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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paranormal Pick: The Prey (book 2)

The Prey
by Andrew Fukuda
St. Martin's Griffin
322 pages

Disturbing, dark, dystopian, and dangerous, The Prey picks up the action where The Hunt left off. Andrew Fukuda sure  knows how to tell a story--his deft prose and sense of timing heighten the reader's excitement as Gene and Sissy struggle to uncover secrets about Gene's father and the new village they are being kept "prisoner" in.

The Mission tells its members that their rules are for the good of everyone, but Gene and Sissy sense something completely sinister in the Mission's rules and its stanglehold on the girls of the village. Except for a few chubby male elders, there aren't any men or boys in the village--just very young children. The girls walk around singing and smiling but Sissy finds out it's because they fear for own well being and lives.

After excaping ravenous and ferocious hepers down a river and riding a waterfall, Gene and the kids end up in an underwater cavern. They are able to climb out of it and discover an old cabin. A strange girl  appears and takes them to the Mission.

The elders keep asking Gene for the Origin, the cure for the hepers that the scientist ( Gene's father) was working on all those years. Gene honestly doesn't know what they're talking about. The days pass, and Gene and Sissy start uncovering all sorts of clues. They finally confront Krugman, the leader of the Mission.  He tells them that a train brings in all the Mission's supplies and that the same train will take them to the Promised Land. Gene and Sissy think it's a trap, and they need answers right now. They search the scientist's workshop hoping to find something...anything....

With conflicting stories: one story goes that there's  a promise of a land of milk and honey just at the end otf the train ride; the other story is that the train will travel right into the belly of the beast. Do the kids dare get on the train? Where does the train take them? To Paradise? Or to the Heper Palace where humans are raised as meat for the Ruler? If Paradise waits at the end of the ride, why didn't Gene's father get on the train? And why would his father kill himself instead of getting on a train bound for Paradise?

Non-stop action and fierce fight scenes hurtle the reader to the riveting ending. Can any of us really wait until September 2013 to read book 3? I want to read it now!

Highly, highly recommended for fans of paranormal grade 7-up. No language. Some fighting. Sissy is searched and branded. The girls of the mission are basically like breeding cows, but no details. If you have The Hunger Games and other YA titles similar, The Prey is a title for you.

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

Young Reader Pick: Mommy's Little Monster

Mommy's Little Monster
by Dawn McNiff
Kate Willis-Crowley, illustrator
32 pages

Available March 1, 2013

Young readers will be captivated by the trolls and their creepy but funny cave decorated with jars of sludge, powdered mud milk, ear wax jam, and smelly beans.

Mommy Troll has a party to attend and it's for grown-ups only. Mrs. Hag is going to baby-sit for Little Monster but he throws a fit! He doesn't want his mommy to go away, and he doesn't want a baby-sitter. He's not a baby!

When Mrs. Hag arrives, the little monster pouts and cries, he throws his toy on the floor and hits the door with his tail. Mrs. Hag offers him warm mudmilk and a story, but he continues to cry. Left alone, he ventures into the swamproom and asks, "Does mudmilk make crying go away?" Mrs. Hag assures him that it does. She even lets him have two mugs of milk and a bedtime story. His mother never lets him have two.

The little monster falls asleep and when he wakes up, he sees his mother has come home. His mother assures him that he is her baby and that he always will be. Mommy Troll brings her baby a litttle treat when she comes home: rotten worms and the little troll is thrilled.

The trolls/monsters are beautifully illustrated and their cave will appeal to young readers with its icky elements: spiders and pond scum, snakes and worms and a bathtub that looks like a bog. Little Monster is cute in his red and white striped pajamas.

The cover is eye-catching, and what child wouldn't like to read a book about monsters?

Highly recommended for young readers.

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

Middle School Pick: Cloneward Bound (The Clone Chronicles, Book 2)

Cloneward Bound (The Clone Chronicles, book 2)
by M.E. Castle
259 pages

Fisher Bas is worried; the government is questioning his scientist mother about how an ounce  of her growth hormone is unaccounted for, and Fisher knows it's only a matter of time before someone realizes that he is the one to blame. You see, Fisher heisted the hormone and created a clone of himself that he names "Two."

That 's not the only problem. Two is on the lam in Hollywood looking for his mother and Fisher is worried someone might connect the dots and find out their secret. Amanda Cantrall is already breathing down Fisher's neck, so he finally tells her about Two's existence. Lucky for Fisher, his class is taking a field trip to Hollywood to visit the set of "Strange Science." Fisher wants to use this opportunity to look for Two and get him back under control.

As the kids board the bus, Fisher offers this random  thought, "School bus' is the normally used term because "asylum on wheels" is considered impolite"---from the personal notes of Fisher Bas. Readers will enjoy Fisher's dry wit and sarcasm; the author has a great ear for teen dialog and snarky comments.

Fisher and Amanda close in on Two, but they fear someone is following them. If their secret gets out, Fisher's in big trouble and no telling what will happen to Two. The kids have their hands full of crazy Hollywood types, pushy "stars," and an evil mad scientist, Dr. X.

Will the kids be able to save Two and escape Hollywood? Who is following them and why? Can Two ever lead a "normal" life? Will Fisher be able to clear his mother's name?

Readers who like a good laugh and a some kooky science will love Cloneward Bound. You really don't have to read book 1 to understand the action, but why would you miss it? It is such a treat to read both of M.E. Castle's kid-friendly books.

Highly recommended for fans of the series and kids who have a great sense of humor. Grade 5-up.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Giveaway: Winner Bakes All

Winner Bakes All (The Cupcake Club) by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

I have ONE free copy up for grabs. For your chance to win this sweet confection of a book, simply post a comment to the blog and be sure and include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is April 11 at noon MST. The winner will be selected randomly by Randomizer. The winner will be contacted on April 11 in the afternoon. Please check your email on that afternoon. The winner has 24 hours to respond to my email. The book will ship from New York courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Start posting and good luck! Pamela

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

YA Book(s) Giveaway: The Hunt and The Prey!

I have THREE FREE copies of The Hunt and The Prey for each of 3 LUCKY winners!

These are two of the best paranormal books I've read and believe me, vampires just don't get any better than this! Read my review of The Hunt here

For your chance to win a copy of each exciting title, post a comment on the blog and be sure and include your first name, city, state and email contact information. Deadline for posts is Thursday, March 7, 2013 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be contacted by me on March 7 in the afternoon. Please check your email on that date. Winners will have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York City. Good luck and start posting! The winners are in for a REAL treat! Pamela  

Vampire Pick: The Hunt

The Hunt
by Andrew Fukuda
St. Martin's Griffin
304 pages

Check out the book trailer here

Remarkably tense, tripwire taut, and teasingly terrifying, The Hunt is the real deal. This is THE vampire book readers have been waiting for. These vamps are not sparkly and golden . They are fierce, feral, dangerous and not-in-the-least sense seductive or sexy.

The world has changed. Vampires rule and humans are extinct. Gene was taught the rules by his father. Never sweat, never smile, never show emotion. Shave all body hair, never cry, don't make friends, don't get too close to anyone because when you're human, you are the delicacy. Gene remembers and follows all the rules; his father left seven years ago when he realized that he might be infected by a vampire bite and he was worried that he would harm Gene .

For the first time in ten years the Ruler has declared that there will be a Heper Hunt (hepers are the vamps' term for humans). The students at Gene's school are stirred into a wild bloodlust frenzy just thinking about human flesh. Everyone hopes their numbers will be called and that they will get the chance to run down and devour one of the last tasty humans.

Two students from Gene's school are chosen to be hunters: Gene and Ashley June. There are taken to the Heper Institution to be trained before the big hunt. Gene is given a vacant library as his housing. He is only too happy to be away from the others. He can let his guard down a bit when he's alone. Soon, he's worried that his human smell will give him away. He has no way to bathe and there are no razors or soap.

After the first few mind-numbingly boring days of lectures and useless tours, Gene realizes that he will be found out unless he can find water. Not only does he need it to bathe, he hasn't had any water to drink since he came to the Institute. He feels his mind and body shutting down. The vampires can't go outside in the daylight, and this gives Gene the chance to sneak over to the heper village. The humans are afraid of him and begin to attack. Gene yells at them that all he wants is water, and they realize he can't be a vampire because the sun would have killed him...he's human, like them.

Sissy, the oldest girl, is in charge of their little family. Gene learns that the man who used to live in the library was their friend and a human, like them. He left over the mountains and promised to come back and save them. Gene does not tell the hepers that their days are numbered.

Gene knows he doesn't stand a chance in the hunt. He plans to "accidentally" break his leg before the hunt so he won't be discovered but a plot twist changes his plans and alters everything.

Fiercely crafted prose and a well-thought out plot with unexpected and chilling plot twists will have readers racing to finish The Hunt. I was speechless at the end of The Hunt. No! Don't turn to the last page! Don't read the last page! It will ruin all your fun. This is a vampire novel that will stay with you long after you devour it (pun intended).

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up and for all paranormal fans. No language. Some gore, they are bloodthirsty vampires, after all.

Pick up Book Two: The Prey--also available now. I will review The Prey soon!

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

Not Just For Children Pick: Exclamation Mark

Exclamation Mark
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld
56 pages

Available March 1, 2013

Exclamation Mark is an empowering little book that should be read and loved by all ages.

The exclamation mark feels left out. He's weird looking. He stands out among all the periods, but one day, he sees someone different like him. He runs into a question mark.

The question mark greets him asking him a load of rapid fire questions: "Do you like frogs? ...Know any good jokes?...Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?...Why do you look so surprised?" The exclamation mark can't take any more questions, so he yells, "STOP!"and suddently  realizes his own power. The exclamation mark is powerful--he is powerful! He shows off his newfound courage and power to the average periods and they are happy for him. He goes off into the world, "...to make his mark."

This clever quick read is surprising in its integrity and strength. Every individual wants to stand out; every human has the need to "be somebody" and be good at something. Every child and  teen struggles with an identity crisis. Every adult who goes through life changing struggles needs to find her strength again.  The exclamation mark learns that it's okay to be different; that sometimes different is better!

Exclamation Mark is a great gift for that young adult who is beginning high school or leaving high school or for that college grad going off to make her/his mark in life.

Highly, highly recommended for every book shelf or desk.  Amazon reviewers gave this book 5 star reviews and liked it to teach punctuation to second grade students, but the book is so much deeper than just the obvious punctuation marks.

Kirkus starred review, School Library Journal starred review, Booklist starred review

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fashionista Pick: The Look

The Look
by Sophia Bennett
Chicken House
336 pages

Available March 1, 2013

Read Chapter One here

Sisters Ava and Ted couldn't be more different. Ava is fashion forward, beautiful and talented. Ted is awkward and gangly and never feels pretty. She has a wild head of hair and is giant tall.

All of this changes with the chance encounter with a man who hands Ted a business card. He claims to be an agent who works at a modeling agency and he thinks Ted has "the look." Both sisters are shocked! Awkward, bony Ted? Not the more beautiful and put-together fashionista Ava? Ava tells Ted that it's probably a scam. A lot of girls are taken in by slick talk and they pay hundreds of dollars for head shots--only to find it it's a scam and they won't have any modeling jobs.

Ava has been sleeping too much lately and the lump on her neck is getting larger. Their mother decides to take Ava to the doctor for a check up. The doctor discovers that Ava has cancer. While waiting in the specialist's office, Ted picks up a copy of Marie Claire magazine and reads an article about Model City, a modeling agency. Ted catches her breath...the logo is the same logo that was on that guy's business card.

Ava pushes Ted to go down to the modeling agency and see if she really does have "the look." Ted is quickly snatched up by Frankie for a test shoot. Ted knows her mother would never approve, so she and Ava get her dad to sign all the agency's paperwork.

Soon, Ted is heading all over London for calls. She never gets any jobs and feels like a failure. Meanwhile. Ava's cancer is diagnosed as Stage II cancer. She begins losing her gorgeous hair and both sisters visit a salon and shave their heads. Ted looks absolutely amazing with the buzz cut like Xena, the Warrior Princess.

As Ted's star rises and her career turns white-hot, Ava fights for her life. Ted takes a job in New York City  with one of the world's best photographers but walks out on the shoot and flies home to London to her sister's bedside.

Will Ted be able to make it in the fast paced fashion industry where one day you're "in" and the next day you're "out"?

Sophia Bennett keeps getting it right. Beads, Boys and Bangles, her earlier work, was a more girl-y novel. The Look is a serious book with some witty moments. Sisters Ava and Ted will pull at your heartstrings.  Author Meg Cabot says of The Look, "No girl will be able to put it down."

Highly recommended grade 7-up. Snogging (kissing), a thong (for model shoot), a bathtub full of snakes (again, modeling). No language.

Fashion forward teens and teens who love anything British (including One Direction) will likely love The Look.

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Girl Pick: Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All

Tales From a Not-So-Smart Miss Know-It-All (Dork Diaries, book 5)
by Rachel Renee Russell
321 pages

Visit the author's website and check out the fun stuff!

Once again readers check in with Nikki Maxwell and her BFFs Chloe and Zoey. This time, Nikki joins the school newspaper staff and gets to work alongside her crush Brandon and yucky, mean girl MacKenzie Hollister.

MacKenzie undermines Nikki's attempt to work with Brandon and Nikki is almost overlooked by the newspaper advisor. Mr. Zimmerman gives Nikki a chance to write the school's advice column and she takes on the pseudonym of Miss Know-It-All. She doesn't have any letters at first, but she gets help from Chloe and Zoey and they put up posters around the school and decorate letter boxes for students  to drop their pleas for help in. Miss Know-It-All's identity is a big secret and only Nikki and her BFFs and Mr. Zimmerman know who she is.

MacKenzie does her bad girl best to drive Nikki crazy and steal Brandon's heart. At first, the advice column is off to a shaky start but then the letters come pouring in...there's one from a football player who keeps his love of baking secret, another from a student who wants help with a math word problem, and one from an older sibling who can't stand his little brother...Nikki gives them all sound, and good advice. The school is buzzing with excitement over Nikki's column and even more letters are filling the Miss Know-It-All  boxes.

Nikki tells the football player to embrace his love of baking and maybe even bake his girlfriend some red velvet cupcakes and present them in a creative, romantic way. He takes her advice wrapping his girlfriend's locker in wrapping paper like a giant present and fills it with decorated red velvet cupcakes and roses. The girlfriend is so happy, but the plan backfires when all the cheerleaders are now crushing on the boy because he's so romantic.

The letter boxes begin to overflow and Nikki needs help! She spends hours each day answering letters for advice, but it pays off wehn Mr. Zimmerman awards her with the MVP award for the month. BFFs Chloe and Zoey help Nikki with her column and everyone attends Brandon's birthday party.

Highly, highly recommended for girls (and boys) and fans of the series will have to pick up a copy. Nikki Maxwell is highly entertaining and her friends Chloe and Zoey are friends that every girl would be lucky to have.

Grades 5-up. Just some mean girl behavior and a night of toilet papering MacKenzie's house.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Book Club Pick: Life Among Giants

Life Among Giants
by Bill Roorbach
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
331 pages

Read what others are saying

A sweeping saga, an epic tale, a story replete with steamy seduction, passionate romance, boundless sorrow, and relentless yearning, Life Among Giants is Gatsby-ish in its description of an era in American history when rock stars ruled and English rockers  invaded. Skirts were short and the summer of love was possible.

David "Lizard" Hochmeyer is seventeen and a talented football star. He leads his school to gridiron victories but gets kicked off the team for not cutting his hair. Lizard is a standout and could care less what the coach thinks. Older sister Kate babysits for the neighbors--British rock legend Dabney Stryker-Stewart and his beautiful but dangerous wife Sylphide. Their son Linsey is "profoundly challenged" and Kate helps out with his care. David is enthralled with Sylphide, a famous ballerina who haunts his dreams and threatens his future. The famous family lives at High Side--the mansion across the pond from David's ordinary three bedroom family home. High Side is a proper mansion and the Stryker-Stewarts are the golden couple and darlings of the press.

Lizard goes off the college and plays football for Princeton and later signs a contract with the NFL playing for the Miami Dolphins. In all those years, he keeps tabs on the beautiful Sylphide--he cuts out news and magazine clippings for a scrapbook of all her escapades and dreams of her constantly.

The story  continues as Lizard learns to cook and returns to his boyhood home, taking up residence and watching the mansion across the pond. David and Kate question the past--the death of Dabney and the deaths/murders of their parents. The court ruled it an accident but there is their dad's missing briefcase and the FBI case against his company. Sylphide plays a part in all the drama, and Kate blames her for every death. Lizard is blinded by love and desire.

Lizard opens a restaurant with friends Etienne and Ru-Ru and they become a culinary success. The real story of Dabney's death is revealed and a plan to punish the murderers comes together. Revenge is sweet, but to get away with murder is oh-so sublime!

You won't forget Life Among Giants. It is likely to stay with you a lifetime--the larger than life characters of Lizard and Sylphide will join the ranks of literature's great lovers--Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde. Author Roorbach has created a masterpiece of mythic proportions. This is a novel that can be read again and again. It's that good. I loved Life Among Giants and it has made it to my best books of all time list along with To Kill a Mockingbird and The Shadow of the Wind.

Highly, highly recommended for mature readers grade 9-up. Language, mature situations, murder, romantic triangles.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Book Club Pick: The Art Forger

The Art Forger
by B.A. Sharpiro
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
355 pages

view the book trailer and read more

information about the theft

Deeply satisfying and rich in detail, The Art Forger is that rare novel that not only captivates the reader but takes the reader on a journey into another world: the world of prestigious museums, unscrupulous art dealers, unsavory, international thieves and corrupt gangs who use stolen art to fund their drug and gun purchases, and talented, yet unknown and undiscovered artists, who are driven by their desire to create works of beauty and those who will do anything to get that first big break.

It is in this world that Claire is struggling to gain her foothold. Three years earlier, she was in a relationship with celebrated artist Isaac Cullion and the art insiders remember her as the woman who brought shame and suicide to his name. Claire helped Isaac paint one of his most celebrated works--actually she painted  all of it--but Isaac takes all the credit, fame and wealth from her work. The more famous he becomes, the angrier Claire gets. She tells the museum that she painted 4D and they don't believe her claims. Shamed, Claire is unable to get any gallery to take her seriously and show or buy her work, so she ends up working for a company that sells high end copies of famous masters' works; she is an expert on Degas.

After three years in obscurity, Claire is approached by gallery owner Aiden Markel who contacts Claire and offers her a deal. He asks that she paint a copy of an important painting and she will be richly rewarded. Claire thinks of all the things that the money could buy and after pondering the deal for a few days, she agrees to help Markel.

Everyone who knows anything about art knows about the infamous break-in and robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museam in Boston in 1990. Thieves broke in and ripped thirteen pieces of famous art from their frames including works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. It is the largest unsolved art theft in history and the FBI is still on the case. None of the stolen art has ever surfaced.

Claire is excited to see the giant shipping crate that is delivered to her loft and opens it with Markel's help. In it is what Markel says is the stolen original Degas After the Bath. Markel wants Claire to paint a copy of the original which will be sold to a foreign investor and the stolen one will once again grace the walls of the Gardner Museum. Markel isn't doing anything illegal--he's returning one of the most celebrated pieces of art to its rightful owner--the museum and thousands of people worldwide will now be able to view it. Claire is speechless and excited. She has a real Degas in her loft! She gets to live with a masterpiece!

She begins to painstakingly prepare the canvas, taking an old, lesser work of art down to the canvas and mixes all her own paints. She knows Degas' techniques inside and out and she knows how to "bake" a painting to make the paint look as old as the original. When she is finished, no one should be able to tell that Degas did not paint it himself.

Markel reminds Claire that it is not a crime to make a copy of a painting. She is merely doing what she does at her real job--creating a copy of a masterpiece. Claire is paid again when the painting is finished and experts agree that it is the real masterpiece and it's sold to the buyer. Claire and Markel get entangled in a romantic relationship, and just when everything seems so right...it goes so wrong. Twists and turns will keep the reader enthralled.

Masterful storytelling and a compelling plot make The Art Forger a must read for any history or art buff and anyone who loves a great novel. This is a great book club book, are you listening, Oprah? I am constantly impressed by the talent of the writers chosen to be published by Algonquin. Algonquin is one publishing house that finds the true keepers in the world of literature. Do yourself a favor--run, don't walk, to the nearest book store and get a copy of The Art Forger--it's that good!

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Some mature content. Sex, language.

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

YA Book Giveaway: Notes from Ghost Town

Notes From Ghost Town
by Kate Ellison
336 pages

I have FIVE FREE copies of this exciting new YA title from the author of The Butterfly Clues!

Part mystery, part detective story, this title will resonate with teen readers!

For a chance to win, post a comment to the blog. Include your first name, city, state, and email contact. Deadline for posts is Feb. 27 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notified by email on Feb. 27. Please check your email on that date in the afternoon. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my congratulatory email. Books will ship from New York courtesy of Katie and Egmont.

Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Giveaway: Money Run

I have 3 copies of this great new heist novel up for grabs!

Click here for the book trailer

see my full review here
Money Run by Jack Heath

There's $200 million sitting in a corporate building, and Ash Archer has to get her hands on it. She's a teen thief and not just any teen thief! Ash is a pro and takes on risky jobs and comes out unscathed. With her uber-smart computer geek sidekick Benjamin, they plan on getting in unnoticed, stealing the dough and walking out.
You won't want to miss this book! It's a must read! I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting....

For your chance to win, simply post a comment to the blog. Include your first name, city, state, and email contact. Deadline for posts is February 27 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer and contacted by me on February 27. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to contact me with their mailing addresses. Books will ship from Texas courtesy of Scholastic and Lauren.

Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ghostly Pick: Girl Meets Ghost

Girl Meets Ghost (Book 1)
by Lauren Barnholdt
213 pages

Clever, quirky, and cute, Girl Meets Ghost is a surefire way to begin a series (this being book 1). Girls will love Kendall--she's feisty but fun, grouchy but gossipy, complaining but comic, and she will keep tween readers entertained.

Kendall sees ghosts! Not only that, they can communicate with her and she helps them to move on. While ghost whispering sounds like a cool gift to possess, actually it is quite annoying, at least for Kendall. When she's trying to concentrate in math class--not her greatest subject, by the way--she sees a cute girl in a gymnast suit. A blond--of course--cute--of course--and a ghost--of course--who won't leave Kendall alone until Kendall agrees to help her.

Kendall and her bestie Ellie are excited about having a real boyfriend this year. Kendall likes Brandon and Ellie is crushing on Kyle. Kendall plots a way to spend time with Brandon--ask him to tutor her in math--it is his best subject, after all. He agrees and brings along Kyle and Ellie. Instead of the library, the kids take a city bus to the mall. Kendall did tell her father she was studying after school; she just didn't say it was at the mall! Her father is furious when he catches her at the mall with a boy!

The gymnast ghost Daniella wants Kendall to figure out why she can't pass on, but Daniella doesn't really know any details and until she remembers, she is an irritating presence. Soon, Kendall sees a second scary ghost--an older woman who appears menacing.

How is Kendall supposed to help Daniella and try to start a romance with Brendon? Ghosts keep getting in her way, and Kendall is sick of it.

Recommended grade 5-up. This is a fun tween pick.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fun Pick: The Reece Malcom List

The Reece Malcolm List
by Amy Spalding
352 pages

Irresistable musical theatre gLeek Devan is sure to charm teen readers. She's fun, smart, spunky, and musically gifted and she's ready to take her bow.

Devon's father dies in a car wreck and Devon is told that she will be leaving Missouri traveling to California to live with her real mother. Her "mother" dumped her at birth and has made her own life. Devon never got to know her and knows very little about her. Her mother sends her private lawyer to escort Devon to California.

Reece Malcolm is a talented writer whose books are always on the New York Times Bestsellers list. She lives in a nice modern home with new live-in boyfriend Brad. Devan begins making a list of things she's knows about Reece Malcolm, her mother. She finds that Brad is nicer than Reece and Reece's friends are nicer than Reece, too.

Devon is excited to be attending a private perfomance arts school but worried about the huge price tag. She feels guilty that her mother is spending way too much on her. Then there's the new laptop computer and expensive shopping spree. Devon is overwhelmed.

As she discovers more and more about Reece, Devon feels closer to her, but she also has questions. How could this person ignore her own daughter for sixteen years? Now she's trying to make up for it by showering her with gifts and a great school.

Devon learns that her mother was only 16 years old when she had her, her mother is not a morning person, her mother hates crowds, but loves coffee and is a great shopper but doesn't worry about fashion or style for her own outfits. Reece and Brad have a passive/aggessive relationship and Reece knows she treats Brad terribly but she seems to enjoy it. Devon tries to figure it out.

Reece supports Devon in her musical theater debut and even though things are off between them and they have a huge fight, her mother is her biggest fan. Devon apologizes for snooping and they agree to work things out.

Recommended grade 9-up. Several of the performers are having gender identity questions. Mature subject matter.

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

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Middle School Pick: 33 MInutes

33 Minutes
by Todd Hask-Lowy
210 pages

Funny, heartfelt, clever, poignant, and zany with the most awesome cafeteria food fight in literary history, 33 Minutes will entertain and enthrall readers. Sam Lewis (Lew) is a uber-smart math nerd who knows all the answers to all the questions in every class and uses his razor sharp wit to keep the class in stitches. His teachers barely tolerate his ramblings, but do so only because what Sam says is usually genius quality.

In exactly 33 minutes, his ex-best friend Morgan Sturtz has promised to kick his butt. Sam worries about this as Morgan is at least 40 pounds heavier than he is and twice his size. Morgan is as good at sports as Sam is at math equations.

When Sam thinks about getting his butt kicked, he says, "Because if you know someone was going to kick you some place, would you not hope for that place to be your butt? The butt is, after all, the most paddded location anywhere on your entire body."

A food fight of epic proportions saves the day until Sam is whacked over the head with a salad bowl and loses consciousness. He visits the nurse's office and then the principal's. Sam is thinking of immigrating to Canada or changing his name, but realizes that Canadian immigration laws are very tough.

Sam wonders if he does get beat up and gets a black eye, would Amy (a smart girl he's crushing on) hold a cold steak to his bruised eye? But he says, "Too bad she's a vegetarian. Could tofu work like steak when it comes to black eyes?"

Sam remembers last year when he and Morgan played Alien Wars for nine hours straight. They were the best team in Alien Wars history, eating three pizzas, two bags of Cheetos and drinking four liter bottles of Mr. Pibb (my personal favorite!) How can it be that Morgan is so mad that he wants to kick Sam's butt?

Enter new kid in the neighborhood--Chris. Once Chris moves in, he becomes the dividing factor in the boys' friendship. Chris starts the trouble between Morgan and Sam and channels his inner Cassius (Julius Caesar villian) to get Morgan hyped up.

33 Minutes is as true as a middle school book can be. Sam is lovable and likeable. If we could meet Seth McFarland as a middle school boy, he would be Sam Lewis. R.J. Palacio, writer of bestseller Wonder, says, "Funny, fast-paced and quite poignant" (book cover).

Highly, highly recommended for all middle schools grade 6-up. Highly recommended for reluctant readers. There are some clever illustrations that fans of the Wimpy Kid series will love. The only language is "butt." Sweet hand holding between Amy and Sam.

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bewitching PIck: What the Spell

What the Spell (Life's a Witch)
by Brittany Geragotelis
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
328 pages

Watch the book trailer here

Visit the author's website

Brooklyn feels invisible--she goes through the motions every day at school but no one ever notices her. She's not super model beautiful, she's not super-smart, she's not popular, she's not athletic. She's just plain. No one turns around when she walks into the room.

On her sixteenth birthday, Brooklyn's parents unbind her powers allowing her to use her magic, but they warn against using it at all; they caution her to keep it a secret. Witches have been burned in history; witches are misunderstood and murdered. If anyone finds out about their family, they will have to flee.

The first thing Brooklyn does is to make herself over. She becomes a more beautiful version of herself. When she goes to school, everyone notices. Suddenly, she's the girl people are watching and wondering about. The Elite even approach her and ask her to sit with them at lunch. They are everything Brooklyn strives to be and more. They rule her school and are above reproach, but they're not so nice. They use people and bend the rules. They are vicious and cruel. They have no morals and throw caution to the wind. When they start to ask Brooklyn to do their dirty work, how far will she go to be popular?

Witchcraft is one thing, but Brooklyn discovers that her family is famous for being magical matchmakers. She can make anyone fall for someone else. When she uses her powers to entrap Asher, she realizes that he may not really be crushing on her. It may be her spell. Is she willing to accept the fact that she used magic to influence his feelings? And when her spell backfires, is she willing to accept the consequences of her selfish actions?

Part "The Secret Circle" and part "Gossip Girls," teen readers who like the girl witch genre will find What the Spell a welcome addition. Brooklyn has no sense of self; she tries so hard to fit in that she is willing to do anything, even lose the one she loves.

Recommended grade 9 and up. No language; teen angst, some romance, some talk of "going all the way."

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

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Classic Gothic Tale with a New Twist: Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters

Dr. Frankenstein's Daughters
by Suzanne Weyn
250 pages

Twins Giselle and Ingrid discover that they are heirs to a fortune--their mad father, Dr. Frankenstein was so tormented, he shunned his famly and friends--dying alone but leaving the girls a castle on a small island and a large inheritance. The girls travel to the island north of Scotland, seeing their inheritance for the first time. They stand aghast at the condition of the castle. It has fallen to ruin, but Giselle intends to bring it back to its formal glory. Ingrid--always the scientific one--discovers her father's journals dating back to his early university years. She reads one after another--obsessed with knowing more about her father's work and his state of mind.

Ingrid is attracted to their eccentric reclusive sickly neighbor, too, and Giselle worries about their strange friendship. Ingrid thirsts for knowledge and for education, but being a product of her times (1815)...when women did not go to university...she has to sneak around and disguise herself as a man in order to attend anatomy lectures. Her friend Anthony "borrows" an anatomy book for her to study.

The castle hides secrets and Ingrid finds the key to her father's laboratory. What will Ingrid do in the name of love? Where is the monster that her father created and then spent his life escaping? What dark secrets does Giselle herself hide?

Fans will love this Gothic horror/love story. I was rooting for sister Giselle and disturbed by Ingrid. Plot twists then had me thinking differently.

Suzanne Weyn is a masterful storyteller who handles an old story with ease. The plot is told from each twin's viewpoint as each sister writes her diary entries. The cover has Gothic appeal and will have teens clamoring for their own copy.

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. No language. Romance, a few kisses, gruesome laboratory.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library from the Scholastic Book Fair. This title is on middle school book fairs. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Adventure Pick: Stranded

by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts
176 pages

What happens when a smooth sailboat experience becomes dangerous and life threatening? Four kids who don't know each other and don't like each other are thrown together when their parents marry. The parents send the four on a sailboat adventure with their uncle Dexter and his first mate Jim. When the weather turns rough, their uncle tells the kids to go below in the cabin.

The storm is too much for the boat and soon Dexter and Jim are launching the life raft. Jim and Dexter are swept away with the raft and kids have to weather the storm alone with no power and no mainsail. Eventually the kids are washed onto a rocky outcropping on an uninhabited island (shades of "Survivor")!

Forced to work together, the four soon realize they only have each other. They are able to contact their parents and tell them approximately where they are--the Coast Guard is searching for them, but the search area is 500 miles wide. The kids set up a signal fire in case they see planes and learn to trap rain water for drinking water. They salvage what they can from the sailboat.

Jim and Dexter are rescued but the kids are running out of hope. When a huge wave takes the sailboat out to sea, they realize that they will have to survive with nothing but each other.

Jane is the most remarkable character of the four children. She's smart, outspoken, and fearless. She's only nine years old, but she's the brains in this mixed family.

Highly recommended grade 5-up. Anyone who likes action and adventure is sure to like this book.

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

YA book Giveaway: Unremembered

by Jessica Brody
Farrar Straus Giroux
320 pages

Available March 5, 2013

Visit the author's website to see the U.S. and U.K. covers and download the first five chapters here

Author Jessica Brody just keeps getting better. Her earlier novels 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and My Life Undecided were funny and spunky, but Unremembered is taut, thrilling, complex and supercool. The pages practically turn themselves. Don’t sit down with this book if you have anything planned. You’ll be cancelling your plans in order to finish this exciting sci-fi thriller in one sitting. See my full review here

I have 3 FREE copies of this fantastic new YA title up for grabs! Simply post a comment to my blog and please include your first name, city, state, and email address. Sorry, U.S. addresses only. Hawaii and Alaska CAN enter! I need your email contact in case you win. The deadline for all posts is February 13 at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Winners will be notifie by me February 13. Please check your email on that date. Winners have 24 hours to contact me with their mailing information.

Books will ship from New York courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux and Kate. Start posting and good luck! Pamela