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Friday, January 29, 2016

YA Pick: Me Being Me Is Exacly as Insane as You Being You

Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You  Being You
by Todd Hasak-Lowy
Simon Pulse
646 pages (no kidding!)
ISBN: 978144495739

The girth of this novel will scare away some readers but not if they realize most of the book is written in short, choppy lists. The format is easy to love and easy to read.

Readers will empathize with the main character. Darren's life is messed up! His parents divorce, his older brother goes to college, his best friend moves away, his dad drops a bombshell (he's gay), and later Mom tells him that she's moving across country. No one is acting as they "should," and Darren begins listing everything wrong with everything.

The format works and lets readers see what's bothering Darren through third person point of view as Darren refers to himself in the third person. Emotions leap off the pages through Darren's lists. He feels grief, disappointment, sadness, loneliness, and surprisingly, great compassion.

Through the lists, Darren's voice comes through. He's just a kid who's learning how to fit in. He's a bit overweight and self-conscious, he's seriously crushing on a cute girl, he's not speaking to his dad, he's mad at this mom, and he's disappointed with his brother. All this adds up to the expected overblown teen angst so familiar in YA, but the author does it better. Darren is a character who comes through the pages. Readers will commiserate with him as he navigates through the problems and obstacles with sarcasm and wit.

I thought the novel dragged in several places and easily could have been cut 150 pages or so and still would be a compelling read. A shorter book may have packed a stronger punch. Boys will believe in Darren and girls can study teen boy behavior. It's quite entertaining.

Recommended grade 9-up. This is NOT for middle school. At all. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, profanity. The usual suspects.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Makerspaces: How To Build an Epic LEGO Wall!

This LEGO  wall designed and built by Diana Rendina. She gives step-by-step instructions and helpful hints on her webpage Renovated Learning: Building a Culture of Creativity & Discovery in Education!

Consider building one for your library, classroom, or kid's room. Teen spaces will be more fun with a LEGO wall. This is the next thing on my To Do list!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

So You Want a Makerspace? 15 Sites

So You Want a Makerspace?  15 sites to help you along:  ideas, inspiration, and impetus. From coloring to creating to building, the sky’s the limit with your Makerspace.  Although some of the craft projects are geared to younger grades, the projects could be modified for older students. For your Makerspace, take plenty of photos from the very beginning. You will want to see how your Makerspace grew each month and year. Your Makerspace success will help other libraries plan their own adventure. Now go forth and MAKE!


Getting started:

Everything you need to know about Makerspaces: http://worlds-of-learning.com/

How one library grew a Makerspace: http://renovatedlearning.com/our-makerspace-journey/


Crafts, games and fun:

Children’s craft collective. http://wwww.thecraftycrow.net/

Craft patterns and ideas; http://www.allfreecrafts.com/

Dinosaur lovers’ activities: http://alphabet-soup.net/dir7/dino.html

Busy Bee Crafts including printable content: http://www.busybeekidscrafts.com/

DLTK Crafts for Kids: http://dltk-kids.com/

Funology games and crafts: http://www.funology.com/arts-crafts/

Origami for kids (from beginner to more advanced): http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-for-kids.html

Disney family fun crafts: http://family.disney.com/crafts


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hot Tech Tools for the Classroom and Beyond

Hot Tech  for Classroom and Beyond

                                      Some for testing, some for studying, some just for fun! There are so many free applications and sites, here are ten I like.

                                                               List by Pamela Thompson, LMS

http://www.flubaroo.com/    Use with Google docs; self-grading tests, send reports, and best of all, email students their grades. Save time grading. Flubaroo does it for you!
http://www.imagechef.com/  Choose a photo/image and add your own words; share to Twitter or Facebook.

 https://edshelf.com/  Get a free account; extensive collection of apps, web links, lessons that teachers can use and add content of their own. A great place for ideas!

 https://infogr.am/  Create charts and infograms for free.
http://www.cdc.gov/bam/gameroom.html   games for kids from the CDC; interactive learning

 http://www.funbrain.com/  games to hone math and reading skills; fun!
https://www.geoguessr.com/  Students can play in single or challenge mode; guess their location using blank world map and photo. Great fun!

 http://bighugelabs.com/  Free site to make your photos into amazing things! Movie posters, puzzles, mosaics, special filters.
http://www.fotobabble.com/  create talking photos and slideshows. Add a message to photos.

 http://www.flashcardmachine.com/  create flashcards to study for your next exam; share them with students, friends or study groups.







Thursday, January 21, 2016

Middle Grade Book Giveaway and Review: The Girl in the Well Is Me

I have THREE copies of The Girl in the Well Is Me up for grabs. For your chance to win, simply post a comment to the blog. Be sure to include your first name, city, state, and email. Deadline for posts is Thursday, February 18 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen on that date randomly by Randomizer. Check your email shortly after noon MST. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from the publisher. Publisher is able to ship to U.S. addresses. Good luck and start posting! Pamela

The Girl in the Well Is Me
by Karen Rivers
Algonquin Young Readers
224 pages
ISBN: 9781616205690

Available March 15, 2016

Praise for The Girl in the Well Is Me:

"A brilliantly revealed, sometimes even funny, exploration of courage, the will to live, and the importance of being true to oneself. The catastrophe draws readers in, and the universality of spunky Kammie's life-affirming journey will engage a wide audience. Moving, suspenseful, and impossible to put down."Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“I dare you to pick up this riveting novel without reading straight through to its heart-stopping conclusion. Karen Rivers has penned a dazzling voice, at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and searingly honest. The Girl in the Well Is Me is a triumph.”—Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan

“A gripping story that doesn’t shy away from dark places but explores them with heart, humor, and light . . . This book will spark thoughtful conversations about choices, consequences, and what makes us who we are.” —Kate Messner, author of All the Answers

“Funny, surreal, occasionally heartbreaking…a compulsively readable story.” School Library Journal

“This is a fascinatingly well told story that strongly reminded me of Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, but with a completely believable middle grade flavor.”—Teen Librarian Toolbox / School Library Journal

Poignant, profound, and heart-warming, The Girl in the Well Is Me will speak to readers on every level. At times, laugh out loud funny, at times grippingly sad, at times over the top optimistic, at times irreverent, at times harsh, but at all times rich in voice and full of heart and character.

Kammie Summers  is a spunky eleven  year old uprooted from a comfortable existence  in New Jersey where her life was full of a loving family, shared jokes, expensive ice skating lessons, riding lessons and all the trappings of a upper middle class family. It all comes crashing down when her  father is arrested for embezzlement. Now Kammie  lives in a dusty town in Texas with her mother and brother in an old  trailer where  her mother is suddenly hoarding cats and her father is in prison. Kammie's mom works two jobs and her once fun and friendly older brother turns into  a  teenager with an anger problem. Kammie's grandmother recently passed away but Kammie fondly remembers all of her wit and wisdom. Kammie longs for her other life in New Jersey, her normal life. In Texas, she has nothing; all her dreams are dashed. There is no more laughter in her home. Their trailer isn't home; Texas isn't her home.

Kammie tries to make friends with a popular triad of mean girls who pretend they want her to join their group, but they trick her into standing on a piece of wood on the ground. The wood breaks, sending Kammie into an abandoned well. At first, Kammie is mad at the three girls. She knows they did it on purpose and are probably  laughing. As the hours pass and the girls seemingly abandon Kammie, she begins thinking about everything that brought her to this place, this well, where she could quite possibly die. Kammie begins to get claustrophobic and that makes her worry about her asthma. She can't have an asthma attack in the well, and even if she had her inhaler with her, she wouldn't be able to reach it. She can't move her arms at all; they are pinned to the sides of the well. As oxygen in the well begins to dissipate Kammie hallucinates about a coyote who speaks French and zombie goats and dying. She thinks of her dog Hayfield and cries. She cries about missing her grandmother, and about her dad and his lies, she cries that everyone over eleven is a liar.

Readers will LOVE Kammie. She has great heart, resiliency, strength and character. She holds a mirror up to the adults around her and shows their flaws. She holds that same mirror up for herself and realizes that she is a grape...and not a raisin like the liars--she wants her dad to be a grape.

Karen Rivers has crafted an intelligent middle grades read that should be a must read for all ages. Book clubs will have so much to discuss after reading this little gem. I expect the author to be inundated with state and national honors this year. Kudos, Karen Rivers!

So highly recommended I will shout it from the mountaintop (Mt. Franklin), READ this book immediately. It is truly that outstanding. It is a blessing that I was able to read and review the ARC; I am so lucky. Thank you, Algonquin!

Recommended grade 4-up and every reader of every age. This book will speak to you about life, love, truth, forgiveness, and family.

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


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

YA Thriller Pick: Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct
by S.E. Green
Simon Pulse
257 pages
ISBN: 9781481402866

Dark and twisted, Killer Instinct is a compelling read for upper grades (high school) and YA.

Lane appears to be  an ordinary high school girl, albeit quiet, maybe too quiet. She likes to watch and listen and doesn't have a circle of friends or a social life. She does enjoy science club and taking aikido classes. She also loves studying serial killers. Gruesome, yet fascinating. It helps when your mother is a director with the FBI and when her job is actually brimming with grisly and sordid details of some of the most fascinating killers ever. Lane has looked over her mother's private papers and case files--secretly, of course. Her mother would never condone anyone outside the investigation seeing her files--let alone her young daughter!

When a serial killer starts practicing in her area, Lane can't wait to take him down. In Dexter-esque fashion, she wants to even the odds...by "taking care" of serial killers. Her first taste of justice is when she captures the "Weasel"--nicknamed by Lane for his short and pudgy frame and his capacity to rape and terrorize women. Lane doesn't kill him, she just scares him and makes him pay.

Lane leads a normal existence by day--school and part time at the local vet and shelter. At night, she secretly stalks her next "victims." 

As the hunt for the serial killer heats up, Lane discovers a dark family secret. One that will change her life. The Decapitator begins to taunt Lane and she can't resist a good thrill. Is she willing to gamble everything--including her life--for a thrill?

Some reviews don't believe or like the character of Lane. I think she's a great character--yes, she's detached, no, she doesn't show emotion, yes, she is awkward, yes, she does seem older and serious, but these are all traits of sociopaths. Can the reader empathize with her? If you can empathize with Dexter, you can certainly empathize with Lane. Is Lane a sweet girl with high school angst and mean girl tweets? Nope and nope. But that's what makes her awesome. She's who she is because of her past and her DNA.

Exciting and twisty, Killer Instinct is a real page turner. Think Dexter as a YA read. With more sex (Daisy).

Recommended grade 9-up. Profanity, violence, teen sex, rape, murder.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Young Readers Pick: Night Animals

Night Animals
by Gianna Marino
32 pages
ISBN: 9780451469540
Cover art reveals a wary possum who seems to be on edge.  His frightened eyes, his ears pulled straight back, his arms stiff with a spooked expression say it all. Possum is scared. The print of the title is spooky with a zombie-esque font. Inside is ink black with sets of eyes peering into the night. The title page features possum and skunk peering out into a black forest.

Skunk comes across possum who's hiding from "night animals." He's afraid of what's out there in the dark making creepy noises. Along comes a equally frightened wolf who's running from something big. The bear who is following the wolf is also on the run from something "HUGE." The four animals continue to creep each other out until they realize they are running from a bat's shadow. They admit they are afraid of night animals, but the bat assures them that they ARE night animals. When the animals come into contact with humans sleeping in a tent, everyone, animals and humans, scares each other. Just when you think the story's over, possum even quits "playing possum," they hear a weird sound and get scared all over again.

Refreshing and captivating illustrations and the cute friendship between skunk and possum will have young readers enthralled. This is a great keeper of a book. It is  a good read for a child with night fears, helping to show that sounds in the night are just animals. Even the animals may be afraid of each other and humans! The character of Possum is hysterical--he is memorable and dramatic.

Highly, highly recommended as a bedtime, night time or camping story. I heart Night Animals.

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

Friday, January 15, 2016

Book Club Pick: Blackbirds

(book 1)
Books 2 & 3 now available
by Chuck Wendig
Saga Press
2015 (paperback edition)
276 pages
ISBN: 9781481448659

From the inside cover:
"A gleefully dark, twisted road trip for everyone who though Fight Club was too warm and fuzzy. If you enjoy this book, you're probably deeply wrong in the head. I loved it and will be seeking professional help as soon as Chuck lets me out of his basement." --James Moran, screenwriter "Doctor Who," " Torchwood," and "Blackbirds."
Once considered by Starz as a new series, this blogger wishes that one of the cable  networks will consider putting this on the screen.

My review:
Gritty, grimy, ghisly, grotesque, gruesome, and gory, Blackbirds roars off the page and puts up one helluva fight. Miriam Black can see how you will die. All it takes is for her to touch someone skin on skin and she can see everything. She just sees it happen once; no replays. This freakish occurrence nearly brought her to insanity until she discovered that she could follow someone (her mark) whose death was imminent and empty their pockets and wallets. Miriam is not greedy but takes only what she needs to survive. Because of this, readers will empathize with her as a character. She is cursed with a condition that forces her to see hundreds of deaths and she makes the most of it. Does she try to keep people from meeting their Maker? Yes, to terrible results. Having failed, she lives with guilt and finds a way to keep herself fed.
When she accepts a ride from a trucker, she gets rattled for the first time in a long time. Miriam has a vision that Louis has only a few days to live, but what's get her even more concerned is that Louis calls out the name "Miriam" just before he dies. To Miriam this means she is responsible and present for his death--and it's a grisly, terrible death.

Miriam soon has a run-in with a stranger that leaves her speechless. He's been secretly following (stalking) her, and offers her a partnership in crime. She declines; she doesn't need anyone and certainly not Ashley. What she doesn't know is that she has no choice. Someone's after Ashley and they'll stop at nothing to catch him. As Miriam tries to shake Ashley, she is pulled into the cat and mouse game. On the run from bad guys and trying to save good guy truckerLouis, Miriam and Ashley will have to learn to trust each other or die.

Breakneck speed and taut dialog make this a quick read. Gratuitous violence (think Russian mob type violence), torture sessions, vomit inducing descriptions of grisly scenes and language that would make a sailor blush, and you get the picture. Blackbirds is the best kind of raunchy--a tough bird named Mariam  kicking a** and taking names. I usually don't gravitate to this kind of violence in a book, but Mariam is an interesting character that I wanted to get to know. She is the driving force of this book and the reason I kept reading.

Recommended for readers who aren't squeamish and don't mind profanity that stings.

Recommended grade 11-up--it's pretty racy and violent.

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


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Humorous Pick: Kill the Boy Band

Kill the Boy Band
by Goldy Moldavsky
320 pages
ISBN: 9780545867474

Available February 23, 2016

I have a huge fan girl crush, and it's for  the new YA book Kill the Boy Band which is everything hilarious about fandom, fan fic, and fan girls! Straight off the pages of a teen rag or a fan girl's Twitter feed, this book amazes. Spot on dialog with popping snark and "me first" just because I deserve it attitude, Kill the Boy Band is so funny it nearly aches.

Four fan girl BFFs (two go to the same school, the other two are online "friends" who know each other only from Twitter, text and DM's--don't hate--I met some of my BFF librarian friends online first and then in person, lol) agree to meet in NYC and rent a room at the hotel where their beloved boy band, the Ruperts (all the boys in the band have the real first name of Rupert--go figure),  will stay while in New York. Fooling all their  parents is easy since the adults  seem clueless; with the help of Apple's family maid, who checks the girls into the hotel, their plan of meeting their idols is finalized. Now to find out which room the "boys" are in. Isobel wants to post inside scoop for her blog, and readers will soon find out that Erin has much darker ideas for the boys.

After an unexpected coup at the ice machine, Apple returns with an unconscious Rupert P. The girls tie him up so he won't run off. It goes from bad to worse when Apple wants to keep him as her very own pet and Isobel snaps photos to post. At first the girls question their options, but finally talk themselves into full blown kidnapping. Rupert P. is having none of it; he argues and tries to escape. The girls have to gag him. Then they have the problem of Rupert K.'s fake girlfriend who keeps trying to find him. She's becoming a real pest.

The kidnapping and felony charges/prison time does not sit well with our narrator (who never tells us  her own name). She escapes to the hotel bar where an older bartender--she calls him Civil War Bartender--berates all  fan girls in general for  their foolish and foppish attempts to see/touch/hear/kiss/scream at/possess  their idols. He tells her that someday in the future  she'll be at a college party and someone will mention the Ruperts and say what a loser band they were. She does not believe Civil War Bartender at the time.

An unexpected but blissful encounter on the roof with her real crush, Rupert K., has our narrator in the throes of romantic tizzy, but it all comes crashing down (literally). When bestie Erin informs the others of her real plans for the boy band, the narrator nearly loses it.

All this mayhem is just the beginning; the story gets trippier and messier but, oh, so fun! Goldy Moldavsky has a great time satirizing boy bands, fandom, and pop culture. The media frenzy and pop culture hype created by social media makes this a believable read. #fangirllove, #KTBBrocks, #foreverRuperts! Shout out and heads up: Texas librarians, Goldy is coming to TLA in Houston this year! Score!

Highly, highly recommended and addictive grade 9-up. Profanity, sexual innuendo, mature themes, bad fan girl behavior, bad boy band behavior, sex, sexting.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Thriller Pick: Ask the Dark

Ask the Dark
by Henry Turner
Clarion Books
250 pages
ISBN: 9780544308275
What a story! What a character!
You know that kid in school who's always in trouble? The one who is usually a loner, who's quiet and breaks the law? The kid who's out late at night and maybe shows up to class or maybe doesn't? The kid whose mother died? The kid whose father can't make enough money to pay the hospital  debt and save their family home? The kid with the sister who dresses like a prostitute and hangs out with the neighborhood bad boy? Billy Zeets is that kid, but you need to know more about him and he's ready to tell his story in Ask the Dark.
Billy is a young juvenile delinquent usually in minor trouble for petty theft or sneaking around places he shouldn't be. In fact, that's why he knows what he does. When young neighborhood boys start to disappear, Billy tries to piece together all the clues he knows he's seen. Sneaking around at night in dark places and abandoned houses gives Billy all the information he will need, but can he put the pieces together before another boy is killed? Try as he might, there's something that he's missing and if he can just wrap his head around it, he'll solve the crime.
In a voice that's as fresh as country air, Billy shines as an unforgettable storyteller. The reader will empathize with him as he takes odd jobs to help his father save their home. The reward for the arrest of the child snatcher/murderer is $100,000, and Billy aims to capture that reward. Time is running out for everyone involved: for the kidnapped boys it means their lives, for Billy, it means saving his home and proving himself, for his father it means keeping the family together.
Billy knows he'll need more than just a scrap of paper or a pair of mittens to prove who the killer is. He'll need to find the missing boys and save them. Only then will the police believe him. For a boy who's usually on the wrong side of the law, Billy is on the right side of morality. He has no choice. He alone can save those boys and secure  his family's destiny.
Author Henry Turner's debut novel Ask the Dark is a fast paced page turner with a protagonist every reader will root for. Billy is unforgettable.
Highly, highly recommended grade 8-up with this consideration: Book contains profanity and well-placed "F-bombs," but it is the way Billy  would talk. If language is a problem with your readership, you may want to place this book grade 9 and up. It's so well written that readers will not be shocked at F-bombs at all. I believe they will accept it as Billy's natural diction.
FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spy Pick: Sealed With a Lie

Sealed With a Lie
by Kat Carlton
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
244 pages
ISBN: 9781481400534

This second installment in Kat Carlton's "spy" books is equally as fun and flirty as the first book (Two Lies and a Spy). Steamy and dreamy Evan Kincaid makes another appearance as smooth talking flirtatious Brit boy, and Kari tries to convince herself that he doesn't make her heart race and her palms sweat. Both kids are in a school that trains the next generation of spies. They learn languages, coding, martial arts and other inspirational arts like how to pick a lock and how to "case" a building. Kari and her brother Charlie stay with the agency's top brass Rebecca.

When Charlie  is kidnapped and held for ransom, Kari decides she'll do anything to save him. Evan will not let Kari go it alone and swears he's in with her to save Charlie. The kids can't tell the authorities or Rebecca for fear that the kidnappers will harm Charlie.  The bad guys hold all the cards and they order Kari to drive to Germany and await further instructions. Computer nerd Matthis rounds out the trio as they go in search of Charlie and put together a plan to thwart the kidnappers.

Evan proves to be a worthy sidekick to Kari's superhero. In fact, he keeps saving her. While she should feel thankful, she tries to convince herself that she doesn't need him. The trio of kid spies play cat and mouse with the police and the bad guys. The fun just doesn't stop; the kids use elaborate disguises, high speed chases and sleight of hand.

Kari's parents make another appearance but readers will still be mystified as to whether they are indeed Russian spies or true American patriots "pretending" to be Russian spies. There's bound to be another book where more about the parents is to be revealed, and I can't wait.

Kari Andrews is a worthy YA female protagonist; she's tough, stubborn, smart and sexy. She's the girl every girl wants to be and Evan is certainly the guy every girl dreams about. This is a smart, romantic quick read. For any fan of romantic adventure. If you enjoyed Two Lies and a Spy, you will love Sealed With a Lie.

Recommended grade 7-up. No profanity. No sex.

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, January 11, 2016

Tween Pick: Absolutely Truly

Absolutely Truly
(A Pumpkin Falls Mystery)
by Heather Vogel Frederick
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
355 pages
ISBN: 9781442429734

Truly Lovejoy is an absolutely plucky twelve year old heroine who is seriously  entertaining and fun. Truly is not having any fun at all. Uprooted from what was supposed to be her forever home in Austin, Texas, the family goes back to her father's roots in teensy Pumpkin, Falls, New Hampshire. They move into her great, great, great, well... many great-grandfather's home and her father  takes over the challenge of running a small town family owned book store with his sister (Truly's aunt).

Truly is from a large family: four siblings and her mother and father. Her dad used to be fun...that is, until he came home from the war. It's hard for her father to re-enter normal life as an amputee (he lost an arm). He's not happy to have to move, let alone run a bookstore and live in the old family home. His injury and PTSD are dictating his life and he feels trapped.

The small town charm, snowy paths, cold weather, bare trees, the charming book store, quirky town folk, the large house which has housed generations of Lovejoys, and the warmth of a family who loves one another make this book a real Norman Rockwell moment--one that readers are sure to love. So many kids will relate to this book. Any reader who has a parent in the military, anyone who's had to move cross country and felt like a fish out of water, any geeky or awkward tween will find something to love in this book. Truly is six feet tall and towers over all the other middle school kids. That alone would be enough to make her a social pariah, but add to that---being the outsider from out of town surely makes Truly the different one--the new girl.

When Truly finds a strange note in a first edition of Charlotte's Web, she senses a mystery--a mystery that she sets out to solve. The mystery is quite tame, nearly too tame, for my taste. A bit more danger and skullduggery would have made it more exciting but then that would take away from the book's  timeless charm.

The cover art captures a nearly bygone era. The covered bridge, snow and walking figures look like a page from a Rockwell calendar. Pumpkin Falls is a charming name for a small town, and the addition of a mystery--though tame-- will draw in readers.

Highly, highly recommended grade 4-up. Most reviewers agree that this is THE go to book for tween girls.

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)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Best Books 2015

Pamela's Picks: Best Books 2015

I've included two great adult titles for book clubs, middle grades, middle school and YA titles.
I hope you make a point of at least finding more out about these great titles. 2015 was a great year for publishing. Click on each book cover for more information on each book. I saved The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch as the last title. It was so AMAZING that it took me a week of pondering in order to write a review worthy of that novel. It literally is everything great about fiction. Enjoy! ( I used the free educator end of Emaze for the presentation; you can buy upgrades if you prefer. Easy to use and looks great!)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Extraordinary Pick: The Key to Extraordinary

The Key to Extraordinary
by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic Press
240 pages
ISBN: 97805454552745

Available March 2016

Magical, extraordinary, quaint, rare, and shining, the Key to Extraordinary sings off the pages. Set in the mountain hollows lies an extraordinary village with an extraordinary restaurant run by a family of extraordinary individuals. Everyone in Emma's family has a Destiny Dream; she's still waiting for hers. In it, the dreamer dreams of what his/her destiny is to be. Emma knows Grandma Blue had a destiny dream; her mother had one, too. As Emma awaits her destiny, she reads the Book of Days where those who proceeded her recorded their own dreams.

There is magic in the town and among the dead in the graveyard. No amount of magic is going to help Emma's family who is  bound to lose their business unless they can find some cash...fast! Emma dreams of solving the riddle of the Daisy song  and finding the conductor's treasure--a great treasure buried somewhere near the woods. Everyone is out  treasure hunting, but Emma is determined to find it first. With the help of a new arrival who never speaks and her best friend Cody Belle, Emma sets out to solve the mystery and save the family business.

Quirky, charming  and full of fun, The Key To Extraordinary is that rare book that is like bottled up magic. Open the book and see what I mean. This is a great middle grades read that will satisfy younger readers.

Highly recommended grade 4-up.

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)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Adult Read Pick: Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Only Love Can Break Your Heart
by Ed Tarkington
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
307 pages
ISBN: 9781616203825

Available January 5, 2016

Stunning, moody, rare, eccentric, and brimming with Southern gothic-ism and down home charm, Only Love Can Break Your Heart will leave readers stunned, amazed and gasping. Only a few days into January and the best adult read has appeared! You won't want to miss Ed Tarkington's love letter to the 1970's and an "easier" down to earth way of life.

Rocky (Richard) idolizes older brother Paul and reports the beginning of the story through eight year old eyes. It's easy to see why Paul plays a central role in Rocky's life. . Paul is sophisticated, cool, aloof, and sometimes downright dangerous. Rocky explains, " My brother Paul had a reputation around town as a 'bad kid.' This wasn't entirely undeserved..." but he goes on to inform the reader that in larger, more cosmopolitan cities Paul's hijinks wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. Paul's rebellious side was smoking endless packs of cigarettes, throwing back beers, breaking the speed limit, sneaking out at night and running around with other "nefarious" hoodlums. Typical teen boy behavior, but it sends their father, "the Old Man," into a rage at every turn. The "Old Man"  doesn't let it fester; he tends to look the other way when Paul misbehaves. Although not spoken aloud (ever!) there is a deep love between older boy and the Old Man. Paul's mother Ann left for Akron, Ohio, never looking back. The Old Man instructs his boys "never marry a Yankee!"

Ann does  make a brief appearance when she arrives for Paul's high school graduation. After embarrassing herself, her son and family, she returns to Ohio where it's all downhill from there. Paul's first love is beautiful, ethereal Leigh who as the novel progresses becomes more and more damaged. Most of the characters throughout the novel are damaged if not broken (that's life!). Rocky's mom is much younger than the "Old Man," and she married if not for love--for security and money. In those days in a small town, if a woman isn't married by age twenty five, she is considered an old maid--a fate that no girl can endure. The boys both attend a fancy and pricey private school where they can mingle with other wealthy students from "good" homes. There are class lines in Spencerville, and although Rocky's family  lives in a comfortable home and the "Old Man" earns a good living, he came from nothing. His family was dirt poor, therefor the privileged and snooty old wealth shuns him. No matter how successful or rich he becomes, he will never be accepted into their lofty ranks and it eats at him. Seeing a way to make a real "deal," he loses everything.

Twin Peaks (shades of Gone With the Wind meets To Kill a Mockingbird) has been abandoned and haunted for years. When Paul takes Rocky over to explore the old mansion, Paul is shot and the story soars. All the characters are now in place with a bone or two to pick with each other. This one kept me guessing until the ending. Even now, looking back, I have some unanswered questions, and I mean that in the best ways! A great novel really gets to you and bothers you to the bone and that's just what Only Love Can Break Your Heart does.

If you love Southern tradition, Ed Tarkington is your author. I would put him in the ranks of Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Only Love Can Break Your Heart may do just that! Bring your box of Kleenex because you'll need them! I will not likely forget Paul, Rocky or Leigh. The Old Man who is first seen as a grouchy ogre redeems himself and the reader will see the true man when he develops Alzheimer's. In fact, I respected the Old Man after I realized his life story. "Love can make people do terrible things..." is oh, so true!

Poignant yet promising, this is the BEST adult novel I've read in a very long time. It's right up there with my favorite all time novels: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Shadow of the Wind and Life Among Giants.

Highly, highly recommended. Order or grab a copy today. You won't be able to put down this book.
In fact, I finished reading it during the Broncos' game (and I'm a Broncos fanatic), but I couldn't stop reading. I found myself not even listening to the game. I was in Spencerville with Rocky and Paul.

Suitable adult title and recommended for all adult book clubs. Mature content, profanity, murder.

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)

YA Book Giveaway: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

See my review
I have FIVE FREE copies of Slasher Girls & Monster Boys up for grabs! This is a thrilling and chilling read for grade 9 and up! If you have high school readers who love things that go bump in the night, you'll want this book! If you love Stephen King, you MUST have this book!

For your chance to win a copy, simply post a comment to this blog. Please include your first name, city, state and email contact. Deadline for posts is January 19th at noon MST. Winners are chosen randomly by Randomizer. Please check your email in the afternoon on January 19th. Winners will be contacted immediately. Winners have 24 to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York.