Saturday, July 9, 2011

Beastly (fiction)

Shhh... it's Sneak-In Saturday, so I'm bringing you a book that swooped onto the bestseller and award lists before I could get it to you!

And darned if they didn't go and make a movie of it, too... The book is much better, of course, as your mind's eye visualizes Kyle's transformation into a hairy beast and his sudden downfall from Mr. Popular to freakish recluse.

This modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast includes chatroom transcripts of a support group for the "unfortunately transformed" and roses in its symbolism.

Alex Flinn has updated other classic tales and also writes completely 'contemporary' teen fiction - check her website for full list. And don't be Beastly to anyone, okay?

Book info: Beastly / Alex Flinn. HarperCollins, 2007. [author's website] [author interview] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Kyle’s on the ballot for Prom King – no surprise since he’s the best-looking guy at school. But someone looks past the handsome surface to see his shallow, uncaring soul, and is going to make him pay for every insult.

When Kendra (the new girl with crooked teeth and the ugly non-designer clothes) protests about electing “royalty” just based on appearances and calls him a beast, Kyle tunes her out. Why should he worry about that loser when he’s taking the hottest girl at Tuttle to the prom? His dad, the television news star, says that no one should have to look at ugly people anyway.

Just for laughs, Kyle pretends to ask Kendra to the prom, knowing that he’ll dump her at the door as his friends mock her. Limo for his real date? On dad’s credit card, like the orchid corsage that the maid will get for him. But it’s a white rose waiting when Kyle’s ready to pick up Sloane, and she throws a fit about it, as he knew she would. The scholarship girl taking tickets admires the rose so he gives it to her – easier than walking over to the trashcan. As he and Sloane are crowned Prom King and Queen, Kendra arrives in her outdated dress and is snubbed by the popular crowd. Prom night, Sloane’s parents are away, Kyle gets home just before sunrise – to find Kendra in his room!

She puts a spell on him – his outside appearance will mirror his beastly inner nature, unless he finds someone who’ll kiss him for love of his true self. If he doesn’t find true love in two years, he’ll be a beast forever.

After medical experts can’t cure him, Kyle is dumped by his dad in a house on the other side of New York City, given a tutor and the maid to stay with him. He tries to find answers online, in books, anywhere but in his own heart.

Will Kyle ever find a girl who will even look at him, let alone love him? Is he doomed to live alone with the rose garden that he and his tutor create? A clever retelling of Beauty and the Beast with modern twists, be sure to read it before you see the movie! (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour (fiction)

It's Fun Friday, and if you're in the mood for a mystery with several twists, you are in the right place!

A scavenger hunt interrupted years ago leads three friends through the venerable old buildings of their Catholic girls' school, solving logic puzzles and brainteasers find the location of each clue in the chain.

They're not the only ones on the hunt for a possible archaeological treasure, so The Red Blazer Girls need to watch their backs! Mystery, history, and fun with friends... what more could you want? (oh, there are some cute guys, too)

Be sure to solve each puzzle before reading the next chapter - it's so much more fun that way! And, yes, there are more Red Blazer Girl cases ahead!

Book info: The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour / Michael D. Beil. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009 (*paperback 2010). [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Sophie decides to investigate the white face she saw in the church tower window, which would make anyone scream during 7th grade English class, right? So she, Rebecca and Margaret cross the courtyard from St. Veronica School to St. Veronica Church, where they find mysterious passageways, a huge orange cat, and a new friend with an old family problem.

Mrs. Harriman hasn't seen her daughter since her ex-husband took Caroline away on an archaeological dig 20 years ago, and they drifted apart. But yesterday, a birthday card addressed to Caroline from her beloved grandfather was found in Mrs. H's study, giving the first clues for a birthday scavenger hunt. Grandfather Ev died the next day, so he never gave Caroline that card, and the retired archaeologist's gift hasn't been found yet. Perhaps it is the missing ruby Ring of Rocamadour, over 1,000 years old...

The card says that the next clue is in St. Veronica School's library, so slightly eccentric Mrs. H asks Sophie and friends to please search for it. Perhaps if they can track down all the clues and find the gift, then Mrs. H can contact Caroline at last.

They find and work through clues and puzzles, they have to practice for the Dickens skit contest, and someone else is just half a step behind them as they scour their New York City neighborhood for the next clues. Who can they trust? Will the gift still be there after 20 years? What is that odd smell?

When they got their red blazers to start the year as upper school students at St. V's, the girls never dreamed that they'd be solving mysteries between guitar lessons, art class, and violin studies!

Funny, suspenseful, and totally real, this first book in the Red Blazer Girls series will have you working through the puzzles right along with Sophie, Margaret, Rebecca, and Leigh Ann, just waiting with the St. V's girls for the next adventure!(One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Deadly (fiction)

Tracking down a killer is just not what "proper young ladies" do, even if the killer is a germ. Prudence would certainly rather unravel a medical mystery than please her instructors at the snooty School for Girls!

Diseases regularly have regularly swept through the poorer sections of cities from the time that humans began clustering together on a permanent basis. In the Middle Ages, people thought that evil humors caused these epidemics; by the early 1900s the theory that filth contained disease-transmitting germs was gaining ground.

How could healthy people in a well-kept household suddenly become deathly ill when they had no exposure to the city slums with their filth and diseases?

Part social commentary, part detective story, Deadly is enhanced by the sketches which Prudence includes as she journals her way through this perilous time, on the trail of Typhoid Mary.

Book info: Deadly / by Julie Chibbaro; illustrations by Jean-Marc Superville Sovak. Simon & Schuster, 2011 [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: In her 1906 journal, Prudence worries and dreams and sketches, wondering why doctors couldn’t save her brother’s life, why her father hasn’t returned from the Spanish-American War, how she can make a difference for those who suffer in her neighborhood.

The etiquette lessons and needlework at her school seem so trivial, compared to the life and death, joy and pain that Pru and her mother see during Marm’s midwife duties. When final-year students are encouraged to get part-time jobs using their skills on those newfangled typewriters, Pru leaps at the chance to do useful work.

She is hired by the new Department of Health and Sanitation as a research assistant and is soon swept into their investigation of a typhoid outbreak. Mr. Soper investigates every aspect of any household where the deadly disease has struck. They travel throughout New York City as typhoid sickens some people and kills others – is there a common cause?

When they discover that a healthy cook has been in the kitchen of every typhoid-stricken family, Mr. Soper and Prudence must find medical experts who can help them prove their unusual theory and stop the epidemic.

A compelling account of Typhoid Mary’s history, retold from a young woman’s point of view. When does the public good override individual freedom? Does science have more answers or more questions? Will Prudence take the next step and become a doctor herself? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher and author.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cate of the Lost Colony (fiction)

This World Wednesday takes us from England to Roanoke colony, a voyage that ends in silence among whispering grasses on the sea dunes of the New World.

Orphaned young Lady Catherine was naturally enthralled by the dashing Sir Walter Raleigh and his tales about the bountiful new world, waiting across the sea for the rule and law of his gracious Queen Elizabeth I.

But Cate didn't realize that showing even slight interest in the Queen's favorite could be the end of her time at court. Being banished from such a hostile place - a death sentence or a blessing?

Enjoy this tale of the early English colony whose mysterious disappearance continues to intrigue us.

Book info: Cate of the Lost Colony / Lisa Klein. Bloomsbury, 2010. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Seeing Indians in Queen Elizabeth’s court, young Lady Catherine Archer is enthralled by Sir Walter Raleigh’s reports of his New World colony and by Sir Walter himself. But when poems from Sir Walter are found in her room, the orphaned Cate is sent away from the court by the jealous Queen, who keeps Raleigh close by her, not allowing him to even visit the colony that he raised money to establish.

Locked in the Tower of London, Cate worries that she will die alone and forgotten. But after weeks in prison, her fate is announced – she has been banished to Roanoke Colony in Virginia, never to return to England! For a 14 year old girl, raised to be a gentle lady, the long sea voyage (where pirates or the enemy Spanish are sure to attack the English ship) and the primitive conditions of the Colony are more likely a death sentence than any mercy from the Queen.

Cate is determined to see for herself the wonders of the New World that Raleigh’s captains reported, as she completes the voyage which brings the first women colonists from England to Roanoke. But they find the fort’s walls destroyed, the planted crops withered away, and the Roanoke soldiers dead or missing…

Will the colonists be able to survive with only the supplies in their ship? Did the friendly Indians kill the soldiers or are there other enemies beyond the trees? Will the Queen let Sir Walter visit his colony at last? And will city girl Cate let go of her dreams of Raleigh and find a happy ending in this wilderness? 336 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disunited States of America (fiction)

Yesterday was a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriotic celebrations. At least, it was in this timeline for the USA... but what if the Constitution were never ratified? What if the states never united?

Welcome to "alt hist" - the alternative histories produced by wondering "what if" some key event of history had happened differently, then writing in great and grand detail about the results of that new path through time.

Turtledove is an acknowledged master of alternative history (his Guns of the South and WorldWar series are epic), and this trip with Crosstime Traffic to an alternate timestream is as thought-provoking as it is dangerous for Beckie (native to that timestream) and Justin (visiting with his mom on a trading mission).

Biological terrorism launched before the antidote is ready? Rampant racism and unrest? Remember, this is an alternate history, right?

Among all the freedoms that we celebrate today, be sure to exercise your freedom to read!

Book info: The Disunited States of America (Crosstime Traffic #4) / Harry Turtledove. Tor Teen, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: War between Ohio and Virginia? In Beckie’s world, it could happen any day. Justin’s seen enough alternate timelines to know that, as a Time Trader traveling through the many realities of how Earth’s history could have turned out.

Justin and his mom travel to Beckie’s alternate to make sure that researchers there hadn’t discovered Crosstime secrets and to help improve race relations. That North America is a crazy-quilt of big and little countries, and there are certainly no equal rights. If you weren’t white and male, you were powerless (except in Mississippi...strange, strange Mississippi).

This alternate never saw the states become united under the Constitution, so Beckie and her grandmother must have passports and visas and permission-to-travel letters for every border crossing between the civilized nation of California and Grandma’s hometown in rural Virginia. The “cousin” who gives them a ride across the bridge from Ohio gives her the creeps…the big guns hidden in his car give her the chills.

Beckie is glad to meet someone her own age when Justin visits the aunt and uncle she’s staying with. Justin is careful to speak like the locals, trying to blend in. Soon, they’re both glad that they met.

Suddenly, people in border towns start dying of a mysterious fever and Ohio is blamed for it. As Virginia soldiers roll in and bombing begins, Beckie and her ever-grumbling grandma search for a safe place, Justin is separated from his mom with communication lines cut, and the fever is confirmed as the plague. Plague! Who has a cure for the plague?

Will Beckie ever get home to California? Will Justin and his mom find their way through time to their world? Can Justin tell Beckie where he’s really from without poking holes in the fabric of time?

Turtledove is the master of alternate history, and his "Time Traders" series takes readers to fascinating timelines that truly make you wonder… what if? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mermaid's Mirror (fiction)

Happy Independence Day on this Metaphysical Monday!

Poor Lena - drawn to the Pacific Ocean's waves, forbidden by her father to learn to surf, longing for her own independence. How often she finds herself walking on the beach at night, sleepwalking to the shore...

And drawn to find something at her home, something left by her dead mother? Lena's searching is more than just the normal separation-of-self experienced by most teenagers - this is primal and frightening to her and her dad and her stepmother.

What does a mermaid want with Lena? What does a mermaid's mirror show? More than usual teen vs. parent fireworks in this one!

Book info: Mermaid's Mirror / L.K. Madigan. Houghton Mifflin, 2010. [author's website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Ever drawn to the ocean, Lena wants to learn to surf with her friends. But her father forbids it, reminding her of his near-drowning as a championship surfer years ago, and her stepmom agrees with him. If only her mother were still alive to take Lena’s side in this argument…

Walking on the beach is comforting, something Lena does every day, sometimes every night, watching for otters and seals in the waves. Hmm… that’s not a seal – it’s a woman, far out in the cove, but she’s swimming just fine (at midnight?).

As her sixteenth birthday approaches, Lena is sure that she’s strong enough to master the board and begins surfing lessons in secret. And again in the waves she sees the woman, the mermaid, and the lure of the sea becomes irresistible to Lena, who must be in the saltwater more and more each day.

Is the mermaid calling to Lena? What’s Dad hiding about his surfing accident? Why is Gran suddenly worried about getting Lena’s blood tested? Why does Lena feel compelled to surf the monster waves at Magic Crescent Cove, where Dad crashed and Mom disappeared?

A fascinating tale of the everyday and the paranormal, of the unbreakable bonds between sea and shore, of discovering who you are. 308 pages (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Luck of the Buttons, by Anne Ylvisaker (fiction) - small-town mystery, big excitement in 1920s

Independence Day!
Pie-eating contests!
Patriotic essay competitions!
Three-legged races!

Is bad luck something you're born with or something that you can rise above? Are bullies part of every school and neighborhood? Does the world look different when seen through your camera's lens?

This is a great summer story as Tugs investigates a mystery that the grown-ups in town just can't seem to see. Wishing you plenty of pie, family, and fireworks this holiday weekend!

Book info: The Luck of the Buttons / Anne Ylvisaker. Candlewick, 2011 [author's website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Tugs is good at reading and good at running, which keeps her ahead of the Rowdies gang in their small Iowa town in 1929. Independence Day is next week, so she writes a patriotic essay, like every other 12 year old in town, and practices with Aggie for the 3-legged race. Thank goodness, she doesn’t have to run with her short, tubby cousin Ned this year. And she has some tickets for the raffle of a Brownie camera, too! Of course, no one in the Button family is lucky at all, so she’s not getting her hopes up about anything.

Uh-oh, it’s time to worry when Mama has a pie ready for lunch (Buttons always have pie when something bad happens). Granny is moving in, taking her bedroom! Well, at least Tugs can escape to the cool quiet of the library, browsing through the dictionary and reading old newspapers. This newcomer Harvey Moore is so busy collecting money to start a newspaper in Goodhue that he isn’t really starting it at all, so Tugs starts investigating.

On the fourth of July, it’s time for the 3-legged race, the raffle drawing, and the essay contest announcement. Will it be time for pie at the Button family table again? Can Tugs stay ahead of the Rowdies? Does the world look different through a camera lens? And how did Tugs get her first name anyway?

The summer of 1929, surrounded by cornfields and caring, is a great place to be with Tugs and her pie-baking family, as she wonders about luck and persistence in this easy-reading story. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.