Friday, May 30, 2014

Series Pick: The Burnouts (Quarantine, book 3)

The Burnouts
Quarantine, book 3
by Lex Thomas
Egmont
2014
272 pages
ISBN: 9781606843383

Available July 22, 2014 (date from publisher's website)

The Burnouts takes readers out with a flash, bang, boom! Lightning paced, reeking of madness, sadness, grittiness, and dirt, The Burnouts delivers a TKO.

Brothers Will and David are reunited on the outside of McKinley, but both of them feel the  need to save Lucy who remains inside. There is talk that the government has finally found a cure for the infected and David wants to travel to Minnesota and check it out. Meanwhile, things have deteriorated beyond control inside the high school.

Gangs of kids roam the school looking for food, fights, and drugs. Some will do anything for a quick high: sniff gasoline, markers, paint or whatever they can "cook" up. There is no medicine and no clean water. Kids are dying every day waiting to be evacuated. Only the lucky will survive; only the sly will live to see another day.

Lucy is all alone--she's smart and  savage when she needs to be. Having survived a few battles of her own, she is not ready to face any more strife. When she realizes that both Will and David have entered the school, she is afraid for them all. How will the three of them escape the madness? And how will they remain human?

Book 3 is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Recommended for high school readers and fans of the trilogy. This book is much edgier than The Hunger Games trilogy. The Burnouts is intended for mature readers--I do NOT recommend it  for middle school readers. Blood, gore, sex, deviant acts, and drug use abound. Although The Burnouts depicts a world gone mad, it is certainly a world that humans can imagine--in our darkest nightmares.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




MIddle Grades Pick: Shipwreck Island

Shipwreck Island
by S.A. Bodeen
Feiwel and Friends
2014
184  pages
ISBN: 9781250027771


Twelve year old Sarah Robinson is not thrilled to be going on a long trip with her newfound step-family. Sarah's dad just got remarried  and Sarah sees it as a betrayal of her dead mother. She doesn't like the pretty, younger lady her dad chose, and she especially does not like the fact that she now has two stepbrothers, Marco and Nacho. Her dad planned a trip to Fiji and a sailing trip for all of his new family to bond.

After a tedious plane flight, they arrive at a dumpy hotel. The next day, they go down to their "luxury" boat. The Moonflight doesn't look anything like the boat on the advertisement--it doesn't look seaworthy. The family makes the best of it, and soon their worst fears come true.

Caught in a storm at sea, they batten down the hatches and ride out the worst of it. The captain is lost at sea, but the family and boat is caught up near a "deserted" island. As they explore their surroundings, something seems a little off. There is a cabin in the jungle where it looks like its inhabitants left in a hurry.

The family builds a fire on the beach, searches for food and plans to wait for a passing ship to spot them. The first night, they barely escape monster beach crabs. Fighting against the elements and the weird island creatures bonds Sarah with her new family. Marco tells Sarah that there's something wrong with the island, and she agrees. What lies ahead for the family? Will they be discovered by a passing boat? Is anyone really searching for them?

Shipwreck Island is a quick read and should engage reluctant readers.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Non-Fiction Pick: Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous

Shooting Stars: My Unexpected Life Photographing Hollywood's Most Famous
by Jennifer Buhl
Sourcebooks
2014
352 pages
ISBN: 9781402237007

Visit the author's website and learn more about her adventures in Hollywood

Jennifer Buhl, like so many starry-eyed dreamers,  moved to Hollywood to find fame and fortune on the silver screen. Just like the thousands of others, she finds herself waiting tables and counting her pennies not her job offers. A chance encounter with a mob of photogs convince her that she's in the wrong business. Instead of waiting on customers and picking up tips, she could be following celebrities and picking up "tips" about their whereabouts.

She convinces Richard, a nice looking paparazzi, to allow her to ride along with him on his next adventure. They follow Britney Spears up a steep canyon road to her house. They're not alone--about 25 other photogs are in the convoy of tinted windowed SUVs. They leave empty handed but Buhl is fascinated. She finds a news agency online and talks her way into a job--a sort of job. At first using borrowed camera equipment, Buhl learns the ins and outs of celebrity "shooting."

Shooting Stars reads like a gossip-y reality show or an episode of E News. There's plenty of name dropping and some name calling--take that, Seal! Readers learn that Seal does not have very nice behavior toward a female photographer, Nicole Richie secretly likes the paps, Paris Hilton will always pose and she drives slowly so the paps can get their best shots. Some celebs are not so nice--Seal, for one according to Buhl and Keith Urban and wife  Nicole Kidman are private people who don't take kindly to a photog sneaking pictures of them.

The inside scoop on the paparazzi is detailed throughout the book. Most of the paps live and work in L.A. which has the highest numbers of stars. Most of the seasoned paps are British--they started their careers as news photographers. Now, many of the paps are from Mexico or South America. Most are male; very few are female. Buhl learns to pay for tips and has a grocery clerk tip her off when a celebrity is sighted in his store.

There are some cardinal sins to shooting photos: don't take pictures of celebrities' children or at their school, don't ever take a photo of a celebrity inside her home or in the back yard, ask if you may take the photo, make eye contact, if you can make a celebrities  laugh, they will always allow you to take a photo.  Also, ugly pictures don't sell. The public wants to see pretty pictures of celebrities doing normal things: walking the dog, shopping for groceries, or driving a car. They don't want to see their favorite celebrity in a compromising shot. No one ever "outs" a celebrity until the celebrity comes out of the closet on his/her own.

Buhl clears up the misconceived notion that celebrities hate the paparazzi; most celebrities realize the paps help keep them current and in the news. If their pictures aren't out there, the public soon forgets them and they are no longer relevant. In fact, it's a well known fact that many stars call the paparazzi to let them know they are going to an event: a Christmas tree lot or a pumpkin patch or even shopping. The paps get their photos, the photos are paid for, and surprisingly, the paps sometimes even give a percentage back to the star.


The relationship between the paparazzi and celebrities can get heated but for the most part it is symbiotic--each needs the other in order to make money and have a career. Buhl gives readers what they want: a chatty book about a young woman trying to make it work in Hollywood and chasing the dream of working in entertainment. With the onset of Twitter, the paps now know exactly where celebrities are located. If a celebrity posts that she's getting her hair done, the paps knows exactly where she is. Instagram makes it easy for celebrities to post their own images and control what pictures of them are out in the public eye.

Recommended grade 9-up. Language, mature situations.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Blog Tour and Book Giveaway: Oblivion

Oblivion
by Sasha Dawn
Egmont
2014
400 pages
ISBN: 9781606844762



Available May 27, 2014

Win a  FREE signed copy of Oblivion. I have FIVE SIGNED copies of Oblivion up for grabs! Post a comment on the blog. Please include your first name, city, state, and email (U.S. addresses only).Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is noon MST May 30. Winners will be notified by email at that time. Please check your email. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email to claim their books.

Visit the next stop on the blog tour  at Book Dreaming.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Young Reader Pick: Naked!

Naked!
by Michael Ian Black
Illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2014
40 pages
ISBN: 9781442467392

Adorable zaniness and wicked cool comedy literally jump off the pages of Michael Ian Black's new children's book Naked!


Any parent can tell you that every child goes through that stage where clothes are a real hassle and buzz kill--it's much more fun to be Naked! The super nova boy who displays unflagging energy and heart goes about his day Naked! He shouts, "Look at me everybody! I'm naked! Whoooooo! Naked, naked, naked!"

Any child (and any adult who loves humor) can tell you the word "Naked!" is in itself, a funny word. Nude...not so funny. Bare....boring. Unclothed....uptight and uber proper. But Naked! deserves to be capitalized and always said and written with an exclamation point! It's freeing somehow! Look at me using the exclamation point! Whoooooooo!

The boy runs around his house, eating  cookies and imagines going to school and playing on the playground all the while Naked! Life is great until....he imagines how much better it could be with a cape. Oh, yes. A cape. It makes all things better. Including Naked!

The boy discovers Naked! really works for him until he gets too cold. Clothes do have a use he has to concede.

Illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi capture the energy and captivating spirit of the young boy. Readers can feel his energy and fun as he runs around his house. The boy's mother appears throughout the book trying to get him clothed as he outruns and outmaneuvers her, and it makes the story even more humorous and loveable.

Kids are sure to giggle and adults will love this captivating book. Kids always scream and laugh out loud when the boy in David Shannon's No David! is Naked! Imagine reading Naked! to a group of kindergartners. Funny, right? And great fun.

Picture books just don't get any better than Naked! It is sure to tickle your funny bone and leave a smile on your face and warm fuzzys in your heart.

So highly recommended that I'm shouting it from the rooftops: Go out and experience Naked! ( I just love writing and saying that).

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)


Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Conversation with Author David Baldacci

Conference Call with author David Baldacci and editor Rachel Griffiths
May 21, 2014
Topic: David's new YA novel The Finisher

I was invited by the publisher to phone in for a conference session with David and Rachel. There were 15 other librarians, bloggers, and  independent booksellers on the call. The first twenty minutes or so, Rachel introduced the book and asked David some preliminary questions. After that, anyone who had a question for David about the book or writing could chime in.

I asked, " Vega Jane is a finisher and the title of the book is The Finisher, will she finish off all the problems?"

To which Baldacci responded, "Vega is sent out to make things right. More worlds will be revealed, and Vega Jane carries this story forward."

Baldacci usually finishes a book within eight months, but it took him almost five years to write The Finisher. His agent submitted in under a pseudonym--Janus Pope. The editor thought it might be Baldacci's work because she knows his agent, but when she realized it was a YA book, she ruled out the idea that it came from him. When asked why he submitted it to a publisher keeping his identity out of it, he said he wanted people to like the book for the content itself and not due to his name being connected to it. For that, I love David Baldacci.

Baldacci paid  homage to librarians and independent booksellers. He shared that in his youth, his librarian allowed him to check out many more books over the number usually  allowed, but she knew he would read them all, enjoy them and return them. It is because of reading, that he eventually became an author. Even though the public thought he was a lawyer for his first ten years of adult life after college and law school, he was always a storyteller.

When asked by a bookseller from Seattle what titles he would  recommend to YA readers as they wait for book two to be published, he responded that he thought many of the books he would recommend are likely to have already been read by them. His short list included: the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series, the Divergent series and Jasper Fford's  Thursday Next books calling them, "real page turners" and saying that, "Kids will love them."

Baldacci revealed that, "First lines, first pages, first chapters are extremely important." He agonized and "obsessed" over his first line. The first  line of The Finisher is, "I was dozing when I heard the scream." Baldacci admits it was not always the first line. It was always a line in chapter one, but he moved it to be the first line after many readings.

Throughout the interview, Baldacci gave thoughtful, insightful and clear answers. It was a pleasure to speak directly to an author in a small group setting. He told us several times, "I'm a storyteller." He left us with this thought, "If everyone was a book lover and we were all book readers, what a great world we would have" to which I applaud and say BRAVO!

Thank you to John Mason from Scholastic for allowing me this opportunity. Thank you Rachel Griffiths and David Baldacci for a fun hour!
Pamela

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Thriller Pick: Killer Instinct (A Naturals novel)

Killer Instinct
by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Hyperion
2014
384 pages
ISBN: 9781423105122

Available November 4, 2014
(Cover shown is book one; image of Killer Instinct not yet available on May 21, 2014)


The Naturals is group of teens that possess the uncanny ability to figure out criminal behaviors and patterns. Their presence is a secret and they are kept at a sort of "safe" house by the FBI. The kids have different gifts but work together to solve cold cases. When a new serial killer appears on the scene, the kids are dying (I know, put intended) to get their hands on the case file. Their new "house mother" has no intention of letting the kids in on the case; if it were up to her, their group would be disbanded immediately.

Dean, in particular, has the most interest in the new case. The killer is copying what Dean's own father did to his victims. Cassis and the others vow to help Dean overcome the memory of his father and find the killer. With Lia, Cassie and Michael in his corner, will Dean ever hope for a future and forget the past?

Agent Sterling has secrets of her own, and Cassie makes it her business to find out what they are. Working with the methodical precision of Sherlock Holmes, Cassie begins profiling the agent to understand what makes her tick and why she arrives at their house. Surely the FBI has better things to do other than babysit a few teenagers. What is the real motivation behind Sterling's appearance?

The dynamic between the teens who share a house is at times argumentative but mostly is a tightly woven bond  between explosive personalities who share the common goal of getting the bad guy (or girl).

Barnes manages to keep the banter quick and light even when characters are discussing the MO of a serial killer. Killer Instinct is a cross between "CSI," "Veronica Mars," and "Dexter." Fans of mystery and crime thrillers will love this novel.

Recommended grade 9-up. Mature subject matter.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poetry Pick: Outside the Box

Outside the Box
by Karma Wilson
Drawings by Diane Goode
Margaret K. McElderry Books
2014
172 pages
ISBN: 9781416980056

Evocative (on purpose) to Shel Silverstein's books of children's poetry, Karma Wilson dedicates her new book to Silverstein saying, "to Shel S. who encouraged every child to play with words..." Drawings by Diane Goode capture the humor and energy of each poem by Wilson. This book is a treasure trove of what will become a child's most loved poems.

Some poems are concrete like "Outside the Box" and "Inside Joke." Other poems make the reader laugh but then think! One of my favorite short poems is "Dorks and Geeks" which pays homage to all those called dorks, geeks and "artistic freaks" who become the leaders and "...great inventive souls/that make our history."

The poet has a keen eye and a refreshing sense of humor and a childlike wonder when looking at the world. In "Monkey Business," the author reminds us, "You laugh at the monkeys in the zoo,/but the monkeys laugh right back at you./While you giggle, point, and stare,/to them you're a monkey without much hair./ So there."

There is so much to love in this book of poetry. It is likely to be the most checked out book in every library that caters to children. There's something magical about a funny poem. It resonates with our funny bone and makes us feel good. Whether eight or eighty, anyone who loves a poem will love Outside the Box.

Highly, highly recommended all ages and all poetry lovers. A must have for the poetry section of every library.

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, May 19, 2014

Beach Read Pick: Monster's Chef

Monster's Chef
by Jervey Tervalon
Amistad
2014
224 pages
ISBN: 9780062316202

Available June 10, 2014

Monster's Chef is the perfect beach read. It has everything a reader could want: an out of work, down on his luck chef with a checkered past and a lost love, an aging rock star who harbors illegal habits and an illicit eye for young boys, wannabe hangers-on hoping for that lucky break or their first million, the unhappy, pregnant wife of the aging rocker, a grounds-keeper who looks the other way, and a security team who will shoot now and ask questions later--all set in a remote compound in the hills away from Hollywood.

Gibson takes the job as personal chef because he needs the money. Just released from the halfway house, there's not a lot of jobs lining up on his horizon. He needs clarity and peace, and takes the job at the quiet compound hoping for  a little of both. What he finds is a weird job. He rarely cooks since Monster likes to eat raw. Gibson soon wonders why Monster needs a chef at all.

Monster----as he proclaims himself is the king of the compound--he is everything the press loves in a celebrity--he is odd, different, eccentric bordering on maniacal. In his lair on the hill, he can stay up all night in his weird den of entertainment and sleep all day. He answers to no one. The laws do not pertain to him. He is untouchable and God-like in his realm. His servants don't dare ask questions; they lend a blind eye and hope to make their fortune quick and make a clean getaway. No one talks about what goes on at Monster's Lair.

When a dead body shows up on the property, the sheriff comes looking for answers. Gibson is strangely fascinated by the being who happens to be  Monster--as readers are likely to be. Monster is a true enigma--a tortured soul who is worshipped by hordes of fans in public but who is as alone as a person can be. He is pitiful but too strange and corrupted  to be pitied.

I enjoyed this book immensely but hoped for just a little more "chef -y-ness." While a few recipes were included, I suppose I was looking for a bit more cuisine since the word chef is in the title and various kitchen implements are featured on the cover. The cover also features weapons, a dollar sign,  a couple of thugs, and two women.

I found Monster a bit fascinating and he reminded me of the late Michael Jackson. Gibson, too, was an interesting character. Monster's Chef is a book that will stick with you. You are not likely to forget this one.

Recommended for mature and adult readers. Anyone who loves an "inside the lives of celebrities" book, will love this one. Celebrities, according to Monster's Chef, are not just like you and me.

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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)






Friday, May 16, 2014

Series Pick: The Trap

The Trap
by Andrew Fukuda
St. Martin's Griffin
2013
309 pages
ISBN: 9781250005120

Tense, terrifying, taut and enormously entertaining, The Trap is the final chapter in the Hunt trilogy and it delivers! Fukuda is at the top of his game; The Trap maintains the rocket pace adrenaline rush of the first two books. This is one thrilling  trilogy that just kept getting better, and the BEST vampire book yet!

Sissy, Gene, Epap, David and other young humans are on a train heading into the Ruler's realm. Rumored to keep humans in cages as cattle and food, the Palace is the epicenter of the vampire's power. The doors open into sheer blackness; the terrified passengers must make a decision: go into the elevator or get back on the train. They know death awaits them no matter what decision they make, but that does not  deter Gene and Sissy from sticking together and trying to save the others.

The truth is worse than the kids imagined. Humans are being  kept underground and told to seek the safety of coffin-like chambers or risk being devoured during an all out bloodbath at least once weekly. The vampires roam the catacombs and choose which tasty morsel they will devour next. Gene and Sissy need to figure out their best chance of escaping this underground hell, but before they can, the sirens go off. Everyone scrambles for safety.

Once again, Gene happens upon a stranger he's met once before. It is the same man who told him not to trust old love Ashley June. Gene is taken to see the Ruler and he is given an ultimatum. In order to save Sissy and the others, Gene must go back to the city and kill Ashley June.

Plot twists and revelations about Gene's childhood are explosive and mind-blowing. What will Gene do with this new information? Can Sissy and Gene be the answer to the enigma? The answers will not be easy and the results might be devastating. The Trap ends the trilogy with hope for the future.

Highly, highly recommended for fans of zombie books and a must read for fans of the trilogy. Suitable grade 7-up with this caution; Sissy does shower and is nude but it's not a sexual scene. Also, human flesh is called "virgin" and "virginal" which means untouched--not in the sexual sense.

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)




Thursday, May 15, 2014

Non-Fiction Pick: Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cats

Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cats
by Sy Montgomery
photos by Nic Bishop
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2014
80 pages
ISBN: 9780547815497

Informative, entertaining and uplifting, Chasing Cheetahs is that rare non-fiction book that reads like a beautiful story because that's what it is: a beautiful story of one woman's quest to save the African cats. Laurie Marker has been studying, breeding and raising and saving cheetahs for thirty years.

From her first job with animals at the vet clinic in a wild animal park to the grasslands of Africa, Laurie has experienced it all. She discovered that cheetahs kept in captivity had few chances to breed because the species needs security and privacy. The zoos and the parks just weren't quiet enough for the cats.

In 1991, Laurie gave up  life in the United States, sold her home and moved to Namibia. She opened a conservation research center to help save the cheetahs. She and her staff train local farmers to keep trained dogs that will guard their farms. This will allow cheetahs to come and go as they please to hunt for wild game. The farmer will keep his stock, and they can all  live in harmony. The center also trains those who want to start farming. They give future farmers
 pointers on how to raise goats for profit and how to keep their flocks safe from cheetahs and other wild hunters.

The cheetah population in 1900 was over 100,000; today cheetahs umber only 10,000. With Laurie's guidance, the cheetah looks to have a much brighter future. Through her efforts in educating farmers and school children about saving the cheetah, Laurie has managed to change their perception of the large cats.

The book's photos are nothing short of spectacular capturing the cats on the move: pouncing, running, yawning and literally flying! A cheetah can travel from 0 to 40 in just three strides. Top speed for the cat is 70 mph. They can see up to two miles away, a feat that comes in handy when hunting.

Laurie Marker is a true inspiration of the power of one. She kept asking, "why doesn't someone do something?" for the cheetahs. Then she realized that that someone was her! And she never looked back.


Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher and boy, am I glad I did! I just loved this one!


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, May 14, 2014

Picture Book Pick: Naughty Kitty!

Naughty Kitty!
by Adam Stower
Orchard Books
2014
40 pages
ISBN: 9780545576048

visit the author's sketchbook

Heartwarming, heavenly  and hilarious, Naughty Kitty! will tickle little readers' funny bones! Lily wanted a new pet and her first choice was a dog, but her mother said no to that. Lily ends up with a cute kitten who seems nice and fluffy enough, but trouble is brewing in this household and it's just around the corner.

 Readers may catch on from a newspaper peeking out of the mother's handbag on the first pages. Before the appearance of big trouble, the paper sits on the kitchen table and alert readers will see a glimpse of what appears to be a large jungle cat at the back door. Lily's back is turned as she leaves the room so she doesn't spot him.

Animals  have escaped from a nearby zoo. When a wild  visitor gets into the house and eats cake from the counter, trashes the kitchen, and rips the living room chairs, Lily blames the only suspect, little, tiny Kitty. The tiger causes even more trouble when he lays on all the beds and leaves a stinky mess. Lily never realizes the true culprit. Young readers will laugh as they see an escaped tiger who is causing all the trouble. They will probably point out the tiger and wonder why doesn't Lily see him. Poor little Kitty takes the blame and shame, and Lily is none the wiser.

Illustrations by the author make Kitty come to life. Kitty is absolutely captivating: his blissful smile as Lily hugs him, his look of surprise to see wild animals in the back yard, his shameful look when Lily discovers the mess in the kitchen--make Kitty a real character with personality.

From the cover: Naughty Kitty! is, "...for anyone who has been blamed for something they did not do."

Highly, highly recommended for all young readers and pet lovers. Naughty Kitty! is an entertaining read and is sure to cause smiles all around.


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)


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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Magical Pick: House of Ivy & Sorrow

House of Ivy & Sorrow
by Natalie Whipple
HarperTeen
2014
362 pages
ISBN: 9780062120182

Magical, mesmerizing, melodious, and macabre, House of Ivy & Sorrow is a witchy, devilish good book!

Seventeen  year old Josephine Hemlock lives with her grandmother in a little house under the bridge guarded by magic. There are only two doors in and they are hidden to the outside world. Magic keeps Jo and her grandmother safe from the outside world and away from other witching families. Jo's mother Carmina died years ago, and her grandmother casts a number of spells to keep Jo safe. When a stranger from the past shows up, he brings an evil danger with him.

Jo's friend Kat witnesses her magic and it is agreed that the two girls be bound together with a binding spell. This will keep both of them from harm, they hope.  The evil is getting stronger and the girls are in a race against time to find something...anything in the Hemlock history that will help explain who might be after Jo.

Digging into a witch family's history is a arduous task. As they uncover ancestor after ancestor, new questions surface. How long can Jo keep her friend safe from danger? A witch can never love or marry; does it make sense for Jo to date swoon worthy and nice guy Winn knowing that she can never experience lasting  love?

Cover design with trailing ivy is repeated on chapter numbers and on page numbers throughout the book. I like the idea that magic exists in all things and that witches learn to control energy. The witches in this book aren't the sunshine-y witches of Bewitched; these witches mean business and they're not afraid of eye of newt or wing of bat.

Recommended grade 7-up. Some kissing. Magic. Spells.

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)


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Picture Book Pick: Mighty Dads

Mighty Dads
by Joan Holub
Illustrations by James Dean
Scholastic Press
2014
40 pages
ISBN: 9780545609685

Clever, cute, friendly and fun, Mighty Dads is a great addition to any  child's book collection and the perfect read for Father's Day. What dad wouldn't love this fun book and tribute to everything he does to instruct,  encourage, and lead his child?

A construction site comes to life with big Daddy trucks and machinery and the smaller counterparts (children trucks). Kids will love hearing this story aloud. The text encourages the reader and listeners to hear and say and shout the words out loud. "Bulldozer Strong shows Dozy right from wrong/They go roar, roar, roar!" and my favorites, "Boom Truck Tall helps Boomer crash a wall./ They go crash, bang, boom!/Cement Mixer Busy gives a hug if Mixie's dizzy./They go spin, spin, pour."

The smaller trucks are not necessarily boys--both boys and girls will love the fun illustrations of the Daddy vehicles showing his  child how to do a job. All kinds of vehicles are shown: a crane, a dump truck, a grader, a steam roller, a forklift and others. The action is powerful and whimsical with the mini version of Dad mimicking the father trucks' actions of grading, digging and lifting. Even the back cover shows an active construction scene depicting seven pairs of the vehicles.

Colorful illustrations by Dean will captivate young readers. Machines come alive and take on personalities. Each truck is drawn with human features (eyes), and some trucks seem to be wearing a smile (bumper).

Any child who loves trucks and loves the sound of "...crash, bang, boom!" will love Mighty Dads, and will likely beg to have the reader read it again...and again....and again. This is one book that is sure to become a favorite at bedtime or anytime!

Highly, highly recommended for a fun read aloud. This book would be a great addition to any English class studying action verbs and grammar.

Readers 3-5 and for use in teaching verbs and figurative language and the poetic device of onomatopoeia.

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, May 7, 2014

Thriller Pick: Cold Calls

Cold Calls
by Charles Benoit
Clarion Books
2014
288 pages
ISBN: 9780544239500



A late night phone call, a disguised voice, a threat. The caller knows him and has been in his room. Eric is afraid to trust the caller, but he's more afraid of what the caller will do if he doesn't do what is expected of him. The caller has ammunition and is willing to use it if Eric doesn't do his bidding. Eric follows through with the prank and finds himself in a detention class at the community center  for bullies.

Fatima and Shelly are in the class with Eric. They discover that each of them has had a threat from an unknown caller who directed them to pull similar pranks at their schools. Suddenly, it becomes clear that the caller is the same person for each of them. How does the caller know them and how are they tied together? They were all threatened and blackmailed by the same caller but now the kids join forces to try and discover  who is threatening them. The more they discover, the tighter they each hold their own secret.

The book is marketed as "Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club," but fans of the Liars series may be left wanting more as far as fashion and love interests. The main characters are likeable enough but a bit one-sided. Maybe not enough time passes in the book for the characters to fully develop and experience change. Although the kids  learn to work together, their  "friendship" appears fleeting. The cell phone/cyber bully is an interesting addition to YA lit but not a welcome one. The fact that Cold Calls seems like familiar territory  makes this book real for readers.

Recommended grade 9-up. Mature subject matter and cyber bullying and talk of explicit cell phone photos.

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, May 6, 2014

Picture Book Pick (But So Much More): Rules of Summer

 
Rules of Summer
by Shaun Tan
Arthur A. Levine Books
2014
48 pages
ISBN: 97805456519125

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Innovative and fun, deep and engrossing, Rules of Summer is one deceptive picture book! Let the art speak for itself like Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Readers are encouraged to enter the art and make decisions about the story based on the art and also their own experiences.

The two page spread with text, "Never leave a red sock on the clothesline" shows two young boys cowering behind a fence, a clothesline empty except for said red sock and a large, menacing, red-eyed monster  bunny peering over the fence. The beast is many times their size and the boys  appear to be  hiding from it.

Each spread features art by Tan and offers the opportunity for readers to tell a story for themselves. Rules of Summer is loosely put together featuring two boys, maybe brothers, who have adventures that summer. My favorite rule is,  "Never miss the last day of summer."  The art shows the smaller boy climbing to the top of a long ladder with the older boy offering his hand to help the smaller child up.

Wildly imaginative robots and weird birds make this story fun for young readers. I predict Rules of Summer will be hugely embraced by readers and art critics as well as art and creative writing teachers around the globe.

Highly, highly recommended for the quirky reader in everyone and those who have wild imaginings and dream strange dreams.

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)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thriller Pick: The Finisher

 
Book Giveaway:
 
I have FIVE free copies of this middle grade-high school fantasy pick. Balacci steps into the YA arena with his latest book. Although almost 500 page count, The Finisher is a quick read with action, mystery and intrigue. For your chance to grab a FREE copy, post a comment to the blog. Include first name, city, state and email address (addresses must be USA addresses and no post office boxes, sorry). Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is noon MST May 15. Winners will be notified via email shortly after noon on that date. Please check your email. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Scholastic.
 
 
What I say:
 
The Finisher
by David Baldacci
Scholastic Press
2014
497 pages

Vega Jane lives in the  small, backward village of Wormwood. She is one of the few females who survive there. Her family is broken--both her mother and father are ill and in nursing care, her grandfather is "dead" having had an Event some years back. Vega helps out her younger brother John when she is able. Working long hours as a finisher in the Stacks, Vega is surprised when her mentor vanishes into the deadly Quag. Even more surprising is the parchment message Quentin leaves for Vega.

The village elders known as the Council offer a huge reward for the return of Quentin....dead or alive. Vega is afraid for her mentor and even more afraid for herself; for now, she has more than one secret. As Vega discovers the secrets of Wormwood and the dangerous evils that surround it, she realizes that everything is a lie.

Strange names for all sorts of beasts and animals, magical elements, sci-fi like holes in time and space, language that seems archaic to our ears: befuddlement, arse,  brethren, tis, and the quaint, almost sleepy village of Wormwood where the Council controls life and death give The Finisher an almost Tolkien/Lowry feel.

Vega Jane as a strong female protagonist seems compelled for far greater things, but she remains in Wormwood instead of venturing into the Quag. The Quag for all its secrets and danger is not a central part of the story, but I wished it had been. The elements for an amazing series are all here, but Baldacci takes his time developing the world around Vega Jane without setting her up to be the great, feisty female of YA fantasy. She is not Katniss Everdeen; on the other hand, Vega beats out Bella Swan easily.

Recommended for fans of fantasy. Book two looks promising to tell more about the secrets of the Quag which will be a welcome departure from sleepy Wormwood.

Suitable for middle grades-high 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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)