Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ask Elizabeth, by Elizabeth Berkley (nonfiction) - advice on love, life, friends

book cover of Ask Elizabeth by Elizabeth Berkley published by GP Putnam
Gather up 30,000 teen girls in small group workshops all over the country.

Give each one a journal where she can write any question about relationships, worries, fears, dreams.

Throw all the anonymous questions into a pile and start discussing them.

Talk together. And talk some more. Bring in some advice from experts, but mainly allow the young women in each group to help one another deal with things.

Lay out everything - the good, the sad, the difficult - and share it with others to help them learn and hope and grow strong in this widely available book.

Elizabeth gives advice that matters, like action plans for learning to accept your imperfections, helping a friend who is hurting, and getting to a peaceful place when you and parents argue.

The book discusses the positive signs that you're in a good romantic relationship, the healing steps for dealing with grief, and ways to discover your life-dream and keep growing as a person.

You'll be glad that Ask Elizabeth is a nice, flexy paperback as it's jammed in backpacks, passed from locker to locker, and shared again and again with friends. The Ask-Elizabeth website continues the conversations begun in the book.

Yes, this is the Elizabeth who starred in Saved by the Bell as a teen actress and has gone on to act in movies and television as an adult. Her passion for helping young women grow up with accurate answers and encouragement led her to start the nonprofit Ask-Elizabeth project in 2006.

Do you have any questions for Ask Elizabeth?

Book info: Ask Elizabeth: Real Answers to Everything You Secretly Wanted to Ask About Love, Friends, Your Body...and Life in General / Elizabeth Berkley. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Every teen girl has questions about love, life, and herself – but who can you turn to for honest advice? It’s time to “Ask Elizabeth” and get answers you can trust.

How do you know if you have a real friend that cares about you?”
My parents are getting a divorce and I don’t know what to do…”
How do you get a guy (or gal) to know that you’re alive?”
My parents treat me like a baby! How do I get them to give me more freedom?”
“How do I know if I’m just in a bad mood or if I’m depressed?”

Drawing on the opinions shared by young women in her popular workshops and sharing straightforward information from health and relationship experts, former teen star Elizabeth Berkley presents real questions from teen girls with helpful and realistic answers that aren’t just one-size-fits-all.

The book looks like Elizabeth’s scrapbook, with handwritten notes from teens stuck onto pages with colored duct tape, her typewritten answers, and many photos, found objects, and heartfelt stories connecting all the chapters

Readers can dip into just the chapter that deals with an immediate need for answers or read through Ask Elizabeth from cover to cover as they meet high schoolers from many different situations who share their dreams, concerns, fears, and encouragement to help other teens grow into strong women. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Books in Space for Star Wars Day (reflective)

photo of Darth Vader, woman in pink shirt, Storm Trooper
"May the fourth be with you" - it's Star Wars Day*!

Outer space is a great setting for young adult books. Sometimes it's the distance from home and safety that's the major plot factor. Other times it's the way that young people overcome obstacles which are magnified by limitations on oxygen, gravity, and other resources. And often enough, it's other people who are the challenge to the heroes and heroines we meet in space-related stories, with results ranging from comic to tragic.

Check out these space faves on BooksYALove (my recommendation links open in a new window/tab) at your local library or independent bookstore:

book cover of The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes published by Tor BooksThe Moon Maze Game, by long-time sci fi authors Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, takes live-action role playing games to new heights as teams of veteran high-tech LARP simulation players are pitted against each other in a self-contained habitat on the Moon. Its puzzles, tricks, and traps may become the players' allies when terrorists hijack the game habitat.

While today's LARPers are limited to Earth, you can learn more about classic live action games at which has gathered info, strategies, and locations for 15 years.

cover image of Astronaut Academy Zero Gravity by Dave Roman Published by First Second BooksSchool in space sounds like the most fun thing ever, but Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity seems perilous to Hakata Soy, who missed the first weeks of school due to his crime-fighting assignment. Learning Spanish (and spying) with Senor Panda, dinosaur racing, - this graphic novel by Dave Roman brings stories from students and teachers in space.

While many elements of Astronaut Academy are over-the-top funny, Roman stays true to the science of space - human Doug must wear his spacesuit to stay out on the spacewalk all day and oxygen gum helps players stay in the game during fireball tournaments.

cover image of Across the Universe by Beth Revis published by RazorbillMeanwhile, a spaceship continues on its 300-year voyage to a new planetary system with settlers in cryosleep and a rigid hierarchy of crew members tending to the ship's needs. But as they hurtle Across the Universe, someone starts unfreezing settlers and disarming the cryo-alarms. Some die from their botched reawakening, but teenage Amy is saved.

Still many decades from their destination planet, Amy knows that her scientist-expert parents are still Frozen, and Elder of the crew knows that Amy doesn't fit into their society. First in a trilogy, followed by A Million Suns, with book 3 scheduled for January 2013 publication.

Of course, there will be great space-based YA books ahead, so keep watching BooksYALove to find your new favorites.

*thanks to ABDO Books for providing the Star Wars photo-op during the 2012 Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Houston.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dinosaurs & time travel! Chronal Engine, by Greg Leitich Smith (fiction)

book cover of Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith published by Clarion Books
Rare fossilized dinosaur footprints.
Heart attack, kidnapping, possible murder?
What a way to start a summer!

No one has seen the Loblolly dinosaur tracks on their grandpa's ranch in years. Max can't wait - he got the family "dinosaur-hunter" genes, Mom says. Kyle and Emma would rather stay home in Austin the summer before their sophomore year , but with Mom leaving to excavate feathered dinosaurs in Mongolia, they've all got to stay somewhere. At least Grandpa's housekeeper has a daughter their age; Petra seems glad to have some other teenagers on the ranch for a while.

Grandpa's security-locked basement looks like a 1920s library, if the library had a humming time-travel device in the center. Predicting his own heart attack to the minute, leaving messages in places no one can reach - has Grandpa really used the Chronal Engine to travel through time?

Greg Leitich Smith's fascination with dinosaurs is firmly woven into this exciting action tale, as our adventurers meet teeny Tyrannosaurs (meat-eaters have horrible bad breath), massive Apatosaurus (even dinosaur expert Max still loves the old name of Brontosaurus), and some human villains back in the Cretaceous Era. You'll enjoy Blake Henry's manga-influenced black and white illustrations, too.

I didn't see any boot prints in the fossilized dino tracks when I visited Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, but that's well north of Chronal Engine's setting in the Texas Hill Country, so who knows? Grab this summer thrill-ride read at your local library or independent bookstore soon!

Book info: Chronal Engine / Greg Leitich Smith; illustrations by Blake Henry. Clarion Books, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site

My Recommendation:
All summer out at their grandpa’s ranch? Max, Kyle, and Emma know that rare dinosaur tracks are located there, but they’ll miss their friends and Austin’s city comforts so much. His wild time-travel theories turn out to be truer than they could ever imagine!

Sure Mom is headed for the most important dinosaur dig in Asia, but the teens have met her father just once; the only time in 15 years that he left the ranch was to attend their own dad’s funeral five years ago. For decades, Grandpa has refused to let researchers on his land to study the dinosaur tracks, even though that “hard science” might erase the taint of craziness left by great-great-grandfather Mad Jack Pierson’s insistence that he’d invented a time-traveling engine.

At the ranch house, it’s nice to meet Petra, who is their age and enjoys the outdoors as much as Max does. She knows the way to the dinosaur tracks and what perils to avoid in the Hill Country.

When Grandpa refuses pecan pie during their first dinner together because he knows an ambulance will arrive in 15 minutes because of his upcoming heart attack, they wonder about it. After he gets Max to promise that all four teens will go to the fossil tracks in the morning and gives him a heavy envelope to open later, Grandpa shows them the Chronal Engine and its last recall device to return to the present time – then has a heart attack, just as the medflight helicopter touches down! If he knew the timing of his own heart attack, does that mean Grandpa has used the Chronal Engine?

Visiting the dinosaur tracks the next morning, they find human bootprints in the fossilized mud! And Emma’s boot fits the print exactly… but how? A sudden flash of light and a man appears next to their sister, grabs her, and disappears into another flash of light. So Emma has been kidnapped…to the Cretaceous Era? Suddenly Max, Kyle, and Petra decide to travel back in time using the Chronal Engine to rescue her.

Will it work? Will their compass work? Can they survive among huge herbivorous dinosaurs and speedy meat-eaters? Can they outsmart other time-traveling humans who have guns and are ready to use them? Will any of them get back to the present - alive?

This mile-a-minute adventure story includes dromaeosaur babies and bow-hunting, toothed prehistoric birds and T. Rexes and 40-foot-long crocodilians among the adventures encountered by four young teens on a time-traveling mission. The author notes currently known facts and recent theories about prehistoric life at the end of the book, which includes funny/accurate illustrations by Blake Henry. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Springsweet, by Saundra Mitchell (fiction) - visions on the high plains

Divining for water.

Whatever the name, being able to show just where to drill a water well is an enviable talent in arid places, but not without its consequences. Who could imagine that West Glory's "springsweet" would be a young lady escaping back-East gossip by moving to the Oklahoma Territory's vast plains?

And Zora could scarcely have dreamed that her train trip West would bring her to a sodhouse, a nearby all-black town that reminds her of home, a barn-raising, and two unlikely suitors?

While you can read this just-published book on its own, you'll get a fuller picture of Zora's life and gifts by reading The Vespertine (my recommendation) first. Just can't wait for the promised third book to see where Zora's talent takes her!

So, do you think that dowsing really works?

Book info: The Springsweet / Saundra Mitchell. Harcourt, 2012. [author's website] [book website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Ever-separated from her fiancĂ© and her cousin, Zora decides to escape the strictures of Baltimore society by heading West. How can she face friends who don’t understand her continued mourning, family members who expect her to settle for a normal life after losing Amelia’s visions and Thomas’ healing touch?

Rather than allowing seventeen-year-old Zora to marry a widower and raise his children in some log cabin, her mother arranges for her to stay with Aunt Birdie and little Louella at their homestead in the Oklahoma Territory. Rattling westward by train and coach, Zora is jolted when bandits rob the stage just a few miles from her destination, smashing the luggage, and taking the locket that Thomas gave her.

Stranded by the highwaymen in a sudden thunderstorm, Zora trudges along the muddy wagon road toward West Glory and is rescued from a night alone on the prairie by Emerson Birch. Beside his rugged cabin in his lush garden, somehow Zora knows that his well is dug in the wrong place and can see silvery shimmers in the evening darkness that tell her where he should dig for water.

Aunt Birdie welcomes her the next morning, but is openly hostile to Emerson who jumped the gun to claim his land. Life is hard for the two young women and toddler Louella in the tiny sod house, hauling water from a distant well, making soap, trying to keep their crops alive in the dry plains winds.

When dandy Theo de la Croix arrives in West Glory to teach school, Zora wonders if he’d followed her from Baltimore. One kiss at a dance couldn’t mean that much… could it? Courted by Theo, yet drawn by Emerson’s vibrant connection to the land, she begins to finds pieces of joy in the midst of her mourning.

Her gift for seeing where the earth’s secret waters hide is precious in this dry land, so she hires out as a “springsweet” to tell folks where to dig wells. Not all visions are happy ones, and soon Zora must decide whether to tell unwelcome news or to hide her talents.

But how else can the little family get enough money to get through the bitter winter ahead? Should Zora accept Theo’s offer of marriage, or sneak away to see Emerson, or just run back home to a pampered life in Baltimore?

This companion volume to The Vespertine follows Amelia’s cousin Zora as she discovers her own psychic gifts and must decide whether she can truly live with the consequences that those visions may bring. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Blog Birthday to me! (reflective)

Wow - BooksYALove is a year old today!
Nearly 200 no-spoiler book recommendations posted,
Multiple blog challenges completed,
Now it's time for the 2012 version of WordCount Blogathon, the challenge that got me finally started in blogging and the community that kept me going the whole year 'round.

I write the recommendations on BooksYALove for readers who seek something a bit different, who want to read interesting books that aren't just the usual bestsellers piled in stacks at the front of the bookstore or screaming from ads. And no spoilers - ever! If you want to know the exact ending of a book or whodunit or who winds up with whom, you'll need to read reviews somewhere else.

Young adult books are not only for teenagers, of course, as today's YA authors skillfully navigate their characters through the perils of love and loss, identity and community, dreams and disasters that folks of all ages share. While some YA books are brief reads, others go well over 400 pages in hardback. If you like historical fiction or mysteries or paranormal intrigue or science fiction, you'll find great YA books to enjoy.

So here's a toast to authors and to readers - may we share many memories together through young adult books for many years to come!

Birthday cake clipart courtesy of Photograph of reader statue (c)Katy Manck 2011.

Monday, April 30, 2012

All These Things I've Done, by Gabrielle Zevin = Z (fiction) - chocolate, crime, deadly

Payoffs keep New York City running.
Chocolate and caffeine are illegal drugs.
Paper is scarce and clean water even scarcer.
Welcome to 2083.

Anya has inherited her crime boss father's business sense, his stake in the mafiya chocolate empire, and responsibility for her mentally disabled older brother, precocious younger sister, and dying grandmother.

What a time to fall in love! And with Win, of all people. Her lab partner for anatomy and physiology class is cute, smart, and the son of NYC's newest assistant district attorney who is determined to make it to the top by shutting down illegal chocolate operations.

In the face of the frightening choices that she must make to keep her immediate family safe, Anya asks God's forgiveness for All These Things I've Done, first in the Birthright series.

So this is the last A-to-Z Blog Challenge post for this year, 26 new book recommendations in April! On to the 2012 WordCount Blogathon for May and BooksYALove's first birthday tomorrow.

Book info: All These Things I've Done (Birthright, book 1) / Gabrielle Zevin. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011 (hardback); Square Fish, 2012 (paperback). [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Illegal or unwise – which choice is worse? Anya’s mafiya family makes chocolate, that forbidden drug, in crime-riddled New York City in 2083. The teen is trying to keep life normal for her grandmother, brother, and sister when someone is poisoned by tainted Balanchine chocolate. Now the police and the mafiya are trying to pin the blame on her.

The cute boy she’s falling for at school turns out to be son of the new DA who’s determined to prosecute chocolate and caffeine trafficking to the max, her older brother is incapable of caring for himself, and her grandmother’s health is failing. If Nana dies, the mafiya will gladly take over all the assets left to her by her dead crime boss father, and the city authorities will separate her from her brother and sister.

Surely Win knows who she is, knows what her extended family does – how can he start a relationship that’s guaranteed to anger his father? At least she’s finally broken up with that loser Gable, who was only after her chocolate connection.

When her brother Leo loses his cleaning job and starts hanging out with some of their more unsavory cousins, Anya warns him that they’re just trying to take advantage of him. No one could imagine that he’d get stuck in the middle of a big mafiya operation or that foreign racketeers might be trying to take over Balanchine’s territory.

Who’s really behind the chocolate poisonings? How can Anya keep juggling her siblings’ needs, her schoolwork, and her feelings for Win? How deep do family loyalties run and how far will their “protective” reach go? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.