Friday, July 31, 2015

Adutlt Book Club Pick: Orhan's Inheritance

Orhan's Inheritance
by Aline Ohanesian
Algonquin Books of  Chapel Hill
337 pages
ISBN: 9781616203740

Brilliant, gorgeous, intelligent, rare!

Deeply moving, tragic yet hopeful, layers and layers of human history unfold in Aline Ohanesian's epic tale of love lost in Orhan's Inheritance. When Orhan's beloved grandfather dies, Orhan travels to his village for the reading of the will. Orhan's father is outraged and violent  when it is revealed his own father left their family home to a stranger who lives half a world away in Los Angeles. Orhan is intrigued: why would his grandfather--stoic, hard-working, reasonable yet lately a bit eccentric--give away the beloved familial home? There must be some good reason. Orhan agrees to make the long journey and locate the mystery lady named in the will. His father tells him that he must get the woman to sign the rights to their home back to them.

Over the course of months, Orhan finally convinces the elderly woman to tell her story of a broken heart, an abandoned home, a ponce safe childhood, a family of wealth and honor, a war that purged Armenians from Turkey, a forced exile, brutality, and death. The story moves to the past: 1915 Turkey.  Armenian men are being forced from their homes and taken away never to be seen again. Soon, the army makes the women and children leave. They are marched to the point of despair and sometimes death. The mystery woman named in the will is a young girl growing up Armenian in Turkey and the war is all around her. Her home was once a safe place, luxurious even. "Within hours, Lucine's world and everything in it turns to dust."  Now, she is spit upon and treated worse than an animal simply because she's Armenian. Kemel (Orhan's grandfather) is  in love with her and vows to protect her. He does his best to protect her and her family, but the army takes them away. Their mother makes the girls  rip their clothing and rub mud on their faces. The army is known to take away "...the pretty ones."

Lucine is finally  able to escape her captors after the deaths of her family. She finds solace with a kind hearted prostitute who allows her lodging. Lucine changes her name to Seda  and becomes a completely different person. The girl of her youth is gone; the war makes certain of that. A chance meeting with Kemel allows Lucine (now Seda) an escape from Turkey.

The surprising will, the long trip, the history of war, names changed and families lost and buried family secrets finally come out. Orhan is dumbfounded. His grandfather has had the last say in all their lives.

Orhan's  Inheritance is a story that will stick with you, and you will not forget the pain and tragedy. This forced evacuation and genocide of Armenians in Turkey has been hidden away for decades, but Aline Ohanesian captures her grandmother's memories to tell the story for us today and that is a gift.

Highly, highly recommended for adult book clubs everywhere. 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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spy Sequel Pick: Evil Spy School

Evil Spy School
(A Spy School novel)
by Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster
322 pages
ISBN: 9781442494893

Stuart Gibb's Spy School books are  always a fun, rollicking trip with spunky, funny protagonist 13-year old Ben Ripley, aka secret spy. Ben's sense of humor keeps the reader entertained. Taking many swipes against the CIA, the government, and grown ups in general but who happen to be in charge and are also terribly incompetent, Ben says, "...the CIA was run by the government, where incompetent people didn't merely avoid being fired; they were often elected to high offices." Commenting on being in middle school, Ben states, "Junior high was mind-numbingly dull, socially distressing, and potentially dangerous..." and his teachers, "...were dumber than dirt." He tells of one Mr. Godfrey, a history teacher, "...who hadn't known when the War of 1812 took place."

Ben is ready for another year at Spy School but gets kicked out after accidentally blowing up the principal's office. Frenemy Erica seems to know more than she's letting on and Ben intends to find out what she's hiding, but before he can, he's kicked out and sent home. SPYDER kidnaps Ben and takes him to Evil Spy School, recruiting him as a rogue agent. Ben agrees to help them, but he's actually going undercover to see what SPYDER is planning against the agency. Flying blind and with no help, Ben remembers his spy school lessons. He has to act like a spy and not get caught. And he has to hope the cavalry is on the way!

New characters video gamer Nefarious and gymnast Ashley sign on to SPYDER and Ben wants to help each of them but doesn't know how without exposing his cover.

Humorous, clever, kid-friendly and entertaining, Evil Spy School shines!

Highly recommended for readers who love the series, espionage, spies, double and triple crosses, and laughing at the government.

Grade 6-up. No profanity. No adult content. Stuart Gibbs walks the fine line between humor and digs without jumping into the gutter. Kid friendly reading.

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

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

High School Pick: Stand Off

Stand Off (Sequel to Winger)
by Andrew Smith
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
416 pages
ISBN: 9781481418294

Available September 8, 2015

Andrew Smith's earlier book Winger was gut-wrenching, heart breaking, soul saddening, and grief-bound , so much so, that I worried about  Ryan Dean West. He is that kid you can't help but love. That kid you root for and want to befriend. Could Ryan Dean lose a best friend and go on? Could he pick up the pieces and be whole again? Thank goodness I was not the only reader who had questions about Ryan Dean. The answers lie in Stand Off. Ryan Dean is back at Pine Mountain as a senior  and Annie is now his actual girlfriend. Ryan misses Joey greatly. He has not yet come to terms with his loss and he suffers from guilt and anxiety attacks. He worries that NATE (Next Accidental Terrible Experience)  will follow him around forever.

That would be bad enough but the headmaster decides to send in 12-year old student Sam Abernathy to become Ryan Dean's new roomie.  Ryan Dean can't believe it! A twelve year old?! The headmaster thought that Ryan Dean would get along and guide Sam since Ryan Dean came to the school a few years back at the same age. Sam suffers from claustrophobia and insists that the window be open at all times---even in freezing weather! And he watches cooking shows non-stop! Ryan Dean struggles with Sam's cheerful Disney outlook and chirpy squirrel-y voice. And when Sam becomes the manager for the rugby team, Ryan Dean can't escape the happy-go-lucky kid at all.

Annie finds Ryan Dean's rants silly and mean. She asks him to be nice to Sam. She reminds him that when he came to Pine Mountain he was the youngest and smallest boy there. Ryan Dean slowly...ever so slowly warms up to Sam.

Sometimes friendship takes awhile and sometimes friends have been there all along. Ryan Dean re-evaluates his relationships with his teammates and Sam. Growing up is difficult and graduating is scary, but Ryan Dean begins to realize how lucky he is.

I loved Stand Off. Sequels usually can't compare to the first book, but Andrew Smith has another winner on his hands. Ryan Dean is my FAVORITE YA protagonist of all time and I'll say it again: Watch out, Holden Caulfield!

If you don't know Andrew Smith, what are you waiting for? 100 Sideways Miles and Grasshopper Jungle are also sublime reads.

Highly, highly recommended for fans of Andrew Smith. I'm sure his fan club is growing by the nanosecond. Grade 9-up. Amazon has age 12-up and grade 7-up in "product details."

WARNING: profanity, Ryan Dean thinks of sex A LOT, mature content make this book suitable for grade 9-up in my opinion.

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, July 27, 2015

Tricky Pick: Con Academy

Con Academy
by Joe Schreiber
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
236 pages
ISBN: 9780544320208

Available August 4, 2015

Once you pick up Con Academy, you won't put it down!  What a fun, conniving jaunt! This speedy read is all-out raucous, double and triple crosses abound, and readers will root for Will to come out on top.

Will Shea is a new transfer student at the  prestigious Connaughton Academy, a prep school that caters to America's ultra rich and fabulous. As a scholarship recipient, it is only natural that people want to know more about him, and Will has an extraordinary story to tell. His father and mother, missionaries on a small island in the Pacific, are  killed. After their death, Will's church collects money to send him to America to study.

Except that's not the real story. Will (Humbert) is the son of career cons. He's been a con artist since age eight. After his mother died, Will's father spirals out of control and Will runs away. In order to get into the Academy, Will fakes transcripts and breaks into computer files. His con seems to be working...until he meets Andrea. She recognizes a con when she sees one. That's because Andrea is a con herself.

Will and Andrea agree to the ultimate contest. Whoever can take dirt bag Brandt Rush  for ten thousand dollars will be the winner and the loser must leave the school. Game on!

Then...Will's real father shows up and threatens to ruin his school career and his con. Will can do nothing but let his father in on it, but he also asks his uncle Roy for help. Uncle Roy is one of the best cons in the country and all  up and coming cons look up  to him as a god. They decide to con Brandt using an online poker game--that they can fix, of course.

Andrea is another fly in the ointment. Will needs to manage the con, get rid of his useless dad, watch out for Andrea and study for classes. May the best con win.

I loved Con Academy. Teen readers will,  too! My one obstacle with this book is the cover. The stack of poker chips with devil horns and a tail does not do the book justice. This is one case that readers should NOT judge the book by its so-so cover.

Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves a good con! Will is a loveable character with spunk and humor.  Fans of Ally Carter will love Will Shea.

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bath Time Pick: Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure

Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure
by Derek Anderson
Illustrations by the author
Orchard Books
 40 pages
ISBN: 9780545168465

Published reviews: what others are saying

Just DELIGHTFUL! Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure is everything a children's book should be. It's entertaining, fun, charming, colorful, silly and bursting with heart!

One lucky pig has the huge bath tub to himself--which is fine, indeed. One by one he is joined by number two, number three, number four, number five, and so on until there is no little piggy wiggle room! One clever pig fixes the problem with a super slick sly move.

The illustrations are the stuff dreams are made of! It is not often that an author/illustrator gets it so right! Anderson is able to tell the story simply through the illustrations. Each page is a gem. Children may even beg to take a bath like the pigs in the story.

This is a must have book for any child. If you buy one bath time book, make it Ten Pigs An Epic Bath Adventure. So much fun!

Highly, highly recommended! I give this children's book the highest praise. ONE of the very BEST I've recommended!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the F & G 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, July 15, 2015

Storytelling Pick: The Marvels

The Marvels
by Brian Selznick
Scholastic Press
672 pages
ISBN: 9780545448680

Available September 15, 2015

Brian Selznick continues to astonish, astound and amaze! The Marvels is a 672 page behemoth that tells the story of five generations of a theatre family, a shipwreck, and a beautiful house full of family secrets.

The first 300 plus pages are all Selznick's magical  art. The detail and beauty is astounding and the story tells itself. This part of the book had me enraptured and wonderstruck (ha, ha, a little Selznick humor there!) Visual learners and those who struggle with reading and budding artists will all love the story in pictures (and hey, who doesn't love a picture book?) The other part of the book, told in prose, was just not as compelling. It is like comparing apples to oranges, after all. Can one really compare a work of art to words on a page? Well, only if the words are truly genius: Shakespeare, Milton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Isabelle Allende.

The characters of Frankie and Joseph while sweet, were not as interesting as the story of a shipwreck and a surviving boy and his dog rescued by a ship and brought across the sea to England. Uncle Albert is the most interesting character in the second half of the book. I was a bit let down with the ending, expecting it to be more compelling and profound.

Still, The Marvels itself is a massive undertaking. It is a beautiful work of art and should probably be reviewed in that way. To review the second part as a book of prose does the work a true disservice. Enjoy the art, enjoy the storytelling and you decide.

Highly recommended for the art alone! Suitable for grade 4-up. Suitable for all libraries.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the "Sneak Peek" and 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

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summer Beach Read Pick: Luckiest Girl Alive

Luckiest Girl Alive
by Jessica Knoll
Simon & Schuster
352 pages
ISBN: 9781476789637

Deeply engaging and complex, Luckiest Girl Alive is often compared to Gone Girl in the press. I'm not sure why this happens. Is it because both books have a woman who is good at manipulating situations, partners and even herself? Maybe. That being said, Luckiest Girl Alive is not Gone Girl; however, it is the perfect book for your lazy day at the beach under a colorful umbrella. It is reading for entertainment, not for enlightenment. If you expect to seek deep philosophical truths in these pages, you will be disappointed.

Ani is the "typical" single white female in New York. She has clawed her way to the top, starving herself to fit into near perfect model size clothes. She has learned to cover up her modest upbringing and fit in with high society. Ani is an artful manipulator; she has to be. If she's not, her walls come crashing down and she will lose everything: the "perfect" fiancé, the high paying, fancy job, the beautiful apartment, the "friends," the entire façade of her perfectly fake life. If these people really knew her past, they would be horrified.

Ani is a difficult character to love; she is flawed but also mean. Her snarky nastiness comes off as not just a mean girl. She is evil girl, but readers will love that she is the perfect chameleon in a concrete jungle where survival is based on façade.  As the story progresses, I liked Ani more. Human beings are strange individuals and Ani proves that her past DOES indeed have everything to do with her present and her future. Buried secrets are not likely to stay buried forever no matter how much control the person with the secret has.

Ani's fiancé seemed nearly an afterthought. He has little to do with the story other than being a foil. Ani uses people for her own gains and it's difficult not to admire that in a creepily fascinating way. Everyone loves a great villain and Ani has the demeanor of Maleficent and  the chess master scheming of J.R. Ewing.

If you want to get lost in a book, Luckiest Girl Alive is your pick. I couldn't put it down and read it at breakneck pace and handed it over to my best friend. She, in turn, gave it to another friend.
This is a book that once you've read it, you will recommend it to anyone who likes an interesting and entertaining book.

NOT recommended for readers under 17.

Highly, highly recommended for adult readers and book clubs. I have a feeling this book will make the rounds at book clubs around the country.

FCC 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, July 6, 2015

Blog Tour and Book Peek: Jesse's Girl

Jesse’s Girl
By Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire
July 7, 2015
ISBN: 9781402284823

Preorder Promotion:

Everyone who emails will automatically receive an email of the EXCLUSIVE Jesse’s Girl Playlist, and will be invited to attend a LIVE online author event on July 6, the day before Jesse’s Girl goes on-sale!

In addition, if you pre-order the book and send your proof of purchase (and mailing address) to, you’ll not only get the exclusive playlist and event invite, but you’ll also receive a signed/personalized bookplate, a super-cute custom guitar pick, and entered to win a $300 gift card to TicketMaster so you can go to a concert or musical or some other fun event.  

The same information on Miranda’s website.


Practice makes perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow the Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

Purchase Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally here:


As much as I love music, I am generally not a fan of country. I don’t like banjos. I don’t like sappy lyrics about trucks and hauling hay. Dolly Parton is my mortal enemy—my mom plays “Jolene” over and over and over and over, and it makes me want to chop my ears off like van Gogh. Yeah, yeah, I’m from Tennessee, where it’s a crime if you don’t love country, but I like deep, rumbling beats and singing loud and fast and hard. I do not like closing my eyes and crooning to a cow in the pasture. Yet here I am at a Jesse Scott concert, getting ready to meet him and to see if he’ll let me shadow him next Friday.

My school requires every senior to “shadow” a professional for a day. It’s their way of helping us figure out what kind of career we want. Like, if you want to be president when you grow up, you might get to shadow the mayor. Want to be a chef? Have fun kneading dough at the Donut Palace. When I said “I want to be a musician,” I figured they’d send me to work in the electronics section at Walmart.

I certainly never expected to shadow the king of country music.

It turns out that Jesse Scott is my principal’s nephew. Jesse won TV’s Wannabe Rocker when he was ten and has gone on to become very successful. In sixth grade, every girl in class—myself included—took the Teen Beat quiz: “Would Jesse Scott Like Your Kissing Style?” (Obviously the answer was yes.) In middle school, I had a Jesse Scott poster on my ceiling. It’s hard to believe he’s only eighteen, because he’s already won three Grammys. When he was younger, his songs were about family, fishing, and playing baseball, but lately they’re about love and making love and all things sexy.

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan anymore, but I would never give up an opportunity to learn from a professional with such a gorgeous, pure voice. I want to learn what it’s like to perform day in and day out. Despite what everyone and their mom says—that I’ll struggle as a musician—all I want is to play guitar in front of a crowd and hear people cheer for me.

I can’t believe I’m backstage at the Grand Ole Opry! I bounce on my toes. Jesus, is that an archtop Super 4, the model Elvis played? I’ve never seen one in real life. It probably cost more than my house. I’m ogling the guitar when Jesse Scott comes out of the bathroom, drying his hair with a towel. He pads across the room to the couch, wearing nothing but a pair of rugged jeans with more holes than Swiss cheese. The lighting is dim, and he doesn’t seem to notice I’m here, which is good, because I’ve moved from ogling the guitar to ogling him.

Who wouldn’t? He was one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,” and it is a truth universally acknowledged that you should stare at people who’ve made that list. The guy’s gorgeous. Like in the boy-next-door way. His wet, wavy, brown hair curls around his ears and nearly hits his shoulders, and while he doesn’t have a six-pack or anything, his body is fit. I wish he’d look my way so I can see his famous brown eyes. They always remind me of those caramel chews Poppy gives me when I visit. Jesse has some sort of Gaelic symbol tattooed on his left shoulder blade. I want to reach out and trace the design.

God, get ahold of yourself, Maya. Don’t be a horndog. Besides, he’s so not my type. I don’t do pretty boys.