P is pregnant & totally Screwed, by Laurie Plissner (book review) – abandonment & friendship

book cover of Screwed by Laurie Plissner published by Merit PressIf you loved me, you would…”
“No, it’s not my problem.”
“Do as we say, not as we say we believe.”

Grace still can’t believe that she’s pregnant (first time and with a condom… what luck), that her parents have disowned her for not aborting (their reputation is at stake), that the neighborly lady who rescued her is an heiress and Auschwitz survivor, or that sweet great-nephew Charlie thinks her one and only mistake is forgivable.

What other novels dealing with difficult decisions have you read lately?

Book info:  Screwed / Laurie Plissner. Merit Press, 2013. [author blog]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: After a one-night stand leaves shy Grace pregnant, disowned, and distraught, the unexpected kindness of a rich widow and her cute great-nephew give her hope.

Grace’s pregnancy could be a blessing for a childless couple, but her conservative parents kick her out of the house for not having an abortion.

Mrs. Teitelbaum opens her enormous home and  loving heart to Grace, ensuring that the 17 year old has good medical care and adoption counseling.

But how can Mrs. T’s great-nephew Charlie treat his new classmate Grace like a nice person after her terrible sin?

The healing comfort of friends who become family underpins this strong debut novel about hard decisions and consequences.


(One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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O is Ophelia in A Wounded Name, by Dot Hutchison (book review) – “Hamlet” in boarding school

book cover of A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison published by Carolrhoda LabSeeing ghosts,
hearing malevolent spirits,
trying to keep steady for Dane,
as his madness spirals down, down…

Newly-dead headmaster Hamlet will not stay in his grave, “the ghost that walks, that challenges, is the fury that murmurs through his son.” (p. 129)

Yes, we know how this story ends, but the journey to disaster is richly retold by Ophelia in this eerie 2013 version of Hamlet.

Find it today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore, and travel to Elsinore Academy, if you dare.


Book info: A Wounded Name: A Tragedy / Dot Hutchison. Carolrhoda Lab, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A mourning son, Hamlet’s rageful ghost, a widow remarried too quickly, the banshee songs tormenting motherless Ophelia – Elsinore Academy’s secrets will soon undo all under its roof.

The sudden death of Elsinore’s headmaster sends his son into deep depression; when the headmaster’s widow marries her brother-in-law hastily, Dane’s rage grows murderous.

Calls to end her worries by drowning, as her mother did, echo from the lake fae – if Ophelia takes the pills which block their siren song, how will she stay awake enough to show Dane the ghost of his father who demands revenge?

This lyrical retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet  brings all the tragedy’s characters together in a boarding school where deception and murder seem to be family tradition. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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N for Noggin, by John Corey Whaley (book review) – frozen 5 years, what’s new?

book cover of Noggin by John Corey Whaley published by Atheneum Books for Young ReadersTime stood still for him;
Five years passed while he slept…

Head transplants, lost love, and faltering friendships – well, not everything about the near future is different from today.

Travis really has to use his Noggin  to cope with all the changes in his friends, family, and world which happened while his head was in cryogenic storage.

Would you have yourself frozen in hopes that future medicine could save you?

Book info: Noggin / John Corey Whaley. Atheneum Books, 2014. [author site] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: His head frozen for five years, Travis awakens with another guy’s body, the same high school schedule, and big questions about his girlfriend, his best friend, and life-the-second-time-around.

The head-freezing thing was experimental, trying to save the sixteen year old when cancer ravaged his body. His family, friends and girlfriend are attempting to move on with their lives when – much sooner than anticipated – medical technology reattaches his head to a donor body .

Fan mail (and some hate mail) floods in – is he a medical miracle, a messiah, a devil?
Travis wakes up expecting Cate to be his girlfriend, but she’s at college now, engaged to someone else.

Trying to win back Cate’s affections, go back to normal kidding-around with Kyle, and get used to his taller donor body, Travis wonders how he’ll make the most of his second chance at life in this funny and emotional sci-fi book. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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M is Maile Meloy’s The Apprentices (book review) – chasing mystery around the world

book cover of The Apprentices by Maile Meloy published by GP Putnam This potion makes you a bird,
this one lets you enter another’s mind,
the apothecary of peace creates many powerful mixtures,
and evil persons want them all…

As the Cold War heats up, our friends Janie, Benjamin, and Pip must  travel the world to find one another and prevent the ancient secrets of the Apothecaries from becoming weapons!

Please do read the first book in the series, The Apothecary (my review here), before savoring The Apprentices in your choice of formats, including its June 2014 paperback edition.

Can peace prevail over the desire for power?

Book info: The Apprentices (Apothecary, book 2) / Maile Meloy; illustrations by Ian Schoenherr. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As Janie’s water desalination chemistry project succeeds in 1954, the teen knows that only her friend Benjamin can help her keep its true secrets from falling into the wrong hands.

Although halfway around the world, the friends can finally talk after 2 years of coded letters because Benjamin and his apothecary father have discovered an amazing instant communication method.

Janie realizes that the attack on her chemistry equipment and her expulsion from school were caused by her roommate’s greedy father who owns an island in Malaya.

Being kidnapped, flying in bird form between Pacific islands, eluding a cargo cult – Benjamin and Janie must prevail over terrible odds to prevent disaster in this exciting sequel to The Apothecary.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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L is Lucier’s tale of Spanish flu and fear: A Death-Struck Year (book review)

book cover of A Death Struck Year by Makiaa Lucier published by Houghton Mifflin HarcourtSwift, deadly, merciless,
striking the young and healthy first,
the “Spanish” influenza killed 3 times more people than World War I did in 1918.

When Jack taught younger sister Cleo to drive, he couldn’t have imagined that she would soon be traveling into Portland’s poorest neighborhoods, trying to stop the flu’s rapid spread with pamphlets and cotton face masks…

This fascinating story of a little-discussed major historical event shows us the pandemic’s impact on just one city, through Cleo’s eyes.

Where is the line between courage and foolhardiness?

Book info: A Death-Struck Year / Makiia Lucier. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014.   [author interview]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: In 1918, Cleo impulsively volunteers with the Red Cross and finds herself surrounded by the world’s deadliest disease.

The Spanish flu arrives in Oregon when her brother’s house is closed during his travels, but 17-year-old Cleo knows how to drive and won’t stay at boarding school another minute.

Volunteering to distribute face masks and information in Portland, she encounters homes where all have sickened and died in a day, brave nurses risking their lives to save others, and one particular young doctor wounded in the Great War and now fighting death on the home front.

As the flu strikes down more and more healthy young people, will Cleo survive? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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K for Korman & The Hypnotists: Hypnotize Me (book review) – mind control for good or for evil?

book cover of Hypnotize Me by Gordon Korman published by ScholasticThe power of irresistible persuasion,
multiplied by technology -
of course, villains want it!

Grab this fast-paced tale of mesmerism, a mysterious brain studies institute, and a seventh grade “mind-bender” trying to balance the greater good with his new-found powers at your local library or independent bookstore today.

Book 2 of the series, Memory Maze,  is due out in Summer 2014.

If you could hypnotize anyone to do anything, where would you draw the line?

Book info: Hypnotize Me (book 1 of The Hypnotists) / Gordon Korman. Scholastic Press, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The extraordinary mental powers of two family lines come together in a young teen sought by people who want to control his hypnotic skills for evil!

Jax just thought he was lucky, like being elected to Student Council by landslide write-in vote when he didn’t even campaign, but when he finds that he can change another’s actions by merely thinking it, he realizes that it’s something more.

So does the very respected Dr. Mako, who recruits Jax for training in hypnotism with other skilled teens at his  Sentia institute.

When Jax discovers that not all “mind-benders” agree with Dr. Mako, he wonders what the kids at Sentia are being trained to do.

Mysterious disappearances, nefarious plots, and the fate of the world spice up Jax’s seventh grade year in this first book of The Hypnotists series.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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J is just amazing – books & authors at Texas Library Association conference!

letter J of Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2014What happens when 7,200 librarians, authors, publishers, and library supporters get together?

It’s book heaven!

This year’s Texas Library Association conference in San Antonio has been filled with discussions about books, authors, reading, writing, and information in our lives.

I listened to Rae Carson and Melissa de la Cruz share what they must have in order to write their bestsellers and Deb Caletti and Elizabeth Eulberg talk about writing strong characters.

Tom Angleberger taught 200+ Nerdy Book Club members how to fold an emergency Origami Yoda and dramatically read aloud the instant haikus written by folks in this huge Twitter community which celebrates reading and books (@NerdyBookClub).

We celebrated 5 years of the TLA Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List, which includes several BooksYALove faves on the 2014 list (click link for my no-spoiler review of the title)  like Will & Whit,
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant,
Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry,
Boxers and Saints,
Little Fish, and

And I visited publishers large and small, seeking out the underappreciated gems in their recent and upcoming books. Lugging bags of advance reader copies back to your hotel is great exercise, you know!

The book world is just amazing! Get ready for some phenomenal reads in the months ahead!

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I is India – All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens, by Gloria Whelan (book review)

book cover of All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens by Gloria Whelan published by Simon Schuster Books for Young ReadersOppressed by outsiders,
India longs for independence,
Gandhi‘s eloquence speaks for millions.

In the 1920s, British young ladies like Rosy oughtn’t concern themselves with political matters, but she believes that her beloved India deserves freedom.

Even though All My Noble Dreams  is a sequel to Whelan’s 2011 Small Acts of Amazing Courage,  you’ll easily be able to follow Rosy’s journey without reading the first book.

Find this fictional look at a tumultuous historical era at your local library or independent bookstore in 2013 hardcover or the paperback edition published on April 1st.

When do you know that it’s time to stand up for what is right?

Book info:  All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens / Gloria Whelan. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013 (paperback 2014). [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Rosy thinks it most unfair that India is ruled by England, but even she is surprised at what she will risk in 1921 for its independence.

Her British Army officer father tolerates the teen’s volunteer teaching of Indian children, but forbids her listening to Gandhi’s speeches, insisting that these people cannot govern themselves.

Rosalind agrees to take a letter from the independence leaders to the Prince of Wales himself when he visits. Sneaking the Prince out of his hotel in disguise to see India beyond the jeweled ceremonies is her own idea…

How much can one British girl do to help the land she now loves?

This well-crafted sequel to Small Acts of Amazing Courage  takes readers into the years of India’s struggle for independence with vivid accuracy and great heart.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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H is Hansen’s literary mystery The Butterfly Sister (book review)

book cover of The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen published by William MorrowNotes in the book margin,
clues to a missing person
or invitation back into disaster?

Ruby’s precipitous flight from college during her final semester kept her from going insane. Was the problem how intensely she studied suicidal writers or was it the married professor who broke her heart?

The Butterfly Sister mystery widens when Ruby ventures back onto the college campus for clues about a missing classmate and learns that her own story of jilted love and near-madness is well-known…and is happening once again.

Is blocking out memories the best way to stay sane?

Book info:  The Butterfly Sister / Amy Gail Hansen.  William Morrow, 2013. [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a suitcase she borrowed once from a college friend arrives on her doorstep, Ruby tries to return it, but discovers that Beth has vanished. In the suitcase is a copy of A Room of One’s Own, with Beth’s cryptic notes, leading Ruby back to Tarble College for the first time since she fled during her senior year.

Studying women authors who drove themselves to suicide is a tricky business, Ruby had been warned, but her professor (handsome and married) was sure she could bring new light to the material. Instead, she had to escape from Tarble before she joined their sisterhood of madness and tragedy.

But why did Beth have that book in that suitcase, and where did she go?
What are the current Tarble professors trying to tell Ruby about their former colleague?
Will returning to the scene of her broken heart send Ruby into an emotional tailspin again?

Literature, love, mystery, and madness – follow The Butterfly Sister.

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G for Great, by Sara Benincasa (book review) – love, longing, and lies

book cover of Great by Sara Benincasa published by Harper TeenThwarted love,
desperate love,
lies, lies, obsession, and lies…

Glitz, glamor, and money only go so far in covering secrets which don’t want to stay hidden in this nowadays retelling of The Great Gatsby.

Just published today, look for Great  in your local library or favorite independent bookstore as you roller-coaster through one summer in the Hamptons.

What classics-retold have you read lately?

Book info:  Great / Sara Benincasa. Harper Teen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:  Naomi didn’t like summers with her baker/celebrity mom in the so-snobby Hamptons, but she never dreamed that the second-nature posing and lies of the rich teens there would move from foolish to fatal.

This summer began strangely enough when Naomi found herself helicoptering from NYC with the senator’s daughter Delilah, her boyfriend Teddy, and cute classmate Jeff. Then she discovered that mysterious Jacinta had leased the huge, fabulous house next door, planning extravagant parties which made teens clamor for invitations

Naomi did think it odd that Jacinta, whose exclusive teen fashion blog has a huge following, actually begged her for an introduction to Delilah, subject of the blogger’s fashion show photo spreads with much commentary.

Drinking and drugs, crazy driving and worse behavior – just another summer for these Hampton teens, until Teddy starts objecting to Delilah and Jacinta spending so much time together. Old secrets bubble to the surface, new secrets erupt with dire consequences, and Naomi wonders if any of them will make it to their senior year of high school unscathed.

A wry retelling of The Great Gatsby with social media, a foodie IPO, and fashion designer name-dropping thrown in for good measure. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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