Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pam's Picks Book Recommendation Email

Howdy! If you're looking for my book reviews, I have great news!

You can now have my book recommendations sent directly to you! Sign up here for Pam's Picks to have all my reviews sent to you once a month. I review fiction and nonfiction.

As a bonus, within hours of signing up, you'll receive your first email with some of my favorites of the year so far.

Pam's Picks Email List

* indicates required

You can also scroll down to search or browse the archives of my older book reviews.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Search the Archives

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reinvention or Growth?

photo D Sharon Pruitt 
If you seem to change your mind often, are you making mistakes, flighty, or simply growing as a person?

I've changed so much, that my blog has had many different titles over the years. Heck, it was even called Evolution of a Librarian at one point. Each time I renamed my blog, I thought, wow, I'm glad I fixed that mistake, this is a way better name/format. But lately I've come to realize that each step along the way wasn't a mistake. I wasn't simply "changing my mind" as a teenager changes her nail polish every other day.

Each reinvention was a step towards finding my voice. It was growth. And growth is good. Finding your voice is good. I'm not sure if the mother of reinvention, Madonna*, is actually growing or simply changing up her image to continue to be relevant in the marketplace, but I know that I am definitely growing.

Remember this the next time you change your mind. Maybe you're not just being flighty - maybe you're growing.

*Fun fact. Madonna & I share the same birthday.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

WE ALL LOOKED UP by Tommy Wallach - Unforgettable and Moving

"Some people think happiness is impossible in the face of death, but Epicurus tells us that there's no reason to fear death, because we don't get to meet it. While we exist, there is no death. And when death comes, we're not there anymore."

WE ALL LOOKED UP is about four high school seniors faced with a 66.6% chance an oncoming asteroid will hit the planet in two months.

Peter, the star basketball player, begins to question whether playing a game is the best way to spend his life. Anita, the overachiever, has been trying to prove herself to her parents her whole life. She's been on their path for her, not her own. She wants to be a singer, not a doctor or lawyer. Eliza is an the artist. After being called a slut for so long, she begins morph into one. Andy, the slacker, pretty much does whatever he wants most of the time.

After the news about the asteroid, they all begin to re-evaluate their lives. The four seniors are all loosely connected at the beginning, but over the coming weeks before the asteroid is due to hit, their lives become interconnected. Unexpected friendships form, love blooms, while other relationships are severed.

I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for these disaster themed books. Maybe because they seem more realistic than typical dystopians, if only because they are based on nature, rather than humans slowly turning wicked. A volcano, an asteroid - those are things that could crop up and alarm us at any time.

Anyway, this book succeeds in evoking the same eerie atmosphere created by my other favorite disaster books, ASHFALL and LIFE AS WE KNEW IT. The vivid descriptions of the desolate commercial centers that have been turned into blackened shells by looters and pyromaniacs, along with the rationing and fighting at grocery stores feel so real and frightening.

All four main characters are well written with moving stories. Even the minor characters are strong and memorable. (Peter's sister, Misery, and Golden, what a great villain.)

I highlighted many passages with descriptions that created such a perfect picture. Here's one for you. Peter is looking at a photo that Eliza captured. Her artist's eye shines in the passage.
Every school had a kid like this. He stood in the very center of the line, exactly where he was meant to be - a point of stillness - as the students diffused into a buzzing, slow-exposure swarm at either end of the frame. You could already see the tough years of puberty stretching out before him, a minefield strewn with awkward rejections on dance floors and lonely Friday nights. He was imprisoned within his upbringing. Doomed. (p 17)
Beautifully sad, and a crystal clear picture of this boy, right?

There are many more passages I could share, but I'd rather let you experience them when you read the book. And the book isn't all sad. It's also witty and funny. Overall, it's thoughtful, beautiful, sad, and hopeful. As the four teens consider how to use their last two months, you may also find yourself giving your time on earth some consideration.

The author is also a musician. His website has a full length album inspired by the book, with a free download. What a great way to combine these two talents. I look forward to whatever Tommy Wallach creates next.

Happy Reading!

And the trailer to pique your interest:

Friday, July 3, 2015

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE by Carrie Ryan is Your Perfect Summer Read

DAUGHTER OF DEEP SILENCE is a beautiful, fast-paced suspense story perfect for a summer afternoon by the ocean (or pool).

Frances Mace is one of three survivors after a luxury ship, Persephone is attacked. Over 300 other people were brutally murdered aboard the ship before it was set fire. But the other two survivors, a Senator and his son, aren't telling the truth about what happened aboard the ship. They claim it was a rogue wave that "attacked" the ship and caused it to sink.

Frances and her friend Libby are left to survive alone on a rescue raft for seven days before they're found. Unfortunately, Libby dies moments before the yacht reaches them. Libby's father, Cecil, is devastated. When he realizes the attackers will be looking for Frances and could be out to kill her, he convinces her to step into Libby's life. As Frances, she wouldn't have parents or anyone to protect her. As Libby, he could send her out of the country and away from these men who invariably would be hunting her until she's silenced. Frances lost her parents and everything else in her life. Cecil lost his wife and daughter. They could help each other overcome the devastation.

Four years later, Frances is firmly ensconced in Libby's life. She's come back home to seek revenge against the Senator and his son Grey. Why did they lie about the attack? Were they involved? To complicate the issue, Frances and Grey fell in love on the ship. But when she saw him lie to reporters about the attack, that love turned to ice cold hate. However, seeing him again, four years later, those romantic feelings come bubbling up. Will she be able to continue her plan, while being physically drawn to him?

I read this in only a few days. The suspense kept me flipping through the pages quickly. The writing is lovely and lyrical. Identity plays a large part of the appeal for me. If you assume another person's identity, what happens to your old one? Can you really ever leave that person behind? And how would that feel to leave yourself behind. Do the two identities blend to form someone new?

This is a beautiful story. I'm not typically attracted to revenge stories, but with Carrie Ryan's reputation, I told myself I'd give it a few pages. Well, that's all it took to grab me.

I loved it, and you will too!

Here's more about the book and the author.

And the trailer for you:

Happy Reading!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU by Moriah McStay is a Beautiful Debut

EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU is a lovely, original debut by Moriah McStay.

What a lovely, original debut by Moriah McStay. We often wonder what would happen if we took a different path. Would our lives be substantially different or better, perhaps? In this case Fiona wonders about an accident that happened to her when she was a child. The accident scarred her face. People have treated her differently her entire life because of that one moment in time. She wonders how her life could've ended up. 

Turn the page and we hear from Fi, who is living the exact same life, without the scarred face. This is a story about one girl who lived two different lives. In alternating points of view, we see how their lives seem very different. But they both end up with struggles to overcome. Each girl must take her own path to become her best self. 

I enjoyed the journeys of both Fiona and Fi. I loved the premise, and the author pulls it off really well. The stories are different, with the same characters, but their relationships have shifted. The differences cause different aspects of each character emerge. I can imagine the author enjoyed getting this chance to tell two plot lines with the same characters. I can imagine it involved lots of post-its on a giant white board to keep it all straight! Somehow, Fi and Fiona end up as distinctly different voices, which is a credit to the author. 

I loved this story. It's about relationships, human connections. It's also about inner strength and overcoming obstacles to grow and be your best self. I'll be thinking about it for a while. I'm looking forward to reading more from Moriah McStay!

Enjoy this lovely story you won't soon forget. 

Check out the author's website here

Friday, June 26, 2015

DEAD TO ME is a Fabulous Forties old Hollywood Mystery by Mary McCoy

DEAD TO ME is fabulous! It's set in 1940's old Hollywood. I can't remember ever reading a YA novel set there, so right away, it felt new to me.  Alice's sister has been missing for four years, so when she gets a call from the hospital, she's relieved to finally see her. But her sister has been badly beaten and she hasn't woken up.

Soon after Alice realizes how badly hurt her sister is, private detective Jerry Shaffer walks into the hospital room questioning Alice. Little does he know, Alice isn't the meek sixteen-year-old she may appear to be. She turns it around and begins questioning him. Then she proceeds to begin her own investigation to uncover the brute who pummeled her sister into a coma.

Although the author takes familiar elements (young girls fleeing to Hollywood to become the next famous starlet, cops owned by thugs, actors owned by major studios), the story has a freshness that I truly enjoyed. After hearing about the cryptographers during the war, Alice and her sister Annie learned to create their own secret codes using ciphers. This skill comes in handy when certain clues are unearthed that only Annie can decrypt.

Annie is a feisty, determined sister. Even when unsavory facts are uncovered about her family, she doesn't let anything stand in her way of getting to the bottom of the whole sordid situation.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, as well as the characters.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hilarity Ensues When you Accidentally Invite the Devil to Live in Your Basement: HELLHOLE by Gina Damico

HELLHOLE is hilarious, all the way through. I grabbed every spare moment I could find to get back to reading it. It was a breath of fresh air after reading a few dark books in a row. And yes, I just said that reading a book about the devil was a breath of fresh air. Weird, but true.

Max Kilgore accidentally invites a devil to live in his basement. Max assumes he satan, like the devil. But he soon finds out that his devil is only one of many. This particular devil is in charge of salty snacks. He demands that Max bring him stolen snacks on a regular basis while demanding that Max find him a mansion (with a hot tub) to live in. And the kicker - the mansion has to be "stolen."

Max only agrees because the devil promises to cure his sick mom. Before he realizes it, Max gets deeper and deeper into debt with the devil. But with the help of a few friends, he may be able to get himself out of trouble.

I loved this book! It's in my top five for the year.  It's original and a total joy to read!

Watch the trailer to get a feel for the humor in the book

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Masterful Storytelling in BELLWEATHER RHAPSODY by Kate Racculia

I really can't write a better description of Bellweather Rhapsody than the author herself, who sums it up on her website like this:

"My second novel asks the big questions, like:
What if Glee and Heathers had a baby and sent it to band camp at the Overlook Hotel?"

BEST DESCRIPTION EVER! This is totally accurate.

But I will trudge along and write a review anyway.

Kate Racculia is a master storyteller!

First of all, the setting is rich and delightful. The Bellweather is a historic hotel run by Harry Hastings, the concierge, who has lovingly taken care of it and its guests all these years. You can tell that the hotel was really something special back in its day, but the years have taken their toll, and with its lack of business, money hasn't been spent to keep the hotel in its former glory. The Bellweather has ballrooms, an auditorium, and a Tiffany glass domed rooftop pool. Since it's in upstate New York in the middle of a snow storm, references to The Shining are appropriate and encouraged.

The story begins in 1982 when a twelve-year-old bridesmaid witnesses a murder suicide in room 712 of the Bellweather. Then it skips fifteen years ahead to the Statewide competition for band, orchestra, and choir. We're introduced to two of the main characters, twin brother and sister, Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker. They've both made it to the Statewide their senior year. Their new music teacher that year is Natalie Wilson, who drives them to the hotel in a "short bus" merely because she knows it will aggravate Alice. Alice is a bit of a Rachel Berry, who is confident in her talent and future as a singer/actress. While Rabbit is a very talented bassoon player with a secret.

Arriving at the Bellweather, we meet the conductor, Fisher Brodie. Fisher is a talented piano player with an offbeat way of conducting and a semi-tragic childhood. Viola Fabian is in charge of the event, after the previous organizer had a heart attack under questionable circumstances. Her daughter Jill Faccelli is Viola's flute-playing prodigy daughter who hates her mother and simply wants to be left alone.

Imagine throwing all these characters together in a hotel with a few hundred more music-making teens for the weekend. Add in a few suicides or murders and you get this fabulous character driven, spectacularly written novel.

Also, the music! The author successfully writes about music, so that you can hear it. Plus, there is an orchestra scene near the end that is especially lovely and took me back to my own days in band to those special moments when everyone experienced the same joy of playing beautiful music well together.

There is just so much wonderful here. I highlighted so many passages that I adored. The descriptions, the characters, the setting, the dialogue, and the tone are pure perfection. This is my favorite of the year, so far. Did I mention it just won the Alex Award? Totally deserving.

The author's website has some fun links for you. You can see a Clue-like map of the Bellweather and some printable Tarot cards. Nifty. You can click below to go directly to the map.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another John Green Movie - PAPER TOWNS Trailer is here!

The next YA book to movie hit is on the horizon. PAPER TOWNS by John Green is coming out this summer, July 24th. The trailer is out NOW. It seems like it will do the book justice, but I guess we'll see.

Also, check out this adorable video with John Green and Cara Delevingne, who plays Margo.

Happy Reading! Err...watching?