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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Graphic Novel Pick: Cardboard


Cardboard
written and illustrated by Doug Tennapel
Graphix (Scholastic)
2012
288 pages

This cautionary tale by Doug Tennapel unfolds in blatant, in-your-face full color illustrations that are both creepy and cool. Out of work carpenter Mike is down to his last seventy-eight cents and it’s his son Cam’s birthday. He happens upon a strange toy booth where a creepy and pushy elderly toy seller fulfills his need. It looks like only an empty cardboard box but old man Gideon promises that the box is full of ideas, adventure, and projects and it only costs seventy-eight cents, exactly the amount in Mike’s pocket. Coincidence, right? BUT. There. Are. Rules. 1. Mike must return every scrap of cardboard they don’t use, and 2. Mike can never ask for any more cardboard. If he agrees to the rules, he gets the box for Cam’s birthday. He hates that he feels like it’s the worst present ever, but he resigns himself to the fact that he’s dead broke.

Neighbors Marcus and Pink Eye bully Cam and laugh at his “present.” Cam is disappointed, but he knows they’ve fallen on hard times. He decides to make the best of it. His dad’s a carpenter after all. They go to work making a life-size human looking boxer. They measure and cut, and soon “Bill” is born. Bill comes to life! It’s going to be hard to keep a secret in this neighborhood; a man made out of cardboard who can walk and talk and who has feelings and wishes?

Cam can’t help but make Marcus jealous, and Marcus is not a “nice” boy. He tries to kill Bill, and when that doesn’t work, he steals cardboard scraps. The scraps seem to have a life of their own and soon Marcus’s house is overrun with “living” cardboard inventions hell-bent on destroying his house and the entire neighborhood. The creations have run amok; see what happens when someone breaks the cardinal rule?—which was return all the scraps to Gideon?
Soon, Marcus is seeking Cam and Mike’s help. Can Bill, Marcus, Mike, and Cam stop the evil cardboard army? What will happen to Bill if the cardboard meanies are defeated?

Highly, highly recommended for fans of graphic novels grades 5-8 and older kids who love well-imagined and beautifully designed graphic novels.

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)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top 10 Halloween Reads by Ty Drago (author of The Undertakers series)

Queen of the Dead (book 2, The Undertakers series) Read my review of his new novel here

Ty Drago, author of Queen of the Dead shared his list of his Top 10 Halloween Reads! Pick one up today:

Ty Drago’s Top Ten Halloween Reads

Let’s start by assuming – modestly, if inaccurately – that my books don’t belong on the list! 

1) THE SHINING by Stephen King: This is, hands-down, the scariest book I’ve ever read. It tells the tale of ill-fated Jack Torrence who, along with his wife and psychically-gifted six-year-old son Danny, accepts a job as winter caretaker for The Overlook Hotel, high in the Colorado mountains. To call this huge hotel haunted is like calling Mt. Everest “a bit of a climb.” It’s been made into a movie with Jack Nicholson and a mini-series with Stephen Weber. But, in my humble opinion, neither treatment can touch King’s subtle, terrifying prose. It’s a masterpiece.

2) ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry: A classic zombie tale, but one that’s character driven instead of plot driven. Fifteen-year-old Benny Imura lives with his older brother Tom in a fenced town somewhere in post-zombie apocalyptic California. Outside the fence is the Rot and Ruin, a fast nothingness prowled by the living dead. Not a good place to be. But when some very human nasties kidnap Benny’s friend, he and Tom set out to rescue her, heading straight into that zombie wasteland. Maberry is a living encyclopedia of zombie lore, and his world in this book is the best conceived Z-Land I’ve ever read.

3) SWAN SONG by Robert McCammon: Not, strictly speaking, a horror story, this is the chronicle of post-nuclear war America. In the radiated aftermath, an ancient and terrible stranger walks amongst the survivors, whispering despair and hopelessness in their ears. But one little girl, graced with an inner light as bright as the sun, might just be able to stand against him. A long, epic read, McCammon somehow manages to be uplifting in some places, and downright terrifying in others!

4) PHANTOMS by Dean R. Koontz: An early work, this is a creepy tale about a small town rendered empty by something unseen and utterly alien. To reveal anymore would be a crime. But suffice it to say that Koontz plays up the tension to a fever pitch. I’ve read the book twice and it never fails to give me … uncomfortable … dreams.

5) RELIC by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child: Set in New York’s famed Museum of Natural History, this is a modern take on a good old monster story. Beautifully told and, sadly, made into a lousy movie, the story remains a rollercoaster of scares. The book’s success launched more than one series, but this original piece remains my favorite.

6) IT by Stephen King: My second favorite King book, this tale of childhood courage against unspeakable evil has passages that made me have to stop reading for a few minutes. For a horror novel, there is no higher praise! Thirty years ago, seven friends battled an entity that feeds on innocence, defeating but not destroying it. Now, as adults, they return to finish the job, but at what cost?

7) OFF SEASON by Jack Ketchum: Not for the timid, this tale of modern cannibals living in a remote American backwater is violent, visceral and extremely unsettling. Hardcore horror. You have been warned.

8) CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT by Dan Simmons: Count Dracula is back, but in a way quite different than you might imagine. This modern day vampire tale puts a wonderfully original spin on the legend, and even lets us see into the mind of the ancient bloodsucker himself. Inventive and wholly unique, it’s my favorite vampire novel – aside from Stoker’s masterwork, of course.

9) THE WOMAN by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee: A “grandchild” of OFF SEASON, this terrifying - and surprisingly socially-powerful - tale of a rural lawyer who “rescues” a feral woman and tries to tame her, will make you wonder just who the real “monster” is. It was recently made into an amazing movie by Moderncine.

10) DEAN R. KOONTZ’S FRANKENSTEIN: This is actually a series, not a single book, and a series I’ve only recently gotten into. Victor Frankenstein is back, this time as a sociopathic genius bent on populating the world with his manufactured “new race”. And against him stand two New Orleans cops - and Deucalion, once known as the “Monster”, a man born of lightning and now devoted to undoing his creator’s evil plans.

There you have it! Oh, and by the way, if you find yourself looking for yet another scary, might have suggest … oh, I dunno … THE UNDERTAKERS series?

That’s right. I have no shame.
Ty Drago



Monday, October 22, 2012

Early Reader Pick: Waking Dragons


Waking Dragons
Jane Yolen
Paintings by Derek Anderson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2012
32 pages

Available October 23, 2012

Quaint, clever, and oh-so-cute Waking Dragons proves Jane Yolen can do anything! Illustrations by Derek Anderson are whimsical and colorful exploding with fire-breathing dragon energy on every two page spread. Dragons take up each spread with not an ounce of wasted space.

Mom leaves her little knight a note to wake the dragons before school, and the young boy wakes them and helps them get ready for their day. The rhyming by Yolen is spot-on and cute. Even when the words don't actually rhyme, Yolen throws in another syllable to make it quirky and get young (and older) readers to smile at the whimsy, "Wipe their faces, runny noses, get into their outdoor clothes-es."

The boy and his favorite dog catch a ride to school on the backs of their dragon roommates, and the dragons, "...get to fly. And fly. And fly." as the boy waves good-bye and takes his backpack up the steps of the school.

This clever picture book is right in time for Christmas gifts and stockings. What child wouldn't want a great dragon book? This will appeal to all ages, boys and girls, who love a great dragon tail (pun intended).

The cover will welcome hordes of young dragon fans and even the endsheets have a smart dragon fire design. The publishers really hit this one out of the park with its delightful packaging.

Oh-so-highly recommended. This is a must-have! Early readers and all ages.

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)



Zombie Pick: The Undertakers: Queen of the Dead


The Undertakers: Queen of the Dead (book 2)
By Ty Drago
Sourcebooks (Jabberwocky)
2012
419 pages

Read about Book One:

"Plenty of action, gruesome descriptions, and hand-to-hand combat will draw mostly middle-grade boys, but there are lots of strong girl characters as well. A satisfying ending hints at a sequel. Recommended.” – Library Media Connection

Click here for the book trailer and other fun zombie stuff!


Exciting and explosive, the second book In The Undertakers series, Queen of the Dead, is a real treat for tween and teen readers who love a great zombie read.

Will Ritter is a part of an underground group of children who have the ability to see these otherworlders (Corpses) as they truly are. Adults only see the exterior of these monsters, but the kids and teens can see the rotting corpses beneath the smooth exteriors. Will and his band led by tough girl Sharyn are the city’s only hope from total destruction. The Deaders are taking over the bodies and minds of the city’s officials and top cops. The kids have to do something to stop them.

The Undertakers realize that the Queen of the Dead has made her comeback and she’s suddenly very popular in politics and with adult voters. Her Deaders have taken an FBI agent hostage and the kids will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if it means breaking into a state prison.

The Deaders are dead set (pun intended) on taking over and they begin to infiltrate at all levels, even kidnapping Will’s mother and sister to use against the Undertakers as leverage. The Queen doesn’t have any idea how strong Will’s conviction can be. He’s out to avenge his father’s murder and to save the rest of his family.

Can average teens defend Philadelphia against an army of Corpses? These aren’t your average zombies either. These Deaders are fast, smart, and capable of language. Not only that, they don’t have much to lose. They’re already dead! What does an army of dead meat want? And what are they capable of?

This is book 2 in the series, but readers will not have to read book 1 to understand the action; however, fans will want to read both books.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No sex, no language. PG zombie violence.

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)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Non-Fiction Pick: A Little Book of Sloth


A Little Book Of Sloth
by Lucy Cooke
Margaret K. McElderry Books
2013
64 pages with full color photos

Available March 5, 2013

Readers will be in love with Buttercup, Velcro, Mateo, Sunshine, Sammy, and all the other sloths that live in Slothville, a sanctuary in Costa Rica that cares for sloths in need. Sloths are native to the jungles of Central America, and are not intended as pets. Frequently, baby sloths are rescued from poachers who plan to sell them as pets. Slothville takes them in and gives them a new home.

Did you know there’s actually two types of sloths? The Bradypus has three toes and Choloepus has two toes. Both like to hang upside down and sleep. Sloths are slow and chill. Sloths like to warm up in the sun and cuddle with other sloths. In the wild, sloths are loners, but at the sanctuary, they find cuddle buddies.

While you can’t have a pet sloth, you can help the sanctuary raise an orphaned sloth until it’s ready to be released in the wild. To make a donation, go to sloth sanctuary and to love sloths go to the Sloth Appreciation Society.

Beautiful photos capture these whimsical characters in party hats, climbing trees, playing on a Jungle gym, eating beans, cuddling, riding in a pail, and sleeping with stuffed animals. This book taught me a great life lesson: Just Chill.

The book has it right, “Warning: Baby sloths can be highly addictive. Prepare yourself for cute overload!”

“Too Cute! Baby Sloths” is the Animal Planet Documentary by Lucy Cooke featuring the same sloths in this new book. It first aired December 17, 2011, in the United States.

Highly, highly recommended for animal lovers of all ages.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Young Reader Pick: Nightsong

Nightsong
By Ari Berk
Loren Long, Illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2012
48 pages

This little gem will leave young readers delighted and in love with the unlikeliest of creatures: bats!

Chiro is a young bat about to embark on his first solo flight at night. His mother tells him to sing a song to the world and the world will answer; this explains how the bat is able to “see” at night. Chiro is to visit the pond nearby and eat his breakfast and then fly back home.

Chiro realizes when he sings his song, he is able to “see” the shapes of trees in the pitch black. He sees birds overhead and reaches the pond where he eats. He wonders what else is out there? What is there to see beyond the pond? He flies until dawn and returns safely home to his mother’s love.

Beautifully illustrated in graphite and acrylic, Loren Long captures the youthful exuberance of Chiro, his bat-ears huge in the dark night. On one two page spread, Chiro is shown close up—his eyes are almost doe-like, his mouth a surprised little “O”. Children will love Chiro and his journey.

The book explains where Chiro’s name comes from. It’s from the Greek word chiroptera meaning “hand wing.” Further, it explains that bats are the only mammal that can fly.

Highly, highly recommended for young readers and anyone who loves beautiful artwork. This is a picture book that can be studied for the art alone.

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, October 17, 2012

Foodie and Book Club Pick: My Berlin Kitchen


My Berlin Kitchen
By Luisa Weiss
Viking
2012
302 pages with recipes

Fans of Luisa Weiss’s blog, The Wednesday Chef, are in for a real treat—her own true story of cooking, living and loving. Weiss was a young child when her parents divorced, her father relocating to America and her Italian mother living in Berlin. She traveled between the two continents throughout her childhood and teens, never feeling truly at home or belonging to any country. She remembers the long flights and the Christmases away from either her father or her mother, but never Christmas with both of them.

The only place young Luisa felt safe was in the kitchen, the aromas and colors of familiar food welcoming her into its open arms. Luisa soon associated certain foods with certain family members or places. Her father gave her a recipe for the family’s Tomato Sauce—great comfort food handed down from her Italian grandmother (maternal). Whenever Luisa prepares it, she remembers her father and her grandmother, and she hopes to pass it along to her children someday. She points out that everyone needs a great tomato sauce.

From her uncle Pietro, Luisa includes a delicious recipe for Pizza Siciliana, a Sicilian treasure topped with escarole, anchovies, provolone and grape tomatoes. Serious foodies will love recipes for Erbsensuppe (German Pea Soup), Braised Leeks and Meatballs in Tomato-Chipotle Sauce.

Luisa’s story is shared by countless numbers of career women on the fast track. Through their 20’s and 30’s, they are building a career and not thinking about marriage or children, and suddenly, they hear that biological clock ticking faster. They nearly panic. It’s time! Their clock keeps reminding them. Find a husband. Settle down. Start a family. And like Luisa, they may fight the clock; they may walk away from love. Only to discover it has always been there.

My Berlin Kitchen is a charming and winsome read with wide appeal. It’s a love story, a coming of age story, a food story, a family story, a life story. Like Eat, Pray, Love, this novel will captivate and capture hordes of hungry new fans (pun intended).

Highly, highly recommended for foodies, romantics, and book club members everywhere. Mature content. Wide appeal for high school libraries. Teens will be enthralled by Luisa’s “jet-set” lifestyle.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Giveaway: Skylark--You'll Want This One!


Skylark
By Meagan Spooner
Carolrhoda Lab
2012
333 pages

I have FIVE FREE copies of this fantastic new YA title up for grabs! It is book one in a trilogy. Be sure and grab your chance to win a free copy.

Simply post a comment to the blog. Include your first name, city, state and email address. Deadline for posts is October 31 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be contacted by email. Be sure and check your email on the 31st. Books will ship from Lerner Publishing Group.

Here is a brief summary of the book. Scroll down for the full review.

Dystopian and downright disturbing, multi-layered and darkly fascinating, bizarrely novel and breathtakingly beautiful, dangerous yet grotesquely compelling, Skylark hits all the right notes. This is one YA novel that readers will never forget.

Set in a disturbing dystopian world where the City “harvests” the lifesource of its own children, stripping them of their magic and well being when they come of age, the city uses the children’s magic powers for the good of all. Lark Ainsley knew that someday would be her day to help her city. She had no idea that the city intends to use ALL of her.



Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. The harvest requires the person to remove his/her clothing, but it’s not in the least bit sexual. Similar to a werewolf obviously can’t wear clothing when he/she changes forms. No language. No sex. Violence and disturbing dystopia. Think The Hunger Games mixed with A Long Long Sleep and a bit of disturbing science fiction/medical/ethical dilemmas similar to Coma.

Don't miss a chance to win a copy of this must read title in a new to-die-for series!

Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Dystopian Pick: Skylark

Skylark
By Meagan Spooner
Carolrhoda Lab
2012
333 pages

Dystopian and downright disturbing, multi-layered and darkly fascinating, bizarrely novel and breathtakingly beautiful, dangerous yet grotesquely compelling, Skylark hits all the right notes. This is one YA novel that readers will never forget.

Set in a disturbing dystopian world where the City “harvests” the lifesource of its own children, stripping them of their magic and well being when they come of age, the city uses the children’s magic powers for the good of all. Lark Ainsley knew that someday would be her day to help her city. She had no idea that the city intends to use ALL of her.

She escapes a fate worse than death and flees outside the “safety” of the City. A frightening encounter with a woman like her compels her into action. She knows that they will never quit looking for her, but dying trying to escape is better than “living” as a silent conduit slave for the city’s power supply. Kris helps Lark escape, and she runs into the wilds where she meets a wild boy named Oren. Oren has been alone for many years, doing whatever is necessary to survive and escape the dark ones. He knows where the Iron Wood is located and reluctantly agrees to accompany Lark.

Lark knows there is safety in the Iron Wood; there are others like her—others who can do magic, others who have fled their own cities. The words from Robert Frost have never been more foreboding, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep…” What will Lark find in the Iron Wood? Will she and Oren finally be safe?

Teen readers will race through the pages empathizing with lovely and spirited Lark—Lark, the girl who never gives up. No matter what the consequences, Lark faces danger head-on. She is the fiercest teen heroine to date; I’d want Lark on my dystopian/apocalypse/ zombie fighting team. She is a force of nature!

This is the first book in a planned trilogy—teen readers will not want to wait long for the next installment. This series is not to be missed!

The beautiful cover art will stop teens in their tracks. The sunlight filtering in through the "trees" and the sharp iron spikes are eerily spooky. The title Skylark is non-threatening and poetic--but the iron spikes give the reader the idea that even though the cover is beautiful, there is something stronger and darker in the story. I love this compelling cover, and I think it will be considered one of the best covers of the year.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. The harvest requires the person to remove his/her clothing, but it’s not in the least bit sexual. Similar to a werewolf obviously can’t wear clothing when he/she changes forms. No language. No sex. Violence and disturbing dystopia. Think The Hunger Games mixed with A Long Long Sleep and a bit of disturbing science fiction/medical/ethical dilemmas similar to Coma.

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)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hilarious Romp: Ditched: A Love Story


Ditched: A Love Story
by Robin Mellom
Hyperion
2012
288 pages

Hysterically funny and chortling great fun, this lively prom night romp delivers a great story, a plunky, snarky heroine, twisted teen antics, a band of dog nappers, a car crash, a couple of love triangles, a tattoo of Tinker Bell, a dog bite, and two gossipy world-wise women who help Justina sort it all out.

Justina knew it would be a GREAT night--she has a beautiful dress and she's going to prom with her best friend Ian. Tonight is
THE night--she will kiss Ian and take their friendship to the next level. The universe is just not in her favor, however, and events take a horrible turn.

Justina wakes up the next morning in a ditch by the road, and she vaguely remembers a car's lights disappearing down the road. What happened between Ian picking her up and waking up? It's up to Justina and the ladies to sort out.

First, that tattoo. Justina says, "Wait, I have a tattoo? Who let me get a tattoo? It's a Tinker Bell. Which could be cute if it weren't for the fact that she's a punk Tinker Bell. She's wearing combat boots, her wings are ripped, and her eyes are bloodshot. Great...Tinker Bell on a meth binge."

Then there's the time Justina gives the two Mikes and their dates a ride to get a burger. Mike and Mike are throwbacks to Bill and Ted (remember, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?) Mike and Mike have a long conversation,

" 'Dude, It's In-N-Out..'

'Bro'

'Dude.'

Mike sighed, "Fine."

It was amazing what those two could quickly resolve with their bro/dude conversations. How much time this world wastes with excessive syllables."

Somehow, Justina gets ditched at the prom before THE KISS. Ditched! By her best friend! On the night of her life! She spends the rest of the night trying to find out what happened and why Ian ditched her.

She ends up trying to correct the ring of dog nappings. When she drives Brian and Boner back to the scenes of the crimes, laughter ensues.

After the boys drop the correct dogs off at the correct yards, they slam a beer. Justina explains, "Apparently, this was the other part of the tradition--slamming beers after each swap. They clearly needed a hobby. And some maturity. And a designated driver."

Ditched: A Love Story will have teens rolling in aisles with laughter. This would make a great teen movie!

I say it's one of the funniest books of this year! Excellent teen dialog, this debut novel knocks it out of the park! I'm a Robin Mellom fan!

Highly. highly recommended grades 9-up. Typical teen partying, teen drinking, no language, some talk of sex but no graphic details. PG movie type dialog. Mature readers grade 7 and up will have no trouble reading this one, but the teen partying makes it more suitable for high school.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tween Pick: The Normal Kid


The Normal Kid
by Elizabeth Holmes
Carolrhoda Books
2012
241 pages

Poignant, stunning, sweet, and heartfelt, The Normal Kid speaks to the "normal kid" in all of us. Three very different kids become friends and learn the value of accepting others.

Sylvan is quiet and hurting. Since his father moved out, his mother has thrown herself into her "causes." She is saving the planet one tree at a time, one less plastic bag at a time, one less housing development at a time. She is up to her elbows in causes and barely notices that her son is hurting. He looks up to teacher Mr. In and does well in his class.

Charity is new to the school and all the way from Africa. Her parents were missionaries there until a terrible accident ruined their church and made her father hate God. What do you do when the father you know as loving and giving turns angry and bitter? Charity has grown up a world away where she never saw television and the Internet was just a rumor. She tries to keep silent after the kids giggle at her strange manners and clothing.

Brian is a loner who doesn't say much. He's terrified of change and people touching him. He is in Mr. In's class because the administrator feels it will help him. She knows Mr. In is considerate and accepting, and she hopes the kids in the class will make school easier for "Trampoline Boy"--Brian jumps on the trampoline at home for hours on end.

When Mr. In's job is threatened, the three neighbors and classmates team up to keep their beloved teacher.

Sylvan realizes that everyone is "normal" in their own way. He says, "And then I thought, but Charity is normal, just a little different. And then I thought, What exactly does 'normal' mean anyway?...I don't know if you'd call Brian exactly normal, but I like him...Because like I keep saying, I am a normal kid."

Readers will recognize the underdog in Sylvan and appreciate his outlook on life. Brian and Charity are welcome characters and kids will empathize with each of them.

Highly, highly recommended grades 5-up. This would be a great book for teaching acceptance and inclusion.

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guest Review: The Bar Code Prophecy: Conspiracy Theory


Blogger's Note: This is a guest review from my BFF Leslie Rush, who is an avid YA reader, high school teacher, author wannabe (like me) and the world's best cheerleader--she keeps me writing.

The Bar Code Prophecy (book 3)
Suzanne Weyn
Scholastic Press
November 2012
208 pages

Available November 1, 2012


If you've ever wondered about those bar codes, those rewards cards, internet cookies that track what you buy, where you travel, what you search--if you've ever felt uneasy about the possible misuses of DNA technology, if you distrust large corporations, and the upcoming Dec 21, 2012 makes you nervous--then this is the book for you.

In the year 2026, everyone gets a bar code tattoo when they turn 17. No need for an ID at work, a driver's licence, bank cards and credit cards or having to remember your own phone number; all of your most-used info is conveniently stored, scanned and retrieved whenever you need it.

It's not just convenient--- it's the law. Grace Morrow is turning 17 in a few days and is looking forward to this rite of passage. All of the rumors, all of the whispers about the bar code tattoos don't bother her--she works for Global 1, the company that engineered and maintains the database, as does her loving father. The scandal involving the unauthorized use of DNA information? Grace knows that was just one rogue division of the huge, multinational I.T. corporation, and besides, all of that has been halted, and there's nothing to worry about any more.

Grace can't wait to start the new school year as captain of the gymnastics team, and she's started learning the rigors of rock climbing. The fact that her crush, Eric, is the instructor, well, that just makes for greater motivation, right? Eric, a Native American, is really cute and a world-class rock climber. He tells her she shouldn't get the tattoo, and he seems to know an awful lot about the anti-Global 1/anti-bar code radicals that make the news now and then. But more important, he seems as interested in her as she is in him.

Grace's almost-perfect world comes crashing down around her when she ignores Eric's warning, and gets her tattoo. Her family disappears without a trace and Grace finds herself on the run from both the police and Global 1's elite security force. Her only refuge is Eric and his revolutionary friends who live off the grid.

She finds herself caught in a web of techno-conspiracy and an ancient Hopi Indian prophecy--a prophecy that seems to center around Grace and Eric! That prophecy takes them deep into the sacred lands of the American Southwest, in a race against time, facing danger from every agency on earth, and a looming menace from space, as well.

Fast-paced, this is a quick read full of action and adventure. This third entry in the Bar Code series stands on its own. It will please Weyn's fans and gain her some new ones. Teens may read this book without having read the first two, but why not start off with book one? The series is a delight for dystopian fans.

Recommended for grade 7 and up. Light romance, no sex or offensive language. PG-movie violence.

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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Child Pick: Spike, The Mixed-Up Monster


Spike, The Mixed-Up Monster
By Susan Hood
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
(A Paula Wiseman Book)
2012
40 pages
Ages 4-8

Spike is a funny looking monster. He tries to be intimidating and scary, but the other animals laugh at his antics. He is only as big as a lily pad, a not very intimidating or scary lily pad, either. Duck, Armadillo and Vole all tell him he’s cute and funny. Spike is disheartened. He sulks.

Then, one day, a big, scary monster shows up. The animals run off except for Spike. He shows the big, scary monster all his own scary moves, and, guess what? The monster laughs. He thinks Spike is a great example of a friend. Duck, Armadillo and Vole hail Spike as their savior and he revels in their glory.

Captivating and cute illustrations by Melissa Sweet feature a lovable Spike and a few new Spanish words to learn make this book a true learning experience. The glossary in the back of the book defines each Spanish word. Two pages identify the animals found in the book, again with colorful illustrations. Spike isn’t a monster at all; he is an axolotl, a Mexican salamander. Children will love Spike—a monster with monster troubles!

This YA reviewer loved Spike and this book. I only step out of the YA genre on occasion when I see a children’s book I just have to read. The cute and colorful cover art of Spike drew me right in and it will youngsters, too. This is a real treasure for every child’s bookshelf.

Highly, highly recommended for all who love an underdog monster. Ages 4-8 and everyone else, too.
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 1, 2012

Book Giveaway! Calling all artists!


So, You Want To Be a Comic Book Artist? The Ultimate Guide on How To Break Into Comics!
By Philip Amara
Beyond Words/Aladdin
2012
176 pages

I have 5 copies of this great new self-help book to help aspiring comic book artists and graphic artists. Simply post a comment to the blog and be sure and include your first name, city, state and email address.

Deadline for comments is October 15, 2012, at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified October 15. Please check your email and respond within 24 hours of my notification. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Beyond Words/Aladdin.

Good luck and start posting!
Pamela

See more details about the book. Scroll down.

Non-Fiction Pick: So You Want To Be a Comic Book Artist?


So, You Want To Be a Comic Book Artist? The Ultimate Guide on How To Break Into Comics!
By Philip Amara
Beyond Words/Aladdin
2012
176 pages

Comic book lovers, part-time doodlers, daydreamers and dreamers, graphic novel fans, and serious young artists will want a copy of this helpful and informative guide to breaking into comic book fame. From the beginning basics of the difference between a comic book and a cartoon, or zines, graphic novels, and manga, steps on how to set up an artist’s studio, the basics needed for comic books including: art supplies, a drawing table or desk, and good lighting, to drawing and inking thecomic panels to beginning a artist’s portfolio, Philip Amaro has hopeful young artists covered.

How do you get your comic noticed? What about the internet? Is there a way to self-publish?

This book also gives insight on how to proceed once your comic is noticed. Just what is a contract anyway? Who owns the rights to my work?

A list of comic publishers, art study websites, links for featured artists, comic book conventions, and art suppliers is included and are likely to be the most dog-eared pages.

The colorful cover with vibrant comic heroes and dialog bubbles is a real eye-catcher and comic panels from featured artists are fun pages and help young readers begin to see the difference in techniques and topics.

So, You Want To Be a Comic Book Artist? Pick up a copy of this amazing new book!

Highly, highly recommended for any budding young artist or comic book lover grades 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)