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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reluctant Reader Pick: Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, boook 10)

Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, book 10)
by Jeff Kinney
217 pages
ISBN: 9781419717017

Fans of the Wimpy Kid series will not be disappointed. Greg Heffley is back and as endearing as he's ever been. More so, in fact. Readers will almost feel sorry for Greg as he realizes his home and life are being invaded by his grandfather--who now lives with the Heffleys full time. Grandpa turns out to be quite the party animal--hosting private parties when the Heffleys are away from home and trolling online dating sites. He even takes the car and nearly wrecks it. Greg's mom starts a petition for everyone in town to go "old school" and ban their electronic devices.

After Greg and Grandpa's harrowing, near death experience, Greg realized his dad will punish him forever so he does what any young boy in this situation would do. He runs! Greg announces he will go on the class trip to Hardscrabble Farms after all. At least if he's far away, his dad can't punish him. Because Greg registered so late, he is in the last cabin--with the oddballs and leftovers, including Rowley.

Camp is just what you'd expect:mosquitoes, hot cabins, terrible plumbing, team building exercises that go awry, bad food, bugs, unsanitary, unwashed bodies, poison ivy, campfire stories, and a bogey man named Silas Scratch (every camp has a bogey man, by the way....).  Camp sure sounds like fun, doesn't it? Greg makes a discovery that's a real game changer, and he and his dad bond over a shared secret.

A round the world tour for Diary of a Wimpy Kid will be traveling to a country near you soon. One thing the world has in common: its kids. And kids worldwide love the Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley. "What I've learned is that childhood itself is a universal condition that transcends culture and language," says author Jeff Kinney. He's excited to visit fans from all over and says, "I'm sure my life will be enriched beyond measure."

Highly, highly recommended for everyone worldwide. Fans have already purchased their copies, but those of you who haven't tried Wimpy Kid, what on earth is your excuse? Join in on the fun. Get to your book store or get to your library fast.

Old School is on Scholastic Book Fairs as a paperback. At my school, we sold out and re-ordered more and sold all of those!

Recommended grade 4-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, November 18, 2015

My Favorite Survival Adventure Book: Kalahari

Kalahari, a YA read by Jessica Khoury, is a great action adventure/survival/sci-fi novel set in a world most readers probably have not visited, even through the pages of a book!

If you love adventure and exploration, see what Cotopaxi has to offer. The right gear for all your adventures!

See what others are saying:


“A gripping adventure.”

"Survivor meets James Bond in this page-turning mix of realism and science fiction."
Voice of Youth Advocates

“Enthralling and filled with suspense...”
--School Library Journal"Khoury builds a relentless plot and seeds the narrative with a deadly mystery that echoes themes of her first novel, Origin (2012). The science-fiction elements and setting evoke Jurassic Park's themes of human meddling in nature, while touches of teen angst and love keep the book realistic and broaden the appeal."

"Khoury keeps the tension throughout with life-threatening moments and narrow escapes...a true adventure story in an unusual setting."
--School Library Connection Reviews

“A blend of survival/adventure, sci-fi, and first love, KALAHARI is grounded in the resourceful courage of a girl raised in the African bush. Thrilling, unpredictable, irresistible . . . six teenagers in dire straits, and the suspense never lets up. Readers will flock to Jessica Khoury's masterful prose and storytelling.”
--Will Hobbs, award-winning author of Far North  and Never Say Die
What I liked and why this adventure story sticks with me:
Sarah, although well traveled and trained by her zoologist parents to survive in the wild, has never been around teens her age. When a plane arrives with a group of teens from the U.S. and Canada, Sarah is terrified to make small talk with a bunch of strangers, but her father and friend have to leave camp in search of armed poachers.
With the threat of poachers nearby and in charge of a bunch of kids who are more at home in penthouses with air conditioning and chefs, Sarah must lead the group to the safety of the next town. But the desert is harsh. The climate brutal. With conditions worsening, their vehicle gets stuck. Now on foot, the kids discover why the poachers are out in the wild.
Now they have to battle the elements, an unnaturally aggressive male lion, and a group of murderous poachers. Sarah will have to rely on her training and wits.
The lasting thing readers will take from this read is the unusual setting and a spunky protagonist who fights for survival.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Rock and Roll Cook Book Pick: Are We Having Any Fun Yet? Cooking & Partying Handbook

Are We Having Any Fun Yet? Cooking & Partying with Sammy Hagar
by Sammy Hagar and Josh Sens
Dey Street Books
303 pages, with index
color photos
ISBN: 9780062370006

Sammy Hagar might sing, "I can't drive 55!" but he sure can party and boy, can he cook! Are We Having Any Fun Yet? is a testament to the man's love of life and of food! From the first pages of the foreward written with love by friend and famous New Orleans chef and restauranteur Emeril Legasse to Sammy's own heartfelt musings of his grandfather's cooking and hunting  to recipes from Cabo, Mill Valley, and Maui, Sammy entertains readers with personal stories and glimpses into a down-to- earth, totally rocking guy. Many photos with famous friends are also included. It's a fascinating book that transcends the usual "recipe" book.

Sammy gives background to visiting  a then sleepy beach town called Cabo San Lucas and opening the Cabo Wabo, meant to be a small beach bar  and the  struggles of keeping it running in the early  years. It's fascinating to see the day to day problems  of opening a rock venue and  in a foreign country on top of that. Fast foreward to today: the Cabo Wabo is and continues to be a successful business--no doubt due to Sammy's personality and his take on fresh, clean  food done right.  From Cabo Shrimp to Lobster Burritos to Tomatillo Salsa Sammy has the goods and can hook you up. From the bar in Cabo, Sammy opened up other locations and a line of tequila and other spirits.

With culinary friends like Emeril and Guy Fieri, Sammy's kitchen rocks! If Cabo is where Sammy gets his party on, Mill Valley is where he relaxes and settles in with wine and Osso Buco. Recipes for Chorizo and Pork Loin Paella make the mouth water, with photos of food that make the soul happy and Sammy's stories, like Sammy himself, always are full of life and humor.

The last destination Sammy calls  home is his Maui residence. Oceanfront and tranquil, full of fruit trees and a bounty of vegetables, it truly is a garden of Eden sans evil  serpent. Cooking and creating with year round fresh ingredients opened up a world of food for Hagar. He includes numerous cocktail recipes, many using his own spirits.

Truly a fun read and trip through parts unknown (thank you Anthony Bourdain), Are We Having Fun Yet? asks. Well, the answer is, "Yes, this is fun!"

Highly recommended for fans of rock, Hagar fans, foodie fans, spirits fans and anyone who enjoys great storytelling. This is vintage Hagar. A great gift for anyone with a little rock and roll and a little spice!

Recommended grade 9 and up. Profanity, cocktails, rock stories, and sheer fun!

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)

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Guest Blogger: Teen Blogger's Pick: You and Me and Him

This blog post was written by teen Joshua Gandara who shared his review with me.

You and Me and Him
by Kris Dinnison
HMH for Young Readers
288 pages
ISBN: 9780544301122

You Me and Him by Kris Dinnison is a downright roller coaster of emotions--love, betrayal denial, embarrassment, and self-hate . In this story Maggie, an overweight high school girl,  and her gay best friend Nash have lived in their little town since they can remember. They've always had a close friendship, but when the new guy Tom--your classic hot body Prince Charming, that every girl wants-- arrives it creates a little tension between Maggie and Nash. Nash calls "Dibs" first and Maggie concedes. In a small town every girl must have the new guy and what are the odds that  Tom will fall for either of them? As  Tom hangs around with the duo, he begins to feel a little attraction to Maggie.

After testing her friendship with Nash, the reader will truly understand Maggie and the bonds of friendship. My Thoughts: This book is amazing and I love the way Maggie who is not your typical YA female protagonist in the physical looks department she can still find romance. Very often in today's society we see the stick thin, beautiful model getting all the love, but finally here someone isn't judged on her appearance but rather  by her personality and heart. The book is told in Maggie's voice so we get an insight to her emotions which aren't always so sweet and dandy, but at the end of the day who doesn't like that? Reading this showed me the true boundaries of a friendship and even reminded me in a special way never, ever judge a book by its cover because the book that might not look the best always turns out to be the best book you'll ever read. Don't be put off by the cover art. This is a book for you!

Highly recommended grade 9-up. Profanity.

THIS IS TEEN BLOGGER 100, Joshua Gandara.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I (Pamela Thompson) received the ARC from the publisher. Teen reviewer Joshua Gandara asked to read and review this book. We received no 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, November 9, 2015

Tween Pick: Allie, First and Last

Allie, First and Last
by Angela Cervantes
Scholastic Press
208 pages
ISBN: 9780545812238

Available March 29, 2016

Middle school student Allie Velasco is tired of being overshadowed. Everyone in her family is an over-achiever--her grandfather was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, her younger sister is the star of television commercials, her brother is a stellar soccer player and her older sister won  a national debate. Allie dreams of making her mark, of being the best or of being the first. She wants to prove to her family  that she, Allie, is good at something. She wants that first place  trophy or that blue ribbon. Allie spends so much time pining to be the best that she misses life happening around her.

When her science fair project goes awry, Allie is mad at another student who tried to help her. She is devastated when her family decides not to go to Allie's restaurant choice but  to instead go  an Italian restaurant to honor her sister's new commercial. Everyone is excited about Ava's success,--everyone but sister Adriana and Allie's grandfather who both come to her rescue. Readers will empathize with Allie who longs to be noticed as a success but feels only failure.

A new contest is announced in English class, and Allie is hoping to win. No one from Sendak has ever won the Trailblazer Award before, Allie realizes that if she were to win the award she would be the FIRST Sendak student to win. This makes it all the more important for Allie. Allie is concerned that her best friend Sarah is acting aloof. What is causing her best friend to act this way?

Middle school is a tough time--full of angst, full of questions, full of misgivings and full of misunderstandings. Allie learns a few lessons in her search for self achievement. Sometimes being the best or being the first isn't the most important thing. Sometimes the most important things are the people around you and the experience itself.

Recommended grade 5-up. This is a quick read with short chapters and 209 pages.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC  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)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Magical Pick: The Blackthorn Key

The Blackthorn Key
by Kevin Sands
371 pages
ISBN: 9781481446518

Mysterious, cryptic and magical, The Blackthorn Key amazes. Apprentice to one of London's leading apothecaries, Christopher Rowe feels lucky to have left the orphanage and to learn a trade. Christopher is smart, attentive and good at solving puzzles. So much so, that for his birthday, Christopher's "master" gives him a cipher to solve.

A string of grisly murders has London on edge. Someone is murdering apothecaries. Christopher is worried about his employer. Oftentimes, the master is out all night only returning in the early morning hours. When his master comes home hurt and burned, Christopher makes it his business to solve the mystery. Then  his master is brutally murdered, Christopher and his best friend Tom follow clues left by his master. The cipher proves difficult but with time, Christopher figures out the puzzle.

It is a rocky time in British history where groups of powerful men are eyeing the monarchy. Having a King in your corner is the quickest path to riches, and evil, corrupt men will stop at nothing to obtain what they want. Having a powerful weapon, a secret chemical weapon that only an apothecary can manufacture, would put you in power. For that kind of weapon, a corrupt person will stop at nothing, even murder.

Who will believe a mere apprentice? Christopher will have to have rock solid proof against the murderer, and he'll have to move fast. The murderer is not likely to stop. His crimes are becoming more and more gruesome with the discovery of each new body. If he suspects Christopher is onto him, the boy is in grave danger.

An exciting read that is a real page turner. The Blackthorn Key is a gem of a debut.

Highly, highly recommended grade 5-up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I bought this book for our middle school library. 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, November 4, 2015

Cover Reveal, Book Giveaway and Jeff Strand's FIVE Best Zombie Movies

You can follow the reveal @JeffStrand and @SourcebooksFire #GreatestZombieMovieEver

From Sourcebooks Fire:


The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever 

Author: Jeff Strand 

Release Date: March 1, 2016 

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire 

Jeff Strand gives readers a sneak peek at his latest novel The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, and shares his five favorite zombie movies: 

Jeff Strand’s Five Favorite Zombie Movies: 

My five favorite zombie movies are very similar to many other people’s five favorite zombie movies. I could’ve gone the condescending click-bait route and written about “The Five Best Zombie Movies You’ve Never Seen!” but, no, I’m going with my five real favorites…. 

 #5: DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004 version). I was one of the many people bellowing, “You can’t remake DAWN OF THE DEAD! This is blasphemy! Blasphemy!!!” But somehow this remake to a sequel (but not a sequel to the remake) turned out to be awesome. Not quite as good as the original (SPOILER ALERT: That’s #3 on this list) but one of my all-time favorites.  

 #4: RE-ANIMATOR. I’ve now seen plenty of movies that are more over-the-top insane than RE-ANIMATOR, but this was the first movie where I simply couldn’t believe what I was watching. It was hard to believe that a movie so dark and gruesome could be so funny.  

 #3: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978 version). Shameful confession: When I first saw this in high school I thought it was stupid and boring. Fortunately, I matured and accepted that it’s one of the high points of zombie cinema. It’s the reason I know to duck before walking toward spinning helicopter blades.  

 #2: RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. Fast zombies long before 28 DAYS LATER! The first time zombies ate brains! It doesn’t often get the credit it deserves, but this is one of the most influential zombie movies ever. 

 #1: SHAUN OF THE DEAD. The greatest zombie comedy ever. The greatest zombie movie ever. The greatest MOVIE ever. 


After producing three horror movies that went mostly ignored on YouTube, Justin and his filmmaking buddies decide it’s time they create something noteworthy, something epic. They’re going to film the Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. They may not have money or a script, but they have passion. And, after a rash text message, they also have the beautiful Alicia Howtz—Justin’s crush—as the lead.  


With only one month to complete their movie, a script that can’t possibly get worse, and the hopes and dreams of Alicia on the line, Justin is feeling the pressure. Add to that a cast of uncooperative extras and incompetent production assistants, and Justin must face the sad, sad truth. He may actually be producing The Worst Zombie Movie Ever… 


About Jeff Strand: 

Jeff Strand has written more than twenty books, and is a four-time nominee (and four-time non-winner) of the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his young adult novels, A Bad Day For Voodoo and I Have A Bad Feeling About This, were Junior Library Guild picks. Publishers Weekly called his work “wickedly funny.” He lives in Tampa, Florida.  


Excerpt from The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever: 

The vampire, whose fangs were too big for his mouth, turned to the camera and hissed. 

"Don't look at the camera," said Justin Hollow, the director. 

"I keep poking my lip on these things," said Harold, spitting the plastic fangs out onto the ground. He hadn't been a very frightening example of the undead before, and he was even less scary with no fangs and a thick line of drool running down his chin. 

"Cut!" shouted Justin, loud enough to be sure that the command was heard by his production crew of two. "C'mon, Harold. Stay in character. We're three hours behind schedule." 

"I don't care. I hate this. You promised that I'd get all the girls I wanted. So where are all of the girls I want?" 

Justin let out his thirty-ninth exasperated sigh of the night. "The movie has to come out first." 

"It's not even a real movie." 

Justin bristled. It was a full body bristle, head to toe, which he hadn't even realized was physically possible. Bobby, who handled sound recording, and Gabe, who handled everything else, both stepped back a couple of feet. Neither of them truly believed that they were about to witness a murder, but they wanted to get out of the splash zone, just in case. 

Had this been one of Justin's movies, he would have very slowly lowered his camera, stared directly into Harold's eyes with a steel gaze, and then after an extremely dramatic pause asked "What...did...you...just...say?" 

His actual response, delivered in a squeakier voice than he would have allowed from his actors, was: "Huh?" 

"I said it's not a real movie." Harold started to wipe the fake blood off his mouth. It didn't come off, and probably wouldn't for several days. Justin had planned to feel guilty about this later, but now he wouldn't bother. "Nobody's ever going to see it. You probably won't even finish it." 

"I finished my last three movies!" Justin insisted. "I got hundreds of hits on YouTube!" 

That statement was technically accurate, though it was the lowest possible number of hits you could get and still use "hundred" in its plural form. The only comment anybody posted about his latest film had been "This twelve year-old filmmaker sort of shows promise," which really frustrated Justin since he was fifteen. 

Harold shrugged. "This is a waste of time. I've got better things to do on a Friday night." 

"Nobody ever said this was going to be easy," said Justin, who had indeed said that it was going to be easy when luring Harold into the role. "You can quit now, but what are you going to think about your decision ten years from now?" 

"I'm going to think, wow, it sure is nice to be such a well-paid dentist." 

Harold walked off the set. It wasn't an actual set, but rather a small park near Justin's home, where they were filming without a permit. Justin knew he should shout something after his ex-actor. Something vicious. Something devastating. He thought about shouting "You'll never work in this town again!" but, no, it had to be something that Harold would consider a bad thing. 

"Fine!" Justin shouted. "But when we record the audio commentary track for the Blu-Ray, I'm going to talk about how you abandoned us, and how much happier everybody was with the new actor who took your role, and how we all agreed that he should have been cast in the first place, and how he had so many girlfriends that he couldn't even keep track of them, and how they all found out about each other and had a great big awesome catfight in his front yard! And I'll pronounce your name wrong!" 

Harold continued walking, apparently not heartbroken. 


Pre-Order The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever: 




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Middle Grades Pick: The Isle of the Lost

The Isle of the Lost
(A Descendants Novel)
by Melissa De La Cruz
Disney Hyperion
311 pages
ISBN: 30710461306381


Famous evil villains from storyland are banished to the Isle of the Lost where their magic no longer works--Jafar, the Evil Queen from Snow White, Maleficent and Cruella de Vil are trapped and have lost their magic.  Maleficent "rules" over this  "kingdom." The banished on  the Isle of the Lost get the old and broken down goods, the no longer wanted trash from Auradon. On the Isle, apples and other fruit are mushy and wormy, their bread  is moldy and their food rotting, their magical brooms no longer fly but are still good just for sweeping. The Evil Queen can no longer practice  evilness, her magical mirror does not work, and even Jay, a prince and son of Jafar, has to resort to petty thievery--stealing a bad apple or a piece of bread--just to keep things fun.

Four kids of the evil banished are growing up trapped and lost. They long for a chance to escape and go to Auradon. Carlos, son of Cruella de Ville, is trying to invent a way to break the dome and escape. Evie and Mal have an ongoing "hatred" for each other stemming back to a feud between their mothers--the Evil Queen vs. Maleficent. Only the Dragon's Eye (Maleficent's magic scepter)  can break the curse and release the isle, but the kids have no clues who or where to find it.

The Isle of the Lost  is filled with snarky remarks and snide banter. De La Cruz is at her best when writing dialog. Readers will  realize that the four main characters are friends although they would never admit it--they are supposed to be evil, remember? Sidekicks make an appearance: there are drawfs, mice, Dalmatians, and fairies.

Short chapters make this an easy read for reluctant readers. The book allows for the four main characters to be fleshed out and explains their back story: Why are they on the Isle of the Lost? How can they get out? Why them? Who chose them? How can they escape?

As the series goes forward I would hope that the adventure becomes bigger and more thrilling. Overall this is a good pick for children grade 4-up. Any Disney fan will love this book.  Descendants is now a Disney movie and television show. Visit Descendants for more!

Recommended grade 4-up and all fans of Disney.

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, November 2, 2015

Funny Pick: The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever.

The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever.
by Jeff Strand
Sourcebooks Fire
256 pages
ISBN: 9781492628149

Available March 1, 2016

What's better than a book about zombies? A book about teen-agers making a low-budget zombie movie, that's what! With joke master Jeff Strand in charge, this novel laughs itself of the pages! Get ready for a rowdy good time and bring your sense of humor. There is nothing funnier than three teen-age boys arguing over zombie lore, zombie gore, the effectiveness of blood and how much blood is too much, fast zombies vs. slow zombies--which are scarier? What, thus far, is the greatest  zombie movie ever made? How to make a film on zero budget with no money, no actors, no screenplay, no ideas, and no time....hmmm, sounds like a normal day in Hollywood to me!

Best friends Bobby, Justin and Gabe have only a few days to make "the greatest zombie movie ever." They realize that a low budget film can be made, but even "The Blair Witch Project" was made with $20,000. They don't have $20,000.  After figuring out they have no money, Justin says, "I'm in an ambitious mood. Don't bother me with reality."  Justin wants Alicia as his female lead. The problem is that she has no idea who he is. They go to the same school but share no classes together. He pines for her, just a glance of her because, "Her body was like a goddess mixed with an angel mixed with a female superhero."

Picking a title for their movie proves to be a major sticking point. The boys brainstorm.  Gabe offers: "How about 'Zombie Night.'  No, 'Dead Night.' No, 'The Dead in Florida.' 'The Florida Dead.' 'Florida Zombies.' 'Florizombies.' Maybe something about humidity. 'Hurricane Zombies'. 'Zombie Hurricane.' 'Zombie Tornado.' 'Zombie Volcano.' 'Zombie Earthquake.'..." and many more insanely comical titles. For their heroine, Veronica Chaos (aka, Alicia), they wonder what her wardrobe should be, "...and wears a---Cloak? Corset? Chain mail bikini?---tattered white wedding dress."

Kudos to Strand for making the boys use a power SAT word: verisimilitude! Justin says, "I know what verisimilitude means....You said it hoping that I wouldn't know what it means, but I do." Verisimilitude is one of my personal favorite words, and teens will love it, too!

Their romantic leading man is the most beautiful Greek god  in the entire student body. Justin thinks, "His eyes--oh, his eyes--had such a glorious shade of blue. It was like he had twin miniature earths wedged into his eye sockets (but just the blue ocean part of the earth, not the brown land.)"

Once the camera starts rolling, the action gets even more maniacal. Between injury with  a boom mic, a freaked out heroine, a rude clown, buckets of blood, a best friend fall out, a children's birthday party, a pedestrian run over by a car, an on set romance and tons of jokes and laughter, the movie is made. The Greatest Zombie Move Ever. changes the boys forever.

This  fast read that will appeal to reluctant readers and zombie lovers everywhere. Whether you like your zombies lightning quick or sluggishly slow, you are in for a treat. Jeff Strand, we love you!

Highly, highly recommended grade 7-up. A delight!

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC 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)