Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or print copy of the book. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Angel Burn - L. A. Weatherly

Angel Burn (U.S. Release)

Released on May 2011

www.candlewick.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Can I simply say "wow!" I don't know what I was really expecting from Angel Burn, but I'm not sure the book met my original expectations. It's been a very, very long time since a book has wormed its way into my dreams. I hated having to put it down to get chores done.

L. A. Weatherly's paranormal teen novel was released in the U.K. in October 2010. Candlewick is releasing it to U.S. readers in May 2011. I highly recommend it for your teen's shelf.

The story revolves around a few key characters. Willow is the most important. She's your semi-average high schooler, only she's cool enough to know how to fix cars and she's psychic. When a fellow classmate asks Willow for a reading, Willow's stunned to find out Beth recently encountered an angel. Worse, Beth plans to leave her family,  home and friends behind and join the Church of the Angels. Willow feels this decision is going to affect Beth's happiness and health. The angels aren't as nice as they seem.

When Willow learns Beth has in fact taken off, she heads to the Church of Angels to save her. Only the angels realize Willow is a threat, she's half-angel, and attack. Willow's saved by a mysterious teen named Alex. Willow will put her family in danger if she goes home, so she and Alex go on the run.

Alex spent much of his life training and then serving as an Angel Killer. He understands the threat the angels pose to humankind. The angels must drain humans of their energy in order to survive. However, the angels are increasing in number and Willow may be man's only hope.

The title, Angel Burn, relates to the condition imposed on humans after a feeding. An angel feeding off a human alters the human's health in some way. They might become senile or develop cancer. Everyone responds differently.

I loved, loved, loved this book. I don't think I could say it enough. I'm not sure of the author's true intentions, but I loved how the church became the evil. In today's world, while some still feel churches are the be all and end all, I tend to question just how legit some churches are. I realize every experience is different, but I've heard the stories of my mother and her sister being consistently hit by nuns in their private Catholic school. We'll all heard the stories of the Catholic priests. Televangelists certainly heat up the news with their illicit and often criminal behaviors. For that reason, I found myself completely drawn to Angel Burn and was thrilled to be rooting against the church leaders.

Teens are unlikely to think twice about the church aspect. Instead, they'll be drawn to the powerful romance that builds between Alex and Willow. It's a great one!

I don't know if this is the first in a series. It seems possible. My fingers are crossed that it is! I can't wait to see what happens next, especially with Alex and Willow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dragon, Dragon - John Gardner




Released November 2010

www.openroadmedia.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Dragon, Dragon shares four tales from John Gardner's Dragon, Dragon and Other Tales. Stories are as follows:

In Dragon, Dragon a kingdom is being terrorized by a ferocious dragon. Whoever can slay the dragon will win the king's daughter, a beautiful princess. The four sons of a cobbler decide to try. Each one failing in their mission. Will the cobbler's youngest,scared, less intelligent son triumph where his older, braver, smarter brothers failed?

The Tailor and the Giant introduces the tale of a giant who devours everything in his site once a month. The kingdom is sick of losing their livestock and people, so they demand everyone take a self-defense course. A cowardly tailor didn't have the courage to take the course. One night, he's out walking and gets lost and ends up at the giant's castle. Soon he learns the truth about bravery.

In the Miller's Mule, a miller is shocked to find his mule can talk. The mule makes promises of wealth that the miller cannot pass up. Yet, the mule ends up telling the king that the miller is a traitor. Just what is the mule up to?

Finally, The Last Piece of Light shares the tale of a land where light is disappearing. A young girl overhears what's happening to the light. That night she's visited by the Lady of the North Star and asked to go steal the final piece of light. The girl is told a poem to remember, but soon forgets. Happiness rests on her memory of the poem. Will she remember in time to save the land?

Dragon, Dragon is only available for Kindle. It's not long, just 30 pages. Many of the stories were ones I'd heard in childhood. As is true with fairytales and folklore, each story shares an important lesson about bravery, listening to your elders, etc. The Last Piece of Light was new to me. It's not a bad collection of stories, though I'm still trying to figure out the lesson in The Last Piece of Light. I'm assuming it falls into the not forgetting to focus on your task category.

I liked Dragon, Dragon, but am not sure it's a book I'd want to keep in an e-book format. I let my teens use my Nook, but I'd never let a younger child have access too it. Because they are children stories, I'd want a copy my children could read whenever they wanted. Honestly, I think I'd prefer buying a used copy of  Dragon, Dragon, and Other Tales.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Stalling - Alan Katz




Released September 2010

www.kids.simonandschuster.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Little Dan is a master of the art of bedtime stalling. As the clock moves closer to the magical hour when Dan knows he’ll hear those hated words, “Time to get ready for bed, Dan”, he slips it into high gear with a long list of “not yet” excuses.

Dan’s “bucket list”  includes checking his height to see if he’s grown during the day, trapping an armadillos using his pillow, performing a “funky” dance with his toy monkey, calling grampa and gram, and much more.

Each “task” is illustrated with a wild array of pictures that will cause a few chuckles. And, by the time Dan has finished explaining why he can’t go to bed quite yet, guess what? His parents have given up and they are already in bed and sound asleep!

What parent hasn’t had to deal with bedtime stalling? Probably not many! Both adults and children will love the humorous, rhymed twist Alan Katz puts on the nightly ritual.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Once in a Full Moon - Ellen Schreiber




Released January 2011

www.ellenschreiber.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

My daughter (she's 14) loved Once in a Full Moon. Me... I liked it, but I'm not raving about it like she did. My daughter is also head over heels with Taylor Lautner and werewolves in general, so that is likely a good portion of why she loved this book so much.

In Ellen Shreiber's latest, Celeste Parker is happy with her boyfriend, friends and life in general.The story starts off with Celeste's boyfriend spooking Celeste and her friends with a legend regarding werewolves in their town. Celeste later hears more of this legend from one of the men at a nursing home where she volunteers.

Her curiosity is piqued so she decides to write about the legend for her English paper. For "research," she and her friends head to the other part of town to have a reading by a psychic. The psychic tells Celeste: "Beware of a kiss under a full moon. It will change your life forever." On the walk home, Celeste is attacked by a pack of wolves but rescued by a new boy in her school. Brandon's bitten by the wolves, and Celeste sees him as her hero. Yet, she's hesitant to tell her friends that she's falling for him because he's from the wrong side of town.

Soon, Celeste begins to fear that Brandon is a werewolf. She can't stop her attraction to him, but she wonders if what she saw was simply her eyes playing tricks on her or if the legend is true.

There's a touch of Romeo and Juliet to this story. I liked that aspect. The author seems to tap into old werewolf movies where the transformed version is still a man on two feet with wolf-like features. I'm fine with that. The romance between Brandon and Celeste is tender and at times heated.

What I wasn't as impressed with was Celeste's wishy-washy nature. She comes off as very strong and determined, yet the entire time she didn't have the guts to tell her friends that she'd fallen for a boy from the wrong side of town. When she learns something about her ex-boyfriend, I really expected more of a reaction than she gave. I expected fury and there was nothing.

Given that, I also have to remember I'm an adult. Teens can be extremely hesitant. Given that, I can see where Once in a Full Moon would grab the younger teen reader. I'm not certain those in the 17 - 18 year range will find it as appealing, but I know my 14-year-old loved every second of it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mostly Monsterly - Tammi Sauer




Released August 2010

www.kids.simonandschuster.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Poor Bernadette. She has pointy ears, huge eyes, fangs, claws, a tail, and wears a creepy necklace. Bernadette is a little monster and although she growls and can cause all sort of mayhem, underneath the fangs and fur she is a very different little person.

Bernadette likes flowers, enjoys baking cupcakes and loves petting kittens. So, when it comes time to go to the Monster Academy she is a little apprehensive. What would happen when everyone is practicing their monster moves and Bernadette blurts out “Group hug, everybody!”?

Or worse yet, during the Creepy Noise Class how would her classmates respond if  Bernadette began singing songs like “Love Me Tender”? Hmmm, there could be a problem here.

Fortunately, this is a very resourceful little monster and Bernadette comes up with a plan that makes her rather “skeptical” classmates embrace her and her need to be true to herself.

Young readers will love the “monstrous” illustrations of this picture book’s characters and the positive message that you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself is one that children can’t hear too early.

DC Super-Pets: Pooches of Power - Sarah Hines Stephens




Released January 2011

www.capstonekids.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Batman's canine pal Ace and Superman's dog Krypto team up in Pooches of Power. Someone's stolen sardines from Gotham City Fish Factory. Clues lead them to Penguin's trio of birds, the Bad News Birds. It's up to the DC Super-Pets to round up the birds and put them "in the can." (Readers will understand that pun after reading the story.)

Pooches of Power blends an action-packed story with a good mix of colorful illustrations and vocabulary well suited to elementary children. For parents looking for longer books for their children without losing the appeal of pictures, the DC Super-Pets series is perfect. All books include a Word Power guide (definitions for tougher words), jokes, biographies and more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

DC Super-Pets: Midway Monkey Madness - Sarah Hines Stephens




Released January 2011

www.capstonekids.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Superman's pet monkey, Beppo, must save a carnival from the dastardly deeds of Gorilla Grodd. Grodd is releasing all the carnival animals and people are running for their lives. To defeat Grodd, Beppo challenges him to the games on the midway. There's one rule, Grodd cannot use his mind control to win any of the games.

Soon, Grodd realizes that without his powers, he's not going to beat Beppo. In a full rage, Grodd decides to stop Beppo and Beppo's friend Gleek (Wonder Twins). Do Beppo and Gleek have the skill necessary to stop Grodd for good?

Once again, I see Midway Monkey Madness as delighting advancing readers. There are some tougher words, such as corral, but a Word Power guide defines these words. Overall, the vocabulary is spot on for elementary aged children. Bright illustrations pair with action-packed narrative. Kids who enjoy DC Comic's heroes will love this series.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

DC Super-Pets: Heroes of the High Seas - J.E. Bright




Released January 2011

www.capstonekids.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Aquaman's pets Topo, Storm and Ark save the day in Heroes of the High Seas. Atlantis is on the verge of being destroyed by a giant whirlpool coming from Triton Trench. Aquaman goes to investigate with his pets, but must stop to save a baby blue whale and its mother who are caught in the giant funnel. Aquaman requests that his pets continue to the bottom of the trench to find out what's causing the whirlpool.

Down below, Topo, Storm and Ark learn that Black Manta and his evil manta rays are behind it. They want Atlantis destroyed and will stop and nothing to complete their mission.

Heroes of the High Seas is the first of the DC Super-Pets series that I happened to read. Immediate thoughts were that younger children, especially those who are into comic book heroes, will love this new series. The stories are packed with action and bold illustrations. There is mild violence, so some parents may want to look at the books first before deciding if they want their children to read them. The words are perfect for advancing readers, not too difficult but a few harder words are thrown in and defined in the Word Power section.

Each DC Super-Pets book starts with a bio page on the pet and then progresses in to the story. The end of the book features a grid of all super-pets and villain pets. There's also a bio offered on the author and illustrator.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

DC Super-Pets: Royal Rodent Rescue - John Sazaklis




Released January 2011

www.capstonekids.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Supergirl's cat Streaky takes center stage in Royal Rodent Rescue. While Supergirl and Batgirl team up to battle crime in Metropolis, Catwoman heads Gotham City to wreak havoc. With Catwoman away, her cat Rozz decides to check out the city. Rozz finds the King and Queen of Kardamyla are in town with their prized royal rodent. Rozz quickly comes up with a plan to kidnap the rodent and request a huge ransom.

When Rozz appears on the news with her demands, Streaky sets into action. There's a big problem, however. Rozz knows of Streaky's aversion to Kryptonite and will use it to keep Streaky from spoiling her plans.

Royal Rodent Rescue is another of the DC Super-Pets chapter books. It's perfect for advancing readers who still like plenty of pictures but want longer stories. The DC Super-Pets books are usually no more than 50 pages long. The vocabulary is broader and for tough words, there is a Word Power section in the back offering definitions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Lying Game - Sara Shepard




Released December 2010

www.prettylittleliars.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

My daughter has raved over Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series for months now. It's weird to have gone from having to push this child into reading books from getting her to come out of her room long enough to actually spend time as a family. She actually has her hands on my Nook now more than I do.

The Lying Game launches the start of a new series for Ms. Shepard. My daughter read it in one sitting and urged me to read it so that she would have someone to talk to. I, like my daughter, ended up reading the book in one sitting. Unlike her, I finished the final page feeling rather let down. Not because the ending is bad but because now there is a wait to see what really happened to the main character. I'm not one of the most patient people in the world.

Emma's a foster kid about to turn 18 when her life is thrown for a loop. She awakens in a strange bathroom not knowing how she got there. When Emma's foster brother shows her a snuff film of herself, the main reason why her foster mom kicks her out, Emma's confused. That's not her but the girl looks identical. Emma is convinced she has a twin and hits the road in a quest to find her.

Stepping into Sutton's shoes isn't easy. Things start off with a cryptic note stating Sutton's dead and Emma better play along. She soon learns that Sutton and her friends are cruel to everyone around them and each other. Emma's quickly drawn to Ethan, a bit of a social misfit, and that's not acceptable in her clique. To find out what really happened to Sutton, Emma needs to stay in character. Whoever knows she's not Sutton is watching her every move.

As an introduction to Sara Shepard's writing, I can say I am pleasantly surprised. It's not what I was expecting. The conflict of Emma's easy-going personality with Sutton's vengeful one creates great tension. For parents who closely monitor subject matter in their teen's books, there is talk of sex, drinking games and violence found within the book. I think it gives parents a great opportunity for frank discussions with their teen.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Lying Game. The story moves along swiftly, though there is no real resolution in this first book. It is the first in a series though, so I can't really expect everything to be tied up nice and neat. Given that, down the line I think you'll have to read these books in order. This is not a series you'll be able to jump into later without having read the first book. My advice is to get The Lying Game now and wait patiently to see how things play out.

DC Super-Pets: Super Hero Splash Down - Jane Mason




Released January 2011

www.capstonekids.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Another entry into the DC Super-Pets series, Super Hero Splash Down features Green Lantern's Space Chipmunk, B'DG. As is true with all DC Super-Pets books, there is an informative bio for B'DG including his favorite foods, special powers and brief biography.

In Super Hero Splash Down, B'DG is enjoying a day off. He's soaking up the sun at his favorite water park. Things don't go as planned when B'DG's nemesis, Dex-Starr shows up causing trouble. Worse, a pack of evil dogs show up. Despite their differences, B'DG and Dex-Starr must team up to defeat the troublemaking dogs before they reach the water park.

Once again, children are likely to love Super Hero Splash Down. The vocabulary is just right with a guide in the back to define tougher words. Super hero actions are enhanced with big, powerful words like KA-BLAMO or SPLOOSH making it fun for parents to read out loud and put real emotion into the action-packed scenes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

DC Super Pets: The Fastest Pet On Earth - J.E. Bright




Released January 2011

www.capstonekids.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The Fastest Pet On Earth is one of the new DC Super-Pets chapter books for beginning readers. The books aren't too long, but offer a little more length than the average picture book, 49 pages. Vocabulary is just right. There are tougher words, but a Word Power page in the back gives definitions to help build the reader's vocabulary. Add in bright, colorful illustrations by award-winning illustrator Art Baltazar and you have a book series kids are certain to love.

In The Fastest Pet On Earth, Wonder Woman's pet kangaroo, Jumpa, is asked to protect a rare golden tortoise. A cunning cheetah snatches the tortoise away, but Jumpa has the perfect plan to get it back, a dare that the cheetah will not want to turn down.

The story's kind of a take on the Tortoise and the Hare fable. Children will root for Jumpa as she races around Paradise Island to save the golden tortoise. In the end, there's even a good lesson regarding how cheating never pays off that will have many children giggling.

My Pet is Super Contest

Enter the My Pet Is Super contest. The contest is open to children in grades 1 to 3. It's simple to enter. Simply have your child create a news article explaining why their pet is super. Entries must be received by February 28, 2011. Entries can be submitted online at www.capstonekids.com or mailed to Picture Window Books, 7825 Telegraph Road, Bloomington, MN 55438.

All entries are being judged based on creativity, content and originality. Entries will not be returned.

The grand prize winner gets his/her entry placed in an upcoming DC Super-Pets book. The entry will be illustrated by award-winning illustrator Art Baltazar. The winner receives the original illustrations plus five copies of the book for himself/herself and an additional five copies of the book for the child's school.

The top 50 entries all receive two DC Super-Pets books, one for the child and one for that child's school.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More




Released September 2010

www.kids.simonandschuster.com

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This collection of humorous animal stories include “Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type,"  “Giggle, Giggle, Quack," and “Dooby Dooby Moo." All stories feature Farmer Brown’s clever, irrepressible barnyard crew.

In the first story the cows request that Farmer Brown make life on the farm more pleasant by providing the cows and chickens with electric blankets. That’s followed by a silly tale about how Duck finagles hot pizza and movies for all the animals.  Finally, Duck is at it again when he enters his friends in the County Fair’s Talent Show.

These three classic stories are accompanied by a full page of stickers of the funny critters, but make sure to keep them away from youngsters who might want to place them in their mouths.

With its sturdy binding, this book will stand up to continual wear be it at home or in the classroom. Youngsters love these critters and their misadventures, so it’s nice to have stories together now under one cover.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Enter the Zombie - David Lubar




Released January 2011

www.tor-forge.com
www.davidlubar.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll come right out and say that if your child loves to laugh and enjoys shady villians, David Lubar's Nathan Abercrombie series is a must! This is the final book in the Nathan Abercrombie series and it doesn't disappoint. In fact, I think it's my favorite of them all.

To those new to the series, it's probably best if you backtrack and read the series in order. Each story does recap past stories, but you'll get the best feel for Nathan and his friends if you've read each book. In short, Abigail's uncle accidentally splashed a potion onto Nathan that turned Nathan into a half-zombie. In Enter the Zombie, Spring has arrived and that brings new problems as Nathan's body starts do deteriorate rapidly. Body parts are ready to fall off, skin isn't doing well at all and Nathan's bones are breaking.

In Enter the Zombie, Nathan and his friends Mookie and Abigail are asked to join Brainy Brawny, a competition involving intelligence and athleticism. Their BUM (Bureau of Misadventures) leader, Mr. Murphy, believes RABID (Raise Anarchy by Inciting Disorder) is using Brainy Brawny to find new recruits. The best way to stop RABID is by getting inside the organization. They do figure out a way to strengthen Nathan's bones for the athletic competitions, but that only solves one of many issues. When school bullies begin to suspect something's up, Nathan and his friends must work fast to find a cure to keep the truth from being revealed.

As this is the final book, long-time readers finally find out what happens to Nathan. Is there a cure, can science keep his zombie body from deteriorating or is he doomed to slowly fall apart? I'm thinking children will love the outcome!

The writing is fluid and includes a few tougher words for advancing readers. Chapters are the perfect length for before bedtime or during silent reading. The problem comes from wanting to put the book down after a chapter passes. Kids I've handed the books to admit that they find it hard to stop reading when time is up. Parents will love the fact that their children want to keep reading. The books are simply that engaging.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Here Lies Bridget - Paige Harbison




Released January 18, 2011

www.eharlequin.com

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Bridget Duke is the daughter of a former NFL player and queen of her school. She's not thrilled when a new girl, Anna, gains attention of everyone who formerly doted on Bridget, including Bridget's ex-boyfriend.

When everything and everyone turns against her one day, Bridget decides to show them all how much they need her. She races down the road crashing her car into a tree and finds herself stuck in limbo being judged by everyone close to her. Her fate is in their hands. Can she prove she's learned her lesson and will change her ways before time runs out?

Here Lies Bridget offers a unique look at bullying in high school. Bridget may not seem like your average school bully, yet, verbally, that's exactly what she is. Though she comes across as a very unlikable person, the reader sympathizes when she is forced to walk in other people's shoes and view her actions through their eyes. I've been through high school and have known many like Bridget. More than 20 years later, many of them still think they're better than everyone. I think every girl like that should take a few of the lessons Bridget learns to heart.

Paige Harbison is pretty young. The author is 20 and in college. She certainly manages to capture her audiences' attention. I started the book and didn't want to stop until I'd read the last page. While there were other things I could have been doing, reading Bridget's story became a top priority. My own teen is now reading Here Lies Bridget and loving it just as much as I did.

Moms out there might remember the Bantam/Loveswept teen romance line, Sweet Dreams, that was so popular in the 80s. Harlequin's teen line is just as impressive and certain to thrill girls who like a strong storyline blended with a satisfying romance.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

Usually the start of a new year brings around the either dreaded or anticipated New Year's Resolutions.

Last year turned a chapter for me. After years of freelance writing, I landed an editing job and have been busy balancing personal time, editing and writing. Some days it's been a struggle to find time for all three and this year organization is top of my list. There are far too many days when I'm putting in a 10 hour work day and then realize that I still need to get laundry done, meals prepared and things set up for the next day. I need a better system, so that's my goal this year.


Anyone have tips or really worthwhile books on organization to share?