Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Proverbs for Young People
Written and Illustrated by Jack E. Levin
Aladdin
2015
72 pages
ISSD: 9781481459457

According to New York Times bestselling author Jack E. Levin, he  had written the first few pages of Proverbs for Young People way back in 1959 and then forgot all about it. Now 90, Levin came across the pages and finished this charming book, "...as my little gift to our youngest generation...." Young children will want to ask parents and caregivers to offer  examples for each saying. Once they make the connection, the children will likely practice the attitude.

Our world will be a better place indeed if everyone practiced, "Kindness brings kindness" and "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." Every faith, creed and country can agree on basic morals and values. As humans we want to be happy, to do well and have our children thrive. It is a universal human need. Children who grow up with values and morals will be better adults who make ethical decisions.

The book is aimed at the preschool reader but this is a valuable teaching tool for pre-K and kindergarten age students. Drawings by the author enhance each proverb and each proverb's meaning is addressed in the last pages of the book.

Lesser known inclusions are "From little acorns, large trees grow," "Empty barrels make the most noise," and "Little strokes fell great oaks."

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)


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, December 28, 2015

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Illustrated edition
by J.K. Rowling
Illustrations by Jim Kay
Arthur A. Levine Books
2015
256 pages
ISBN: 9780545790352

Beautiful illustrations along with the beloved story of Harry will have Hogwarts fans clamoring for a copy. This is a great book to introduce younger and newer readers to the world of Harry Potter. Truly a book worth sharing, it is well crafted and one of the most beautiful books in publishing.


Mere words cannot capture the magic of Jim Kay's illustrations! Many are two page centerfolds and there is not one area of the book that has not been planned and decorated. Book one promises another out of the park hit for Rowling. The rest of the series will follow and it is my hope that no corners are cut in developing them. There are over 100 illustrations to capture the imagination.

Although it's too late to buy for Christmas, think about gifting a copy of this to any Harry Potter fan or any child who has yet to discover the magic of Potterville.

Highly, highly recommended for all readers!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the sneak peek from the publisher. Later, I purchased a copy for myself and am delighted with it! 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, December 24, 2015

Early Reader Pick: I'm Trying To Love Spiders

I'm Trying To Love Spiders
by Bethany Barton
Illustrations by the author
Viking
2015
32 pages
ISBN: 9780670016938


Whimsical and winsome, this little picture book is full of fun and facts about spiders. Even if you have arachnophobia, Barton offers many reasons to learn to love spiders. Did you know that the average spider eats about 75 pounds of bugs per year? Another fact that should make a difference: out of 40,000 species of spiders only two spiders are known to be poisonous enough to cause you pain or sickness: the black widow (female spider only) and the brown recluse.

Spiders are actually amazing little critters who get a bad rap. In fact, spiders can help farmers. Sometimes they are used to keep insects at bay and out of farmers' crops. The end papers feather interesting spiders like the assassin spider which preys only on other spiders and the diving bell spider who is able to practically live underwater.

Young readers will love colorful illustrations of spiders and the childlike whimsy and humor of the prose.

Recommended for young readers who love creepy crawlies!


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, December 17, 2015

Middle Grade Pick: The Nest

The Nest
by Kenneth Oppel
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2015
256 pages
ISBN: 9781481445474


 ....Oh, how I love this book!

Truly horrifying and engrossing, this mid-grade read will appeal to horror fans.  Kenneth Oppel has done the impossible--written a horror book that's scary, yes, but approachable for middle grades. The Nest has classic elements of horror: a family in turmoil, a boy who is a loner but longs for someone to talk to, a younger sister who is easy to approach, a mother and father busy with their infant son--too busy to see what's going on with their other children, a creepy knife sharpening man, a doctor who tries to help, a secret illness and a way to make everything perfect again.

Stephen worries when he hears his parents talking about the new baby's illness. He's just not right. The doctors always need to run tests; they worry the baby's heart will never be strong enough. Stephen's parents spend days and nights at the hospital leaving Stephen and his sister in the babysitter's care. Stephen begins to have a strange dream. Night after night, he dreams he sees an angel, and each night the angel becomes more clear to him. She talks to Stephen about the baby and offers to help the baby get well...to become perfect. At first, Stephen doesn't ask many questions. He realizes it's just a dream. An angel from a dream can't make things happen, right?

Stephen realizes the angel is a white wasp and her nest is the wasp's nest under the eaves of his home. Stephen becomes terrified then. The Queen wasp tells Stephen not to worry about anything; she will make sure his baby is fine. When Stephen realizes that the Queen plans on stealing the baby and replacing it with a "perfect" one, he tells her that he won't help her. There's nothing worse than an angry wasp, but an angry wasp Queen?

Descriptions of the nest will terrify and the thing that lives within will haunt my nightmares. From the mid-point of the book until the last page, readers will rush to turn pages at a breakneck speed. A quick read; this book should appeal to reluctant readers.

The Nest will top all "Best of" lists and I expect it will win awards (it's too bad Oppel is Canadian and not able to win the Newbery). The Nest  is truly a unique read for middle grades.

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)

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tech Alert: Star Wars Lightsaber Escape

New tech now trending! Google Chrome Lightsaber Escape turns your phone into a lightsaber. Play with your desktop (tablets are not supported) and use your phone as a lightsaber. You have to see this to believe it! From techcrunch, watch the video. The Lightsaber Escape is the last story on this brief tech update.


Image from Lucasfilms

                    Happy gaming and May the Force Be With You! The Force Awakens!

Friday, December 11, 2015

YA Pick: Dangerous Lies

Dangerous Lies
by Becca Fitzpatrick
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
2014
384 pages
ISBN: 9781481424912


After last year's Black Ice, I was excited to get into Dangerous Lies. A word of warning: this is not as heart pounding and action packed as Black Ice. Dangerous Lies, is however, a good read of a different kind. Forced to leave her life and love behind, Stella Gordon is moved to Thunder Basin, Nebraska, as part of the witness protection program. Having witnessed a brutal murder, Stella is moved against her will. She's not a fan of the tiny town or her new living situation.

It is decided that she will live at a retired cop's house. Carmina's a tough old broad with a heart of gold. She won't put up with arguments, backtalk or laziness and makes Stella get a job right away. Stella works at a diner in town but plans to leave Thunder Basin in a few months when she turns eighteen--witness protection program or not. Stella secretly sends messages to her boyfriend Reed  in an account they set up to be "untraceable."  I just didn't buy the fact that Stella actually believed criminals and the government could not track her Internet use. Later Stella phones her estranged mother and thinks her actions are secret.

The ending made it all worth the read. Although the book dragged for me in the middle, it redeems itself at the end. Stella is a hard character to love. It's not her fault; she's had a hard life. Her mother is not Mother of the Year in anyone's mind. The lies Stella tells about the cartel crime end up coming back to haunt her. There are lies and half truths in Thunder Basin, too, and that makes the town more interesting. My favorite character is bad guy Trigger, a spoiled rich kid whose father seems to run the town. Trigger has is in for Stella, and when he finally puts the pieces together, it's exciting! I also loved Chet Falconer--I love his name, first of all! Then, he's a gentleman and a good guy. He's hard working, true to his word and a real catch--too bad he's fiction!

If your expecting an action packed blockbuster, this isn't the book for you. If you want a book about a tortured, tough, spunky girl who is  actually more afraid than she'll admit and a guy whose truly swoon worthy, this is a good read.

Recommended grade 9-up. No sex but we meet Stella in the first scene tangled up on a bed with Reed and the implication is that they have a history of this. Also, the drug angle and cartel angle has a mature vibe although it's no racier than anything on prime time television.

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, December 7, 2015

YA Pick: NEED

NEED
by Joelle Charbonneau
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2015
335 pages
ISBN: 9780544416697


From the author of the Testing trilogy comes this fast paced and freaky novel. NEED will fulfill teen appetites for solid YA thrills. The town of Nottawa, Wisconsin, has been infiltrated by a new website which promises teen followers to fulfill their needs. The only catch: if you post a need, you then must invite friends to join. As needs are met, more and more teens post on the site. Then the rules change.

Kaylee doesn't see the harm in asking for a favor. She wouldn't ask for something for herself, of course. She asks for a kidney for her younger brother who will die unless he gets a transplant. When she hears that other needs are being fulfilled, she's hopeful. Soon, new members are being asked to do easy tasks: dig a hole, take a photo, deliver a box, take a photo. What is the harm in that? When one teen dies and others are threatened, NEED turns into the enemy. And no one can "unfriend" NEED.

Who or what is pulling the strings at NEED? Can Kaylee and  Nate solve the mystery before it kills them? Whoever is behind NEED knows all the teens and all their families. What does NEED want?

As the duo close in on answers, more violence is unleashed. Readers will race through pages at a breakneck speed. This is one quick, unputdownable read!

Cover art and quotes of the needs will draw readers in. The quote, "No one gets something for nothing. We should all know better..."  promises twists and turns. A second book is possible since one character leaves town at the ending.

Highly recommended. Violence. No profanity. No sex. Grade 7-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)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Early Reader Pick: Strictly No Elephants

Strictly No Elephants
by Lisa Mantchev
Illustratons by Taeeun Yoo
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
(A Paula Wiseman Book)
2014
32 pages
ISBN: 9781481416474

Strictly No Elephants is a  sweet story full of promise for friendship and inclusion. It's Pet Club day and a boy would like to bring his unusual pet, a tiny elephant, to the club. When he's rudely turned away at the door---the cover says it all--he finds a girl who feels left out, too. They form their own group and include everyone no matter what type of pet or person they are.

This cute little book teaches young readers all about true friendship. Friends help each other, friends help friends be brave, friends stick together, and friends help everyone feel better. Illustrations by Yoo show the unwelcome faces of the first club, the sadness of the boy and his elephant (it's no surprise the scene occurs in a downpour), and the happiness of the new group of friends. I love that both the boy and his elephant wear matching red scarfs!

This is an incredible example of a book that can teach young readers values. Everyone will win with this winsome title.

Highly recommended for beginning readers. This book could easily be taught by a pre-K teacher or a Sunday school teacher, but mostly let's hope parents will read this book to their own child/children. It will open the door for conversations about friendship and what it is and how friends should act.

Required FTC 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, December 2, 2015

YA Creepy Pick: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys: Classic Tales, Brand-New Nightmares
Stories Selected by April Genevieve Tucholke
Dial Books
2015
385 pages
ISBN: 9780803741737

Dangerous, dark, devious, twisted (in the best way), tortured, and a true treasure trove of scary stories, Slasher Girls & Monster Boys cuts into YA fiction (pun intended). Compiled by Tucholke, this collection includes stories by YA heavyweights Jonathan Maberry, Carrie Ryan, Leigh Bardugo and Marie Lu, and others and it will truly entice teen (and adult) horror fans.

The dedication by Tucholke states this story collection is... "For everyone who read Stephen King when they were way too young." Count me in! Every horror fan will want to get a bite of this book. The creepy cover sells the book before readers even think about opening it.

Once opened, this book just keeps giving. From what starts out a bullying story and ends up apocalyptic (or does it?), "Fat Girl With a Knife" is compelling and scary. Readers are not likely to forget the main character. "Sleepless" is edgy and starkly realistic. It's a real cat and mouse game that readers are not likely to figure out until the gruesome and brutal end.

The book opens with "The Birds of Azalea Street," a dark tale of a terrifying neighbor who preys on the young and innocent. When the kids' prayers are answered, something otherworldly happens and it's awesome! At the end of each story, the inspiration for the story is revealed. Careful readers may be inspired to look up and read the earlier books and watch the classic movies mentioned. No one can go wrong with "Psycho," "Rear Window," "The Birds," or "Night of the Living Dead."

Finally! A short story collection for teen horror fans by YA authors! This book is bound to get attention in award circles due to the fact that it's a novelty among YA titles and it's so well done.
Each story is a gem and it's nearly impossible to pick a favorite, but Jonathan Maberry gets my vote.

Highly, highly recommended for horror fans and reluctant readers. Even a reluctant reader is bound to find a story here. This is a must have for story collections and horror collections.

Grade 9-up. Grisly, macabre and adult. Not for middle school readers.

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, November 24, 2015

Reluctant Reader Pick: Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, boook 10)

Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 10)
by Jeff Kinney
Amulet
2015
217 pages
ISBN: 9781419717017

Fans of the Wimpy Kid series will not be disappointed. Greg Heffley is back and as endearing as he's ever been. More so, in fact. Readers will almost feel sorry for Greg as he realizes his home and life are being invaded by his grandfather--who now lives with the Heffleys full time. Grandpa turns out to be quite the party animal--hosting private parties when the Heffleys are away from home and trolling online dating sites. He even takes the car and nearly wrecks it. Greg's mom starts a petition for everyone in town to go "old school" and ban their electronic devices.

After Greg and Grandpa's harrowing, near death experience, Greg realized his dad will punish him forever so he does what any young boy in this situation would do. He runs! Greg announces he will go on the class trip to Hardscrabble Farms after all. At least if he's far away, his dad can't punish him. Because Greg registered so late, he is in the last cabin--with the oddballs and leftovers, including Rowley.

Camp is just what you'd expect:mosquitoes, hot cabins, terrible plumbing, team building exercises that go awry, bad food, bugs, unsanitary, unwashed bodies, poison ivy, campfire stories, and a bogey man named Silas Scratch (every camp has a bogey man, by the way....).  Camp sure sounds like fun, doesn't it? Greg makes a discovery that's a real game changer, and he and his dad bond over a shared secret.

A round the world tour for Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be traveling to a country near you soon. One thing the world has in common: its kids. And kids worldwide love the Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley. "What I've learned is that childhood itself is a universal condition that transcends culture and language," says author Jeff Kinney. He's excited to visit fans from all over and says, "I'm sure my life will be enriched beyond measure."

Highly, highly recommended for everyone worldwide. Fans have already purchased their copies, but those of you who haven't tried Wimpy Kid, what on earth is your excuse? Join in on the fun. Get to your book store or get to your library fast.

Old School is on Scholastic Book Fairs as a paperback. At my school, we sold out and re-ordered more and sold all of those!

Recommended grade 4-up.

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


This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Favorite Survival Adventure Book: Kalahari

Kalahari, a YA read by Jessica Khoury, is a great action adventure/survival/sci-fi novel set in a world most readers probably have not visited, even through the pages of a book!

If you love adventure and exploration, see what Cotopaxi has to offer. The right gear for all your adventures!

See what others are saying:

Review

“A gripping adventure.”
--Kirkus

"Survivor meets James Bond in this page-turning mix of realism and science fiction."
Voice of Youth Advocates

“Enthralling and filled with suspense...”
--School Library Journal"Khoury builds a relentless plot and seeds the narrative with a deadly mystery that echoes themes of her first novel, Origin (2012). The science-fiction elements and setting evoke Jurassic Park's themes of human meddling in nature, while touches of teen angst and love keep the book realistic and broaden the appeal."
--Booklist

"Khoury keeps the tension throughout with life-threatening moments and narrow escapes...a true adventure story in an unusual setting."
--School Library Connection Reviews

“A blend of survival/adventure, sci-fi, and first love, KALAHARI is grounded in the resourceful courage of a girl raised in the African bush. Thrilling, unpredictable, irresistible . . . six teenagers in dire straits, and the suspense never lets up. Readers will flock to Jessica Khoury's masterful prose and storytelling.”
--Will Hobbs, award-winning author of Far North  and Never Say Die
 
What I liked and why this adventure story sticks with me:
 
Sarah, although well traveled and trained by her zoologist parents to survive in the wild, has never been around teens her age. When a plane arrives with a group of teens from the U.S. and Canada, Sarah is terrified to make small talk with a bunch of strangers, but her father and friend have to leave camp in search of armed poachers.
 
With the threat of poachers nearby and in charge of a bunch of kids who are more at home in penthouses with air conditioning and chefs, Sarah must lead the group to the safety of the next town. But the desert is harsh. The climate brutal. With conditions worsening, their vehicle gets stuck. Now on foot, the kids discover why the poachers are out in the wild.
 
Now they have to battle the elements, an unnaturally aggressive male lion, and a group of murderous poachers. Sarah will have to rely on her training and wits.
 
The lasting thing readers will take from this read is the unusual setting and a spunky protagonist who fights for survival.
 
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.
 
 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rock and Roll Cook Book Pick: Are We Having Any Fun Yet? Cooking & Partying Handbook

Are We Having Any Fun Yet? Cooking & Partying with Sammy Hagar
by Sammy Hagar and Josh Sens
Dey Street Books
2015
303 pages, with index
color photos
ISBN: 9780062370006

Sammy Hagar might sing, "I can't drive 55!" but he sure can party and boy, can he cook! Are We Having Any Fun Yet? is a testament to the man's love of life and of food! From the first pages of the foreward written with love by friend and famous New Orleans chef and restauranteur Emeril Legasse to Sammy's own heartfelt musings of his grandfather's cooking and hunting  to recipes from Cabo, Mill Valley, and Maui, Sammy entertains readers with personal stories and glimpses into a down-to- earth, totally rocking guy. Many photos with famous friends are also included. It's a fascinating book that transcends the usual "recipe" book.

Sammy gives background to visiting  a then sleepy beach town called Cabo San Lucas and opening the Cabo Wabo, meant to be a small beach bar  and the  struggles of keeping it running in the early  years. It's fascinating to see the day to day problems  of opening a rock venue and  in a foreign country on top of that. Fast foreward to today: the Cabo Wabo is and continues to be a successful business--no doubt due to Sammy's personality and his take on fresh, clean  food done right.  From Cabo Shrimp to Lobster Burritos to Tomatillo Salsa Sammy has the goods and can hook you up. From the bar in Cabo, Sammy opened up other locations and a line of tequila and other spirits.

With culinary friends like Emeril and Guy Fieri, Sammy's kitchen rocks! If Cabo is where Sammy gets his party on, Mill Valley is where he relaxes and settles in with wine and Osso Buco. Recipes for Chorizo and Pork Loin Paella make the mouth water, with photos of food that make the soul happy and Sammy's stories, like Sammy himself, always are full of life and humor.

The last destination Sammy calls  home is his Maui residence. Oceanfront and tranquil, full of fruit trees and a bounty of vegetables, it truly is a garden of Eden sans evil  serpent. Cooking and creating with year round fresh ingredients opened up a world of food for Hagar. He includes numerous cocktail recipes, many using his own spirits.

Truly a fun read and trip through parts unknown (thank you Anthony Bourdain), Are We Having Fun Yet? asks. Well, the answer is, "Yes, this is fun!"

Highly recommended for fans of rock, Hagar fans, foodie fans, spirits fans and anyone who enjoys great storytelling. This is vintage Hagar. A great gift for anyone with a little rock and roll and a little spice!

Recommended grade 9 and up. Profanity, cocktails, rock stories, and sheer fun!


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.






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Guest Blogger: Teen Blogger's Pick: You and Me and Him



This blog post was written by teen Joshua Gandara who shared his review with me.

You and Me and Him
by Kris Dinnison
HMH for Young Readers
2015
288 pages
ISBN: 9780544301122

You Me and Him by Kris Dinnison is a downright roller coaster of emotions--love, betrayal denial, embarrassment, and self-hate . In this story Maggie, an overweight high school girl,  and her gay best friend Nash have lived in their little town since they can remember. They've always had a close friendship, but when the new guy Tom--your classic hot body Prince Charming, that every girl wants-- arrives it creates a little tension between Maggie and Nash. Nash calls "Dibs" first and Maggie concedes. In a small town every girl must have the new guy and what are the odds that  Tom will fall for either of them? As  Tom hangs around with the duo, he begins to feel a little attraction to Maggie.


After testing her friendship with Nash, the reader will truly understand Maggie and the bonds of friendship. My Thoughts: This book is amazing and I love the way Maggie who is not your typical YA female protagonist in the physical looks department she can still find romance. Very often in today's society we see the stick thin, beautiful model getting all the love, but finally here someone isn't judged on her appearance but rather  by her personality and heart. The book is told in Maggie's voice so we get an insight to her emotions which aren't always so sweet and dandy, but at the end of the day who doesn't like that? Reading this showed me the true boundaries of a friendship and even reminded me in a special way never, ever judge a book by its cover because the book that might not look the best always turns out to be the best book you'll ever read. Don't be put off by the cover art. This is a book for you!

Highly recommended grade 9-up. Profanity.

THIS IS TEEN BLOGGER 100, Joshua Gandara.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I (Pamela Thompson) received the ARC from the publisher. Teen reviewer Joshua Gandara asked to read and review this book. We received no 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, November 9, 2015

Tween Pick: Allie, First and Last

Allie, First and Last
by Angela Cervantes
Scholastic Press
2016
208 pages
ISBN: 9780545812238

Available March 29, 2016


Middle school student Allie Velasco is tired of being overshadowed. Everyone in her family is an over-achiever--her grandfather was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, her younger sister is the star of television commercials, her brother is a stellar soccer player and her older sister won  a national debate. Allie dreams of making her mark, of being the best or of being the first. She wants to prove to her family  that she, Allie, is good at something. She wants that first place  trophy or that blue ribbon. Allie spends so much time pining to be the best that she misses life happening around her.

When her science fair project goes awry, Allie is mad at another student who tried to help her. She is devastated when her family decides not to go to Allie's restaurant choice but  to instead go  an Italian restaurant to honor her sister's new commercial. Everyone is excited about Ava's success,--everyone but sister Adriana and Allie's grandfather who both come to her rescue. Readers will empathize with Allie who longs to be noticed as a success but feels only failure.

A new contest is announced in English class, and Allie is hoping to win. No one from Sendak has ever won the Trailblazer Award before, Allie realizes that if she were to win the award she would be the FIRST Sendak student to win. This makes it all the more important for Allie. Allie is concerned that her best friend Sarah is acting aloof. What is causing her best friend to act this way?

Middle school is a tough time--full of angst, full of questions, full of misgivings and full of misunderstandings. Allie learns a few lessons in her search for self achievement. Sometimes being the best or being the first isn't the most important thing. Sometimes the most important things are the people around you and the experience itself.

Recommended grade 5-up. This is a quick read with short chapters and 209 pages.

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)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Magical Pick: The Blackthorn Key

The Blackthorn Key
by Kevin Sands
Aladdin
2015
371 pages
ISBN: 9781481446518

Mysterious, cryptic and magical, The Blackthorn Key amazes. Apprentice to one of London's leading apothecaries, Christopher Rowe feels lucky to have left the orphanage and to learn a trade. Christopher is smart, attentive and good at solving puzzles. So much so, that for his birthday, Christopher's "master" gives him a cipher to solve.

A string of grisly murders has London on edge. Someone is murdering apothecaries. Christopher is worried about his employer. Oftentimes, the master is out all night only returning in the early morning hours. When his master comes home hurt and burned, Christopher makes it his business to solve the mystery. Then  his master is brutally murdered, Christopher and his best friend Tom follow clues left by his master. The cipher proves difficult but with time, Christopher figures out the puzzle.

It is a rocky time in British history where groups of powerful men are eyeing the monarchy. Having a King in your corner is the quickest path to riches, and evil, corrupt men will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. Having a powerful weapon, a secret chemical weapon that only an apothecary can manufacture, would put you in power. For that kind of weapon, a corrupt person will stop at nothing, even murder.

Who will believe a mere apprentice? Christopher will have to have rock solid proof against the murderer, and he'll have to move fast. The murderer is not likely to stop. His crimes are becoming more and more gruesome with the discovery of each new body. If he suspects Christopher is onto him, the boy is in grave danger.

An exciting read that is a real page turner. The Blackthorn Key is a gem of a debut.


Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for our middle 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 ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cover Reveal, Book Giveaway and Jeff Strand's FIVE Best Zombie Movies


You can follow the reveal @JeffStrand and @SourcebooksFire #GreatestZombieMovieEver

From Sourcebooks Fire:
 


THE GREATEST ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek 

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever 

Author: Jeff Strand 

Release Date: March 1, 2016 

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire 

Jeff Strand gives readers a sneak peek at his latest novel The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, and shares his five favorite zombie movies: 

Jeff Strand’s Five Favorite Zombie Movies: 

My five favorite zombie movies are very similar to many other people’s five favorite zombie movies. I could’ve gone the condescending click-bait route and written about “The Five Best Zombie Movies You’ve Never Seen!” but, no, I’m going with my five real favorites…. 

 #5: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004 version). I was one of the many people bellowing, “You can’t remake DAWN OF THE DEAD! This is blasphemy! Blasphemy!!!” But somehow this remake to a sequel (but not a sequel to the remake) turned out to be awesome. Not quite as good as the original (SPOILER ALERT: That’s #3 on this list) but one of my all-time favorites.  

 #4: RE-ANIMATOR. I’ve now seen plenty of movies that are more over-the-top insane than RE-ANIMATOR, but this was the first movie where I simply couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was hard to believe that a movie so dark and gruesome could be so funny.  

 #3: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978 version). Shameful confession: When I first saw this in high school I thought it was stupid and boring. Fortunately, I matured and accepted that it’s one of the high points of zombie cinema. It’s the reason I know to duck before walking toward spinning helicopter blades.  

 #2: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Fast zombies long before 28 DAYS LATER! The first time zombies ate brains! It doesn’t often get the credit it deserves, but this is one of the most influential zombie movies ever. 

 #1: SHAUN OF THE DEAD. The greatest zombie comedy ever. The greatest zombie movie ever. The greatest MOVIE ever. 

About THE GREATEST ZOMBIE MOVIE EVER: 

After producing three horror movies that went mostly ignored on YouTube, Justin and his filmmaking buddies decide it’s time they create something noteworthy, something epic. They’re going to film the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. They may not have money or a script, but they have passion. And, after a rash text message, they also have the beautiful Alicia Howtz—Justin’s crush—as the lead.  

 

With only one month to complete their movie, a script that can’t possibly get worse, and the hopes and dreams of Alicia on the line, Justin is feeling the pressure. Add to that a cast of uncooperative extras and incompetent production assistants, and Justin must face the sad, sad truth. He may actually be producing The Worst Zombie Movie Ever… 

 

About Jeff Strand: 

Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books, and is a four-time nominee (and four-time non-winner) of the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his young adult novels, A Bad Day For Voodoo and I Have A Bad Feeling About This, were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Tampa, Florida.  



 

Excerpt from The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever: 

The vampire, whose fangs were too big for his mouth, turned to the camera and hissed. 

"Don't look at the camera," said Justin Hollow, the director. 

"I keep poking my lip on these things," said Harold, spitting the plastic fangs out onto the ground. He hadn't been a very frightening example of the undead before, and he was even less scary with no fangs and a thick line of drool running down his chin. 

"Cut!" shouted Justin, loud enough to be sure that the command was heard by his production crew of two. "C'mon, Harold. Stay in character. We're three hours behind schedule." 

"I don't care. I hate this. You promised that I'd get all the girls I wanted. So where are all of the girls I want?" 

Justin let out his thirty-ninth exasperated sigh of the night. "The movie has to come out first." 

"It's not even a real movie." 

Justin bristled. It was a full body bristle, head to toe, which he hadn't even realized was physically possible. Bobby, who handled sound recording, and Gabe, who handled everything else, both stepped back a couple of feet. Neither of them truly believed that they were about to witness a murder, but they wanted to get out of the splash zone, just in case. 

Had this been one of Justin's movies, he would have very slowly lowered his camera, stared directly into Harold's eyes with a steel gaze, and then after an extremely dramatic pause asked "What...did...you...just...say?" 

His actual response, delivered in a squeakier voice than he would have allowed from his actors, was: "Huh?" 

"I said it's not a real movie." Harold started to wipe the fake blood off his mouth. It didn't come off, and probably wouldn't for several days. Justin had planned to feel guilty about this later, but now he wouldn't bother. "Nobody's ever going to see it. You probably won't even finish it." 

"I finished my last three movies!" Justin insisted. "I got hundreds of hits on YouTube!" 

That statement was technically accurate, though it was the lowest possible number of hits you could get and still use "hundred" in its plural form. The only comment anybody posted about his latest film had been "This twelve year-old filmmaker sort of shows promise," which really frustrated Justin since he was fifteen. 

Harold shrugged. "This is a waste of time. I've got better things to do on a Friday night." 

"Nobody ever said this was going to be easy," said Justin, who had indeed said that it was going to be easy when luring Harold into the role. "You can quit now, but what are you going to think about your decision ten years from now?" 

"I'm going to think, wow, it sure is nice to be such a well-paid dentist." 

Harold walked off the set. It wasn't an actual set, but rather a small park near Justin's home, where they were filming without a permit. Justin knew he should shout something after his ex-actor. Something vicious. Something devastating. He thought about shouting "You'll never work in this town again!" but, no, it had to be something that Harold would consider a bad thing. 

"Fine!" Justin shouted. "But when we record the audio commentary track for the Blu-Ray, I'm going to talk about how you abandoned us, and how much happier everybody was with the new actor who took your role, and how we all agreed that he should have been cast in the first place, and how he had so many girlfriends that he couldn't even keep track of them, and how they all found out about each other and had a great big awesome catfight in his front yard! And I'll pronounce your name wrong!" 

Harold continued walking, apparently not heartbroken. 

 

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Middle Grades Pick: The Isle of the Lost

The Isle of the Lost
(A Descendants Novel)
by Melissa De La Cruz
Disney Hyperion
311 pages
2015
ISBN: 30710461306381

Descendants



Famous evil villains from storyland are banished to the Isle of the Lost where their magic no longer works--Jafar, the Evil Queen from Snow White, Maleficent and Cruella de Vil are trapped and have lost their magic.  Maleficent "rules" over this  "kingdom." The banished on  the Isle of the Lost get the old and broken down goods, the no longer wanted trash from Auradon. On the Isle, apples and other fruit are mushy and wormy, their bread  is moldy and their food rotting, their magical brooms no longer fly but are still good just for sweeping. The Evil Queen can no longer practice  evilness, her magical mirror does not work, and even Jay, a prince and son of Jafar, has to resort to petty thievery--stealing a bad apple or a piece of bread--just to keep things fun.

Four kids of the evil banished are growing up trapped and lost. They long for a chance to escape and go to Auradon. Carlos, son of Cruella de Ville, is trying to invent a way to break the dome and escape. Evie and Mal have an ongoing "hatred" for each other stemming back to a feud between their mothers--the Evil Queen vs. Maleficent. Only the Dragon's Eye (Maleficent's magic scepter)  can break the curse and release the isle, but the kids have no clues who or where to find it.

The Isle of the Lost  is filled with snarky remarks and snide banter. De La Cruz is at her best when writing dialog. Readers will  realize that the four main characters are friends although they would never admit it--they are supposed to be evil, remember? Sidekicks make an appearance: there are drawfs, mice, Dalmatians, and fairies.

Short chapters make this an easy read for reluctant readers. The book allows for the four main characters to be fleshed out and explains their back story: Why are they on the Isle of the Lost? How can they get out? Why them? Who chose them? How can they escape?

As the series goes forward I would hope that the adventure becomes bigger and more thrilling. Overall this is a good pick for children grade 4-up. Any Disney fan will love this book.  Descendants is now a Disney movie and television show. Visit Descendants for more!

Recommended grade 4-up and all fans of Disney.

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)