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.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Get Out of My Head, I Should Go to Bed - Susan Pace-Koch

Released 2011

Get Out Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Get Out of My Head, I Should Go to Bed is a short children's story revolving around something many people experience at bedtime. As the children in the story attempts to go to sleep, thoughts keep popping up in his or her head. It's hard to sleep when you can't stop thinking about things.

The narrative often rhymes, something that I know helped my children when they were first starting to read. Sentences are short and flow nicely. It's not a long story, most parents will be done reading within a few minutes making it a great choice for a quick bedtime story. Plus, the narrative isn't long and will not overwhelm beginning readers making this the perfect story for children who are learning to read.

Illustrations in the book are done by Jeremy Kwan. The illustrations are bright and colorful and will appeal to younger readers.

I know many readers prefer to shop through the major online booksellers, however the book is not currently available on or Barnes and Noble. To purchase the book online, you must go to

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Big Brother's Don't Take Naps - Louise Borden

Released June 2011

Louise Borden
Emma Dodd
Simon and Schuster

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Nicholas looks up to his big brother, James because he can do all sorts of things a little brother can’t do just yet. James can write his name, read books, cross the street by himself and he even goes to school on the big, yellow bus.

The one thing Nicholas does do that James doesn’t is he takes a nap each afternoon. “James tells me,” says Nick. “Even on Saturdays, big brothers don’t take naps.”

After we see all the things the two brothers do together and the things that only big brothers can do, the story comes to a cute and rather unexpected conclusion.  Suddenly there’s a new member of the family.

“Shh..she’s sleeping…’” Nick tells the family dog.  Then you flip the page and see the little boy holding his new baby sister. “Big brothers don’t take naps,” he whispers!

This is an excellent story, especially for a child who might soon be trading in his “little brother” status for that of a “big brother!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Want To Go Private? - Sarah Darer Littman

Released August 2011

Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth for Amazon Vine

I'd love to think in this day and age that young girls are smart enough to avoid online conversations with strangers, however I also know that isn't the case simply by reading the news every day. Want To Go Private? touches on this concerning issue.

Fourteen-year-old Abby comes from a loving home, but her first year of high school scares her. Her best friend, mother and bratty sister push her into dressing nicer, doing more with her hair and using make-up. When Abby passes out during an audition and her friend tells her parents after promising Abby she won't, Abby starts to feel like she and her best friend are heading in opposite directions. Abby feels alone until a boy enters a chat room for teens and makes her feel special.

Abby knows the dangers of the Internet but "Luke" spends time building a relationship and making Abby feel like she's a princess. When things progress from simple text chats to video chats and then beyond, Abby grows to trust him. When he asks to meet up after a particularly bad day, Abby goes against everything she knows and agrees. Much to her friends and family's horror, Abby vanishes.

Want To Go Private? is scary, compelling and very realistic. The first half of the book is told from Abby's point of view. Once she disappears, the story is then told by Abby's best friend Faith, Abby's science partner and potential boyfriend Billy and Abby's sister Lily. All three add depth to the story and brought a tear to my eye as the investigation intensified.

Like me, I've betting most teen readers will wonder why on earth Abby became so gullible. I don't suppose anyone truly understands what makes a teen fall for the lines issued by an Internet predator. What this book will hopefully do is teach teens that no matter how good things sound and no matter what the predator says, he/she ALWAYS has a dark side.

While this is teen fiction, parents should take time to read it too. If you don't have your child's passwords, get them. Both of my kids understand that failing to give me their passwords means computers get taken away. It's that important.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Are My Only - Beth Kephart

Released October 25, 2011

Beth Kephart
Egmont USA

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Let me start by saying I loved You Are My Only, but I'm not sure I'd qualify it as being young adult. I obviously read it as an adult, a parent, and my understanding of maternal bonds really helped with the impact this story has on the reader. I'm not sure a teenager will understand those parental bonds.

Emmy Rane became a mother just barely out of her teenage years. Her baby daughter is the only thing keeping her sane, as she deals with her marriage to an abusive man. One afternoon, she brings Baby outside to the swing and then realizes she left the blanket inside and runs quickly inside to retrieve it. When she returns, Baby is no where to be found.

Fourteen-year-old Sophie has spent her life moving from town to town with an overprotective mother who insists on homeschooling her. In their latest home, Sophie secretly befriends a boy and his whimsical aunts. Being part of the outside world, even if she must keep her activities hidden from her mother, Sophie starts to develop an independent streak. When her mother goes to work, Sophie's curiosity gets the best of her and she begins to unpack the boxes her mother says are forbidden to her. What Sophie finds changes her life.

You Are My Only is told through the two difference perspectives. Emmy side of the story tells of her desperation as she searches to find her baby. Sophie's side tells of a confined lifestyle where she's not allowed to be in the public eye. Her first 14 years have been spent hiding in houses and being told to hide whenever someone comes to the door. Readers know from the start that Sophie is Emmy's missing daughter, but it's still gripping watching Sophie learn about her past and following Emmy's tragic story because nothing comes easy for this young woman.

The writing style may take a little getting used to. Sophie's first-person account can be choppy at times with very short sentences, but realistically that is how many teens think. My own 14 year old is the queen of short sentence and frequent subject changes. To me, Emmy's side is unique. She tends to focus on specific details, such as her baby girl's yellow sock. Once her daughter disappears, she clings to that yellow sock. It's an honest reaction that any mother would feel in her shoes. I simply can't imagine how any woman copes after a child goes missing and I hope I never experience the pain because I believe it would be brutal.

You Are My Only is a gripping, powerful story. My only concern is that many teens may not truly understand or be able to sympathize with Emmy after her daughter disappears. As a result, I tend to think the book would have a much better market in women's fiction.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Annie and Snowball and the Book Bugs Club - Cynthia Rylant

Released February 2011

Cynthia Rylant
Sucie Stevenson
Simon and Schuster

Reviewed by Bob Walch

Part of the Ready-to-Read series of books. this Level 2 book features a more detailed storyline, varied sentence structure, paragraphs and short chapters.

The story itself finds Annie and her cousin Henry enjoying summer vacation. When they see that the library is sponsoring a reading club, called the Book Bugs Club, the youngsters decide to give it a try.

They keep track of what they read in a special notebook and receive stickers and other goodies for the number of books they finish. The pair is also invited to a special club picnic where they meet other Book Bug members.

The story is simple, but it does encourage the reader to keep reading. Mom and dad might wish to take note of the idea of the book club and have their son or daughter write down titles of completed book for special treats or outings. The more fun you can make reading, the better off your child will be in the long run

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ambitious - Monica McKayhan

Released September 2011

Monica McKayhan
Harlequin/Kimani Tru

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

As a teenager, my best friend and I spent hours reading Bantam's Sweet Dreams romances. Carrie's mom was a huge Loveswept fan and passed on her love for romances by making sure Carrie had the latest Sweet Dreams novel on her night stand. After the 1980s, it seems that teen romances faded away. It's nice to see the publishing world turning their focus to teenage girls.

Ambitious finds Marisol Garcia, Mari for short, auditioning for a prestigious performing arts school. When she makes it in, Mari has no idea what's in store, but she's thrilled to be in a school devoted to her dream of becoming a famous dancer.

Drew Bishop's father used to play professional sports and wants his son's basketball career to take off. Drew has other plans because he loves the stage. When he's accepted into Premiere High, he hopes he can get his father to understand his passion for acting.

Soon the two form a solid friendship. As Drew works on his acting career, Mari enters a dance competition that has the potential to make her a star. Mari's mother isn't certain that her daughter is ready for Hollywood, but with Drew supporting her, Mari hopes she can prove to her mother that her passion for dance means everything.

Ambitious is kind of a Glee meets So You Think You Can Dance. The story isn't focused mainly on a teen's romance, instead it looks at the dreams of two teenagers lacking support from their parents. There are other subplots within that create tension in the right places. Overall, I found the story to be quite charming and a great set up for what could become a popular series romance.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Should I Share My Ice Cream - Mo Willems

Released June 2011

Mo Willems
Hyperion Books

Reviewed by Bob Walch

This newest Elephant and Piggie picture book finds Gerald debating whether he wants to share his ice cream cone with his best friend, Piggie. As you can imagine, the elephant weighs all the pros and cons, debates the question internally and then, when he finally makes up his mind – the cone has melted and there’s nothing left to share!

Now this could mark the end of the story, but author Mo Willems has a surprise in store for his reader. There’s more! I loved this ending and won’t ruin it for you by explaining what happens next. Rest assured, though, you’ll love what happens next and, as you would expect, it is totally in keeping with the relationship that Willems has developed between this delightful animal odd couple in the series.

Although the minimalist approach the author employs in the text and the illustrations of these books would not seemingly appeal to a wide audience of children and adults, Mo Willems’ wry sense of humor and his wonderful ability to capture facial expressions on his two characters have made this a hugely successful series of books.

 If you haven’t yet discovered Piggie and Elephant, it is about time you did! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ultraviolet - R. J. Anderson

Released September 2011

R. J. Anderson
Lerner Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

After coming home with blood on her hands and babbling that she made a girl from her school, Tori, disintegrate, Alison is sent to a mental institution for teenagers. No one has seen Tori since that day, but police cannot arrest Alison without proof.

Alison knows she's different. Every letter of the alphabet and every person in the world has a different color or taste. Does she really have the powers to make someone disappear forever or is there something else going on?

I really liked Ultraviolet. First, it brings awareness to a condition known as synesthesia, possibly it's better to call this an ability, where people do view people and the words they say in terms of color and taste. It's amazing to think that type of person exists and they apparently do. According to the brief research I did, Billy Joel, Franz Liszt, Nikola Tesla and Duke Ellington are a small sampling of people with this condition.

The mystery involving Tori's disappearance does keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Nothing is revealed until Alison begins to remember the events from that day. Due to her upbringing, Alison hides her condition, and that is understandable, but it's also leads to her being able to discover what really happened that day. This isn't a mystery that is easily solved. There are twists that the reader won't see coming. In the end, I'm not sure I like where the story led, but I think many readers will love that twist.