Saturday, December 30, 2017

Graphic Pick: The Witch Boy


The Witch Boy
by Molly Knox Ostertag
graphic novel; full color illustrations
Graphix
2017
224 pages
ISBN: 9781338089523

Masterful illustrations by debut author Molly Knox Ostertag position The Witch Boy to be the graphic darling of 2018. The late 2017 publication date insure that this title will be considered for both years.

Aster's family has always taught their daughters and girls magic. It is the rule. When Aster shows his interest, he is berated and bullied by his male relatives and chastised by his female relatives. Aster is headstrong and actually shows a penchant for "girl's" magic. He has not yet been able to see his shape. Boys in his family are shapeshifter, yet Aster has not had any luck realizing his shape. Then two of his boy cousins disappear and the family worries that a dangerous spirit may be at work. It may be up to Aster to discover his cousins' plight and rescue them from an evil entity. For him to be successful, he'll have to embrace magic and find his power.

The Witch Boy  and Aster embrace the differences in children. Aster won't accept his family's social norms and he breaks them. By breaking out, he is able to save his cousins, show his family that he is normal and show them that different is okay.

Recommended grade 4 and up.


Friday, December 15, 2017

YA Classic Retelling: Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

Guest Review by Oscar Porras, Library Media Specialist, Ysleta Middle School in El Paso, Texas.
Follow Oscar on Twitter @oporras_LMS

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook
by Christina Henry
Berkley
2017
304 pages
ISBN:  9780399584022 

From the beloved story from childhood, readers have learned that there is a fierce rivalry between Peter Pan and Hook; however, the author never expounded on how this rivalry began. One story is that Hook was once a Lost Boy who  ran away when he realized that he was too old to be a part of the group. Another story goes that Hook was always a pirate and always Peter's nemesis (think Batman vs. The Joker).

Christina Henry's YA novel is a unique twist on the relationship between the two. Jamie, aka future Captain Hook, is the first boy Peter chooses to join him in Neverland for adventures. They will stay young and be irresponsible forever. This new world holds terrible secrets: there are pirates and beasts of many kinds. Through Jamie's eyes, the reader realizes that the title Lost Boy carries a terrible price. Jamie  has had to bury his fellow Lost Boys when they have died or when they've gone to battle with pirates on the island. Jamie's aging has also started to weigh heavily on him. Although he doesn't physically age, the years are catching up to him. Peter Pan, on the other hand, stays young and reckless often sending his Lost Boys on dangerous adventures without regard for their safety and they are lost on the island.

The book's trajectory follows the path of a falling out between the two boys. Hook realizes that Pan is anything but his best friend and the Lost Boys are mere playthings for Peter discarded in the name of fun. The traditional story features Peter as a jovial child playing tricks on friends and flying children to Neverland to have epic adventures. Henry's Peter is much darker. He is a sociopath with no regard for human life and wholly predictable. This line encompasses the book, "This isn't a wonderful place for boys to play and have adventures and stay young for always. It's a killing place, and we're all just soldiers in Peter's war."

Recommended grade 9 and up. Violence and gore.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I (Pamela Thompson) received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did reviewer Oscar Porras.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Books 2017: Pamela's Picks: YA and Others!

2017 was an AWESOME year for YA fiction. It was stronger by far than last year. I saw a few trends in YA this year: the sibling relationship was strong in several books. Strong female protagonists abound--it was the year of "Wonder Woman" at the box office! Books with messages about what is going on in the news were strong this year. Books that will leave teens (and adults) thinking and talking were big.  What we saw on the news, we saw in our fiction this year. This year I was selected to sit on the YA Fiction panel for the Cybils Awards. Many of my picks are also being considered for Cybils.

Here are my top picks of the year for Graphic novel, non-fiction, preschool and ten for YA. The ten picks are in no specific order. They are all fantastic and I would hand them to any YA fan! Oh, but the BEST of the BEST because it was EVERYTHING a book should be and it surprised me for its crossover appeal: The Last Magician! This could easily be labeled as adult fiction. I would give this to any adult who loves to read. 

Ten Ten YA:


The Last Magician
by Lisa Maxwell

This one has EVERYTHING! A tough female protagonist, New York at the turn of the century (1900s), bad guys, a magical book, magicians who are imprisoned in New York, a love interest, second story guys, mobsters, ladies of questionable virtue, dens of inequity, street thugs, thievery, magic, you-name-it, it's here! The writing is SUBLIME. You can eat these words! Best book of the year! On the Cybils Awards list and a contender. 

A Short History of the Girl Next Door
by Jared Reck

OMGosh, this book! It's the BEST realistic fiction. It has all the feels. I laughed, I cried. You will need tissues. Tear-jerker appeal. You simply MUST read this book. I am happy to report this one is on the Cybils list and a possible contender. 

A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee

Wow! Historical fiction done right! This one follows a young British lord who is bi-sexual and promiscuous and what a rapscallion Percy is! I have never seen a bi-sexual teen in historical fiction before in YA. Percy, his friend and sometime love interest and sister travel to the Continent for a year before Percy is expected to come home to England and be a proper gentleman. Oh, but the fun and shenanigans doesn't stop. This one is hilarious in all the right ways. This one is on the Cybils list and a possible contender. 

The Reader 
by Traci Chee

This is first in a trilogy of Sea of Ink and Gold. The Reader is fantasy, it's magical with a strong female protagonist, pirates, stowaways, clues that are actually sprinkled throughout the book--a fun adventure on its own, a secret message if you are able to solve it, and Chee's masterful storytelling.

Moxie
by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie is just as fun as its cover! Book love for this one! I received the ARC of this one and a button "Moxie Girls Fight Back" at Texas Library Association conference back in April. Little did I know how much "trouble" this book was about to stir up! The boys (and teachers) in this book are so awful it's nearly laughable, but I remember hearing their types of comments, as I'm sure girls do now, in high school. Well, moxie girls do fight back and create a movement. What's not to love? It is the Year of the Female Protagonists Take Over the World (at least in YA). Moxie is on the Cybils list and a possible contender. 

Piecing Me Together
by Renee Watson

What a beautiful book! Jade uses her art as an outlet for her feelings. She takes trash and makes collages. Elegant storytelling by Renee Watson make this one a winner! This is on the Cybils list and a possible contender! 

The Lake Effect
by Erin McCahan

This one is also on the Cybils list and a contender. 2017 saw a trend of a little bit older protagonist. Many of the YA books had teens who had just graduated high school and were getting ready for college. The Lake Effect is one. I consider this book a postcard from the Great Lakes. Having spent many summer on Lake Erie and having countless relatives who hail from there, it reminded me of all those summers on the lake. McCahan pays homage to the teens who have to work summers for college. Briggs arrives at the beautiful Victorian on the lake in time to take his new 84 year old boss to the first of many funerals he will have to attend. This one is sarcastic, funny and whip-smart. 

Orphan, Agent, Prima, Pawn
by Elizabeth Kiem

This book breaks boundaries in YA. We usually don't see a spy thriller set in 1958 Soviet Union. The writing and research is sublime. Kiem deserves mass praise for what must have been exhaustive hours researching the time period and political nuances. I loved this book. It is historical fiction with a BANG. 

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life 
by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Saenz triumphs again after success with Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe. If you loved that one, you'll love Logic even more. Sal is a teen who questions his place. Sounds familiar, right? In Saenz's loving hands, each character seems like a real person. I am glad I live in the world where Benjamin Alire Saenz writes YA fiction. I have seen him speak a number of times (he is from El Paso) and he is one of the most sincere and sweet humans you will ever meet. I don't add this book to the list because Saenz is known to me. I add it because it's amazing and also on the list for the YA Cybils Fiction panel and a contender. If you missed Dante and Aristotle--buy it today! 

Non-fiction Pick:

Some Writer!
The Story of E. B. White
by Melissa Sweet

E.B. White. Melissa Sweet. It's genius! Highly readable and enjoyable. I am not a big fan of non-fiction, but this was GREAT!

Pre-School Pick:

Watersong
by Tim McCanna
Illustrations by Richard Smythe

The artwork is the most beautiful gift you can give to a child. A lovely treasure!

Graphic Pick:

Fish Girl
by Donna Jo Napoli
Illustrated by David Wiesner

There's a reason Wiesner is a Caldecott winner, this is it! No one can beat his artwork. I LOVE Fish Girl! 

That's it! My picks for the Best of the Best for 2017. Happy reading, everyone! I hope 2018 gives us many more literary gifts. Pamela 





Friday, December 8, 2017

Young Reader Pick: Tiny and the Big Dig

Tiny and the Big Dig
by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Illustrated by Matt Myers
Scholastic Press
2018
32 pages
ISBN: 978054504292

Available January 30, 2018

Tiny and the Big Dig is a book with tremendous heart! Tiny is a small dog who loves to dig. Digging is hard work but don't let Tiny's size fool you! He is determined and strong. The cover depicts Tiny in all  his digging glory, his puppy face alive with elation as a surprised snail watches over him. A bird and a cat try to tell Tiny that he's too small to dig such a big hole, but Tiny just won't quit. Tiny's owner, a little boy, believes in his dog.

Tiny says, "I am little, yes, that's true/ But wait and see what I can do." Tiny finds every kind of bone but believes there is a very, very big bone yet to be discovered. Young readers will squeal with delight when they see the bone Tiny discovers! (Spoiler alert: it's a dinosaur).

Tiny and the Big Dig is fun and written in rhyme that young ones will learn more of  each time they read. This is likely to be their favorite bedtime story. For those who are too little or too weak, Tiny is like the little engine that could. He never gives up! This is a lesson children need to learn.

Sadly, you can't buy Tiny and the Big Dig for Christmas since it's on sale January 30, 2018, but put it on your list for a Valentine's Day or Easter gift for that special little one you know.

Highly, HIGHLY recommended. This is the book that you and your children will LOVE.

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

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

YA Pick: Long Way Down

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds
Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/Atheneum Books for Young Readers
2017
320 pages
ISBN: 9781481438254

Gripping and mesmerizing, Long Way Down will INVOLVE readers. Will (William) Holloman recounts the night of his brother's murder and how he will exact revenge on the killer because that's how his neighborhood and his life works. Everyone in his neighborhood knows the rules.

Will knows who shot his brother and knows his brother has a gun. Will grabs that gun and decides to take matters into his own hands. He steps into the elevator to go down to the street. On each floor, Will is met by someone from his past. Each person is along for the ride and each person has been affected by gun violence. Will must listen to each one's powerful story and decide what it means for him.

Told in verse, this is one story that will tug at hearts and make heads hurt. The poetry is sometimes written as a "concrete" poem where the poem is placed on the page to create the effect of an earthquake or one word on a white page. Shawn. Will's dead brother's name. Or one word repeated in the shape of a question mark. The word "right?" These pages are the strongest and most beautiful causing the reader to take a moment to think and admire the art of true poetry and storytelling.

Cover art is thoughtful and effective as the reflection of a boy is shown on the elevator door along with the buttons for each floor.The reader is left wondering what path Will will take, and maybe that's the point of the character's name: Will.

Jason Reynolds is writing some of the most powerful books on the market--the books that must be talked about and it's refreshing. For those kids who like Reynolds, felt they didn't see characters like themselves in books, he is writing their stories. Long Way Down will be a strong contender in prize categories for next year. I expect it to take top state honors and likely be a National Book Award Finalist.

Highly, highly recommended for grade 9 and up.  A must have for all collections. I would place copies in poetry and also in YA Fiction to insure it is read by all its fans.

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

YA Giveaway: The Last Magician

I have FIVE FREE copies of this fantastic, magical YA book. This is the best YA I've read all year, so I'm super stoked to offer this giveaway! For your chance to win, post a comment here. Include your first name, city, state and email. Winners are chosen randomly using Randomizer. Deadline for entry is noon MST on Dec. 13. I will notify winners Dec. 13 shortly after noon MST. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Simon & Schuster! Thank you and good luck. Start posting! Pamela

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sci-Fi Pick: The Rains

The Rains
by Gregg Hurwitz
Scholastic Inc.
2017
352 pages
ISBN: 9781338216486

The Rains is an exciting and entertaining science fiction YA  book that (almost) delivers on premise. A meter shower occurs and soon after even stranger things begin to happen. Plants grow in seconds and their spores infect people turning them into monster/machines. . At least all adult people. Anyone who is eighteen or over is infected with whatever "disease" or air-borne pathogen was released by the "invasion." Brothers Chance and Patrick have always been close and hard working. They have no idea how their brotherly bond will be tested over the next days and weeks.

The adults aren't just infected they are controlled  by something or someone. The men walk  in patterns: right angle, march, march, march, right angle with their eyes downcast as if they are mapping the terrain. Their eyes are no longer eyes but look like lenses or cameras. The teens don't know who is filming the terrain and what they are doing with the information.

The teens and children are able to set up camp in the local high school. Chance and Patrick see other children and teens being rounded up and put in cages by the infected adults. Whatever is in store for them can't be good. The brothers have become the leaders of the group and must decide to stay or to go for help.

The deus ex machina insertion of a "good" alien in the end was not only far-fetched but unbelievable and a tragic flaw from both the author and editor.

Recommended grade 8 and up. This book is on the middle school book fair for Scholastic Books.

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


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Magical Pick: The Last Magician

The Last Magician
by Lisa Maxwell
Simon Pulse
2017
512 pages
ISBN: 9781481432078

Magical, captivating, entertaining, and a delightful romp from present day to 1902 New York where thieves and thievery are celebrated and men in charge become powerful through tricks of magic and tomfoolery (sounds like modern day politics!). The Last Magician is the best book of this year!

Few people have an affinity (magic) in present day New York and those who do are afraid to show it. The Mageus have been underground for decades, prisoners in Manhatten. They dare not leave the island as they will die on the Brink, a dark force placed there to hold them prisoner by the Order. Esta is a practiced thief. She can steal anything and escape before anyone knows she's even been there. Her affinity allows her to move and travel through time. The Professor is counting on her to travel to 1902 and find the ancient book, steal it from the Order, bring it to the present and outsmart the Magician.

Most of the tale takes place in 1902 where Esta meets politicians, bosses, mobsters, second story men, thieves, brutes, policemen and magicians. She will have to find her way into the heart of the Order's fortress and steal the book. Her future depends upon it. Trouble is, the Magician is quite taken by her. One chance meeting and he is smitten. Esta is taken aback by the Magician. He is charming and witty. Surely this is not the man who destroys the future!

Esta is one moxie heroine! Readers will want to be her and travel with her. She is gritty, savvy and perfect in every situation.

At 512 pages, this read may frighten some readers. Please hold their hand and tell them it will be okay. This is by far the best 512 pages I've read this year!!!! Readers will feel all the feels and embrace 1902 New York like a native. Maxwell manages to take readers on a journey into brothels, dark streets, cramped tenements, high stakes poker games, dens of iniquity and mansions of New York mobsters and bosses.

If you haven't read The Last Magician, RUN to the book store, click the ICON, ORDER this book into your HANDS and ENJOY. You're welcome.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Some adult situations and seedy (but AWESOME) characters. Honestly, this book is a crossover into adult. It is less YA than adult but the heroine is a teen. Adults will love this book even more than YA readers.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

Middle Grade Pick: Hello Universe

Hello, Universe
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow Books
2017
320 pages
ISBN: 9780062414151

Guest Review by Timothy Judd, Library Media Specialist, Ernesto Serna School 
(grades K-8) in El Paso, Texas. 

This sweet coming of age story is told through four middle school points of view. Eleven year old Virgil was sent to the resource room for extra help with his class work gaining the attention and full wrath of the school bully who calls Virgil "Retardo" every chance he gets. Virgil's best friends are an eleven year old psychic and Gulliver, his guinea pig. 

The characters are well developed and diverse and readers will be drawn to Virgil who is quiet and kind. The universe, coincidences, visions, and crystals all play a part in the story and Virgil learns about real friendship. 

Recommended grades 4-6. This book is available on Scholastic Book Fairs.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did Reviewer Timothy Judd. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

YA Review: Guest Review: Carve the Mark

Guest Review by Oscar Porras, Library Media Specialist at Ysleta Middle School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Oscar on Twitter @oporras_LMS

Carve the Mark
by Veronica Roth
Katherine Tegan Books
2017
480 pages
ISBN: 9780062348630

For fans of space operas comes an intergalactic journey that flips the stereotypical gender rules on its head.

In Carve the Mark, everyone has a gift or  currentgift, bestowed by a magical current that surrounds the galaxy. While the currentgifts are considered a blessing, for Cyra and Akos, they are a curse. Cyra's power is to deliver intense pain, while Akos's power controls others' powers. He alone can stop Cyra from feeling pain. 

Akos's father is murdered by the neighboring group, the Shotet because Akos and his brother are favored--meaning that their fate will never change. Akos is sent to train with Shotet warriors and gifted to Cyra to help control her currentgift. Akos and Cyra go from subordinate to equals as the book progresses. Cyra trains him to fight with grace and Akos teaches her to make a potion that will control her pain. In return, Cyra is compelled to help him and his brother escape the Shotet and asks the rebels for help. Nothing is ever as it seems and the book lends itself to the next in the series

Recommended with Reviewer's Note* for grade 8 and up due to violence. Fans of Roth's Divergent are sure to read this one.

Reviewer's Note: "This book proved to be an infuriating read. The overall supporting character cast has caused some consternation with other reviewers. Roth writes that the Shotet people (Cyra is Shotet) are an inferior dark skinned race who act like barbarians, their language coarse and rough, while the Thuvhe (Akos) are light skinned and seen as superior and far more intelligent that the Shotet, their language graceful." -Oscar Porras, LMS

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did guest reviewer Oscar Porras.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Big Foot Hunters Pick: Sasquatch, Love and Other Imaginary Things

Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things
by Becky Aldredge and Carrie DuBois-Shaw
Merit Press
2017
270 pages
ISBN: 9781507202807

A fun frolic of a rom-com meets reality show and Jane Austen, Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things is a sure winner!

Sam's Jewish family is big on Bigfoot and she is happy to help her father on "Myth Gnomers," a reality television show, to hunt Sasquatch. Her dad is an expert in the field of cryptozoology and a respected sasquatch hunter in their home state of Ohio. Sam's sisters and mother go along in support, but her father relies on Sam in all his hunting adventures. While Sam's sisters preen for the camera, Sam's mother has trouble keeping her lipstick on her lips and off her teeth. The cameras catch every cringe-worthy moment and make Sam aware of how unrealistic reality t.v. really is.

The family meets their match when they go head to head with a fancy prep school team whose equipment probably cost more than Sam's family's car. Sam was excited by the prize, thinking she could use the money for college, but she is even more determined to win when she finds out their home is in danger of repossession. If  she can help her father win that prize, they can stay in their home!

Sam doesn't trust the other team. They are a bunch of rich, spoiled brats she believes until she realizes that Devon, like her, is a person and has his own problems. The romance blooms and it is precious but not too sweet.

Readers will love Sam and her no-nonesense view of television and popularity.

Recommended grade 7 and up.

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



Thursday, October 12, 2017

YA Pick: Bad Girls with Perfect Faces

Bad Girls with Perfect Faces
by Lynn Wiengarten
Simon Pulse
2017
304 pages
ISBN: 9781481418607

Available October 31, 2017 

Xavier has just turned seventeen and best friend Sasha is eager to celebrate with him. She weighs each moment deciding when will be THE moment to tell Xavier that she loves him. LOVES him, loves him. As more than a friend. When she spots Ivy, Xavier's no-good, cheating ex-girlfriend, she knows the moment has passed. Later, she spots Xavier in Ivy's arms and knows that he'll never give her up.

Sasha knows that Ivy is a dangerous drug. She knows she can help Xavier break the habit if she can show him just how devious Ivy really is. Sasha posts a fake profile on social media and pretends to be a guy interested in Ivy. When Ivy goes for the bait, Sasha gets drawn in deeper. The thing about pretending to be someone you're not is that you might actually become someone you're not!Twisted acts and personalities keep the pages turning.

 Teen readers may not empathize with Sasha as she tries to "help" her friend. She is, after all, helping Xavier out of personal gain. She hopes he will run into her arms and that Ivy's true colors will emerge. In this tale of teen passion, it seems, everyone loses.


Perfect cover art will sell this book off the shelves

Recommended for readers who like a twisted love tale.

Grade 9 and up. Mature situations. NOT for middle school readers.

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Picture Book Pick: Rodzilla by Guest Reviewer Jenifer J. Hansen

Rodzilla
by Rob Sanders
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Margaret K McElderry Books
2017
ISBN: 9781481457798

Guest Review by Jenifer J. Hansen, Principal, Horizon Heights Elementary School, in El Paso, Texas. Follow Jenifer on Twitter @HHeights_ES

Wobble-woble-wobble. The distant sound of a giant monstrosity can be heard as Rodrizlla tears through the city of Megalopolis. He ducks behind a row of giant skyscrapers. Down below, news anchors try to keep him in their line of sight as they dodge slime missles coming right at them!

Rodzilla holds his tummy. Could it be? Yes, it looks like he is hurt. No, it seems that nothing can stop him. He continues his destruction through City Central Park as he wobbles down the street overpowering the high pressure hoses the firefighters are unleashing on him. He countinues. Seems that Rodzilla is unstoppable.

Brave citizens stare up above as he commands a toothless grin. Could he actually be smiling at them?

Told as a news report, this quaint encounter with a little monster is sure to bring smiles. Even a sweet child can be a rambunctious toddler sometimes.

Preschoolers are bound to say, "Read it again!" Rodzilla is a gem!

Highly recommended ages 18 months-4 years.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Middle Grades Pick: My Top Secret Dares and Don'ts

My Top Secret Dares & Don'ts
by Trudi Tureit
Aladdin Mix
2017
261 pages
ISBN: 9781481469043

Guest Reviewer: Shanon Ortega, Library Media Specialist, Horizon Heights Elementary School, El Paso, Texas.

Follow Shannon on Twitter @SOrtega_HHES

Twelve year old Kestrel "Little Bird" Adams is looking forward to spending the summer before middle school with her best friends. That is until she learns her family has to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, to bail out her Grandmother Lark's ski lodge.

The Blackcomb Creek Lodge was built from the ground up by Kestrel's grandfather and is her grandparents' dream. It is in danger of going bankrupt due to numerous online negative reviews. Kestrel can't believe someone would try and sabotage her grandmother's dream. Enter Breck, a cute boy who works at the lodge, a famous rock star, evil twins who try to thwart Kestrel at every turn and millions of tiny, endangered toads.

A fan of list making, Kestrel invites readers into her mindset throughout the investigations. Kestrel learns and grows in her appreciation of nature and family. This enjoyable read is full of heart and humor. This entertaining read will appeal to middle grade readers who love a spunky heroine.

Highly recommended grade 4 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did reviewer Shannon Ortega.

Friday, September 22, 2017

YA Pick: Warcross

Warcross
by Marie Lu
G.P. Putnam's Sons
2017
353 pages
ISBN: 9780399547966


Goggles on. Enter Warcross. 

Warcross is not just a game; it's an alternate reality lifestyle embraced by millions worldwide. In a decade, professional gamers and ordinary people have become hooked on a lifestyle that enables them to escape the mundane of every day. Hooked is the key word. Some people are so wrapped up in Warcross, they illegally bet all their money and end up homeless or dead.

Warcross inventor Hideo Tanaka becomes a billionaire. Emika Chen is just a girl when she sees his photo for the first time. She follows his career and learns code due to her infatuation for him.

Emika  is a bounty hunter who collects money when she catches illegal betters on Warcross, but she's beyond living paycheck to paycheck. She's living meal to meal and her landlord is threatening eviction. Emika corners a criminal worth a hefty $5000 only to lose him again.  Distraught, Emika is about to give up and become homeless when she slips on her Warcross  neurolink.

Emika is not a pro by any means but she knows code and she's discovered a few weak areas  of the game.  Never before has she thought of sneaking in, but times are tough. Emika slips into the game and steals a valuable piece which captures  Hideo's attention. She is just the type of girl he's looking for. Hideo contacts her, pays her debts and hires her. Hideo needs someone for security. Someone sneaky. Someone no one in his company knows. Emika is the perfect person. No one will suspect a player to be security.

Soon Emika becomes a worldwide celebrity of the game. The matches are bigger than the Super Bowl, but Emika has a job to do. She has to find out who is bugging the game and why. Emika is living a surreal experience: she has fantasized about meeting Hideo for years and now she's working for him. All is not as it seems.

Warcross is a slam dunk and a high powered adrenaline rush. Gamers will delight. If someone doesn't develop Warcross as a real game, it's a missed opportunity. Cover art is spectacular. Kudos to the marketing and graphic arts team.

Highly, highly recommended grade 8 and up. Reluctant readers who enjoy video games may be intrigued.

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




Thursday, September 14, 2017

Middle Grades Giveaway: Quicksand Pond


Quicksand Pond
by Janet Taylor Lisle

I LOVE this book! Read my review here


I have FIVE FREE copies of Quicksand Pond up for grabs! Post a comment on the blog. Include first name, city, state and email contact. Winners will be selected by Randomizer. Deadline for posts is September 21 at NOON MST. Winners will be contacted on Sept. 21. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will by shipped by the publisher from New York.

Good luck and start posting!
Pamela

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

YA Pick: A Map For Wrecked Girls (Guest Reviewer Oscar Porras)

A Map for Wrecked Girls
by Jessica Taylor
Dial Books
2017
368 pages
ISBN: 9780735228115

"An exciting, high-stakes adventure." --School Library Journal 

Guest Review by Oscar Porras, library media specialist,  at Ysleta Middle School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Oscar on Twitter @oporras_LMS

A Map for Wrecked Girls is a gripping gem that YA readers will fall in love with. Emma narrates the story of her life both before and after she is shipwrecked with her sister Henri (Henrietta) and a boy named Alex who will change their lives.

Before the wreck, Henri and Emma live in San Francisco. Their father left the family to begin a new life with his girlfriend. The sisters'  lives are upended and their relationship falls apart. They travel to Puerto Rico with their mother who is attending a conference there. The three teens are shipwrecked together and forced to survive the island and each other. The two sisters must confront their past as they struggle to see a future. This is a book of survival, growth, personal demons and forgiveness.

Readers who are drawn to romance, thrillers and survival stories will love A Map for Wrecked Girls.


Highly recommended for grade 9 and up.

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




Friday, September 8, 2017

Middle Grades Mystery Pick: Twisted Summer (Guest Reviewer Julia Evans)

Twisted Summer
by Willo Davis Roberts
Simon Pulse
2017
186 pages
ISBN: 978148148623

Guest review by Julia Evans, Library Media Specialist from Hueco Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Julia on Twitter @jevens_hes

Fourteen year old Cici is excited to return to her family's summer home in Crystal Lake, Michigan, after missing last summer. Cici cannot wait to see her crush Jack. Things are not as she hoped they would be. Jack is not around and Jack's mother, who worked for Cici's family is not at the lake house as usual. Cici finds out that Jack's older brother Brody has been wrongly accused of strangling Zoe, a girl they all knew.

Jack and his mother believe in Brody's innocence but everyone else is convinced he
is guilty. Cici sides with Jack and his mother. She feels compelled to find out the truth about the murder, solve the mystery and free Brody once and for all,  but the answers she finds lead to her own family. Just what happened at Crystal Lake? Could Cici be the next victim?

Highly recommeded grade 6-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did the reviewer.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fantasy Pick: Dividing Eden (Guest Reviewer Erin Sanchez)

Dividing Eden
by Joelle Charbonneau
HarperTeen
2017
336 pages
ISBN: 97800032453846

Guest review by Erin Sanchez, library media specialist at Helen Ball Elementary School in El Paso, Texas. Follow Erin on Twitter @librarian_HBES

Twins Carys and Andreus have always been close, so much so that Princess Carys hides her brother's secret, tarnishing her own reputation and watching as her brother gains his way into the hearts of their people. Older brother Prince Micah is to inherit the throne of their father, but when their father, the king, and the crown prince are assassinated, the Queen is next to ascend tot he throne.

The Queen is mad with grief and it is left to the Council of Elders to make the drastic decision of trusting Imogene, a seer, who reveals an option for crowning the successor. Carys and Andreus will compete for the throne of Eden.

The kingdom of Eden is on a dark path. Andreus betrays his twin as tragedy and secrets unfold. A hidden curse comes to the surface. Many things are possible as the first book ends. Readers will have to wait until book two to discover Eden's secrets.

Dividing Eden is the first of two books in this YA fantasy duology.

Recommended grade 8 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation nor did guest reviewer Erin Sanchez.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Guest Review: Middle Grades Pick: Who Killed Darius Drake?

Who Killed Darius Drake?
by Rodman Philbrick
The Blue Sky Press
2017
192 pages
ISBN: 9780545789783

Available September 26, 2017

Professional Reviews: 


"A smart and worthy mystery."--Kirkus Reviews 

"Dropping tantalizing hints of grisly events to come, Philbrick leads readers to a melodramatc denouement. 
An artful mix of clues, cons and violence with prizes at the end that glitterr both literally and figuratively." --Booklist

Guest Reviewer Julia Evans, librarian at Hueco Elementary in El Paso, Texas. Follow Julia on Twitter @jevens_hes

Guest Review:

What reader can resist a mysterious letter written in BLOOD? Philbrick dangles this enticing carrot in front of middle grade readers and every reader will be up for the mystery.

Bully for hire Arthur Bash agrees to help genius orphan Darius Drake uncover the culprit behind the bloody letter, and he agrees to join the hunt for the price of two mere candy bars. Little do the boys know that they are about to uncover a perilous secret from the past. Darius's grandfather was involved in the disappearance of a priceless diamond necklace. The boys decide to become sleuths and find the necklace themselves. They are not the only ones looking for the loot.

As the duo uncovers clues and unearths secrets, they are in danger. Someone is watching their every move. They discover the car accident that killed Darius's parents was no accident at all. They were murdered and the murderer is still out there.

The boys learn more about themselves as the delve deeper. Arthur is a big presence due to his size but his body hides his inner fraidy cat. Scrawny Darius hides a massive brave lion. Together they are unstoppable.

This fast paced read drops clues like breadcrumbs for hungry readers. Who Killed Darius Drake? has it all: mystery, murder, theft, buried secrets, treasure, jewels, and an unlikely friendship.

Highly recommended grades 3-7.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review, nor did Julia Evans.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

YA Pick: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue


The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
by Mackenzi Lee
Katherine Tegen Books
2017
528 pages
ISBN: 978006238280

It is rare that a YA book delivers a wallop and a romp that entertains, enlightens, and enraptures.  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue is one of the best of this year! Get ready for awards, Mackenzi Lee, your book child is genius! Henry Montague is everything a reader could ever want in a character.

Lovable and irrepressible cad Henry (aka Monty) Montague is quite the ladies man and quite the man's man as well (he is bisexual). Monty is in love and lust with his boyhood friend Percy. The two have grown up together and Monty finds himself head over heels falling for his friend/companion. Henry is always in trouble. He's a rich ruffian who sleeps all day, languishing in  bed after a night's debauchery, rising only to eat and get ready for another drunken night of gambling, drinking and frolic. Percy is his steadfast sidekick.

Lord Montague has had enough. His son Henry and Percy are of age for the Grand Tour, a yearlong event in which young gentlemen of fortune travel the continent seeing and learning the finer things. Sister Felicity is along and will be dropped off in France for school. The Tour is supposed to teach young men the art of meeting people, socializing and bonding with others of their class. After a Tour, gentlemen settle in and marry raising a family and building their family's business or estate. Henry is expected to take over his father's estate and become a proper British lord.

Monty's father hires Mr. Lockwood to watch over the boys. Under Lockwood's eagle eye, the boys are will be exposed to great art, opera, architecture and food. Monty has other plans. A yearlong trip abroad with his love Percy is more than Monty can even dream of. The only problem he has is Mr. Lockwood.

Readers will fall in love with Monty (Henry) who is at times a spoiled child, yet the child no one can punish. Monty has many flaws but his fierce love and friendship are solid. The threesome--Monty, Percy, Felicity--are winsome and exciting and their adventures are epic.

This YA novel explores sexism, racism, bigotry, snobbery, and society in the eighteenth century.

The cover is spot-on and the title sells this book off the shelf. The marketing team (the author?) who came up with the design and title are genius. This is how you sell a book!

Highly, highly recommended grade 9 and up. NOT for middle school. The title alone should tell would be readers everything they need to know about content.

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




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sci-Fi Pick: Scythe (Guest Reviewer Gloria James-Avalos)

This review is by guest reviewer Gloria James-Avalos, YA librarian, William Slider Middle School, El Paso, Texas. Follow Gloria on Twitter @GJAvalos_WDSMS

Scythe
Book 1
by Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
2017
448 pages
ISBN: 9781442472426



First in a planned series, Scythe is set in a world that is not really dystopian, but nearly Utopian. Scythe is where everyone lives. No one dies: every illness, accident and even death can be remedied. Through technology, humanity can now go on forever. While this future world sounds wonderful, the biggest problem is overpopulation. To control the population, some young people are apprenticed to Scythes, legal assassins. Citra and Rowan are two teens who are apprenticed. Neither of them wants to be a Scythe, and only one will be chosen. One will face a lifetime of gleaning, or killing, and the other will face immediate death.

Scythe is a bold and thoughtful work, precise and fantastical, and not too far-fetched from what can be accomplished by science. Questions of what makes us human, our humanity, and who can pick and choose who lives and who dies will bother readers. A Printz Honor Book, Scythe delivers a sweeping tale that is sure to stick with readers long after they've turned the last page.

Highly recommended grade 7 and up. Fine for middle school but not for the faint of heart.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. Neither I nor the guest reviewer received monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Guest Reviewer Pick: Disappeared




The following review is by guest reviewer Ruby Shivery, YA librarian, Indian Ridge Middle School in El Paso, Texas. Follow her on Twitter  @rivette3

Disappeared
By Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books
2017
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-545-94447

Available September 26, 2017

Disappeared unfolds through two alternating voices: Sara, a reporter for El Sol, a Juarez newspaper and Emiliano, her younger brother, a high school student. Set on the Mexican border where violence is often a part of life, Sara crusades against the disappearances of a number of young girls. Her best friend disappears on her way home from work. Many of the young women are sold into sex crimes and used by the cartels. As Sara delves deeper into the story, her boss at the newspaper becomes increasingly concerned for her and her family’s safety. It is dangerous to publish stories about the violence.

Emiliano is an All Star soccer player at school. He provides for his mother and sister stepping into the role of man of the family, a role  left vacant after his father deserted them. As a Jipari (boys scout) Emiliano has created a Folk Art Business by selling piñatas to be sold across the border and made by other Jipari friends.  As corruption grows in his neighborhood, Emiliano faces a tough decision regarding his business. Will he choose the right path for himself and those that he loves and cares about or will he risk it all for financial stability?

Highly recommended grade 9 and up. This story hits very close to home for millions of Texans who share the border with Mexico. The cartel violence is all too real. The instances in this YA novel are cut from the headlines, and that makes this novel all the more important.  

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. Neither I nor my guest reviewer received monetary compensation for this review. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Creepy Pick: The Special Ones

The Special Ones
by Em Bailey
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2017
297 pages
ISBN: 9780544912298


Creepy, chilling,cult-like and disturbing, The Special Ones will make readers shudder. Esther lives in a farm house and is not allowed to go past the porch because it will anger him. He makes the rules they live by. He chooses the guiding word for the day, and Esther must live the day through that word. Although they have never seen him, they know he is in charge. They know he can punish them.

An old photo of the Special Ones shows four people who look like them. There is a young man with a young  woman, an older girl and a little girl standing  in front of the farm, their farm. When a new girl is collected, she must cut or dye her hair to match the girl she is in the photograph. Older girl Lucille has not been with them for some time. Fans (online followers) of the Special Ones are beginning to question her absence in the nightly chat. Henry will have to bring a new Lucille home soon. Tension mounts when a new girl arrives and causes trouble in their small house. The Special Ones cannot include this Lucille in their chats. Not yet.

Usually girls become docile more quickly. This Lucille is a real fighter. After being locked up in a stone prison for days on end, Lucille comes around and admits she is Lucille, a Special One.

Several years have passed since Esther arrived. She has lived on the farm with Henry the entire time. She barely remembers her life outside it was so long ago. Her world is turned upside down when he reveals that Henry is next to be  renewed.  Esther dreads living on the farm without Henry. A storm ruins the crops and what little they have. If they don't leave soon, they may starve. Every meal, every word, every prayer is broadcast to their followers.

Henry and Esther share a brief moment under the camera's scrutiny and Esther slips Henry a twenty dollar bill that the camera is unable to record. Esther knows though. She is sure Henry will save her.

No one knows what happens when a Special One is renewed. Someone else comes in to take the place of the old Special One. A new Henry will appear but what will happen to the Henry she knows?Esther worries about all of the girls who have left the farm.

Even a well organized plan has its cracks. The mastermind puppeteer  seems to have thought of everything, but what if his plans are ruined by one girl who won't give up? One girl strong enough to find the answers?

Readers will be caught up in the story. I could not turn the pages fast enough. This is one un-put-down-able book!

Highly, highly recommended grade 7 and up. For fans of creepy reads.

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


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Guest Review: The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade

The following review is from guest reviewer and librarian Sandy Brandon. Sandy is the librarian at Montwood Middle School in El Paso, Texas, and currently a member of Texas Bluebonnet Program Committee, Texas Library Association. 

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade
by Jordan Sonnenblick
Scholastic Press
2017
193 pages
ISBN: 9780545863209

Available August 29, 2017

Jordan Sonnenblick has done it again! With his signature wit and wisdom, Sonnenblick introduces middle grade readers to Maverick Falconer, an all-too-tiny sixth grade student.

Maverick's life is anything but perfect, but he makes the best of difficult situations he finds himself in. Throughout the book, Maverick faces serious struggles at school and home. Sonnenblick handles tough issues with humor and sensitivity.

Maverick is going into sixth grade and he is much smaller than the other students at school. He is weak, and everyone knows it, especially the bullies at school. He faces bullies in his home life as well. This year, Maverick decides, he is going to change and be stronger. He is ready to make positive changes at school and in his own home. Armed with his small, plastic sheriff's star (a prized possession his father gave him before he passed away), Maverick is prepared. If only he can overcome his own bullies!

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade handles serious issues many students face: bullying, neglect, alcoholism and abusive relationships. Maverick Falconer's heartbreaking struggle to make his life better is handled with empathy. Sonnenblick's rare gift of hilarity does not disappoint. Readers will laugh and cry and hopefully show a new appreciation and understanding for each person's unique situation.

Highly recommended grades 4 and up. Perfect for reluctant readers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review nor did Sandy Brandon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Middle Grade Pick: Rules for Thieves

Rules for Thieves
by Alexandra Ott
Aladdin
2017
320 pages
ISBN: 9781481472746

Alli Rosco escapes the orphanage by climbing the wall and escapes into the town square. She is excited to be free and alive, but quickly realizes she has no plan. What will she do now? Where will she go? How will she eat? Alli is smart and resourceful and knows she will have to steal to survive.

Alli runs into trouble in the market and is "wounded"  but lucky for her, she meets Beck. Alli has been infected with a poison curse and needs money for the cure before it kills her. Beck tells her that the only way she is sure to survive is to travel with him to the Thieve's Guild, an underground network that protects its own and whose members work to steal the kingdom's greatest treasures.

Beck is unsure whether Alli will be accepted but she goes along with him. They venture deep into the mountains and the cold where the Guild has their secret hideaway.

Alli and Beck are tasked with a dangerous mission--one that is nearly impossible. Alli is getting worse. They are racing the clock and the authorities.

Rules for Thieves is a delightful romp. Alexandra Ott sets up a believable world from the first pages. Alli is everything readers want from a heroine.

Highly recommended grade 5 and up. This book is likely on the Scholastic Book Fair.

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


Monday, August 14, 2017

Pamela's Picks for Book Club Titles: Middle School to Adult

Every year, librarians and teachers ask about books for book clubs. I have made this list from the last two years of book club reads at our school:

Suggested Books for Book Clubs:
These are books are members have read over the two years. 
Grade 6: 
Barnhill, Kelly. The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Algonquin Young Readers
Bell, CeCe. El Deafo. Harry N. Abrams, 2014. 978-14197121732014. 
Collins, Suzanne. Gregor the Overlander. Scholastic Paperbacks, 2004. 978-0439678131
Giff, Patricia Reilly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. Yearling, 2004. 978-0312674854
Grisham, John. Skipping Christmas, Dell, 2010. 978-0440422969
Sunny Side Up, Holm, Jennifer L. GRAPHIX, 2015.
978-0545741668
Horowitz, Anthony. Skeleton Key, Puffin Books, 2006. Skeleton Key, 978-0142406144
Palacio, R.J. Wonder, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014. 978-0375869020
Pennypacker, Sara. Pax.  Balzer + Bray, 2016. 978-0062377012
Grade 7:
Bodeen, S.A. The Compound. Square Fish. 2009. 978-0312578602
Carter, Ally. Heist Society. Disney-Hyperian. 2011. 978-1423116615
       Deuker, Carl . Gym Candy. HMH Books for Young Readers. 2008. 978-0547076317
       Doctorow, Cory. Little Brother. Tor Teen. 2010. 978-0765323118
Falkner, Brian. Brain Jack. Ember, 2011. 978-0375843679
      Hirsch, Jeff. The Darkest Path. Scholastic Press. 2013. 978-0545630627
      Morris, Paula.  Ruined. Point, 2010. 978-0545042147
      Sloan, Goldberg Holly. Counting by 7s. Puffin, 2014. 978-0142422861
Stiefvater, Maggie. Shiver. Scholastic, Inc. 2014. 978-0545682787
Volk, Lauren. Wolf Hollow. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1101994825
Grade 8:
       Charbonneau, Joelle. The Testing. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015. 978-0544336230
Dashner, James. Maze Runner. Delacourte Press, 2010. 978-0385737951
Fukuda, Andrew. The Hunt. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012. 978-1250005298
Henry, April. Girl, Stolen. Square Fish, 2012. 978-0312674755
Lu, Marie. Legend. Speak, 2013. 978-0142422076
      Michaels, Rune. Genesis Alpha. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. 978-1416965008Henry,
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic Paperbacks, 2000. 978-0439064873
Stand, Jeff. A Bad Day for Voodoo. Sourcebooks Fire, 2012. 978-1402266805
High School:
Arnold, David. Mosquitoland. Speak, 2016. 978-0147513656
Knudsen, Michelle. Evil Librarian. Candlewick, 2016. 978-0763676407
Kraus, Daniel. The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch . Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 978-1481411400
Ohanesian, Iline. Orhan's Inheritance. Algonquin Books, 2016. 978-1616205300
Smith, Andrew. 100 Sideways Miles. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. 978-1442444966
Smith, Andrew. Grasshoppper Jungle, Speak, 2015. : 978-0142425008
Smith, Andrew. Winger, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. 978-1442444935
Smith, Andrew. Standoff. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers , 2016. 978-1481418300
Weingarten, Lynn. Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls. Simon Pulse, 2016. 978-1481418584


Adult Titles:
Bick, Ilse. Ashes. EgmontUSA, 2012. 978-1606843857
Goolrick, Robert. A Reliable Wife. Algonquin, 2010. 978-156512977
Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. Picador, 2002. 978-03124277331
Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Virgin Suicides. Picador, 2009. 978-0312428815
Hadon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Vintage Contemporaries, 2004.
978-1400032716
Roorbach, Bill. Life Among Giants. Algonquin, 2013.
978-1616203245
Rindell, Suzanne. The Typist. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.
978-0425268421
Sedaris, David. Naked.  Back Bay Books, 1998. 978-0316777735
Shapiro, B.A., The Art Forger. Algonquin, 2013.
978-1616203160
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind. Penguin, 2005.
978-0143034902

Zevin, Gabrielle. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey. Algonquin, 2014. 978-1616204518