Powered By Blogger

Friday, April 27, 2012

High School Pick: Shadows (Book 2, The Ashes Trilogy)

Cover image not yet available

by Ilsa J. Bick
528 pages

Available September 25, 2012 (cover not yet available and date from Egmont's webpage)

Creepy, catastrophic, cutting, clever, and cool, Shadows delivers in the second book of the Ashes trilogy. In book one, Alex and Tom were separated, each trying to find one another and Alex was in for the fight of her life. Surrounded by a group of snarling and hungry Changed, she will have to use her strength and wiles to outwit them and escape. Her mind is working against her; sometimes she feels like someone else is in her head; something bad is happening and she wants it to stop. She begins to sense and feel and even smell the difference between each of the Changed. What does it mean if she can identify them by smell?

Tom hates leaving Grace and Abel, the couple who found him and nursed him back to health, but he knows staying at their farmhouse puts them in danger. Right before he's ready to take off, men come to the house searching for him. Bounty hunters will pay big money for a healthy man Tom's age. The last thing Grace is able to say is, "Run, Tom!" and he runs for his life using the ice sled from the barn.

He has to find Alex before it's too late. He knows she's somewhere in Michigan and he's got to get there without being captured by bounty hunters or attacked by the Changed.

The Changed are beginning to change. They seem to be able to communicate without speaking; Alex is sure of it. She notices how they seem to hunt together and how they can make eye contact and know what the other is going to do, but can they read her thoughts, too? She's afraid to know the answer. They are able to overpower her and capture her, but they don't kill her. Not right away...they seem to want her for something.

Peter is captured by an evil man named Finn who seems to be collecting both humans and Changed. He puts Peter in a cell next to young Davy, a Changed boy. Peter is horrified to see that Finn is "experimenting" with Davy. He wants to see if he can teach a Changed to learn human behaviors and mannerisms. What will happen in the future if Finn is successful and the Changed can imitate humans?

Being "saved" isn't exactly all it's cracked up to be. Alex has to watch in horror as one after another human prisoner is devoured by the pack. If it keeps going this way, she figures she only has a few more days to live.

Then the pack move miles away over frozen snow and ice to a large home. It is there that Alex learns the real identities of her captors. They are the children of Rule--sent away from the town when they changed and being "fed" by their parents and grandparents. As someone is exiled, they are sent out to the wilds to be hunted by the pack. Alex was as good as dead the moment Jess sent her off with that shotgun.

Tom takes a serious mistep. He should have known better than to trust the old couple. He almost pays for it with his life...

Tom is saved by another couple who know Alex and they know that he can help them fight Rule. Tom knows explosives and decides to help them explode the old mine where the Changed are holed up.

The pack is back on the move; Alex can't believe that they are going underground, literally.

Tom and Alex are on a crash course to disaster and who knows if they will survive. Will Tom be able to save Alex? Will Alex be able to escape the Changed? What is happening to her mind? Is she beginning to change? Can a few people fight Rule and win?

Well-written with a breakneck plot and non-stop action, this novel will have fans of Ashes thrilled and ready to grab book 3.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. Anyone who loves a zombie tale will "eat" this one right up. Bick continues to deliver to her "hordes" of zombie fans. Tom is a sexy, ex-military guy with serious swagger; Alex, his perfect counterpart, is a fierce female heroine with more guts and brains that any girl in fiction. Here's hoping they are re-united in book 3!

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chick Pick: The Girls of No Return

The Girls of No Return
by Erin Saldin
Arthur A Levine Books
352 pages

Deep, dark, disturbing, and dysfunctional, this story of friendships and secrets, knives and threats, wilderness and survival is totally engrossing and addictive.

Lida Wallace is being sent away by her parents "for her own good." Living at a boarding school in the middle of the wilderness in Idaho with other "disturbed" girls doesn't sound like much fun. They aren't allowed to bring a cell phone, a computer, an I-pad, or I-pod, oh, and no guns or ammo, no knives, no cigarettes, no drugs, no fireworks and no bows and arrows. Lida just wants to get it over with!

She meets her cabinmates and somehow gets through the first few days at Alice Marshall School. Enter runway model beautiful and exciting, exotic Gia Longchamps. The other girls are all enthralled by her very presence. Like an exotic hothouse bloom--Gia beguiles and seduces each of them--each of them except Boone who says to Gia, "Everything you do is a fascade, a performance."

Boone and Gia continue to hate each other building eventually to a reckoning. Lida will have to choose which girl to trust. Will she turn her back on Gia--Gia who is selfish and a liar--and a fake? Will she stick by Boone who tells it like it really is? Boone who is the most "real" person Lida has ever known?

The exciting climax will have readers racing through the last pages. The characters of Boone and Lida are spot on, and Gia is the perfect chameleon, beautiful user,and wickedly sadistic abuser of other people's hearts and minds.

The Girls of No Return is a great girl read. Anyone who loves a tragic story about problems that real girls face will love this book. The cover art is wonderfully fitting--a lone girl in a canoe looking out at a deserted lake--grayish tones fit the somber title and plot.

Recommended grades 9-up. Language, mature situations, dark behavior, sex.

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

Penzeys--the Spice Company With a Heart

On my recent trip to Houston for the Texas Library Association conference, I visited Penzeys (spice store) on W. 19th Street. We don't have a Penzeys where I live, so usually I order from their catalog by phone or online. Each year, when I attend conference in other Texas cities, I find a Penzeys location.

I knew what I was looking for since I had checked out the catalog before my trip: Pasta Sprinkle, Chili Pequin--very HOT and dangerous, French Thyme, Green Pepper, Red Pepper, Saffron, and their newest sensation: Raspberry Enlightenment. I left with two cute Penzeys bags.

For the flight home, I put the two bags in a larger carry-on tote so that no spice jars would get broken. At security, my bag was stopped at the xray. The TSA officer asked to check the contents of the bag. After pulling out each jar and bag, she came over to me and was very nice, saying," I'm sorry, Ma'am, everything is okay except this one."

My Raspberry Enlightenment! I had forgotten the fact that its texture is considered a liquid and not allowed on the airline. She said I could take it back downstairs and put it in my checked bags but it was too far and too much of a hassle. I told her just keep it and enjoy! Then, I found out that they have to throw everything into the trash! My beautiful, unopened Raspberry Enlightenment would end up in the trash bin!

When I returned home and settled in, I phoned Penzeys and retold my sad story of the TSA and my poor Raspberry Enlightenment. Penzeys sent a brand new jar with an added spice just for fun and overnighted it! All at no cost to me! If you love to cook or know someone who loves spices, visit Penzeys site.

Here's the two bottles Penzeys shipped to me

and the nice note from the customer rep who sent it right out to me!

It's nice to know that an American company still has a heart for its repeat customers. If you don't know about Penzeys, visit their site and ask for a catalog. I guarantee you'll be a customer, too!

Feed your soul,

Almost Overlooked: Hidden Gem: The Prince of Mist

The Prince of Mist
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Little Brown and Company
first published in Spanish 1993
2011 U.S. paperback edition
214 pages with Questions and Answers

I almost overlooked this little gem. Shopping at the Scholastic warehouse, I was drawn to the cover--the spooky figure coming out of the mist, the lonely lighthouse, the water beyond and the text on the cover, "A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret..." But what really made up my mind: when I saw the author was Carlos Ruiz Zafon--I was hooked. Zafon wrote my favorite book in the entire world--the mesmerizing The Shadow of the Wind--It is my #1 book of all time--so beautiful and poetic. I wish I read Spanish, so that I could enjoy his prose in his native tongue. The Shadow of the Wind is beautifully written in its English translation; it sings itself off the page; I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in Ruiz's native language.

The Prince of Mist is one of Zafon's earlier works when he was writing for children and young adults. The writing is just as beautiful as his adult prose. My favorite passage from the book is right before Roland falls asleep, he's remembering swimming with Alicia, "That night, Roland fell asleep in the arms of a vision that would stay with him for the rest of his life: Alicia, draped in moonlight, dipping her white skin into a sea of silver." Zafon, a masterful and gifted storyteller, writes prose that is poetic and enduring.

Max and his family move into a creepy old beachhouse near the shore far away from the winds of war (World War II). Mr. Carver is a watchmaker (shades of steampunk) and inventor who tinkers with anything mechanical. Max makes friends with an older boy Roland and soon Max, his older sister Alicia and Roland become beach buddies. Roland and Alicia become much more in a short time.

Weird noises and things that go bump in the night occur; Max finds a creepy, old, overgrown garden of circus statues. The ringleader is an evil grimacing clown that Max swears moves each time he looks away from it.

Roland and Max dive near the Orpheus, a wrecked ship, and Max swears he sees the clown underwater. He nearly drowns but manages to swims to shore. He tells Roland what he saw and Roland shares a secret: his grandfather is the only passenger to survive that shipwreck and now he's the lighthouse keeper.

Younger sister Irina falls down the stairs after having the fright of her life and she's rushed to the hospital by the ambulance with her parents. This leaves Max and Alicia alone in the creepy house with an evil presence.

As the mystery unfolds, the reader hears the tale of The Prince of Mist from Roland's grandfather who first met him as a boy. The evil being seems to follow his grandfather and the boys believe the Prince is about to make another appearance.

Any reader who loves a mystery, a shadowy and creepy setting, well-drawn characters, and a fabulous story will love The Prince of Mist.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No language. Only kissing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fairy Tale Gone Wrong: Kill Me Softly

Kill Me Softly
by Sarah Cross
331 pages

read an excerpt here

Inspired storytelling, breathless and passionate, but evil and dark, terrors and shadows, whispered voices, monsters who lurk in the dark, this ya novel has it all. Take one part Brothers Grimm, add two parts dark romance, and a shake of an unhappy ending, and you have Mirabelle's life.

Just before her sixteenth birthday, Mirabelle invents a secret boyfriend in San Francisco and leaves "clues" that she's headed there to meet him. That is not where she's headed at all; Mirabelle is returning to her birthplace: Beau Rivage--a shadowy and tragic place where her parents died in a fire and her godmothers have refused to talk about. That's just too many secrets for Mirabelle. She wants to visit her parents' graves and find answers for herself.

Beau Rivage is a wicked town where fairy tales meet monsters. Two brothers--one good, one strange and dark--pull at Mira's heartstrings. She's warned to stay away from "good" Felix, but he's so charming--inviting her to stay in his lavish hotel suite, waiting on her every whim, wining and dining her, and offering to help her find her parents' graves. How could someone so charming be dangerous? And how could someone so rude and crude like bad boy Blue be the "nice" brother?

Mira visits a few cemetaries and comes up empty. It's like her parents never existed. Then, Mira meets some local friends of Blue's and realizes that no one is who they seem in Beau Rivage. Each person has a curse, a jinx, a fairy tale to live up to; they are what is known as "honor bound."

Freddie is "honor bound" to be Mira's true love, but she is crushing on Felix. She learns that Blue and Felix are Romantics --those destined to love by feeding off the lifeforce of their beloved until she dies. Mira finds herself sickened and hurries back to the hotel to see what Felix keeps hidden in the locked room she was told to stay out of at all costs (why does the heroine always have to look behind the locked door?)

Sometimes fairy tales come true; sometimes fairy tales are fractured; sometimes fairy tales are inspired; but this time, this fairy tale rocks! Girls who love a fairy tale romance with a handsome hunk and a clever, spunky heroine will fall in love with Kill Me Softly. Blue will have girls swooning and clamoring for more, more, more!

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up. Mature situations, Mira sleeps in Felix's hotel room, Felix kills young, beautiful women, some morbid situations.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

High School Blog of the Year 2012

This blog was awarded High School Blog of the Year 2012 at the Texas Library Convention in Houston April 17, 2012 from the Texas Association of School Librarians. Naomi Bates, a fellow Texas librarian and cool high school blogger and book trailer maker extraordinaire, presented this award to me, and I can't be more thrilled.

Nice award!

Here's a picture of Naomi Bates and me (Pamela Thompson) just before the winners were announced

I was so pleased to see all my old and new friends, librarians, writers and publishers. Dawn and the gang at Simon & Schuster gave me big hugs, along with Katie from Egmont. Christina Mandelski and her friend Molly Blaisdell, both Texas authors, gave me writing encouragement and huge hugs and congrats! Derry from Source Books congratulated me and gave me lots of great books, and I enjoyed meeting Texas blogger Katy Manck!

Here's me--beaming--just after getting the award. My BFF fellow librarian Neysa Harding snapped this shot

The library convention was fantastic and gave me lots of hope for libraries and readers in Texas and everywhere! We are so lucky to have such dedicated librarians, writers, and publishers who love kids and reading.

Keep reading,

Monday, April 23, 2012

Middle School Pick: Choke

by Diana Lopez
Scholastic Press
240 pages

Book available July 2012 (exact date not yet available)

Best friends Windy Soto and wordsmith, bookish Elena Sheppard have always been BFF's since elementary school, but when uber-cool and model trendy Nina enrolls in their middle school, Windy finds herself infatuated with her. Windy hangs on her every word and is excited that Nina sits with them at lunch. When Nina wants to go shopping with her at the mall, Windy grasps at the chance that she may become popular and part of the in crowd.

Elena can't go with them to the mall this time and she's jealous her best friend is suddenly far too busy for her. The girls have a great time at the mall and Nina buys make-up and matching scarves for Windy and herself. She explains that she can't wait until Nina can be her official "breath sister." It all sounds so cool and mysterious that Windy is excited a cool girl like Nina would want to befriend her.

The next day, Nina isn't in school, but does show up after lunch with bloodshot eyes. She explains she was in the nurse's office all morning with a headache. Ronnie, Windy's secret crush, suddenly seems to appear everywhere the girls are headed. Windy thinks Ronnie might like her.

Windy agrees to try the "choking game" with Nina. Nina explains that she will choke her with a scarf but that if she wants to stop at any time, Windy can pat Nina on the arm and she will stop the pressure. Nina explains that if Windy passes out, she will have a cool, floaty feeling like taking a drug. Windy is fearful but wants so badly to be a part of something cool and longs for Nina to like her. She taps Nina's arm before she passes out. This dangerous game frightens Windy and she vows not to try it again. It is believable that Windy would try something this serious and uncomfortable because the author sets her up as having no interests or hobbies; she's a blank slate and craves the friendship and ideas of other kids.

Soon, other girls show up at school wearing scarves and Windy knows that they may be part of the choking game circle. Ronnie begs Windy to tell Nina that he likes her, but Windy is crest-fallen. Elena wants nothing more to do with Windy and ignores her.

The bleak ending for Nina and her breath sisters was not a surprise. Windy finally finds her voice and passion and decides to help clean up the garden at the senior center and perhaps look into a career in physical therapy. Elena gives Windy another chance, but it's too late for Nina. I am glad Windy finally finds something that she's good at and an interest that can become a hobby and possibly a career. So much time early in the book is spent where she is wandering aimlessly without a clue.

Recommended grades 6-up. The choking game is still quite popular among middle school and high school students. Our tweens and teens need to know the dangers and the potential deadly consequences.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

High School Pick: Shift

by Jennifer Bradbury
2012 (paperback edition)
272 pages

This new edition of Shift will grab readers and not let them go! The hard copy edition was selected ALA Best Books for Young Adults and I have to agree. I wasn't prepared to LOVE a book about bike riding and male bonding, but this is the best young adult book I've read so far this year. The beauty of this read is that it is a quick read that will leave readers spellbound. Jennifer Bradbury is queen of her game and the two characters Chris and Win are spot-on competitive best friends who sometimes hate each other with a passion.

College begins in a few months and the boys plan to bike cross-country from West Virginia to Seattle where Win's uncle lives. At first, everything is roses and sunshine but then Win starts his usual bad behavior. Chris has known his best friend since fourth grade and has put up with all his craziness but they've never been alone away from everyone before. Win starts to unravel and Chris becomes more and more irritated. When Win leaves him on the road, Chris travels to the west coast alone and returns home to his life. He is upset that his best friend would leave him with a flat tire and he doesn't try to fix their fight. Chris goes off to college and forgets about it until...an FBI agent shows up at his dorm asking if Chris knows where Win is.

Now Chris is in real trouble. How should he know what happened to Win? Win left him alone and abandoned. He has no idea where he could be or if he is even alive. Now he has the FBI breathing down his back and he has done nothing wrong.

Riveting storytelling and absolute control over plot and timing, Shift is a real winner.

Highly, highly recommended for grades 9-up. Some language, mature situations.

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Book Giveaway: Sci-Fi Pick: 2108: Eyes Open

2108: Eyes Open
by K.L. Glanville
Luminations Media Group
270 pages

I have ONE copy of this exciting new sci-fi teen thriller to give away!

It's 2108 and aliens have not only invaded, they've taken over everything everywhere except a few pockets of humanity who are known as "holdouts." Jewel lives with her father in beautiful New Zealand which has thus far escaped the eyes of the aliens. When one of their ships docks nearby, Jewel's father is worried that the aliens have ulterior motives.

Jewel meets Forge--one of "them" and finds herself strangely attracted to him. Sometimes it's best to listen to your elders; sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone.

For kids who enjoy a good sci-fi read, 2108: Eyes Open is not to be missed.

Win a copy for your kids. Post a comment here and include your name, city, state, and email address. I will contact the winner by email. The winner is chosen randomly by Randomizer.

Deadline for posting is April 22 at noon MST. Please check your email on that date. You have 24 hours to respond with your mailing information. The book will ship from California courtesy of Luminations Media Group.

Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Giveaway: Popular Clone

I have 5 FREE copies of this fantastic NEW boy pick from author M.E. Castle.

Popular Clone is book one in a series titled The Clone Chronicles.

When nerdy kid genius Fisher Bas decides he has had enough bullying, he sneaks into his mother's new invention of dangerous Advanced Growth Hormone and clones himself. He sends his clone to school to take his abuse and Fisher stays home enjoying himself. His brilliant experiment backfires when his clone becomes popular! Fisher decides to spy on his other self and is amazed that his clone is actually a "cool" kid.

Post a comment here for your chance to win a FREE copy. Please include your name, city, state and email contact information. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer and will be notified by email.

Deadline is April 30 at noon MST. Winners will be notified that day. Please check your email. Winners have 24 hours to respond with their mailing addresses. Books will ship from New York city courtesy of Egmont and Katie. Thanks, Katie and Egmont!

Start posting and good luck!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Girl Pick: Sleuth or Dare: Partners in Crime

Sleuth or Dare: Partners in Crime
by Kim Harrington
Scholastic Press
Available May 2012 (date from inside arc)
192 pages

Cute and quirky, smart and appealing, fun and entertaining, Kim Harrington appears to have cornered the market on the mystery/sleuth novel for tweens.

Best friends Darcy and Norah--who couldn't be more NOT alike--have to stick together for a school assignment. They are to create a school project of a "fake" business. The BFFs decide on a "fake" detective agency that they christen "Partners in Crime." Darcy, resident computer nerd, will design the website and help with the technology end of the presentation; Norah will give the presentation to the class.

Imagine the girls' surprise when all their classmates hang on their every word and applaud their idea! The girls are even more flabbergasted when someone emails them with a "real" case for their agency. Darcy and Norah must track down who wrote them an email pleading with them to help find her missing sister.

Darcy uses her computer geek skills and Norah uses her sleuthing skills to figure out that cute and popular cheerleader Fiona is probably their client. They confront her quietly and she caves. She has found two birth certificates and two pictures of babies. She knows she must have been a twin and begs the "detectives" to find out what happened to her missing twin.

The girls have to tippy-toe around because Fiona warns that her parents are super-overprotective and almost creepily stealthy when talking to "strangers." When someone emails the girls to back off the Fiona case, it makes them mad and instead of scaring them, it puts them into high gear to find the missing twin before it's too late! Darcy backtracks the email and uses super-techy stuff to find who emailed them--but the IP address if encrypted! This tells the girls that they are dealing with someone who has super-secret access and technology--someone who is probably inside the government.

Goth girl, computer geek Darcy dresses only in black and purple and her parents encourage her wired behavior. She not only has a computer in her room, but a cell phone and all kinds of "spy" ware and toys to help the budding wannabe detective. Norah, on the other hand, is an astronomy nerd who finds comfort in star-gazing. Her parents are strict and don't permit cell phones and have the computer located in the den where they can monitor its usage. Readers will love both characters and likely find a friendship with each of them.

Spot-on dialog and geeky girl detective behavior will have readers clamoring for more, more, more! The return of the girl detective is here and now.

Highly, highly recommended grades 4-up.

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

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Review: High School Pick: Thou Shalt Not Road Trip

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip
by Anthony John
Dial Books
April 2012
329 pages

Read an excerpt here

Blogger's Note: This review is courtesy of Leslie Rush, my BFF in writing and publishing and all things ya novels. Leslie is a high school teacher and avid reader of ya novels. Enjoy her review, Pamela

Luke Dorsey’s Bible class assignment has gone viral in the publishing world. What started out as a joyful collection of parables for the younger children in his church has become a best-selling book called Hallelujah, and now 16-year-old Luke is scheduled for a whirlwind book tour.

The parables are witty and relevant :

"For there were two brothers. And yea, one was shorter than the other, and weaker. And though he bestowed upon his big brother gifts of kindness and thoughtfulness and love, yet did the taller boy mock him, lamenting, “Why art thou so short? Art thou a leprechaun?” However, Luke worries that the editing and packaging of his thoughts have turned his spiritual chronicle into a commodity he barely recognizes.

After a dazed TV appearance with his pastor, Luke flies to Los Angeles, where he and his brother Matt will rent a car and follow historic Route 66 east to all of Luke’s book signings, until he reaches his home in St. Louis. The first hint that something has gone amiss is when Matt’s girlfriend Alex, and Alex’s sister Fran show up for the road trip. Luke and Fran have a history. They were once best buddies, sharing church and school activities for several years, and Luke has had a raging crush on Fran the whole time.

But something has happened to Fran in the past year---she used to be a peaches-and-cream blond, wearing floaty dresses and soft sweaters--and now she has gone Goth/punk, with purple hair, multiple ear piercings and weird tattoos all over her arms. It’s not just her looks that have changed. Fran seems cynical and defiant; self-destructive behavior is her new normal. Luke can barely stand to see her like this and worries that the road trip will be a nightmare.

In a bright yellow Hummer, armed with Luke’s publicist’s credit card, the foursome sets out on their odyssey across the desert Southwest. Matt’s plan to add some sight-seeing hikes into the schedule makes Luke late to almost every book signing, and the tension between Luke and Fran does not seem to be getting better. Along with the natural wonders along the way, a parade of fans, well-wishers and paparazzi greet Luke at every signing, including the mysterious, beautiful Theresa who shows up at all of them, looking different every time.

Luke‘s feeling of being disconnected from his own book grows stronger at every stop, yet at the same time he seems to be close to solving the riddle of Fran’s complete personality change. A series of embarrassing missteps and misunderstandings seem to put everything he believes in out of reach, and Luke must figure out how to redeem himself and reclaim his life.

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip is witty and authentic in its teen dialogue. There are mild sexual situations, some underage drinking from Fran, and some brief profanity (damn and hell).

Christian students will appreciate the crisis of faith, and Luke’s search for his own identity will resonate with all readers.

Very enjoyable, recommended for ages 12 and up.

FTC required disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Neither Leslie nor I received monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Girl Pick: Whatever After: Fairest of All

Whatever After: Fairest of All
by Sarah Mlynowski
Scholastic Press
192 pages

Available May 2012 (date not yet on publisher's website)

Fresh, funny, and fairest of all, Whatever After: Fairest of All is book one in what appears to be a planned series. It is a great beginning full of fun and puns!

Siblings Abby and Jonah have just moved cross country to Smithville, a small town that pales in comparison to Abby's beloved Chicago. They live in a creepy old house where Jonah has discovered something quite strange in the basement. He wakes his sister up and together they venture downstairs in the middle of the night. Jonah shows Abby how he knocked on the mirror and it began to shimmer and hiss and suddenly they are sucked into the ornate mirror and find themselves in a huge forrest.

Everything is weirdly off and they have no way of getting back home. Suddenly the basement and Smithville are looking better and better! They run into a wrinkled grandmotherly old lady who is just rude. Abby can't believe a grandmother type can be rude--grandmothers are supposed to be nice. They follow her to a small cottage where she tries to trick the occupant into letting her in. Jonah is starving, and when the grandmother offers the girl inside the cottage an apple, Jonah begs for the apple. He thwarts the woman's plan of poisoning the girl, and now the kids have to set the fairy tale right again.

The old woman is really the witch/queen from the castle and the girl in the cottage is none other than Snow White. The queen has stolen the castle and banished Snow to the woods where she lives with the seven dwarfs. Except these dwarfs have names like
Alan and Stan and there's even female dwarfs Enid and Tara!

The kids realize that by not eating the poison apple, Snow cannot go to sleep and the prince can't come and fall in love with her and kiss her and live happily ever after. They feel responsible for Snow's predicament and decide to right the wrong. After that, they can figure out how to go home.

The dialog between Abby and Jonah is precious and lovely. Two siblings have never been better together. Abby is one of the funniest and snarkiest characters in a tween novel. She is freshly captivating and clever; her voice is spot on. Girls will want to be her or--in the least--be her BFF.

Fairest of All is a sure hit and should not be missed by any girl who loves a funny fairy tale with clever comedic pitch.

Highly, highly recommended grades 4-up. Easy to read and easy to love.

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

Monday, April 2, 2012

Girl Pick: Being Friends With Boys

Being Friends With Boys
by Terra Elan McVoy
Simon Pulse
368 pages

Available May 1, 2012 (publication date and page count from the publisher's webpage)

Charlotte is just one of the guys--the boys in the band treat her just like she is their sister. She's the manager of Sad Jackal, an up and coming band that consists of two of her best friends Oliver and Trip. It's been a bad year for Charlotte--first her sister Jilly goes off the college leaving her with her two fueding step-sisters for entertainment, then her only female friend becomes besties with other girls, Trip quits the band and Oliver and Charlotte scramble to find a replacement for him. Charlotte's not doing well in school either. She's barely scraping by in her classes and jumps at the chance to share notes with Benji--a guy who sits near her in class. Trip warns her to stay away from Benji, but of course, she doesn't listen.

Even a girl who tries not to be entangled in romance sometimes doesn't escape it. Charlotte finds herself strangely attracted to Benji, longing for things to be back to normal with her best friend Trip, and crushing on Oliver and new bandmate Fabian.

Charlotte is a likeable character--though confused most of the time. Girls who like romance and music will love this book. Many minor characters confuse the plot somewhat and the novel bogged down in the middle but picked up nicely at the end for the performance of a lifetime. The girl gets the guy and the guy who has been there all along ends up the winner.

Recommended for romance collections grades 9-up. Mature situations, alcohol, partying.

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