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Monday, July 30, 2012

Tween Pick: The Encyclopedia of Me

The Encyclopedia of Me
by Karen Rivers
Arthur A. Levine Books
256 pages

Available September 1, 2012 (cover and publishing date from author's website)

Cute, clever, quirky, cool, sneaky, snarky and sarcastic, The Encyclopedia of Me is a great romp for girls with a sense of humor. Author Meg Cabot says, “What every girl will be reading this year!” (from the cover) and I couldn’t agree more.

Twelve year old (almost thirteen! Ta-da! Exclamation point!) Tink is on restriction at home and must find a way to deal with all her free time. Ta-da! She has an a-ha! moment and begins writing an encyclopedia of all things in her world.

She has entries for her bestie Freddie Blue and both her brothers; funny entries are Alaska, Nemo, Finding , Ballet and Barbie Dolls. Tink has a unique voice—that of a fetching and captivating “almost teen” diva. Her adventures and funny take on the language that Freddie Blue and she make up will have girls chortling. The girls shorten words and do backwards words—“malg” for example, is the opposite of “glam” or glamorous.

Tink is more fun than Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries put together. The snarky footnotes at the base of almost every page make for plenty of laughs.

Highly, highly recommended grades 6-up. No language, no sex.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beach Read Pick: When In Doubt, Add Butter

When In Doubt, Add Butter
by Beth Harbison
St. Martin’s Press
338 pages

Wonderfully delicious, seductively decadent, and fantastically scintillating, When In Doubt, Add Butter is Beth Harbison at her comic best. This is the perfect beach read for women who have a passion for romance and food! For all of us who have thought about following our dreams for a career path, Gemma is our unlikely hero. Just when she's given up on romance, love heroically finds her.

Gemma is a private chef for a handful of wealthy New York clients. Her cooking style varies according to each client's weird food issues. From the mother who seems to be "allergic" to everything that tastes good to a scary and private Russian mob don, Gemma seeks to please each palate. One of her favorite clients is Mr. Tuesday, a shadowy figure she's never met but she visits his apartment every Tuesday and cooks a meal for him, which she leaves in the refrigerator with notes on how to prepare everything.

Life is not easy when you're trying to please everyone. When relationships falter and marriages crumble, Gemma's jobs start to disappear. What will she do if she can't pick up more work? At age 37 with no savings account and no other training, Gemma's in a fix.

A strange card reading tells her fortune and Gemma learns the man she's been searching for has been right there all along. Gemma realizes that When In Doubt, Add Butter is in reality her life mantra.

Highly, highly recommended and addictive for anyone who loves a breezy, romantic read. Grades 9-up. Sex, mature themes.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fairy Tale Pick: Wooden Bones

Wooden Bones
By Scott William Carter
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
160 pages

Available August 7, 2012

Imaginative, magically lyrical, and highly entertaining, Wooden Bones is a retelling of the Pinocchio story—-it is bound to be a hit with fairy tale fans and readers who like a good adventure story.

Pino is an apprentice to his father Geppetto, a master wood carver in a small village. Geppetto is widowed and lonely, that is, until Pino becomes a real live, breathing boy. Soon enough, villagers catch on and want Geppetto to bring back their long lost (dead) relatives, but Geppetto knows the danger of this and tries to make Pino understand.

They flee the village when an angry mob turns against them and Geppetto is seriously injured. Pino must use his wits (and believe me, he’s going to need help!) and some intervention from a magical friend or two. Geppetto is saved by a crippled Elendrew who exacts her own pound of flesh. Geppetto teaches Pino, “Some people can never be happy…They’re always going to see what they don’t have rather than what they do.”

Pino longs to be a “real” boy-- not a puppet come to life, and then he realizes that he has a great gift—the gift of being himself and being “different.”

Masterful storytelling and a fast-paced plot will have readers speeding through this breezy read. Just right for that summer read!

Highly, highly recommended grades 4-8 and anyone who likes fairy tales and the current trend of retelling and reshaping them.

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

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Edgy Pick: Lucy in the Sky

Lucy In The Sky
Simon Pulse
267 pages

The publisher likens this novel to Go Ask Alice and the front cover says, "in the tradition of Go Ask Alice." I'm sorry, but Go Ask Alice is the more tragic book, the more heartfelt book, the deeper narrative of the two ya novels, and the young protagonist in Go Ask Alice is begging to be helped and loved. The main character of Lucy in the Sky is a middle class girl who doesn't seem to have a group of friends or any interests, really. She's kind of riding the coattails of older brother Cam until she meets a new exciting group of friends.

These friends like to party and do recreational drugs and our protagonist goes along like a willing lamb to slaughter. Whereas, the character in Go Ask Alice seems more vulnerable and sad; the protagonist in this updated version of teen turned druggie just doesn't cause readers to empathize with her much. At first, I thought maybe it was because I read Go Ask Alice many years ago, but no, my eighteen year old daughter just read Lucy in the Sky and agreed with me totally. The girl in Go Ask Alice made readers care about her and worry about her and hope she could come clean. And then, in the end she did! And the readers cheered; and then, she died; the readers cried!

That being said, Lucy in the Sky is a sad and tragic tale of what might happen if a teen does not have a circle of friends, interests that motivate her, passions that ignite her, and a family who is involved and not CLUELESS. Teens will empathize with the narrator (diary writer) and feel saddened by the ending. Most teens have probably met someone like her in their high school. This cautionary tale will resonate with fans of edgy realistic fiction. The teens who read this MUST go back and read Go Ask Alice.

Recommended grades 9-up. Drugs, language, mature situations.

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thriller Pick: Quarantine

Quarantine (book 1)
by Lex Thomas
404 pages

Chilling, terrifying, spooky, and grotesque, Quarantine is this summer's must-read! For fans of The Hunger Games and The Forest of Hands and Teeth, this novel will satisfy their appetite for all the things in life worth fighting for.

After an infected student runs into their high school, Mckinley High is quarantined by the government and the military. This is no ordinary quarantine either. The kids are on their own. No one is coming in to study their disease, no one is giving them a vaccine, no one is trying to save them, no one is feeding them, no one is communicating with them, no one is in control--no adult anyway.

It is every student for himself. The only way to survive is alone and hiding out or joining a violent rogue gang. Joining isn't all that easy, either. You have to be chosen to join. If you were a nobody before the quarantine, chances are that no popular group will ask you to join them. The jocks are a close-knit group, and the "Pretties" are the popular pretty girls who are now "safe" as well. Choose the wrong alliance and you're dead.

Food drops are havoc. Students become animals and tear into each other in order to eat. Those who are lucky enough to come away with the spoils have to protect their spoils from marauding gangs who will beat them or kill them for food.

There is no end in sight and no one is coming to save them. Brothers are pitted against brothers in this all out warfare. Alliances are made to be broken, and even the mighty shall fall.

The publisher likens this novel to "Lord of the Flies"--a good comparison--but Quarantine is way grittier and uber-fascinating--it's a study of what might happen if true anarchy entered high school. I read this book in one sitting and couldn't put it down. Co-authors Lex Hrabe and Thomas Voorhies hit the right pitch with this fascinating character study--book one leaves the reader wanting more....MUCH more! I can't wait for book two, and teenagers will be grabbing this series up.

Highly, highly recommended grades 9-up.This is a must-read. Violence, language, sexual references, skinny dipping, sex. NOT suitable for middle school.

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Giveaway: Dying To Know You

Dying To Know You
by Aidan Chambers
Amulet (Abrams)
288 pages

I have 5 copies of this great new ya title. For your chance to win, post a comment and include your name, city, state, and email address.

Deadline for posting a comment is July 31 at noon MST. Winners will be notified by email August 1. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. They will have 24 hours to contact me with mailing information. Mailing addresses will be given to the publisher. Books will ship from New York.

Read more about Dying To Know You:

From the publisher's website:

"In Dying to Know You, award-winning author Aidan Chambers has created an indelible portrait of a young man discovering his own voice in the world, and has constructed a love story that is as much about the mind as it is the heart.
In this contemporary love story, a teenage boy named Karl enlists a famous writer to help him impress his girlfriend, Fiorella. She has asked him to write her a letter in which he reveals his true self. But Karl isn’t convinced he’s good enough with words, so he tracks down Fiorella’s favorite author and begs him to take up the task. The writer reluctantly assents, on the condition that Karl agree to a series of interviews, so that the letter will be based on an authentic portrait of Karl. The letter, though effective, has unexpected consequences for Karl, Fiorella, and the writer.

Praise for Dying to Know You (from the publisher's website):

"Chambers delivers yet another intellectually satisfying novel with equal parts philosophy and repartee, and this one may have broader teen appeal than his most recent efforts."
—The Horn Book, starred review

"Packed to the brim with challenging ideas, the latest from Chambers—winner of the Printz Award, Carnegie Medal, and Hans Christian Andersen Award, among others—is simultaneously an acutely observed (and surprising) love story; the chronicle of a young man coming into his own as an artist; and a slippery, twisting examination of the art of storytelling."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Readers are hooked with snappy dialogue and keen insights; Karl is a multifaceted and likable character who will keep them engaged and rooting for him to find his way in love and in life."
—School Library Journal

Jump at your chance to grab a FREE copy. Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Teen Pick: Devine Intervention (Guest Review)

Devine Intervention
by Martha Brockenbrough
Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic Books)
304 pages

Blogger's Note: This review is courtesy of my BFF in publishing and fellow reviewer/writer Leslie Rush. Leslie is a high school teacher with a voracious appetite for ya novels.

From the first page welcoming the reader to the Soul Rehabilitation Program for Nefarious Teens (Deceased), or SRPNT, Devine Intervention is hilarious and heartfelt. Readers will relate to Jerome as he struggles to navigate his way through the afterlife.

Jerome is a hapless, teenaged, not-quite-an-angel, assigned to a soul rehab program. Apparently the lower levels of Hell were getting overcrowded, so Heaven devised this last-chance redemption for newly dead teens---kind of a heavenly First Offenders Program. Jerome is supposed to be a guardian angel, but he's not very good at it. Having lost his "Guardian Angel Handbook: Soul Rehab-Edition," he's pretty much "winging it" (yes, pun intended)... acting on instincts which are for the most part, lousy. He hasn't got much in the way of Heavenly support, other than the bureaucrat angel sponsors who run the program, and a fellow rehab member, a borderline psycho frenemy named Howard.

Jerome didn't have much support when he was alive, either; his mother abandoned him and his father when Jerome was very young, and Dad has descended into a defensive world of alcohol and despair. Before he died, Jerome had nobody but his friend Mike. His adventures with Mike not only got him killed---Jerome walks around in the afterlife with an unfortunate arrow sticking out of his forehead---but also initiated the sad, thoughtless act that left Jerome teetering on the brink of eternal damnation.

Jerome has been charged with guarding the soul of Heidi Devine since she was born. Heidi is 16 now, on the basketball team and a talented artist, with a secret. Her secret is the voice in her head, the voice who warns her of danger, tells her terrible jokes, and softly sings "Freebird" to her when she is down. Heidi is pretty sure she is crazy, but lives her life telling no one about this constant companion.

After a horrific day of epic failure, Heidi suffers a terrible, fatal accident. Jerome tries valiantly to rescue her, but as usual, things don't work out so well for him, and he and Heidi find themselves in a desperate, literally death-defying race with the clock to keep her soul from disintegrating permanently and to keep Jerome out of Hell. Complicating matters are the missing handbook, grieving friends and family members, a zippy little dog, and the lurking, nefarious Howard. As the conclusion draws near,readers may think they know how matters will turn out, but a nice plot twist resolves the story in an unexpected, satisfying way.

Brockenbough has a keen ear for teen boy thoughts and dialogue. Mild sexual references, mild violence, no profanity, just substitute cusswords (they are angels, after all).

Highly recommended for both boys and girls grades 7 and up.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fiction Pick: Changeling

Changeling (Order of Darkness, Book 1)
by Phillipa Gregory
Simon Pulse
256 pages

In book one, we meet Luca Vero, a wonderfully hot hero who is expelled from his monastery and sent on a journey across Europe to witness the greatest fears of the "end of times." Luca must investigate when the church hears of evil in its midst.

He arrives at the Abbey of Lucretill (near Rome) to investigate the "madness" among the nuns. One sister has bleeding palms and sleepwalks; others can't sleep at all. All of them are fearful that demons are among them.

Isolde is sent away from her castle by her brother; he takes control of their inheritance--Isolde is, after all, only a girl, not someone who can inherit. She is told that her father wanted her to enter the church and never marry. She becomes the Abbess of Lucretill and travels with her mysterious servant to the abbey's walls.

Soon, Luca must interview the nuns about the strange happenings in the abbey; first, he must have the Abbess's permission. He is intrigued by this young abbess who hides her face in the gloom. Further, he wants to get to the bottom of the mysterious and evil doings.

A compelling secret is discovered on the lands owned by the abbey and Luca has a pretty good idea of who is hiding it. He investigates his hunch helped by Isolde. What they find will threaten the abbey and Isolde's life.

Books two and three promise to develop more of a romance between the two main characters. While Isolde is meek and pliable in book one, Gregory reminds readers in the author's note that Isolde is a typical girl of this time. A girl whose future lies at the hands of her father and brother. I wish the author's note was at the beginning of the book for teen readers to understand why Isolde has such a meek character. She's forced into a life she didn't choose and she seems to just go along with it; which is what any girl of her time would naturally do. At the end of Changeling, Isolde chooses her future for herself, and female readers will applaud.

Highly recommended for mature readers who love history. Rich in detail and brilliantly researched, Changeling will have its fans among those who love the middle ages and European history. Some mature content, no language.

Grades 9-up. A lot of church history and tradition.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Action Pick: The Serpent's Shadow

The Serpent's Shadow(Kane Chronicles, book 3)
by Rick Riordan
Disney (Hyperion)
401 pages with glossary of Egyptian terms

Exciting, fast-paced, and brilliantly executed, the newest, and last, book in the trilogy wraps up the story of Sadie and Carter Kane, squabbling siblings who have each other's back, no matter what.

Sadie and Carter are once again joined by old friends Walt--who is fighting for his life, Bes--who is in a nursing home for gods--which is pretty funny in and of itself, Ra, the sun god, who is losing his marbles, and tending the home fires--cat goddess Bast--who looks after the kids.

The giant snake Apophis is evil and threatens to end the world but Carter and Sadie have to gather their friends and figure out how to defeat him. Chapters are told by Sadie and Carter with funny digs and satirical comments and asides from each of them. Riordan is at his comic best when describing Ra's behavior as a doddering old man or the gods residing at the nursing home.

Fans of Riordan's earlier books will HAVE to read this one for the ending to the series. What can't Riordan do? He's already tackled the Greek gods and now the Egyptians. Hmmmm... that leaves the Viking gods, I guess.

From one librarian and reader who met Riordan early in his writing career just before the release of The Lightning Thief, I couldn't be happier for his success! He continues to bring entertaining stories, imaginative characters, intriguing plots, and biting wit to nearly forgotten myths.

The entertainment value of The Kane Chronicles is huge--many readers, including me, are not as familiar with the Egyptian gods as we are with the Greek gods. I had a great time reading the novels and learning about the Egyptian myths.

Highly, highly recommended grades 5 and up and for Rick Riordan's fans! You must read books 1 and 2 to have any idea of what is happening in the series. If you're a parent or grandparent and haven't heard of these books, grab the set for your sons, daughters, or grandkids. The books are hugely entertaining and will help develop better and more interested readers.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. I did not received monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Book Giveaway: YA Thriller: Quarantine

I have 5 FREE copies of this cool and gritty new ya read: Quarantine. If you loved  BZRK and ASHES, this new uber-cool ya novel is a great pick. It got a starred review in Booklist and was an Indie Next Pick. Kami Garcia, the author of Beautiful Creatures trilogy, says, “As original as The Hunger Games, set within the walls of a high school exactly like yours.” It’s super gritty and intense!

From the publisher:

"It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive."

Post a comment to the blog and include your first name, city, and state. Please include your email. I need your email to notify you in case your win! Winners chosen at random by Randomizer.

Deadline for posts is 12:00 noon on July 18. Winners will be notified by email on July 19 and have 24 hours to respond. Books will ship to winners from New York.

Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Summer Reading Pick: A World Away

A World Away
by Nancy Grossman
304 pages (page count from publisher's arc)

Available July 17, 2012 (from publisher's arc)

Achingly poignant, beautifully evocative, and downright lovingly portrayed, A World Away takes the reader away from the year 2012--a world rife with the internet, online dating sites, reality television shows that portray anything but reality, cell phones that think for you and talk back to you, cars that can parallel park themselves, and shopping that only a click away to a simpler...quieter...slower... world where hard work is valued. Family and religion are central; community means helping everyone in the neighborhood.

Eliza Miller is Amish, and she's just turned sixteen. She has never shopped at the mall, viewed television, been to a movie or used a cell phone. She dreams of the larger, more exciting world than horse and buggy and the quiet boys she's grown up with. It is time for her Rumspringa, an event that the Amish community allows for its youth. They are allowed to "run wild. To step out of the plain world." Eliza sees her opportunity when an "English" woman offers her a job as a nanny in the outside world. Eliza jumps at the chance but she will have to convince her parents.

Eliza steps away from everything she has ever known to experience the new, bright, shiny world of the "English" which is what the Amish call anyone who isn't Amish. She marvels at television, loves the movie theater where movies tell a story and the sound seems all around her, and she realizes that blue jeans aren't half as comfortable as they look. She trades in her simple dress, apron, and kapp for clothes she's seen other kids her age wear. She becomes part of the household and babysits each day. She meets hottie Josh and even goes out with him a few times.

Life is good, but different. Eliza likes her new life but misses her family and friends. When she's betrayed by one of those closest to her, she turns back to her familiar roots. Will Eliza be able to leave this new world she loves? Will she ever be able to go back to her Amish family? Can she leave behind the thought of Josh?

This is a beautiful glimpse into an often unseen world that few readers know about. The Amish lifestyle is portrayed with love by the author who is able to impart the beauty and richness of their simple life.

Highly, highly recommeded grades 7-up. No language, no sex.

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

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fairy Tale Fantasy Pick: Between the Lines

Between the Lines
by Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer
Simon Pulse
352 pages

Breathtakingly beautiful, pensively poignant, and exceedingly entertaining, Jodi Picoult works with her own teen daughter to create a new kind of ya novel. Between the Lines is a refreshing take on a fairy tale with a happy ending. This one has it all: a quiet, loner teen girl captivated by a fairy tale book she checks out from the library. This book is different, though. Something keeps tugging her into the story, and suddenly the story changes. Things begin to appear on pages that were never there before. She thinks she's imagining things, or worse, she's going a bit crazy.

Oliver is a shy prince who isn't the least bit valiant; in fact, he is quite un-brave. He uses his wits to get past dragons, trolls and villians, not his boldness or swagger. He feels trapped in the same story forever...until, one day a Reader sees him, no...really sees him. He is able to talk to her and she can actually hear him.

Both Delilah and Oliver  think this new twist is exciting and weird, and Oliver begs Delilah to try to rescue him from  the story. What if Oliver could escape his world, and live a real life in hers?

The action is told sometimes in Delilah's world of high school hallways and her bedroom; sometimes the story is told as the Reader is reading the fairy tale and the action is forever and always the same for Oliver because he is merely an actor in the story, and sometimes the story is told as Oliver tries to escape his fairy tale life. The best times are when Delilah, the real girl, is talking to storybook character Oliver--who is real on the pages in front of her.

Fans of Picoult will see the mother's deft touch and hear her teen daughter's youthful voice in the voice of the main characters. What a team! It is the brilliant match-up--the seasoned writer with a new and vibrant, young voice of today's ya reader. This is sheer marketing genius! The cover shouts Jodi Picoult's name, so Picoult fans will likely pick it up and the teen girl on the cover invites high school readers to become new fans of Picoult and Van Leer.

I haven't read a book quite like this one. It's new and exciting, and I bet someone in Hollywood would like to see this story on the big screen--I know I would.  Bidding on this book's movie rights  is about to get fierce.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. Finally, a book so entertaining, our middle school readers can access and high school readers will love.

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