Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Night Before the Night Before Christmas
by Jay Dee
Illustrated by Darren Geers
Kraine Kreative
32 pages
ISBN: 9780989810821

I have a signed copy ready for giveaway! See the blog post for this giveaway on this blog. Scroll down, please.

Beautiful design  and colorful illustrations bring Elfie and his "problem" to life. The cover art will capture readers' hearts.

Elfie is tasked by Santa to make a very special toy. Santa knows Elfie will spend hours making the toy train just perfect. When Elfie is chastised by Nathan, the elf supervisor, he gets worried that Santa will be mad at him. He had a whole list of toys to make but only managed to finish his perfect toy train. Santa arrives and looks over Elfie's work and explains just how special this one toy is.

The book has a positive message about hard work and giving your very best to any job. Elfie experiences a sense of pride and accomplishment when he looks over his finished product. He knows it is his best work and is proud of his toy train.

Sure to become a Christmas classic with its message of Christian love and Christmas spirit, The Night Before the Night Before Christmas is a perfect gift for any child.

Highly recommended for young readers and the perfect Christmas book.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. 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, November 25, 2014

So You Want To Work in Fashion? How To Break into the World of Fashion and Design
Be What You Want Series
by Patricia Wooster This Beyond Words/Aladdin edition
183 pages
with notes, bibliography and helpful websites
ISBN: 9781582704524

For any teen or tween who is interested in entering the exciting world of fashion from design to modeling to styling to blogging, So You Want to Work in Fashion is THE comprehensive guide to get them started. Having read this entire set of books, I looked forward to reading and reviewing this one. Watching "Project Runway" for many seasons, my own daughter now shows an interest in the fashion world. This is the perfect book for her.

Filled with helpful tips, interviews from actual young people working in the industry, activities, and spotlights, readers will enjoy learning all the ins and outs of the industry. Being a stylist requires good accounting skills. Who knew? If you are going to be a fashion blogger, be prepared to have a real job. This one I knew! Many who make it in the world of fashion must begin as an intern or work for free. Hopefuls should take every responsibility to learn in the industry.

Many of the people interviewed for this book began as a blogger or other online persona. They found out as much as they could about fashion and then posted a look book or videos on Youtube. With the Internet at your fingertips, teens today have a voice and a built in audience.

Although the book does not teach anything about sewing, pattern making or design, the book does suggest wannabe designers take sewing lessons. Any store that sells sewing machines will usually offer beginner classes for free. You can learn the basics of sewing a hem, cutting and following a pattern, and choosing fabrics.

Teens are already working in the fashion industry as models, bloggers, vloggers, fashion designers and editors, and models. After reading this book, tweens and teens will have an idea of how to get started in the fashion industry.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

100 Things That Make Me Happy
by Amy Schwartz
Illustrations by the author
Abrams Appleseed
40 pages

Joyful, whimsical, fun and fresh, 100 Thing That Make Me Happy made me happy! Who doesn't remember what fun it is to slide on slippery floors? Remember the funny tickle of a puppy's wet nose and the giggles it produced? The softness of Grandma's lap and the feeling of family? The beauty of starry nights out in the open air?

This book reminded me of all the little things that children love and adults have a hard time remembering. It is nice to take a moment to cherish the little things that make life beautiful and share them with a child through this fun jaunt of rhyming couplets and miles of smiles.

100 things would seem to take a long time, but this book is over before you know it, and you will realize that time just flew by and that you were entertained and having a good time reading it. Likely, there will be a smile on your face, too!

Highly, highly recommended for young readers who will beg for this one to be read over and over again. They may want to make their own observations about things that make them smile. I'm going to go make my list now!

This book would be useful in teaching rhyme and rhyming couplets in a classroom poetry unit. Another assignment for English or creative writing class would be to have students produce their own lists of things that make them happy.

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, November 17, 2014

Thriller Pick: Black Ice

Black Ice
by Becca Fitzpatrick
Simon & Schuster BFYR
392 pages
ISBN: 9781442474260

Watch the riveting book trailer

Taut, cutting, creepy and maddeningly unputdownable, Black Ice is a compelling YA thriller teens are not likely to forget! Fans of Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush series will not be disappointed. Black Ice is unlike the earlier series of books, but it's just as engrossing.

Britt Pfeiffer and her BFF ( and most of the time,  frenemy)  Korbie Versteeg are heading to Wyoming to Korbie's family's mountain getaway for a week of hiking and bonding. Korbie's older brother and best friend are joining them up at the cabin later. Britt laughs off Korbie's warnings about the disappearance of several girls in the nearby area. When the girls  are caught in a blinding  rain which soon turns to snow, the girls abandon the Jeep and hike to a nearby cabin. The cabin is inhabited by two not so friendly guys who grudgingly allow the girls to stay the night. Britt soon finds out that these guys are in trouble and hiding from the law. Now, she's determined to find an escape route for herself and Korbie. Britt is praying that Cal will find them before it's too late. He knows these mountains better than anyone, and Britt is lucky enough to have found a hand drawn map the he left behind. Using Cal's map, Britt decides to get Korbie and herself out of danger and off the mountain.

The blizzard shows no signs  of letting up. The men become increasingly dangerous and trigger happy. A gruesome discovery sets things in motion and the girls have to make their move. Mason (aka,  Jude) seems mysterious but not necessarily dangerous. Britt has to learn to trust someone but she's still waiting to be saved by old flame Cal.

Sometimes people are much more than they seem...and so much less.  As Britt struggles to save their lives, she uncovers morbid truths and a lifetime of lies.

Highly recommended grade 9 and up. Kidnapping, violence, murder, steamy kisses.

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, November 14, 2014

Christmas Book Giveaway: The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

I have one copy of The Night Before The Night Before Christmas up for grabs! For your chance to win, simply post a comment to the blog. Please include your name, city, state and email. One winner will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is December 1 at noon MST. The winner will be notified shortly after noon MST. Please check your email on that date. The winner has 24 hours to respond to my email. Your free book will be shipped courtesy of the author.
Book Blurb:
At Santa's workshop, the night before the night before Christmas is hardly a time to rest. The elves work tirelessly to get the final toys made before Christmas Eve, but Elfie just can't keep pace. He spends too much time making his toys perfect, and when Santa comes to check on production, everyone is surprised by his reaction.

Middle Grades Pick: Loot: How To Steal a Fortune

Loot: How To Steal a Fortune
by Jude Watson
Scholastic Press
272 pages
ISBN: 9780545633956

Get ready for non-stop action, great characters, mysterious bad guys, missing jewels, an old mystery,  a dead man's last words, an old curse,  a secret twin, or terrible orphanage worthy of Charles Dickens, evil conspirators, and a brother and sister who realize they're going to have to work it or not.

Loot: How To Steal a Fortune is a fun adventure for middle grade readers.  March and Jules make friends at the orphanage, well...not exactly friends, but allies who help them escape.  The kids have to figure out what the father was working on and fast. They know he was going for a huge score...the biggest of his career. March has the decipher the clues from what his father left behind: a keychain, a pack of marked cards, and a list of cryptic phrases. March feels like someone is watching his every move, and maybe they are.

Jude Watson has a real winner on his hands. Loot: How To Steal a Fortune will keep readers captivated. I could not put this book down. Be ready for a read-a-thon.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves action and mystery.

This book is available on the Scholastic Book Fair middle school fair. I picked up four copies for my school from the book fair.

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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Adult Humor Pick: People I Want to Punch in the Throat

People I Want To Punch in the Throat
by Jen Mann
Ballantine Books Trade Paperbacks
206 pages
ISBN: 9780345579839

Funny, bawdy, in-your-face, hysterical and manic, People I Want To Punch in the Throat is a welcome addition to chick-lit for the twenty/thirty/forty/ etc. and anyone who has ever been a mom set. Jen Mann does not take herself too seriously...herself or anyone else for that matter.

Mann makes suburban housewife drudgery comic. Referring to her kids as Gomer and Adolpha keeps their real names a  secret and it's pretty funny, too. She calls her husband Hubs and is jealous that he gets to leave the house for some alone time, but she always ends up having to take the kids with her. She yearns  to roam a grocery store all by herself without her kids having a cereal aisle meltdown or her husband taking things out of the cart in his penny pinching moves to save money.

Mann pokes fun at her neighbors and over-achieving mothers. She outs bling crafters and cupcake decorators and fashionista  moms who pick up their kids from school in designer attire. She thinks it's absolute insanity that these same moms overschedule their kids in every after school sport available and then complain about their kids' teachers who assign too much homework that interferes with their prodigy's future sports careers. It seems like every suburban family thinks they have the next Tiger Woods or Nadia. They don't seem to care to have the next Einstein or Steven Jobs. Sports, after all, is the better payday.

And the parties! These ladies throw parties for crazy reasons. There's the Half Year Birthday Party, The Almost Christmas Party, The It's a Monday Party and every kind of buy stuff you don't need party and Jen attends all of those. She is, after all, a successful realtor and needs connections to sell more houses. If she can meet fellow suburbanites, maybe she can sell them their next home.

It's no wonder, then, that these same perfect specimens pop pills "like Tic-Tacs." A few mother's little helpers and they can maintain that cool facade and keep up with the other manic overachievers.  Some will even share and trade their meds. Jen would just like a crash course to figure out which pill will make her bake awesome homemade brownies and keep her from forgetting to pick up her kids from school when they get out for a half day.

People I Want To Punch in the Face is the perfect read for laughs. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever raised a child or a husband.

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

Pitch Perfect Pick: I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Driedel
by Caryn Yacowitz
Illustrations by David Slonim
Arthur A. Levine Books
32 pages
ISBN: 9780439915304

Brilliantly imagined! This old folk song takes on a new life with Yiddish words rhymed beautifully by Caryn Yacowitz and illustrations by David Slonim that imitate great master works: "The Scream," "American Gothic," "Mona Lisa," "The Starry Night" and others.

The old lady swallows a dreidel thinking it was a bagel. She now has the problem of how to dislodge this foreign object. She tries everything: swallowing a menorah, a twenty ton brisket, gallons of sauce, mountains of latkes, buckets of oil. She thinks, "perhaps it's fatal." The family happily dances with their pet cat when they realize that the old lady will be okay after all.

The cute cat makes an appearance in every spread adding humor and sure to being smiles. The family looks on with wide eyes as the lady swallows more and more objects.

The prose is crisp, fun and new.  Yiddish words will be added to the young reader's vocabulary: dreidel, latkes, menorah,  Chanukah, gelt,  and hora.  The beautiful art not only tells the story but introduces youngsters to great master works. Parents may learn something about art, too.

Sure to become a Chanukah classic, I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Dreidel is a romping parody that will leave kids laughing and parents entertained.

Highly, highly recommended for young readers ages 2-8 and for any art teacher or art lover.

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

Monday, November 10, 2014

YA Book Giveaway and Blog Tour: The Demon Catchers of Milan: The Halcyon Bird

I have THREE copies of each book up for grabs. Three lucky winners will receive a SIGNED paperback of book one, The Demon Catchers of Milan and also a SIGNED hardcover of the NEW book: The Halcyon Bird.

See the entire blog tour

Visit the next stop on the blog

For your chance to win TWO FREE books, simply post a comment to the blog. Please be sure to include your first name, city, state and email. Deadline for posts is November 17 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified November 17; please be sure and check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Reviews of The Demon Catchers of Milan:

“Readers, like Mia herself, will find her birthright, human and supernatural—from risotto alla Milanese to the roof of the Duomo—as delicious as it is scary.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Adding a bit of romance and adventure to the paranormal setting. . . . this original twist on demon-hunting will entice them even more. . . . a win for fans of the first book. . . . this novel could stand alone. . .”—School Library Journal
Praise for the first book:
Kirkus Best Books of the Year
The demons themselves are haunting, multifaceted creatures that are both pathetic and extremely dangerous; the evil they project is complex and pain-ridden. Fortunately Mia demonstrates a strong gift for the family trade, which, like the novel’s other elements (the food will have readers salivating), is portrayed in exquisite, affectionate detail.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“For all of its supernatural premise, however, the story is also a love letter to Milan, celebrating the Italian city's food, art, and fashion, while incorporating some of its more sordid history into a chilling tale of spirits gone bad. Viewers of SyFy's Ghosthunters International will find this creepy travelogue delightfully up their alley, and readers may never look at their math homework the same way again.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“A supernatural novel with a fresh premise worthy of note.”—School Library Journal
“This one starts off with a bang.”—Booklist

About The Demon Catchers of Milan #2: The Halcyon Bird

For fans of Lauren Kate and Cassandra Clare, a romance with a paranormal streak.
Mia has settled into her life with the Della Torres -- Milan's premier demon-catching family, accompanying them to exorcisms and even learning some way to be useful in the family trade. Then Bernardo comes into her life, handsome, well-mannered, someone who makes her forget her impossible crush on Emilio, her cousin. But always lurking in the background is the demon who possessed Mia once before, and who has not given up on possessing her again--this time for good.--from the publisher

About Kat Beyer
Kat Beyer has an M.A. in medieval history and has loved all things Italian for as long as she can remember. Her first novel was The Demon Catchers of Milan. She lives with her daughter in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit her online at


Friday, November 7, 2014

HIgh School Pick: 100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles
by Andrew Smith
Simon and Schuster
288 pages
ISBN: 9781442444959

Witty, irreverent and just plain fun! What else do  you expect from an Andrew Smith YA title? You know you will be entertained and amazed and spellbound. 100 Sideways Miles will make you laugh and entertain you. It will cause strange reactions and could cause hysteria in some people. Don't read this novel if you have no sense of humor. Don't read this book if profanity bothers you. Just get over it. Warning: Reading Andrew Smith could cause eruptions of laughter and leave the reader with  lasting feelings of happiness which may last days or even weeks.

Finn Easton tells the story of his childhood  accident--the time a dead horse fell on him and his real mother causing her death and Finn to suffer from epilepsy. Since the accident, Finn sees the passage of time not in hours and minutes but in miles that the earth travels. Finn tells the incident and it's believable and laughable--and after I read it,  I felt a bit guilty--I couldn't  believe I just laughed at a kid's dead mother and the fact he now has epilepsy--but only a little bit guilty. That's the fun in Smith's writing and characters--you laugh at things that are not funny--but actually, they are hysterically funny.

Finn's father is a novelist whose sci-fi novel about space aliens who arrive on Earth through "Lazarus doors" in the universe and appear as angels to humans is a hit. Because the humans welcome the "angels," they don't realize the angels came to feast on humans. The book becomes so popular that some people take it too seriously and have threatened his father. Because one of the aliens happens to be a boy named Finn, the real Finn is upset. He hates that he's part of his father's novel, even though his father insists that the alien is not based on him. The real Finn feels like he's trapped inside his father's book.

Finn's best friend is an all American, tobacco chewing, baseball playing jock with a potty mouth named Cade Hernandez. Not only is Cade Hernandez physically blessed, he's smart, popular and funny. Cade  Hernandez  is a class clown whose epic antics are loved by the entire school. Finn has a bro-mance with Cade Hernandez. Cade Hernandez can get people to do nearly anything he wants just by looking at them. Finn says, "It was a look particular to Cade Hernandez--a seducer's look. It was magical and unavoidable and caused women to willingly enslave themselves to him." Finn always refers to Cade Hernandez as Cade Hernandez--it's just one of his lovable quirks.

When a pretty, new girl shows up at school,  Finn is immediately smitten with her. He won't admit to Cade that he has feelings for Julia. He knows Cade will do anything for a laugh, and he's afraid his best friend  will ruin whatever chance he has with Julia.

Readers will love the  relationship between Finn and Cade; they are closer than blood and their banter is fresh and funny. The father/son relationship between Finn and his dad is sweet and timeless. Although Finn hates his father's book, he has a deep love and regard for his father. His father's parenting style is Yoda-like "Use the Force, Finn."  He tells it like it is and doesn't skirt tough issues. If Finn asks a question, he gets a truthful answer.

There is so much to love about 100 Sideways Miles: a father/son relationship worthy of "Leave It To Beaver" but so much better, a weird sci-fi novel where aliens eat humans and humans think the aliens are angels, a dog who loves to roll in dead animals' carcasses, a road trip, a best friend--part class clown and part Greek god, a cute girl, a dead horse that falls from the sky, and best of all an epileptic boy who will touch readers' hearts.

Don't pick up 100 Sideways Miles unless you're ready to finish it in one session. Be prepared to fall in love with Finn Easton, Cade Hernandez and Andrew Smith.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. A MUST READ. Language, underage drinking and partying, bad boy behavior, sex.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC 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, November 5, 2014

Series Pick: Atlantia

by Ally Condie
320 pages
ISBN: 9780525426448

Praise for Atlantia:

"A fast-paced fantasy adventure tale in a richly drawn dystopian future . . . this is a title that’s sure to be immensely popular with teens." —School Library Journal

“Utterly captivating. A heroine unlike any I’d met before, a setting I’d never glimpsed, a story I’d never imagined. Atlantia is fresh, wild, and engrossing. I love Ally Condie.” —Shannon Hale, award-winning, bestselling author of Austenland and Dangerous
My Review:

Sure to please dystopian fiction fans and readers of her Matched trilogy, Ally Condie's latest foray into world building and YA dystopian fiction features a heroine unlike any other. Readers will be fascinated with the story and engrossed by the adept storytelling. Condie has a gift of drawing the reader in--hook, line and sinker (pun intended). I was all in and hooked by the end of chapter two.

Twin sisters Bay and Rio live Below in Atlantia. At the age of fifteen, each teen decides what their future holds--whether they will live Below or go Above. After the untimely death of their mother, Rio decides to stay Below to keep her twin sister company. They are like one...after all. Rio declares  her choice to stay Below, but Bay comes next. She chooses Above. Rio is horrified and hurt. How could her sister ever leave her? Now she has no one, and she longs to leave Atlantia. She has always dreamed of going Above and seeing the stars for the first time and feeling dirt beneath her feet.

Rio begins to make plans to escape Below. It is a sure death sentence; no one ever survives. Rio's aunt Maire tries to help Rio, but Rio does not fully trust her. Maire may have had something to do with the death of her mother, and Rio won't quit until she finds answers.  When a chance to go Above presents itself, Rio takes it. She needs to see Bay again and find out why she deserted her. Will Rio find the answers she's looking for? Or will she uncover the secrets of Atlantia and her mother's death? Atlantia is in danger and no one else can save the future. Rio is called upon to save her home, but can she save Atlantia alone?

At first I thought, Oh, brother ! Not another mermaid or mer-people book! I was proven wrong. Atlantia is much more than that. Atlantia is actually an underwater city created to preserve life after the Divide. Rio and Bay and everyone in Atlantia are human--well, sort of. Atlantia seems otherworldly and beautiful--serene, almost--until the suspicious death/murder of Rio's mother who just so happens is the leader of Atlantia. When the safety of Atlantia is breached, Rio knows there's a conspiracy somewhere and makes it her business to uncover the guilty and punish them.

Highly recommended for fans of dystopian fiction and Ally Condie. Her fans won't be disappointed. Highly readable and entertaining. Readers will not want to wait for the next installment of this series.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC 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, November 3, 2014

A Courtly Pick: Dangerous Deceptions

Dangerous Deceptions
(A Palace of Spies novel, book 2)
by Sarah Zettel
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
371 pages
ISBN: 9780544074095

Read an excerpt

Entertaining, fun, flirty, and fabulous, Dangerous Deceptions brings the court of King George I of England to life.

Peggy Fitzroy is a lady in waiting for the Queen--in a remarkable situation to spy. While she seems to be flirting with the men and playing cards with the ladies, she is picking up valuable information about who would want to topple the throne. Her Uncle Pierpoint  promised her hand in marriage to Sebastian, the man who attacked her in Palace of Spies. Peggy refuses to marry him, but Sebastian is not one to back down from a fight.

Peggy's heart belongs to Matthew but there is no way she can marry him. Peggy needs to figure out a way to stay unmarried and dis-engage herself from Sebastian. She suspects Uncle Pierpoint is up to no good and begins spying on his bank and sneaking into his office at his mansion. Her cousin Olivia decides to help her even though she is sure her father has nothing to hide.

Court life is full of intrigue and innuendo and Peggy has to learn to tread carefully in the face  of deception. Gossip and braggadocio seep into every corridor of the castle. Everyone is not who they appear to be and some spies hide in plain sight.

Peggy uncovers a plot to overthrow the King and unmasks an old friend--which leaves her defenseless and humiliated. She will have to choose her own future. Will she return to court? Will she choose love over duty? Will she move to the country and give up court life?

Sarah Zettel captures the period of history with delightful prose and attention to detail--both historical details and the period's fashion and manners. Readers will delight in Peggy's narrative and how she is able to outsmart men in power even though she's supposed to be a mere lady in waiting.

Recommended grade 7-up. Two instances of mild profanity. No sex.

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