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Friday, February 26, 2016

YA Book Giveaway: Blackhearts

I have FIVE free copies of Blackhearts up for grabs! For your chance to win, simply post to the blog. Please include your first name, city, state and email address. Deadline for posts is Monday, March 21 at noon MST. Winners are selected randomly by Randomizer and will be notified on March 21 shortly after noon MST. Please check your email that afternoon. Winners have only 24 hours to respond to my email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting! Pamela

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

YA Pick: Blackhearts

by Nicole Castroman
Simon Pulse
369 pages
ISBN: 9781481432696

Gothic romance, swashbuckling pirates, an heiress  who cannot collect her inheritance, an arranged marriage, the high seas, adventure and love! What could be better than all that?

House maid Anne Barrett is forced into servitude upon the death of her father and  her uncle kicks her and her mother out into the streets. Once her  mother dies, Anne  is alone and penniless. She is given a job in Master Drummond's house where she takes abuse from the housekeeper. She gets more than her fair share of strange looks; people in Bristol are not used to seeing a housekeeper of color (Anne's merchant father fell in love with a servant on one of his voyages).  Anne longs for escape and is stashing as much money as she can hoping to gain passage on one of the ships leaving Bristol.

Master Drummond's son returns from a year at sea and soon sparks are flying between the handsome young sailor and beautiful, exotic Anne. She keeps her distance, not trusting a master to be kind. Teach is engaged Patience, daughter of a baron and she is a girl he doesn't love. He longs to return to the sea, but his father forbids it.

When Teach is accused of piracy, he fears they will lock him up. His father still expects him to marry Patience and give up his dreams of the sea. Using the story of Blackbeard as the spark for this story, Nicole Castroman weaves a tale as compelling as any love story.

Anne and Teach are clearly star-crossed and meant only for each other, but society and people keep getting involved and trying to keep them apart. As the novel ends, both are still looking for each other. I can see book two on the horizon.

The cover art depicts a ship in a bottle. Clever minds will realize that both Anne and Teach are trapped like the ship. The title Blackhearts is a spin on the Blackbeard legend and the pink color of hearts on the cover makes the cover pop for romance fans.

Highly recommended grade 7-up. No profanity. Some kissing. Patience finds herself pregnant with another man's child but that is how it is put forth. No details.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Young Reader Pick: Bloom

by Doreen Cronin
Illustrations by David Small
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
32 pages

"A mud fairy, an extraordinary girl, and a castle in peril." (from the front cover)

Bloom is not your ordinary fairy. Gone is the fairy dust, the twinkling wings, the sparkling wand. Bloom has heavy feet and leaves mud wherever she goes. The king and queen are appalled. Their kingdom is made of glass; they don't want all that mud dirtying things up. Bloom can make flowers bloom where weeds used to grow and she can make glass out of sand. All this magic isn't enough to gain the favor of the royals. They tell Bloom that she must leave. Off she goes to the forest where she makes flowers grow everywhere.

After a few years, the kingdom is in disrepair. The king and queen don't know what to do! The king ventures into the forest to ask for Bloom's help. When he declines, he sends the queen hoping for better luck. The queen also turns away Bloom's "dirty" answer to their problem. They decide to send a young servant girl who is a "nobody" hoping she will get the secret to saving their kingdom.

Genevieve finds Bloom and asks for her magic. Bloom gives her a shovel and tells her, " I will show you the magic that can save your kingdom." Genevieve is amazed! She can make bricks! She can get dirty and build things! She is worried that the king and queen will never believe her because she's just a commoner, "an ordinary girl." Bloom's answer is the mantra that all girls should hear, "Tell them there is no such thing as an ordinary girl..."With her newfound sense of power and self-esteem, Genevieve returns to her kingdom and saves it!

I LOVE the message! I love the HEART! This is a must read for every single girl on the planet (no matter what age)! Even the boys! Doreen Cronin, you have done it again! Thank you for your genius, insight, and heart. You have created a truly marvelous picture book that readers will treasure.

Illustrations by David Small and smart placement of font size and lettering carry the story across each spread. When we see Genevieve return to her kingdom, she shatters the palace door and bits and shards fly across the page.

What a treasure! What a gem of a story! Well done, you two!

So highly recommended that everyone should own this book! It's message is that great! This is a wonderful book for new readers and its mantra of, "There is no such thing as an ordinary girl," should be over the hallowed halls of every place of learning and over every crib.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

YA Pick: It's All Your Fault

It's All Your Fault
by Paul Rudnick
Scholastic Press
304 pages
ISBN: 9780545464970

Unstoppable satire, perfect profanity, bad girl behavior, good girl sanctimonious speech, fangirl furor, teen trilogy madness, what more could you want in a YA book?

Good Christian, homespun and home schooled, knee socks wearing, family singing group songstress, Bible thumping Caitlin Mary Prudence Rectitude Singleberry is approached by her crazy Aunt Nancy.  Cousin Heller Harrigan grew up a kid show sensation, Anna Banana. Now cast as Lynnea, the Chosen Winglet, in the Hollywood blockbuster movie "Angel Wars," Heller is hitting rock bottom. She's out of control with boys, booze and drugs. Nancy begs Caitlin to take the job of "babysitter" until Heller gets off the press tour. It will be Catey's good influence that will keep Heller on the straight and narrow ( Yeah, right).

Chapter titles are hilarious! "The Highway to Heller" contains this gem of conversation. "No one under the age of eighteen needs a cell phone unless they're a surgeon, drug dealer, or a prostitute." To which Heller replies, "Wouldn't it be incredible to be all three?" The girls' chemistry is believable and laugh out loud funny. Catey tries to get Heller to lay off cussing like a sailor. She is so salty, she could out cuss most sailors! Catey tells Heller to say the name of any town in New Jersey when she wants to cuss. Like "Weehawken!" Heller tries and comes up with, "Go Teaneck yourself, you Dunellen piece of  ###$$$$$$ Mount Kittatinny!" Heller's ability to come up with spot on curses at every turn  is her greatest achievement!

Every time Caitlin is introduced to any "cool" Hollywood people, they always ask her the same question, "Are you homeschooled?" Her ubiquitous knee socks make quite the impression. Later, Caitlin finds herself reveling in the spotlight. She wonders if she is sinning by acting in such a n un-Christian way. She begins to crush on the male lead of "Angel Wars" and since he's on the same press junket, she sees him all the time.

Just when you think Heller is a possessed, evil, maniacal, crazy, rude sociopath, she comes clean. She admits to Catey the reason why she began to unravel. The spotlight made her life bigger than life, so that when the filming was over, she had all this energy and nowhere to put it. In fact, at her bleakest Heller planned suicide. She had pills, white wine, and weed all "...lined up on ...Buddhist altar..." which Heller says, "...was sort of like the menu for a suicide buffet , or an LA kid's birthday party, if you added a clown who'd bring flourless brownies and soy milk."

Once Heller admits that she missed Catey for all these years, they get along. Enter cancer patient Sophie. She convinces the girls to help her carry out her plan for exiting this life. When the girls attempt Sophie's wishes, hilarity ensues with  grand theft auto, tattoos, body piercings, gun toting, scaring off armed robbers who have a sawed off shotgun, weird hair, kissing a boy, and flashing a trucker.

The cover is clever and eye-catching. Nice job of packaging this hilarious romp!

Paul Rudnick has just  taken his place among witty YA writers Andrew Smith and Libba Bray.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. NOT for middle school. Profanity, sex, drugs and rock and roll.

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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Now in Paperback! Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School

Now in Paperback!
Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School
By Jen Calonita
February 2, 2016; Tradepaper ISBN 9781492620815
Book Info:
Title: Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School
Author: Jen Calonita
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Praise for Flunked: Fairy Tale Reform School
“Spellbinding and wickedly clever.” –Leslie Margolis, author of the Annabelle Unleashed novels and the Maggie Brooklyn mysteries
“A fresh and funny take on the enchanted world. (And, who hasn’t always wanted to know what happened to Cinderella’s stepmother?)” –Julia DeVillers, author of the Trading Faces series and Emma Emmets, Playground Matchmaker
“Charming fairy-tale fun.” –Sarah Mlynowski, author of the Whatever After series
“Fairy tale fans will love this clever and lively tale of magic, friendship, and courage.” –Discovery Girls Magazine
“Gilly’s plucky spirit and determination to oust the culprit will make Flunked a popular choice for tweens” –School Library Journal
“Calonita blithely samples from fairy tales, nursery rhymes, and folklore in this lighthearted first book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series.” –Publishers Weekly
“There’s much to amuse and entertain fans of classic tales with a twist.” –Booklist
Would you send a villain to do a hero’s job?
Flunked is an exciting new twisted fairy tale from the award-winning author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series.
Gilly wouldn’t call herself wicked, exactly…but when you have five little brothers and sisters and live in a run-down boot, you have to get creative to make ends meet. Gilly’s a pretty good thief (if she does say so herself).
Until she gets caught.
Gilly’s sentenced to three months at Fairy Tale Reform School where all of the teachers are former (super-scary) villains like the Big Bad Wolf, the Evil Queen, and Cinderella’s Wicked Stepmother. Harsh. But when she meets fellow students Jax and Kayla, she learns there’s more to this school than its heroic mission. There’s a battle brewing and Gilly has to wonder: can a villain really change?
Buy Links:
Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/WeK6d
BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/WeKdn
Indiebound- http://ow.ly/WeKox
About the Author:
Jen Calonita is the author of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series and other books like Sleepaway Girls and Summer State of Mind, but Fairy Tale Reform School is her first middle-grade series. She rules Long Island, New York, with her husband Mike, princes Tyler and Dylan, and Chihuahua Captain Jack Sparrow, but the only castle she’d ever want to live in is Cinderella’s at Disney World. She’d love for you to visit her at jencalonitaonline.com and keep the fairy-tale fun going at happilyeverafterscrolls.net 
Social Networking Links:
Excerpt from Flunked Fairy Tale Reform School:
There’s a boy up there, standing on the crystal chandelier! He has slightly curly blond hair and is wearing a uniform—­a navy sweater vest over a white shirt with khaki pants—­but his boots are muddy. He’s stepping on priceless crystals with cruddy boots? Is he insane?
“Jax! What are you doing up there?” Kayla whispers heatedly.
“I’m cleaning the crystal for Flora,” Jax says and rolls his eyes. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m making
a break for it.”
Kayla applauds. “Yay! This time I know you can do it.”
I shade my eyes from the light bursting through the stained-­glass window next to the chandelier Jax is perched on. “Busting out? Why?” I ask Kayla. “I thought you said this place was cool.”
Jax laughs loudly and looks at me. I feel slightly stunned. I’ve never seen violet eyes before. “FTRS was fun for a while, but strange things have started happening and I don’t want to be here when something bad goes down.”
Strange things? What kind of strange things? Why does Kayla suddenly look pale?
“He’s exaggerating,” Kayla tells me, but she doesn’t sound convincing.
Drip. Whatever Jax is holding is leaking. Kayla and I move out of the way so we don’t get wet. “Grease,” Jax explains to me. “It lubes the window.” He swings the chandelier, and as it nears the window, he uses a fork to try to pry the window open. “A few more tries and I’ll have it.”
“Then what are you going to do, genius?” I ask. “You’re two stories up.”
Jax’s eyes gleam. “I’ve jumped from higher spots before.”
“It’s true,” Kayla says to me. “Jax once jumped from the gym to the dining hall turret. That was three stories up. We call him the Escape Artist. One time he even managed to break into Azalea and Dahlia’s rooms and borrowed their keys to the indoor pool so the whole dorm could take a midnight swim.”
“Impressive,” I tell him. “And I thought I was good at tricking obnoxious royals.”
“She stole a dragon’s tooth clip from one this morning,” Kayla fills him in.
“Nice,” Jax says. “Your first pull?”
“No, I’ve been doing it for a while,” I brag.
“Me too,” Jax says. “My father is a farmer. You can only get so far trading vegetables. I needed to kick things up a notch.”
For some reason, I don’t think any of us are going to make the transformation Headmistress Flora is looking for. “Why do you want to break out so bad?”
“I’ve got places to see, and Enchantasia isn’t one of them.” Jax swings the chandelier so hard the crystals clang together. The window latch pops open, and I watch Jax leap from the chandelier to the tiny window ledge. I’m in awe. Jax looks down at us smugly before pushing open the window. “Are you sure you two don’t want to join me?”
“There’s no time for us,” Kayla says. “Get out of here. Wait!” Her eyes widen. “You deactivated the alarm on the window, right?”
“There isn’t one,” Jax insists. “If there was, I wouldn’t be able to do this.” But when Jax lifts the window, we hear:
EEEEEE! EEEE! EEEE! Unauthorized exit! Unauthorized exit!
The shrieking sound is so intense that Kayla and I cover our ears. Within seconds, Flora is out of her office and running toward us.
I feel something brush past me and I whirl around. When I look up at Jax again, a large, muscular man with a long mane of hair is hanging on to the window ledge, his furry hands pulling Jax back by his shirt. How did the man get up there without a ladder?
“Mr. Jax,” the man says in a low growl, “we really must stop meeting like this.”
Charmed: Fairy Tale Reform School
Available March 1, 2016; Hardcover: 9781492604044
Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains. "Charming fairy-tale fun." -Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series.
It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.
Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her.  As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.
Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…
Goodreads Link:
Pre-Order Links:
Barnes&Noble- http://ow.ly/WeOFR
BooksAMillion- http://ow.ly/WeOKq
Indiebound- http://ow.ly/WeOWC
Rafflecopter Giveaway Fairy Tale Princess Book Pack
Runs December 23rd -Feb 29th (US and Canada only)
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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

YA Pick: Dumplin'

by Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
371 pages
ISBN: 9780062327185
Advance Praise for DUMPLIN':

“I’m obsessed with this book. Wickedly funny, heartbreakingly real, full of characters to love and cheer for.Dumplin’ is such a star.”
—Katie Cotugno, author of How to Love and 99 Days

Dumplin’ should be required reading for anyone who has ever felt even slightly uncomfortable in his or her skin. Julie Murphy’s star continues to shine with this groundbreaking, poignant story that will surely change lives.”
—John Corey Whaley, award-winning author of Noggin and Where Things Come Back

My Review:

Intelligent, witty, and beautiful, Dumplin' is testament to the strength of one tough Texas teen who won't be written off. She won't listen to haters. She won't let people shame her or shut her down. She won't let her mothers constant digs get her down. Using her moxie, Willowdean shows the town of Clover City that she is a teen tour-de-force to be reckoned with. Willowdean's mom is the Bluebonnet Pageant director and an ex-crown holder herself. In fact, her whole life has been a let down compared to winning that darned crown. It is literally her crowning achievement. She wishes her daughter would diet, so that she can be the beauty queen. She wants her daughter to be willowy and beautiful like she was in her youth. Instead of celebrating the smart, sassy and sweet daughter that she has, she longs for the outer shell--the shell that society is so enthralled with.

Willowdean has been crushing on hunky athlete Bo who just so happens is her co-worker at the burger joint. When he begins flirting with her, Will is surprised. Pleasantly so. They share a few sweet kisses and soon they seem to be in a "relationship."

Willow decides to make a point. Even though she is not considered "beautiful" due to her weight, she is going to enter the Miss Bluebonnet Pageant to make a point--fat is beautiful. Will triumphs against all odds and proves her point to her mother, to the audience and most importantly, to herself.

I loved the positive statements in Willow's personality. She owns herself, fat and all. As Willow puts it, "That cute, little fat girl is a beauty queen."

Beauty queens everywhere will love this book, fat girls will love this book, anyone who ever looked at a body part and hated it will love this book, Anyone who loves Texas, Dolly Parton, country music, bluebonnets, pageants, little towns, greasy burger joints, and pick-ups will love this book.Texans will love this book, heck, everyone will love this book.

Recommended grade 8 and up. Kissing, talk about "doing it," talk about virginity, profanity no worse than on primetime television, talk of beer money.

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