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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dystopian Pick: Drought

by Pam Bachorz
Egmont, 2011
400 pages

Following on the heels of her success with Candor, Bachorz enters a new and frightening world--a world that time forgot, or at least appears to have forgotten. Ruby and her mother live with a small group of Congregants who have settled in the woods. Here they are able to practice their religion without interference; however, their day-to-day existence is decided by Darwin West, an evil man who beats them into subservience and forces them to work and live in conditions few could survive. The Congregants have a secret weapon--when Ruby realizes her blood has the power to save, she begins putting drops of her own blood in the community's water supply. Not only does her blood have the power to sustain them, it has the power to make them have long lives--some of the Congregants have been in the woods over 200 years.

When a young overseer appears to have feelings of sympathy for her group, Ruby dreams of escape. Will she be able to leave her mother and all that she has ever known for the unknown? Will she be able to leave the Congregants without her life-saving blood?

Deeply moving and greatly disturbing, this novel will leave an impression. Like Lowrey's The Giver, Drought brings up ethical and moral questions and skirts religious beliefs held by the community of followers. Readers will be talking about Drought for days, maybe even months after reading it. Unlike her first novel, Drought is not just a young adult novel--it is one that may make it into the "Required Reading Lists" at the high school level.

I read Drought and thought about it for two weeks before reviewing it. I had to let the story sink in and think about its complexity. While appearing to be a ya novel, it is so much more.

Highly recommended grades 9-12. Mature readers at grade 8 may attempt this book, but they may not realize the provocative theme and symbolism. Violence.

Available January 25, 2011.

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

YA Thriller/Romance: Nightshade


by Andrea Cremer
Philomel (Penguin), 2010
528 pages

Calla's life has been planned for her since before her own birth. That's the way it is in the pack. Sworn to protect each other and the sacred sites for the Keepers, Calla is part of a pack of wolves/humans whose existence is solely for the benefit of the Keepers--magical beings older than humanity itself. Calla prepares to become a lifemate for the alpha male Ren, but a chance meeting on the mountain with a human boy changes all that.

When Calla breaks the highest of laws by saving the human from a bear attack, she allows him to see her change from wolf to girl. She hopes she never sees him again, but when he shows up at her high school, she is forced to face her feelings.

Shay wants to know Calla better but her pack has other ideas. Calla and Shay begin to dig into the mysteries of the Keepers and find that all the old laws are wrong. As they rebel, they risk everything to be together. The book ends in a cliffhanger, opening the door for the sequel: Wolfsbane due out July 26, 2011.

Paranormal romance readers who enjoyed the Twilight series and Shiver and Linger will be panting to get their hands on Wolfsbane (book 2).

Highly recommended grades 9-12. Some more mature grade 8 readers will be okay with this novel. Warning #1: two wolves are gay--although they face prejudice in the pack and the larger world, there is NOT any mention of sex. Warning #2: At one point, Calla must shed her fancy gown, and Shay is astonished to see she is not wearing a bra--but it does NOT mention anything sexual.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. Other reviews mentioned grade 8-up. I would recommend it for grade 8 with CAUTION.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

High School: The Attitude Girl

The Attitude Girl
The Attitude Girl
by Mila Bernadkin
Five Star Publications, Inc., 2009
321 pages

The character of Vicky will resonate among high school readers--many of whom share the same trials and tribulations--it's not easy being a teen-ager. Vicky has an attitude, but she thinks it's great. It takes attitude to get through your parents' divorce and your mother losing her job in tough times. Vicky's mom is in no hurry to find another job; she's just trying to "find" herself. Not only does Vicky have to deal with problems at home, she has a whole set of pressures at school, too.

Peer pressure, teen drinking, parties, the need to be popular and stand out, bullying, teen sex, coming of age, teen suicide, maturity, forgiveness, and death are all topics in this coming-of-age story.

Readers who like a good story with lots of meat will like this one. Teens who read Lurlene McDaniel will probably like The Attitude Girl.

The Attitude Girl has received numerous literary awards including 1st Place Winner in the Authors Association Annual Literary Awards (Arizona).

Recommended grades 10-12. Mature subject matter.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review. These facts did in no way influence this review.

Monday, December 13, 2010

High School Pick: Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book 1)

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book One)
by Cassandra Clare
McElderry Books, 2010
496 pages

Cassandra Clare just keeps getting it right! Fresh off great success with her best-selling series The Mortal Instruments (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass), Clare begins the back story with the prequel: Clockwork Angel.

Set in Victorian England and beautifully imagined, Clockwork Angel is a richly constructed fantasy novel which stands among the best fantasy of our time. Clare is on par with writers like J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien.

When sixteen year old Tessa Gray arrives by steamship in London to meet her brother, she is met instead by two creepy women from a dark, gloomy mansion. Only when they show her a letter handwritten by her brother does she agree to accompany them to their lair. Tessa becomes their prisoner. They teach her to use her unknown powers to shape shift. Unbeknowst to Tessa, she was born with powers to become anyone or anything. This quality, or gift, makes her highly valuable to the mysterious and terrible Magister. The Dark Sisters tell Tessa that they are to deliver her to this evil man, but Tessa is grabbed and spirited away by two young men who tell her they are Shadowhunters, trained warriors with special gifts who fight Downworlders like vampires and warlocks to save humans.

Tessa yearns to find her brother and fears for his life. The Shadowhunters agree to help her find him, if she will use her shapeshifting powers to help them infiltrate a vampire clan. Tessa finds herself torn--does she love the dark and brooding Shadowhunter who saved her from the Sisters? Or does she truly hate him?

Readers who like otherworldly novels with paranormal creatures and just the right amount of love interest will LOVE Clockwork Angel. It should appeal broadly to both male and female readers--both the male and female characters are well-developed and have admirable traits. It is hard to say who is more likeable: Will, the Shadowhunter, or Tessa, the shapeshifter.

Highly, highly recommended. Grades 8-up. Some violence (it is vampires, after all).

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the novel from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review. I had this novel for about four months before I started reading it. I was somewhat put off by the cover which I found didn't draw me in as a reader. Once I read the first few pages, I was hooked. Don't let ya readers walk past this novel because of the cover. Tell them to give it a chance.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Spooky Pick: The Secret of Laurel Oaks

The Secret of Laurel Oaks

The Secret of Laurel Oaks
by Lois Ruby
Tom Doherty Associates, 2010
274 pages

Thirteen year old Lila has been hearing and seeing strange things ever since family friend and Jemez pueblo member Roberto died. Now that she and her family are visiting Laurel Oaks, a haunted plantation in Louisiana, Lila sees and hears far more than she wants to. When the ghost of a slavegirl named Daphne appears to her and asks Lila for help, Lila knows that she can't pretend she doesn't see the spirits.

Daphne hasn't been able to pass on to the other side, whatever or wherever it may be. Something is keeping her at Laurel Oaks. She has been hanging around the plantation for two centuries, trying to get someone to see or hear her, and finally Lila shows up and seems to have the powers. Daphne didn't poison the Judge's wife and daughters, but she may know who did. Daphne has been trusted by the Judge's wife to pass on her porceline bebes, figurines that were treasured by the wife, and Daphne wants Lila to find them.

Can the mystery be solved? Will the treasure ever be found? Will Daphne's name be cleared after all these years? And what about Lila--will she forever be at the spirits' beck and call?

Chapters are told in turn by Lila in the present and Daphne in the past--during the slave days of the South. Daphne tells of a life in the big house and learning hoodoo from Birdie--a slave woman gifted in spells, witchcraft, and the healing arts. The author weaves a story rich with superstitions and folklore brought from Africa and practiced among slaves in the South.

Readers who like ghost stories or mysteries will like this novel. Spooky and satisfying, the setting of Laurel Oaks and the creepy Louisiana backwoods and swamps make this novel come alive.

Recommended grades 6-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for my library. I received no monetary compensation for my review.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fairy Tale Fun Pick

Half Upon a Time

Half Upon a Time
by James Riley
Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2010
385 pages

A cute take-off on well-known fairy tales, this novel is sure to please young readers. Jack is pushed into rescuing a princess--any princess-- and when he meets May who happens to fall into his world--she is wearing a t-shirt that says "Punk Princess." Jack, of course, thinks she's the real thing and goes about kissing her to wake her up from her "sleep."

May wants nothing to do with this princess thing, but soon realizes she is totally out of her element. In Jack's world, there are dragons, and evil queens, and giants. Trolls, magic, and talking animals, legends and lore and much, much more. And then there's this beanstalk and Jack's missing father.

May and Jack set out to rescue her grandmother who has been kidnapped. Jack realizes that May is the granddaughter of no other than the famous queen Snow White. They enlist the help of a real prince along the way.

The three run into all kinds of storybook trouble and May needs Jack's help to find her truth.

Masterful storytelling will keep the pages turning long into the night. Readers will delight with the stories they know and the ones that are a little twisted. Even children who have only seen the Disney movies are sure to enjoy Half Upon a Time.

Highly recommended grades 4-7

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review. (my apologies for an earlier typo that read Adaddin instead of Aladdin for publisher).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tween Read: Misty Gordon

Misty Gordon and the Mystery of the Ghost Pirates
Misty Gordon and the Mystery of the Ghost Pirates
by Kim Kennedy
Amulet (Abrams), 2010.
240 pages

Misty Gordon is a typical eleven year old girl with typical problems-- except her parents collect antiques from dead people's estates. It doesn't help that her parents' store is called Dearly Departed Antiques and that her dad drives an old ice cream truck with D.E.A.D. on the side (Deceased's Estate and Antiques Dealer). Her dad is able to find some great old artifacts and Misty comes upon a pair of cat-eye glasses that allow her to see ghosts who help her.

The glasses and a crystal ball from a deceased medium help Misty see the future of her small New England town--and she sees pirates brought back to life and the town being destroyed! The ship is sailing towards her town and the only way to save the future depends on Misty finding the Golden Three and solving the mystery.

Funny and entertaining, this novel will appeal to anyone who likes a mystery. Misty is quirky and appealing. Readers who liked Lemony Snicket books will like this one.

Recommended grades 4-7.

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

High School Thriller: The Replacement

The Replacement
The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff
Razorbill (Penguin Group), 2010
343 pages

The cover art and spooky title font should attract teens to this debut novel. Maggie Stiefvater, author of Shiver ,writes on the front cover, "I loved this eerie and beautiful story of ugly things. It should be read after dark, at a whisper." She's right!

There is something evil and menacing under the town of Gentry and it waits until once every seven years to claim its bounty--a child sacrifice.

Mackie knows he's not normal. He can't be around blood or anything with iron or steel. His family covers for him and his pastor father tells him to fit in--don't bring unwanted attention on yourself--stay in the shadows. His sister Emma loves him fiercely even though she knows the darkest of all secrets--Mackie isn't her brother at all--he's a replacement.

This novel is creepy, gritty, and downright slithery. Think of all things grimy, seedy, nasty, damp, dark, dank, rotten, moldy, and you have the The House of Misery and the House of Mayhem--two equally evil desolate places beneath the slag heap on the outskirts of town. Is Mackie brave enough to enter the darkness? Will Mackie be able to save the town from the seven year payment?

Young readers will stay up late under the covers with a flashlight to finish this novel. Very creepy and edgy, yet fascinating. An unputdownable show-stopper of a read. The Replacement is the best ya novel I've read this year--think Stephen King at the top of his game.

Highly, highly recommended for grades 9-12. Recommended for mature readers grade 8--with caution.

Language. Violence. Light petting.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this novel for my library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review. I will add it to my shelves with caution to readers--I would recommend it to grade 8 mature readers.

Friday, November 19, 2010



by Ellen Hopkins
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010
672 pages

In the third book of the trilogy that includes Crank and Glass, author Ellen Hopkins returns to Kristina Snow's story of drug abuse and reveals what Kristina's children have had to suffer.

Told in poetry by the children: Hunter, Autumn, and Summer, and the mother, this book is raw and gritty. Readers will likely empathize with one or all of the children and feel pity for Kristina.

The book deals with mature situations of drug and alcohol abuse, sexual situations, and abuse. It's not a pretty story but an important one. Addiction hurts not just the user but the entire family, and they all suffer from the Fallout.

Recommended grades 9 and up. NOT recommended for middle school due to language, sex, alcohol and drug references, and mature themes.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Teen Pick

Dirty Little Secrets

Dirty Little Secrets
by C.J.Omololu
Walker Publishing Company, 2010
210 pages

Life has its secrets--everyone has secrets. Lucy, however, lives a secret. She has never had a best friend, or a sleepover, or had friends come over and just hang out. Her older sister and brother have both moved away, leaving sixteen-year old Lucy alone in the house with her mother and the STUFF. After her parents' divorce, Lucy's mother became a different person. She has filled their lives and their home with junk and trash.

If you've seen the t.v. show "Hoarders" and thought "How does someone get like this?"--or "How does someone live that way?"--Dirty Little Secrets may answer those questions.

When her secret is about to be front page news, Lucy decides to take things into her own hands. Her mother may have forced them to live like that when she was young, but now Lucy is older and she can find a way to deal with the problems.

Readers will like Lucy and empathize with her plight; some may even pity her, but all readers will want her to rise above her circumstances and excel.

Recommended grades 6-up.
Some mature subject matter. Lucy is basically mentally abused by her mother.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for my middle school library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Middle School Pick: The Continued Adventures of the Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (Book 5)
by Jeff Kinney
Amulet (Abrams), 2010
217 pages

In the fifth installment of the series, writer Jeff Kinney continues to dominate the children's book market and the New York Times Bestseller List. The adventures continue for protagonist middle-school student Greg Heffley. Now more grown up and facing puberty, Greg is as wimpy as ever. He doesn't want more responsibility or more drama, and is all alone as he faces new struggles. Without his best friend Rowley, Greg has to brave the waters of middle school on his own.

When his mother decides to go back to school, the whole family is expected to take on more chores. When that doesn't work, Greg's mom hires a maid. Greg thinks this is a great idea--he can make the maid do all his chores and his laundry. He has no idea who is dealing with, however, this particular maid doesn't work. She is a marathon soap opera watcher--Greg makes it his job to expose her.

Later, Greg is excited to go to his first school lock-in where all the kids will spend the night locked in and having a party. Of course, this is not what really happens. The boys and girls are separated and the boys have to play silly little kid games. The chaparones take all their electronics, and the boys don't really have any people skills.

Spot-on humor and illustrations. Kids who have read the series will fly to the book stores for this one.

Recommended grades 4-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for my middle school library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Funny Pick!

The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter

The Defense of Thaddeus A. Ledbetter
by John Gosselink
Amulet (Abrams), 2010
229 pages

Funny, funny, funny! Think The Diary of a Wimpy Kid mixed with a little I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President, but even snarkier and more sublime! Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written and illustrated, this novel tells the story of Thaddeus's fight to get out of in-school suspension in a series of letters to the school principal outlining Thaddeus's innocence, Thaddeus Fun Facts and musings, and discipline referrals from Thaddeus's school file.

If I had been drinking chocolate milk in the seventh grade lunchroom when I read this novel, I would have had it streaming in chocolate rivulets from my nose. Laugh-out-loud funny and uber-clever, I have a feeling this author may have to give up teaching high school English for a full-time writing career after his debut novel.

Thaddeus Ledbetter is way too smart for his own good. He tries to better his school and the world around him with his well-thought out improvement plans. No one "gets" Thaddeus, at least no adult. His principal especially seems to have it in for him and puts him in In-School-Suspension for the entire year! Mr. Cooper does not find it funny when Thaddeus suggests that he might change professions--since his name "Cooper" means barrel-maker, Thaddeus believes maybe he would be a better barrel-maker than school principal.

Thaddeus questions the etymology of many words and expressions and offers the reader a plethora of "Thaddeus Fun Facts." He debates the expression "the straw that broke the camel's back." Saying that first of all, a straw couldn't break a camel's back even if it was dropped from an airplane or a blimp--the straw would float gracefully down to earth missing the camel completely and further states, "...maybe we should come up with a metaphor that doesn't involve the crippling of an innocent pack animal" (p. 30).

Every teacher has had one or two students like Thaddeus--it's what keeps the good teachers in the profession.

Readers will love Thaddeus and believe in his innocence. He is a compelling and charismatic character. Visit his website at www.thaddeus-ledbetter.com

Highly, highly recommended and not to be missed for grades 4-8. Kids who love the Wimpy Kid series will love Thaddeus.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I got this copy from the publisher. I received no monetary compensation for my review.

Monday, November 8, 2010

High School Pick

The Other Side of Dark
The Other Side of Dark
by Sarah Smith
Antheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2010
309 pages

Book Giveaway: See below

Compelling, mysterious, and just outright in-your-face fierce, The Other Side of Dark is a novel that should not be missed. Told in chapters by the two main characters, Katie tells her story of becoming an orphan--an orphan who just happens to see ghosts. What's more: she draws them in her sketch book and knows their stories. Law tells his story: son of an African American Harvard professor and a white historian mother, his story is the story of a house divided by a father who expects--no, demands--reparations from the white man for all the evils of slavery and a mother who cares more about saving old homes than repairing her marriage.

Law is from a cultured family with ties to the upper crust of Boston. Katie, on the other hand, is not from the upper crust. She has never known the big houses with butler's pantries and Ivy League parents.

Katie and Law meet and are attracted to each other. They both are broken--Katie grieves her mother's death and doesn't want to talk to ghosts anymore. Law doesn't feel that he is good enough or black enough to be his father's son. He'll never live up to his father's plans for him. What Law really wants is to study architecture--not politics or race relations--he doesn't want to fight his father's fight. Law refers to his father as "the Voice" and says "he's always on." His father is always the orator, the teacher, the professor. Law has a passive-aggressive relationship with his father that simmers just under the surface.

That's only part of the book. When Katie starts seeing George, a ghost with Down's Syndrome, she finds a mystery in a burned out mansion--Pinebank Mansion which is set to be destroyed by the city of Boston--and She sees a slave ship, a lost fortune, a broken family, and the slaves' stories begin to haunt her. The teens launch a website to preserve the mansion but neither of them realize the secrets preserved at Pinebank.

Truly a book that will make a difference. Highly, highly recommended for high school students. Mature readers in grade 8 might also enjoy the book, but do realize there are language issues.

Language, racially charged language--used by Law when speaking of his father and his father's causes.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for my review.

Book Giveaway: I have 5 copies of this novel for giveaway. Post a comment and include your email. Deadline is December 15, 2010 at 12:00 a.m. MST

Books from Simon & Schuster

Ghostly Pick

The Hunt for the Seventh
The Hunt for the Seventh
by Christine Morton-Shaw
Katherine Tegan Books (Harper Collins Publishers), 2009 (paperback edition)
273 pages

Creepy, thrilling and mysterious, this novel will have young readers frantically turning the pages to figure out who the "seventh" is. Jim moves with his father and younger sister to an English manor known as Minerva Hall. It's steeped in history and mystery. The current master, Lord Minerva, is a grumpy old curmudgeon who detests children and Jim, it seems, in particular.

When Jim begins seeing visions of ghostly figures and statues of dead children, he realizes that there has been at least one murder at Minerva Hall. As he searches for answers, his life and his family's lives are threatened.

Mixing ancient rites and early English lore with the supernatural ghost story, The Hunt for the Seventh will appeal to those readers who love a ghost story and a mystery. Readers who have read Mary Downing Hahn's ghost stories are sure to like this book.

Recommended for readers grades 4-8.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for the library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Young Adult Pick

Epitaph Road

Epitaph Road
by David Patneaude
Egmont, 2010
266 pages

Edgy, provocative, gripping and forceful, Epitaph Road delivers as a chilling thriller set in the near future. In 2067, a plague descends upon the world killing nearly all the world's male population. Thirty years later, Kellen gets a weird lesson in history from his teacher. It seems through her lesson, she's hinting that the plague may have been planned-- that someone wanted to kill off the male population.

When a second launch of Elisha's Bear seems imminent, Kellen runs off to save his own father and a few other men known as loners--those who survived the first plague and now live away from the female population.

Boys growing up in this matriarchal society are considered inferior beings. In the thirty years since most men died, society has little or no crime, no prisons and no wars. Women live in peace but not in freedom. Kellen has a chance to expose the truth about the plague and the new government.

The novel is built upon an interesting concept and could easily lead to lively book club discussions or classroom discussions on gendercide, sexism, and prejudice.

Highly, highly recommended grades 8-up.
some mild language

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my middle school library. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chick Pick

Karma Bites

Karma Bites
by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Sandpiper (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2010
340 pages

Franny Flanders is having bad karma: her parents are newly divorced, her kid brothers fight all the time, her friends belong to different cliques and she has to walk the minefield at school to avoid angering either clique, and to top it all off, her hippie grandmother has moved in with them and is practicing white magic, yoga, and zen Buddhism. When not in a trace or drinking yak butter tea, Granny is communicating with unknown spirits like the time she came home from Africa and brought back an angry presence who tore up the back yard. Franny is mortified and cannot bear her grandmother meeting any of her friends.

When Franny uses magic from a mysterious box in Granny's closet, things start to unravel in a very bad way. Middle school has never been funnier. Franny is a typical middle school girl trying to fit in and make all her friends get along, so what's wrong with using a little magic here and there?

It's called the Butterfly Effect and it states that if one little thing happens in the universe like the flutter of a butterfly's wings or a panda turning over in his den, it can trigger a ton of reactions that change the universe forever.

Franny is going to need her granny's help to sort out this chaos. The clique system goes awry and Franny has her first grown-up dance.

A totally charming, fun read for girls; appropriate for grades 6-9.

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tween Pick

Nature Girl
Nature Girl
by Jane Kelley
Random House, 2010
236 pages

What to read when a girl is too young for Twilight and other YA chick lit? This is novel is a great find! Excellent for the tween set grades 4-7. Megan is stuck in Vermont MILES from civilization with her artsy back-to-the-earth parents and annoying older sister without t.v., Internet, or cell phones. They are supposed to be getting in touch with nature and having artistic time each morning, but Megan just misses civilization and her best friend Lucy. She longs for New York City and crowds.

After getting lost on the Appalacian Trail with only her mother's fluffy little dog Arp for company, city girl Megan decides she might as well hike into the next state and try to find Lucy. After spending several nights in the woods and putting up with hunger, fear, and the cold, Megan decides maybe nature isn't so bad after all.

Megan is sarcastic and fun and not at all a woodsy girl or the outdoor type which is what makes the book humorous. Tween girls will like this one. Not to be missed.

Highly, highly recommended grades 4-7.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for my library. I received no monetary compensation for this review.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

YA Paranormal Pick

Tyger Tyger: A Goblin Wars Book
Tyger Tyger (A Goblin Wars Book)
by Kersten Hamilton
Clarion Books, 2010
308 pages

Everything was going as planned in Teagan Wylltson's life--she has a dream job at the zoo as part of the primate research team working with Cindy, the zoo's chimp who communicates with Teagan using sign language. Looking forward to college and a great scholarship, Teagan has no time for a boyfriend or any problems in her life. Everything is great until Finn Mac Cumhaill arrives on her doorstep.

Finn is loosely related to Teagan and brings with him all kinds of Irish legends. Goblins, shapeshifters, and shadow creatures begin to arrive at the Wylltson's house. Lucky for Teagan, Finn is the next Mac Camhaill to fight Goblinkind.

This novel is full of Irish legends of goblins, shapeshifters and cat-sidhe. Although goblins may not be a sexy as vampires, they are scary and devious. Hamilton introduces readers to new beings in the paranormal genre. Readers who enjoy a good paranormal read like Shiver or The Forest of Hands and Teeth are likely to enjoy Tyger Tyger, and Finn is just as dreamy-licious as Edward (Twilight).

Girls especially will like the characters of Finn and Teagan.
Recommended grades 7-up. Mild language.

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Middle School Pick


by Dotti Enderle
Calkins Creek, 2010
142 pages

Historical fiction at its best, this novel delivers the story of drought stricken Texas in 1883. Jesse lives on a small farm with his older brother Ethan and his mom and dad. Life is tough, but the boys don't complain--it's how things are back then--work all day and go to bed dog tired every night. Crops are dying and it's tough keeping enough water for the stock and the family. Everyone is praying for a good rain.

Then when it can't get any worse, wirecutters cut barbed wire fences and use water on private land to water their cattle. Jesse's family wages war against the wirecutters. Every drop of water is precious, and the thieves need to be caught.

Ethan gets in trouble with a gambling debt and steals from the family's savings. He is disowned and kicked out of the family home. A mysterious drifter shows up and gets a job on the farm, but Jesse is suspicious of his intentions--and rightly so.

Enderle has an ear for Texas dialect and her characters come to life through dialog. Jesses says, " That devil sun..."; Ethan says, "Think those scoundrels will come back tonight?"

Quick reading. Reluctant readers will probably have no trouble with this book. Cover has appeal for young readers and Jesse will be a character they like.

Recommended grades 5-8.

FTC Disclaimer: I got this book from another librarian who received it from the publisher. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dystopian Fiction Pick

Incarceron (Incarceron, Book 1)

by Catherine Fisher
Dial Books, 2010 (orginally published in Britain in 2007)
442 pages

Provocative, compelling, thrilling, dark, dangerous, gritty, and disturbing. This is a book that I dreamt about for a week after reading it. Not a novel that one will soon forget. Although it takes about thirty pages to set up, from there on, the reader will be enveloped in a fantasy world gone wrong. Creatures beyond description haunt Incarceron's walls.

The setting acts as a character in this dystopian fantasy. Incarceron is a prison that was set up to house the worst of all society--it has been sealed up for centuries and has evolved into a living, breathing, thinking entity. Like Hal, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the prison takes over. It sees all and knows all. No one has ever escaped except one man; one man who has become a legend, a myth, and a fairy tale. Only Sapphique has escaped and knows the way.

Finn is not like the other prisoners; he remembers Outside. He is sworn to his oath brother Keiro and is tied to Gildas, a Sapienti who seeks the Outside. Because Finn sees visions, he is known as a starseer. He even has dreams of Sapphique leading him from Incarceron.

The warden of Incarceron holds the fate of the prison, and his daughter Claudia will marry and become Queen of the realm. That is, until she finds a key that unlocks Incarceron. Claudia and Finn are able to communicate through this key.

On the Outside, life seems perfect, and it is except that there is no freedom. "We are chained hand and foot...enslaved to a static, empty world where men and women can't read, where scientific advances of the ages are the preserve of the rich, where artists and poets are doomed to endless repititions and sterile reworkings of past masterpieces. Nothing is new. New does not exist. Nothing changes, nothing grows, evolves, develops. Time has stopped. Progress is forbidden." (Incarceron, p. 243)

Once Incarceron is threatened, the realm will tremble.

Book Two: Sapphique due out December 2010.

Highly, highly recommended grades 8-up. May not be suitable for younger readers due to violence. No sex, no language.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for my library. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this review.

Friday, October 22, 2010

High School Pick


by Mindi Scott
Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), 2010
315 pages

Seth McCoy has an abundance of problems: a mother who isn't at all a mother or authority figure, a brother full of anger, bandmembers who argue all the time, and a ton of guilt and self-hatred for letting his best friend die last summer. Not only that, he's mad at childhood friend Kendall and he's trying to win the favor of a new girl Rosetta who has troubles of her own.

It's amazing how close the edge can be in a freefall. Seth's brother Jared feels betrayed when Seth quits the band in favor of school. Seth finally decides to straighten up and fly right, returning to school and taking extra classes in order to graduate on time. He confronts his own stage fright and joins a new band. Rosetta and Kendall help him see that it was not his fault that Isaac died. Able to grieve and move on, Seth is a victor.

A coming of age novel for the 21st century. Dirty, gripping, and raw, but finally equally uplifting and soaring. Mindi Scott scores with this novel.

Highly recommended grades 9-12.
Not for middle school readers: sex, violence, drugs, alcohol, parties, and language

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher but did not receive any financial compensation for my review of blogpost.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Realistic Fiction

Angela 1
by David A. Bedford
Eloquent Books, 2009.
188 pages.

Angela moves to a new town with her mother and sister after her parents' divorce. Although school is exciting and Angela has no trouble making friends, things aren't as pleasant as they sound. Her history teacher is making waves with some citizens who don't like his teaching methods--they prefer that teachers not have an opinion.

Angela and her friends uncover some suspicious activities being covered up by her principal, too. What happens when teen-agers fight the good fight? Will adults and authorities believe them?

This first novel in a series of three introduces Angela and her friends as activists and moral teens, trying to do the right thing. There is quite a lot going on in this novel; I suspect the follow-up novels will help clarify a few things.

The cover art and style of the book seem quite off-putting to the teen market and the price ($25.50) is steep for many teen buyers and certainly libraries.

Ages 13-up due to "adult" crimes like corruption, mis-use of funds, slander--terms that younger students are not usually familiar with.

FTC Required Disclosure: The author sent me a copy of his book to review. I received no monetary compensation for this review. I would recommend this book more whole-heartedly if it were packaged for the mass-market with a new cover and a better, more affordable, price. In its current format the book looks like a high school reader produced by a textbook company.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Curse of Deadman's Forest

The Curse of Deadman's Forest (Oracles of Delphi Keep)The Curse of Dead Man’s Forest (book 2, Oracles of Delphi Keep)
By Victoria Laurie
Delacorte Press, 2010
423 pages.

As the forces of evil continue to build, Ian Wigby and his sister Theo try to fulfill the 3,000 year old prophecy that they can save the humanity with the help of four other magically gifted children yet to be revealed. The third child is called the healer and can only be found if the children enter the portal—a time travel portal near their home in Dover, England. But, the stakes are high—the prophecy foretells of Ian’s death if he enters the portal again. The children are sure they can’t stay in Dover and wait for evil forces to find them, but they can’t enter the portal and risk Ian’s death either.

A magic sundial found in the second box reveals the way to solve each riddle.

This series is sure to delight readers of all ages. Anyone who liked Harry Potter, Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief series, and A Series of Unfortunate Events is likely to love this book. Part magic, part Greek mythology, part adventure, this novel sets a break-neck pace for page turners. Suspenseful and satisfying.

Highly recommended ages 10-and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher along with book one. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review or blog posting.

YA Crime Thriller

The Interrogation of Gabriel JamesThe Interrogation of Gabriel James
By Charlie Price
Farrar Straus Giroux (fsgteen), 2010
168 pages

Gabriel James is just trying to get on with his life—but two murders and two funerals have the police questioning him. Gabriel knows all the players, and the police want to know what he knows or suspects. Told through a series of interview questions and flashbacks, Gabriel reveals the truth.

How much blame does Gabriel have in what happened? Did his actions cause the murders? The closer he comes to the truth, the more secrets are revealed about his mother’s dark past and his own father.

Sometimes the past is best buried forever. A compelling read, high-paced drama, and each action gets a severe consequence—sometimes more severe than Gabriel can deal with.

Teens who like realistic fiction and police and crime novels are likely to enjoy this one.

Recommended grades 9-up.
Some mature subjects, violence, sexual situations.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this copy from the publisher and did not receive any monetary compensation for my review or blog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best New Series

Oracles of Delphi Keep

Oracles of Delphi Keep
Victoria Laurie
Delacorte Press, 2009
549 pages

The first in a series of books by a debut author is a magical story of two orphans, a castle and orphanage, an English earl, and the white cliffs of Dover. But it’s much more than that, part adventure, part magical tale, it reminds readers of A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Lightning Thief series (Riordan) with a bit of Harry Potter magic thrown in.
A baby arrives on a dark and stormy night in 1930, carried by a mysterious horseman, and Ian is entrusted to be her older sibling and look after her.

Ian loves adventure and fancies himself a great explorer someday. He dreams of romantic places and amazing discoveries. One day he and Theo are exploring among the cliffs of Dover near the Keep, when Ian discovers a fantastic black box. He unearths it and takes it back to the Keep to try and open it. The box is decorated with strange markings but try as he might, Ian cannot open it.

Ian and Theo uncover a 3,000 year old prophecy and are astonished that their names are written down. They have been called upon to save the world from forces that will be called together to destroy humankind.

Readers who enjoyed Riordan’s The Lightning Thief and the Harry Potter series will love this novel. Rollicking great fun and a real page turner. ‘

Highly, highly recommended. Ages 10 and up.

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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sci-Fi Thriller

The Gardener
The Gardener
by S.A. Bodeen
R.R. Donnelley and Sons Company, 2010.
232 pages

Following close on the heels of her runaway YA hit novel The Compound, S.A. Bodeen has managed to do it again! She continues to write a taut sci-fi thriller that has technology, genetics, medical ethics, moral issues, and a great story. This page-turner will keep even the most reluctant reader interested. This is a must-read--and would make a great Hollywood movie.

Mason knows there are secrets his mother is keeping from him, but he has no idea how complex the secrets are until the reality explodes in his face. After an accidental encounter with a patient at his mother's workplace, Mason finds himself rescuing the strangely beautiful girl--a girl with no memory and no past. As he gets deeper into the mystery, serious doubts about his own mother's past, including her Master's degree from Duke and her past employment with a large laboratory TroDyn, complicate their own safety.

What Mason finds is unbelievable and will change his life forever. What would you do to save someone?

Highly recommended for all YA collections grades 7 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my middle school library. I received no monetary compensation for this review.