Friday, January 27, 2012

Statistical Probability of Falling in Love (fiction)

Bridesmaid's dress? check.
Passport? yes, Mom!
Dickens novel to throw at Dad? of course.

Even if you've never missed a travel connection or worried about having to get along with people you've never met or been stranded in a crowded airport, you can still imagine Hadley's anxiety about traveling by herself from JFK to London for her dad's second wedding...

Meeting Oliver makes the delay and the flight so much more bearable for her. All those crazy statistics he quotes - he must be making them up! Why, oh why couldn't they have gotten to say a proper goodbye at Heathrow Airport before she had to find a taxi and rush to the wedding?

Twenty-four hours of hurry and bother - wonder if it's the last thing that Hadley needs or merely what she'd never expect...

Book info: The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love / Jennifer E. Smith. Poppy Books, 2012. [author's website] [book's Facebook page] [publisher site] [Hadley's book trailer] [Oliver's book trailer]

My Recommendation: Four minutes late! The plane is leaving; Hadley will be late for her father’s wedding. At least there’s a cute guy to talk to as her trans-Atlantic flight is rescheduled and she tries to calm down in the overcrowded airport.

She can understand why Dad went to study in England – he is a poet, after all – but why did he fall in love with someone there? How could he leave her and Mom alone? Just sneaking in and taking his personal things from their house while they were on vacation – ha! How can he expect her to be a bridesmaid in this wedding and be happy? She’s never even met the woman – her new stepmother – arrgh!

Thankfully, the cute guy is on her flight. Oliver is British, studying at Yale, listens a lot, talks a little. He even has the seat next to hers and helps Hadley relax on her first long plane ride, inventing silly statistics and listening to her worries about the future.

Separated at the passport checkpoint in the London airport, Hadley hopes she can see Oliver one last time before she heads into a strange city and a strange new relationship with her father. With the delays, she’ll barely make it to the London church in time for the wedding.

As the day goes on and Hadley moves her jet-lagged self through the ceremony and family photos, she feels compelled to find Oliver, to find out why he was returning to England suddenly, to see if he can come up with a statistic that will make her feel better about what lies ahead.

Can she remember enough from their sleepy conversations to figure out where he is? Can she travel there without getting run over by traffic traveling on the wrong side of the road? Can she just make it through this nerve-wracking day and go back home to Mom, please?

It’s easy to understand Hadley’s fears and frustrations during all the changes in her life and to root for her to find someone special for herself, even if she doesn’t believe in love at first sight. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Award List Time! (reflective)

It's nice when someone validates your choices and opinions, isn't it? And when the someones are the noteworthy folks on the American Library Association's many book awards committees, then it's even nicer.

Several BooksYALove selections were tabbed on the 2012 award lists, which looked at books published in 2011 and late 2010. And, yes, some are now on bestseller lists, but were posted here well before sales popularity moved them there. You should be able to find them all at your local library or independent bookstore, but you may encounter a waiting list!

Beat the rush on future award books by reading them whenever something appealing to you is introduced on BooksYALove - no spoilers, I promise!

As I read YA books that deal with real-life issues during the "YA Saves Reading Challenge" hosted by TheBusyBibliophile blog, plus all the wonderful science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction on the publishing horizon, I'm sure to find plenty of great young adult books beyond the bestsellers which will be included in future award lists - and you could see them here first!

2012 Newbery Medal - Honor Book
Breaking Stalin's Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin - my recommendation

2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults - "Forbidden Romance" category
I Love Him to Pieces (My Boyfriend is a Monster #1) / by Evonne Tsang; art by Janina Gorrissen - my recommendation

YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults
What Happened to Goodbye, by Sarah Dessen - my recommendation

Payback Time, by Carl Deuker - my recommendation

Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O'Roark Dowell - my recommendation

Icefall, by Matthew J. Kirby - my recommendation

Huntress, by Malinda Lo - my recommendation

Legend, by Marie Lu - my recommendation

Karma: a novel in verse, by Cathy Ostlere - my recommendation

This Thing Called the Future, by J.L. Powers - my recommendation

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs - my recommendation

Now is the Time for Running, by Michael Williams - my recommendation
(thumbs up image courtesy of Mohamed Ibrahim via

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Breaking Stalin's Nose (fiction)

"The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism.
A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience.
A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings."

Sasha memorizes the Young Pioneers' Oath, believes everything that his teachers say about Comrade Stalin and the amazing future of Communism, and is certain that his father will attend the ceremony when Sasha can finally wear the coveted red Young Pioneer scarf.

So why highlight a book about a ten year old boy here? Eugene Yelchin's father survived the informers who reported neighbors to Stalin's State Police. As the author of Breaking Stalin's Nose grew up in Russia, Stalin's brutal regime was completely ignored, his Purges removing every potentially disloyal citizen never mentioned in the history books.

Only when the author emigrated to the USA did he begin to learn of Stalin's Great Terror. How can a nation wipe away every memory of such brutality? Brainwashing its children to never question their teachers and parents is one way, and the Young Pioneers movement ensured this unswerving loyalty for many decades. The Young Pioneers organization still exists today in Russia, but only Lenin is mentioned, never his bloodthirsty predecessor Stalin.

Breaking Stalin's Nose takes us into Sasha's innocent trust that Comrade Stalin would make everything all right... Find this Newbery Honor Book at your local library or independent bookstore, and be sure to explore its website where Yelchin has collected objects and information that make those dark days under Stalin even more real.

Book info: Breaking Stalin's Nose / written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin. Henry Holt Books, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Tomorrow! Finally, Sasha will become a Young Pioneer and help Comrade Stalin bring the prosperity of communism to the USSR. His father, an officer in the Soviet State Police, will be guest of honor at the ceremony and will tie Sasha’s red Young Pioneer scarf for the first time.

Waiting in the apartment kitchen that they share with 46 others, he knows that his father will be late to dinner since he is always busy catching spies. Sasha adores his father, but he worships Comrade Stalin who watches over all the people of the USSR. How sad that the children in capitalist countries will never be free enough to live together in such harmony!

But heavy boots come up the stairs late at night, and the State Police arrest Father! A neighbor has reported lies about his loyalty to Stalin, just to get their apartment for his own family. Now Sasha is alone in the darkness and the snow.

There must be some mistake! Comrade Stalin himself pinned a medal on Father’s coat for catching spies. Sasha decides that he must report this error to Comrade Stalin at once, so that his father can attend the Young Pioneer Ceremony at school tomorrow.

Everyone at school knows how children are treated when their parents are arrested as enemies of the State – scorned and mocked and bullied. And if the parents don’t return from bleak Lubyanka Prison, then it’s off to the orphanage for their children… perhaps a worse fate than a mere firing squad.

Can Sasha reach the Kremlin to speak with Comrade Stalin before it’s too late for his father? Will he be able to join the Young Pioneers when his father’s whereabouts are unknown? Can he find his Aunt Larisa on this dark winter night?

Yelchin’s black and white sketches show the bleakness of life under Stalin’s brutal control, even as Sasha begins to realize that the glowing words he has memorized about his Great Leader are no truth at all. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eona (fiction)

Dragons malicious,
dragons benign,
dragons untamed...
Are there any dragons who serve humankind?

As the Chinese New Year begins - the Year of the Dragon - return to that ancient land much like China, to a place where the Dragoneyes commune with the dragons of the zodiac compass points to keep the land and its people safe from violent weather and terrifying storms.

Yet one Dragoneye seizes his dragon's power for personal gain instead of serving the Emperor and his people. As the only female Dragoneye in the realm, Eona must decide where she stands, as well.

If you haven't read Eon yet, stop here! It's impossible to introduce the plot of Eona without giving away some key surprises of the first book (reviewed here). Eona will be issued in paperback in April 2012.

Book info: Eona / Alison Goodman. Viking, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Only two Dragons remain in their celestial realms. Only two Dragoneyes to channel those immense powers to protect the land. Only one Dragoneye loyal to the Emperor. Now is war.

Eona dreamed that she could become a Dragoneye, never imagining that one of the 12 mighty Dragons was female – the long-absent Mirror Dragon. Few in the Imperial Court imagined that Lord Ido, the Rat Dragoneye, would help Sethon challenge the Emperor’s power; no one thought he would call on the darkest powers to slaughter 10 Dragoneyes and doom their Dragons to oblivion. Eona’s healing powers are being swept away as the ten masterless Dragons surge through the celestial passageways whenever she calls on the Mirror Dragon for help.

Without all the Dragons and their Dragoneyes to protect the Empire, its people are slammed with typhoons and earthquakes. Lord Ido and his assistant are using the stolen black folio to unleash its horrors on the new-crowned Emperor and his troops. Eona can taste the folio’s bitter magic, feel Ido use it to build Sethon’s mind-controlled army, sense the Rat Dragon’s will being twisted to evil purposes.

When young Emperor Kygo names Eona as his chief advisor, the few remaining palace nobles object. But the Mirror Dragon’s might and Lord Ido’s approaching army silence their protests. Eona searches for answers in the white folio, and her friends join her in spying missions and dangerous secret journeys. Why the Dragons ever consented to help humankind in the first place is still a mystery to her.

Can the Mirror Dragon overcome the black magic fueling the Rat Dragon’s attacks in the air? Can Eona’s friends and allies survive the battles on land? Can the land itself hold together as the darkest of evil forces strive to shake it to rubble and ash?

Eona’s 656 action-packed pages conclude the tale begun in Eon: Dragoneye Reborn in this far-distant place reminiscent of ancient China. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.