Who’s Ju? by Dania Ramos (book review) – family secrets & middle school drama

book cover of Who's Ju? by Dania Ramos published by Northampton HouseVandalism in the theater props?
Call in the 7th Grade Sleuths!
Time to update your image?
Let a fashionista help!
Unlock a family mystery?
Hmmm….

Justina (pronounced HoosTEEnah) is intrigued by the school drama queen’s request that the Sleuths find out who carved her name on the backstage scenery (although fellow Sleuth and best friend Ig isn’t so charmed).

The 7th grade genetics research project requires family interviews to “discover” your personal DNA… maybe the mystery of Ju’s frizzy blond hair and hazel eyes among the dark browns of her Puerto Rican family can be solved! So who is Ju??

Enjoy this first book in the 7th Grade Sleuths series for Multicultural Children’s Book Day or any day – there’s much more to this Blueprint of Life Project than Ju expects.
**kmm

Book info: Who’s Ju? (7th Grade Sleuths, book 1) / Dania Ramos. Northampton House Publishing, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy from the author for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When blond middle schooler Ju finds a mysterious letter while researching her personal DNA project for school, she hopes to fit into her Puerto Rican family better, but the amateur investigator discovers questions far bigger than the 7th Grade Sleuths’ current drama club vandalism case.

Sara’s name is carved into drama club scenery, so the young actress asks Justina, Ig, and Gunther to find out who did it – before the theater teacher does.

As the Sleuths check on suspects and alibis during school hours, Ju tries to interview her parents for the Blueprint of Life Project (major science grade), but they evade her questions. Searching family keepsakes in the attic, Ju locates a photo of herself that she’s never seen and some strange correspondence.

Ju tries dyeing her hair brown to match her parents and sister, then allows stylish Sara to update her wardrobe (goodbye, funky handmade sweaters from Mami and Auntie’s craft shop) and hair (hello, flatiron) to fit in at school.

Will Mami and Papi finally answer her questions about the letter and photo?
Will little sister Delilah ever stop pestering her?
Will best friend Ig finally start talking to the new Ju?

Family mystery and school drama keep Ju most busy in this first book of the 7th Grade Sleuths series. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Literacy = a lifelong gift on #givingTuesday & every day

If you’re reading this blog post, you’re part of the literate majority, those who can navigate the modern world and all its written commands, warnings, and enjoyments.

But too many adults, worldwide and in the USA, cannot read or read well enough to fill out employment applications, understand official notices, or help their own children with homework.

On #GivingTuesday, or any day, you can donate to many worthy causes, including those working to reduce illiteracy and increase literacy. I’m a big fan of First Book (FirstBook.org) and Reading Is Fundamental (www.rif.org), which get books into kids’ hands so they can become better readers for life.

The fine folks at Grammarly made this infographic on global literacy and the impacts of illiteracy:
Global Literacy Infographic

Please support literacy causes locally and globally by volunteering or donating – literacy is for everyone, forever.
**kmm

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Indie bookstores for Small Business Saturday & every day!

Small Business Saturday image, borrowed from ModernSalon.com

image borrowed from ModernSalon.com

It’s Saturday,
Small Business Saturday,
buy books from small business day!

You’ve seen the numbers – dollars spent at local businesses recirculate in your community much more than what goes into chain-stores’ coffers. While Small Business Saturday was started by a credit card company, it’s a great reminder of the wonderful resources in own neighborhoods and towns.

Our independent booksellers are near and dear to my heart, as they curate collections of local interest, find just the right book for that just-right gift, and bring in authors/illustrators to speak, meet, and mingle with avid fans and soon-to-be enthusiasts.

And, of course, they choose books beyond the bestsellers mass-marketed by the big-box stores – like the titles I recommend here!

Search for your local indie bookstore at IndieBound here: http://www.indiebound.org/indie-store-finder

So how can you #shopsmall if you don’t have an indie bookstore in your town?  Most indies will ship to you gladly. Two of my favorites are Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon (powells.com) and Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC (www.quailridgebooks.com) – please note, these are not affiliate links, just pointers for your convenience.

Check independent bookstores for autographed editions, wishlist-building, special sales, and shipping deals for the holidays – and year-round. And if you ever need ideas on books to buy, you know that you’ll find them here!

Happy book-buying and happy reading – what’s on your book wishlist?
**kmm

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How to Be Brave, by E. Katherine Kottaras (book review) – live large is mom’s last request

book cover of How to Be Brave by E Katherine Kottaras published by St Martin Griffin Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.comA challenge from her late mom,
a best friend willing to do anything,
a chance for an epic senior year… and maybe love.

Meet Georgia (and snarky best pal Liss) in this excerpt, courtesy of the publisher – check out her Do Everything Be Brave List, then get the whole story of how she tackles the list, copes with heartbreak, and struggles with body image.

This isn’t one of those “my mom died and I will mope through life until someone else makes it worthwhile” stories. Georgia creates her own ups (and downs), although Liss and Evelyn are with her for many things.

I loved the way that Georgia would reframe negatives into possibilities (although not always with ease) and the winding routes that her thoughts took as time passed, too.

Don’t miss the interactive book trailer so you can help Georgia ‘be brave’ – http://howtobebravebook.com/

What’s on your Do Awesome Stuff list?
**kmm

Book info: How to Be Brave / E. Katherine Kottaras.  St. Martins Press/ Griffin Teen, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  [interactive book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Inspired by her late mother’s letter, Georgia makes a list of daring things to do during her senior year, little realizing how much she and her friendships and her dreams will change along the way.

Her Greek-American father tries to keep their Chicago restaurant going despite his grief, and Georgia tries to break out of her shell by following Mom’s advice to “go do anything you like – in fact, do everything” with an I Want to Live Life list – including jump out of a plane, cut class (no, she never has), learn how to draw like Mom, ask him out…

So she and best friend Liss and new pal Evelyn start in the middle of the list and work their way around to tribal dancing (and maybe Georgia will ask Daniel out, some time).

But one ill-timed party fractures their friendship, and senior year’s zip turns to blah.

Is it worth doing the adventures on her list alone?
Can she ever get Liss back on her side?
Will she be brave enough to leave behind her mom’s artistic style?

Change is scary, but staying the same on-the-sidelines-of-life chubby girl is not an option for Georgia after Mom’s last request entreating her to learn How to Be Brave.
(One of 8,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Temple of Doubt, by Anne Boles Levy (book review) – truth too strong for doubter priests

book cover of The Temple of Doubt by Anne Boles Levy published by Sky Pony Press | recommended on BooksYALove.comOnly the Temple spells can heal,
medicines are forbidden –
what can a young herbalist do?
Well, save the world, for starters…

Hadara’s questioning nature is constantly tested in a world where only the god Nihil is allowed to doubt, especially when its priests force her to help them search for a fallen star that they claim is evil.

Grab this recent release at your local library or favorite independent bookstore and travel to a world where being uncertain can be deadly.

Doubts… what’s your strongest?
**kmm

Book info: The Temple of Doubt / Anne Boles Levy. Sky Pony Press, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: On a world where doubt is a god’s privilege alone, a less-than-devout teen helps the priests search for a fallen star and is caught up in a tangle of faith and politics that endangers her family and her own sanity.

Hadara resents the priests of Nihil, ever ready to punish her family for herb-gathering instead of relying on the capricious god of doubt to heal through unreliable spell-casting.

When a star falls from the sky and Azwan high priests from the far-off capital need her help to navigate the Wild, the teen and her mother must obey. Hadara’s reaction to one of their soldiers is unexpected, as is the sudden contact by the Gek people of the Wild and the mysterious illness now sweeping through Port Sapphire.

Was it a only falling star or something far more deadly?
Can Hadara keep her healing secrets from the Azwans?
Can she keep the Azwans’ spells away from her family?

Learning her grandparents’ long-hidden legacy, watching the foreordained path of life in her remote town veer wildly off-course, Hadara must hold true to her own beliefs in the face of authority and try to survive until her own birthday. First in a series. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Meow meets wow in photos – Men & Cats, by Marie-Eva Gatuingt and Alice Chaygneaud

book cover of Men & Cats by Marie-Eva Gatuingt and Alice Chaygneaud published by Perigee | recommended on BooksYALove.comIf kitty pix make you go “Awwww” and photos of gorgeous guys make you go “Rawr!” then this is your book!

Add it to your favorite indie bookstore wishlist (search here for a great bookstore near you: http://indiebound.org) or just go buy it now as a gift for the person who appreciates cat cute and masculine musculature.

And, yes, the French photographers are adding more fellow and feline picture-pairs to their tumblr!

**kmm

Book info: Men & Cats /Marie-Eva Gatuingt and Alice Chaygneaud. Perigee Books, 2015.  [authors’ tumblr]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Photos of men and cats in matching poses prove that no words are needed to communicate the concepts of “cute plus captivating” as the creators of the wildly popular Des Hommes et des Chatons tumblr have created 50 new combos for this book.

Whether shirtlessly lounging in the sunshine or dually dapper in bowties, each pair of pix has a particular shared visual element (the one with blue eyes!).

Praying and yawning, serene and playful – enjoy men, enjoy cats, enjoy this preview of the book:

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Willful Machines, by Tim Floreen (book review) – big worries for First Son, first love

book cover of Willful Machines by Tim Floreen published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.comRogue robots,
attacks on America,
risky new love (trumps all the threats!)

Artificial intelligences gone self-aware are US government prisoners, or so AI-in-the-cloud Charlotte claims, as she directs terrorist robot attacks against their captors who are legislating flesh-and-blood as the only humans.

Intrigued by hot new student Nicolas, closeted Lee weighs following his heart against the daunting expectations of his presidential father and war-hero grandfather in this near-future adventure-love story.

What makes a being human?
**kmm

Book info: Willful Machines / Tim Floreen. Simon Pulse, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Constantly watched by bodyguards and dronecams, Lee completes his robotic creations and endures boarding school for future world leaders, until new student Nico steals his heart and a self-aware computer threatens world peace – what should US President’s teen son do now?

His mother killed by humanoid robot Charlotte that she helped to create and his father propelled to the Presidency by the resulting Human Values backlash, Lee can’t imagine what his war-hero grandfather/headmaster or dad would do if they discovered he was gay.

But so-hot Chilean transfer student Nico looses Lee’s tightly-boxed heart as they evade surveillance for stolen moments alone – until Lee’s clever robots turn against them, controlled by Charlotte who demands release of imprisoned 2B humanoids.

Can Lee really trust Nico?
Is Charlotte acting alone?
Just how different are humans and self-aware machines?

At the gothic elite school built atop a waterfall, secrets long-buried threaten not only Lee and Nico’s happiness, but humankind’s role on earth in the not-so-distant future.

 

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Wolf Wilder, by Katherine Rundell (book review) – wolves, friends, revolution!

book cover of The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.comThe snow-laden landscape speaks,
the wolves howl in delight or despair,
a girl and her mother understand them all…

Re-wilding a wolf after its failure to be a calm good-luck charm in an aristocratic household is what Marina and Feo do, but the local commander puts more value on the Tsar’s elk than on any human life.

Arrest, prison, execution – Feo must rescue her mother, accompanied by a very young Russian soldier who’d rather be a dancer and the three wild wolves whose range includes her remote home in the snowiest woods.

“Black had eaten three toes, which, technically, had belonged to an English lord. Her wolves, Feo thought, were a bunch of the most beautiful criminals.” (p. 18)

I usually donate my review copies to school libraries, but I am keeping this one for myself!

Are you brave enough to fight injustice where you live?
**kmm

Book info:  The Wolf Wilder / Katherine Rundell. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015.  [author interview]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Preparing tamed wolves to live free again is Feo’s joy and job, but the general interpreting the Tsar’s wishes arrests her mother for their work, and it’s up to the girl and her wolf friends to rescue her in this lyrical tale of friendship and bravery.

Russian aristocrats believe that a wolf in the house brings good luck, but dare not kill one that won’t become a docile pet. So those wolves are sent to Marina and daughter Feo who help them become wild again.

General Rakov blames the wolf wilders for every wolf attack and arrests Marina when she continues the rehabilitation work that society demands.

Suddenly the young girl is left near their burning house with a newborn wolf pup, young teen Ilya who doesn’t want to be a soldier anymore, and three local wolves who consider Feo part of their pack.

Six days until Marina’s trial – can they travel fast enough in the winter storms?
Asking for help – can revolutionary Alexei rouse his village against harsh Rakov?
Finding a way into the walled city and prison – what will Black, White, and Gray do among so many humans?

This must-read story of friendship, love, and grit hides difficulties behind snow-covered trees, awakens compassion amid frosty hard times, and celebrates the best of loyalty against cruelty. (One of 8,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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750 Years in Paris, by Vincent Mahé (book review) – 1 city block seen over 8 centuries

book cover of 750 Years in Paris by Vincent Mahe published by NoBrow | reviewed on BooksYALove.com“If these walls could only talk…”
People change (or do they?) –
The City of Light remains, a beacon!

Noted magazine illustrator Mahé has distilled centuries of French history into this wordless graphic novel, detailing the changes in a single block of buildings through good times and bad from 1270 to recent times.

Ask for this October 2015 release at your local library or independent bookstore or favorite comics shop, and enjoy his full-length publishing debut with all its verve and humorous/tense details.

What changes have you seen in your own town’s buildings over the years?
**kmm

Book info: 750 Years in Paris / Vincent Mahé. Nobrow Books, 2015. [author’s Facebook page]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Buildings rise and fall, as history’s parade of changes affects a single street in Paris over the centuries, as seen by a French illustrator with an eye for fascinating details.

Vincent Mahé four-color palette ably depicts military victories and invasions, celebrates society’s modernizations, and portrays the City of Light’s evolution from dirt-street hamlet to vibrant metropolis, all from the perspective of one short city block’s buildings.

As its narrow lens helps readers focus on history’s broad sweep, 750 Years in Paris uses human-scale details to wordlessly convey the gradual or abrupt changes that this single location has seen since the 13th century.

A timeline at the end of the book notes each of the 60 time-snapshots portrayed and what memorable event merited their inclusion. Enjoyable for all readers of all ages – especially good for fans of history, graphic design, and hidden pictures! (One of 8,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Plotted, by Andrew DeGraff (book review) – mapping literary landscapes

book cover of Plotted by Andrew DeGraff published by Zest Books | http://BooksYALove.com reviewBefore and after of Robinson Crusoe‘s island,
Moby Dick and the ship chasing him,
Huckleberry Finn‘s meandering voyage down the Mississippi with Jim…

Happy book birthday this week to Plotted: A Literary Atlas!

I liked it so much that I almost posted this recommendation well before its publication date, but rescheduled so as not to whet your appetite for these uniquely visualized story-maps before you could actually acquire this fascinating book.

Enjoy literary maps of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol  and of Richard Adams’ Watership Down  in this free preview from the publisher, then go get this book to see all the intricately detailed maps, so evocative of each of the 19 books selected while using no quotations at all.

Do you create mental (or actual) maps as you read a book?
**kmm

Book info: Plotted: A Literary Atlas / art by Andrew DeGraff, essays by Daniel Harmon. Zest Books, 2015.  [artist’s site]  [publisher site]  [time-lapse artist’s video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Mental maps created by reading stories blossom into intricately designed maps on the page in this “literary atlas” covering 19 selections from ancient days to the present, as seen through one artist’s eyes.

Whether mapping the movements of selected characters (as in his panels for A Wrinkle in Time) or conveying a wider sense of the book’s narrative (like the Kafka story, “A Report to the Academy”), DeGraff includes numerous details from each work in his hand-painted maps.

Says the artist, “These are maps for people who seek to travel beyond the lives and places that they already know (or think they know). The goal here isn’t to become found, but only to become more lost. Like a poorly informed but over-confident urbanite, I seek to help you get more lost.” (Introduction)

Wander through Elsinore act by act with the many characters of Hamlet, travel the Mediterranean with Odysseus, and trace the complicated path of true love in Pride and Prejudice. Essays by Daniel Harmon accompany each nearly wordless map-set which brings fresh views of stories for readers to consider and appreciate.

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