Review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire


Title: Hourglass

Author: Myra McEntire

Publisher: Egmont

ISBN: 978-1606841440


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.

Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?

Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.


I wanted to like Hourglass better than I did.  I had high, high hopes for it, and to be honest, I don’t think anything could have lived up to the hype I had planted in my brain.  I was thrilled to be reading a book that was a little different, one without vampires or shape shifters, but one that still had paranormal elements, and one that might be the tiniest bit scary.  Emerson does see ghostly apparitions, and what’s not spooky about that?  I built this book up so much that it fell a bit short of my expectations.

Here’s what worked for me: Emerson is a wonderful character.  Since she can see things that nobody else can, she gets a big old crazy label slapped across her forehead.  After spending time in a mental institution, she weans herself off of her medication because she is tired of feeling like a zombie.  She is stubborn and determined, and she tells herself that she will just have to deal with the ghosts that she sees, without letting her brother and his wife know that she’s not taking her meds anymore.  While less than wise, it showed that Em is brave and that all she wants is to live a normal life like every other 17 year-old.

When her brother hires Michael to try to help her with problems, Em is surprised to learn that he’s only slightly older than she is, and that he works for the mysterious organization called Hourglass. When Em tries to dig up some information on Hourglass, Michael is less than happy with her.  In fact, he gets a little irate.  Here’s one of the things that I didn’t like: Michael.  I just never warmed up to him, or thought that he was the right guy for Emerson.  He put his own agenda ahead of helping her, and he didn’t hesitate to lie to her and manipulate her to get his way.  It is disheartening when you don’t like the soul-mate of the protagonist, and wish she would get together with his best friend instead.  Even if his best friend is a player.  Sigh.  That was one love triangle I didn’t mind, though I was hoping for a different outcome.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that I loved the time-traveling aspects of the story.  Michael wants Em to help him right a terrible wrong, and save the life of a man who was murdered by going back in time and changing history.  The end result certainly wasn’t what they had hoped for, but playing with the past should never be an easy accomplishment.  There should be a price to pay, and an extremely heavy one at that.  Emerson learns the hard way that changing the past shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, and that there are worse circumstances possible, both for herself, and for her friends.

While I thought that parts of the story were sluggish and the pacing was uneven, the last 150 pages rocked out.  I couldn’t put the book down.  That was bad, because I was supposed to socializing with friends while on vacation, but all I wanted to do was disappear for a bit to polish off the rest of the book.  While I didn’t totally love this book, I am looking forward to seeing what happens next, and I hope that the momentum from the end of this installment carries over to the next one.

Grade: B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Human.4 by Mike A Lancaster


Title: Human.4

Author: Mike A Lancaster

Publisher: Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606840993


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Kyle Straker volunteered to be hypnotized at the annual community talent show, expecting the same old lame amateur acts. But when he wakes up, his world will never be the same. Televisions and computers no longer work, but a strange language streams across their screens. Everyone’s behaving oddly. It’s as if Kyle doesn’t exit.

Is this nightmare a result of the hypnosis? Will Kyle wake up with a snap of fingers to roars of laughter? Or is this something much more sinister?

Narrated on a set of found cassette tapes at an unspecified point in the future, Human.4 is an absolutely chilling look at technology gone too far.    


What an odd book!  Odd in a good way, too, but Human.4 is hard to classify.  What is this?  Sci-Fi, mystery, psychological thriller?  I’m still not sure what I would call it, but I do know one thing; I could not put the book down, and I polished it off in just a few hours.

Kyle Straker volunteers to be hypnotized by his friend at the annual community talent show.  He doesn’t really want to, but he doesn’t want to see his friend crash and burn when nobody else wants to help him with his act.  Kyle finds himself onstage with three other townspeople, and when he wakes up from the hypnosis, the world is completely different.  He’s not sure what’s going on, but he can tell that it is not the same.  His parents are acting very oddly, and the phone lines are all dead. So are the computers and the television sets.  Is he losing his mind? Or did something happen while he was hypnotized?

The suspense is overwhelming!  I wanted to find out what was going on just as much as Kyle did.  Have aliens invaded? Is he trapped in a nightmare?  Is he nuts?  The narrative is tense and exciting, and the pacing never slows.  The story is so fast-paced, and the short chapters add to the urgency of Kyle’s predicament.  I kept telling myself I would only read one more chapter before I turned the light off to go to sleep, but then I would say – just one more!  I couldn’t stop reading!

Kyle’s narrative kept me engaged in the story, but the occasional editor notes were very jarring.  The narrative is supposed to be a transcription of Kyle’s audio tapes, which described his ordeal.  The premise is unique and I thought it was very interesting, but the research and scientific notes slowed down the pace of the story.  They just didn’t fit well into the narrative, and I grew tired of them very quickly.

The book ends neatly, with all of my questions answered.  I found the reason for Kyle’s extraordinary ordeal to be kind of “meh,” but the run up to the final revelation kept me engrossed in the story.  The ending was a bit of a let down, though, and I don’t want to say much more because it will spoil the suspense of the read.  I think that this book will have a lot of appeal for boys, and readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Bitter Melon by Cara Chow


Title: Bitter Melon

Author: Cara Chow

Publisher: Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606841266


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Frances, a Chinese-American student at an academically competitive school in San Francisco, has always had it drilled into her to be obedient to her mother and to be a straight-A student so that she can go to Med school.  But is being a doctor what she wants?  It has never even occurred to Frances to question her own feelings and desires until she accidentally winds up in speech class and finds herself with a hidden talent.  Does she dare to challenge the mother who has sacrificed everything for her?  Set in the 1980s.


I can’t imagine living Frances’ life.  What a joyless, frustrating existence.  Her mother wants only the best for her, but her methods of forcing her daughter to strive for perfection are cruel and abusive.  Frances’ path in life has been mapped out by her mother – she’s going to get all A’s, attend Berkeley, and become a doctor.  Then she can start taking care of her mother as carefully as her mother has taken care of her.

Frances’ mother is a tyrant, and she expects to be instantly obeyed in every matter.  She is callous and cruel, and her verbal barbs are as painful as a physical blow.  Her mother’s less than nurturing treatment had me squirming all through the book, and I was thankful that I had your normal, American upbringing.  My parents encouraged me to do my best, punished me for blatantly breaking the house rules, and sat back most of the time and let me figure things out for myself.  Not so for Frances.  Her mother directs almost every move she makes, makes her completely miserable by disparaging her every accomplishment, and always asks for better results.  Nothing pleases her, and Frances is more like a beaten dog than a daughter. Ouch.

Though I sympathized with her from the very beginning, I didn’t always like Frances.  She is flawed, and her transformation into a caring, accepting young woman is a highlight of the book.  Frances has no defenses against her mother’s tactics, and when we are first introduced to her, she is just as judgmental as her mother.  She doesn’t know how to be a friend, how to empathize with others, how to listen and offer unbiased advice to her only friend, Theresa.  As she develops the courage to stand up to her mother, she also learns what it means to be a friend.  There is wonderful character development here, and all of it is convincing.  Frances is forced to give herself a good, hard look in the mirror, and she when she doesn’t like what she sees, she is determined to change herself for the better.

Frances’ journey to self-discovery begins with a mistake.  She thinks that she’s enrolled in Calculus, only to learn that there’s been a error made with her schedule, and Speech has been swapped for her math class.  Frances is dazzled by her charismatic instructor, Ms. Taylor, and she decides to stay in the class for just a few class sessions, and then she will switch into Calc.  She waits until too late, and then she isn’t allowed to change her schedule.  So begins a year of lying to her mother, learning to keep secrets from her friend, and discovering the courage to be the person she wants to be.  Frances has dreams, too, but she’s never had the strength to pursue them.  Suddenly the world is an exciting place, and her future just may be under her control.

There has been a lot of attention given to the exacting demands of Asian mothers, thanks to Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  Cultural expectations for children can put a lot of pressure on both children and parents, and Bitter Melon examines this in dramatic and compelling detail.  Frances’ mother believed that everything she did was for her daughter’s benefit, and that it was her duty as a mother to push, to kneed, to shape her child into the mold of her choosing.  Accepting anything less than perfection was just not in Frances’ best interests.  In her zeal for Frances to succeed, there is no room for comfort, or gentleness, or affection.  I am so glad that is not how I was raised.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Drought by Pam Bachorz


Title: Drought

Author: Pam Bachorz

Publisher:  Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606840160


May Contain Spoilers


Before I get rolling with this review, let me make one statement about Drought – it is one of the most unique books that I have ever read.  It is intense, it is bleak, and there were a couple of times that I wanted to set it aside and just catch my breath.  It is one of the most depressing books I have ever read, and I kept asking myself one question – why, why, WHY?  What is the purpose for all of this suffering and sacrifice?  This is a book about a love so twisted that it defies comprehension.  It is also the story of unbelievable selfishness, the inability to accept when a relationship is over, and when it comes down to it, it is the chronicle of a clash of wills that has two people refusing to back down and admit defeat. After 200 years, you would think that at least one of them would grow up.

Part of the suspense of Drought are the slow, sometimes agonizingly slow, plot revelations.  At the start of the book, I was totally in the dark about everything.  Why were these people collecting water from flowers and plants with spoons and cups? Why did they have a quota to meet?  Why was Ruby’s mother, Sula, constantly beaten, with a length of chain, when enough water to fill the quota wasn’t collected?  What the heck is all of this about?

Ruby’s mother is the leader of a group of Congregants, and they are waiting for Ruby’s father to return and liberate them.  In the meantime, they are captives of Darwin West and his Overseers.  Ruby’s life is a living hell for a couple of reasons.  First, her mother and Darwin West are locked in an epic battle of wills that seems to have no end.  Next, her blood has the ability to heal wounds and extend life, an ability she shares with her father.  Only a select few know of Ruby’s secret, and they will do anything to keep her secret and control her blood.  The Congregants live meager, miserable lives, and they are the playthings of Darwin.  He is cruel and harsh, and he doesn’t hesitate to punish any transgression.

Sula isn’t much better.  Her undying adoration for Ruby’s father has led her to pain and suffering.  After spurning Darwin for Otto, she must flee her comfortable life in town.  She has convinced a group of followers to escape with her, but they end up setting up camp on Darwin’s land.  A hastily conceived lie then seals their unpleasant fate, and binds them together for 200 years of drudgery.  Ruby grows up knowing nothing else.  The woods, the gathering of water, long days filled with suffering, and never having enough to eat.  All the while, the Congregants wait and pray for Otto to return to bring them deliverance.

There are so many layers to this book, and though I had a real problem trying to make sense of some of the characters’ actions and justifications, I found it difficult to step away from Ruby’s messed up world, where love means pain and betrayal.  Only Ruby remains untainted, as she accepts her mother’s fanatical belief in Otto.  Otto will return, Otto will bring them peace and free them from Darwin.  When Ruby falls in love with a new Overseer, she begins to question everything about her life.  Why are they doing this?  It’s when she begins to wonder where Otto went that her world starts to unravel.  Allowing herself to love Ford means turning her back on the people who have sheltered and protected her for her entire life.  Reading along as she grapples with difficult decisions, choices that will change her life forever and drive a wedge between herself and her mother, kept me transfixed.  That her mother forced her to do this kept me horrified.  So many emotions swirled through me as I read this, and that has made Drought an unforgettable read for me.

Drought is not an easy book to read, nor is it an easy book to forget.  It gave me a lot to think about, and kept me guessing the whole time I was reading it.  Many of my questions never did get answered.  The more I think about it, the more I liked it, because it did cause me to feel so many conflicted emotions.  Do I recommend it? Yes, but with this caveat; be prepared to be put through the wringer! 

Grade:  B tilting toward B+ (This read was all over the place!  It is one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read.)

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings


Title: Guinea Dog

Author: Patrick Jennings

Publisher: Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606840535


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Rufus has been dreaming of getting a dog. His best friend has one. His worst friend has one. But his dad has a few objections: They whine. They gnaw. They bark. They scratch. They beg. They drool.

Rufus pays no attention when his mom offers her think-outside-the-box suggestion, because she can’t be serious. She can’t be.

She can be. And she actually comes home with a guinea pig. And if Rufus’s dad thinks dogs are a problem, he won’t know what hit him when he meets the Guinea Pig that Thinks She’s a Dog. She barks. She bites. She’ll eat your homework.


I connected with Rufus from the first page.  All he wants is a dog.  Surely that’s not to much to ask!  He’s a good kid who tries to stay out of trouble, so why can’t he have his dog?

This is where the conflicts in Rufus’ life are explored.  His dad now works at home, and he is having a problem adjusting to his work at home status.  He is a neat freak, he doesn’t like to hear a lot of noise, and he doesn’t like strangers in his house.  He is so anal, in fact, that poor Rufus feels uncomfortable in his own home.  It’s his dad who is putting his foot down about the dog, because dogs are noisy, messing, and need attention.  Rufus and his father constantly clash about the dog question, when his mother comes up with what she thinks is a good solution.

What’s his mother’s great idea?  She brings home a guinea pig for Rufus.  A guinea pig!? What self-respecting boy is going to want a guinea pig for a pet?!  Rufus wants a dog!  A D.O.G.!  Why don’t the adults in his life understand that?  A furry rodent is not going to take the place of a dog in his life!

This is a fun read about expectations, and how they sometimes have to change.  When I was Rufus’ age, all I wanted was a dog (ok, I wanted a pony, too).  I sympathized with him right away.  When he receives Fido, the guinea pig, instead of a dog, he is beyond dismayed.  A goofy little rat-like thing is so not a dog.  When Fido turns the household upside down with her unexpected behavior, Rufus learns to look at things in a new light.  His friends, the boy he doesn’t get along with, even the weird girl in class make him stop and think about things in a new way.  Maybe the people he doesn’t like aren’t really all that bad.  Maybe having a guinea pig instead of a dog isn’t all that bad.  Rufus exhibits convincing character development, which in turn helps him to understand and get along with his dad. 

Guinea Dog is a humorous MG read about finding the good in what at first seems like a bad situation.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Grab The Dark Divine E-Book for Cheap, Cheap, Cheap!!!!

I received this awesome press release from Egmont USA – You can purchase the ebook of Bree Despain’s The Dark Divine for cheap, cheap, cheap!!! What are you waiting for? It’s for a limited time only, so go grab it! I checked at B&N, and the price has been changed for the Nook edition. 

E-Book of The Dark Divine Priced at $2.99 for a Limited Time

Promotion Leads Up to the Highly-Anticipated Sequel,


New York, October 25, 2010—Egmont USA announced today that the e-book of THE DARK DIVINE by Bree Despain will be available for $2.99, from October 25 through November 22—wherever e-books are sold.

THE DARK DIVINE made headlines last month when it was announced that Ralph Winter ("X-Men") and Terry Botwick acquired the movie rights to THE DARK DIVINE, through their 1019 Entertainment banner. 

A modern retelling of the Prodigal Son with a paranormal twist, THE DARK DIVINE sold out of its first three print runs and has garnered terrific reviews. Booklist said: “Atmospheric and compelling, Despain’s first novel will be popular, and a sequel eagerly anticipated.”

The sequel, THE LOST SAINT, will be published December 28, 2010.


Bree Despain rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and two young sons. This is her first novel. You can visit her online at


Egmont USA ( was established in 2007 with one mission in mind: to bring stories to life. From picture books to young adult novels, Egmont USA publishes works that engage, entertain, and enlighten children of all ages. Egmont USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Egmont UK and part of the Egmont Group, one of Europe’s largest children’s publishers. The company is headquartered in New York City.

Review: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes


Title: Raised by Wolves

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher:  Egmont USA

ISBN: 978-1606840597


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it.  That doesn’t mean that she’s averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian’s basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents’ murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she’s shaped?

Though I enjoyed this book a lot, there were some pacing issues that bogged down the narrative a few times.  During these lulls, my attention started to wander, and I started longing for pace to pick up again.  The most significant one, for me, was right before the confrontation with the Rabid.  In an effort to build suspense, I thought that some of the momentum of the story was lost with too much self introspection and too much set up.

I loved Bryn.  If there’s one thing you can say about her, it’s that she’s a survivor.  After her parents are brutally murdered by a rogue werewolf, she is taken in by Callum, the Alpha of a large and powerful pack.  She is raised in safety and protected from outside threats, and Callum’s mark on her means that all of his wolves must watch over her as well.  Bryn chafes at the restrictions in her life and keeps herself as distant from the pack as she can.  She resists getting caught up in the pack mentality, which makes some of the werewolves suspicious of her.  They can’t comprehend being apart, mentally and emotionally, from the others, and it makes for an uneasy relationship with many of Callum’s wolves.

It’s when Bryn discovers Chase, a young man who has survived a vicious attack by a Rabid, that the story picked up the pace and started to suck me in.  Bryn is drawn to Chase; they have both survived an attack by a Rabid, though Chase was actually mauled by the wolf, and Bryn was saved by Callum before the wolf could physically attack her.  Chase has been turned, and Bryn feels that by learning more about his ordeal, she will be able to put her horrific experience in the past.  She is still haunted by the memories of the slaughter of her parents, and she just wants to find a way to make it make sense to her.

Forbidden to have contact with Chase unless she becomes a member of the pack, Bryn’s safe, sheltered life is about to change forever.  I loved how convincingly Jennifer Lynn Barnes portrayed the weres and being part of a pack.  There are mental bonds that connect the pack together, and once Bryn is forced to let down her guard and be a part of the collective mind set, she begins to lose herself in the pack.  Her individuality begins to slip away, and she starts to think like the wolves.  I loved how real the pack connection felt, and how Bryn’s outlook changed after submitting to Callum and the rest of the pack.

Raised by Wolves is an exciting and suspenseful read, with a very strong protagonist.  Even though Bryn is dealing with so many issues from her past, she is determined that there will never be other victims like Chase and herself.  To find closure from her nightmare past, she will put her life on the line and end the threat that still stalks those too weak and helpless to save themselves.  The relationships between the characters were complex and felt so real, especially Bryn’s confused feelings for Callum and her attraction to Chase.  This is one of the best werewolf books that I have ever read!

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Jaguar Stones: Middleworld by J & P Voelkel


Title: The Jaguar Stones: Middleworld

Author: J & P Voelkel

Publisher:  Egmont USA

ISBN: 9781606840719


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he’s mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they’ve had a change of heart.

Upon his arrival, Max’s wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!

I love adventure yarns, and the first volume in The Jaguar Stones series is a pretty darn good one.  It did take me a while  warm up to protagonist Max, because he is not a very likable kid at the start of the book.  It takes a long time for him to get over himself, and that is the one thing keeping the book from getting a higher grade.  From the very beginning Max grated on  my nerves.  I realize that he is supposed to be whiny and a spoiled brat; he was rather surly and more than a little unpleasant, so I guess it only makes sense that it would take most of the book’s 400 pages for him to redeem himself.

Max’s parents certainly aren’t very good role models.  He is desperately craving their attention, but they are so entranced by their archeological pursuits that they just don’t seem to have the energy for him.  When a dream dig comes their way, they are so quick to pack up and leave Max in the care of their odd housekeeper that I felt sorry for him.  The school year is coming to a close, and he is so eager to show off for them at the school concert.  Plus, the summer is their time to go to Italy and spend a little family time together.  Not this year.  Instead, Max watches with a sinking heart as they lug their bags out the door and head off to San Xavier to study an ancient Mayan site.

Days later, his parents are missing, and Max is on a plane to San Xavier to stay with the uncle he barely knows.  He and Uncle Ted get off on the wrong foot, and Max realizes that he is in for a very unpleasant summer.  First and foremost – his parents are still missing, and he is fearful that something bad has happened to them.  Second, Uncle Ted isn’t welcoming at all, he has connections with some very nasty people, and he expects Max to work all summer long, cleaning up the beach.  Argh!!  And he thought staying home would be snore worthy.  At least he still had his video games to distract him!

Max quickly gets caught up in a frantic search for the mysterious Jaguar Stones, the five sacred stones of the ancient Mayans.  They believed that the stones could open a portal to the underworld, and give whoever possessed them the power to rule the world.  With the help of Lola, a young girl who longs to know who her real family is, and Hermanjilio Bol, a colleague of his parents,  he sets out to save both the world and his parents.  It’s also going to take more bravery that he thinks he can muster, nerves of steel, and trust in his new friends.  It is when Max begins to trust and care about his new companions that he develops into a more noble character. 

The book is very fast-paced and the 400 pages fly by with the velocity of a Formula 1 race car.  I loved the rain forest setting, though the bugs would quickly drive me back to the nearest hotel!  As Max explores his new surroundings, he begins to nurture a new appreciation for the jungle, and I bet he’ll have a whole new attitude about video games when he gets back home.  Passive adventuring has its charms, but as Max grows in confidence during his real and extremely dangerous adventure, the life he used to live begins to pale.  By the end of the book, I was firmly cheering him on.  He faces so many terrible things that would have sent adults screaming into the underbrush, but he determinedly marches forward to save the people who are dear to him.

This book looks great!  There are illustrations throughout, a glossary of Mayan terms, and an explanation of the Mayan calendar.  Middleworld is as fun to look at as it is to read.  I love when publishers take the time to present an attractive book like this.  The drawings do spice up the narrative, and give the final product a more finished look and feel.

The Jaguar Stones: Middleworld is a fun summer read with lightning quick action, a lush, exotic setting, and a protagonist who will (eventually!) win you over.  If you are looking for a suspenseful read with light supernatural elements and a rich historical background, you’ve found your book!

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher