Saturday, April 7, 2012

G for Ghost Flower, by Michele Jaffe (fiction) - missing heiress, ghostly best friend, forever?

The resemblance is uncanny.
This no-money runaway looks just like a missing heiress,
the one who will inherit millions on her birthday this month.
What could go wrong with a short-time acting gig?
Oh, Eve, if you only knew...

With no roots and no need to be protected, Eve is even more like the desert's ghost flower than Aurora was. Perhaps that's why Bain and Bridgette chose her to fill in as their missing cousin, so it's that much easier to sweep her away later and let The Family's money flow to those who appreciate it and badly want it??

And why does Eve get such conflicting stories about Aurora's best friend Liza? There's something wrong about Liza's suicide, something that Eve can almost figure out - when the phone calls start, from 'unknown number' - phone calls from Liza, trying to warn Aurora about something, someone,
reminding her that they're best friends... forever.

Grab this page-turner at your local independent bookseller as soon as it's published on April 12, 2012 - and once you get to the halfway point, plan on staying up late to finish it.

(p.s. Giveaway for ARC of Cat Girl's Day Off continues here through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012.)

Book info: Ghost Flower / Michele Jaffe. Razorbill, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Oh, she looks just like their missing cousin! Two rich teens offer Eve a chance to break out of poverty. Just convince the family that she really is runaway Aurora, come home in time to collect her inheritance, then conveniently disappear again once she’s given most of the money to them. What has she got to lose?

Maybe it’s time for her to take a chance on a better future, one far away from Tucson and the troubling flashbacks to terrible times in foster care which have increased since she moved here.

Studying photographs of Aurora’s relatives and school friends, eating only her favorite foods, wearing only her favorite colors – Eve is being transformed into wild, crazy Ro under the exacting instructions of Bridgette and Bain, secluded in a desert hideaway.

Bridgette has Aurora’s return to Tucson society meticulously planned for the week of her high school’s graduation, just before the memorial to its two lost classmates – Aurora and her best friend Liza, who committed suicide on the night that Ro disappeared.

But the new Aurora has her own ideas for convincing everyone that she’s the real deal and jumps back in early, encountering a psychic medium with a chilling message at a graduation party séance, a police officer who believes her memory is gone but sees her sorrows too well, and eerie phone calls day and night - from Liza!

Glaring omissions in the detailed information that Bain and Bridgette provide Eve to study - do the cousins want Eve to succeed or fail in her attempt to convince her wealthy grandmother, the rest of the Sterling family, and Tucson's high society that she truly is their wild, impetuous Aurora?

Ghostly phone calls from Liza – can the dead truly communicate with us? Who is she warning Eve about? Why don’t all the puzzle pieces surrounding her death fit together right?

The desert’s Ghost Flower only blooms where the spirits of the dead rest uneasy. Lock the door, turn off the cell phone, and venture with Eve into Aurora and Liza’s privileged and perilous world. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F for False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen (fiction) - imposters, treason, survival

Freed from the bleak orphanage,
Acquired for a secret project,
Led into treason by a high-ranking nobleman,
Surviving each challenge,
Endgame in sight - is it worth the lies?

Buffeted by neighboring countries that want to devour its outlying provinces, lacking full leadership since the sudden deaths of the entire royal family, the country of Carthya may soon explode into civil war.

Of course, the ruling council must select a king next month to unify the country.
Of course, all wish that Prince Jaron hadn't been lost at sea, killed by pirates just before his parents and brother died.
Of course, one treacherous nobleman will risk treason to make Prince Jaron appear at the selection ceremony - even if he has to create the prince himself.

Four orphan teen boys have the chance to escape poverty - if they're willing to lie for the rest of their lives. And since only one prince is needed, three of those lives will be very short indeed.

You've got to read this first book of The Ascendance Trilogy for yourself to experience all its twists and turns...and to see who appears before the ruling committee claiming to be Prince Jaron.
(p.s. Giveaway for ARC of Cat Girl's Day Off continues here through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012.)

Book info: The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) / Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic Press, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Sage stole to survive – orphans in Carthya often did. But being bought so he could imitate a missing prince? That was something new.

Oh, he wasn’t the only one acquired for Bevis Conner’s project. The nobleman had gathered up four orphaned young men, each with some of the lost prince’s characteristics. And after Conner was through with them, one would be so much like Prince Jaron that he could fool the ruling council and become king, naming Conner as his chief advisor, of course. As to the fate of the other three boys, well…

It was treason, pretending to be royal, especially in these dark days after the deaths of the king, queen, and crown prince from a sudden illness. If Prince Jaron hadn’t been captured by pirates a few years earlier, the younger son would have become king immediately. With Carthya's nobles becoming restless and outside enemies threatening, the council will soon have to name a new king to lead the country – unless Jaron appears in time to claim his throne.

At his remote estate, Conner trains each boy in the prince’s traits that each lacks: Sage must learn to read well, Tobias to swordfight, Roden to master Carthya’s history. All must practice court manners and dancing, know the royal lineage forward and backward, and watch each other like hawks, since only one will be allowed out of this mansion alive.

Can Conner really transform these orphan boys into princely youths? Can the winner truly fool the ruling council? Can the losers find a way to save their lives?

With more twists and turns than the Carthyan trade road, this first book of a new trilogy takes readers into a far-distant land and into the mind of Sage as he tries to survive Conner’s lessons long enough to become The False Prince. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E for Elephant in the Garden, by Michael Morpurgo (fiction) - survival, love & an elephant inWorld War II

War means casualties and refugees.
Family ties are forged in trying times.
Marlene is a refugee, a member of the family, an elephant.

The new nursing home patient is ranting about her missing photo book, but the staff has never seen it. Is old Lizzie just imagining things? Luckily, nine-year-old Karl doesn't care what the grownups say and visits her room to learn that her little brother was named Karl, too! And the stories that she tells about Karl's magic tricks and her mother being a zookeeper are so real. Was the grieving young elephant who came to live with her family real, too?

This book tells parallel stories, with the present Lizzie's tale in one typeface and young Elizabeth's in another. Morpurgo says this book was inspired by the news story of the Belfast zookeeper who kept a young elephant at her home during threats of WWII bombings of the Irish city, as well as the heroic efforts of refugees helping and protecting children in many situations.

Find this unique book soon at your local library or independent bookstore so you can meet Elizabeth, Marlene, and their family on the cold and difficult journey toward safety.
(p.s. Giveaway for ARC of Cat Girl's Day Off continues here through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012.)

Book info: An Elephant in the Garden / Michael Morpurgo. Fiewel and Friends, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Bombs falling through the winter night, thousands of people – and one elephant – flee Dresden as it burns. As the old lady talks in the nursing home, Karl and his mother at first wonder how much of the story is true, then marvel that anyone survived it.

Elizabeth grew up in Dresden, with her younger brother Karli who loved doing magic tricks, their mother who loved peace, and their father who loved his family more than anything. But the war changed everything, taking away their father, making their mother work to feed the family. Mutti became a zookeeper, caring for the animals, telling Elizabeth and Karli about their antics and the sadness of Marlene, the young elephant whose mother had suddenly died.

When it becomes clear that Germany is losing the war, the zoo director reluctantly decides that the animals must be destroyed so they can’t run wild through Dresden when bomb attacks open their cages. How could Mutti let Marlene be killed? She brought the elephant home to their garden where Karli fed her and comforted her, inside its tall brick walls.

But soon the Allied bombers came, and the city became an inferno. Mutti led them away from the flames, through the snow, toward her brother’s farm in the country. A noise in the barn where Marlene sleeps alerts the family to an intruder – an enemy soldier!

Can they trust this young Canadian man? How can they feed Marlene in the winter forest? How will they get to safety with Allied troops approaching and German forces retreating? (and is Ms. Lizzie’s story really true?)

As gently as the young elephant finds her way across the snowy hills with her adoptive family, this story of survival and love quietly flows from Lizzie’s memories into the lives of Karl and his mother in the present. Based on true history of the Belfast Zoo’s elephant during World War II. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is Dying to Tell Me (fiction) - hearing the dead, dog on a mission

D for a dying man, red flashes of light,
D for dread, cold whispers of wind on a still night...
Approaching the old stone jail cell, Sasha's visions get worse.
Red flashes, a dying man,
The past or the future??

Do you believe in messages from beyond the grave? Are premonitions true indicators of what may happen in the future? Can there be mental communication between people and animals?

Moving to a strange small town is bad enough, but being immediately tagged as the policeman's kids and mostly shunned makes it that much worse. Sasha wonders if her more-frequent visions of blood and peril are part of the town itself or simply mean that she's losing her mind. Hearing King somehow speak to her makes her suspect the latter - retired police dogs do not talk to grumpy teen girls, they just don't!

Many mysterious things in this novel by Sherryl Clark, who firmly places readers in Manna Creek, Australia, with the town itself as one of the book's main characters. Look for Dying to Tell Me at your local library or indie bookstore.

Book info: Dying to Tell Me / Sherryl Clark. Kane Miller, 2011 [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Strange chills and odd visions – doesn’t anyone else in Manna Creek sense them? Sasha and her younger brother aren’t impressed with the little town where their dad has moved them for a “fresh start.” After the troubles that landed her in Teen Court, Sasha doesn’t have any voice in this, of course.

They nearly hit a scrawny dog as they drive up to this shabby little house that can’t even hold all their furniture. The shops in town look dusty and tired, and the townspeople aren’t very friendly to the new policeman or his family. Sasha knew that her mum wouldn’t un-divorce her dad, but she never dreamed that they’d move away from Melbourne, out to nowhere.

On their first walk around, Sasha slips off the trail and into icy Manna Creek, hitting her head on the way. Rescued by little brother Nicky and the local ambulance squad, she keeps getting visions of a man, a hunted-looking man. The visions are worse in their backyard, which they share with the police station – flashes of red and the image of a man in the old stone building.

A gun-shy retired police dog comes to live with the family. At least King likes them! Bored during the long school break, Sasha and Nicky visit the local history museum and learn about a man who hanged himself in that police cell 100 years ago. And the small art gallery includes original masterworks of famous Australian painters that Sasha recognizes from her art classes. Out here?

As Nicky and Sasha roam Manna Creek and discover more about its people and past, her visions get worse. Images of fire and death – are they shadows of the past or premonitions? Can she stop a tragedy before it happens? Why does King seem to understand what she’s thinking before she says it? And that man in her visions – who is he?

More than one mystery hides in Manna Creek and in the pages of this well-written novel by Australian author Sherryl Clark. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Giveaway Over! Cat Girl's Day Off - feline interview, too

If you've read my recommendation of Cat Girl's Day Off, by Kimberly Pauley, then you know that Rufus Brutus the Third is a feline force to be reckoned with - even if he has been dyed pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.

My cat Max (pictured at right) chatted with Rufus (see him on the book cover below). They decided to give one lucky BooksYALove reader an Advance Reader's Copy of the book, so follow their instructions to enter the giveaway!

Max: You went through a lot in Chicago to find your person. Was it worth it?
Rufus: My person and I are an inseparable team - I inspire her writing, you know.
Max: Yeah, I help my person write by staying nearby, just in case she needs to pet me. And there's a dog in your life, right?
Rufus: Oh, Fergie! I've had hairballs bigger than his wee little brain, but if he makes Easton happy, I'll put up with him. The imposter [snarl!] was terribly mean to Fergie, but took out most of her anger against me.
Max: Chasing you with hairspray and perfume? What an awful person!
Rufus: And the things she did to other humans, like my Easton... [snarrrrlll] don't get me started!
Max: Did you enjoy getting to meet other cats, despite the circumstances?
Rufus: It's enlightening to travel, my person always says, and she's right. If we'd stayed in Hollywood, how would I ever have run into Meep or PD or Queenie or Nat, the cat-fluent person? Maybe she'll be able to convince my Easton to stop calling me Tiddlywinks and use my real name!
Max: Would you ever visit a school again, I mean, after all that craziness with the movie people?
Rufus: Certainly not! Their facilities for felines are definitely sub-par!

Max: So here's how readers can enter to win an Advance Reader's Copy of Cat Girl's Day Off.
Rufus: But they have to give us their word of honor that they won't try to sell it!
ARCs may NOT be sold!
Max: Exactly, but the winner can share the ARC with other readers.
Rufus: The giveaway is open to readers 13 years and older, with a US mailing address, since Tu Books will ship the ARC directly to the winner.
Max: And only 1 entry per human, to make it fair.
Rufus: To avoid those awful, awful spammers, write your e-mail address in the comments like this: RufusBrutusTheThird AT EastonWest DOT com.
Max: We'll take entries through 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 9th.
I'll be up then. Will you be up, Rufus?
Rufus: Undoubtedly! Hollywood was made for late-night cats like me.
Max: Then all the entries will go in the Randomizer to choose 1 winner. My person will e-mail the winner who must reply to her with their US mailing address by Monday, April 16, 2012.
Rufus: You DO want to get your paws on my heroic tale of bravery as soon as possible, don't you??
Max: Just for fun, add the color of your favorite cat, too.
Rufus: So my person would put "pink" - seems a funny name for such a boring color.*
Max: Good luck, everyone, and remember that your cat knows a lot more than he or she is telling you!
*Cats can't distinguish reds from greens and browns because they don't have cones in their retinas.

C is Cat Girl's Day Off, by Kimberly Pauley (fiction) - cat voices & kidnapping in Chicago

One sister is a child genius, the other a human lie detector.
Her dad is a super-sniffer and mom can out-think anyone anywhere.
Why is Natalie's Talent so... everyday?
No wonder "hearing cats talk" is graded as class D.

Nat is trying to keep her Talent quiet, but when she spots a pink cat on video and understands his pleas for help, she can't just sit idly by. Rufus's person has been kidnapped right here in Chicago, and it all has something to do with the movie being filmed at her high school.

Wrigley Field and other Windy City locales used in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" are the backdrop for the friends' madcap chase after clues by train, car, and sneakers, discussing things with cats they encounter (through Nat, of course).

Rufus and my cat Max chat a bit in my next post as they introduce my first giveaway! For your chance to win an Advance Reader Copy of Cat Girl's Day Off, go here.

Book info: Cat Girl's Day Off / Kimberly Pauley. Tu Books, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Better to be a regular high school kid than show off her low-level Talent, thinks Natalie – until her gift for understanding cats’ speech may solve a kidnapping!

Her mom, dad, and sisters are so Talented – supersniffing, X-ray vision, truth detection, chameleon camouflage – that Nat’s talent seems worse than worthless. If the students at Shermer High treated her like that one boy in grade school who could make frogs change color by kissing them… bad news.

Her best friends Melly and Oscar know that she can talk to cats, but it’s no big deal to them. The big deal to them is the movie that will be filming scenes at their school, just as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” did – and they could be extras in the movie! Oscar is swooning over the leading man, while Melly hopes that appearing in “Freddy’s Day Off” will boost her acting career.

In a video news clip of movie blogger Easton West – all in pink, of course – and her dyed-pink dog and cat arriving in Chicago, Nat realizes that the pink cat is yowling that this person is an imposter and that Easton West has been kidnapped! West’s next blog post includes info that convinces Oscar that the person in that video is a fraud and that the pink cat must be telling the truth.

The three friends decide to rescue the pink cat and find out what’s happened to the real Easton West – as fast as they can between sitting through take after take of movie scenes at the school and Wrigley Field.

How can Nat make the authorities take this seriously, when no other humans speak Cat? Easton West’s last blog post before coming to Chicago threatened to expose one of the actresses – is this part of a plot? Will the imposter make good on her threat to kill the real Easton West? Oh, what will Nat’s cute classmate Ian think if he discovers that she talks to cats and that they talk back??

Lots of twists and turns as the friends and the cats they meet along the way chase after clues all over the Windy City, racing against the clock. One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy (viewed through NetGalley) and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Battle Fatigue, by Mark Kurlansky (fiction) - Vietnam War battles come home

Little-boy games turn into young men's worries.
How can war injure someone without leaving a scratch or bruise?
Can history be right and current events still be terribly wrong?

Joel's childhood memories - playing soldiers with his pals, cheering for the Brooklyn Dodgers to finally win before they move to LA, those blue numbers tattooed on the bakery lady's wrist - form the backdrop to his anguished dilemma as his draft number comes up in the early days of the Vietnam War.

How can he reconcile becoming a Conscientious Objector with the sacrifices that his father and uncle made in World War II? How can he live with himself if he goes to fight a war that he deeply believes is wrong?

Noted nonfiction author and researcher Mark Kurlansky takes readers on a young man's emotional journey in a work of fiction that rings truer than many biographies.
Look for Battle Fatigue at your local library or independent bookseller to discover where Joel lands.

Book info: Battle Fatigue / Mark Kurlansky. Walker Books for Young Readers, 2011. [author's website] [author interview video] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Joel knows he’ll grow up and go to war to keep America free, like his dad and uncle did. But when a teen neighbor returns from Vietnam physically unharmed and mentally shattered, he begins to question whether every war is right.

Born on the 7th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, grandson of European refugees, Joel Bloom plays kids’ games with his pals and the souvenirs that their dads brought back from WWII. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he and his junior high classmates practice diving under their desks for A-bomb drills (sometimes a chance to hold hands with sweet Kathy). He tries to teach a German exchange student how to act more American, but local memories of relatives lost in the Holocaust prove stronger than Karl’s willingness to be shunned. How odd that Karl’s only friend in Haley is the first Jew he’s ever met.

In November 1963, Joel turns to his diary as he tries to make sense of JFK’s assassination. High school means varsity baseball, a newfound love of chemistry, and afterschool fights that someone else starts; even his little brother gets challenged to fights because Joel never loses. Everything changes when President Johnson announces on TV that the USA is now fighting in Southeast Asia… and Joel realizes that he and his pals will fight and die in this war.

Dickie from next door enlists in the Marines and leaves for the war proud and tall, returning broken and haunted. College will keep Joel from being sent to Vietnam for four years… but will it be long enough? He doesn’t want to go – not because he’s afraid, but because it’s not right. Will he become a Conscientious Objector or enlist anyway or head to Canada? Big questions from a troubled time in our nation’s history and one young man’s attempt to answer them for himself. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Crossing Lines, by Paul Volponi (fiction) - A for Acceptance, not bullying

A is for Adonis, the bigtime athlete,
and for Alan, the new guy who wears dresses to school.
Can A be for acceptance, too?

Life can be complex in high school for any kid. Adonis is trying to become a better football player, live up to his firefighter dad's expectations, deal with little sister Jeannie being in the same high school. The macho attitudes he's learned aren't helping him stay cool when Jeannie brings Alan over for dinner.

For Alan, scorned by his Army colonel dad, it's simple - accept him for who he is, Fashion Club president, cross-dressing, intelligent.

The author puts current news stories about bullying into perspective when he asks "how do you decide when to stand by and when to take a stand?" Big question, strong story.

Book info: Crossing Lines / Paul Volponi. Viking Juvenile, 2011. [author's website] [author interview video] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: It’s simple – Adonis will be a great football player, little sister won’t embarrass him at school. Then cross-dressing new guy Alan is elected president of her fashion club. And Jeannie brings him home for dinner!

Adonis thinks Alan will be a pushover when they’re in the same group for an English project, but is surprised at his quick wit and intelligence. The rest of the football team isn’t – antigay slurs fill the air during practice and spill over into classes they reluctantly share with Alan. But Adonis’ mom and Jeannie and that cute Melody from fashion club won’t tolerate outright homophobic statements or even jokes – Adonis feels like he’s walking a tightrope all the time, trying to keep the team from grouping him with Alan, trying to keep Melody from labeling him a dumb, prejudiced jock.

Alan’s grandmother raised him until her recent death; now he gets moved from school to school because his dad is an Army recruiter. Has his dad thrown him out of the house? Is Alan gay? Why can’t he just be another guy instead of wanting to be called Alana?

As Alan determinedly forges his own path at school, wearing lipstick and dresses, the football guys get more uncomfortable and plan to teach him a lesson. Will Adonis participate in the dangerous plan? How far can bullies push someone before they snap?

Readers will see Adonis grow up, page by page, as he must decide for himself when to let things slide and when to take a stand. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.