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.