Friday, June 1, 2012

Other stories, other poets (fiction) - novels-in-verse

Much like eclipse-viewers look indirectly at the sun, we can get a glimpse into life situations which may or may not mirror our own through novels-in-verse.

Click each title link to open my no-spoilers recommendation in a new window/tab for each of these BooksYALove favorites.

book cover of After the Kiss by Terra Elen McVoy published by Simon PulseCamille and Becca don't realize that they share a school, a coffeehouse, and one boy's kiss... until an ill-timed cellphone photo makes all the connections fall into place.

Told in alternating chapters by each teen, their free verse ranges through the emotions that they must deal with as they try to reconcile what they thought was true with what reality is, After the Kiss of Alec, the haiku-writing baseball star.

book cover of Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe published by Viking Sara feels like her life at the ballet academy, far from her small New England hometown, is a never-ending Audition, as the dancers constantly compete for lead roles, for advanced classes, for the eye of handsome student assistant Remington.

Is he really interested in Sara? Can she continue to keep up with her schoolwork and her dance lessons and her hidden relationship with Remington? Only her poetry journal hears her fears and dreams.

book cover of Karma by Cathy Ostlere published by Razorbill
Religious turmoil becomes armed warfare in 1980s India, and Maya is caught in the upheaval almost as soon as she arrives with her father and the ashes of her mother, brought "home" to the family which disowned them when they married, a Sikh and a Hindu who thought that love would overcome all.

Is it Karma that brought their only child to a place she's only heard of, far from her birthplace on the Canadian prairies, that separates her from her Bapu, that makes her versified memories a clouded mirror?

(all review copies and cover images courtesy of their respective publishers)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"We now return to our regular programming" (reflective) - BooksYALove posting schedule update

drawing of black cat reading a paper original from Diamond Dye advertisement
from Library of Congress *
We did it!

I wrote and y'all read every BooksYALove post through April's AtoZ Blog Challenge and May's WordCount 2012 Blogathon (at least, I hope you read them all).

Highlighting so many great YA books in a such a short time has indeed been challenging. I read books quickly, but really take my time writing recommendations to give readers a good taste of the book without revealing any vital plot twists or the ending (I personally hate spoilers in reviews!).

So BooksYALove goes back to its normal posting pattern on June 1; you'll get lots of great books to choose from, but on a more-relaxed summertime schedule.

Watch for Mysterious Mondays and tales of the paranormal, fantasy, whodunits, and such - like Wizard of Dark Street, Between Sea and Sky,  and Hereafter.

We'll have World Wednesdays, with historical and contemporary books set in places outside the United States, including Australia (Butterflies  and Dying to Tell Me), Africa (Now is the Time for Running  and Mamba Point), and Southeast Asia (Nowhere Girl  and Dogtag Summer).

Fun Fridays can bring humorous books, crazy settings, and non-fiction faves, from yummy Insanewiches  and Ask Elizabeth about anything, to the summertime wackiness of Withering Tights  and Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots.

Occasionally, books will slip in on other days of the week, especially for "book birthdays" (marking their first day of sale) and holidays. So many great books being published this summer and fall - just you wait!

So, which BooksYALove titles have been your favorites? What sorts of young adult books do you want to see more of? Which upcoming titles have you bouncing on the edge of your seat, anxiously awaiting their publication? Let me know, and I'll see what I can wrangle from the publishers...

* Black Cat reading, from vintage Diamond Dye advertisement, Public Domain image uploaded to, available for creative reuse with no fees or restrictions.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In High Places, by Harry Turtledove (fiction) - alternative history, time travel, danger

book cover of In High Places by Harry Turtledove published by Tom Doherty Tor
What if the Black Death had lasted decades and decades?
What if scientific knowledge was scourged from Arabic thought?
What if you could visit timelines where history had changed?

Welcome back to the world of Crosstime Traders, where technology makes it possible - and profitable - to travel to the many timelines where historical events large and small caused different time-streams to branch off from the Home Timeline.

Crosstime Traffic isn't some science experiment, but a vital business enterprise that brings in food and energy resources from low-population alternates to support the high-technology Home Timeline.

So in this alternate, educated Annette from California must disguise herself as a quiet, modest Muslim daughter of olive oil merchants from southern France and make sure that she never says or does anything that would make locals question that identity.

Of course, profit is the slave traders' motive, too, but there's something truly strange here. Could this particular group of slavers be in cahoots with someone from the Home Timeline?

Other Turtledove adventures in the Crosstime Traffic series include The Valley-Westside War, set in an alternate where The Bomb fell worldwide in the 1960s, and The Disunited States of America, where the US Constitution was never ratified. Alternative history brings intriguing answers to "What if?"

Book info: In High Places (Crosstime Traffic, book 3) / Harry Turtledove. Tom Doherty Associates/ Tor Science Fiction, 2007. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  Almost time to leave muddy Paris and go back to school – on an alternate timeline. Annette’s family is returning to their Crosstime transfer station when slavers attack their caravan and take the teen far from her destination, far from her parents, far from her only way to get Home.

In this 21st century, the “City of Light” is a filthy small town in the rough Kingdom of Versailles. The Black Death killed 80% of Europe in this timeline, allowing the Muslim Kingdoms to spread far beyond the Middle East – no voyages of exploration, no Scientific Revolution, no Industrial Revolution. Here, a second son of God is credited with finally stopping the plague, basic sanitation is unknown, and bad water kills more people than marauders’ arrows.

Masquerading as olive oil traders from Marseilles, Annette’s parents observe local politics in Paris as they gather fine fruits and olives to be sold on the Home timeline, which requires food and energy from many alternate timelines to support its technologically advanced population.

Duke Raoul of Paris feels that something is too-different about these oil merchants, but is more worried about reports of slave traders attacking closer and closer to his realm. By sending young Arabic-speaking Jacques as a caravan guard on the long journey over the mountains, perhaps he can learn more about both problems.

The attack on their caravan was expected; being captured for sale as slaves in far-off Madrid was not! Far from the safety of Marseilles, Annette and Jacques are sold to a large household with some mysterious buildings where large groups of slave disappear for a whole day before returning.

How will Annette’s parents know where she’s been taken? How can she escape to Marseilles and the only transfer station to Home? Why does Jacques’ description of a metal room sound so much like that advanced technology?

Take a trip through time to a country that might exist somewhere, some-time, with another exciting adventure of the Crosstime Traders from the master of alternative history, Harry Turtledove.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Peculiars, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry (fiction) - quests, steampunk inventions, strange folk

book cover of The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry published by Amulet
Lying awake at night,
wondering if she's "having wild thoughts"
or if her overlong fingers truly are goblin hands,
Lena never hears good things about her father...

Never hears from him until her 18th birthday when the money enclosed in the only letter he's ever written to her allows her to start searching for him, despite her mother's concerns and her grandmother's fretting about unladylike behavior.
Why stay hidden in the City when adventure calls?

This steampunk adventure-romance-paranormal quest is set in a different United States of America than the one seen in our history textbooks about the late 19th century. While both USAs share Charles Darwin, the Pony Express, self-righteous missionaries, and Mark Twain's writings, only Lena's world includes winged persons, a cat whose purrs always sound like human speech, and a successful steam-powered flying machine with titanium frame.

Hoping that author McQuerry is a fast writer so that we can have more of Lena's adventures soon!

Book info: The Peculiars / Maureen Doyle McQuerry. Amulet Books, 2012.  [author's website]   [publisher site

My Recommendation: Lena’s long-vanished father is responsible for her elongated fingers and overlarge feet and not much else in her life. So when her 18th birthday brings a message from him, she feels compelled to travel from the City to the wildness of Scree – hiding place of goblins, flying people, and outlaws – to find him and discover what Peculiar blood might flow in her veins.

As the steam train chugs north, Lena keeps to herself, longtoed boots hidden by her traveling skirt, gray gloves covering her long, long fingers. One young man doesn’t take her hints, insisting on talking about their destination, a coastal town near Scree where he’s taken a position as librarian to a scientist, and about his fiancĂ©e and his family’s expectations.

During dinner, the train suddenly halts as masked men rescue a prisoner and rob the passengers! Thankfully, Lena had pinned her father’s envelope inside her bodice, but now has little money to finance her planned expedition into Scree. And the sheriff investigating the train heist has been chasing after her father for years…

Luckily, Jimson’s eccentric employer decides that Lena should also help catalog his unusual collection, giving her time to save up money to venture into Scree. A steam-powered typewriter, doors with intricate opening mechanisms, books with gem-encrusted covers – the library is a treasure of wonders and even a few answers for Lena’s questions about the Peculiars and Scree.

But she sees a strange winged figure on the roof at night, finds drawings of hands like her own in Mr. Beasley’s medical case sketchbook, and is getting more attention from Sheriff Saltre than she wants. If Lena doesn’t go into Scree quite soon, she’ll be trapped by winter weather and her growing affection for Jimson.

Alarmed by the sheriff’s investigations, Mr. Beasley and Jimson prepare for household members to escape Zephyr House. Can the flying machine get everyone out in time? Have they hidden the inventor’s secrets and experiments regarding the Peculiars well enough? Will Lena get to Scree and find her father after all these years?

Set in an alternative steampunk United States of late 1800s, those called The Peculiars face extreme prejudice and lifelong slavery in Scree’s mines, as Lena and compatriots from Zephyr House are about to discover first-hand.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Word Cloud Day! (reflective) - important words and the big picture

heart shaped word cloud of BooksYALove blogpost words made using Tagxedo
Making word clouds is so much fun!

Today's WordCount Blogathon challenge was to create a word cloud using our recent blog posts.

The more often that a word is used in the text selection submitted to the word cloud generator, the larger that the word appears in the word cloud. You can omit extra-common or extraneous words from the word list, choose one or more fonts to use, horizontal or vertical or mixed-up word orientation, and other creative options.

LOVE shaped word cloud of words used on BooksYALove blog created with Tagxedo
Using the free online Tagxedo word cloud generator allowed me to go past the original cloud-shaped display that Wordle makes and select from dozens of shapes, including four different hearts and the iconic LOVE graphic.

I couldn't choose only one Tagxedo, just like I can't limit myself to just one YA book beyond the bestsellers to recommend per week!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Border Town: Crossing the Line, by Malin Alegria (fiction) - sisters, competition, the truth

book cover of Border Town Crossing the Line by Malin Alegria published by Point Books
High school cliques.
Social pecking-order.
You've got to know where you stand
and when crossing the line is the right thing to do.

Big sister Fabi is sure she has all the answers that ninth-grader Alexis will need to succeed in their high school in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. But pretty little Alexis isn't satisfied with being a quiet Mexican-American good-girl and decides to run with the popular crowd, setting her sights on football star Dex, despite his bad-boy reputation in town.

Alexis and Fabi's extended family ranges from arguing grandmothers who stay on opposite sides of the Garza restaurant to baby brother Rafael (also known as Baby Oops) to their many, many uncles and aunts and cousins.

Like many border towns, questions of immigration and fair work, legal enterprises and criminal activities "from away" are the unspoken undercurrents that disturb the balance of life in Dos Rios and finally demand answers.

This is the first book in the Border Town series, with the Garza family's next adventures coming soon: Quince Clash (#2) will be published July 1, 2012, with Falling Too Fast (#3) and No Second Chances (#4) following at three-month intervals. Fans of the popular Bluford High series should jump right into Border Town.

Book info: Border Town: Crossing the Line (Border Town #1) / Malin Alegria. Point (Scholastic), 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:
Fabi is excited that her little sister will attend her high school this year, but worries when Alexis won’t listen to the rules that keep them safe in their Texas border town. Crossing the line into the wrong crowd is more than a social miscue – it could endanger their family’s business.

There have always been tensions between long-time residents of Dos Rios and newcomers, between Mexican-Americans and whites. When it comes to the patrons of her family’s Mexican restaurant, Fabiola Garza knows who to joke with and who to be quiet around. Her cousin Santiago can sweet-talk anyone, especially their two grandmothers, one whose answer to every question is a rosary, the other who just adores conjunto musician Little Rafa.

Alexis starts seeing bad-boy Dex, deciding that being popular is more important than attending the voice lessons that her parents work so hard to pay for. Too bad that Fabi’s best friend moved away – she needs Georgia Rae’s advice more often than just weekends.

Chuy is attacked in the restaurant one night, but the waiter can’t identify the robbers. Luckily new student Milo is with Fabi when she discovers him. As other immigrants are robbed of their earnings on payday, the townspeople get worried. Are the drug cartels coming across the border now or is anti-Mexican sentiment in Dos Rios turning violent?

When Santiago starts flashing cash around town, the police decide he’s responsible for the thefts. Fabi overhears Dex bragging to his football buddies about mugging immigrants and asks Georgia Rae and Milo to help her uncover the truth.

Can Fabi convince Alexis to stay away from the football star for good? Can she keep her cousin out of prison? Can she convince anyone that the judge’s grandson Dex is a thief?

First in the fast-moving Border Town series, Crossing the Line is followed by Quince Clash (book 2), Falling Too Fast (book 3), and No Second Chances (book 4).  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.