Saturday, March 30, 2013

Moving right along - BooksYALove's new home base (reflective)

drawing of cat lying atop short stack of old books
courtesy of Dover Publications - free clipart for teachers
After 325 posts, over 275 books recommended, and a goodly number of blog challenges, the BooksYALove blog is finally moving to its own website - BooksYALove.com - taking all its back-stock of enhanced book reviews, comments, and queries over there, too.

So if this final post on the Blogger iteration of BooksYALove reached you by email or RSS, please come to BooksYALove.com and subscribe there - takes just a moment.  And do change your bookmark to the new address, as I won't be adding any more book recommendations here.

Yes, I still have a large bookcase filled with last year's books which I'll be recommending on BooksYALove.com as the TBR2012 Challenge continues through this year, new books arriving daily that I can't wait to tell you about, and 26 never-seen-before reviews for the April Blogging AtoZ Challenge that will appear on BooksYALove.com every day in April (except Sundays).

The WordCount 2013 Blogathon begins June 1st and will include at least one guest blogger recommending a favorite young adult book, some book haiku, word clouds, and a "favorite five" post. Check back with Michelle in April for free registration; it's a great way to start your blog, enhance your blog-writing skills, and meet bloggers in your field and beyond.  In fact, BooksYALove got its start just in time for the WordCount 2011 Blogathon!

Happy reading continues at BooksYALove.com - c'mon over!
**kmm

Friday, March 29, 2013

TBR2012 Challenge Marches On (reflective) - more 2012 titles recommended, more to go!

sketch of tired stickman walking from OpenClipartLibrary
Onward!
Another swath of my to-be-reviewed-2012 bookshelf cleared in March, bringing my total to 28 this-year recommendations of last year's books, including my January and February lists.

Just in case you missed a few, try these 2012 titles:

The Dark Unwinding - Sharon Cameron

Exposure  - Kim Askew and Amy Helmes  

Mothership - Martin Leicht and Isla Neal 

The Secret War (Jack Blank #2) - Matt Myklusch 

Sisters Red  - Jackson Pearce 

Tempestuous  - Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Making pretty good progress on the TBR2012 Challenge at Evie's Bookish blog, but wait till you see the list after the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April!

(sketch of Stickyman Tired courtesy of OpenClipArtLibrary
http://openclipart.org/detail/86137/stickyman-tired-by-cybergedeon)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Secret War, by Matt Myklusch (fiction) - superhero-in-training with a deadly secret

book cover of The Secret War by Matt Myklusch published by Simon Schuster
Job-shadowing true superheroes!
Saving humanity from brutal invading robots!
Finding the robot virus too close to home...

From a bleak orphanage to the technological marvels of the Imagine Nation, Jack has now found true friends, a productive outlet for his power to communicate with machines, and a growing sense of dread regarding the Rustov virus that has crept into his new home city.

You can get all three books in the Jack Blank series now at your local library or independent bookstore.

Be sure to read book one, The Accidental Hero (my no-spoiler review here) before you meet up with the Secreteers in book two, and yes, I'll have a recommendation of The End of Infinity  (book three) on BooksYALove soon!

How can you tell whether an inner voice is friend or foe?
**kmm

Book info: The Secret War (Jack Blank #2) / Matt Myklusch. Aladdin/Simon & Schuster, 2011 hardcover, 2012 paperback. [author's website] [publisher site]

<strong>My Recommendation</strong>:  Jack has found his place in the world at last, a superhero-in-training in the Imagine Nation. But some still think he has connection to the evil Rustov who won’t stop until they’ve conquered all worlds, and something inside Jack whispers that they might be right!

Called into the real world on an emergency with their superhero mentors, Jack and his classmates have their first brush with the Secreteers who keep humanity in the dark about the Imagine Nation. Selective memory wipes erase the superheroes’ involvement in these outside rescues, although Jack is sure he saw the true form of one Secreteer.

Jack’s gift of communicating with any machinery leads him to investigate the rumored Rustov virus that’s targeting the Mecha citizens of his city – another secret to hide from his School of Thought friends, like his growing concern that he really could turn into the most feared enemy of all.

When a rogue Secreteer announces that he’ll sell any and all secrets of the Imagine Nation to the highest bidder, the young superheroes decide to track him down before he can further endanger everyone. But how can you find the best-hidden place in the universe?

Will Jonas Smart buy the secrets and discover that Jack might truly become Revile?
Can Jack disarm the virus before it infects the city with evil?
Can he dismiss the new voice inside him that swears it is Rustov?

This second book in the Jack Blank trilogy follows the astounding developments in Jack’s life told in book one, The Accidental Hero,  and sets the stage for the mighty war at The End of Infinity,  book three.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, March 25, 2013

April's AtoZ Blog Challenge (reflective) - 26 letters, 26 new book recommendations

drawiing of mouse walking with big umbrella from Dover free clipart
April showers of books!
Twenty-six letters.
Twenty-six blog posts.
Twenty-six new book recommendations.
April showers - of books!

You've heard the expression, "If you want something done, ask a busy person." That must be the reason that I'm taking on the Blogging from A to Z Challenge again this April (especially after my so-so experience with it last year). Mainly, I'm using the A through Z theme to help clear more off my To Be Reviewed shelf of last year's titles, so that will get me further along on the TBR2012 Challenge, too.

Most are fiction books (over half with pre-2013 copyright dates), with a couple of brand-new nonfiction titles to keep it interesting.

AND my new website is nearly done, so all BooksYALove posts (old and new) will be there very soon. I'll let y'all know when it goes live and will leave a notice at this site to make sure folks find it if they come to the party later.

**kmm

Friday, March 22, 2013

Exposure, by Kim Askew & Amy Helmes (fiction) - Predictions, fame, love, death

book cover of Exposure by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes published by Merit Press
Competitive pals Duff and Duncan,
Three masks predict doom,
Bloodstain that will not wash away...
in an Alaskan high school instead of medieval Scotland.

Welcome to the second book in Askew and Helmes' Twisted Lit series, definitely as brooding as Shakespeare's "Macbeth" which inspired it, as dark as the long winter nights in Skye's hometown of Anchorage, as dangerous as Beth's desperation to rise above her modest beginnings.

If you know the "Scottish play" well, some twists here will still surprise you; if not, you'll find that the plotline is largely faithful to the original, so you will have a better chance of following all the action in the play when you read it yourself.

How far should ambition take us? How far is too far?
**kmm

Book info: Exposure (Twisted Lit #2) / Kim Askew and Amy Helmes. Merit Press, 2013.  [Kim's website]  [Amy's website]   [publisher site]   [book series trailer]  

My Recommendation: Skye would rather be home in Anchorage, but how could she stay after what Craig did? A boyfriend who killed someone…

The summer that he moved north for his dad’s job, cute sophomore Craig hung out with Skye, but once school started, he was rapidly drawn into the popular clique. Skye would much rather hide out in the art room than listen to Beth and her posse giggle and posture. Just one more year, then she can get out of here…

As photographer for the school paper, Skye at least gets to see Craig through her telephoto lens at hockey games. The team was lucky that he’d turned out to be a great power forward since their star player Duff had suddenly gone to Scotland as an exchange student. Rumor has it that former girlfriend Beth had something to do with that, but now she’s all over Craig.

Skye wishes that everything were as easy as developing film (yes, she’s old school about that). Then she could un-separate her parents, un-commit to going to prom with dorky Lenny, un-hear the eerie predictions coming out of the Native Yu’Pik masks worn by her three best pals for their art project.

She told Craig that the party in the woods would only be a drunkfest, but came along anyway just to make his social-climber girlfriend mad. When flashlight tag in the snow begins, Skye retreats to the jeep, never dreaming that she’d overhear Beth telling him they’d keep it all a secret, never imagining that hockey player Duncan would be found dead beside the half-frozen creek the next day or that the police would still be investigating weeks later.  

Life sort of goes on at school after Duncan’s death, with the crush of college applications, protests against chopping down its 200-year-old courtyard tree, the Running of the Reindeer and other efforts to keep the long Arctic winter at bay. Beth is sure that she and Craig will be Prom King and Queen, despite her increasingly bizarre behavior.

How can Skye go away to college if Mom and Dad really do split up? Money was tight before they separated…
What’s the secret that Beth and Craig are keeping? It seems to be eating away at them…
Are the answers in Skye’s huge collection of senior year photos? Those eerie predictions might be right…

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth under the Northern Lights, this sinister tale uses quotations from “the Scottish play” as its chapter headings in Askew and Helmes’ second book of the Twisted Lit series.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mothership, by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal (fiction) - pregnant teens, space yacht, attacked!

book cover of Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal published by Simon Schuster BFYR
Pregnant at sixteen,
the dad leaves town,
by 2074, some things haven't changed.

But having such a surplus of unused earth-orbiting luxury cruise ships that one can be repurposed into a school for unwed mothers? That definitely puts this book into sci fi category (aliens as high school teachers and vid-ads targeted to your personal nutritional and health needs are just bonus!)
 
You can find Elvie's rather offbeat pregnancy journey at your local library or independent bookstore as it's a 2012 release (still waiting on publication date for book 2).

Anyone you know been abducted by aliens lately?
**kmm

Book info: Mothership (The Ever-Expanding Universe, Book 1) / Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012. [Martin's info]  [Isla's info]  [video interview]   [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Elvie wanted to go into space, but as part of the Mars colonization project, not as a pregnant teen in the first-ever low-orbit high school for unwed mothers… Getting attacked by paramilitaries wasn’t part of the plan either, but Elvie still has some brains despite the Bump.

She’s been planning her whole life to travel everywhere, like her mom didn’t get to do, dying when Elvie was born, leaving behind a huge book of maps with notes about future family trips. Her dad has an emergency plan for absolutely any possible (or improbable) event and decides that Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers is just the place for her; he obviously didn’t know that Elvie’s nemesis in the Class of 2076 would be part of the school’s first group, too.

And the baby’s daddy? Vanished into thin air as soon as Elvie told him the news. Thankfully, she has best-friend-for-life Ducky as backup; that guy is so dorky about researching pregnancy stuff. Too bad he’s on Earth, and Elvie’s in orbit with snooty cheerleader Britta, who got pregnant a couple of weeks before her. No, Elvie won’t tell her that Cole fathered both babies; she doesn’t have a death wish.

When an unexpected ship docks onto the space cruise liner, Hanover is boarded by paramilitary forces…including Cole, who tells Elvie that her teachers are aliens and that their babies aren’t exactly their own anymore. She decides her baby belongs on Earth when it’s born in a few weeks, so she and the other very-pregnant teens waddle through escape routes and try to sabotage the aliens’ plans along the way.

If the teachers are aliens, what are the paramilitary guys?
Should Elvie believe the handsome hunk who knocked her up and left town?
Will there be any chocolate-pretzel-caramel-prenatal ice cream left in the snack center?

In this first book in the Ever-Expanding Universe series, Elvie’s life changes drastically in a short time; the rest of Earth’s population is in for a big surprise as well!  (Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce (fiction) - werewolf-hunting sisters long for love

book cover of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce published by LBTeen
Remote town or crowded city,
more "missing" young women reported,
time to hunt down the werewolves.

The first in Pearce's Fairytale Retellings, Sisters Red  takes the Little Red Riding Hood tale several steps into the present-day with chilling effectiveness.

The Atlanta-based author keeps her Retellings series firmly rooted in today's South with Sweetly (Hansel and Gretel...and Fenris) and Fathomless (the Little Mermaid...and Fenris). Click the title links to go to my no-spoiler recommendations.

Which cover art do you prefer - the new paperback release with the hatchet or the original hardback and paperback art with the two girls' faces and those red wolfeyes?
**kmm

original paperback cover of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce published by LBTeen
Book info: Sisters Red (Fairytale Retellings #1) / Jackson Pearce. LB Teen, 2010 hardback, 2011 paperback. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:  Girls are disappearing – time for Rosie and Scarlett to take up their hatchets, don their red cloaks, and hunt down the werewolves again. Perhaps the teen sisters can kill enough of these Fenris before their power becomes too strong…

Closer than twins, Scarlett and Rosie feel like they are one heart divided between two people and that they have a mission to protect people from the Fenris who slaughtered their grandmother, clawed out Scarlett’s right eye, left the March sisters selling off Oma’s things to stay afloat – hunting killer werewolves near and far leaves no time for a regular job. At least Silas is back from California, back to being their nearest neighbor out in the Georgia countryside, even if he didn’t take the traditional woodsman’s path like the rest of his family.

Attacks on young women during the Apple Time Festival reveal that outside clans of Fenris are converging on their area, and the sisters’ scan of the news tells them that Atlanta is getting hit hard. It’s Silas who suggests that they temporarily move to the city to deal with the werewolf outbreak, the three of them hunting together again to keep unwitting victims safe.

Now the trio has a whole new landscape to learn, trying to remain unseen as they stalk the leering men whose skin bursts forth into full fur when their prey has no more way to escape, the two girls donning mysterious red capes to entice the Fenris away from others and into the death trap of their hatchets and knives.

Silas insists that Rosie do something – just one thing – that’s not Fenris-related so she can keep her mind and soul together, so she tries an origami class. In the calm classroom, Rosie wonders if she’ll fight the Fenris forever, if she could have a future with Silas.

What is luring the other Fenris into territory not their own?
Can the three young people stop them?
Is there more to life than fighting away this darkness?

Told in alternating chapters by Rosie and Scarlett, Sisters Red brings an old fairytale into the here and now as the author’s home city is plagued by werewolves.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tempestuous, by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes (fiction) - blizzard, robbery, clique wars, corndogs

book cover of Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes published by Merit Press
Popular crowd versus geek teens,
Trapped together by a blizzard
With bad cellphone reception... and a robber!

It's Gossip Girl  and MacGyver woven into Shakespeare's play The Tempest as authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes throw the Bard's heroine Miranda Prospero into a winter-whipped shopping mall with Ariel as her corndog-cooking sidekick.

Check your local library or independent bookstore for this first book in the Twisted Lit series from new publisher Merit Press.

Kind of crazy, lots of fun! What other Shakespeare remixes do you know of?
**kmm

Book info: Tempestuous (Twisted Lit #1) / Kim Askew and Amy Helmes. Merit Press, 2012. [Kim's website]  [Amy's website]   [publisher site]   [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Trudging through the snow toward the mall, Miranda again laments the unfairness of her life. Forced to work at a corndog stand in the mall to pay back the finks who turned her tutoring-matchmaking service into a cheating scam, Daddy taking away her platinum charge cards, wearing this hideous uniform with the revolving-wienie hat… at least other teens working in the mall turn to her for advice in sticky situations.

Thank goodness perky co-worker Ariel also pulled this Saturday night shift at Hot Dog Kebob, so Miranda can throw her a surprise birthday party for her after closing. The petite home-schooled 17-year-old deserves the ice cream cake that Grady the security cop will pick up later. Maybe moody Caleb from the game store and gangly Chad from the sports store will come by, but no one has seen their pal Mike from collectibles tonight.

The news is forecasting blizzard conditions overnight so the food court supervisor leaves early; in fact, most customers are heading out, but the closing employees must stay to lock up. Too bad Miranda’s ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend didn’t go when they could – the mall doors are now completely blocked by snow! No one is getting home from here tonight and the mall cop has just discovered a burglary!

Suddenly shoppers and workers try to find the best places to stay for the night, praying that the power stays on and that the robber stays away. Miranda accidentally gets handcuffed to Caleb, someone stalls the elevator with a panicked teen inside, and boredom threatens to become chaos if something exciting doesn’t happen soon. Finding another teen knocked out cold by the robber wasn’t in the plan!

How long are the rival factions of teens going to be trapped in the mall?

Will Caleb’s impromptu concert keep things from getting crazy?
Can Grady trap the robber before someone else gets hurt?
How can Miranda get out of these handcuffs and get to the bathroom?

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this first book in the Twisted Lit series has more wild and crazy twists than Miranda ever dreamed of, with quotes from the play as chapter headings to add to the fun. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Also Known As, by Robin Benway (fiction)

book cover of Also Known As by Robin Benway published by Walker Books
Diagram of safe's location in apartment? Check.
Plan for entry into said apartment? Check.
Keeping emotional distance from unwitting accomplice? Uh-oh.

Imagine being a 17-year-old lifelong spy! A natural-born safecracker, helping her secret agent parents keep the world safe from evil, Maggie discovers that falling in love on her first solo case could put their whole organization in danger.

Head for your local library or independent bookstore today to jump right into the action with Maggie, wild-child Roux, and handsome Jesse against the bad guys.

Any spycraft skills in your educational future?
**kmm

Book info: Also Known As / Robin Benway. Walker Books, 2013.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Maggie is bored by the usual assignments, but having to go to high school for the first time? This could be the teenage spy’s toughest job yet!

She and her parents work undercover for the Collective, stopping human trafficking and stifling illegal weapons sales through their unique talents for language decoding, computer hacking, and safe-cracking – Maggie’s special gift. A dozen passports with a dozen names and too many moves during her lifetime to count… at least Angelo, the world’s best forger and friend, is always by the family’s side, discreetly, of course.

When they received the call to keep a New York City magazine publisher from running a story about the Collective (with names, aliases, and lots of photos), it falls to the 17-year-old to get the goods through his teenage son Jesse at the posh private high school. And she has to wear a uniform?!

These privileged teens have known one another forever, so being the new kid means being an outsider - almost as much an outsider as Roux, who alienated the whole school last year with her bad behavior. Of course, it’s Roux who takes Maggie under her wing, convinces her to ditch school once in a while, and manages to get them into Jesse’s penthouse during a party.

When the thumbdrive that Maggie liberates from Mr. Oliver’s home office safe doesn’t contain the article notes after all, she has to get closer to Jesse to figure out where the volatile materials could be.

She didn’t count on falling for Jesse himself, or Jesse falling for her, or Roux spilling the beans about their first date, or possibly being pulled off the case and losing them both forever!

How long can she keep Jesse in the dark about why she met him?
Can she find the article documents before it’s too late?
Will her first kiss be her only kiss?

Racing through the streets of Manhattan, avoiding the evil eye in the school halls, trying to imagine how her life will be when this assignment ends – Maggie finds action and adventure and a little romance in this debut novel. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fellowship For Alien Detection, by Kevin Emerson (fiction) - strange memories, time rewind,

book cover of Fellowship For Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson published by Walden Pond Press
Voices in his head.
Time losses that catch her eye.
It really is aliens this time!

It's easy to identify with Dodger's sense of never fitting in or with Haley's alternating affection and annoyance with her family, but entire towns experiencing 16 minutes of missing time? People vanished from each place? Radio transmissions from a town not shown on any map?

Somehow, this is not the summer vacation that Dodger or Haley envisioned... and the extraterrestrials are trying to make them disappearance statistics, too!

Published in late February 2013, Kevin Emerson's The Fellowship for Alien Detection  is a bit more light-hearted than his Atlanteans series (see my review of The Lost Code  here), but the perils for Dodger and Haley are very real.

Any "missing time experiences" in your life?
 **kmm

Book info: Fellowship for Alien Detection / Kevin Emerson. Walden Pond Press, 2013.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  Awarded money for a short summer trip to investigate their theories of aliens on Earth, two young teens find more adventure than they anticipated and more danger than they could have imagined during their search for missing people and a vanished town.

Haley follows obscure news online that might lead to a reporting breakthrough; that’s how she uncovered “missing time episodes” experienced by people in several towns and knows each place has missing persons now. She’s going to interview folks in those missing-time towns - if she can just get Dad to stick to the travel plan instead of trying to see every oddball attraction on their route west from Connecticut.

The radio station that unpredictably plays in Dodger’s head is from Juliette, Arizona (which is not on any maps) and from a different day and year than now. He’s always felt different, unsettled – and it’s gotten worse as the radio broadcasts started this year. His dad looks at him like Dodger is a disappointment – the trip from Seattle to Roswell, New Mexico is going to be mighty long if Dad has as little to say to him as usual.

Debit cards from the Foundation in hand, the two families depart from opposite coasts on their fellowship journeys. But soon Haley’s investigations are noticed by United Consolidated Amalgamations which owns old mines near every missing-time town, and Dodger becomes a transmitting loudspeaker for the Juliette radio station during the gathering at Bend.

The two fellowship winners aren’t the only folks who have made the connection between UCA mines and missing-time or who have heard KJPR from Juliette, but they’re the only ones who are tracking down the clues step by step – the falling star dream in missing-time towns, the significance of the 16-minute time loss, the radio transmissions from one April day years ago. And the extraterrestrials are tracking down them and their families!

If Juliette is a real place, why isn’t it on the map?
Why does that same day play over and over on KJPR?
Can Dodger and Haley join forces before it’s too late?

This summer before starting high school may be the start of something big…or the end of Earth as we know it!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bruised, by Sarah Skilton (fiction) - trained to defend, frozen when it counts most

book cover of Bruised by Sarah Skilton published by Amulet
She's a black belt.
She's practiced and sparred and competed.
She freezes when true danger strikes.

The journey to black belt in Tae Kwon Do or any martial art is long and rigorous, but under controlled conditions with traditions and rules to follow.

Imogen mentally punishes herself for not springing into action when the gunman attacks - can she fight through survivor's guilt to become a young woman of action and purpose again?

Just published this week, Bruised  follows Imo as she tries to rebuild her life to include Ricky's love and fill the void left by Shelley's departure for dance school and her own absence from Grandmaster Huan's dojang.

How would you react when a situation bursts into violence?
**kmm

Book info: Bruised / Sarah Skilton. Amulet Books, 2013. [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: As the youngest female to earn a black belt at the dojang, Imogen was sure she could handle any attack. But the gunman at the diner proved her wrong, undid her whole life’s work as a defender of the helpless. How can she get past the blood-drenched scene when her mind has built a wall around the robbery gone wrong?


Tae Kwon Do is what she does, what she is, but she just froze at the diner, didn’t stop the robber before he pistol-whipped the cashier. She can remember hiding under a table, can remember the teen guy crouching under the next table, his new white shoes that became gory red and were taken as evidence, just like her bloodstained jeans. Gretchen called 911 from the bathroom, was smart enough to stay put – but Imogen should have been able to stop the situation before the guy was shot when he wouldn’t surrender.

She just can’t process what went wrong there. Can’t talk to former best friend Shelley who decided to hook up with her big brother at Imogen’s own birthday party, can’t pay attention in school, except during counseling sessions with Ricky, the guy from the diner whose shoes became bloody evidence. Her heart seems to be a lump in her chest now.

Being teased leads to a fight at school, to being asked by Grandmaster Huan not to return to the dojang until she can regain her emotional balance by truly living the ‘child rules’ at the foundation of Tae Kwon Do – respecting her parents (including her dad who let his diabetes put him in a wheelchair) and doing all her homework without being asked.

Who is Imogen without her time revolving around learning and teaching at the dojang?
How can Ricky like her or respect her when she failed to stop a death?
Why can’t she remember what happened between crouching under the table and being blood-soaked in the police car?

A compelling story of expectations versus reality, Imogen’s heart and psyche are so Bruised that moving on with life will take more courage than any Tae Kwon Do belt test she ever tried.
(One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dark Unwinding, by Sharon Cameron (fiction) - invention, espionage, affection

Book cover of The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron published by Scholastic
Clever clockwork devices,
A hidden town,
A special man with a child's heart,
A spy and traitor plotting destruction...

Is it any wonder that Mr. Babcock used Uncle Tully's money to rescue working families from the poorhouses and create a unique village to fill all the estate's needs? Or that agents from enemy countries would try to steal Uncle Tully's work to use against England? Or that Katharine might finally find love?

The author promises us a sequel in fall 2013, so visit Stranwyne Keep yourself soon - and watch out for Aunt Alice's sharp tongue!
 **kmm

Book info: The Dark Unwinding / Sharon Cameron. Scholastic Press, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: It seems that Uncle is squandering away the family fortune, so it falls to Katharine to quietly visit the old man and gather enough evidence to have him declared insane. As “the poor relative”, the young lady has no choice but to make the long carriage journey to Stranwyne Keep, and a mysteriously strange place she finds it indeed.

A drowsy housekeeper, a mute young boy, a belligerent apprentice named Lane – that’s the entire staff for this huge English manor house? Mrs. Jeffries recognizes Katharine as Mr. Simon’s orphan daughter and avers that cousin Robert’s scheming mother must have sent her here to uproot Mr. Tully.

Where is all the money going if Uncle doesn’t throw lavish parties or buy fine horses? In his workshop across the moors, childlike genius Uncle Tully creates precise inventions in miniature with Lane’s assistance and keeps an unvarying personal timetable. Automatons, clockwork creations, part science, part magic, all Uncle Tully.

The family solicitor enlightens Katharine about how this estate is run – and how an entire village supports Uncle Tully’s projects as the estate supports its hundreds of workers rescued from London’s poorhouses! No wonder there is less money in the accounts than before… yet Mr. Babcock assures her that these projects will rebuild the fortune soon.

Katharine becomes convinced that some of her uncle’s entertaining inventions are very practical (others quite dangerous and alarming) as her fondness for this very special person grows, so she decides to support him in defiance of her aunt’s wishes, endangering her own chances of a safer financial future.

But all is not well in this idyllic setting, as strange noises taunt Katharine in the manor, Lane warns her about upsetting her uncle, a visiting student of mechanics begins to court her, people disappear from one location and reappear far away, and the villagers turn against her in defense of their dear Mr. Tully.

Who can she trust now - Lane? Mr. Babcock? Her maid and friend from the village?
What’s causing those eerie noises and her new nightmares?
Is someone really planning to steal inventions from Uncle Tully’s workshop?

A mystery and a Victorian family drama rolled into one, this Dark Unwinding twists and turns as Uncle Tully’s inventions tick-tock along, and a villain seeks to use them for nefarious purposes. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles De Lint (fiction) - saved and condemned, quest to make things right again

book cover of Cats of Tanglewood Forest by Charles De Lint published by Little Brown
The forest cats did what they could.
Is it so wrong to wish death away?
Lillian so wants to be a human girl again, but the consequences...

Trying to follow the instructions of Old Mother Possum, meeting up with the Bear People, Lillian only wants to make things right, even if she cannot undo everything that the cats' magic set in motion.

An excerpt posted by Tor here gives you the flavor of Lillian's story in this lyrical tale, much expanded from De Lint's 2003 "Circle of Cats" 44-page novella also featuring illustrations by Vess.
.
This most-magical book is being released tomorrow (March 5, 2013), so ask for it at your local library or independent bookstore.

Indeed, is is so wrong to wish death away?
**kmm

Book info: The Cats of Tanglewood Forest / Charles De Lint; illustrated by Charles Vess. Little Brown, 2013.  [author's website]   [publisher site[illustrator's website]

My Recommendation: It was the cats who decided to save Lillian. She just wanted to say hello to the fairies, but here she lies, dying of snakebite. Changed by their magic from a dying girl into a live kitten, Lillian can’t comfort her aunt or the neighbors who search the old woods. She must find out how to turn back into herself… and then how to make right the consequences of her choice.

These forest cats know that their magic might anger the Father of All Cats, that great black puma who stalks these ancient woods, who prowls in dark dreams. But they just couldn’t let the girl die, not after she’s been so generous with milk for them and respectful of the Apple Tree Man.

Lillian-kitten sets out to find Old Mother Possum, who might help her turn back into girl-Lillian. Accompanied by T.H. Fox (his mother named him Truthful and Handsome), she makes the long journey, despite his warnings that the part-witch-part-someone may not choose a solution that’s easy or simple.

Oh, turning back one death puts it onto another! Now Lillian has a bigger problem to solve and consults the wise woman at the Kickaha reservation nearby. Aunt Nancy sees only one path and not an easy one, as this problem is so big that Lillian must ask a difficult favor of the fearsome Bear People, no matter what the personal cost.

Does young Lillian have the courage to walk alone into the Bears’ den?
Why do the cats of the forest keep watching her?
Is love enough to turn away death?

Originally a very short picture book, The Cats of Tanglewood Forest brings even more depth to Lillian’s journey as she searches for a way to make things right again in her world, despite the danger to herself. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Rocketing through the TBR2012 Challenge (reflective) - February update

mock pulp magazine cover Amazing Wonder Stories BooksYALove from 2012 created at webomator
With February being the shortest month, I had fewer TBR2012 Challenge titles on BooksYALove than in January (as listed here), but I am moving on through my to-be-reviewed stack at a fairly decent pace.

Check out a few recent titles that you might have missed:

Fantasy:
Down the Mysterly River  - Bill Willingham
Something Red  - Douglas Nicholas
The Treachery of Beautiful Things  - Ruth Frances Long

Graphic Novel:
Peanut  - Ayun Halliday, art by Paul Hoppe

Paranormal:
Dangerous Boy  - Mandy Hubbard
Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator  - Jill Baguchinsky

Sci-fi/thriller:
AlteredJennifer Rush
A Girl Named Digit  - Annabel Monaghan
Safekeeping  - Karen Hesse

So far in 2013, I've recommended 22 of my old-year titles for y'all  (and no spoilers) - hurry to your library or bookstore to get some today.
**kmm

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Something Red, by Douglas Nicholas (fiction) - white winter journey, red beast of death prowling

book cover of Something Red by Douglas Nicholas published by Atria
If only they can make the coast before winter,
If only they can get through the pass before snowfall,
If only they can escape this winter hell with their lives.

Dangers on all sides as Molly's pieced-together family survives the treacherous pass (thanks to warrior monks!), but must reach the inn and the castle on their own. A deadly dangerous something is magically shielding itself from even  Nemain's fey perception and is waiting...

Fantasy, fear, mythology, a desperate trudge through snow and snow as Something Red,  something evil stalks the travelers.

Can you spy it just there, out of the corner of your eye, as Hob does?
**kmm

Book info: Something Red / Douglas Nicholas. Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2012. [author interview] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Just out of sight, danger stalks them along the remote forest roads. Dame Molly, her niece Nemain, mysterious Jack, and the orphan Hob push their ox-drawn wagons fast as they dare, hoping to escape the oncoming snows. But when an attacker is snowed-in with them, their castle safe haven becomes a death house.

This is Hob’s first journey through the Pennines since Irish healer Molly adopted the young teen from the priest in his small north English village. Bandits regularly rob and kill travelers on these mountain byways, despite armed escorts by St. Germaine’s monks, veterans of the Crusades. Molly and burly Jack are on high alert, for something is trailing them on this steep road, hiding among the dense trees, its night-call darkening their souls.

From the monastery-guarded mountain pass to the double-walled palisade of Osbert’s Inn, patrolled by a dozen vicious mastiffs, they hear tales of recent tragedies and join forces with pilgrims to travel together to Sir Jehan’s castle before the road is closed by snow.

The caravan is ambushed as snow falls harder still. Molly and Nemain of the old religion try to interpret the omens appearing in the blizzard’s shadows. Even within the castle stronghold, they will not be safe, it seems, for the relentless evil being stalking them along the road has arrived there, too.

How did the death-bringer pass through prayers and countercharms around the castle?
Can massive warrior Jack protect those he claims now as family?
Why has this dreadful evil chosen them for its prey?

Wooden-wheeled oxcart, the traveler and the knight, mysterious forces consulted by Molly and Nemain, the high-born and the low, all spring forth in the intricate tapestry woven by poet Douglas Nicholas’first novel recounting this inexorable hunt by a hidden enemy. (Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dangerous Boy, by Mandy Hubbard (fiction) - good girl, daredevil boyfriend, dangerous twin

book cover of Dangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard published by Razorbill
New guy in the small-town high school.
Handsome, rich, daring.
Falling for everyday girl Harper?
Swept off her feet, toward danger.

Logan wants a fresh start to his life after the difficulties he and his brother had in their hometown. Harper's life after her mom's death had gotten quieter and quieter. Boom! Romance like a whirlwind, eerie vandalism, brother Daemon mocking Harper's affection for Logan.

If you sense a whiff of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (read it free at Project Gutenberg here), you've found one inspiration for author Mandy Hubbard's fast-moving story of Harper's hope for happiness and the too-real peril she faces.

Grab this one today at your local library or independent bookstore but do watch for strange happenings in your neighborhood, won't you?
**kmm

Book info: Dangerous Boy / Mandy Hubbard. Razorbill, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: When handsome Logan Townsend moves to her small town, Harper is intrigued. When he asks her out, she’s amazed and delighted. When his twin brother threatens her, she doesn’t know what to think.  But if she merely thinks instead of acting, it might just be too late.

Living in the old Carson mansion with their uncle way out on the river road must be boring for Daemon, who’s doing school online instead of at Enumclaw High with his twin brother. He never comes along with Logan and Harper as they go to a Halloween haunted corn maze with friends or riding four-wheelers. Logan says that Daemon messed up relationships for him at their old school, so it’s better that he doesn’t want to be with their group anyway.

Bloody cow bones showing up in rural mailboxes, red handprints on every car in the school parking lot, stop signs stolen – this new rash of vandalism is getting dangerous.

Harper has never really liked doing dangerous things, but after her mother’s death, her own father is like a ghost, going through the motions at their farm, without enough energy to warn her against trying reckless things that Logan loves to do. That four-wheeler rollover when a wheel fell off was just an accident, right?

Wondering what Daemon did at the twins’ former school to make them leave that town, Harper does some checking on Facebook and the newspaper, but comes up with more questions than answers.

Why isn’t Logan tagged in any pictures with his former classmates?
What did Daemon do that was hushed up so quickly in the media?
Why does his twin want Harper to stay away from the creaking house that he shares with Logan?

Echoes of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde drift through this spooky tale, with a young woman’s safety and sanity depending on her reactions to the dangers she uncovers.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Down the Mysterly River, by Bill Willingham (fiction) - talking animals, deadly swords - quest, villains, friendship, memory

book cover of Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham published by Starscape
An unfamiliar forest.
Talking animals.
A swordsman attacking to kill.
Not your average Boy Scout camping trip...

Max "the Wolf" has constantly improved his woodcraft skills as a Boy Scout and is a detective at heart, so he and his new companions watch for clues as they travel together in search of answers - and try to stay ahead of the vicious Blue Cutters.

For his first novel for younger readers, Willingham taps the illustrating skills of his Fables  graphic novel series collaborator Mark Buckingham for the masterful sketches of each character, from Banderbrock the badger, Walden the black bear, and McTavish the Monster (or perhaps a cat) to their evil pursuers with swords.

Find this mystery/quest/friendship tale today in hardcover or paperback at your local library or independent bookstore. For a jump into the Fables universe, try  Willingham's Peter & Max  novel which I reviewed here.

I do wonder what the animals in our lives would say to us if we could understand them talking...
**kmm

Book info: Down the Mysterly River / Bill Willingham; art by Mark Buckingham. Starscape, hardcover 2011, paperback 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [audio interview]  

My Recommendation: Max is lost in an unfamiliar forest, being chased by swordsmen who’d rather kill than talk, meeting up with talking animals – this has never happened to the top-notch Boy Scout before!

Using his woodcraft skills and powers of deduction (the young teen is a detective at heart), Max “the Wolf” decides to head downstream to find a town (and perhaps his memory). Along the way, he encounters Banderbrock the badger, who likewise is perplexed about being in this unknown forest, but remembers many tales of his daring and brave ancestors.

Dodging the Blue Cutter swordsmen who pursue all trespassers in this forest, Max and Banderbrock join forces with the black bear Walden, formerly sheriff in a quiet settlement in another forest, and McTavish the Monster, who looks very much like a battle-scarred tomcat to Max. All can understand one another perfectly, but their memories of time before this forest have unexplainable gaps.

Chased down the Mysterly River (as Walden named it) by the Blue Cutters and their hunting hounds, the friends try to find Prince Aspen (who is said to know many secrets) or anyone else who could help them escape to safety.

For the Blue Cutters remove everything unique about new arrivals in this forest – and what could be more unique than speech in animals or a Boy Scout with no troop nearby…

Why did the boy, badger, bear, and cat all arrive here at the same time?
Can the quartet avoid the Blue Cutters’ vicious blades?
What will they discover at the end of the Mysterly River?

An epic tale with an unexpected twist from Fables graphic novel writer, Bill Willingham, who undoubtedly enjoyed adventurous stories around the campfire as a Scout. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Treachery of Beautiful Things, by Ruth Frances Long (fiction) - supernatural music, dark longings

book cover of Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long published by Dial
The forest swallowed him.
Jenny watched it, couldn't stop it.
Now it wants her, too.

Hoping for closure, Jenny returns to the woods where her big brother disappeared seven years ago... seven long years of psychotherapy, anxiety medications, and anguish.

Who would think that the beings of fairy tales and legend still lived inside that wood? Shielding themselves from the eyes of city folk, preparing to take back their ancient sites overrun by technology?

Heartbreak and hope, legend and loss, king and queen, monster and lover - dare to enter the Realm and discover for yourself in this mesmerizing debut YA novel by Irish author Ruth Frances Long.
**kmm

Book info: The Treachery of Beautiful Things / Ruth Frances Long. Dial Books, 2012. [author's website]  [book Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Tom was swallowed up by the woods when she was a young girl, her older brother snatched from her 7 years ago in front of her very eyes. Jenny returns to Burnam Copse for a final good-bye and hears his unmistakable flute music – and is drawn into the ancient Realm, in the midst of her modern British city!

Attacked by fairies, rescued by a leaf-clad man named Jack, going farther and farther into the green mossy wood that’s immensely larger than the small grove she entered, Jenny is bewildered and exhausted and lost. Will her parents think that she’s been kidnapped, too?

She asks again and again about the flute music she heard, learns that the Piper is in thrall to Queen Titania (once called Mab), meets a faun named Puck, and is nearly caught by the Wild Hunt.

Jenny travels with difficulty to the Palace where she discovers that Tom is the Piper – and that he has no memory of life outside the Realm. Her power to see through illusion makes the teen dangerous to many, coveted by others, and a threat to the power-hungry Queen.

Can Jenny find the key to restoring Tom’s memory in time?
Can she escape from the Realm?
Can she leave behind her feelings for Jack if she goes?

Soon Jenny’s resolve and skill will be tested to the limits as a power shift in the Realm threatens the outside world of mortals – and her actions will decide the fate of both worlds. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator, by Jill Baguchinsky (fiction) - vengeful ghosts in the locker room, mystery mansion calling

book cover of Spookygirl Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky published by Dutton
Able to see ghosts? All the time.
Talk to spirits? Piece of cake.
See her own mom's ghost? Not a chance...

Violet's aunt thinks her gift is unclean, her dad wonders if she's talked to the ghost of her mom (but doesn't dare ask), and the ghosts in the area just want to chat.

This debut novel won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2011, and Dutton Books' editorial staff brought it out in hardback in 2012. Check it out at your local library or independent bookstore now, and see what the ghosts in Violet's town are gossiping about!

Whose ghost would you like to have a conversation with?
**kmm

Book info: Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator / Jill Baguchinsky. Dutton Books, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site

My Recommendation: Vengeful spirits in the girls’ locker room, boring school uniforms, and strange rumors running ahead of her… Violet would much rather stay in the apartment above Dad’s funeral home with Buster the ghost, but unfortunately high school is still mandatory.

Ghosts always talk to her, just like they talked to her mom. It’s been ten years since Mom died during a paranormal investigation with her dad, but Violet has never seen her ghost. Some online sleuthing leads Violet to another researcher from her parents’ past expeditions, but the now-semi-respectable psychic tries to convince her to stay away from Mom’s last place on earth.

A dead football player is hanging around Palmetto High’s art room, there’s a possible hell-portal in the girls’ shower, and one of the goth kids claims he’s half-vampire. Senior citizen ghosts (Florida is full of them) help Violet stage a memorable Halloween séance in the cemetery to “scare straight” some kids who want to dabble in the dark arts, but even they warn her to stay far away from the creepy deserted estate where her mother died.

It’s up to Violet to use her psychic gifts to clear up all this, so her new not-so-goth friends help her get ready to visit the estate, and maybe hear from Mom one last time (surely she wouldn’t head to the Beyond without saying goodbye?), but things go bad in a heartbeat.

What can they do to placate the angry attacking poltergeist?
Can Violet ever reconnect with her mother’s ghost?
Are the friends going to make it out of there alive?

Spookygirl, scary fun, terrifying investigations!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.