Hot off the Presses

I thought I’d give you some hot off the presses books to read about this week. I just sent in these reviews of three different books. All of which were enjoyable reads. The first one is a very amusing picture book, but the second and third ones are heart wrenchers. Hope you enjoy them.


Anybody who has ever taken a small child somewhere in public will most decidedly relate to this story. Stories like this always remind me of the meltdown I had when I was 8 years old and had to go for what eventually turned out not to be a painful shot at all. But I had just come off a month of having penicillin shots in my butt. And on the bus ride to National Institutes of Health to get said Rocky Mountain Fever shot, my older siblings had of course made the most of the ordeal. Well, we got to the line to get the shot and I was fine until it was my turn. No siree, no way was I going to have another shot. I lay on the floor and kicked my heels. I ran out of the room and onto an elevator with my mother right behind me. I bit her and kicked her and eventually got the shot that didn’t hurt a bit. Then my mother told me I had to tell my grandmother what I’d done when we got home. So I can relate to meltdowns.


Jill Murphy

Illustrated by Jill Murphy

Roxy and Mommy go grocery shopping and Roxy is very excited to help. Perhaps a bit too excited since she has to be reminded to not crush the chips or the bread or race down the aisle with the cart. But she pretty much behaves until she and Mommy pick out a cake with a piggy face, which Roxy wants to hold. Look out, here comes MELTDOWN! Roxy wants to eat the cake now! And boy does she let the world know. ALL THE WAY HOME. Unrepentant even when scolded, Roxy asks in her quietest voice and with her smarmiest smile to have piggy cake now. Everyone who has ever taken a screaming child some where in public will cringe and laugh throughout the story, though the child probably won’t understand what the problem is. The story prompts a good discussion about proper behavior in public. Though rabbits and other animals are used instead of children, the illustrations surely do depict a young child in a store. This book is definitely worth a read.

BIBLIO: 2016, Candlewick Press, Ages 3 to 6, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8926-1


Life isn’t always a walk in the park for people. Those of us who live in our almost safe enclaves tend to forget how much darkness and sadness there is around us. Being strong is sometimes not easy.

On Guard

Patrick Jones

This book is a stellar addition to the “Bounce” series which seems to focus on kids playing basketball in school and how it can help them through the rocky rapids of high school. Mercedes Morgan is an outstanding point guard for her team on her way to breaking state records for shooting three-point baskets, but family life gets in the way. Mercy was able to shift focus when her family moved away from the rougher parts of Birmingham, Alabama, and is headed towards a full ride at the University of Alabama. But her older sister, Callie, is still pulled in by the “corner” and her boyfriend. The girls’ younger brother, Lincoln, is heading in the same direction until Callie is murdered by her gang. She lingers in a coma as the family tries to carry on and Mercy tries to concentrate on winning the three-point record and a scholarship to college. Mercy’s girlfriend, Jade, who came from the same rough neighborhood, gives support as best she can, but Mercedes loses focus as she watches Callie die and feels she losing Lincoln to the old neighborhood. With Jade’s help and support from her teammates and coach, Mercy saves her brother, at least for the time being, and ends up with her full ride. The though all of the characters are seen only through Mercedes’ eyes and feelings, the reader gets a real feel for them and Mercy’s helplessness in making things right. All kinds of school room discussions emanate from this book and writing is concise. This book is a winner.

BIBLIO: 2016, Darby Creek/Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Ages 14 +, $26.65.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-51241-123-2

ISBN: 978-1-51241-207-9

ISBN: 978-1-51241-134-8


Sometimes I get to read a book that stays with me for a long time because of how nicely it’s written, but also because of the story’s essence. This is one of those books.

The Memory Book

Lara Avery

Samantha Agatha McCoy, a.k.a. Sammie, has an incurable disease that is killing her as it steals her brain. She writes a journal to her future self so that she’ll remember her past. The disease is called Niemann-Pick Type C and it usually attacks children much younger than high school senior, Sammie. She is partner in a winning debate team that’s on its way to winning the National Debate Championship. She has a crush on Stuart Shah, a super hot guy who’s now studying in New York City. But, just as things are going well for Sammie, her disease worsens. She has seizures and blanks out. Her speech slurs and her memory worsens. She tries to have a normal life and looks forward to her plans for her future. She never does make it to college, but she does make the best of the time she has left. The story could break the reader’s heart except for all the hope and love Sammie and her family have for each other. In addition to the story being about Sammy dealing with her disease, the author also neatly folds in the usual trials and tribulations of a nerdy teenager. It could lead to interesting classroom discussions on relationships and diseases. This book is definitely worth reading.

BIBLIO: 2016, Poppy/Little, Brown and Company/Alloy Entertainment/Hachette Book Group, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-31628-374-8

ISBN: 978-0-31628-377-9

ISBN: 978-1-47890-971-2

I’ve Been Sick

One of my most favorite joke-stories ever is one I’ve known most of my 75 years. But most people politely laugh and change the subject, because they don’t get it. My darling husband, who usually shares my sense of humor, finally told me not to tell it anymore because nobody gets it.

It came to mind because I spent pretty much the whole of September ingesting one antibiotic after the other to fight off one ailment after the other. I’ve been sick.

The joke is: King Richard the Lion wakes up one particular morning feeling especially fierce. He stretches and then curls his long red tongue into a enormous yawn. Now ready for the day, he pads out from his bed and grabs the first elephant he sees by the trunk. He whirls that elephant round and round and slings him as far as he can. The earth rattles when the elephant lands and King Richard is on him one leap.

“Who’s the king of the jungle?” he demands.

The elephant doesn’t move, but, with a quaver in his voice, whispers, “Why you are sir!”

“You got that right,” snarls King Richard and heads off to scare the first rhinoceros he finds.

The rhinoceros and then the giraffe and zebra and all the other animals agree. The lion is indeed king of jungle.

Quite satisfied with himself, Richard struts his way back to his lair, where he comes across a field mouse just at the edge of the plain. That poor mouse doesn’t stand a chance.

But when the lion is finished shredding the trembling creature and demands, yet again, “Who’s the king of jungle?”

Said mouse squeaks, “Yeah, but I’ve been sick.”

I love the story because to me it means the biggest and toughest isn’t always the winner. And even the smallest can triumph.

Please let me know if you think it’s funny. You probably won’t, but I don’t care. I think it’s funny.

Anyway, my blog entries this week are about finding ways to prevail when life throws you out into left field.


I liked this one because, although the other boy is a bully, the main character has a part in making him that way.

EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken!

Sally Warner

Illustrated by Jamie Harper

Eight-year-old EllRay gets into trouble enough on his own without having to defend himself against Jared’s physical bullying. To make matters worse, EllRay is the smallest kid in his class and Jared is the biggest. EllRay figures he can patiently wait through the torment until Jared gets bored with him and picks a new victim. Unfortunately, EllRay’s parents are not happy with his progress report and scold him for not doing better in the behavior department. If EllRay can stay out of trouble for a week, his dad will take him to Disneyland the following Saturday, so he puts up with Jared giving him knuckle rubs on the ribs and tripping him in class and in general making school life miserable. Jared’s bullying begins to be noticed by their teacher and other teachers, but he doesn’t back off much and his side-kick, Stanley, helps him out. EllRay makes it through the week, only to discover his parents have invited Jared to come along to Disneyland.  During their time together, EllRay learns that he had inadvertently embarrassed Jared just before the Christmas break and that’s why he’s been so mean. The boys make up and life is better at school. Not that EllRay isn’t still the class clown. The book makes a good discussion jumping off point for understanding bullying and how to deal with it and the illustrations are cute.

BIBLIO: 2011, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group/ Penguin Group, Ages 6 to 8, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Early Reader

ISBN: 978-0-670-06243-0


We all have trouble accepting our part in what bad befalls us, yet we all have a role to play in all of it.

It’s All Your Fault

Paul Rudnick

Up to this point in her life, Caitlin Mary Prudence Rectitude Singleberry has considered herself a good Christian girl devoutly trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Caitlin has severe anxiety problems, to the point of obsessively counting things, like how many railings in a fence section or naming her many siblings in chronological order. But in one weekend she has fallen to the Devil and is now in jail for armed robbery, car theft and a myriad of charges all because of her cousin Heller Harrigan—once her best friend and now her sworn enemy. After all Heller did almost get Caitlin killed four years earlier and then never called to say she was sorry or even come to visit while Caitlin was in the hospital. But now Heller is on the edge of major stardom in the Hollywood sky with a new block-buster mega-million movie based on a best-selling series of novels. Unfortunately, she has a tendency to get into trouble so her mother and the studio decide Caitlin should chaperone her cousin. For the most part, things go poorly until Caitlin gets into trouble. In the end, Caitlin and Heller become friends again. The author has an off-beat sense of humor which will have the reader laughing out loud. But he also addresses serious teen problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse and mental disorders.

BIBLIO: 2016, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 14 +, $19.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-46428-4


Most things in life come with a price and it is up to us to deal with them.

Wildflower: The Best Songs Come from Broken Hearts

Alecia Whitaker

Bird Barrett plays fiddle in her family’s bluegrass band. The band the family started to deal with their deep sorrow over the accidental drowning death of the youngest child, Caleb. Dylan, Bird’s oldest brother, enjoys being on the road with his family so much, he forgoes a traditional brick and mortar college for studying online. Jacob, the second son in the family, also loves life on the road and playing his upright bass. So the whole is well settled into the rhythm of setting up, playing gigs, breaking down the equipment and climbing back into their RV named Winnie. When she’s not doing her school work or practicing her fiddle, Maybelle, she writes poems primarily about Adam, another talented teen itinerant musician and the love of Bird’s young life—all sixteen years of it. But all this changes when Bird has to sing lead after her dad comes down with laryngitis. Turns out there’s a record producer from Nashville in the audience, who wants to add Bird to his stable of musicians. Fortunately, a more low-key producer comes along and becomes Bird’s producer. The family settles down in Nashville as all attention focuses on making Bird a household name. Things go swimmingly for Bird, but Dylan and Jacob feel left out and Adam finally realizes he’s not going to have a relationship with Bird. The singer/fiddler is devastated when she discovers that Adam has gone on with his life, but comes to grips with it as she learns to hold her own with all the people trying to manipulate her. Some parts of this book drift, but the bits about playing music and writing songs are beautiful and the homage paid to Lady Byrd Johnson and performers like Maybelle Carter is wonderful.

BIBLIO: 2014, Poppy/Little Brown and Company/Hatchett Book Group, Ages 14 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0316-25138-9

ISBN: 978-0316-25136-5


Believe in yourself and what you can do, no matter what the lion does to stop you. And please let me know what you think. Especially what you think of my joke. Thanks for reading. Sarah

The Tangled Web of Love

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, What a tangled web we weave, when our senses love makes us leave.” These three books are about teens falling in love. They all have some merit to them, but only Tell Me Three Things is well written. However, most of time I try to introduce you to good books, so I thought you’d like to see what else gets published. And romance always makes a story more appealing.


I can’t imagine constantly hating my sister so much that I’d want to punch her. But, on the other hand, it wasn’t til the end of her life that the two of us became good friends.

A Million Miles Away

Lara Avery

Kelsey Maxfield and her twin sister, Michelle, do a typical teen thing; throw a party while their parents are gone. But Michelle disappears into her bedroom with her latest boyfriend, Peter, abandoning her friends at the party. Kelsey and her sister don’t get along well to the point of having separate bedrooms and balconies so they won’t punch each other in the stomach. But deep down they do love each other and Kelsey is devastated when Michelle dies in a car wreck after leaving Peter at the airport for his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Soon, Peter starts sending Michelle letters and skyping with her, or so he thinks. Kelsey keeps promising herself and then her friends that she will tell Peter the truth, but since he seems to feel that Michelle is his salvation for the ordeals of serving in the military, Kelsey doesn’t have the heart to tell him. Before long, she’s looking forward to her time with him. She does finally realize she’s keeping her sister alive in her mind and eventually tells him the truth. The story is nice, but the grammar is appalling and the underage drinking permitted is scary. The author gives the reader the impression that there are no virgins over the age of fourteen in all of Lawrence, Kansas.

BIBLIO: 2015, alloyentertainment/Poppy/Little, Brown and Company/Hatchett Book Group/ Ages 15 +, $18.00.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-316-28368-7

ISBN: 978-0-316-28369-4

ISBN: 978-1-4789-0457-1


This is book is boring and formulaic, but it is the second in a series so some people must have liked.

Flirt: Never too Late

A. Destiny and Rhonda Helms

There is not much to recommend about this second book in the series. The only tension revolves around Abbey’s changing feelings toward the boy who is to star opposite her in the school play. Because of what he said at the school dance at the end of their freshman year, she thinks of him as a total jerk. She makes no effort to see if that is an accurate picture of Jason and resists getting to know him better. Her best friend, Olivia, has a major crush on Jason and gets all bent out of shape when she sees the connection growing between Abbey and Jason. Abbey’s home life is good. She even thinks her step-father is a gem. She gets good grades, has friends, doesn’t get bullied, is artistically talented and likes her teachers. Her only problem is her changing feelings about Jason, who even apologizes for his comments at the dance. She’s afraid to tell him her true feelings for fear of being rejected and of losing her best friend. My, we should all have such gleeful lives. High school is a challenging time for any teen and boy/girl or best friend relationships do add a lot of angst. Just about any young adult novel out there has relationship issues as, at least, a sub-plot. But a whole book with just the one problem is boring. Plus, there a few glaring grammatical mistakes sprinkled amongst the chapters. Jason is an appealing character, but Abbey and Olivia are not sympathetic.

BIBLIO: 2014, Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Inc. Ages 12 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8404-7

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8403-0

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8405-4


The third book is, however, a winner, with appealing characters and a bit of a mystery to it.

Tell Me Three Things

Julie Buxbaum

Jessie A. Holmes moves to Los Angeles because her widowed father marries a rich woman, also widowed, who lives there with her son, Theo. Not only has Jessie now lost her mother, she’s lost all she’s known her whole life. Of course she finds her new “parent” to be impossible and calls her the “stepmonster.” To make matters worse, she is enrolled in a very ritzy, pretentious school full of snobby kids. And the “Queen Bees” are out to get her, especially when she becomes friends with the main Bee’s boyfriend. But then an anonymous person starts emailing her using the screen name of Somebody/Nobody or SN for short. He becomes her refuge and helps her find friends at the new school. She resists adapting to her new life and is not on speaking terms with her dad, much less the step members of her supposed family. Slowly, she makes her way into her new situation and begins find things in common with Theo. But she keeps wondering who SN really is and becomes closer and closer to him through their email exchanges. Of course to make things more complex, she falls for Ethan who is mysterious and her English class partner on writing a paper about an epic poem. In the end, she realizes that the “stepmonster” really isn’t all that bad and she does make friends with at least two girls. You’ll have to read the book to figure out who SN really is. The book is nicely written and the suspense of finding out who SN is keeps the reader going. In addition to the usual themes of bullying and adjusting to new places, the book lends itself to discussions of literature and poetry.

BIBLIO: 2016, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-553-53564-8

ISBN: 978-0-553-53565-5

ISBN: 978-0-553-53566-2

ISBN: 978-0-399-55293-9


Please let me know if you’ve read any of these books and had a different opinion.  Try as I might not to have my snobbish side play a role in my reviews, I’m afraid I don’t always succeed.  Thanks for reading my blog.  Sarah