Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin - Guest Post

BeingNikki Guess what? I was reading You Killed Wesley Payne and the main character, Dalton Rev, decided he wanted to talk to you guys. He stopped by The Brain Lair this morning with an introduction and a few rules.

 So let's give a warm welcome to Dalton Rev!


Hey. I’m Dalton Rev. Pretty much the main character in the new book You Killed Wesley Payne. You can call me Dalton. Or, you don’t really have to call me at all. Unless you need a problem solved. Then I bet you’ll get my digits somehow. Yeah, that’s what I do. Solve problems. Got a bully hassling you? Someone steal your Trig final? Happen to find a body wrapped in duct tape hanging from the goal posts at the end of the football field? I can transfer to your school and take care of it. In and out. Nice and discreet. Of course, it’s going to cost you a fat packet of folding green. And by folding green, I mean cash money. Yeah, I’m a Private Dick. And here’s the three most important Private Dick rules:

The Three (3) Most Important Private Dick Rules:

1. Never let anyone mess with your ride. On the other hand, feel free to mess with theirs, especially if there’s a chance they’ll be chasing you in it later.

2. Avoid beautiful girls. Helping beautiful girls out of tight situations never comes to a good end. Continue to charge maximum fees and take lots of cold showers.

3. Tough guys are only as tough as you’re inclined to let them be.

4. Be nice to your mom.

5. If you’re going to carry a weapon, drive a scooter, smoke a cigar, wear a leather jacket, or have an unusual haircut—make sure it’s big and mean and intimidating. Especially the cigar.

You Killed Wesley Payne is a murder mystery. Who killed Wesley Payne? You did. Probably. Either way, I’m onto you. So don’t be surprised if there’s a Dalton-sized shadow looming up on your doorstep soon. Oh, yeah, those last two rules are free, this time.

Your Pal,

-Dalton Rev

Monday, February 14, 2011

Language of Love by Deborah Reber - Review

LoveLoveLoveThe Language of Love
Deborah Reber
Simon Pulse

Note: The Language of Love is the first selection in Love, Love, Love and is the one I'm reviewing here.  The book also contains Cupidity by Caroline Goode.

Janna is tired of being the friend who either doesn't get noticed or who boys talk to in order to get close to her BIF Molly.  So when the extremely hot Julian starts flirting with her because he thinks she's Hungarian, well it doesn't take much for Molly to convince her to go along with it.

Janna has never had a real boyfriend and this guy seems interested.  She's torn between wanting him to like her for who she really is and just wanting him to like her.  The longer she keeps up the charade, the harder it is to tell Julian the truth.  Especially since she's really falling in love with him. Janna's other best friend, Emmett, thinks she's lost her mind.  He doesn't understand how she can't see how great she is, without pretending to be Hungarian.  Molly, on the other hand, has found love with Julian's best friend, Spence, and feels that as long as she's in it, Janna should be too!

What's a girl to do?

My Thoughts
First off, I must say, it was so nice to read a young adult book without an excess of sex, drinking, cursing, etc. I can relate to Janna's being tired of playing "the bridesmaind". So her willingness to go along with Molly was realistic.  But, Molly was the one I could picture best. Her bold personality and "I think the world should revolve around me" attitude was good to see, though I wish she wasn't so boy-crazy.  I liked how her and Janna's relationship evolved and bounced back.  Never to be the same, but that's a good thing. At first I thought Julian was shallow, he only wanted to know more about Janna because of her accent.  But, maybe he was sick of the usual suspects and just wanted someone who wasn't affected by our oversexed, overly made-up culture. Oh, wait ::gets down off high horse::.  I think he was looking for someone real.  It just turns out she wasn't, sort of.

The Language of Love is a light, love story that's perfect for middle and high schoolers. The characters go to parties, sleepovers, and movies.  Like normal teenagers.  They try to make curfew, they dislike school, they just want to be liked.  Like normal teenagers.  That's what I enjoyed about this book.  I can hand it to most anyone, no caveats needed.

Read The Joys (and Challenges) of Working with Teens by Deborah Reber - Guest Post on The Brain Lair

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Guest Post - Deborah Reber

Love, Love, Love: Language of Love; Cupidity (Simon Romantic Comedies)Today's post is brought to you by Deborah Reber. Ms. Reber has done work with teens across the country and has written two teen nonfiction books out: Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balance, Peaceful You and In Their Shoes, both of which we have in our school library.She also worked on the Louder Than Words series, real stories from real teens, including blogger Chelsea (Rae) Swiggett. Ms. Reber is making her Young Adult fiction debut with The Language of Love published by Simon Pulse. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Battle of the Kids' Books - Round 1 - Perkins VS Sachar

The SLJ Battle team has picked their judges and they are reading the books. Why don't you try guessing the judges identities while I weigh in on a couple of our contenders.

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the EarthAs Easy as Falling Off The Face of the Earth by Lynn Rae Perkins 
Ry is on his way to an absolute blast of  a summer camp when his train breaks down.  He pulls out the last letter from the camp and decides he'd better call his Grampa.  He steps off the train and searches for a better signal.  In his zeal to find this signal, the train takes off and he's suddenly stranded!

Meanwhile, Grampa decides he needs to take a walk.  He takes the dogs with him and sets off to explore his new hometown. Grampa then has his share of mishaps.

Meanwhile, Ry's parents are on vacation and suffer their own set of mishaps. And if you think that's all, you are mistaken because even the dogs have mishaps!!

Perkins does a fantastic job of weaving these four stories together.  They are all related in some way and throughout the book, the parties are trying to reach each other.  The stories are wrapped in a subtle humor;

"He tried to picture Pete with a mother. It wasn't what you thought of when you first looked at him. That would be more like, I hope he doesn't hurt me. Okay, not really--"
and laced with beautiful word pictures;

"...to drive to the third sandpile on the left, on the Island of the Saint of Lost Causes, an emerald dot in the azure of the Caribbean Sea. Waupatoneka slipped away from them like a twig dropped in a stream."
Did I mention there's also the story of Del and Yulia?  As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth is a tribute to how our lives are all connected even when we can't see it ourselves.

The CardturnerThe Cardturner: A Novel About a King, A Queen and a Joker by Louis Sachar
Alton will be the cardturner for his "favorite uncle" Lester.  Uncle Lester is blind and he plays bridge.  Uncle Lester is also rich, so Alton's mother forces him to take the job, even though he doesn't know anything about bridge. Or his uncle.  But, Uncle Lester and Alton forge a relationship as they learn to tolerate each other's company during their four times a week card games. 

Yes, this is a young adult book about bridge. What was Sachar thinking?  Well, he was thinking that the passion he felt for the game would come through in his writing and he was right. Sachar explains the intricacies of bridge in a way that's engaging and entertaining.  As Uncle Lester moves up into the ranks of bridge, our knowledge of the game also increases.  But, Sachar doesn't make learning bridge an integral part of the story, he actually uses a visual device for those of us who'd like to skip those parts or who'd like to delve deeper into the game.  Sachar uses bridge to teach us about relationships and how shared experiences can help you become closer.

The characterization is what moves The Cardturner.  Alton Richards is a boy we can relate to: his old girlfriend is now dating his best friend, his needs money for gas, he wants to work but he's lazy, and he has a great storytelling voice.  You feel a connection with him and want to know how things are going for him;

"Nights were the hardest for me. I usually didn't think too much about Katie, or Cliff and Katie, during the day, and even if I did, I was strong enough to handle it. I was weaker at night and sometimes came close to calling her even though I knew I'd regret it."

In addition, to the strong main character,  Uncle Lester, Toni, Alton's Mom and Cliff are all easily pictured. Sachar also tosses in a mystery and a ghost story.

The Winner?
This was tough.  I enjoyed both books, even the second and third time around.  Perkins juggles a parallel structure to weave four stories into one while infusing the book with humor and imagery.  Even the complicated coincidences come off as realistic.  Sachar's uses a straightforward plot for most of the story but intertwines the story of Trapp and Annabel with the story of Alton and Toni towards the end.  The humor is light but intelligent, Sachar teaches us more than just bridge but also about how the brain works and about families.

These storytellers are nearly evenly matched but I have to give props to Sachar.  The Cardturner sticks with you while Ry's story is somewhat forgettable.  You can pick up the Cardturner and open to any page and fall back into the story. Alton is a such a well-written character you want to know more about him. And don't get me started on the bridge parts! I wanted to know more about the game and almost looked for a beginner's league around my house! Sachar has mad skills.  Hat's off to
The Cardturner: A Novel About A King, A Queen and a Joker by Louis Sachar

What do you think?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sunday Salon - Monthly Update - January 2011

ScrawlIt's Superbowl Sunday!  Admittedly, this means nothing to me.  This year, I am going to a friend's house but normally I just put the tv on in the background and read.  I try to watch the commercials though, so I know what's going on at the water cooler!

Just like the Superbowl is wrapping up football, I'm going to wrap up my month of reading!

Challenge Update
POC Reading Challenge (4)
The Firefly Letters by Margarita Engle
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Shang
The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
Split by Swati Avasthi

Debut Author Challenge (3)
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu
Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Overall (19)
13 Young Adult
2 Adult
4 Middle Grade

Best Book - Scrawl by Marc Shulman

How was your reading this month?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A True Princess by Diane Zahler - Review

A True PrincessA True Princess
Diane Zahler
Harper Collins Children's Books
182 pgs.

12-year-old Lilia overhears her father, Jorgen, agreeing to send her to work for the abusive town miller.  Ylva, Jorgen's new wife, convinces him that it will be best for them and their new family. Although Jorgen is not Lilia's true father, he found her floating in a basket ten years ago, he's never treated her differently than Kai or Karina, his children from his first wife.  Until now.

Ylva's preparation for her new baby includes setting out a blanket she's been saving for years. The same blanket Lilia was wrapped in when Jorgen found her.  Seeing the blanket, Lilia knows what she must do. Since her basket floated from the North, she decides to run away and try to find information on her family.  Before going far, she's joined by Kai and Karina.  As they travel north they meet a variety of people, including some from the northern town of Dalir, where the prince is looking for a princess.  Their quest involves lots of adventure, a mystery and an encounter with the Elf King.

Zahler combines the well-known tale of the princess and the pea with the lesser-known, at least by me, one of the Elf King and his penchant for children under seven.  A True Princess is saved from predictability by having Karina and Lilia, two girls who could each turn out to be the princess of the title.  The story is only slightly marred by Lilia and crew overcoming problems too simplistically and often with vague phrases such as "though I did not know why" or " an urge I didn't understand".  Still, A True Princess, along with The Thirteenth Princess, also by Zahler, are a nice middle grade alternative to the Once Upon a Time series of young adult retellings.  Purchase this for your elementary or middle school library!

About the Author

Diane Zahler, author of A True Princess, has loved tales of fairies and magic since before she was old enough to read. She has worked in the children’s room at a public library, in children’s book publishing, and as an elementary and high school textbook writer. The Thirteenth Princess, her first novel for young readers, was published in 2010. She lives with her husband and dog in an old farmhouse in the Harlem Valley that is held together with duct tape and magic spells.

A True Princess Blog Tour

Thursday, Feb. 3Jean Little Library
Thursday, Feb. 3Galleysmith
Friday, Feb. 4Write for a Reader
Saturday, Feb. 5The Cozy Reader

Full Tour Schedule

Thank you to Diane Zahler and Harper for this ARC.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson - Review and Blog Tour

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle)Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson
Random House
385 pg plus Interview and Reader's Guide

"He felt as if he was being left behind on the docks..."

Major Ernest Pettigrew just learned that his only brother has died. First his wife and now Bertie. "He felt as if he was being left behind on the docks..."  Jasmina Ali, who runs his favorite tea shop, stops by soon after Major Pettigrew receives the news. Due to a shared understanding of loss, an unlikely friendship arises. Their mutual love of tea and books lead to Sunday afternoon readings and walks along the cliff.  These small snippets of time are the most anticipated moment in lives that are slowly being changed by outside forces.

Jasmina's nephew has come to help her run the shop.  Women of her age are expected to step aside and let the men, and the younger generation, take care of them.  Abdul Wahid will know how to run the shop and Jasmina can "learn to be content at home".

Major Pettigrew's father left him and his brother Bertie one Churchill each.  The Major has always felt that he should have had both guns since he was the oldest.  The only saving grace was that when one of the brothers passed away, the guns would be reunited through the surviving sibling.  Bertie's family thinks there should be another solution.  Since Colonel Pettigrew never put his thoughts into his will, his wife and daughter believe they can do whatever they want with "their" Churchill.  And what they want is to sell it.  Roger, Major Pettigrew's son, agrees.  Unlike Major Pettgrew, Roger wants to get ahead as quickly and painlessly as possible and he's not above using the family name to do so.

The more time Major Pettigrew spends with Jasmina, sharing their troubles and Kipling's poetry, his affection for her grows.  Soon he's faced with a dilemma.  Jasmina has never truly been accepted in their small village but the major has no desire to upset the normal order.  He's an upstanding member of the local church and the local golf club.  She's a woman of color, an outsider, and a tradeswoman.  Her family is also involved in a small scandal.  Wouldn't it be better all around if they just went their separate ways?

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand unfolds slowly, mimicking the relationship of Ernest and Jasmina.  The major has a mostly full life of reading, golf, and friends. He's on good terms with the Vicar and he supplies wooden animals for the nativity, just as his father did before him.  Tradition is everything.  Tradition plays a huge part in Jasmina's life too.  Her late husband, Ahmet, left the shop to her, but she knows that it's time to step aside and move to Pakistan.  Despite their obligations, the objections of those around them, and their own hidden prejudices we are able to see Ernest's and Jasmina's relationship unfurl and blossom.  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is worth the read.  I encourage you to pick it up, set aside a weekend, put on the tea and enjoy.

About the Author
Helen Simonson was born in England and spent her teenage years in a small village in East Sussex. A graduate of the London School of Economics and former travel advertising executive, she has lived in America for the last two decades. A longtime resident of Brooklyn, she now lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, D.C., area. This is her first novel.

Connect with Helen:

TLC Book Tour Stops
Thursday, February 3rd: Unabridged Chick
Friday, February 4th: 1330v
Full Schedule

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Random House for this book.


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