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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.