Friday, November 2, 2012

Skinny, by Donna Cooner (fiction) - fat girl seeks true self, true friends

book cover of Skinny by Donna Cooner published by Point
Three hundred pounds and gaining.
Can't fit in the desks at school.
Can't find her place in her new blended family.
Can't filter out the mocking voice in her head...

Ever feels so alone in her Texas high school, but she's one of thousands of obese teens in the US today.

To save her health, she must lose lots of weight in a carefully controlled way. Bariatric surgery is a "last resort" for weight loss, but studies show its effectiveness for older teens, with lots of monitoring and family support.

To save her sanity, she must overcome the inner voice that derides everything she tries to accomplish, must sing out over Skinny's constant snide remarks, must recognize her true friends.

Grab this compelling book at your local library or independent bookstore today.
How much would you risk to find yourself again?

Book info: Skinny / Donna Cooner. Point, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]
My Recommendation: Among the size-zero cheerleaders and wannabe goths at Huntsville High, Ever stands out. As a 302-pound freshman girl, she really stands out. And Skinny, the voice in her head, reminds her constantly of how fat and unlovable she is, even when Ever decides on weight-loss surgery to save her health.

Of course, before her mom died, Ever was just normal, with friends and hopes and dreams and songs. But as she insulates herself against sorrow with public fasts and immense private feasts, she becomes even more isolated from her dad, sister, stepmom, and stepsister. The embarrassment at school never seems to end, and Skinny heaps on abusive words that no one else can hear.

Thank goodness her best buddy Rat sticks with her, especially during bariatric surgery in May to reduce her stomach capacity. Now, she can eat only a tablespoon at a time or her new stomach will send her to the bathroom in rebellion. By August, she’s lost 76 pounds, and the snooty girls who used to mock her decide she’s an ideal back-to-school makeover project. Yet Skinny keeps trying to undermine her success, saying that her dreams of singing in the school musical or dating cute Jackson are impossible.

Can Ever truly get herself to a healthy weight, to a healthy relationship with herself and her family? Will she wind up being just the “chunky girl” at school after all this? Can she sing loudly enough to drown out Skinny's voice?

As Ever and Rat track her mood, weight loss, and theme song for each week following her surgery, readers will root for the teen to create a soundtrack for her new life that can overcome Skinny’s lies. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

12.21, by Dustin Thomason (fiction) - Mayan codex, deadly epidemic, end of the world?

book cover of 12 21 by Dustin Thomason published by Dial
Disease and rioting...
Airplane crashes...
Attacks on immigrants...
Just another day in L.A. or is it the end of the world?

The mysterious codex smuggled to Chel from rural Guatemala might verify the doomsday interpretations of the Mayan "Long Calendar" or just the last days of a single Mayan town... but how to be sure?

As December 21st approaches, look into the great museum exhibits clarifying Mayan timekeeping and the Long Calendar; are researchers even using the correct conversion factor to match Mayan and modern dates?  Be sure to check out the excellent interactive tutorial on reading Mayan glyphs on the book's website, too.

You'll find this medical thriller/apocalyptic tale at your local library or independent bookstore now. Probably better to read it sooner than later, right?

Book info: 12.21 / Dustin Thomason. Dial Books, 2012.  [book website]   [author's Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Gabe Stanton leaves his disease research lab to check on a mystery patient at a Los Angeles hospital. Chel Manu wonders if the astounding Mayan codex brought to her by a smuggler might not be a forgery. And an airplane falls from the sky, as a rampaging epidemic begins sweeping through L.A. 

This cluster of symptoms described by the hospital matches an extremely rare incurable prion disease, one so infectious that hazmat suits are required just to enter the patient’s room. Perhaps with the help of the right translator they can get some information from the young man to track down the disease’s origin...before he dies of acute insomnia and panic. 

So Chel is asked to translate, pulled away from her volunteer time with Guatemalan refugees, away from her research on ancient Mayan writings, away from the black market antiquities dealer who brought her a never-seen codex from a forgotten city, away from those who think that the 12.21.12 end of the Mayan ‘Long Calendar’ marks the end of the world. 

With few clues and the disease spreading rapidly, Stanton tries to pinpoint how the infection is spread, as Chel surreptitiously translates the new-found codex. Both sets of information point back to a hidden ancient city in the homeland of Chel’s mother, thousands of miles away. 

As the government quarantines LA to stop the epidemic, Stanton and Chel must find a way to get to Guatemala before it’s too late. Is there any possible cure for this disease? How much of the codex’s unusual tale is true? Will the countdown to the end of the Long Calendar become the countdown to the end of civilization? (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Deadly Pink, by Vivian Van Velde (fiction) - escape into virtual reality game, forever?

book cover of Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde published by Harcourt
Sights, sounds, smells...
How close to your video game action do you want to be?
What if the game can plug directly into your brain?

The Rasmussem Corporation wants players to be totally immersed in their role-playing games for hours at a time - for the proper fee.

But there is a time limit for staying in a virtual reality world, so unbreakable fail-safes pull players out of game before their brains get too detached from physical reality.

Unless a computer whiz like Emily entirely disables the fail-safes on purpose to trap herself in the pink and sparkly pre-teen gameworld she was helping design... and younger sister Grace must battle through to rescue her, before it's too late.

You'll find Deadly Pink in hardback now at your local library or independent bookstore, with author Vivian Vande Velde's earlier books featuring Rasmussem games (User Unfriendly  and Heir Apparent) available in paperback.
So, how long would you want to stay in a virtual world? (dragons optional)

Book info: Deadly Pink (Rasmussem, book 3) / Vivian Van Velde. Harcourt, 2012 [author's website]   [Deadly Pink Facebook page]   [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Grace is just slogging through high school, while her brilliant older sister Emily is at college with full scholarships for computer science. So why does Rasmussem Corporation need Grace’s help to get Emily out of a virtual reality game?

Their mother is frantic with worry, Dad is away on business, and the note Emily left behind sounds very, very final. Her body is there, hooked up to the virtual reality game panel, but she’s disabled every fail-safe that would allow the company to bring her back to the real world.

So away Grace goes, into the cotton-candy and unicorns world that Emily’s team was developing for preteen girls. Butterflies that give gold coins, quests to collect flower bouquets and tiaras, tea parties and fancy dress balls – Emily wants to stay in little-princess land forever?

When Em ignores Grace during her first venture into the game, it might be a fluke. But when big sister has her thrown out of the manor house, Grace knows something is truly wrong. Wish-granting sprites with a grudge, close calls with disaster – every time Grace reboots and re-enters the game, something else goes haywire (and this is a game for kids?).

And the clock keeps ticking down, edging ever-closer to the known-safe time limits for Emily’s brain to stay in virtual reality without a break.

What’s so wrong in the real world that Em has to escape to the virtual world that she helped create? What will happen to Emily’s brain if they can’t get her out of the game in time? Can Grace convince her to come home?  (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.