Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The last word goes to Mo and Dale of Tupelo Landing

I can't let the year end without a shout out to Sheila Turnage's Mo and Dale.  Her latest Mo and Dale Mystery is The Odds of Getting Even (Penguin, 2015).  The Mo and Dale Mystery series is my favorite middle grade series. Each new book is as good as the last.  Each is filled with insightful humor, Southern-style hospitality, and all the eccentricities of small town living. The characters in Sheila Turnage's fictional town of Tupelo Landing, NC, will leave you begging for another chance to visit.

In The Odds of Getting Even, Mo and Dale, a.k.a. The Desperado Detectives, have another case on their hands.  Dale's no-good dad is on the lam and the whole town is on edge.

As usual, the café run by Mo and her "family of choice," the Colonel and Miss Lana, takes current events in stride,

I turned back to the Azalea Women. "Welcome and thank you in advance for your generous tips."  Generous tips equals a flat-out lie, but like Miss Lana says, you don't stop pitching just because nobody's swinging.  I draped a paper napkin over my arm. "Today, our Get Out of Jail Free Delight feature Free-Range Eggs, Potatoes at Large, and Bacon a la Parole.  We also got the Colonel's famous Tofu Incognito--a vegan delight featuring tofu scrambled up to look like somebody else.  A Special runs six dollars and includes a basket of All Rise Biscuits.  May I take your order?"

"Get Out of Jail and coffee," they chorused.  "How's Dale holding up?"

Once again, Sheila Turnage has written a book that deals with a serious topic (a father who is frequently on the wrong side of the law) in a humorous way. As narrator, Mo LoBeau offers up witty, often hilarious dialogue and commentary. There is much homespun wisdom in the the little town of Tupelo Landing.  Here are just a few examples from The Odds of Getting Even:

Mo (on the perceived indignity of wearing hand-me-down clothes):
"Dale's a musician.  He enjoys vintage outfits," ... "Besides, Miss Lana says most everything in life worth having is handed down."

Dale (voicing his opinion to a news reporter):
Your articles make it seem that way.  But a lot of people thinking flat don't change round.
Mo (her take on beauty):
Attila's face would be pretty if she didn't live behind it.
Dale (on "getting even"):
The only even you ever get is inside yourself--when you don't need to get even anymore.


If you haven't read them yet, don't miss the first two Mo and Dale Mystery novels.

Book 1

Three Times Lucky - a link to my review of the audiobook read by Michal Friedman
[http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2013/08/three-times-lucky-audiobook-review.html]

Book 2
The Ghost of Tupelo Landing - a link to my review for AudioFile Magazine
[http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/88494/]


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

My favorite books of 2015

It's the end of the year and I had great plans of writing about all my favorite books of the year - there were so many!  But there was also ALSC committee work, my fledgling freelance writing career, that five days a week thing they call work, and my family.  As I write this, I'm waiting for the last of my children to arrive home for the holidays (one's flight was canceled, the other one's delayed).

So, for now, the best that I can do is this:

In middle grade fiction, I loved Echo: A Novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Here's a link to my review: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/02/echo-novel-review.html  




In picture books, If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson is simply perfect. My review is here: http://shelf-employed.blogspot.com/2015/03/picture-book-roundup-new-or-coming-soon.html



I listened to lots of great audiobooks, but I think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was tops. I reviewed it for AudioFile Magazine.  Here's the link: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101740/  (Diary of a Mad Brownie is a very close second!)



For the best in dealing with sad news, I was taken by Anastasia Higginbotham's, Divorce is the Worst (for school-aged kids), and Todd Parr's, The Goodbye Book for little ones dealing with loss.


In adult books, it was Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellIt's no surprise.  I love everything she writes. I love my well-researched history with a humorous dose of irony and sarcasm.

Whether I review a book or not, if I've read it, I log it and star it in LibraryThing.  Yes, I know that Goodreads is more popular, but LibraryThing's aesthetic matches mine.  I'm comfortable there.  You can see my virtual library of over 1600  searchable books and 800 reviews on LibraryThing.

I may take the next week off, perhaps not, but just in case - best wishes for a safe and happy holidays.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

I am Princess X - the sleeper hit that I didn't review this year

I received an advance copy of I am Princess X months before the book's actual release. The artwork wasn't completed—but it didn't matter.  Even with sample art and text descriptions of illustrations, I loved it.  I shared it with my colleagues, I gave it to one of the kids in my book club, I nominated it for a 2015 Cybils Award in the YA Fiction category (fingers crossed).  The one thing I didn't get around to doing is reviewing it. So, better late to the party than never ...

I am Princess X is a unique mix of webcomic and prose. Set in Seattle, it's a mystery, a thriller, and a look into a lifestyle that includes the literal Seattle underground and the dark web

Here's a quick booktalk you can use:
May is 16-yrs-old when she begins seeing stickers and graffiti of Princess X throughout Seattle.  When May was younger, she and her friend, Libby, created the Princess X comic.  May wrote the story and Libby illustrated it—but that was years ago—before Libby died.  So who's drawing Princess X now?

I think it's a sleeper hit, that will only become more popular with time. It received starred reviews in School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.


You can listen to an audio excerpt of I am Princess X here: [http://iamprincessxbook.tumblr.com/post/124693032795/listen-to-an-excerpt-from-i-am-princess-x] (not sure how that will work without the embedded comic book pages)

The Canadian Scholastic site also posted a print excerpt.  You can access it here: [http://www.scholastic.ca/books/view/i-am-princess-x]

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Under a Painted Sky - an audiobook review


Under a Painted Sky, a debut YA novel set in 1849,, was recommended to me by an adult library customer who said his mother enjoyed it.  I was happy to receive an opportunity to review this unique historical fiction, adventure, romance novel for AudioFile Magazine.  A link to my review is below, as well as the official book trailer. The review contains an audio excerpt.  Enjoy.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee.  Read by Emily Woo Zeller.
Tantor Audio, 2015.  10.25 hrs.

A link to my review for AudioFile Magazinehttp://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/102637/

Monday, December 7, 2015

Picture Book Roundup - December Holiday edition

Each year, hundreds of new holiday books are printed. Many are trite, forced, or pedantic—but not these gems.  Here are my five new favorites. Readjoice! 
  If you have trouble viewing the slideshow, visit it on Riffle.
Featured books:
  • A Homemade Together Christmas
  • Oskar and the Eight Blessings
  • Me and My Dragon: Christmas Spirit
  • Too Many Toys!
  • Miracle on 133rd Street