Feb 26, 2013

Review: Operation Oleander by Valerie O. Patterson (+Giveaway & Interview)

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You can find Patterson at her website

Ninth-grader Jess Westmark had the best of intentions when she started Operation Oleander to raise money for a girls’ orphanage in Kabul. She named her charity for the oleander that grows both in her Florida hometown and in Afghanistan, where her father is deployed. But on one of her father's trips to deliver supplies to the orphans, a car bomb explodes nearby and her father is gravely injured. Worse, her best friend’s mother and some of the children are killed, and people are blaming Operation Oleander for turning the orphanage into a military target for the Taliban. Is this all Jess’s fault?

I thank my lucky stars that I haven't lost anyone to war, and my heart goes out to all of those in the Armed Forces. When I think about all of the kids who have parents in the military my heart breaks for them. To live in fear every day praying your parent(s) make it home is something I can't fathom. Jeff has lived with this fear and her nightmare comes true - her father is injured in an attack at an orphanage that Jess has been collecting school supplies for. What's worse, her best friend's mother is killed in the same attack. Jess has to somehow juggle all of these emotions of blaming herself over the death of her best friends mother, her father's injuries, and being the strong and steadfast big sister. Bless her, the girl tries. She has been taught to be tough, reliable, and a fine upstanding military daughter, and I was waiting for her to just break. She did, but not for long and her friend Sam was there beside her.

Feb 20, 2013

Review: Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison

Notes From Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
February 12th, 2013 from EgmontUSA

When sixteen-year-old artist Olivia Tithe is visited by the ghost of her first love, Lucas Stern, it’s only through scattered images and notes left behind that she can unravel the mystery of his death.

There’s a catch: Olivia has gone colorblind, and there’s a good chance she’s losing her mind completely - just like her mother did. How else to explain seeing (and falling in love all over again with) someone who isn't really there?

With the murder trial looming just nine days away, Olivia must follow her heart to the truth, no matter how painful. It’s the only way she can save herself.

I am a fan of Ellison's debut, The Butterfly Clues, so I was excited to read her sophomore novel especially with added ghosts, mental illness, and murder. The opening chapter of this story was absolutely spectacular! I can't remember the last time I read a first chapter like that! The story quickly moves into the mystery of Stern's death and Olivia's mothers mental illness. Olivia struggles with the fact her mother has officially gone over the edge, lost her mind. I love the relationship between Olivia and her mother. Olivia reflects back onto the good and bad times with such love, admiration, and fondness. Olivia's relationship with her father is not so perfect...on the account of the fiance. Olivia's parents split just before her mother's breakdown and Olivia isn't taking the step-mom-to-be very well. Understandable, for sure. Instead of making this dynamic absolutely stereotypical, Olivia's step-mom-to-be has a daughter whom Olivia loves to pieces. This young girl adores and looks up to Olivia, and my heart melted when Olivia put all of her feelings aside about the fiance and loved that little girl right back. I thought that was so incredibly special and was thrilled to see it played out like that in the story. 

Feb 18, 2013

Save the Date: The 5th Annual Austin Teen Book Festival

Mark your calendars for Saturday, September 28th for the 5th Annual Austin Teen Book Festival! ATBF is the largest teen book festival in the country, and I have been lucky to be a part of the festival since year two. This year, I happily accepted the role of Director! I am honored, and will look to my blogging and librarian friends to help spread the word to our young fans.

There will be some changes including our location - now at the Austin Convention Center - but some things will stay the same. BookPeople is the exclusive book seller and a sponsor, we'll have 30+ amazing authors, and some awesome exhibitors.

Feb 15, 2013

Audio Review: Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Review: Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King
September 11th, 2012 by Listening Library

Lucky Linderman has been the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying for as long as he can remember. But he has a secret—one that helps him wade through the mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos, where his grandfather, who never came home from the Vietnam War, is still trapped. There, Lucky can be a real man and maybe even a hero. But how long can he keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?

There is a reason this book has earned six starred reviews. Or is it seven? You get my point - everyone loves this book, and you can count me in that crowd. Lucky is stuck in this crap rotation of getting picked on and then sucking it up, turning a blind eye to cruelty like his father has taught him. Over the years the bullying has gotten worse and this crap kid named Nader has been relentless in his teasing and 'boys will be boys' behavior. After a bad situation goes predictably worse, Lucky and his mom visit his uncle in Arizona and wait for things to cool down back home and for the wounds to heal. Lucky spends his days trying to blend into the wallpaper and his dream filled nights are spent with his presumed dead, POW grandfather. Lucky is determined to rescue his grandfather and be the hero he isn't in real life. When Lucky meets a seemingly perfect girl who has it all (she totally doesn't), he starts to gain confidence and find his way out of the bleak.

Feb 7, 2013

Opportunity: Teen Author Boot Camp With Shannon Hale (+Giveaway)


Shine those combat boots and sharpen your pencils, Recruits. Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the nation’s largest writing conference for teenagers, is going virtual on March 16, 2013.

The Utah-based conference (created by Writers Cubed) will host seventeen amazing presenters -including Newbery Honor Winner Shannon Hale (Princess Academy). While the conference is in its third year, this is the first time it will be broadcast live on the internet. This will allow for teens nationwide to have the opportunity to join in the fun as well as teachers, librarians, and writers of any age.

The keynote address by Shannon Hale will be free for anyone to watch. A subscription to the entire live broadcast costs $4.99 and includes the following: (Mountain Standard Times)

Guest Post & Giveaway: Triple Threat Blog Tour

Welcome to Stop #13 on the Triple Threat Blog Tour featuring Myra McEntire, Kate Ellison and Jennifer Lynn Barnes! Today we welcome Jennifer Lynn Barnes, author ofNobody and Every Other Day. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a great giveaway I am hosting and for details on the Triple Threat Blog Tour grand prize giveaway!

First up, an amazing piece of the Infinity Glass puzzle! Ohhhhh, ahhhhh! 

Feb 6, 2013

Audio Review: Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
April 5th, 2011 from Clarion Books

Midwesterner Gary D. Schmidt won Newbery Honor awards for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys and The Wednesday Wars, two coming-of-age novels about unlikely friends finding a bond. Okay For Now, his latest novel, explores another seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.

Have you read The Wednesday Wars by Schmidt? If so, you will recognize Mr. Doug Swieteck. He is a sweet kid with a pretty crap home life. In this novel, Doug moves to a new town and he immediately realizes he doesn't have a whole lot to be cheery about in this crap town either. Doug can't escape his bullying brother who falls in love with the wrong crowd. He also can't escape his dad, abusive in every sense of the word. Listening to Doug put up with his brothers tactics and his fathers downright cruel remarks and despicable behavior was really uncomfortable. I was angry at everyone for a long time for not rescuing Doug from his family. Yes, Doug has a loving mother but she is caught up in the abusive cycle as well. Plus, this was the 1960s and people put up with a lot of crap they shouldn't have back then. Just when things go a little bit right for Doug something goes wrong. Over and over again. It was painful to think that there are real kids just like Doug. They are emotionally beaten down by the ones that should lift them up the most. Do kids come in my library who live like this? Would I recognize any of the signs of an abused kid? I sure hope I do.