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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fantasy Pick: The Wizard of Dark Street

The Wizard of Dark Street
by Shawn Thomas Odyssey
346 pages

See videos here

Magical, mysterious, and delighful, The Wizard of Dark Street is a captivating read. For those readers who enjoyed Harry Potter and other wizarding books, Oona Crate is an appealing new wizard--but one who doesn't want to use magic. Oona, you see, would give it all up to be a detective and use her brains, her powers of deduction (nod to Sherlock Holmes), and clues to solve mysteries. Her uncle, the current Wizard of Dark Street, finally prints an ad in The New York Times for a new apprentice, since it appears his neice will never be able to take over his role.

Dark Street is a magical world the reader will fall in love with. A world just inside New York City yet invisible to most non-magical folk. The gates to the street only open for one minute each night at the stroke of midnight. Most children are fast asleep in their beds at that hour, and most adults would miss that minute. Even if they thought they saw something out of the corner of their eye, upon a second glance perhaps the gate would already close, and they'd think their eyes had played tricks on them.

Dark Street has always existed, "In one form or another it had always been there, a bridge between the fantastic and the ordinary, between magic and reason, between the Land of the Fay and the city that never sleeps."

Oona makes it her business to discover who stole all the designer dresses from Madame Iree's dress shop. The hopelessly bungling police detective Inspector White is laughable, and he sure doesn't want a little girl upstaging him, even if she is the neice of the reigning Wizard.

When her own uncle goes missing, Oona uses her wits and the help of her magical pet raven Deacon, an enchanted know-it-all who holds encyclopedic information about the history of the enchanted world and all its inhabitants, to solve the mystery.

Mystery fans and fans of magic will love the fantastic world of Dark Street. Strange characters abound along with skullduggery. The beautiful cover art will draw readers in, and the author's website is fantastic! check it out here

Recommended grades 5-up. Good readers grade 4 may want to give it a try.

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

Book Giveaway: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

I have 5 copies of this fantastic new MUST READ up for grabs! Recommended grades 6-up; good readers grade 4 and 5 may want to tackle this fantastic read! Well-written and imaginative. See my review here

Simply post a comment here. Be sure and include your email contact so I can email you should you win. Also, I would like to know your city and state just to see who's out there! Contest opens NOW, November 30 and closes Dec. 15 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen at random by randomizer. I will email winners on December 15. You will have 48 hours to respond to my email. If I do not hear from you within 48 hours, I must give the copy to the next person chosen by randomizer.

Start posting now, and good luck!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chick Pick: Paradise

by Jill S. Alexander
Feiwel and Friends (MacMillan)
248 pages

This is the second novel for Jill S. Alexander. Her first, The Sweetheart of Prosper County, was a 2010 Texas Lone Star title. Her refreshing characters, witty dialog, strange and quirky surroundings, small town angst, Texas-isms, and memorable details make Paradise a great southern gothic read.

Paisley is the youngest daughter of Texas-born-and-bred-and-damn-proud-of-it mother Diane Tillery, a wannabe Martha Stewart with an attitude as big as the state of Texas itself. Diane has big plans for daughters Paisley and older sister Lacey--no small town marriages for them, no sir. These girls are going somewhere! They won't be stuck in the middle of nowhere married to some redneck cowboy loser.

The girls, of course, have no intention of following Mother's careful planning. Lacey wants to go to beauty school and get a business degree to help her manage her own salon. Paisley, in true, spunky cowgirl Texas fashion, is the drummer for a country rock band. She is weeks away from hitting the big time at the Texapalooza festival in Austin where all the bands play and some even get "discovered" by talent agents from Nashville, L.A., and New York.

Enter Gabe. He's new to town from Paradise, Texas, and answers the band's ad for a singer. Not only does he sing, he plays a mean accordian--yep, the old-timey accordian but with a hep-cat attitude and mean cowboy rocker finesse. Paisley is instantly smitten. Too bad she never knows that Cal, the guitarist, is infatuated with her. Cal writes song lyrics--included in the book--about being in love with Paisley and the heartache he feels when she latches onto Gabe--now known as Paradise to all the band members.

Uncle L.V. flies a couple of small planes, and the band uses his hangar for band practice. I truly expected him to be a drug runner--he seemed silent, brooding, and plotting, but he never turned out to be the drug kingpin I thought he would be.

Lacey and Paisley sneak around and their father helps cover for them. At Texapalooza, the band blows the doors off the competition and stars are born. The surprise ending was unexpected and poignant.

Girls will love Paisley and her cowgirl swagger and likely be enthralled by Paradise with his dark good looks and rock star demeanor.

The cover left a lot to be desired. The cover art is ho-hum at best, and the back cover has two quotes about the earlier book--The Sweetheart of Prosper County--but no information about Paradise. The publishing company dropped the ball on packaging this gem of a story. Girls will not likely choose this book themselves--due to the cover and back cover quotes. They will miss out if they pass this one up.

Recommended grades 9-up. Sexual innuendo, mature situations, lying, sneaking around, alcohol, partying, some good old boy situations--ya'll know what I'm talking about, wink.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chick Pick: The Pledge--A Must-Read

The Pledge
by Kimberly Dertin
Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
323 pages

Part fairy tale, part romance, part paranormal, The Pledge is well-written, satisfying, and sensational! Words simply cannot do this remarkable novel justice! I was hooked from the first words of the prologue.

In a world where the class lines are clearly enforced--the lower classes speak one language, the upper class another, the royalty--a language only they can understand, but Charlaina can understand and speak them all. She must keep it a secret; however, for the safety of her family and herself. She must avert her eyes and show no sign she understands the bullying of the richer Counsel students--her own merchant class is subservient and poor. They are allowed to attend a different school only because they must read and write in order to do business.

The Queen has control--but her grip is slipping. There is talk every day of rebel forces fighting and a revolutionary band of forces forming to topple the Queen's stifling regime. They want people to be free--free to speak whatever language they wish, free to attend school, free to learn and grow and to achieve higher class status. The Queen is ancient and her magic is growing weaker. She needs a younger pureblood to inhabit. She would be able to live on in a younger body, but there is no one. Or is there?

Charlie meets Max, a dangerous and dark bad boy, who causes her to have strange feelings. The tension between them is palpable; girls will love the seductive tension. When Charlie is taken "prisoner" by the rebels, she grows closer to Alex, their leader. She is confused how Max and Alex know each other. Then, her parents are taken to the castle by the Queen's forces and Charlie learns that Aron, her childhood friend, has been tortured at the castle and hangs on for dear life.

Alex, Max, and Charlie join forces to meet the Queen and save her parents and Aron. The Queen has other ideas entirely. Will Charlie's "gift" be enough to save her? Can the Queen use her magic one last time?

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. Max is a great new sexy addition to ya romantic lit--Edward and Jacob, you are so over! Teens will love the enticing cover and the quote on the back cover from Carrie Ryan (author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth) is reason enough to give this book a try.

There is a mention near the end that Charlie and Max are now sleeping together but no mention of sex. No language. If you have The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Hunger Games, and Twilight, this novel is a good addition to your collection.

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Giveaway: Coming Soon! Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Coming Soon! Book Giveaway Opens November 30-December 15. I have 5 copies of this magical novel up for grabs! Keep posted here. I will post the giveaway November 30. After that, you can enter for a chance at a copy of this fabulous books. Read my review here

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Girl Pick: The Survival Kit

The Survival Kit
by Donna Freitas
Frances Foster Books (Farrar Straus Giroux)
351 pages

Poignant, deeply moving, and amazing, The Survival Kit will tug at your heartstrings. Fans of Sarah Dessen books will relish this captivating novel about grief, loss, and love.

It is the day of Rose's mother's funeral, and it is all Rose can do to keep it together. She finally retreats to her mother's closet just to feel close to her again, to smell her perfume on her clothes, to see familiar dresses and hold her soft sweaters. It's then that Rose sees the brown paper bag and the dress made of night, her mother's favorite dress sprinkled with sparkling stars that she would wear to sit in the garden on beautiful summer nights. Rose lifts the bag down and sees it's one of her mother's survival kits but this one is "Rose's Survival Kit". Her mother, in her final days, has given Rose one last gift.

The bag contains: an IPod, a picture of peonies, a crystal heart, a paper star, a box of crayons, and a handmade kite. Rose doesn't open the bag right away; she just can't. She is grieving and quits the cheerleading team. She distances herself from her boyfriend of two years, popular football star Chris. They used to be THE couple, but she can't stand it when he touches her now. She doesn't want closeness. Rose can't listen to music anymore. Each song reminds her of her mother. She won't hang around with her old friends and she won't attend parties.

Rose is not the only one grieving. Rose's father is having a hard time, too. When he's not weeping, he's drinking. Rose's brother Jim is away at college and comes home only for the holidays. As Rose gets more and more distant, she finally opens the survival kit. The first thing she sees is the small kite--the kite is a symbol for letting go but just keeping close enough, too. Rose's mother used to hand out Kindergarten Survival Kits--not to the kids--to the kids' parents. So many of the parents were terrified of letting go of the children--the kite helped them see that their kids could fly high but always come home.

Rose's best friend Krupa gets her to finally agree to attend a hockey game--well, not the whole hockey game, just until after Krupa performs the national anthem, and then Krupa and Rose agree to leave. Rose accompanies her and sees some of the cheerleaders in the stands. She talks to them and is soon enjoying the game. She is having a good time for the first time in months. Will is the star of the team; he is a boy who cuts their lawn and carefully tends to her mother's manicured garden. She has never really spoken to Will--he's never noticed her either as far as she knows. Will's father died of cancer two years ago. Now they have something in common--the loss of a parent to cancer.

Can the loss of a beloved parent ever be overcome? Can sharing a loss lead to friendship--or maybe love?

Rose opens the survival kit and sees the picture of peonies. She asks Will to help her plant some peonies in her mother's garden. Come spring, there will be a bed of peonies to greet them.

As Rose begins healing and surviving, her father has a car accident and ends up in the hospital. She has to face going back to the place with all those bad memories. She asks Will for a ride to the hospital, but he appears to be in shock. He can't move. Why won't he offer her a ride?

I loved the idea of a survival kit. There would be many kinds--a survival kit for the first day of high school, the first day of college, moving into a new home, the first baby, the first job, moving away from home, going on a big trip, any big life experience could be cushioned by a survival kit.

If there is one thing I didn't like about the book--the cover art is not appealing--I would have liked a little about the book on the back cover as well. The book is so well-written with the beautiful, yet tortured, characters of Rose and Will that the cover just doesn't do it any justice at all. Do not judge this book by its cover--the story is amazing--ignore the cover.

Highly recommended grades 9-up and readers who love Sarah Dessen. Mature situations, alcoholism, grief, death, sex.

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Paranormal Pick: Bloodlines

by Richelle Mead
RazorBill (Penguin)
432 pages

Read the first four chapters and see the book trailer here

First in the Bloodlines series, this spin-off of The Vampire Academy is sure to be a hit with teens. If you haven't read the Vampire Academy books, get started right away. Although you can still read Bloodlines without reading the previous series, you may not understand the back story of Rose and Sydney.

Sydney is a human teenager who has been raised to be an alchemist, a group of humans who practice magic and alchemy to protect the human world and vampires who live in the human world. Humans must never learn that vampires live freely among them, and the alchemists protect their secrets.

When Sydney is rudely awakened and dragged from her bed, she knows something terrible has happened. She learns that she has been chosen to travel to California and pretend to be Jill Dragomir's sister, keeping Jill, younger sister of the vampire Queen, safe from both Moroi and Strigoi, those who would kill her. Sydney and Jill enter Amberwood Prep, a private boarding school in California.

Sydney bears the mark of the alchemists--a golden tattoo that gives her healing and magic powers. When students at Amberwood Prep start turning up with strange tattoos of their own, Sydney and Adrian investigate. It seems that they have more to fear than their own kind, there's a band of vampire hunters infiltrating the town and they seem to have Amberwood Prep on their minds. Noone is safe anymore.

It's easy for the reader to lose herself in the world of vampires and alchemists. Sydney is uptight and tight-lipped, controlling and scientific, cautious and quiet, but there's also a dangerous side to her that is appealing. Adrian is a great vampire party boy who scores high in the bad boy category and will keep girls reading.

Recommended for paranormal readers and those who loved The Vampire Academy books. The publisher says ages 12 and up, but I would caution younger readers.

Grades 9-up and mature younger readers. Violence, some sexual innuendo.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Funny Pick: Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 6)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
by Jeff Kinney
217 pages
Available everywhere November 15, 2011

Creative, amusing, silly, and just plain fun, Jeff Kinney's latest book in the series is a must-have. Just in time for Christmas, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever will delight any reader no matter what age. Charles Schultz did it with Charlie Brown and Peanuts, now Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid, aka Greg Heffley, and his shenanigans have taken over the reading market. This series is not just for children or boys, it is a gem with enjoyable characters, humorous situations, comical illustrations, and a lot of heart. The wimpy kid appeals to the wimpy kid in all of us.

Every kid has tried to figure out what gifts he/she is getting for Christmas, even unwrapping and rewrapping his own gifts, but probably none have gone to the trouble that Greg does. He knows one of his gifts is the video game he's been wanting to play, so he carefully extracts the disc replacing it with a hard rock cd from his brother Rodrick. He forgets to put it back and come Christmas morning, the cd rolls out of the case. Greg's mom is upset because the store sold her a Headless Asylum cd instead of a game fit for children. Greg's mom takes the cd back and complains of the "inappropriate content" being sold to minors. Of course, Greg does not admit that he switched the discs.

Kinney has his eyes and ears on the school pulse, too. Bullying and anti-bullying programs are getting a lot of attention in schools. When Greg's school holds a contest for the best anti-bullying slogan, two groups of girls come to physical blows over which group has the best anti-bullying slogan. If that's not hilariously ironic, nothing is!

Greg isn't the only one in the family who does sneaky things. His mother gives him an autographed copy of a ya novel. When Greg takes it to the comics books dealer, the dealer tells him the signature is forged. It seems Mom didn't want to stand in line for three hours, so she just signed the author's name herself and passed it off as autographed by the author.

The wimpy kid is not going anywhere. He lives on in all of us, and Kinney has found a way of making us laugh at ourselves and remember all the nutty things we did as kids. Some of us will never outgrow wimpy kid, and that's a good thing.

Highly, highly recommended for everyone of all ages--especially those with a sense of humor.

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

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Giveaway: Dystopian Romance: Eve

I have ONE, yes only one, SIGNED copy to give away of this exciting new paranormal romance.
See my review of Eve here

Post a comment here. Include your email contact and your city and state. The winner will be chosen at random by randomizer. The winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond. Anna Carey will sign and ship the winner her/his copy. Deadline is Friday, November 18 at noon MST!
Hurry and post! Good luck! Pamela

Book Giveaway: Dark Inside

I have 5 copies of this exciting new thriller to give away! See my review of Dark Inside here.

Exciting zombie thriller!
Post a comment. Include your email address and city and state. Winners will be notified by email. If you are a winner, you will have 48 hours to respond to my email with your full name and mailing address. Books will ship from New York City courtesy of Simon & Schuster. Winners picked by randomizer.

Deadline for posts is November 30, 2011.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You Heard It Here First: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever

Watch the book trailer here

My review will post on November 15 at 12:01 a.m. Watch for my review! It's gonna be great!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever (book six)
Available everywhere 11/15/11

Magical Pick: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes--A Must-Read

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
by Jonathan Auxier
400 pages

Visit The Scop, the author's website

Beguiling, mesmerizing, totally transporting, and inventive, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is a quick-paced, intelligent novel in the capable hands of a master storyteller. Auxier deftly blends fantasy and obscure and strange words from bygone days with a substantial plot.

Peter Nimble is a ten-year old blind orphan raised to be a master thief and pick-pocket. He happens upon a traveling haberdasher (hat salesman) and steals a box which he later discovers holds three pairs of magical eyes. When he puts on the first pair, he is transported to another world entirely where he learns his quest: to rescue a long vanished kingdom from a horrible, evil king who just so happens to be an imposter to the throne. With his "enchanted cat-horse-man creature" sidekick, Peter ventures off on his journey.

From the fantastic cover to the imaginative chapter titles, this novel shows a writing finesse not seen since the Harry Potter series. From utter absurdities to the well-imagined characters, this novel gives a wink and a nod to Charles Dickens. Auxier is a true scop (the title of his website)--a scop is a storyteller or minstrel.

Readers who loved Harry Potter are in for a real treat. Peter Nimble is a feast for the eyes and imagination sure to have readers chuckling to themselves.

Highly, highly recommended ages 10-up. Publisher recommends ages 10-up, but the younger readers may have some trouble unless they are accomplished readers.

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

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thrilling Pick: Trash

by Andy Mulligan
David Fickling Books
240 pages

Soon to be a thrilling movie!

Set in the future a few years from now, two dumpsite boys find a treasure in the mountains of garbage they sift through on a daily basis. Raphael and and Gardo live in severe poverty, part of the dump itself. They rarely have enough to eat, they live in large families with four or five children to a bed, they go to school only once in a while, and disease and sickness surround them. The government is corrupt and the police are brutal and on the take.

When what seems like the entire police force shows up at the dump, Raphael knows he did the right thing by hiding his treasure. They offer a huge reward, and he realizes that there is more to what he found than just a note, a key, a map, and some money. The two boys seek out Rat, another dumpsite boy who lives under a pile deep in the garbage, and he helps them with the mystery.

The boys realize that the man whose wallet they found is dead--no doubt murdered by the police. Why do the police want his wallet so badly? Who was this man? It is said he stole millions of dollars from the Senator. Is that why the police will stop at nothing to find out who found the wallet? What does the key open? What about the cryptic letter and mysterious map?

Raphael is taken in, questioned, beaten, and finally released when the police can't "break" him. Three uneducated boys will take on the entire corrupt system. They enlist the help of a British social worker and the priest who runs their school. Gardo visits a prisoner who tells them about a secret Bible code. The boys--remember uneducated boys---break the code and beat the system.

The fast-paced plot is told in chapters by each boy, the social worker, the priest, and a gravestone maker. This thrilling page turner will likely dominate the box office.

Recommended grade 7-up. No sex, some violence, police brutality, murder.

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

Book Club & Foodie Pick: 52 Loaves

52 Loaves
by William Alexander
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
339 pages with recipes and bibliography

Laugh out loud funny, seriously entertaining, almost overly informative--I did not know anything about threshing wheat until William Alexander explained it pain-stakingly for me--this food-for-thought journey of one introspective, insanely driven, nearly crazy man to bake the "perfect" loaf of bread sustains the reader. I was sorry when his journey ended and I turned the last page.

When Alexander tastes the perfect bread in a restaurant, he sets out to find how to bake the perfect loaf from scratch--I do mean scratch--he wants to plant his own seeds, harvest his own wheat, make his own flour, build his own bread oven--he wants to "return to the earth"--this is a serious labor.

He decides to tweak the "perfect" recipe and does a mountain of research, buying the best books about bread and seeking out bakers who live on the east coast. He even enters a bread contest in New York. Still not satisfied, he travels to Paris and enrolls in the hoity-toity French school Ecole Ritz Escoffier. He ventures to Morroco where he almost dies and ends up in a monastery in Normandy where he instructs monks to use their centuries old oven to begin baking the monastery's bread.

Each chapter tells that week's successes and mostly--failures. To sum up, Alexander tells the reader what he's learned in his year-long experiment:

"--Bread in a healthy diet doesn't make you fat.
--Too much bread, washed down with wine, does.
...Do not untake any project that promises it can be completed in a week-end.
--Do not drink the water in Morroco. Or the tea, or the coffee. In fact, you might think about skipping Morroco altogether. I hear Barbados is nice this time of year.
--Trust strangers. Well, some. Only those you can trust.
--Choose one thing you care about and resolve to do it well.
--Whether you succeed or not, you will be the better for the effort.
--Bread is life." (from the novel)

I could almost smell the aroma of baking bread as Alexander described each week's offering. Well-written prose almost sings off the pages. Alexander has the knack of mixing his memoirs with hysterical, often biting, humor that targets mostly himself. This is a great Christmas gift for book lovers who also happen to love food or for that "closet" wanna-be baker.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up and serious food junkies. This is a great book club pick for all kinds of book clubs.

Only one mature situation--Alexander gives up sex with his wife because he's worried about timing the yeast rising in his latest batch of dough.

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Paranormal Pick: The Mephisto Covenant & Book Giveaway!

The Mephisto Covenant (win a free copy here)
by Trinity Faegen
438 pages

Sexy, smoldering, scintillating, and smoking hot, The Mephisto Covenant is the new, beguiling, solid page turner for teens who eat up paranormal romance. The cover art is as dynamic as it is beautifully mesmerizing, and the quote from P.C. Cast says it all, "A timeless love story with unique mythology that captivates the imagination. I loved it."

From the first hundred pages, readers will be captivated by the complex plot rife with mythology, theology based fiction, and a story that unfolds quickly. Sasha grieves for her murdered father and so badly wants answers about his death she is willing to do anything, well, almost anything. When she agrees to meet in an abandoned warehouse with a creepy group of school kids, she hears of a leader named Eryx who can find answers for her if she'll agree to be one of his followers and call herself a Raven. Sasha realizes the crazy cult behavior too late and finds herself in real danger. The kids turn on her and pelt her with stones; she falls down and is nearly killed if it weren't for a tall, dark and handsome stranger. He stops time--somehow--and heals her wounds. Then Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome erases her memory and Sasha wakes up to find herself alone in the warehouse with no injuries and no memories of the fateful events.

When she arrives home, her mother is packing. Sasha learns that her father and mother aren't who she thinks they are. Sasha's father was a CIA agent in Europe when he was murdered. Her mother is a kind of double agent working with America, but now she is being deported since her husband died. Sasha must go and live with her uncle and her evil, mean-spirited aunt in Telluride, Colorado--which just so happens to be home of Jax (Ajax--Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome himself) and his band of brothers from Hell. The funniest line Jax himself says, "We don't live in Hell. We live in Colorado."

Sasha meets him again, of course, and realizes she remembers him. Her memory is coming back and she knows he was there that night in the warehouse and that he saved her life. As she learns more about him, she realizes that she is Anabo, a daughter of Eve through Aurora, destined to save humanity. Jax, on the other hand, is Mephisto, a son of Hell. If Jax can find Anabo, they can unite and have children that will save the earth from the malevolent Eryx--the evil son of Satan. It is all very complicated and sometimes hard to follow--yet darkly fascinating.

Sasha is fierce and daring though sometimes naive. Jax is captivating, protective, sweet and I found myself liking the son of Hell more than I thought I could; he is hard to hate. This is an imaginative and enticing tale of sinful romance that girls will find hard to put down. Even at over 400 pages, the book is a quick read with an action-packed plot.

Lustful sex, seductive scenes, lots of trashy talk, not for younger girls.
Recommended grades 10-up mature readers. This isn't for tweens and Twi-hards.

Don't forget to enter the contest to win your free copy here

FTC required disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. The publisher will mail out copies of the book to the winners. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fun Pick: Just Your Average Princess

Just Your Average Princess
by Kristina Springer
Farrar Straus Giroux
197 pages

Just Your Average Princess is a delighful romp in America's heartland where small towns hold quirky festivals in which the whole town populace gathers to watch a parade complete with a coronation float and a princess who holds the title of Pumpkin Princess or Potato Princess or Sweet Pea Sweetheart.

amie Edwards dreams of the crown of Pumpkin Princess; after all, she has worked the past eight years alongside her parents at the Pumpkin Patch, her family's business. Not only do they sell pumpkins, there are hayrides and a petting zoo for the kids, a candy apple stand, a pumpkin chucker where you can see how far you can launch a pumpkin with a contraption Jamie's father created, a gift shop, and a pumpkin tower.

Jamie has been crushing over Danny for two years. He works at the Patch but barely notices her. He is nice enough but Jamie wants him to ask her out. It is not until her rich Hollywood Kardashian-wanna-be celebutante cousin arrives in town that the real fireworks start.

Milan is the pampered, bratty diva daughter of Hollywood royalty; both her mother and father a mega-stars in Hollywood, and their only daughter spends her time shopping on Rodeo Drive and complaining about everything and everyone else. Jamie thinks it's suspect that Milan arrives during the school year--doesn't she have to attend school in Beverly Hills? When her parents put Milan to work at the Patch, she parades around in barely there size one outfits and high heels. She does as little work as humanly possible and starts grabbing lunch with Danny.

Milan acts like a haughty queen around Jamie constantly belittling her and making her look bad. Jamie can't believe it--she has been nothing but nice and accomodating with Milan. Why is Milan so mean-spirited and snarky?

First her mom, then her co-workers, then her hot crush Danny, and finally her usually conservative and quiet dad falls under Milan's magical spell. Dad allows Milan to buy a fancy latte machine and serve pumpkin lattes to the tourists. Then he stocks a fancy pumpkin facial that Milan gushes about in the gift shop, but the last straw is when Milan enters the Pumpkin Princess contest. Jamie can't stand it--that crown is hers!

What can she do to grab the crown? How can she make Danny notice her long enough to ask her out? Why can't her parents treat her as nicely as they treat Milan? Is the whole town crazy? Jamie knows she has to work to win that coveted crown--and fast.

Fun, cute, quirky, and highly entertaining, Just Your Average Princess is a light read that teen girls will love. Girls who read and liked The Teashop Girls, The Cupcake Queen, The Sweetest Thing, and It's Raining Cupcakes will like this novel.

Highly recommended grades 7-up. No sex. Mean girls behavior--Milan. Mention of Milan making a sex tape but no details. Girls hear worse gossip on Entertainment Tonight than in this novel.

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

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Girl Pick: Past Perfect

Past Perfect
by Leila Sales
Simon Pulse
303 pages

Fun, quirky, and captivating Past Perfect is the latest from Leila Sales author of Mostly Mean Girls.

Chelsea has dreams of escaping her parents constant attentions and working with them in Essex Revolutionary War re-enactment village again this summer. She wants to work in the air-conditioned mall like a "normal" teen not dress in heavy, 10 pound dresses complete with petticoats and a mobcap (a weird droopy bonnet women used to wear) in the stifling summer humidity of Essex, Virginia. When her BFF Fiona convinces her to work in the village just one more summer, Chelsea gives in. She soon realizes that the only thing worse than wearing 10 pound dresses, enduring the summer heat, and working with her parents is working with her ex-boyfriend Ezra, the ONE who broke her heart.

Just across the street from the Revolutionary War village is yet another historical tourist attraction: the Civil War village. There is a heated battle between the summer hires each year for supremacy. The kids call it "war" and it involves mostly harmless and funny pranks, but when Chelsea's general is "wounded" and several of the Civil War's team is hospitalized, the war is really on! Chelsea is kidnapped by a boy on the other team, and she soon finds herself falling for him. This is treason! This is not acceptable!

The clever banter between Chelsea and her friend Fiona and Chelsea and hottie "enemy" Dan is charming. When Fiona wants to work in the village, Chelsea says, "Since she seemed to envision it as a constant Gone With the Wind experience, minus the death and destruction."

Chelsea switches "tribes" and soon finds herself without a "country." Later, Chelsea thinks over her dating relationship with ex-BF Ezra and realizes that he was the one who treated her poorly and she was guilty of allowing him to treat her so badly and she is finally ready to move on.

Brilliant teen dialog, a darling, spunky heroine, a quirky setting, and a hot guy will keep teen girls reading. Some kissing and light petting. No sex. Some talk about "doing it" and a couple of "bad" words.

Recommended grade 9-up because of light petting, language. It would probably be okay for grade 7-8 if you have other edgy titles.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chick Pick: The Poison Diaries: Nightshade

The Poison Diaries: Nightshade
by Maryrose Wood
Balzer + Brey (HarperCollins)
288 pages

available October 25, 2011
enter the world of Nightshade

Stunning, magical, and other-worldly, Nightshade envelops readers in its deadly atmosphere. I was immediately swept away and captivated by the character of Jessamine and the premise of the novel. Master storyteller Maryrose Wood weaves a believable tale of a boy who can communicate with all flora--plants, trees, and even weeds--his name is Weed, in fact. He studies with a noted plant expert in Northumberland during the reign of George II. The teacher has a few dark secrets: his passion is poisons and dark plants; in fact, he has even tested poisons on his own lovely wife and unborn child some years ago. He keeps a secret, evil, poison garden behind a locked gate.

His daughter Jessamine follows in his footsteps, learning all about plants that cure and plants that kill. She falls in love with Weed (book one, The Poison Diaries), who has run away from her in this installment. She longs for him and begs her father to tell her where he has gone.

Jessamine learns to hate her father, and once she realizes he is the one responsible for her mother's death, she wants revenge. She says:

"I am Jessamine Luxton. Poison ran in my veins before I was born. I know how to cure. And I know how to kill. I have tried for so long to be good, buth there is no need to fight my destiny anymore. I am my father's daughter, after all."

Once her evil deed is done, Jessamine must flee Northumberland. She takes passage on a stagecoach, trying to put as many miles between her and her crime. When some fellow passengers call her a witch, she must flee again. She learns to use her knowledge of poisons to make a living. Some people will pay handsomely for a poison to kill a spouse or business partner. As Jessamine slips into a life of crime, her mind is addled by opium. She still dreams of Weed and yearns for his touch. Another man is haunting her thoughts and overtaking her dreams; Oleander is the master puppeteer and encourages Jessmine to choose the dark side.

Weed in the meantime is searching for her. He hurries back to Northumberland and finds Thomas Luxton dead. He realizes that someone has poisoned him and suspects it was Jessamine. He follows her footsteps through Europe, but stops in Italy to learn more about poisons and their antidotes. Weed learns that King George himself is traveling to Italy and that some noblemen want him dead. Weed plans to attend the banquet for King George and prevent his death.

Will Weed find Jessamine in time? Can he steal her away from Oleander's evil clutches? Will Jessamine even know him through her drug haze?

Beautifully written, inspired storytelling, captivating characters, poetic prose, and magical settings make Nightshade a teen tour de force. Readers won't be able to wait to get their hands on book 3. I did not read book one and still enjoyed this book--book 2. There is enough back story for the reader to understand book 2 without reading book one.

The publishers say grade 7 and up. I must warn you that Jessamine is a fallen woman who sleeps around and does drugs--drugs that are legal at the time in Europe, but are now illegal in the U.S. She becomes a harlot and murderer. There is no sex but the savvy reader knows that Jessamine is not a "nice" girl. Even though Jessamine slips into a life of crime, readers will feel empathy for her and the love she has lost.

Watch the book trailer here

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