Monday, December 16, 2013

Action Pick: The Loop

The Loop
by Shandy Lawson
208 pages

Wildly unique and highly riveting, The Loop will take readers on a thrill ride. Teens Ben And Maggie are stuck in a time loop. Each time they meet, they try to outrun bad guy Roy, a killer with a bad attitude. He will stop at nothing to catch the teens and kill them. He wants their gambling winnings that they used him to collect. As underage betters, the kids couldn't cash in their ticket at the race track; they needed an adult. And, boy, did they pick the worst adult.

The events of two days happens over and over, each time with Roy killing both Maggie and Ben. In one loop, Ben meets Steve, a guy who recognizes Ben and tells him about his loop. At first, Ben doesn't believe it, but he does have that deja vu feeling, and he realizes he has been repeating his own history over and over.

Ben and Maggie work at changing just one little thing to try to bend the loop. They figure if they can change enough little things, they may get to live and break the loop. Roy is hot on their trail, and they leave New Orleans and try to get as far from Shreveport as possible. Fate just keeps dealing them blows. They end up in a car accident and are airlifted to the hospital, where they will be sitting ducks for Roy to kill. Ben sneaks Maggie out of the hospital and they are on the run again.

Maggie and Ben are falling in love, but there's no time for romance. Trying to stay alive is a full time job. Maggie makes a couple of brilliant decisions, hoping to change their outcome.

The Loop is perfect for the reluctant reader; it is a quick read --only 208 pages.

Recommended grade 7-up. No language. A couple of sweet kisses, oh, and outrunning a killer.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC of 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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fashionista Pick: Tales From My Closet

Tales From My Closet
by Jennifer Anne Moses
Scholastic Press
304 pages

Available January 28, 2014

Vibrant, vivacious, fun, flirty and fabulous, Tales From My Closet is seriously entertaining.

Justine is the new girl in town and she hates it. Her dad works all the time, her mom gave up her dream to be a dancer and acts like a hover mother, the town of West Falls is boring and Justine's new bedroom is puke pink. She wants to meet new people but just doesn't want to be forced into a friendship with her neighbor the long legged, lithe goddess, popular girl Becka.

Beautiful, headstrong Becka is in love with an older man she met when she went to Paris. It's a secret she keeps from her psychologist/writer mother who happens to be obsessed with Becka's life, writing bestsellers about teenage woes and angst, much to Becka's chagrin. Becka feels like a lab rat or an experiment. About the last thing she wants is to meet the new neighbor and pretend to be friendly.

Robin is wardrobe obsessed. She will spend her last dime to own something fabulous and her serious shopping addiction is getting her into hot water and rising debt.

Polly likes the new girl's style. She thinks Justine's paper dress is fun and fashionable. She likes that Justine is not just a follower but a leader.

Ann has problems of her own. She's always being compared to her uber-smart older sister. Ann wants nothing to do with a Princeton education, and fears telling her parents that she wants to go into fashion. When she sees a trunk full of her grandmother's clothes, she knows she will be a fashion diva. Ann causes a sensation with her vintage look, and the girls notice.

Justine and Ann are the most developed characters, and Polly seems to get lost in the mix. Perhaps there should have been at least one less character and more interaction with fewer characters. Readers may not empathize with Becka when she is heartbroken. She seems clueless--has she never seen a Lifetime movie?

The fun cover and fabulous fashion will attract fashionistas and fashion wanna-be's.

Recommended grade 7-up. No language. "Going to the next step..." is mentioned but it doesn't happen. Justine is in over her head and offers to have sex with her French "boyfriend," but is laughed at.

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Giveaway: The False Princess

A Royal Birthday
by Files O'Neal
Egmont USA
25 pages

Available December 10, 2013

The publisher calls A Royal Birthday "a short prequel to The False Princess." See details here

Win a hard copy of The False Princess from my blog. I have ONE copy of The False Princess up for grabs. For your chance to win, simply post a comment to the blog and include first name, city, state, and email contact. Deadline for posts is December 13 at noon MST. The winner will be selected by Randomizer and notified December 16. The book will ship from New York.

Good luck and start posting! And don't forget to check out the ebook prequel A Royal Birthday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pamela's Pick's: The Best YA Books (and others) of 2013

Best Early Reader: Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins

This is an important book and will resonate with young readers (and any age child) who has a loved one in the military. One librarian wrote me that she used the book on Veteran's Day to illustrate the meaning of what a veteran is and why we have Veteran's Day. What a great idea!

Best Early Reader/ Poetry: The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Verses by Lisa Wheeler

Illustrations by Zachariah Ohora

Whimsical and fun, sure to entertain and enlighten, this is a gem of a book!

Best Children's Book: Fraidy Zoo by Thyra Heder

Fraidy Zoo is charming and ingenious. Clever writing and witty, winsome illustrations will amaze young readers. Children will love guessing what animal Little T's parents and sister are trying to act out. This is an alphabet book, but so much, much more. This is the best children's book I've read in years. Kudos to Thyra Heder. This one's a winner!

Origami Pick: Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling by Tom Angleberger

Who isn't a fan of Tom Angleberger's fun series of Origami Yoda books?! Great for reluctant readers and Star Wars fans. This book is always checked out!

Best YA of 2013:

Contaminated by Em Garner

Heartbreakingly real, Contaminated should scare you to death!

The Prey by Andrew Fukuda

Fukuda continues the story of Gene and a few other surviving humans in book 2. Fukuda is riveting and his prose is tight and highly readable. One student commented: "I like his writing style. It is so approachable!" I couldn't agree more!

Unfed by Kirsty McKay

Unfed is book two. Zombies are on the loose in Scotland and the teens continue fighting to stay alive. Who knew zombies could be this much fun?

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Fans of The Hunger Games will be astounded by this book! The Testing is the true battleground for the human species. The plot races rapidly along and readers will be caught up by the story and the premise of survival. The Testing is fierce, ferocious, fantastic and fascinating.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Paranormal with a twist. The Archived is genius! The Archived is a real treat for readers who love a captivating story, a feisty female protagonist and a charming, almost alarming and totally disarming male love interest.

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

A survival story at its best. Readers won't anticipate the shocking secret revealed at the novel's end. Bodeen proves she can write just about anything!

Winger by Andrew Smith

Winger is a book for the underdog in all of us. You will never forget Ryan Dean West, aka Winger. This book will resonate with readers long after the last page.

Money Run by Jack Heath

Buckle your seatbelts. Money Run is a serious adrenaline rush from the first page. Kids + crime = caper. Money Run will give you a run for your money.

Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs

Spy Camp is book two in the series, and it's great. Teenage spies in training versus evil bad guys. Great fun!

The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington

The BEST ghost story of the year, hands down. I loved this book!

Adult Best Book of 2013:

Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach

Life Among Giants is on my Best Books of All Time list which also includes To Kill a Mockingbird and The Shadow of the Wind. This book is a magnificent achievement--the characters real and meaningful. Life Among Giants is recommended for all book clubs. It will give readers plenty of food for thought and will lead to deep conversations and musings. In fact, I may have to reread this right now! I loved Life Among Giants--best book EVER!

That's it, my Best Books of 2013. It was a great year. Thank you for your love of reading and the written word. Please give the gift of reading to a child. It is truly magical and inspiring. It will change both of your lives forever.


Book Giveaway: Fraidy Zoo

I have FIVE copies of this amazing and amusing new debut book by Thyra Heder. I found it charming and ingenious. Clever writing and witty, winsome illustrations will amaze young readers. Children will love guessing what animal Little T's parents and sister are trying to act out. This is an alphabet book, but so much, much more. This is the best children's book I've read in years. Kudos to Thyra Heder. This one's a winner!

Fraidy Zoo
by Thyra Heder
48 pages

See praise from the publisher's website:

Praise for Fraidyzoo
"WARNING: Expect riotous buffoonery after reading this clever and original alphabet story, as kids will definitely want to “parrot” the examples."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Debut talent Heder comes up with a wildly imaginative idea for an alphabet book/animal guessing game, elaborates it with smartly drafted ink-and-watercolor spreads, and seasons it with plenty of family warmth and hullaballoo."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"The cut-and-paste, handmade look and feel of this picture book underscores its thematic ode to creative problem solving... The charming, detailed watercolor and ink illustrations really tell the story, and children will relish poring over them to guess the animal costumes and identify their construction materials."
—School Library Journal

"Heder tells a child-relevant story about facing your fears with a light hand and zippy prose, but it’s her art that dials the zippiness up to 11, as her warm and humorously realistic figures gallivant alongside some remarkably envisioned handcrafted animal puppets."

"This book does the impossible, taking one of the oldest children’s book conventions, the zoo alphabet, and completely reinventing it. It’s a story about a family helping one of their own overcome fear by being utterly silly and completely loving. The whole thing is done with such a confident and lively style, it’s hard to believe that this is Heder’s first picture book. Fraidyzoo is funny, original, and announces Heder as a force to be reckoned with."
—The Atlantic Wire

For your chance to win a copy, post a comment to the blog and be sure and include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is December 16 at noon MST. Winners will be notified on that date; please check your email. Winners are selected randomly by Randomizer. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Abrams.

Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Thursday, December 5, 2013

YA Pick: Midwinter Blood

by Marcus Sedgewick
Roaring Brook Press
262 pages

Magical, mysterious, macabre, and mesmerizing, Midwinterblood tells seven stories that are intertwined with the quiet island of Blessed and its strange curse. Powerful and commanding storytelling by Marcus Sedgewick will have readers completely enraptured by his captivating spell.

Journalist Eric Seven travels to a remote Scandinavian island for a story. The islanders, it is said, live forever and never age, but there are not children anywhere. Eric falls for the enigmatic Merle, a woman who seems so familiar, yet he knows he has never seen her before...or has he? Tor, the island's leader, allows Eric to stay and finds a cottage for his use. As Eric explores the island, he is sure he has been there before. Everything is new and strange, yet feels old and familiar. Eric is bone tired and soon dreams haunt his sleep, and a painting hides the secret of the island.

Other stories revolve around the painting and the island. The story of a plane wreck and a pilot. The story of an archeologist who discovers ancient bones from the Viking era. The story of a painter, the story of a vampire, the story of brothers who both loved the same woman, the story of children sired by another, and the story of the island's curse.

Midwinterblood is a beautifully crafted novel that showcases Sedgewick's talent as a storyteller and a magician--he is able to weave separate stories of each individual into the larger story of the island and of lives relived. Love is stronger than the bonds of time and stronger still than the evil curse. The island cannot hold true love prisoner and eventually the right individual will arrive and change the island forever.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. Average readers may struggle with the concept of the seven stories, but good readers will love this novel. Midwinterblood will surely be on everyone's must reads and favorites lists and is likely to be nominated for many state's awards.

Some violence.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Giveaway: Trouper

by Meg Kearney
Paintings by E.B. Lewis
Scholastic Press

I have FIVE copies of Trouper up for grabs!!!

Trouper is a stray who runs with a pack of dogs until he's picked up by the pound. There he watches as one by one, his friends find homes, but Trouper is always left behind. Until, finally a little boy sees Trouper's inner beauty. This beautiful picture book is bound to become a bedtime favorite loved by animal lovers everywhere.

For your chance to win, post a comment to the blog. Be sure and include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is Monday, December 16 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified on that date; be sure and check your email. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email.

Books will ship from New York courtesy of Egmont and Laura. Thank you. Good luck and start posting!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Blog Tour Pick: Samantha Sutton

Samantha Sutton and The Winter of the Warrior Queen
By Jordan Jacobs
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
January 2014 ISBN: 978-1-4022-7563-0
Trade Paper/$6.99 Ages 9+
Another thrilling adventure awaits this bold heroine…
Samantha is hesitant to join Uncle Jay on a second archaeological excavation. But the marshes near Cambridge, England, sound harmless after the sinister perils she faced in Peru. Or so she thought...
During the excavation, Samantha realizes the site could be the ancient fortress of Queen Boudica, who led an uprising against the Roman Empire. An amazing find! But Samantha’s crucial discovery threatens to halt construction on a nearby theme park that will make millions for English Lord and eccentric landowner Cairn Catesby. Unfortunately for Samantha, Catesby is also the scheming head of Cambridge University's Archaeology Department, making him Uncle Jay's current boss. Catesby will stop at nothing to discredit Uncle Jay’s theories about the excavation site’s royal ties. When Samantha is entrusted with the protection of an artifact that undeniably links the site to the Warrior Queen, she becomes the target of unscrupulous men determined to get their fortune by any means necessary.
On the run through the snowy English countryside, Samantha must muster the strength and wit to protect the treasured artifact—with her uncle’s professional reputation hanging in the balance.
Jordan Jacobs’ career as an archaeologist began with a love of mummies, castles, and Indiana Jones. He journeyed to his first archaeological excavation at age 13 in California’s Sierra Nevada. A Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge-educated man, Jordan has worked as an archaeologist at world-class institutions such as The Smithsonian and The American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Jordan is passionate about public awareness for the illicit looting of artifacts at globally important archaeological sites. He works with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), where his recommendations have helped to protect historic sites and to alert agents around the world about precious artifacts smuggled on the black market. Jordan is currently a senior specialist at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.   @JordanNJacobs

I asked Jordan how he came up with the idea of Samantha. He wrote this for the blog:

"As I suspect is the case with most authors, I have a hard time accounting for my characters’ origins. One day they don’t exist, and the next they do: bursting fully to life in my head and revealing themselves--slowly, painfully, inaccurately at first--in the harsh black and white of a document in Word.

Where do they come from? In most cases, it’s some subconscious machination. From people I've met in real life, I’d guess, or some fragment of my own personality, or--an unavoidable truth--from unconsciously remembered characters in other peoples’ books or movies.

But Samantha Sutton is a little different. I can account for her.

At first, I thought she was just some projection of me as a kid: obsessed with archaeology, studious--but not self-conscious about it--and very self-consciously small. For some reason, the fact that she was female when she sprang to mind wasn't particularly noteworthy. That’s just what seemed to make sense.

It took an old home movie to realize that I was wrong. Samantha isn’t me, at all. Samantha is my wife.

We watched the video at my in-laws, in the midst of my work on Labyrinth of Lies. The video shows my wife’s five-year-old birthday, just as the scheduled festivities--a performing miniature pony--wrap up. While the other kids are content to mill around, my future wife sees the need to structure the rest of the day.

“We can either play tag in the backyard or hide-and-seek inside,” she announces. “Or, we can pretend to be horses.”

And that was all I needed. That was Samantha: serious, meticulous, disciplined in the face of chaos. So Samantha was my wife, all along.

There’s some weird (slightly uncomfortable) psychological goings-on here, I admit, and I’m not even going to begin to go there. But the realization has helped my writing. Because while facing new dangers in Winter of the Warrior Queen, Samantha gets to draw from other strong women I’ve known in my life -- and from my own personality, as well -- it’s my wife’s personality that forms her disciplined core."