Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cool Sci-Fi Pick: Earthfall

Earthfall (book 1)
by Mark Walden
Simon & Schuster
2013 (U.S. edition)
265 pages
ISBN: 9781442494152

Rocket paced and thrilling, Earthfall is a wild ride. Seasoned writer Mark Walden (H.I.V.E. series)  has another surefire hit on his hands. I am not usually  a fan of sci-fi, but soon  I found myself immersed in Sam's world.

Aliens have invaded Earth and turned humans into mindless, speechless zombies who work as slaves building a giant structure for the aliens. They have no self-will and are completely controlled by the Mothership.

Sam has never met another human. He has been hiding mostly in the sewers for over a year. He comes up to find food, but stays out of sight during the day. Alien patrols guard the streets searching for any humans they may have missed, and Sam runs into an alien patrol and is wounded by a Hunter's tentacle.

Rescued by a girl his own age, Sam is taken underground back to her "camp." Sam slips into a coma for several days tended to by Rachel and Dr. Iain Stirling. When he finally comes around, the doctor tells Sam he has no idea how Sam survived. A Hunter's sting is deadly and Sam is the only human they know of who has survived one.

Sam meets the rest of the refugees, kids all about his own age: Liz, Nat, Kate, Adam, Jay and Rachel, of course. He also meets Robert Jackson, a military trainer who trains the kids in weaponry and fighting skills. Sam soon becomes his star pupil; he  is smart, fast and deadly.

The kids wonder about Stirling. He is so secretive, telling them only that their facilities  are located directly below a lab he used to work in before the aliens took over. A generator above them is actually a nuclear reactor that powers their building. Stirling keeps his research to himself, too, saying only that he is working on a way to defeat the aliens.

Readers will love Sam--he's brave yet sometimes doubts himself. As he trains and goes on missions, he becomes the driving force of the resistance. If aliens ever invade, readers will want to be Team Sam. I kept hoping for just a hint of romance between Sam and Rachel or a love triangle to include Jay, but then I realized this is a "Save the Earth from aliens" book, not a YA romance, although just a hint would have been nice. Maybe book two will deliver the shivers!

Highly, highly recommended for sci-fi and reluctant readers. Even readers who don't like sci-fi will like this book. 

Grade 7-up. One "bad" word that prime time television uses on  air -- "badxxx." I mean, the kids are fighting aliens, they have to be badxxx.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my school 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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Killer Thriller Pick: Project Cain

Project Cain
by Geoffrey Girard
Simon & Schuster
352 pages
ISBN: 9781442476967

Terrifying, taut, terrific, tragic, and tremendous! Project Cain is a tour de force that grabs you up and won't let you go until you turn the last chilling page. Even then, you are destined to think about the premise of cloned serial killers and secret government genetic testing.

Fifteen  year old Jeff Jacobson's life goes from "normal" to nightmare in minutes. His whole life has been a lie. Not only is he NOT Jeff Jacobson, he is a clone of famous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Jeff's "father," a scientist and famed geneticist has raised hundreds of clones of famous serial killers for the government. Now, his father is hell bent on releasing the clones into the public and witnessing their killing spree. His father deserts Jeff and leaves behind a folder explaining Jeff's existence. He warns Jeff to stay away from his company and the government.

Jeff hides out at home and barely escapes government agent types who break in and take his dad's papers and computers. Later, Jeff hides from another killer, but Castillo finds him and takes him away. Castillo isn't the government and he isn't a good guy, but he's not a bad guy either.

Jeff learns just how dangerous the government can be from Castillo. The U.S. government has always done secret testing on various unknowing populations. The government admits to more than 100 illegal genetic tests and biological weapons studies. Military scientists have released toxins in the subways of New York just to see how many people would get sick. Jeff learns the U.S. did secret drug tests with LSD and other psychotic drugs just to see how people would act. Now, the government wants to clone the clones and use them in warfare as the perfect killing machines.

Jeff also learns that Castillo is an ex-soldier who spent time in Afghanistan, and now works as a "contractor" of sorts. Castillo is hunting for the escaped clones and he needs Jeff's help to find them.

As Jeff's grasp on sanity begins to weaken,  he has terrible nightmares...or are they really memories? Surely being the exact replica of a monster named Jeffrey Dahmer comes with some shared likenesses. Jeff starts seeing things that aren't really there, but at least he knows he's seeing things. When will Jeff become a killer? When will he lose his humanity?

Trying to decipher his father's secret code, Jeff realizes a chilling fact: his father expected him to solve the puzzle all along. Is that why he used things that Jeff would remember? Is his father testing him or toying with him? Castillo and Jeff  plan a trap for the killing clones. They travel the Murder Map together coming closer and closer to evil. The two "men" share more than they care to admit. Both are broken and bruised, but both are willing to die righting the wrongs of Jeff's father, whatever it takes.

This is a must read for horror and thriller fans. Project Cain is riveting and terrifying; brilliant storytelling and an adrenaline fueled plot will force teen (and adult) readers to burn the midnight oil to finish this one!

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Mature situations, violence, language. Not for middle school.

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, January 27, 2014

Art Pick: Henri's Scissors

Henri's Scissors
by Jeanette Winter
Beach Lane Books
40 pages
ISBN 9781442464841

A triumph for the human spirit! Henri Matisse is well known for his paintings, both today and during his lifetime. When a serious illness left him bedridden, Matisse knew he could never paint again. His love of art and his creative spirit urged him forward. He picked up a pair of scissors and began to cut paper.

He turned his papers into a garden of art which are now on display at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.  New York Times writer John Russell said, "Though produced by a very old man who was mortally ill, (the cut outs) seem to come from the springtime of the world." (November 25, 1984)

This book is for young children but its message is for everyone. Art lasts throughout one's  life. Many artists never reach their full potential late in life or in old age (Grandma Moses, Georgia O'Keefe). Creativity exists even in sickness. Matisse did not stop living; he continued to dream and to create. What an accomplishment!

Highly recommended for art lovers everywhere. An easy read for younger children and could easily be incorporated into an art appreciation class for any age.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not received 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

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Heaven Is Paved with Oreos
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
201 pages
ISBN: 9780547625386

Sarah Zorn and best friend Curtis have a mutually agreed upon plan: pretend they are a couple so everyone at their school will leave them alone. Only outspoken Emily Friend (not friendly at all! ) is onto them. She teases Sarah and says she knows that they're not a couple.

Sarah's quirky, hippie grandmother Z  asks Sarah to travel to Italy with her in the summer. After some discussion, Sarah's parents reluctantly agree. Sarah records her travels, trials and tribulations in this journal. When Curtis finds out Sarah is leaving for Italy, he is upset and they do not speak to each other before she departs.

In Italy, Sarah and Z visit numerous outdoor caffes (cafes) and drink delicious Italian coffees and eat gelato. They visit cathedrals, fountains and ruins. Sarah reports each place and how she would describe it to Curtis if she sent him a post card. She doesn't. Each day, the two travelers visit another church and are "pilgrims." Sarah can't believe how much walking they are doing. They fall into bed exhausted each night.

Grandma Z becomes sad on her birthday and Sarah doesn't know why. When a family secret is finally spilled, Sarah is shocked. This is the real reason they came all the way to Italy? On a whim....from the past? Returning home, Sarah and Z have to unravel the past to claim the present.

Z is fun and feisty; a free spirit from the golden days of hippie-dom. She tends to live her life in the moment--which is great--until it effects the people around you. Sarah is supposed to be fourteen and off to her first year of high school, but she seems quite sheltered and younger than fourteen years old.

Recommended for grade 7-up and anyone who likes a sweet read. Italy comes alive in the pages of Sarah's journal.

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, January 22, 2014

Dinosaur Pick: How Dinosaurs Really Work

How Dinosaurs Really Work!
by Alan Snow
Illustrations by the author
Antheneum Books for Young Readers
32 pages
ISBN: 9781442482944

Visit the author's awesome website Here Be Monsters

Terrific illustrations and taut, fun text will captivate young readers and dinosaur lovers. Readers will  learn about the different periods of dinosaurs, the types of terrible lizards (except that they weren't really terrible and that they are not lizards; dinosaurs, in fact, are related to birds!) and more fascinating facts from winsome author/illustrator Alan Snow.

Many dinosaurs weren't  even meat eaters; they ate plants! How terrible is that? Readers learn that some dinosaurs are 3 tons or more but their brain size was  only as big as a rabbit's brain. Poor T. Rex--he was not smart either. He probably only had simple thoughts like: I need to eat or go around that tree.

Some animals living today are as old as the dinosaurs and have managed to survive. Crocodiles and sharks lived back in the days of the dinosaurs, and sea urchins pre-date the first dinosaurs!

No one knows why the dinosaurs became extinct. There are different ideas: a change in the weather or climate could have caused them to go extinct or perhaps a new disease was introduced, killing them off.

Colorful, zany pen and ink  illustrations will draw young readers to this treasure of a book. It is sure to become a favorite bedtime read. Dinosaur lovers will likely memorize statistics of each dinosaur.

Highly, highly recommended ages 4-up and for all dino lovers.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sweet Tween Pick: Frosting and Friendship

Frosting and Friendship
by Lisa Schroeder
216 pages
ISBN: 9781442473966

Frothy, friendly, feminine and flirty, Frosting and Friendship is a fun read for tweens who love adventures in food!

Lily joins a mother-daughter book club with her mom and is excited until...she realizes that the host of each month's  meeting has a bake a beautiful culinary confection. Lily is so doomed! Her baking disasters have haunted her for years. She considers herself a zero when it comes to baking and wishes that the other girls would allow the hostess to simply buy a dessert from the store or local bakery. The other girls are emphatic: the dessert must be home-made. Lily has only two months to learn how to bake and the bar is set for high standards.

Lily's mom assures her that two months is a long time, and they can figure this baking thing out together. Lily is still not sure and spends her time practicing with her garage band. When the school announces that it's having its Spring Fling, the band is excited to try out for it. Lily is torn between spending time with her band mates and practicing or learning to  bake something over the top in order to wow The Baking Bookworms.

Those two endeavors  would be enough for any tween to balance, but then Lily agrees to help plan and host a surprise  birthday party for her friend Sophie.  Being pulled in three different directions is not pleasant and something has got  to give.

Each short chapter is has a cute title: "Music Lovers Cupcakes: A Perfect Harmony of Chocolate and Vanilla" and "Lollipops : Happiness on a Stick." This is a quick read and should appeal to girls, reluctant readers and "Koodies"--kids who are foodies.

For a sweet, sweet time reading, Frosting and Friendship takes the cake (yes, pun intended). Fans of Schroeder's culinary themed  books It's Raining Cupcakes and Sprinkles and Secrets will like Frosting and Friendship.

Recommended grade 5 and up.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Zombie Pick: Dead City

Dead City
by James Ponti
2013 (paperback edition)
ISBN: 9781442441309
276 pages

Kirkus Reviews describes Dead City  as “a fast-paced read for those who like their zombies with just a little fright.”

Finally...a new take on the zombie story and suitable for much younger readers. . James Ponti breaths new life (pun intended) into the genre with ease and style.

Molly Bigelow is an honor student at MIST, the Metropolitan Institute of Science and Technology.
When she is attacked by a zombie in a subway station, Stephanie saves her. Stephanie explains that Molly must come with her and listen to her carefully.

Molly has been chosen to join a team of elite zombie hunters named the Omegas. New York City has a large zombie population and the Omegas help keep them under control.

Their team consists of upper classmen Stephanie who volunteers at the city morgue with Molly. Molly actually loves the morgue; it's where her late mother used to work and Molly has fond memories of spending time there. Other team members are Alex and Grayson. The three older students convince Molly that zombies are the real deal, and that her training begins immediately.

 Level 1 zombies look and act almost human, and generally do not cause much trouble. It's the Level 2 and Level 3 zombies that make things messy. Over 100 years ago, a subway tunnel caved in trapping 13 miners. These men became the original zombies, but  today, there is an entire city thriving in the old subway tunnels. The Omega team travels to Dead City for Molly's Omega training.
She must be able to pass as one of the undead for thirty minutes.

Molly continues training and steps up her sword skills. She is taught to spot "indicators," a symbol that tells Omegas where there is a safe house or another Omega who can help. The codes/puzzles are clever and readers will love trying to figure out the puzzle with Molly.

When Molly makes a big mistake and enters Dead City alone, she puts the entire team in danger and risks everyone's lives. Not only that, she makes a powerful enemy and jeopardizes her future. The bang on! ending will leave you breathless. (No, don't you dare read the last page first! You'll ruin it for yourself! )

Readers will love Molly's spunkiness and personality. The city of  New York is beautifully brought to life by Ponti with little known historical facts; Ponti has done his  research and it's brilliantly conveyed in this homage to NYC.

Highly, highly recommended for all zombie fans. This is gentle enough for much younger readers grade 5-up.

Dead City: Blue Moon is also available now.

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, January 15, 2014

This Librarian Has Moxie and Epoxy

This Librarian Has Moxie—and Epoxy, and a glue gun, a nail gun, a hammer, wrenches in various sundry sizes, pliers—snub nose and needle nose---ha ha! This librarian knows the difference  and other  motley  tool thingies and doo dads to fix “stuff”


I bet you know the feeling: book shelf broken. You call your custodian who assures you he will fix it. It stays broken. After repeatedly reminding the custodian, you move the shelf out of the way off to a corner somewhere. It stays broken. You wait. It waits.


A chair breaks. You pick up the pieces and move it off to a corner somewhere. You notify your custodian. It stays broken. You wait. It waits.


Upholstery comes loose on a couch. You ask if the custodian can tack it back up or nail it. He assures you he will do so. It stays loose. It gets worse. Now the entire bottom of the couch is on the floor under the couch. You wait. It waits.


A wheel comes off a rolling cart that holds rolls of butcher paper. The bolt which attached the wheel to the cart is nowhere to be found, having magically vanished off the face of the earth. You contact the custodian. He assures you he has a bolt that will fit. He assures you the wheel will be attached. The next day, the wheel is attached, but there is no bolt. Every time the cart is moved, the wheel comes off.


How hard can it be to attach a bolt, fix a rocking chair, put up a book shelf and re-attach the lining of a couch? The librarian wonders. “I will wait no more!” she declares valiantly.

Enough! The librarian thinks, “I have a Master’s degree after all. Surely, I can use simple tools and repair these things myself.”


Well, this librarian had had enough, so she grabs the wheel off the rolling cart and gets in her trusty truck and drives over to Ace Hardware where she vows  to get everything she needs to repair “stuff.”


The hardware  store manager beamed from ear to ear. He showed me hundreds of bolts.


“No,” I say. “I only need the one that fixes this wheel.”  I brandish the pesky wheel.


“Well,” he says,  carefully examining it as if it were the Holy Grail and shaking his head, “This shaft has suffered extreme damage. You’re going to need more than just a bolt”


He goes on to say how I will need a super-duper bolt with an extra special fancy  washer and I’ll have to get channel locks and big, brawny men to attach the wheel—they will need super muscle strength that I obviously don’t have. 


“No, I say. “It’s for a simple cart. I don’t need it to last until eternity.”


He demonstrates how to attach a bolt. Sheesh, is he even serious?


I assure him that I am a librarian and perfectly capable of using simple tools. He asks if I have a wrench. I assure him that I have both standard and metric wrenches. Ah, a newfound bond is formed. I am speaking his language now.


This guy is seriously overdoing a simple fix.  45 cents buys a simple bolt and this librarian is now  armed and dangerous.


I attacked the garage at home, grabbing the nail gun, wood glue, various nails, a hammer, a couple of wrenches and a roll of duck tape for good measure. You can use it for anything, right?


The next morning, after a couple hours of tacking, nailing, hammering and hot glue-ing , the library is a happy place again.  


This librarian has learned her lesson: why wait for big, brawny men sporting channel locks when a librarian with moxie and epoxy can get-ter done! ?

Disclaimer: This post was written for humorous purposes only. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not-so innocent.

And after the Librarian to the Rescue With Moxie and Epoxy, etc.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Riveting Thriller Pick: Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct
by S.E. Green
Simon Pulse
272 pages
ISBN: 9781481402859

Available May 6, 2014

Disturbing, dark, and deadly, Killer Instinct will leave readers breathless. This is one YA novel that you will never forget.

"Everyone has a dark side," says the cover, and you better believe it! Part "Dexter," part crime study, part thriller, part YA/adult, Killer Instinct crosses the line between  teen and adult fiction.

 I was riveted From the first line, "I study serial killers."  Lane is a typical high school girl, quiet, kind of shy, preferring to keep to herself. She is fascinated by crime and criminals and makes it a habit of visiting the courtroom for trials that interest her--the worse the crime, the better.

When she watches a rapist walk free, Lane decides to put her plan in action. She knows he is guilty; she will make sure he receives justice--from her own hand. Lane studies the Weasel (that's her pet nickname for him), his comings and goings, and she follows him and gets to know him. When she realizes he's ready to strike again, she gets ready to take him down.

With FBI director mother and FBI agent step-dad, Lane is very careful not to get caught. She barely covers her tracks, but she gloats in her success. Lane is thrilled when a serial killer seems to be practicing his craft in her city. She studies everything she can. She sneaks in to her mother's study and  secretly looks at the case files; she installs a nanny cam in her mother's study to listen in on phone calls.

At first, Lane is fascinated, but when the killer contacts her, Lane is afraid--afraid and fascinated.  A long ago secret surfaces from Lane's past, and her mother begins to reveal details about her father that she never knew. Could her past have something to do with the killer?

Lane is forced into action when her friend Zach is in danger. She won't be able to cover her tracks, but she might be able to save Zach. What will happen when Lane comes face to face with the real killer? Will she make him pay? Or will her  fascination take over?

At first, I wasn't sure I would have empathy for Lane. She seemed cold and distant--either a sociopath or a killer-- but once  I got to know about her past, I empathized with her. She is broken and damaged, but can be whole again...some day.

Highly, highly recommended for readers who like a thrilling read and riveting plot. 

Grade 9-up. NOT for middle school. Violence. Mature subject matter.

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fierce and Feisty Pick: Defy

by Sara B. Larson
323 pages

Released January 7, 2014

What others are saying:

Booklist: Defy has "...grand adventure, romance, and thrilling political intrigue." (from the author's blog)

"A wonderful tale of adventure, romance, and embracing your true self. Alexa is a heroine readers will love to follow!" --Marie Lu, author of the Legend series

"(Defy) has everything you'd want : intrigue, awesomely real characters, suspense, and a captivating plot. All in a world that comes to life in your mind. Highly recommended." --James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner series.

What I say:

There may never be another female YA protagonist  as passionate, feisty, and fierce, but also fabulously flawed, frightened, and fragile as Alexa (Alex). After young Alexa witnesses the brutal murders of her parents by the Blevonese army aided by an evil sorcerer, Alexa is forced to cut her hair and take on the persona of a young boy (Alex). Alex and her twin brother Marcel join the king's army and because of her tenacity and fierce warrior spirit and commanding  swordsmanship, she advances to the elite king's guard. Years pass, and Alex becomes comfortable pretending to be a boy, so comfortable, in fact, she sometimes wonders what being a girl feels like.

An enemy attack on the palace makes the king nervous. He orders the royal guard to watch over his son Prince Damian at all times. Alex is tasked with the chore of sleeping outside of Damian's chambers. The prince is spoiled, arrogant, and haughty, but, oh, so handsome. Alex begins to feel something she has never experienced before, and she is careful not to let her feelings show--she is a "male" fighter and the prince's private protector. She fears what may happen to her if she lets her "guard" down (pun intended).

When Alex, fellow guard Rylan and the prince are kidnapped by a sorcerer, they are taken deep into jungle as prisoners of the country of Blevon. Alex is surprised to find out that both Prince Damian and Rylan know she is actually a girl; however, she keeps up her disguise in front of the rival army.

Damian holds the secret to his father's kingdom, the plan  to ending the bloody war, the power to defeat evil sorcerers and the key to Alexa's heart.   Alexa is torn between her sudden, passionate fire for Damian and her sisterly love for Rylan. Can she afford to break Rylan's heart and fall headlong in love with the future king? Can she trust Damian--who keeps secrets from her? Does she believe his word? Can Damian's plan actually work? Can mere humans defeat an army of black sorcerers?

Teen readers will be swept away by the mesmerizing romantic tale. Alex/Alexa is compelling and intriguing; Damian is smoldering and sexy. Rylan, too, is swoon-worthy. Defy may be the next YA novel to movie--anyone in Hollywood listening?

Highly, highly recommended for every reader but will resonate with those who love romance, adventure, action and fantasy and a fierce female warrior. The author spends most of her time on plot and character development instead of world building, but that being said, I didn't miss knowing every minute detail of Alexa's world.

Suitable for grade 7-up with this caution: in the beginning of the book, Alex has to take girls to the breeding house where girls of their kingdom are prisoners forced to breed for the kingdom. It's not pretty. Some kissing.

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

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spy Pick: Two Lies and a Spy

Two Lies and a Spy
by Kat Carlton
Simon & Schuster BFYR
245 pages

Exciting and rocket paced,  packed with explosive action, rife with romance, and simmering with spy double and triple crosses, Two Lies and a Spy is the real deal!

It started with a text: "Can u pick up milk on ur way home?" and that's all it takes for sixteen year old Kari Andrews to slip into stealth mode. It's the Code Black emergency message her parents set in place years ago to protect their family. When Kari sees it, she knows to "bug out." She races to pick up younger brother Charlie  and immediately  has to go into martial arts ninja girl warrior  mode and fight off Mitch, a guy who works with her parents. Why is Mitch trying to capture them, and where are her parents?

Kari stops by Union Station to retrieve their stashed emergency backpacks complete with fake passports and cash. She takes a round about cab ride, hoping to ditch anyone following them and checks them in at a Comfort Inn--the agreed upon meet up place for Kari and her parents.  It's time to hide out and wait for contact with her parents.

After several days, Kari decides she's going to need help on this caper, so she enlists BFF Rita, a wannabe spy and hot guys Luke and Evan for back up. Kari knows her parents are being held as spies by the Agency--a spy organization where they have worked as U.S. spies for years. The kids decide to enter posing as a school tour; Rita stays behind hacking into the security system to protect them.

The answers Kari finds at the Agency are not the ones she went looking for. And "friends" soon become suspect. What's a girl  spy to do? When friends are suddenly enemies and enemies are allies, what can she do?

Two Lies and a Spy is a rollicking good time, and I was sad when I turned the last page--it is that good.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7 up. Mild profanity (which is used on television). No questionable content.

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, January 8, 2014

Mystery Pick: Turn Left at the Cow

Turn Left at the Cow
by Lisa Bullard
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
304 pages

Rife with witty repartee, Turn Left at the Cow is seriously entertaining! Middle grade readers will love sarcastic Travis and the acid tongue of Iz. Well developed characters and an old mystery will draw readers in and keep them reading. Lisa Bullard is spot on with her tween dialog and snarky sarcasm.

Set in rural Minnesota, city boy Travis feels out of it. There's no big city out here. There are cows. And dirt roads. And heads made out of butter. And all kinds of funky meat that's been in his grandmother's freezer for eons. The only reason Travis is in Minnesota at all is that he knows he's not wanted in California now that his mom has married Dale, his new step-dad.  Travis goes in search of his real father's roots, and runs away to his grandmother in "Old-McDonald ville."

Neighbor kids Kenny and Iz tell Travis that his father was a bank robber who stole money and hid it somewhere near the town before he disappeared. Travis wonders if his real father is alive. Maybe he went into hiding somewhere. Travis is desperate for answers and grills his grandmother for them. Speaking with her is like speaking to a brick wall; she doesn't want to tell him anything about his own father. Travis decides to go along with Kenny and Iz on their "treasure hunt." He wants to find the missing bank  money as badly as they do, hoping that it will give him answers about his presumed dead  father.

The unlikely trio start digging for clues  and are soon find themselves in danger. Someone else is looking for that money and that someone will do anything to find it first. Travis is questioned by the police when he shops at the local store. Someone is using marked money from the bank robbery, and the police think Travis found the money and is spending it. Why is that money suddenly showing up in town? Travis knows he didn't find the money, but just who did? And why are they spending it? To throw blame on Travis?

When Travis is threatened, the three kids work together to trap the real bank robber. Travis suspects his own grandmother may be involved, but he's afraid to confront her.

This book will resonate with middle grades and middle school readers and will entertain reluctant readers.

Highly, highly recommended grade 5-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

YA Book Giveaway: Unhinged

Unhinged (Splintered, Book 2)
by A.G. Howard

Read a free excerpt of a Splintered novella here

I have 3 FREE copies of this exciting new book by A.G. Howard up for grabs. Unhinged picks up where Splintered left us. Readers who love a retelling or reimagined fairy tale will love this series! Out of this world beautiful cover art will have this book flying off the shelf.

From the publisher's website:

Alyssa Gardner has been down the rabbit hole. She was crowned Queen of the Red Court and faced the bandersnatch. She saved the life of Jeb, the boy she loves, and escaped the machinations of the disturbingly appealing Morpheus. Now all she has to do is graduate high school.

That would be easier without her mother, freshly released from an asylum, acting overly protective and suspicious. And it would be much simpler if the mysterious Morpheus didn’t show up for school one day to tempt her with another dangerous quest in the dark, challenging Wonderland—where she (partly) belongs.
Could she leave Jeb and her parents behind again, for the sake of a man she knows has manipulated her before? Will her mother and Jeb trust her to do what’s right? Readers will swoon over the satisfying return to Howard’s bold, sensual reimagining of Carroll’s classic.

Praise for Unhinged
"Howard excels in sensory and sensuous descriptions."
--Kirkus Reviews

For your chance to win a FREE copy, post a comment to the blog. Please include first name, city, state and email. Deadline for posts is January 20, 2014 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified via email shortly after noon on January 20, 2014. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email to claim their prize. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Amulet.

Good luck, and start posting! Pamela