As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

July 27, 2013

ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card, 1985

Once again, the Earth is under attack. An alien species is poised for a final assault. The survival of humanity depends on a military genius who can defeat the aliens. But who? Ender Wiggin. Brilliant. Ruthless. Cunning. A tactical and strategic master. And a child. Recruited for military training by the world government, Ender’s childhood ends the moment he enters his new home: Battle School. Among the elite recruits Ender proves himself to be a genius among geniuses. He excels in simulated war games. But is the pressure and loneliness taking its toll on Ender? Simulations are one thing. How will Ender perform in real combat conditions? After all, Battle School is just a game. Isn’t it? (Amazon)

Reviewed by Laina, writer, bookworm, and British television addict

I cannot believe no one has recommended this book yet! Especially with the film coming out later this year (November will be the death of me with all the stuff I want to see coming out) It’s been a few years now since a friend gave me a stack of books that they recommended I read (Note: BEST way to get people to read something- actually GIVE them the books to borrow) At the time I thought: oh Science Fiction, meh, not really my thing, but I’ll give it a try. Science Fiction still isn’t really my thing, I prefer Fantasy, but I completely adore Orson Scott Card. He ranks in my top five favorite authors.

ENDER'S GAME is brilliant with some rather mind bending (and at times disturbing) plot twists. Mr. Card is good at what he does. It follows the story of Ender Wiggins, a young genius of a boy sent to Battle School, a place where the best children go to be trained as soldiers. Oh, and Battle School happens to be in space. 

The basis would be the human races preparation for a second attack from an alien force (often called the Buggers) but Ender’s Game is so much more than an human vs. alien story. In fact, there’s barely any of that at all when it comes down to it. Instead it is a story about people and how far they go to achieve something. The characters are superb, the settings intense, and it truly is one of my all time favorite books. I’ve never liked trying to explain the whole plot of something, so just trust me and read it for yourself.

If you like it- there happen to be a lot more books in the series (something I didn’t realize until recently actually) Ender’s Shadow is the parallel novel told from a different character and it is INCREDIBLE. The series splits then with books following different characters and I haven’t read them all yet, so I can’t say much about them. I simply know that Ender’s Game is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.

Market: Not children, I’d say, but really anyone who loves a good read
Language: Some, but it’s mostly ‘made up’ and slang stuff
Sensuality: None
Violence: Moderate, but that also depends on your opinion.
Mature Themes: A lot of them- including death, despair, anger, hatred, and others, but they lend an incredible depth to the story

July 18, 2013

PAPER TOWNS by John Green, 2009

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q. (Amazon)

Reviewed by Julie, Children's lit enthusiast and pop culture geek

Quentin (or Q, as his friends call him) is a perfectly average,
slightly geeky teen boy.  In fact, he's almost startlingly
well-adjusted, which is why his story begins with a bit of a shock: One night, his next-door neighbor and dream girl, Margo Roth Spiegelman, climbs into his window and demands for his help in an all-night revenge spree.  When Margo disappears the next day, Q can't help but suffer the loss--and vow to find Margo, no matter what it takes.

Let me start out by saying everyone loves John Green.  I get that. The Fault in Our Stars is already beloved, a massive bestseller, and on the TBR piles of everyone from my teenage neighbor to my retiree mother.  But our love for that tragic romance shouldn't overshadow Green's other entertaining, brilliant works.  Paper Towns is one of these; it insightfully examines growing up, and the complications surrounding how we perceive ourselves and others.  John Green writes
with humor and intelligence, and never talks down to his
audience--which may partly explain his wide appeal.

I finished Paper Towns in two days, because Green's plot, the Edgar Award-winning search for Margo, drew me in.  But as I continued reading, a much greater mystery arises in Q's quest to "search" for who Margo really is.  Although I graduated high school a couple of years back, Green reminded me of the smoke-and-mirrors setting that high school is: as students struggle to find themselves, they sometimes drown in artificial presentations of self.  Thoughtful and motivated as Q is, he stumbles in believable places and strives to be seen in a favorable way.

Green's humorous aphorisms also make the book highly readable and enjoyable.  For one: "That's always seemed so ridiculous to me, that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like picking your breakfast cereals based on color instead of taste." Another favorite:  "It is easy to forget how full the world is of people, full to bursting, and each of them imaginable and consistently misimagined."  Q's commentary makes PAPER TOWNS an excellent book club
candidate, appropriate for teen girls and boys alike.

Market: YA fiction
Violence: None
Language: Mild
Sensuality: Some kissing, and sex-related humor (the narrator is a teenage boy, after all)
Adult Themes: Adult Themes: Runaways, identity, coming-of-age/growing up

July 16, 2013

Alexa Kaufhold is our giveaway WINNER!!

You're a WINNER, Alexa Kaufhold!! Your name was chosen to win one of Ammi-Joan Paquette's books!! Congratulations! Which one do you want?!? Contact us at

July 12, 2013

Gab Bag: Summer Storytime, In Which Picture Books and Happy Gardens are Discussed

By Kim Harris Thacker: mommy, writer, and Bookshop Talk host

I love to volunteer in my community, whether that means helping out at youth organizations, at my daughter’s school, or in garbage clean-ups. But my very favorite thing to help with in the adorable town in which I live, is storytime at the local environmental institute.

I first became involved with storytime last year, when I was asked to be a reader. Now, I’m not always socially adept (in fact, I quite the introvert), but when I’m around kids, all my inhibitions fall away and I have a ball! Maybe the reason lies in the fact that I was a teacher for a while and am now the mother of two young girls. At any rate, I really, really enjoyed helping out. So this year, when I was asked to head up the storytime as an adult volunteer, I said, “yes, please!”

As the storytime bossy-boss, I get to choose the books we read and the activities that follow the readings. And, as a Bookshop Talk hosty-host, I’d like to share those books and activities with all of you. That way, you can hold your own storytimes! Whether you choose to do that with your children or in a larger community setting, I know you’ll get a lot of joy from the experience—and give it out in hefty doses, too!

I chose a garden theme for the first week, since the readings are held at the environmental institute, and I wanted the kids to get excited about exploring the area.  The books I chose were as follows:

MY GARDEN by Kevin Henkes, 2010. The illustrations in this book are phenomenal, and the text is really sweet. Funny, too! This was our featured selection, which meant that I read it very first.

MAMA, IS IT SUMMER YET? by Nikki McClure, 2010. This is another gorgeous picture book. The kids enjoyed looking for the bits of bright color on each black-and-cream colored page, and they loved the anticipation of summer that the boy in the story experienced (and that built up for the reader, too). Kids are always asking, “Mama, are we there yet?” on trips, or, “Mama, is it my birthday yet?”, and this book gets at that idea. Good things come to those who can exercise a little patience!

AND THEN IT’S SPRING by Julie Fogliano, 2012, with illustrations by Erin E. Stead. This book is sheer poetry, with stunning illustrations. It’s also another “waiting for spring” book.

All three of these picture books are very much suited to young kids—ages Can-Sit-Still-for-Ten-Minutes-But-Only-Ten-Minutes to about eight, I’d say.

One other book that I’d like to recommend that fits this garden theme is THE CURIOUS GARDEN by Peter Brown (2009). This book was inspired by the High Line garden that runs through Manhattan on an old elevated train track! Truly, gardens can exist anywhere—and should exist everywhere, in my opinion!

Speaking of gardens existing anywhere, how about in an egg carton? This was our activity for the kids who came to storytime, and two great things about it was that it was really, really fun and really, really cheap.

I cut recycled paperboard egg cartons into individual cups, which the kids filled with soil, a bit of water, and three pea seeds (just in case some don’t grow). Then we poked tiny, postage-stamp-sized signs with pictures of peapods on them into each cup. Toothpicks made the perfect flag poles for our tiny peapod flags. This activity was a hit with all the kids, and even the tiniest ones participated (with the help of grownups).

We also planned a scavenger hunt around the nature center, but we ran short on time, so we decided to bag it. If you were to hold a storytime at a similar site to ours, however, a scavenger hunt to get to know the area would be great. You could place each of the items that are needed for the pea-planting at different areas around the site and give each child a map (with photos as well as text) showing where they need to go in order to obtain their materials.

I hope you enjoy many, many storytimes this summer! Stay tuned to hear about more of the books that are read at the nature center storytime this summer and about the activities that go along with them!

Is anyone else out there involved with summer storytimes? Where is it held? What sort of activities do you do? What storytime books have you read this summer?

July 9, 2013

Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette, Author and Literary Agent

Ammi-Joan Paquette is somewhat of a wonder.

Not only is she a top literary agent for the children’s market (which includes books for ages 0-18), but Joan is also an author herself! She has no less than FOUR books being published in 2013, and has three other books already on the shelves.

Confident that our Bookshop Talk readers would want to learn more about this kidlit superhero, I asked Joan if she would answer a few questions for us. So here we go:

Amy Finnegan: I read on your blog,, that you started writing at a very young age—creating notebooks full of stories with your sister. Will you please tell us more about this (and feel free to elaborate on the stories!)?

Ammi-Joan Paquette: Yes, it’s true! This was before my typing/computer days, so it was all pen-and-paper for us. We loved to fold sheets of paper and staple them down the middle, then fill the inside with hand-written stories, complete with strategically placed boxes for illustrations. (Oh yes!) My absolute favorite part was to include a list of “Other Titles In the Series” on the back cover—somehow, coming up with titles for upcoming future works was even more exciting than finishing the one I’d already started. That was usually the first thing I did. (Funny to think of now, since titling my books is often one of the hardest parts of the process!)

AF: You’ve continued to be attracted to the children’s market as an adult. What is it that draws you to the genre as a whole?

AJP: Oh, boy—good question! I think it’s just such a time of possibility: anything can happen, and there is still that sense of wonder and awe and appreciation for the magic of the world around you. (Remember how long one summer used to last when we were kids? A time that now goes by in the blink of an eye!) Also, those years are a time of enormous change; everything is shifting and growing and stretching in ways both wondrous and terrifyingly uncomfortable. Basically, there’s just a wealth of rich subject matter—and, quite frankly, those are the stories that are calling to me and that compel me… and where the muse calls, I follow :)

AF: I’ve gotta ask this (spooky) question! Today is the release date for two of your newest books, a middle grade novel, RULES FOR GHOSTING, and a picture book, GHOST IN THE HOUSE. So . . . what sparked this fascination with the great beyond?

AJP: I’ve always been a big fan of speculative fiction as a reader, so I think it’s not surprising that that’s reflected in my writing material as well. I do think it’s funny that not only do I have two books about ghosts coming out, but that they are also being released on the same day. I guess it’s time for me to shine the spotlight on the mysterious, hmmm?

AF: According to data available on Publishers Marketplace, and gathered by, you are currently ranked as the second highest selling literary agent in the children’s market! (Umm . . . WOW!) So I’m sure the writers who read this blog would like to know about the agent side of your life. Can you please share a bit about the Erin Murphy Literary Agency, the type of manuscripts you’re attracted to, and what process a writer would need to follow if he or she wanted to submit a manuscript to you?

AJP: Aw, thank you! Well, unfortunately the EMLA agency is closed to general submissions, so the best way to get into my submission pile is to attend a conference at which I’m presenting. I do travel quite extensively, so hopefully I will soon find myself in an area near you! In general, I’m drawn to sharply rendered characters with a compelling voice and a plot that feels tight and fast-paced. I love rich language and books that feel like they will stand the test of time. I’m not opposed to commercial books, but for me there needs to be something beyond the quick superficial read; some deeper or thought-provoking element that calls me back to the story long after I’ve put it down. Also: I love to be surprised; if your story takes unexpected or unpredictable turns, or plays with structure or story in some unusual way, I am likely to be hooked!

Thank you, Joan, for joining us on Bookshop Talk!

As a special surprise for our readers, we’re hosting a GIVEAWAY to win one of Joan’s books!

Readers, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post about Joan's interview, be (or become) a Bookshop Talk follower on Facebook, and include your Facebook name in your comment before midnight on July 16th, and wah-la! Your name will be entered into the drawing for one lucky reader to win whichever book of Joan’s they choose! *If you don’t want to enter the drawing, feel free to comment anyway, without the Facebook info*

Winners will be announced here on Bookshop Talk July 17th, so be sure to check the site that day.

Here is a bit about each of Ammi-Joan Paquette’s books:

GHOST IN THE HOUSEIt was a dark and spooky night… Wait! Did you hear that? It sounds like it might be… something scary! What is it? Turn the page and find out...

RULES FOR GHOSTING: The ghostly adventures of twelve-year-old Dahlia, along with her new living friends Oliver and Poppy, as they dodge a creepy Ghosterminator, a town official with devious plans, and set about solving the mystery of Dahlia’s death—before it’s too late.

PARADOX: She wakes up in a rocket on an alien planet with no idea who she is, or where, or why. The letter in her pocket gives her one simple message: “Experience. Discover. Survive.” The timer on her wrist is counting down to zero. And the earth-shaking rumble in the distance sends the clear message: Something is coming. If you like your science fiction fast-paced and your main character conflicted, get ready for a plot-twisting, mind-bending read like no other!

NOWHERE GIRL: Thirteen-year-old Luchi is anything but an ordinary American teenager. Born in a remote country prison in Northern Thailand, her mother's death pushes Luchi into the outside world--and into the web of secrets that was her mother's past. A coming-of-age story that follows a compelling character on her journey across continents, and oceans, and into a future she cannot begin to imagine.

THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS: A walk by the seashore might be nothing more than the start of an ordinary day. Or… it could be the beginning of something magical! Will you come along and see?

THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES: The sun is shining. The birds are singing. It's a perfect day for... tracking fairies! Join our intrepid narrators as they follow a series of backyard clues, getting closer and closer to their magical friends. You too can learn to see the world through fairy-tinted glasses. 

(Launching Oct 2013 - available for pre-order) PETEY AND PRU AND THE HULLABALOO: Petey is in the mood for some peace and quiet. But Pru is feeling tricksy. One good prank deserves another, but when the cats start wailing and the plants go flying, who do you suppose will come out on top?