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
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

Book 1
by Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
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

By Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books
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
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
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
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.
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.
Roorbach, Bill. Life Among Giants. Algonquin, 2013.
Rindell, Suzanne. The Typist. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014.
Sedaris, David. Naked.  Back Bay Books, 1998. 978-0316777735
Shapiro, B.A., The Art Forger. Algonquin, 2013.
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind. Penguin, 2005.

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Middle Grades Pick: Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls

Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls
Book 1
by Beth McMullen
292 pages
ISBN: 9781481490207

Fast paced and fun, Beth McMullen has a sure hit on her hands. Middle grades and all grades will enjoy the antics and fun when Abigail Hunter is shipped off to a private boarding school for girls. Abigail thinks, "oh, yawn," but finds out that not only is her school anything but boring, it is a super exclusive school for training teen spies.

When Abigail tries sneaking out one night, she overhears a conversation she wasn't supposed to hear. Mrs. Smith has to make sure Abigail won't repeat what she's heard or figure it out. Later, she is accepted into the spy school and learns her mother is their favorite spy. She's shocked. She had no idea her boring mother could be an international spy! And now she's missing. Even the adult spies don't have a clue where to look for Abigail's mother (Teflon).

It is up to Abigail to follow the clues and find her mother. Abigail's mother's trail is hard to follow. The adults think she used her  skills to cover her tracks. But why? Why would her mother vanish and leave Abigail at the school? And who is after her?

A rollicking read in what is sure to be a bestselling series for girls grade 4-up. The writing and story are more exciting than the typical Babysitter's Club fare or fairy tale mash-ups. Readers are likely to read the entire series as it publishes.

Highly recommended grade 4-up. A must read! A must have for all MG libraries!

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