Stronger Than You Know, by Jolene Perry (book review) – moving beyond abuse

book cover of Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry published by Walt Whitman TeenAway from her abusers at last,
trying to become normal…
but what is normal?

Held captive all her life by her own mother, cigarette burned and hurt by mom’s ‘friends’ – how can Joy suddenly go to high school, or feel safe with a man in the same room, or let anyone get close to her?

A powerful story that isn’t all ‘woe is me’ or suddenly happy forever, Joy relates her struggles with things most folks take for granted – learning to use a cellphone, going to a restaurant – as her aunt, uncle, and cousins help her as best they can.

**kmm

Book info: Stronger Than You Know / Jolene Perry.  Albert Whitman Teen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Rescued from a lifetime of abuse, fifteen year old Joy tries to move forward with her life with her aunt’s family, fighting the brokenness created by her own mother.

All the changes – from being locked in a California trailer for months at a time to having her own room in Seattle with a door that locks from the inside, from never going anywhere to attending a big high school, from having no one care about her to having family and friends who want Joy to be happy – even if they are good changes, it’s so difficult to forget the past, to get over the nightmares…

Perhaps today, Joy can stay in the room with her uncle, who wants to protect her.
Maybe soon, she’ll be able to hold hands with sweet Justin from history class.
Eventually, she might have to face her tormentors again…

A candid yet hopeful portrait of the shattering effects of abuse and the many adjustments large and small that can allow some measure of healing.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Not Otherwise Specified, by Hannah Moskowitz (book review) – no dance, no daring, no joy?

book cover of Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz published by Simon PulseDancing her heart out,
Not worried about fitting in (except on stage),
but trying to change what’s impossible to change…

The heart and soul of a tall, willowy ballerina is firmly implanted into Etta’s short and curvaceous body. When the ballet director notes that she stands out too much in the cookie-cutter corps de ballet line, Etta spirals out of the elite dance troupe and into eating disorder group.

Happy book birthday to Not Otherwise Specified!

I just adore Etta and everything she does to rescue herself, to help her friends get to a better place, and to realize her dreams. This book isn’t just ‘checking off the boxes’ for diversity in ethnicity, sexual orientation, talents, and social situations – it turns a few expected tropes sideways, reverses others, and brings us a wholly unique story worth a standing ovation.

How tight do you hold on to your dreams?
**kmm

Book info: Not Otherwise Specified / Hannah Moskowitz. Simon Pulse, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Giving up food so she’d fit in the ballet corps, Etta doesn’t want to give up anything else, including a petite new friend who inspires the buxom, black, bisexual Nebraska native to audition one more time for an elite arts school.

At eating disorder group, curvy and talented Etta meets wispy, fragile Bianca who doesn’t eat (at all) and sings like an angel born on Broadway. Like every musical theater geek, Etta wants to be in New York City, dreams of attending performing arts school there, but has never made it past first round of tryouts.

Now, the principal of her private girls’ school recommends Etta for auditions. Wee Bianca, her equally talented big brother James, and his cute best friend Mason are trying out, too. Maybe concentrating on auditions will take her mind off the escalating bullying by the lesbian clique at school (for dating a guy…).

Hyper-religious parents won’t accept a gay son,
So-called friends won’t accept that a person can change.
And Etta won’t let little Bee starve herself to death, won’t let her own fears keep her from auditioning for Brentwood, won’t let the bullies force her to limit her life.

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Doable: The Girl’s Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything, by Deborah Reber (book review)

book cover of Doable by Deborah Reber published by Beyond WordsA new project – yay!
New goals – hurrah!
Roadmap outlining how to do it all… umm?

Frame it right and your goal is indeed do-able IF you have some guidance that’s based on tested practice.

Peruse chapter 1 of Doable on the publisher’s site free here, then grab a copy at your local library or independent bookstore – you’ll refer to it often!

And be sure to check out the free resources on the author’s website, including your own personal Doable workbook and an ebook of career tips.

So…what do you want to do?
**kmm

Book info: Doable: The Girl’s Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything / Deborah Reber. Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: If you’ve ever begun a great project or set an important goal, then lost enthusiasm partway, take heart and reach for Doable, which will help you get where you want to go in life.

Step-by-step, the author outlines the 8 stages of doing what you deem important:

  • Define Your To-Do
  • Detail the Little Tasks
  • Defend Against Obstacles
  • Develop Support Systems
  • Determine What Success Looks Like
  • Do the Work
  • Deal with Setbacks
  • Deliver the Goods

Common pitfalls, workarounds for stalled projects, and examples from young women who’ve accomplished much are provided with each stage so that you can go from almost to all done on your own timeframe.

Whether you want to change yourself, change your school, or change the world, you can use the steps, worksheets, and good advice in this book to create a goal that you can control and a plan for reaching it. (One of 7,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Winterspell, by Claire Legrand (book review) – Nutcracker battle in alternate worlds

book cover of Winterspell by Claire Legrand published by Simon SchusterIs that statue breathing?
Mother said that Godfather would always protect her,
but did she know that his fighting lessons might save them all?

The sugarplum fairy in this retelling of The Nutcracker tale uses her sweetness to conquer humankind, addicting them to her voice, stealing a kingdom and poisoning the land – and a mere human girl could be her undoing? Ha!

From iron mechanical bugs which constantly rebuild the city based on Anise’s dreams to the wizards who’ve barricaded themselves in an impassible forest rather than take any risks, Clare has many challenges as she fights with once-statue-imprisoned Nicholas to free the people of Cane and regain his kingdom.

Fairy tale retellings – which is your favorite?
**kmm

Book info: Winterspell / Claire Legrand. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Desperate to save her kidnapped father, sixteen year old Clara rushes through a door between worlds, right into a war between iron-wielding fairies and the land’s magical nature – and she could be the deciding factor!

Since her mother’s mysterious death, Clara’s father has allowed organized crime to run the city. The young woman finds safety in Godfather’s workshop of wonders, whispering her worries to the statue there, as she always has.

When the mayor’s home is attacked by supernatural beings, the statue comes to life and Godfather’s inventions fight back, but cannot prevent the kidnapping of Clara’s father.

Clara, Godfather and former statue Nicholas leap into the kingdom of Cane, where time passes more quickly than in New York – and where the evil fairy Anise has enslaved the human population.

If Clara can get Father home in one week, the Concordia will spare her little sister…
If Nicholas can lead the humans against Anise, he can regain his kingdom…

Difficult choices, long-deferred dreams – this steampunk retelling of “The Nutcracker” examines the lure of power and the power of love.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Blues for Zoey, by Robert Paul Weston (book review) – money, trust & rock music

book cover of Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston published by FluxSaving money from his boring summer job –
not for a car,
not for college…

Kaz loves his mom, protects his little sister, misses his late dad all the time. So much on his shoulders, yet he’ll help Zoey with her burdens, going on trust (so dangerous, love and trust).

Find this February release at your local library or favorite independent bookstore to see what twists and turns their story takes, and check out the author’s cleverly designed website – here.

How honest are you… with yourself, above all?
**kmm

Book info: Blues for Zoey / Robert Paul Weston. Flux Books, 2015.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Kaz hopes that the girl carrying a big crazy cross made of metal, toys, and bones will make his summer less boring, but the teen has no idea how Zoey’s wanderings in his gritty new neighborhood will truly affect him.

Half Japanese-American, half Barbadian, Kaz is 100% concerned with the sleep disorder that’s struck his mom – she thinks he’s working at the Sit’n’Spin to save up for college, but he’s earmarked the money for a pricey sleep specialist so he and little Nomi get their mom back.

His boss warns Kaz not to let the white girl with dreads and that cross-thing into the laundromat, his friends in the family’s old neighborhood say that she’s trouble, but the teen is intrigued by Zoey, the odd rood rattler that she makes music with, the long-dead rock musician who used one first.

A chance encounter with a TV producer opens an opportunity for Kaz to get the money for Mom’s last-chance specialist, but…

Is Kaz an honest guy?
Is anyone really honest about with himself about what’s important in life?
Is that blood they’re mopping up in the alley behind Sit’n’Spin?

Raucous party, alt rock anthems, bad behavior, good intentions, identity – Kaz has lots on his mind these days, but it’s Zoe who has his heart (and other relevant body parts).

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Undecided, by Genevieve Morgan (book review) – getting ready for life beyond high school

book cover of Undecided by Genevieve Morgan published Zest BooksSome time left in high school…
What about the future?
What are your choices?
How to decide?!

Figuring out now what you don’t want to do later can keep you from spending money, time, and your dreams on the wrong opportunities.

Even if you have your post-high-school track planned out as a freshman or sophomore, it’ll be worth your while to work through the options available with this clear and helpful guide.

While you can check out Undecided at your local library, better that you buy your own copy (choose an independent bookstore, please) because you will use it so much.

What path are you envisioning for life after high school?
**kmm

Book info: Undecided: Navigating Life and Learning After High School / Genevieve Morgan. Zest Books, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [TEDx talk by author] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Your required /exciting/ mind-numbing high school years will eventually end – what next? Time to dig into your personality, dreams, and motivations to determine what you should try after graduation day.

Before jumping into all the options available, first assess your temperament, personality traits, and operating mode, then work through some questions to help you solidify your own vision of what you might want to do and in what style – the big picture.

Along with the section which helps you clarify intentions and create plans, you’ll find ways to research the education/work pathways you might take, how to compare college programs, insight into civil service and military training, and tips on talking to your parents about your choices.

Profiles of successful folks are included in each chapter, as are reflections by people who have tried the different school and work paths noted.

Whether you expect life after high school to be entrepreneurship, traveling during a gap year, service to your country, or traditional college years, the questions to consider and resources included in this book will take you from Undecided to prepared and excited.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Opposite of Love, by Sarah Scheerger (book review) – goodbye letter, forever? help!

book cover of The Opposite of Love by Sarah Lynn Scheerger published by Albert WhitmanGone. Just… gone.
No forewarning, phone disconnected,
How can the love of your life disappear so completely?

Chase and Rose are very imperfect people, but they are so right together – until Rose vanishes, and her adoptive parents have no clue where she went.

The author provides an excerpt of this bittersweet story’s first chapter here for free. Check your local library or independent bookstore so you can read it all.

When you can’t keep the only thing keeping you sane in the face of abuse and indifference, what next?
**kmm

Book info: The Opposite of Love / Sarah Lynn Scheerger. Albert Whitman, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Meeting through mutual friends, artistic Rose and kid-magnet Chase fall in love, but struggle to keep parents and their pasts from tearing apart their future together.

When Chase’s long-gone abusive dad demands visitation rights and Rose’s adoptive parents lock her in the house to keep the Native American teen out of trouble, the high school couple’s plans to leave behind their California town go up in smoke.

How will Rose locate her real mother now?
How can Chase protect his little sister when he’s away at Walter’s?
Why does Rose stop answering texts and calls from Chase and her friends?

Flashing back and forth between Chase’s frantic quest to Rose now before it’s too late and their earlier days of meeting, teasing, and learning to love, this story of choices and possible redemption follows two flawed people as they try to rewrite the dismal future that others predict for them.

 

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Displacement, by Lucy Knisley (book review) – cruising with grandparents, dry-docked by aging

book cover of Displacement A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley published by FantagraphicsCaribbean cruise during winter – yay!
Being with long-lived grandparents – good!
Traveling with them on the cruise – ummm…

Yes, Lucy did volunteer to go with her grandparents on the cruise, but dealing with dementia, body control problems, and boredom at sea weren’t quite what she’d planned on.

Enjoy an excerpt of this autobiographical travel graphic novel at the publisher’s site here. Get your copy soon – you won’t want to miss her grandfather’s actual WWII memoir which Lucy includes as she reads it during their unusual journey.

Lucy chronicled her growing-up years in Relish (my review here) and has written/illustrated other travelogues of her recent years, too.

**kmm

Book info: Displacement: A Travelogue / Lucy Knisley. Fantagraphics, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [video preview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When Lucy volunteers to travel with her 90-year-old grandparents on a cruise, she encounters much more than a change from winter weather as she deals with failing memory, family history, hope, and mortality in this graphic novel autobiography continuing the Relish artist/author’s life story.

Why her grandparents signed up for the cruise is a mystery as they have limited mobility, bad hearing, and no interest in gambling, swimming, or tours. But someone must go with them on planes and shuttles, through TSA security, and aboard the gigantic ship, so away the young woman goes, carrying her granddad’s memoir of WWII along.

Yes, flying with multiple connections, dealing with her grandmother’s dementia and grandfather’s failing health, and trying to find something to do for a week at sea are very difficult for Lucy, as every day brings more glimpses of mortality and the infirmities no one can control. Each day, the chapter title shows the sea level rising and rising, like Lucy’s stress and worry levels.

No, it wasn’t time wasted, as reading the memoir, coaxing her grandmother into the warm pool, and learning how folks stay married for over 65 years are gems that she will treasure. “Good or bad, it’s important to feel connected sometimes. Even if that connection can be painful,” Lucy writes, as she phones to check on how her grandparents are settling in after the trip is over.

 

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Love, Lucy, by April Lindner (book review) – Italy, love, goodbye forever?

book cover of Love, Lucy by April Lindner published by PoppyOne last summer of freedom,
the beauty and glory of Florence,
the excitement of love…

And then Lucy must give up her theater dreams to become a business major, or her father won’t pay for college at all! Hard choices…and Jesse back in Italy so hard to get in touch with.

Read the first 2 chapters on the publisher’s website free here as you listen to the author’s Love, Lucy  playlist, and you’ll be whisked away to Florence with Lucy, love just around the corner.

This modern interpretation of E.M. Forster’s classic A Room With a View  comes from the author of Catherine (based on Wuthering Heights – my review here) and Jane (Jane Eyre).

Could you give up true love for family demands?
**kmm

Book info: Love, Lucy / April Lindner. Poppy, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Giving up her dream of being an actress is hard for Lucy, but giving up the young man she loves so her dad will pay for college is heartbreaking – must she really choose?

Her ever-practical father reluctantly allows Lucy to backpack through Europe with Charlene after high school graduation, in trade for Lucy majoring in business (which she hates).

When Lucy meets Jesse in Italy, she delights in the beauty of Florence, the shimmer of Tuscan sunlight, the warmth of his kisses. However, her troubadour intends to continue traveling abroad, playing his guitar, not returning to his family in New Jersey any time soon.

So it’s a tearful goodbye at the train station, a sad flight back to dad’s alma mater. Spying a poster for theater tryouts puts some pep in Lucy’s step – why can’t a business major be in a play?

How can she reconcile her father’s demands with her love for performing?
Why hang out with college boys when she can’t stop thinking about Jesse?
Will she ever see him again?
(One of 7,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral (book review) – love story mystery in pictures

book cover of Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral published by RazorbillPiano prodigy,
demanding dad,
no room for spontaneity, for love?

While the story of an almost-talented parent pushing their extraordinary child to perform far longer than s/he wants to is not new, this novel’s presentation of Glory’s life, talent, found love, and lost joy is entirely unique.

There’s not a single chapter (or paragraph) of traditional novel text in this book, as we learn of Glory’s talent, Frank’s family history, and their growing love for one another through newspaper clippings, text messages, old photos, concert programs, and notes slipped under the door. This novel has a website and app with bonus material, as well as a two-minute whirl through Glory and Frank’s story with this book trailer.

You’ve seen many of the book covers designed by Rodrigo at your local library or independent bookstore – now find this fascinating 2012 novel-graphic-novel-not-cartoons there, too.

**kmm

Book info: Chopsticks: A Novel / Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral. Razorbill, 2012. [novel tumblr]  [Rodrigo’s site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Surely, Dad understands that there’s more to Glory’s life than performing… but as he demands that the piano prodigy tour overseas, away from her new boyfriend Frank who appreciates her for herself, things begin to fall apart.

Perhaps if Mom hadn’t died in the wreck when Glory was young, she would have kept Dad’s ambitions in check, allowing some interludes of real life into the teen’s strict regimen of homeschool, practice, performance, and more practice.

Frank’s family knows that attending a good school in the US will prepare him better for their winemaking business in Argentina, but fitting in at a ritzy school is difficult for this intelligent guy pigeonholed into ESL class and demeaning worksheets.

As neighbors, Glory and Frank become friends, become more than friends. Glory’s days have non-classical music seeping in; Frank’s occasional sketches become works of art dedicated to their love.

When her dad whisks Glory out of the country on an extended concert tour to get her away from Frank, she begins falling apart, playing only the simple melody of “Chopsticks” instead of her unique creative interpretations of piano classics. Can she ever recover her gifts? Can Frank find her again when all seems lost?

Conveyed completely through newspaper clippings, photos, text messages, and drawings, Chopsticks  is a unique portrait of love, loss, and hope. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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