Monday, December 31, 2012

TBR - books To Be Read AND books To Be Reviewed! (reflective)

cartoon of cat wearing party hat with champagne glassWell, the holiday season is almost complete, the old year nearly done, the new year peeking around the clocktower... and soon I'll be back in the saddle, writing BooksYALove blog posts, recommending YA books that you might miss if you rely on the big-box stores' displays and promotions.

So it's a great time to make resolutions - especially ones that you can successfully keep! I'm taking my cue from Evie over at her Bookish blog and concentrating on my overflowing TBR piles and shelves.

For me, that's the To Be Read shelves, whose covers I haven't even opened yet, as well as the other TBR shelves, my To Be Reviewed/Recommended books, the ones that I've read and enjoyed, but haven't quite gotten around to crafting my recommendations for... yet.

And they're really good books! Otherwise, I just chuck them into the giveaway box. Y'all don't have time to read ho-hum, formulaic books, do you? So I have stacks of 2012 copyright books that I haven't told you about...yet.

So that's my priority for BooksYALove in 2013: to efficiently tackle my 2012 awesome books while bringing you the best debut titles and books from smaller publishers as they arrive, hot off the presses throughout the year. TBR Challenge, here I come!

To keep me honest, I'm registering my intent over on Evie's blog: and will be checking in with a linked post monthly, highlighting my 2012 must-reads, as shared with y'all through BooksYALove (and usually on Barb Langridge's abookandahug site, too:

Promising an exact number of posts each week seems unrealistic, but I'll do my best to make you hungry to read these wonderful books at your local library or purchased from your favorite indie bookstore (keep your money in town, okay?) - and please, let me know if I'm bringing you titles that sound intriguing, unmissable, or out-of-the-ordinary.

Indeed, 2012 was a great year for Young Adult books, so let's hope that 2013 is equally stellar.
Which genre is your can't-wait-to-read favorite? Happy New Year, and happy reading!

(celebratory cat cartoon courtesy of DesignedToaT:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My 12 unmissable YA books for 2012 - a very subjective list!

So many great books waiting for you at your local library or independent bookstore! How do you choose just an armful from the hundreds of titles there?

Well, for 12-12-12, I couldn't resist recapping 12 of my favorite reads from the past year on BooksYALove.

Click on each title to read my recommendation on a new page/tab, then select some for your holiday and/or birthday wishlist - you'll be so glad you did!

book cover of Ashfall by Mike Mullin published by Tanglewood
book cover of Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin published by TanglewoodPost-apocalyptic page-turners:  
Ashfall - 16-year-old Alex sets off alone through the ash and dangers to find his family after a catalysmic volcanic eruption.

Followed by Ashen Winter  as civilized behavior begins to crumble - stunning, scary adventures that really could happen, beneath those cold and cloudy skies.

book cover of The Wicked and the Just by J Anderson Coats
book cover of Jump Into the Sky by Shelley PearsallIncidents of ignored history as historical fiction:  
Does God truly hear the prayers of both The Wicked and the Just  in 13th century Wales, as English overlords mistreat local folks to the brink of revolt?

Jump Into the Sky  with the black paratroopers of the 555th Battalion, as seen through the eyes of 13-year-old Levi, whose father is away from home too long as commander of 'Triple Nickels' during World War II.

book cover of Teen Boat by Dave Roman and John Green book cover of Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Graphic novels from fave folks:
Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy) teamed up with John Green (the artist one) to create TeenBoat!  Imagine "the angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!" - yes, it's that funny.

In a more serious vein, Doug TenNapel examines friendship, family, loyalty, and greed in his most recent graphic novel involving a not-so-simple gift of Cardboard.

book cover of I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
book cover of With a Name Like Love by Tess HilmoMusic changes everything:
The song which instantly connects Emily and Sam promises that I'll Be There,  but will his crazy father endanger everyone, including winsome little brother Riddle?

Music and hope can heal hearts, according to Ollie's preacher father With a Name Like Love,  but this rural town is determined to condemn a mother without trial, until Ollie decides to prove her innocence.

book cover of Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burgbook cover of Skinny by Donna CoonerFriends see the true you:  That voice in Ever's head - always mocking she'll never get Skinny  through bariatric surgery - almost drowns out the concern and care of her best friend.    
Why did Dad volunteer as a doctor in Malawi, so far from Clare's friends and the things that keep her late mother's memory alive? Can her new classmates help her learn to Laugh With the Moon  and be whole again?

book cover of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
book cover of The Hunt by Andrew FukudaNot your normal paranormal:
Vampires rule the world, and if they discover Gene's true human heritage, then he will become the object of The Hunt  for his savory heper blood.

Perhaps Ismae truly was fathered by the Dark Lord himself, rumors whisper at the convent where young women train as assassins, using the Grave Mercy of Death to keep Brittany free of the greedy French.

Review copies and cover images courtesy of their respective publishers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Good intentions (reflective), or "travel changes all good plans"

photo by Katy Manck of  Colorado double rainbow in dark cloudy sky
Colorado double rainbow
The wonderful books I've read and want to recommend to you are there, lined up and waiting patiently on my shelf.

My calendar has their recommendation dates all mapped out, for Mysterious Mondays and World Wednesdays and Fun Fridays.

And today I leave for the International Association of School Librarianship 2012 Conference in Doha, Qatar - with no new recommendations in my "buffer" to be published in the ten days ahead. Sigh...

So while I'm flying and meeting and presenting on the GiggleIT Project for student writing and flying some more, be sure to check out the BooksYALove archives using the Labels (over there --->) to find recommendations of some great YA books that you might have missed.

Rather chuffed to see that two of my recent recommendations are on the UK CILIP Carnegie Medal Longlist for 2013:  Daylight Saving,  by Edward Hogan, and The Apothecary,  by Maile Meloy.
A great time to update your holiday wishlist, right?

And here's a double rainbow to tide y'all over till I get back.
Read on, y'all!

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Forsaken, by Lisa M. Strasse (fiction) - teens on prison island, survival at any cost

book cover of The Forsaken by Lisa M Strasse published by Simon Schuster
Her parents torn away from her,
Easier to pretend she's always been an orphan.
Government mind drugs don't work on her.
Keeps her head down, keeps quiet.

The government-mandated brain scan shows that she has  tendencies toward anti-social behavior and criminal violence, so 16-year-old Alanna Fanshawe is no more. All mention of her is erased from official records of the UNA, the chaotic nation founded by force when the food crisis hit Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

The Forsaken  evokes reflections of The Hunger Games, similarities with Lord of the Flies, and echoes of 1984, yet is truly its own dystopian world.

Grab this first book in the Forsaken series now at your local library or independent bookstore. Who knows how long Alanna will survive feral hoofer boars, manipulative leaders, and attacking drones on the prison island?

Book info: The Forsaken (Forsaken, book 1)  / Lisa M. Strasse. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation:  Banished to the Wheel?! Alanna was sure she’d pass the government test that weeds out subversives, but she failed. Now she’ll be deported to a remote island, into a savage world of other teen misfits where few survive.

When she was ten, her parents were dragged away by United Northern Alliance soldiers for quietly questioning the new government’s policies. After six years in UNA orphanage with so many others, Alanna has learned to ignore her implanted earpiece’s constant propaganda and the prescribed thought pills, just going along quietly, not making trouble.

But the Test brain scan shows that she has “criminal tendencies” so she’s whisked away to Prison Island Alpha, where the life expectancy is 18 – no overcrowding, no chance of escape, no hope of ever finding her parents now. 

Alanna and new friend David try to avoid wild animals as they search for a rumored settlement. Suddenly they find themselves in a war zone, since they were dumped into an area being disputed between the villagers and the Monk’s followers. Soon this city girl must learn to fight, to track through the tropical forest, to trust (or not trust) the village leaders. Avoiding the drugged-up “drones” who blindly follow the masked Monk is survival priority one.

Why is the mysterious Monk controlling his follower-drones like throwaway toys? What secrets are the village leaders hiding? Why did the UNA abandon so many kids who are as normal as their classmates? How long will Alanna survive on the Wheel? 

This compelling book leaves questions in the reader’s mind about how much a government should control its citizens and how far someone would go to defend their freedom to think, their family, their very life. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Skinny, by Donna Cooner (fiction) - fat girl seeks true self, true friends

book cover of Skinny by Donna Cooner published by Point
Three hundred pounds and gaining.
Can't fit in the desks at school.
Can't find her place in her new blended family.
Can't filter out the mocking voice in her head...

Ever feels so alone in her Texas high school, but she's one of thousands of obese teens in the US today.

To save her health, she must lose lots of weight in a carefully controlled way. Bariatric surgery is a "last resort" for weight loss, but studies show its effectiveness for older teens, with lots of monitoring and family support.

To save her sanity, she must overcome the inner voice that derides everything she tries to accomplish, must sing out over Skinny's constant snide remarks, must recognize her true friends.

Grab this compelling book at your local library or independent bookstore today.
How much would you risk to find yourself again?

Book info: Skinny / Donna Cooner. Point, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]
My Recommendation: Among the size-zero cheerleaders and wannabe goths at Huntsville High, Ever stands out. As a 302-pound freshman girl, she really stands out. And Skinny, the voice in her head, reminds her constantly of how fat and unlovable she is, even when Ever decides on weight-loss surgery to save her health.

Of course, before her mom died, Ever was just normal, with friends and hopes and dreams and songs. But as she insulates herself against sorrow with public fasts and immense private feasts, she becomes even more isolated from her dad, sister, stepmom, and stepsister. The embarrassment at school never seems to end, and Skinny heaps on abusive words that no one else can hear.

Thank goodness her best buddy Rat sticks with her, especially during bariatric surgery in May to reduce her stomach capacity. Now, she can eat only a tablespoon at a time or her new stomach will send her to the bathroom in rebellion. By August, she’s lost 76 pounds, and the snooty girls who used to mock her decide she’s an ideal back-to-school makeover project. Yet Skinny keeps trying to undermine her success, saying that her dreams of singing in the school musical or dating cute Jackson are impossible.

Can Ever truly get herself to a healthy weight, to a healthy relationship with herself and her family? Will she wind up being just the “chunky girl” at school after all this? Can she sing loudly enough to drown out Skinny's voice?

As Ever and Rat track her mood, weight loss, and theme song for each week following her surgery, readers will root for the teen to create a soundtrack for her new life that can overcome Skinny’s lies. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

12.21, by Dustin Thomason (fiction) - Mayan codex, deadly epidemic, end of the world?

book cover of 12 21 by Dustin Thomason published by Dial
Disease and rioting...
Airplane crashes...
Attacks on immigrants...
Just another day in L.A. or is it the end of the world?

The mysterious codex smuggled to Chel from rural Guatemala might verify the doomsday interpretations of the Mayan "Long Calendar" or just the last days of a single Mayan town... but how to be sure?

As December 21st approaches, look into the great museum exhibits clarifying Mayan timekeeping and the Long Calendar; are researchers even using the correct conversion factor to match Mayan and modern dates?  Be sure to check out the excellent interactive tutorial on reading Mayan glyphs on the book's website, too.

You'll find this medical thriller/apocalyptic tale at your local library or independent bookstore now. Probably better to read it sooner than later, right?

Book info: 12.21 / Dustin Thomason. Dial Books, 2012.  [book website]   [author's Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Gabe Stanton leaves his disease research lab to check on a mystery patient at a Los Angeles hospital. Chel Manu wonders if the astounding Mayan codex brought to her by a smuggler might not be a forgery. And an airplane falls from the sky, as a rampaging epidemic begins sweeping through L.A. 

This cluster of symptoms described by the hospital matches an extremely rare incurable prion disease, one so infectious that hazmat suits are required just to enter the patient’s room. Perhaps with the help of the right translator they can get some information from the young man to track down the disease’s origin...before he dies of acute insomnia and panic. 

So Chel is asked to translate, pulled away from her volunteer time with Guatemalan refugees, away from her research on ancient Mayan writings, away from the black market antiquities dealer who brought her a never-seen codex from a forgotten city, away from those who think that the 12.21.12 end of the Mayan ‘Long Calendar’ marks the end of the world. 

With few clues and the disease spreading rapidly, Stanton tries to pinpoint how the infection is spread, as Chel surreptitiously translates the new-found codex. Both sets of information point back to a hidden ancient city in the homeland of Chel’s mother, thousands of miles away. 

As the government quarantines LA to stop the epidemic, Stanton and Chel must find a way to get to Guatemala before it’s too late. Is there any possible cure for this disease? How much of the codex’s unusual tale is true? Will the countdown to the end of the Long Calendar become the countdown to the end of civilization? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Deadly Pink, by Vivian Van Velde (fiction) - escape into virtual reality game, forever?

book cover of Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde published by Harcourt
Sights, sounds, smells...
How close to your video game action do you want to be?
What if the game can plug directly into your brain?

The Rasmussem Corporation wants players to be totally immersed in their role-playing games for hours at a time - for the proper fee.

But there is a time limit for staying in a virtual reality world, so unbreakable fail-safes pull players out of game before their brains get too detached from physical reality.

Unless a computer whiz like Emily entirely disables the fail-safes on purpose to trap herself in the pink and sparkly pre-teen gameworld she was helping design... and younger sister Grace must battle through to rescue her, before it's too late.

You'll find Deadly Pink in hardback now at your local library or independent bookstore, with author Vivian Vande Velde's earlier books featuring Rasmussem games (User Unfriendly  and Heir Apparent) available in paperback.
So, how long would you want to stay in a virtual world? (dragons optional)

Book info: Deadly Pink (Rasmussem, book 3) / Vivian Van Velde. Harcourt, 2012 [author's website]   [Deadly Pink Facebook page]   [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Grace is just slogging through high school, while her brilliant older sister Emily is at college with full scholarships for computer science. So why does Rasmussem Corporation need Grace’s help to get Emily out of a virtual reality game?

Their mother is frantic with worry, Dad is away on business, and the note Emily left behind sounds very, very final. Her body is there, hooked up to the virtual reality game panel, but she’s disabled every fail-safe that would allow the company to bring her back to the real world.

So away Grace goes, into the cotton-candy and unicorns world that Emily’s team was developing for preteen girls. Butterflies that give gold coins, quests to collect flower bouquets and tiaras, tea parties and fancy dress balls – Emily wants to stay in little-princess land forever?

When Em ignores Grace during her first venture into the game, it might be a fluke. But when big sister has her thrown out of the manor house, Grace knows something is truly wrong. Wish-granting sprites with a grudge, close calls with disaster – every time Grace reboots and re-enters the game, something else goes haywire (and this is a game for kids?).

And the clock keeps ticking down, edging ever-closer to the known-safe time limits for Emily’s brain to stay in virtual reality without a break.

What’s so wrong in the real world that Em has to escape to the virtual world that she helped create? What will happen to Emily’s brain if they can’t get her out of the game in time? Can Grace convince her to come home?  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Being Friends With Boys, by Terra Elan McVoy (fiction) - "one of the guys" in the band or more?

book cover of Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy published by Simon Pulse
Being "one of the guys" is better than being ignored by former-best-friends...
Being unadorned is better than her stepsisters' cloud of perfume and makeup...
Being shut out by her best friend of all time is pain unbearable...

Charlotte has long been content to be the behind-the-scenes arranger-of-everything for the band, but when lead singer Oliver takes credit for all her lyrics, she starts to question the status quo.

Is it time for Char to break away from Sad Jackal like her best pal Trip did or should she stay and grab the spotlight for her own talents?

Dealing with insiders and outsiders,with people who've moved away and those who refuse to move on, with seeing past the surface to discover the truth, Charlotte's golden summer moves into cooler weather and changes in the band, its members, and her outlook.

While not a novel in verse as her earlier After the Kiss  (my no-spoiler review here) McVoy's newest book features true, realistic spoken and unsaid dialogue along with Charlotte's soul-baring lyrics. Find  both books at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Being Friends With Boys / Terra Elan McVoy. Simon Pulse, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Being considered “one of the guys” by Oliver, Trip, and Abe is fine with Charlotte, as she gives them the girl-perspective on life and keeping their band together behind the scenes. When a new guy joins the band and encourages her to grab the mike, their whole dynamic changes and Char isn’t sure if the guys can handle it.

She and Trip have been friends forever, but after he and lead singer Oliver have “creative differences” Trip leaves the band, and Sad Jackal must audition a new lead guitar player. Now who’s going to create all the melodies for Char’s lyrics?

Char has to deal with Trip’s sudden distance at school, her stepsisters’ giggle-pop taste in music at home, and weird vibrations at band practice, as new guitarist Fabian starts treating her like a girl. New lyrics just stream from her pen as her stepsister has a messy break-up, as other friendships ebb and flow… and Sad Jackal is hired to play at the school’s Halloween dance.

Trying to balance her commitment to the band with tough school classes, she agrees to be brilliant slacker Benji’s study buddy despite Trip’s dire warnings. As Halloween nears, Charlotte allows her stepsisters to give her beauty treatments and lets Fabian coax her into singing harmonies that turn into full-blown solos.

Does Fabian really see her as a girl instead of just another member of the band? Can Oliver deal with Charlotte taking the microphone or does he want her to stay out of his spotlight? What if her need to sing the stories she writes as lyrics is stronger than the band’s need for her to smooth out all the details for them? And why is Trip avoiding all her calls now, when she needs his viewpoints most of all?

Rooted in Atlanta’s alternative music scene, Charlotte struggles to decide if it’s time to stop just Being Friends With Boys and get going with her life in music and beyond. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Laugh With the Moon, by Shana Burg (fiction) - grief and laughter, new friends in Africa

book cover of Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg published by Delacorte
Roosters wandering through the school.
Sharing one pencil between ten students.
Daily anti-malaria pills too pricy for most families.

On this World Wednesday, United Nations Day, travel us to Malawi, as a grieving American teen and her dad try to help others, despite their own pain.

Clare does indeed  feel like "a marshmallow that fell into a bag of dark chocolate" (p. 5) as she arrives with her doctor-dad in the "warm heart of Africa" which has the fewest doctors per capita of any country in the world.

Missing her late mother, her friends, the conveniences of modern life, Clare learns to ignore enormous centipedes, to find alternative ways to get around shortages, and to appreciate her newfound friends, especially Memory, who has lost both her mother and her father.

This summer 2012 new book takes you to a far-off land with just a short trip to your local library or independent bookstore. Could you Laugh With the Moon,  instead of crying alone, if you were in Clare's place?

Book info: Laugh With the Moon / Shana Burg. Delacorte Press, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:  Malawi is not Massachusetts – Clare can’t believe that her father has uprooted her from junior high school to come to Africa for a season. After her mother died, they were both so sad for so long… he thinks the change of scenery will do them good, but Clare isn’t sure she can adjust to any more changes!

Mosquito netting around her narrow bed, no cellphone service out here in the bush, riding a borrowed bicycle down a bumpy dirt road to Mzanga Full Primary School where she’s the only white student, wearing a hand-me-down school uniform, but is fully welcomed with smiles…

Soon Clare becomes accustomed to helping pack up her classroom’s books to take to the school’s only lockable room, to placing cans beneath its worst leaks during the rains, to understanding almost enough about her classmates to keep from embarrassing herself too much.

Her sketchbook fills with drawings of her friends who have chosen English names like Innocent and Memory, of jungle animals, and of Fred the hen who arrived as a mystery gift on their doorstep. She finally can see her mother’s face and hear her voice in her dreams. And her father the doctor tries to help all the children who flood into the free hospital, day and night.

An emergency during an outing to Lake Malombe leaves the school friends stranded, with time running out. How can they get everyone to safety? Why can’t an ambulance get there? Why is everything so difficult in Malawi? How will Clare ever feel whole in her heart without her mother’s gentle love?

From teaching tools made from termite-mound mud to the charming style of English spoken in Mkumba, readers will be delighted to explore Clare’s new world as she learns to Laugh With the Moon and embrace life after loss.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Iron Hearted Violet, by Kelly Barnhill (fiction) - a plain princess, evil whispers, lying mirrors

book cover of Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill published by Little Brown
Must every princess be beautiful?
Must every king be brave?
If they aren't, can the realm survive?

Secret rooms in the castle, glinting hints in mirrors, lost dragons under the two-sunned sky - Princess Violet lives in a world where stories have more power than anyone living can imagine, and no one living can imagine the threat that lies just ahead for the kingdom.

Find this September-published adventure of a most-unusual princess,  a clever stableboy, a forbidden book, and a long-suppressed god of the metaverse at your local library or independent bookstore today.

Book info: Iron Hearted Violet / Kelly Barnhill; illustrator: Iacopo Bruno. Little Brown, 2012. [author's blog] [publisher site] [illustrator interview]

My Recommendation: Princess Violet isn’t beautiful, but she is brave and clever and loved by all. If royal storyteller Cassian hadn’t always made the princesses in his stories beautiful, perhaps plain-looking Violet might not have listened to the sinister whispers from mirror corners, might not have searched deep below the castle with her friend Demetrius, might not have found the evil something that wants to destroy their world.

In the Old World, there were twelve gods (no one dares speak of the thirteenth) and dragons and such. Now, the King has gone searching for the possible last dragon, taking Demetrius along for his amazing skill with animals, little realizing that the Mountain King is preparing to invade the Andulan Realms or that the something beneath the castle is spreading evil thoughts like a fog.

Perhaps Violet can change her mismatched eyes to the blue of the sky, if she discovers enough secrets in the hidden library. Perhaps she can be a “real princess” if she becomes beautiful, the unwanted thought sneaks in. Perhaps the evil Nybbas will be able to control everything if it leads Violet along the selfish path that makes her neglect the kingdom…

A mournful dragon who can’t remember where it has hidden its heart, the ill-health of Queen Rose, three very worried ancient guardians, and the twisty stories used by Nybbas to turn people on one another – is Violet strong enough to discover her true path and save her kingdom? Can the wrong stories be turned right before both suns set forever?

This epic tale of adventure and forgiveness introduces an unforgettable princess, as she and Demetrius discover the true power of stories in creating the world.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel (graphic novel) - living cardboard people, good and evil

book cover of Cardboard by Doug TenNapel published by Graphix
We've all played with cardboard boxes,
made forts and racecars and castles,
but we didn't use magic cardboard like Cam has!

Hopefully, we don't have evil neighbors like Marcus either... (stealing a guy's only birthday present, when it's just made with a cardboard box...sheesh!)

The creator of Earthworm Jim of video-game fame and the recent graphic novel hit Ghostopolis  (my review here) brings another fantasy world to life in full-color,  so find it now at your local library or independent bookstore.  

Cardboard  has already been optioned to become an animated feature film, but you'll have time to read it first... and keep an eye out for that Marcus.

Book info: Cardboard / Doug TenNapel. Graphix (Scholastic), 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [video author interview]  [inside TenNapel's sketchbooks]

My Recommendation: Worst birthday gift ever: a cardboard box… but Cam’s widower dad took their last few cents to buy it from a strange fellow who gave them rules about how to use it. So the teen and his dad bend and cut the box into the shape of a man, a boxer who magically comes to life!

Bill the boxer-guy talks to them, will mow the lawn, wants to be a real friend to Cam – but his cardboard can’t withstand the water-cannons of neighborhood bully Marcus. Taking the leftover cardboard bits (despite the seller’s warnings), Cam creates a cardboard-making-machine that allows him to repair Bill… and tempts the very evil Marcus into wicked plans and plots that might destroy everything. 

TenNapel’s detailed drawings underscore the barely-hanging-on desperation of Cam and his depressed dad, the manic gleam in Marcus’s conniving eyes, and the contempt that the rampaging Cardboard  bad guys have for good-fellow Bill and the “fleshies” he tries to protect in this outstanding graphic novel from the creator of Ghostopolis.   (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Daylight Saving, by Edward Hogan (fiction) - swimming, mystery, time loops to break

book cover of Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan published by Candlewick
Cute girl in a swimsuit,
lovely lake in the woods.
Everyone can see the water,
but no one can see the girl struggling there...
except Daniel.

The days are growing shorter at the resort, giving him less and less time to solve the mystery of Lexi. Shouldn't injuries heal up over time, instead of getting worse? As the teens stay near each other through his vacation, Daniel awakens to find the same injuries on himself.

If Lexi is a ghost, why can he touch her? If Lexi is a girl, why is she at the resort alone... and how can they prevent terrible things from popping into the woods during that hour everyone relives when Daylight Saving Time ends and the clocks fall back?

Published in September 2012, you should be able to find Hogan's first YA book at your local library or independent bookstore now. Then find some uninterrupted reading time - you won't want to put it down!

Book info: Daylight Saving / Edward Hogan. Candlewick, 2012.  [author's writing room] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:  An “active holiday” away with Dad…couch-potato Daniel can’t imagine a worse vacation. Bicycling through Leisure World’s well-manicured woods to avoid sports activities, the English teen spots a cute girl swimming in the fake lake. And she’ll even talk to him - about his parents’ divorce, Dad’s spiraling depression, but not herself.

Daniel wonders if Lexi is playing hard-to-get or hiding a dangerous secret. He only seems to see her at the lake, never at the pizza place or the pool. She says swimming is a good way to let your mind relax while your body works, so Dan hits the pool, huffing and puffing at first. The more he swims, the more he worries about Lexi.

How can a teenager be at this fancy resort by herself? Why can’t anyone else see her?  Why is her watch running backwards? What’s causing her wounds which seem larger each night?

As the autumn evening approaches when all Great Britain’s clocks turn back one hour, Lexi and Daniel try to find a way to stop a terrible past event from happening again. Part mystery, perhaps some ghost story, all thriller – will the night of Daylight Saving be too late?  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette, by Bianca Turetsky (fiction) - glorious gowns in guillotine's shadow

book cover of Time Traveling Fashionista in the Palace of Marie Antoinette by Bianca Turetsky published by Poppy
It's a mysterious Monday, and fashion-lover Louise Lambert has received another invitation from the most exclusive vintage dress shop ever.

When Louise tries on an delicate blue gown for Brooke's fancy dress birthday party, she is suddenly sent back to young Marie Antoinette's court!

Weren't they just talking about the French Revolution in history class this morning? If Louise could just remember those important dates from her homework... but can she change what happens to the princess?

While you're getting this September 2012 release at your local library or independent bookstore, ask about book one, The Time-Traveling Fashionista  (my review here) so you can start Louise's adventures at the beginning and join her aboard the Titanic!

Hmmm... what other fantastic history-imbued frocks do mysterious shopkeepers Marla and Glenda have in their Traveling Fashionista Shop inventory?

Book info: The Time-Traveling Fashionista at the Palace of Marie Antoinette (Time Traveling Fashionista, book 2) / Bianca Turetsky. Poppy, 2012  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Oh, no! Louise’s trip to Paris with her French class is cancelled when her dad loses his job, and history homework is building up. What she needs is some time with vintage fashion to take her mind off things. But trying on an antique gown sweeps her away from the tiny shop to the court of a French princess!

It’s a bit odd to speak old French with no effort and have courtiers calling her Mademoiselle Gabrielle, but Louise does pretty well at playing along. Soon she realizes that she’s part of the entourage of young Marie Antoinette – and that she might not be the only person at Versailles with a false identity…

The princess is never seen in the same ensemble twice and demands that her ladies-in-waiting follow that fashion as well. Somehow, Louise must keep her original gown hidden so that she can wear it and return to modern Connecticut safely.

So many different experiences - beautiful palace gardens and boring waits for royal arrivals, splendid gilded ballrooms and bitterly critical letters from Marie’s mother, stunning Paris-designed dresses and the stench of Parisian streets. As time passes, Louise remembers more details from history class and wonders if she should warn the princess about the perils ahead.

Who is spying for Marie’s mother, sending detailed reports back to the Empress? Can Louise make the princess understand the suffering outside the palace walls, before it’s too late? Most importantly, can she get back to her own time before France’s nobility start losing their heads in the Revolution?

The second book of the series puts this Time-Traveling Fashionista in as much danger as she faced on board the Titanic in book one. Where will Louise’s passion for vintage fashion take her next? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Jump Into the Sky, by Shelley Pearsall (fiction) - black paratroopers in WWII, secret mission or phony war?

book cover of Jump Into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall published by Knopf
Levi Battle was always being left.
His mom left when he was a baby,
His dad left to serve in the Army.
Now his aunt says it's his turn to leave his friends and go be with his father - in the middle of World War II!

Hard to be a teenager without his dad around, harder to trade the big city of Chicago for the prejudices of the South, harder still to imagine what life would be like if every paratrooper of the 555th doesn't come home from their missions...

Be sure to visit the "Triple Nickle" website to learn more about this little-known battalion and the brave paratroopers who served the nation during World War II, like Bradley Biggs, the first African-American officer accepted for parachute duty in the US Army.

Get this great book today at your local library or independent bookstore; it is also available as an audiobook. Could you be as brave and loyal in the face of prejudice and danger as Lt. Battle and the men of Triple Nickle?

Book info: Jump Into the Sky / Shelley Pearsall. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:  Rattling over the rails, Levi tries to figure out how he got here, dress shirt covered with coal dust, stuck on a “Jim Crow” train car so very far away from home. Why his Aunt decided right now it was time for him to be with his father on an Army base in the middle of the War, he’ll never know.

Sure, he missed his dad, but in 1945 so many fathers and brothers and cousins were gone. If it wasn’t war-time, the Army wouldn’t let a colored man be an officer, says everyone in their Chicago neighborhood, and not one single soul believes that Charles Battle is a paratrooper.

It doesn’t help that Levi’s jazz-singer mother left home when he was a little baby, that his father has no idea that the tall thirteen-year-old is on his way to North Carolina to join him, that Aunt Odella’s prayers and fried chicken might not get him safely to Fort Bragg.

Levi couldn’t believe that white people in the South would act so hateful, but he learns quickly to stay away from town, stick with the other black soldiers’ families, and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. When the Army says leave for Oregon, off they go, Levi helping Sgt. Cal’s wife with the new baby on the long cross-country trip.

But why is the 555th battalion really in Pendleton? Is it just busy-work to make it look like the Army is letting black soldiers fight? What if Lt. Battle doesn’t come back from the next mission or the one after that?

Inspired by interviews with real veterans of the original 555th, this journey of discovery will take readers back to the home front during World War II as Levi watches his father and brothers-in-arms Jump Into the Sky  to defend the USA, whether acknowledged for their bravery or not. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Life, by Keren David (fiction) - London gangs, family ties, choices that can't be unmade

book cover of Another Life by Keren David published by Frances Lincoln Childrens Books
So that's it then,
Ty will spend some weeks in young offenders' institution for having the knife.
What if other gang members are there, too?
The ones that he testified against?

World Wednesday takes us back to London - not the spic-and-span home of the 2012 Summer Olympics, but the hardscrabble, workingclass corners where rival crime gangs control more than we really want to know about.

And typically-teenage guy middle-class Archie thinks he can figure out how to help Ty, by going undercover into his cousin's multicultural, rough neighborhood...

You'll want to read all of Ty's story, so pick up When I Was Joe  (book 1) and Almost True (book 2) at your local library or independent bookstore then jump into Another Life  to see what becomes of these unlike cousins.

Book info: Another Life / Keren David. Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Archie didn’t even know he had another cousin until recently, let alone one who’s had run-ins with London gangs and the police. Too busy trying to get tossed out of yet-another boarding school, trying to get girls interested in him. But passing messages between Ty and his girlfriend shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Just because his cousin is in witness-protection programme and all that…

Still strange to Archie that his mum and dad could cut off contact with a whole branch of their family for years. Ty is just a year older than he is, but certainly isn’t coping well with being confined. Yeah, some of the guys that Ty testified against are locked up now, but not in the same facility as him, right? Right? Hmmm…will Claire wait for Ty once she discovers the real reason he’s gone?

Maybe if Archie ventures out of his posh neighborhood and into the gritty quarter where Ty lived before the knife incident, he can figure out what makes his cousin tick. Maybe joining the boxing club there will let him see why his own dad worked so hard to get out of there. Maybe cute Shannon there in the park will take a shine to him.

Dad always said that Archie acted first and thought occasionally – and he’s dead-right this time. How long until someone in Ty’s neighborhood figures out their connection? How long until the gang bosses take action against the snooping teen? How long until Ty’s post-traumatic stress reactions get the better of him?

Told mostly in the rambling voice of Archie with sudden bursts of Ty’s frantic, worried thoughts, Another Life closes the stories started in When I Was Joe (book 1) and Almost True (book 2) – a gripping look at modern London gangs, choices gone wrong, and the quest for family connections at any cost. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ivey and the Airship, by Cheryl Ammeter (fiction) - dark shadows, steampunk quest

Ivey and the Airship by Cheryl Ammeter published by Wisdom House Books
A luxury dirigible high above the clouds,
Fine dinners and stealthy footsteps,
Sudden visions through others' eyes,
Rumors of vicious war.

Welcome to the steampunk world of Aether, where a young lady's social skills are far more valued than her intelligence, where a good marriage is a barometer of success, and where Ivey Thornton is determined to do things differently.

Favorite of her father's five botanically-named daughters, she wants to follow in his scientific footsteps, investigating the new otheophainers that allow flight without use of a balloon. But first, she must discover why otheocoils affect her so strangely - and break off her arranged engagement to Miles (and his mother).

Ask for the first book in The Aether's Edge series at your local library or independent bookstore. The author is busily at work on book 2 right now; let's hope that the life-sucking leeches don't make an encore in Master of the Manor!

Book info: Ivey and the Airship (The Aether's Edge, Book 1) / Cheryl Ammeter. Wisdom House Books, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Ivey just wants to research the unknown with her father. But Aether’s society frowns upon girls as scientists, so Ivey's family arranges her betrothal to the son of her father’s best friend. Perhaps she can make Miles so angry during their airship voyage that he’ll break off the engagement – if the murderer on board doesn’t get them first!

Wrestling underwater with her secret pet waterdog and experimenting with explosives aren’t the ladylike arts that her sisters learned; it’s doubtful that Mrs. Fenchurche will appreciate Ivey’s ideas about the essential skills of life. However, the young man’s mother must admit that his late father would have delighted in this union between their innovative families. If Miles would only cease his world travels and settle down to provide heirs to the transportation industry fortune…

The luxuries and gadgetry of the airship Monarch take Ivey by surprise, as does Miles’ appreciation of her curiosity about his inventions. Neither is happy about the idea of marriage, but their scientific discussions are quite interesting. Someone else is paying extremely close attention to the awkward young couple, as strange ‘accidents’ begin to occur around them once the airship is far from port.

Sabotage, murder, killer bubble baths? Who wants to bury the Monarch and her passengers deep into the mountains? What is drawing Ivey into a sinister dreamworld that threatens Aether? Who is trying to unearth a secret that will shatter the world? Does the Institute of Sciences hold the key to these mysteries?

Steampunk meets dark and mystical forces in this action-packed first book of the Aether’s Edge series, where Ivey and Miles use quick thinking and their own kind of courage to meet dangers head-on. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the author.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ashen Winter, by Mike Mullin (fiction) - survival

book cover of Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin published by Tanglewood
Enormous snow drifts where green summer cornfields should be thriving...

How long will the volcanic ash in the atmosphere keep the sun from shining through?

Can teens armed with determination, taekwondo skills, and dwindling supplies rescue their family members in peril?

Grab Ashfall (book 1, reviewed here) at your local library or independent bookstore so you know the whole story, then bundle up warmly to continue Alex and Darla's chilling journey through Ashen Winter on its October 8th publication date.

Gotta admit that I was a trifle nervous traveling through Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago, seeing the steam from its thousands of "thermal features" rising up into the blue sky on a freezing morning. Glad that it's all being monitored - but will we truly have enough warning if the supervolcano threatens to blow sky-high?

Book info: Ashen Winter (Ashfall Trilogy, book 2) / Mike Mullin. Tanglewood, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site

My Recommendation:

The world now is all snow and questions for Alex, trying to locate his parents after all communication was wiped out by the supervolcano eruption, trying to keep himself and his girlfriend Darla safe and alive in the unending winter.

A scrap of news now stirs the teens into action: his parents were accosted by bandits while hiking across the state to find Alex and are alive – for the moment. Desperate times and dwindling food supplies are turning some people into savages of the worst sort.

The government is keeping ashfall refugees within the affected area, in camps that lose more people to starvation and cold than to escape. Avoiding their patrols, staying clear of bandits (and worse), holding onto all their supplies – it’ll be a tough journey, but Alex must find his parents.

As Alex and Darla leave his little sister at their aunt and uncle’s farm, they hope for the best and prepare for emergencies – possible injuries, bandits, sinkholes in the snowpack. But a sudden encounter and an ambush separate them early in their journey, leaving Alex to seek help from the townspeople they met on their earlier travels in order to rescue her.

Can Darla stay alive and unharmed in the hands of the gang? Can Alex convince anyone to go along on the rescue mission? If his parents did make it to the next refugee camp, can the teen help them escape?

This second book in the post-apocalyptic trilogy answers key queries for Alex and Darla (and readers) following the initial Ashfall (book one) while leaving the survivors to wonder what happens next.

(One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, by Katherine Marsh (fiction) - a court dwarf dreams of more

book cover of Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh published by Hyperion
In the company of tall women and taller men,
a thinker, a planner, a dreamer,
Jepp's life as a dwarf in the 16th century was never easy.

From a humble country inn to the royal court in Brussels to Tycho Brahe's observatory, Jepp's meteoric rise and fall are not what his horoscope predicted! Being part of a collection, as shown in Diego Velasquez' paintings - pah!

You'll find Jepp and his adventures at your nearest independent bookstore on its US publication day, Tuesday, October 9th; ask your local library to order it, too.

Jepp is a fascinating character, not satisfied with the hand that Fate has dealt him - do you think he can escape his destiny?

Book info: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars / Katherine Marsh. Hyperion, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Jolting down a frozen dirt road, Jepp wonders how fate took him from his tiny village to a royal palace to this prison on wheels heading north. If the young teen could just find his long-absent father, discover why he was born a dwarf, learn to change his destiny…

His family’s inn sees fewer and fewer travelers, as Spanish Netherlands wars with its rebellious Protestant north in the late 1500s. Elegant Don invites Jepp to become a court dwarf at the Infanta’s palace in Brussels, to own more than one tattered book, to be dressed in silks, to dine on rare delicacies, so the thirteen-year-old leaps at the chance.

But the luxuries come at a high price, for the five court dwarfs are essentially prisoners in their gilded rooms and must perform silly tricks to amuse the princess and her courtiers. Jepp is not happy to be a mere clown, but is even unhappier to see his friend Lia become sadder by the day. Their daring attempt to escape the palace together proves costly, and Jepp is shackled and sent far away from the Infanta’s court and his friends. His horoscope promised much better than this!

In a distant icy land, Jepp finds himself part of an astronomer’s astonishing household, full of amazing mechanical devices, researchers mapping the stars, and a chance to think and learn. Are our fates truly locked in place, as the star-readers claim? Can Jepp change his destiny? Will he ever find his father? Could his horoscope promising “a good marriage to one faithful and true” really come true, or will only the predicted disasters befall him?

Inspired by the real Jepp of Uraniborg and Velasquez’s paintings of court dwarfs, this historical novel pulses with energy and intrigue as our narrator traces his life journeys and indeed tries to defy the odds and live happily into the landmark year 1600. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.