Hero by Mike Lupica – Review and Giveaway

Mike Lupica is a favorite author of the middle school set, especially boys. He’s gained a big following with a number of sports related books that always seemed to stay checked out in my library. Sports books aren’t my favorite but his baseball novel Heat impressed me a great deal.  It was so much more than a “sports” book.

His action fantasy Hero was released in November 2010 by Philomel Books. I am guilty of keeping the ARC I picked up for a looong time, but I’m tossing it up today because it is a quick, fun read that will please Lupica fans, in my humble opinion. I liked it anyway!

I’m cheating today with a blurb from Lupica’s website instead of my own:

“Fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman can feel the changes. The sharpening of his senses. The incredible strength. The speed, as though he can textmessage himself across miles. The confidence and the strange need to patrol Central Park at night. His dad had been a hero, a savior to America and a confidante of the president. Then he died, and the changes began in Zach. What Zach never knew was that his father was no ordinary man, he was a superhero, battling the world’s evil. This is a battle that has been waged for generations and that knows no boundaries. (more…)

13 Curses by Michelle Harrison – Review and Giveaway

Much as I love fantasy, I am woefully ignorant of fairy lore. So when I pulled 13 Curses (Little Brown, 2011) by Michelle Harrison out of a box of ARC’s I received from Hachette Book Group, I found I was in for an education. I really enjoyed this book! The backstory kept referring to so many events I realized I must be missing something, so I did a little research and discovered 13 Curses is #2 in a trilogy by this British author. The first was 13 Treasures (Little Brown, 2010). Harrison fills in very nicely, so the reader can enjoy the story on its own.

Red is a loner, and a fugitive (owing to her involvement in the fairy foundling trade in the previous book). She is determined to find her own young brother who was snatched by fairies from the orphanage. Her story is intertwined with that of Tanya, who can see fairies (a rare talent), and has had her own dealings with their realm (again from 13 Treasures).  The girls and Tayna’s friend Fabian  come together to hunt for the titular 13 Curses, represented by the charms ripped from a bracelet given to Tanya by her grandmother. Finding these cursed charms is the only chance Red has of recovering her stolen brother – and their time is running out. The fairies don’t seem too concerned about playing nice and the hidden charms become more perilous as the seconds tick by – Red and her friends are in serious danger.

The suspense is great and the fairy lore is rather dark. I stayed up till the wee hours reading this one. Hachette has a nice PR campaign going and a neat website devoted to the trilogy. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final installment 13 Secrets. I smell a movie …

I’ll be giving my copy away to one lucky person. Leave a comment on this post by midnight on August 28th and you’ll be included in my random drawing. If this is your first comment to my blog, the comment will not post until I approve it. It’s a great book to have on your to-be-read pile. Share the contest with anyone who might be interested.

Genres: Midgrade, YA, Fantasy, Fairy Tales

Things to like about this book: It is very good fantasy! The story is suspenseful and I enjoyed the mythology very much. Rowan grows tremendously as a character and she embraces her positive characteristics – choosing a place to belong and learning to love those around her.

Audience: Middle School and early YA. The real and described violence, seriously menacing tone, kidnappings, and loss of family would make me hesitate before putting it into 3rd grader’s hands.

Reviewed from: ARC provided by publisher.

Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice – Part Deaux – 6th-8th Grade

The LYRCA sponsored by the Louisiana State Library Center for the Book gives awards in two age categories. Yesterday I highlighted the 3rd through 5th grade ballot. Today it’s the 6th through 8th grade turn. My two favorite so far are Schooled and Peak – but I haven’t read the entire list yet. I’m anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winner this weekend at the Louisiana Library Association State Conference.

Here they are:

Chaos Code by Richards, Justin.  388 pages.  Bloomsbury Publishing 2007. Join Matt on an action packed modern-day treasure hunt that takes him across the globe in search of a code fabled to have brought down Atlantis.

Cracker:  The Best Dog in Vietnam by Kadohata, Cynthia.312 pages. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing 2007. Cracker is a female German shepherd who is trained to sniff out booby traps and other dangers to the US troops in the Vietnam War.  The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Cracker and her handler.

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Hahn, Mary Downing.  187 pages.  Houghton Mifflin Company 2007. In this chilling ghost story Ali goes to spend the summer with her aunt and learns about a girl who disappeared and was presumed dead thirty years earlier.

Diamonds in the Shadow by Cooney, Caroline.  228 pages.  Random House,  2007.  Jared’s family takes in a refugee family fleeing a   war in Africa.  Unfortunately, there was one more person that made it to America from Africa.  He is looking for something the refugees have and will stop at nothing to get it.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Novel in Cartoons by Kinney, Jeff.  217 pages.  Harry N. Abrams , Incorporated 2007. Through both text and pictures, Greg chronicles his hilarious first year of middle school.  Greg would like to be cool, popular and impress girls but nothing ever seems to work out the way he wants. (This is book 1 in the series, red cover)

Dragon Slippers by George, Jessica Day.  324 pages.  Bloomsbury Publishing 2007.  All Creel wants to do is move to the big city and become a seamstress.  Her fortunes change when she meets her first dragon and is given a magical pair of blue slippers.

Elijah of Buxton by Curtis, Christopher Paul.  395 pages. Scholastic Incorporated 2007.   Eleven-year-old Elijah was born into freedom in Canada but witnesses the cruelties of slavery when he takes a perilous mission into the United States.

Fire From the Rock by Draper, Sharon.  240 pages.  Penguin Group 2007. Sylvia is chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate Little Rock’s all white Central High School, chronicling first hand one of the most volatile moments of the civil rights movement’s history.

Football Genius by Green, Tim.  256 pages.  HarperCollins Publishers 2007.  Troy has the amazing ability to predict football plays before they happen.  If he can get anyone to listen to him perhaps he can help his favorite NRL team pull themselves out of their loosing streak.

Gabriel’s Horses by Hart, Alison.  224 pages.  Peachtree Publishers 2007. Gabriel, a slave on a Kentucky plantation that breeds and trains thoroughbreds, is determined to do whatever it takes to protect his beloved horses while the Civil War raging around him.

Kimchi and Calamari by Kent, Rose.  220 pages. HarperCollins Publishers 2007.  Joseph is bewildered when he is given a family ancestry assignment.  Ethnically Joseph is Korean but he has been raised Italian by his adoptive Italian family.  This is the beginning of a quest in which ultimately Joseph comes to reconcile and accept his various ancestries and establish his own identity.

Night of the Howling Dogs by Salisbury, Graham.  191 pages.  Random House Children’s Books 2007.  Taken off guard while camping on a remote beach in Hawaii, Dylan’s Boy Scout troop struggles to survive after they are separated by a tsunami.  This account is based on a true story.

Peak by Smith, Roland.  246 pages.  Harcourt Children’s Books 2007.  Peak Marcello loves to climb, it’s in his blood, but unfortunately he lives in Manhattan.  When Peak is sent to live with his father, who runs a climbing business in Asia, he takes on the challenge to become the youngest person to ever reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Schooled by Korman, Gordon.  208 pages.  Hyperion Press 2007.  Capricorn has lived a completely isolated and sheltered life on a commune with his grandmother Rain.  When Rain ends up in the hospital a local social worker takes Capricorn in and sends him to Middle School.

So Totally Emily Ebers by Yee, Lisa.  280 pages. Scholastic 2007.  Following her parent’s divorce, Emily moves to California with her mom and befriends Millicent Min and Stanford Wong over the summer.

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Watersmeet by Ellen Jenson Abbott

Today, I’m featuring theYA fantasy Watersmeet by 2k9 debut classmate Ellen Jenson Abbott. From the moment I saw Ellen’s cover, I wanted to read the book. It’s one of those covers that says, “Listen, I have a secret you want to hear.” And what a secret lies in those pages!

Abisinia, an outcast in her dystopian world, escapes from the only home she’s ever known to find the father she’s never known.  The prejudice and discrimination she’s endured through her short years prepare her well for the difficult journey she undertakes – to a mystical place she’s heard about called Watersmeet. What it doesn’t prepare her for is the depth to which her own heart could carry those same types of feelings.  I’ll use epic here because her journey represents the journey of the entire world Abbott has created.  It is a world of extremes, where your physical appearance determines your status and races are steeped in hatred and mistrust. The town of Watersmeet provides a haven where creatures of different backgrounds can come to learn trust and acceptance – if they don’t destroy it first.

Things to like about this story: It’s good fantasy and good fantasy is difficult to come by. The world and characters Ellen created are real and their struggles are are eminently identifiable with prejudice and discrimination in our own real world. Her world is vivid and easy to imagine. And don’t forget about that beautiful cover – never underestimate the power of a great cover!

Audience: Upper midgrade, YA and adult. It does contain some violent elements.

Ellen Jenson Abbott has created a unique and wonderful world and characters that I care about. I see Abisinia continuing her journey into adulthood and becoming a force for good in her world. I hope that sequel comes out soon!