Saturday, June 4, 2011

A glance back at month #1

Whew! Time to step back and look at the first month of BooksYALove...

So many firsts = first posting on May 1st as WordCount's Blogathon2011 gets rolling. Followed by first book recommendation, first comments, first subscribers, first tweets - and lots of friendly feedback from fellow Blogathonners.

Most of my recommendations were for fiction books, with some cool nonfiction thrown in, all books that young adults (and young-at-heart adults) will enjoy reading, but might not find in the big displays at booksellers or on best seller lists.

Worth looking at again:
Scary books: Stolen and The House of Dead Maids
High school drama (but funny): Flawless and Ten Miles Past Normal
Futuristic books: Awaken and Across the Universe
Graphic novels: Smile and My Boyfriend is a Monster
Across the sea: Warriors in the Crossfire and Saraswati's Way

I have a big stack of books that I;ve read and just cannot wait to share with y'all, this summer I'm planning to post several new book recommendations every week (though perhaps not one a day), with occasional reflective musings and some guest posts that highlight "forgotten gems" of YA lit from earlier years.

So, grab a book and take your mind somewhere else this summer - you'll be glad you did! And let me know of any books that I need to read and recommend here, too.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Who Is Frances Rain? by Margaret Buffie (fiction) - family squabbles, Gold Rush ghost

book cover of Who is Frances Rain by Margaret Buffie published by Kids Can Press
Ah, summer vacation season...the change of scenery, the same ol' family. Except when your family suddenly has a new member, like a stepparent.

So, escaping to the island is Lizzie's best way to cope with the rising tensions at Gran's place in Manitoba's gold country. Even if she does start seeing visions...or ghosts...

So "who is Frances Rain" you wonder? Hope you've got plenty of flashlight batteries...

Book info: Who Is Frances Rain? / by Margaret Buffie. Kids Can Press, 2007 [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Lizzie is sure this summer will be awful - the Canadian gold rush country, all lakes and wilderness, was the kids’ special place with their grandmother, so why did Mom suddenly want to leave her law office and bring their new stepdad here for the summer?

Gran’s old lodge is the same, with board games for everyone and plenty of blueberry pie. Their across-the-lake neighbors are still the same, except 16 year old Alex has grown tall, towering over Lizzie and her big brother Evan. But Evan is awful to their stepdad, Mom’s good mood has vanished, and Gran tells Lizzie to stay away from Rain Island.

Of course, 15 year old Lizzie decides to escape the tension at the lodge and explore Rain Island on her own. When she finds an old pair of glasses that might have belonged to a woman prospector there, she begins to see ghosts or maybe visions of the past.

What are they trying to tell her? Why does she feel this strange connection to the island? When she and Alex start digging into the history of the island and the area’s gold rush days, the mystery becomes stranger than they ever could have imagined.

This great tale of suspense from noted Canadian author Margaret Buffie will have you wondering “who is Frances Rain?” with Lizzie and Alex until the very end. (One of 5,000 books recommended on

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fire, by Kristin Cashore (fiction) - beauty, mind-control, desire

book cover of Fire by Kristin Cashore published by Firebird Penguin
We usually think of monsters as horrific, terrifying, and hideous (like the Creature from the Black Lagoon).

But what if the monstrosity was purely inner? These are the monsters of Fire's world, the monsters whose dazzling physical beauty and powers of mind control are an irresistable lure and a snare to entrap mere humans.

As a monster-human hybrid, Fire knows the power of her beauty, yet her human half strives to overcome it. In an unstable kingdom attacked by monster creatures as well as human treachery, Fire may be the key to a possible peace... or utter ruin.

Fire is chronologically a prequel to Cashore's stunning debut novel, Graceling. Each story can stand alone, but you'll want to read both. Check the author's blog for her progress on their sequel Bitterblue.

Book info: Fire / Kristin Cashore. Hardback - Dial Books, 2009. Paperback - Firebird, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: In these days of war, Fire travels watchfully to her music students’ homes in the mountains. But Fire is a human-monster, capable of controlling minds, far more dangerous than any bandits. Raised by a foster family of humans, she has become a master archer, like her foster brother, and loses herself in her music to forget her father.

She’s determined not to become like him, her full-monster father who ruled the king’s mind and being as they stripped the Dells of its safety, emptying the treasury for pleasures and drugs. Cansrel and King Nax are dead now, leaving unprepared young King Nash on the throne, with lords in the North preparing to battle him for the crown.

An assassin whose mind is completely blank, King Nax’s widow in voluntary exile, the armies of Lord Myddogg and Lord Gentian gathering in the North, the increasing number of monster-animals attacking humans, first with their irresistible beauty and then with claws and teeth – can the Dells survive such threats and dangers?

When Prince Brigan asks Fire to travel to the King’s City to help them hold the kingdom together by using the powers of her mind, she wants to refuse. Is she truly their only hope? Can she resist the lure of continuing to manipulate people’s minds after the crisis has past? Is there any future for the last human-monster in this suspicious, vicious world?

A companion to Graceling, Fire’s story stands on its own, asking questions about humanity and responsibility and society in a fantasy world that may be too much like our own.
(One of 5,000 books recommended on

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mamba Point, by Kurtis Scaletta (fiction) - truth, self, visions of snakes

book cover of Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta published by Random House
Moving... I've done it all my life, during the summer, during the school year, but I never moved to Africa, like Linus did.

And to befriend a black mamba, the fastest snake in Africa, in the whole world - wow!

Linus tried to transform himself into someone cool, to find friends in a strange land, to understand a new culture. Will getting so close to a mamba make it happen?

Book info: Mamba Point / by Kurtis Scaletta. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. [author's website] [author's blog] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Linus can reinvent himself as a cool, bold guy when his family moves to Liberia for his dad’s new job at the U.S. Embassy. Middle school in Dayton in the 1980s was tough enough without being known for panic attacks, so even going to Africa is bound to help, right?

When they walk down the airplane steps onto the hot runway asphalt, a deadly black mamba snake is the first thing Linus sees of Africa! Black mambas are supposed to be very rare, shy of people… so why is the Embassy residence area called Mamba Point?

Before school starts, Linus and his older brother Law (who changed his name from Larry on the way over from the States) explore their new neighborhood. Most kids of Embassy employees hang out at the pool, so Law is there all day, every day. Linus meets Matt downstairs, who introduces him to role-playing games with many-sided dice and crazy situations. He visits the library for comic books to draw from and a book about snakes, especially the black mamba.

Linus spots black mambas all over, even in the residence courtyard, when others don’t see them at all. He even goes so far as to bring his black mamba into his closet to keep it close by as a pet. Then a local vendor tells him of ‘kaseng’ – the idea that some people have a deep connection to certain animals, perhaps even sharing some characteristics with them. Slowly, Linus becomes more assertive and self-confident much like the black mamba he has come to know. Could he really share a ‘kaseng’ with the friendly black mamba who begins to visit him?

When their parents go away for the weekend, Law decides to throw a party, and things go farther out of control than either brother could imagine. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kat, Incorrigible (fiction)

Ah, Regency England, with its balls and hunting parties and other fascinations for the well-to-do who have little of importance to do. Jane Austen's works set in this time period tell us of love, family, and social custom.

and lovely clothes are a must in this era, but 14 year-old Kat don't care to be ladylike, especially where vital matters of family and magic are involved!

The idea of magic being more tolerated in Kat's England 1803 than in the British Isles of our history adds to the suspense - what trouble will she get into next, while truly trying to stay out of trouble?

And to think that we must wait until April 2012 for volume 2 to arrive in the US! Then another full year before volume 3! (let me know if you're headed to the UK and can pick 'em up earlier...)
Twitter: @BooksYALove

Book info: Kat, Incorrigible / by Stephanie Burgis. (book 1 of The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson) Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. [author's website] [booktrailers one & two] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Oooh! Why her older sisters can’t see that Elissa’s marrying old Sir Neville is just impossible, Kat does not understand! Even if he is rich and will pay off their brother’s debts, there’s that rumor about the death of his first wife… Just because their late mother practiced magic, even while married to their country-parson father, is no reason to think that society won’t welcome them, during all the rules and restrictions of Regency England… well, perhaps their family is rather on the fringes.

Of course, their stepmother insists that they all go to the country ball so Elissa can be introduced to Sir Neville (who will surely fall in love with her), and she doesn’t dare leave 14-year-old Kat behind to get into mischief.

Before they leave, Kat sneaks into the locked cabinet where Stepmama has banished all the beautiful things that her mother held dear, and a little golden pocket-mirror takes her fancy. Well, actually it takes hold of Kat and won’t stay away from her. As Kat falls through the mirror into a golden room, she wonders about her mother’s magic books that she found hidden under Angeline’s bed.

Has Kat’s middle sister been casting spells? Are there two kinds of magic? Will a highwayman rob their coach as they travel through the forest to the ball? Can’t they prevent this horrible marriage and still save their family from ruin? And will that golden mirror ever stop burning Kat when she holds it?

Oh, Kat tries to mind her manners in this rollicking romp, but you should never underestimate the daughter of a magic-wielder, should you? 306 pages of twists and turns, old angers and new secrets.
(one of 5,000 books recommended on (review copy courtesy of the publisher through

Monday, May 30, 2011

Blogathon 2011 recap Wordle

A book a day, all through May!
Thanks, WordCount Blogathon 2011 for setting me on this mindful path of daily posting.

Happy Memorial Day, for US readers - and everyone read Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge, today's great YA book beyond the bestsellers.


Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge (fiction) - Vietnamese orphan, California challenges

Notes: For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer. We rarely remember its 1868 origins as a remembrance of those who have died protecting our nation and our freedoms.

As her summer begins, 12 year old Tracy thinks it'll be like most summers, but what she and pal Stargazer uncover changes everything she thought she knew about herself and her adoptive family.

The Vietnam War era was chaotic and divisive for countless families on both sides of the Pacific, with many questions and no simple solutions. Perhaps a few answers will shine through for Tracy after all...

Book info: Dogtag Summer / by Elizabeth Partridge. Bloomsbury, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: During the summer before 8th grade, Tracy starts having flashbacks to her childhood in Vietnam. Her adoptive parents have pictures of her arrival in the USA as a tiny 6 year old in 1975, but before that time, she has only an empty place inside her memories. As she and her friend Stargazer search in her garage, they find an ammo box and Army dogtags.

Now she dreams of her mother being away at DaNang as a laundry worker for the Americans, her uncle gone as a Viet Cong soldier, soldiers from both sides searching her grandmother’s hut in the jungle, families divided by war. How can she ask her adoptive father about the dogtags with another man’s name when he never talks about being in Vietnam?

As a Vietnamese-American, she was shunned by village neighbors and is taunted by California classmates. Sometimes, things are too quiet at her house now, but Stargazer’s easy-going parents accept her and welcome her to their place in the forest. When his peace-loving father sees the dogtags and calls the US soldiers in Vietnam “babykillers,” Tracy knows that she will have to be brave enough to ask her Dad about the past, about the dogtags, about why she came to this family in the US instead of another.

A story from the heart to go with the history book facts, readers will walk and dream with Tracy through that dogtag summer, through the questions and answers to better understanding of a difficult chapter in America’s history. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Green Witch (fiction)

Notes: Surviving disaster is one thing. Living beyond the confines of your grief is another. Making memorials to mark the passing of loved ones should help ease the pain...

In this sequel to Green Angel, Ash begins to heal, as the memories of her former world cry out to be recaptured, the captives to be freed, the forbidden technologies whisked out of sight of the invaders. And so she writes down the memories, travels to hear the stories, uses the machines, regardless of the peril.

Are there parallels to our own history in the events of Green's world? Can we learn to see different stories as reasonable, to live together in peace? May this hopeful tale lead us to hopeful times.

Book info: Green Witch / by Alice Hoffman; illustrated by Matt Mahurin. Scholastic, 2010. [author's website] [publisher site]

: Green had watched as the City burned, consumed her family, turned the world to ash as the Horde tried to destroy all technology. Scarred, then healed, she now watches her garden grow tall and strong near the memorial stones for her father, her mother, and her sister.

The village folks come to Green’s farm and tell her their stories, so many stories that she must make new paper to write them all down (books are the first things that the Horde destroys). And they tell her of “the witches,” the wise ones who never come to the village, who have special powers after The Fire. But Green will only write down a story directly from its source, so she journeys to find each of the witches and learn their stories, her sister’s dog as her companion.

When the Finder of hidden technology asks her to help rescue his sister from the Horde’s prison, Green uses the stories of the witches to guide them. Might she find her lost love, as well?

This beautiful sequel to Green Angel shows hope shining through the ashes of war and destruction. 144 pages