super Funny!

I have 5 copies of this fantastic new ya read! This is the funniest book I've read this year; Jesse Andrews can make anything funny--even cancer and high school angst! Read my full review here

Post a comment here with your name, city, state and email address. Deadline for posts is June 30. Winners will be chosen at random by Randomizer and notified July 11. Please check your email on July 11. Winners have 24 hours to contact me with their mailing addresses.  Books will ship from New York City.

Good luck and start posting! Pamela

by Lisa Tawn Bergren
(series, book 6)
Waterbrook Press
(first publicatation 2001)

Firestorm is the perfect book for your beach read this summer. It offers romance, a lot of action, a hot (pun intended) new male lead, a hot-headed and stubborn female protagonist, a beautiful setting, and tons of fuel to add to the fire, so to speak.

Reyne Oldre is a smoke jumper who has been grounded by the fire that led to several of her team members' deaths. She is now doing fire research and wants her project funded, but faces competition when smoke jumper hot and smoldering Logan McCabe comes between her and her funding. The board decides that Reyne and Logan can work together developing HIS project.

Reyne has been burned by love before; someone close to her lost in fire, and she doesn't want to get close to someone who eats and lives danger on a daily basis.

Her friends see the smoldering looks between the two and know it's only a matter of time before Reyne will fall for Logan.

Readers will like spunky Reyne and female readers will swoon over Logan McCabe--a gentleman who only wants the girl.

This is book six in the series, but readers need not read the first five. It is possible to understand this book without reading the first ones. The author keeps the reader up-to-date on what has happened in Reyne's past.

The Christian point of view is not overdone and the book is not too preachy. It is interesting to mix realistic fiction with a character who believes in her faith.

Recommended for anyone who likes a hot summer romance with fiery action.
Grades 9-up. Mature situations; no language.

Monday, June 18, 2012

High School Pick: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews
Amulet (Abrams)
295 pages

Scathing, scintillating, taut and teetering, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a triumph! Not since Holden Caulfield has a character come forward with such strength and with a voice of his own generation.

Greg Gaines is a social misfit and, believe it or not, he tries to remain on the perimeter of things. He doesn’t want to be associated with a particular group. The key to surviving high school according to Greg is to appear to fit in everywhere but nowhere. Be visible but invisible. Don’t be associated with the goths, the band kids, the nerd kids, the popular kids, but be friendly to all groups. Don’t get on the wrong side of anyone. That way, no one will be targeting you. Earl is about the only friend Greg has and they don’t associate at school. Earl is a loner like Greg, but they have movies in common. In fact, particularly old and strange movies. They watch Aguirre, the Wrath of God so many times, they know the script. They decide to make their own movies and a friendship is born.

In the meantime, Greg’s mother tells him that one of his classmates, Rachel Kushner has leukemia. She is dying and Greg’s mother wants Greg to help comfort her. She knows that he once had a “thing” for Rachel; Greg doesn’t remember it that way at all, and the last thing he wants is to hang out with a dying girl who probably doesn’t even remember him. But, he does go to the hospital and try to keep Rachel laughing and her spirits up. He tells Earl about Rachel and Earl soon visits her, too. When Rachel finds out about the boys’ movie making, she begs them to let her watch their movies. Greg is against it on so many levels, but Earl gives in. As she gets worse, Greg and Earl come up with the idea of Rachel the Movie. Rachel loves their movies, and the boys want to cheer her up. She loves the movie they made for her and sees true talent in their film, even if the boys don’t see their path yet. Her last wish is for Greg to attend film school because she knows it’s what he really loves. It’s a major Greg hadn’t even thought of, and he is intrigued.

Earl and Greg have several serious fights and Earl goes to work at Wendy’s. Greg realizes he has to figure out a way to college, so he sits down to write this book—the book the reader is reading—it’s his entry essay into college. He’s screwed up his grades so much, and people know it’s because of the grief he feels over losing Rachel, that the admissions committee gives him a chance to enter Pitt (Pittsburgh) if he will write an essay.

Believable characters with tragic flaws, teen angst and satire at its best, comedic charm and cunning wit put this ya novel at the top of its game. I say look out for Jesse Andrews; he’s the teen answer to writers like David Sedaris. He sees humor in dark situations like poverty, gang activities, guns, death, dying, and cancer. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a must-read for every teen who likes witty characters with an edge and realistic fiction with spot-on teen dialog. Earl, despite his foibles, is loveable and a true character. He has strength of character and grit, and despite his environment and troubled upbringing and lack of parenting, he knows right from wrong and does the right thing. He is a righteous man and calls on Greg to “step up to the plate” when it comes to Rachel.

I was hooked from the opening paragraph, “So in order to understand everything that happened, you have to start from the premise that high school sucks. Do you accept that premise? Of course you do. It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. In fact, high school is where we are first introduced to the basic existential question of life: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad?” I wanted to know about this narrator—what makes him tick? Why is he so ticked off? And he had Holden Caulfield-esque brutal honesty. He will have universal appeal to teen readers.

His grip on human behavior is genius. About Earl’s younger gangster brother Brandon, Greg says, “If the city of Pittsburgh gave out a Least Promising Human award, he would be on the short list.”

Later, Greg and Earl accidentally ingest marijuana, I know what you’re thinking, how does anyone accidentally ingest marijuana, right? Read the book, you’ll see; it’s funny. Anyway, Greg says,

“I probably don’t need to tell you that nothing is funnier at Benson, or any other high school, than when a human being falls down. I don’t mean witty, or legitimately funny; I’m just saying , people in high school think falling down is the funniest thing that a person could possibly do…People completely lose control when they see this happen. Sometimes they themselves fall down, and then the entire world collapses on itself…” When Greg has trouble standing up and falls down a second time, he writes, “People were close to throwing up from laughing so hard. It was truly a gift from the Comedy Gods: a chubby guy falling down, freaking out, lurching in the direction of the door, and falling down again.”

Laugh out loud funny, teens will chortle at Greg’s descriptions and wit. He is a character that many will identify with and others will want to embrace as a bff.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. This is some of the funniest, most descriptive curse words I’ve ever read. A+ for new vocabulary words added to the English language and new ways of using existing profanity. Earl is a genius at cursing and it’s funny. Mature situations and lots and lots of profanity.

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

by Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf
290 pages

Satirical and sadistic, funny and fantastic, entertaining and explosive, Chomp is the latest literary frolic into Florida's wildlife genre. Hiaasen is at his hilarious best when making fun of reality television, nature shows, and a Hollywood superstar animal handler who really knows nothing about wild animals.

Derek Badger is a maniacal ego junkie who thinks he can handle any wild animal. His show "Expedition Survival" has the ratings all right, but he is far from the wildlife expert. Originally a tap dancer, Derek saw the chance to become famous. He changed his name, put on a super-sexy Australian accent, and hammed it up in front of the camera. Now his show has invaded Florida offering big money to use wild animals provided by Wahoo and his father. They have a wildlife retreat where they take in orphaned and hurt alligators, snakes, raccoons, monkeys, and turtles. In a bind for money and afraid of their home foreclosing, Mickey Cray agrees to rent out their animals as part of the show.

When "handler" Derek gets overly rough with the python, Mickey gets crazy. He wants to protect his animals and any cost and won't have a Hollywood idiot hurting them for any amount of money. The show's producer keeps reminding Mickey that he's "under contract." Contract or no contract, Mickey won't go along with the star's crazy antics. Derek will do anything for ratings, including wrestling alligators, eating weird bugs and creepy crawlies, and making every animal--even the tame ones--seem like lethal predators.

The show's director offers Mickey and Wahoo extra money for taking them into the Everglades; on the way, they run into Tuna, a school friend of Wahoo's and they take her along.

More shenanigans transpire with Derek "borrowing" an airboat, getting hopelessly lost in the 'glades, and attacked by bats. If not for Wahoo, Mickey and Tuna, Derek would be a goner.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who likes a funny and entertaining read. Grades 7-up. No language, funny situations.

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

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ghostly Pick: Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift
by Chris Westwood
Scholastic Press
first printing 2011 (Great Britain) under the title Ministry of Pandemonium
304 pages

Hardcover available July 1, 2012

See the book trailer here

Read an excerpt here

Creepy and thrilling, cool and terrifying, quick paced and entertaining, Graveyard Shift will thrill middle grade readers (grades 5-8). This inventive novel is part fantasy, part paranormal, part mystery, and in places, uproariously funny and sure to entice tons of teen fans.

Mysterious and bizarre Mr. October keeps appearing to Ben. First, he sees him in a cemetery. Then he sees him wearing disguises everywhere around his London neighborhood. Mr. October has chosen Ben--for what? Ben doesn't yet know. The strange man seems to be testing him and sizing him up.

There's more than meets the eye going on in London. Ghosts and spirits roam freely, but the Ministry is supposed to keep tabs on all of them. Ben is just the boy for the job. Magic is afoot and the evil Lords of Sundown want to capture as many spirits as they can. Mr. October helps spirits find their way and now he wants Ben as an apprentice.

Ben begins helping Mr. October and finds the answer to a mystery in his own life. What twisted secret from his family's past will Ben have to face? Can Ben put this behind him?

Graveyard Shift is rich with monstrous demons, creepy surroundings, magical places, mysterious people, bizarre appearances, and in Ben, a protagonist readers will never forget. Ben is the "everyboy," the typical kid from London whose family is a little down on their luck--a kid looking for someone to help guide him.

Recommended grades 5-up. No language, no sex. Good readers in grade 4 who can handle Harry Potter books will easily handle this read.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Armchair BEA

Check out this site Armchair BEA

A site where bloggers can still visit the Book Expo of America from the comfort of their armchairs (or in my case, my balance ball in front of my computer) more on this, later.

Register here

Here are the giveaways lucky bloggers can win

I'm hoping to participate and to WIN BIG!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Teen Pick: Skinny

by Donna Cooner
Point (Scholastic)

Available October 2012 (date from publisher's arc)

Poignant and passionate, yet soaringly uplifting, Skinny is the story of one teen's fight with obesity, negative body image, and finding herself.

Ever Davies introduces herself to the reader, "I'm fifteen years old, and I weigh 302 pounds." Ever fights the demon of Skinny--a voice in her head that tells her all the mean things that other kids think about her. Skinny knows what they're saying. Ever is fat and stupid, she's a monster and gross, she will never be anything but a huge blob of a mess. The popular kids make fun of her. What they don't know is that Ever has a hidden talent. She can sing--no, really sing--like "American Idol" sing. Ever hids her disappointment, resentment, sadness, and anger by overeating. She turns to food to solve her issues, but finds that food is killing her.

She finally decides on weight loss surgery. More and more teens are grossly obese, and more and more doctors agree that surgery will help them live normal lives. It will cut their chances of getting heart disease and diabetes. Ever's father agrees to let her have the surgery. Her childhood friend Rat is by her bedside before surgery and there when she comes out. Being the science nerd that he is, he records her weight, weight loss and exercise in a log for her. They keep track of her progress. The first couple of weeks Ever can only walk a block. Soon, she's running three miles.

With the help of her half-sister and new-found support system--Briella--and her constant friend Rat, Ever continues to lose weight. When mean girl Whitney becomes her friend, Ever can't believe it! The popular kids are paying attention to her! Finally.

Ever begins to look at people for who they really are. There's Whitney--who is popular but shallow, Briella--who seemed mean at first-- but is really hurt by her father's absence, Rat--a great best friend who may be even more than a friend, Ever realizes that exterior beauty is often deceiving. The true beauty in someone is how they support their loved ones.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No sex; some rude language.

Teens with negative body issues and/or teens who struggle with weight will empathize with Ever. The author had gastric bypass surgery herself and writes that she will always have weight issues. The surgery is not a quick fix; patients will have to watch their diet and exercise regimen for life.

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

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Giveaway: Shift

I have 5 copies of Shift, a riveting new ya title. Read my review here

You stand a very good chance of winning since many posters are off for the summer.

Simply post a comment to the blog with your first name, city and state. Please include your email address so that I can contact you should you win. Winners will be chosen by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is June 15 at noon MST. Winners will be notified by email on the 15th and will have 24 hours to respond to my email.

Good luck and start posting! Pamela
False Memory
by Dan Krokos
Disney Book Group (Hyperion)
336 pages

Available August 14, 2012

Dark, dangerous, dynamic, and disturbing, False Memory is a solid page-turner that will have sci-fi fans reading at a frantic pace. Teens won't be able to put this complex ya novel down.

Miranda has lost her memory, but she knows her name and knows that she needs help. She finds herself in a mall but without any memory of how she got there or how to get home. She asks a mall cop for help, but he thinks she's a troubled teen-ager just out to pull a practical joke.

Suddenly all hell breaks loose and everything goes crazy. Miranda feels weird and her head is throbbing. People around her are running for their lives, but one boy appears untouched by all the mayhem. He reaches out to Miranda--assuring her that he is her friend and that he needs to take her from the mall to safety. Miranda has no choice but to follow Peter.

What she discovers is even worse than she could have imagined. Home is a laboratory where Dr. Tycast assures her that he will make her well again. She stopped her injections and that's why she's lost her memory. The doctor assures her that Olive, Peter, and Noah are her friends.

What if the doctor is not their loving father figure at all? The kids have powers that can be unleashed as a weapon against mankind. What if someone wanted to use them to harm people? How much would a government pay for their kind of powers?

The kids unearth a startling secret: there are more kids like them. The doctor is not powerful enough to keep them safe and the kids soon find themselves on their own.

Miranda and her team are in for the fight of their lives. They are searching for Rhys--rumored to be like them but one who escaped and went underground. They are going to need his help--if he can be trusted.

Plot twists and turns galore. Don't blink or you might miss something in this rollicking thrill-ride. Be prepared to stay up all night with this book.

Highly, highly recommended for sci-fi fans and anyone who likes a thrilling read. Girls and guys will both like this one.

Grades 7-up.

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

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