P is photo-vigilante now herself Endangered, by Lamar Giles (book review)

book cover of Endangered by Lamar Giles published by Harper TeenClick! A compromising photo.
Click! A clever caption.
Click! Posted for all to see and mock and condemn.

Biracial ‘Panda’ makes herself unremarkable at school, submitting just-average work in digital photography class, ensuring that no one can link her to the scandalous photo-blog showing the worst sides of hypocritical students who pose as model citizens.

But someone knows that Panda is Gray Scales, and that someone has decided that mere cyberbullying isn’t enough punishment for those students at all!

This sometimes-uncomfortable look at the fine line between justice and revenge will be published on Tuesday, April 21, so ask for it at your local library or independent bookstore.
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Book info: Endangered / Lamar Giles.  Harper Teen, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss/Abovethetreeline.

My book talk: Anonymously using her photo skills to expose classmates whose fine reputations belie their true bad behavior, Lauren finds herself being stalked by ‘Admirer’ who threatens to unmask the Virginia teen’s identity.

Mocked in elementary school for her appearance, Lauren was comforted by the panda stories told by her German mom and black father. But her chosen nickname of Panda stems from an attack on her reputation in early high school, which started her quest for justice through her anonymous photo-blog.

Even her best friend Ocie (nicknamed by Panda for her OCD tendencies) doesn’t know that Gray Scales is Panda; they boo the good-on-surface baddies who are exposed there and cheer for their half-black selves (Mei is half-Chinese).

When Panda’s latest post results in more than just the predatory teacher being fired – because the “Admirer” who discovered Gray Scales’ identity physically attacks the girl involved – the stakes suddenly get much, much higher.

Deleting the Gray Scales website doesn’t stop the Admirer…
Listening to the ideas of the first guy she shamed doesn’t seem so bad…
Going from overlooked at school to being held responsible for a death she didn’t instigate is awful…

When does a quest for justice become an excuse to attack? The Admirer makes sure everything is final!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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O is Oryon in Changers: Book 2, by T Cooper & Alison Glock Cooper (book review)

book cover of Changers Book 2 Oryon by T Cooper and Allison Glock Cooper published by Black SheepWhich body will it be this time?
What lessons will Ethan learn this year – the hard way?
Any closer to discovering zer personal life mission?

Four bodies in four years – a rough way to go through high school, and with deadly enemies trying to unmask and eliminate every Changer teen!

This is the second book in the Changers series, which began when Ethan suddenly became Drew (my no-spoiler review here), so ask for them both at your local library or independent bookstore.

Visit the wearechangers.org site to post your ‘unselfies’ and consider empathy and life.

Could you stay yourself if your gender, race, or personal skills changed overnight?
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Book info: Changers: Book 2 – Oryon / T Cooper & Alison Glock Cooper. Black Sheep/Akashic Books, 2015.  [T Cooper author site]  [Alison Glock author site]   [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Waking up on first day of sophomore year in a new body as Oryon, this teen must learn to deal with prejudice and discrimination as he struggles to obey Changer rules by avoiding his best friend from his previous identity as a girl.

Transformed overnight from a petite white female cheerleader into a tall, lanky African-American male does make Oryon’s life challenging. This year the Changer Council has kept him at the same high school, explaining his white parents as his newest foster family.

And sweet Audrey, closest friend from last year is in his homeroom! Yes! But of course, she doesn’t recognize Oryon in this body so unlike Drew’s….

Oryon decides to try out for football, but being nearer to Audrey and the other cheerleaders also means being much too close to her brother, a vicious Abider, sworn to wipe out Changers like himself…

Halfway through his/her four years of changing bodies to discover which one s/he’ll live in forever, Ethan/Drew/Oryon has to deal with the conservative Changers Council, the Radical Changers who escape the rules, the Abiders trying to uncover all Changers – and falling in love, again!  Second in the series which began with Changers Book 1: Drew.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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N for Nightbird, by Alice Hoffman (book review) – secrets, community, threat?

book cover of Nightbird by Alice Hoffman published by Wendy Lamb BookxA family curse,
the lure of night and flight,
secrets kept and truths discovered…

Nightbird was published just this week; you can read chapter one here for free.

Hoffman’s magical realism shines here as it does in her Green Angel (my review) and Green Witch (my review), asking questions about love and curses and understanding.

And the wonderful Pink Apple Pie that Twig’s mother bakes? The author kindly provides a recipe here for those of us whose apple trees were not planted by Johnny Appleseed himself!

Should we hide what others might not understand about us?
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Book info: Nightbird / Alice Hoffman. Wendy Lamb Books, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [author video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As her day-hidden brother soars nightly over their small New England town to taste freedom, thirteen-year-old Twig wishes for friendship, little realizing that the witch’s curse on their family may link both their dreams.

The finest apple pie baker ever, her mother retreated from New York City to the family apple farm when Twig’s father left them, hiding James in the attic where his wings wouldn’t remind the folks of Sidwell about the curse on the Fowler family.

Twig is delighted when teen sisters Julia and Agate from the city move in next door, is devastated when townspeople seriously set to hunting the Sidwell Monster as James flies nightly, is determined to discover the truth about the generations-old curse that gave James his wings.

Will Twig’s mother ever feel safe in her own home town?
Who – or what – else roams the Montgomery Woods besides James?
Can love heal an ancient wrong?

Become a Nightbird  with James, delve into history and happiness with Twig and Julia, and find out why this charming town has a sudden grafitti problem in this magical tale. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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M is mystery at Enchantment Lake, by Margi Preus (book review) – unspoiled forest is motive for murders?

book cover of Enchantment Lake by Margi Preus published by University of Minnesota PressA treasure under enchantment,
unspoiled northwoods beauty,
a killer determined to own it all?

Francie is not a NYPD detective, but she played one on television, and that’s more mystery-solving experience than the local sheriff seems to have!

As deaths keep piling up (each by a different cause), even her eccentric great-aunts’ unique food combos (curry with a side of pickled beets, anyone?) can’t distract the teen from worrying that they will be the next victims.

A departure from the author’s acclaimed historical fiction Heart of a Samurai (my recommendation here) and Shadow on the Mountain, this first book in the Northwoods Mystery series is equally well-written, with interesting characters and setting.

Death by hot-dish? What casserole would you choose for your last meal?
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Book info: Enchantment Lake (Northwoods Mystery, book 1) / Margi Preus.  University of Minnesota Press, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When her great-aunts say that they’re in danger, Francie leaves summer drama camp in New York City to find mysterious deaths and rumors of treasure in the remote Minnesota lake town where it’s assumed that the 17 year old orphan can solve all mysteries because she played a kid detective on TV.

On the far shore of deep Enchantment Lake, eccentric Astrid and Jeannette tell Francie that city folks want a road through the peat bog so more mansions like the Fredericksons’ can be built. Property owners along the right-of-way have been dying oddly, and local real estate man Buck Thorne is pressuring their heirs to sell.

At the latest victim’s funeral, a poisoned casserole kills Buck, and the suspect list grows since everyone in town owns a serving dish made by the local potter.

What was Buck going to tell Francie about her long-lost mother?
Why does Buck’s stepson need so much money suddenly?
Can young law intern Nels help make any sense of these recent deaths?

Uh-oh, Francie’s grandfather demands that she return to drama camp or he’ll stop paying her expenses! But how can she when her aunt is arrested for Buck’s murder, a little boy who gets grimy every night goes missing, and someone tries to sink her kayak – with her in it!  First in the Northwoods Mystery series. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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L is last days before Denton Little’s Deathdate, by Lance Rubin (book review)

US book cover of Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

US cover

Self-eulogy? ready.
Amazing last wishes completed? almost.
Ready to die tomorrow? um….

Yep, in the future, genetic testing lets (almost) everyone know their exact deathdate – but not how they’ll die. So imagine sitting around with family and friends on that last day… why was Prom scheduled for that night?

Of course, Denton still has some teen boy milestones that he wants to pass before he passes on (wink).

But what about the weird guy who says he knew Mom, who delivered Denton on the day she died, warns him to trust no one?

Happy book birthday to Denton Little’s Deathdate – in the US, that is. It was released in the United Kingdom on March 26, with a different cover. Which one do you prefer?

UK book cover of Denton Little's Deathdate by Lance Rubin

UK cover

If you knew your deathdate, what would you do differently in the months and days beforehand?
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Book info: Denton Little’s Deathdate / Lance Rubin. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015.  [author’s tumblr]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss.

My book talk: As purple slowly covers his body, Denton tries to be the best best friend ever, lose his virginity, and not freak out his family on the day he will die (hey, it’s on Mom’s calendar).

It’s okay knowing your deathdate in advance, but the DNA analysis can’t say exactly how you’ll go.

His funeral went well enough, although the high school senior was too honest about some people in his self-eulogy (left the speech at home…oops) and that weird guy showed up saying that he knew Denton’s real mom and to trust no one.

Trying to remember why he woke up in his best friend’s sister’s bedroom, to get past third base with his girlfriend Taryn, to avoid the local cop who is grandfather of guy that Denton insulted at the funeral – this is some crazy last day!

But this purple splotch on his leg that’s creeping up his body all day? Very strange.
Best friend’s mom having a file on Denton in her schoolwork drawer?  Confusing.
The letter from his mom who died the day Denton was born? Whoa…

From the peach schnapps encounter to the misspelled death threat note, Denton’s last two days of existence on this earth don’t go exactly the way he’d planned! (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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K is killing rain in H2O, by Virginia Birgin (book review) – one drop of rain, one more death

book cover of H2O by Virginia Birgin published by Sourcebooks FireEvery cloud carries death, rain that kills millions –
now in the drinking water, no cure in sight…
but somehow she will find her father!

“If you are reading this, you are very, very lucky to be alive…but you already know that, right?” (p. 7) says Ruby, in a near-future where an asteroid – blasted to bits before hitting Earth – brings a deadly plague that rains down, seeking the iron of our blood.

Listen to the prologue of the UK audiobook here free, as Ruby begins the story of the end of humanity, raindrop by raindrop, and her race to find Dad in far-off London.

Published as The Rain  in UK, there is a sequel to H2O; hope it gets to the US soon!

Ruby was kissing Caspar in the hot tub when the rain began – where would you want to be when the world started to end?
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Book info: H2O / Virginia Birgin. Sourcebooks Fire, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As deadly rain sweeps across the world, Ruby fights thirst, well-meaning survivors, and the army so that she can get to London and her father.

Blowing up the asteroid saved earth, but doomed mankind to die by the blood-eating virus it carried, now sweeping down as rain, every drop lethal, no cure.

Trying to find anything safe to drink, staying away from rain and groundwater and tapwater, the teen and her stepdad survive longer than most.

Despite the odds, Ruby must get to her father, so she finds a car with keys and heads toward London with a nerdy classmate, a frightened-silent child, and a single driving lesson – watching the sky every minute for the clouds bringing more death.

Is there any place to hide from the rain?
How much further?
Dad, are you there?

The Rain (UK title) doesn’t care where it falls, but will Ruby survive to see The Storm sequel? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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J is Juliette and Abram in Finding Mr. Brightside, by Jay Clark (book review) – death, drugs & dog hair

book cover of Finding Mr Brightside by Jay Clark published by Henry Holt Books for Young ReadersTheir parents had an affair and died together.
They really don’t talk to each other.
But sometimes, accepting an invitation really is the way to move on…

Juliette’s mom got her hooked on Adderall before the accident, Abram is zonked out on Paxil to get over his dad’s betrayal, both plan to help the other get off the meds – neither plans to fall in love.

Cue up the author’s “while I wrote this book” playlist, weigh the merits of Taco Bell vs. Orville Redenbacher popcorn, and enjoy Juliette and Abram learning more about themselves and one another while they’re Finding Mr. Brightside.

Can you still love your parents once you realize they’re just human?
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Book info: Finding Mr. Brightside / Jay Clark.  Christy Ottaviano Books-Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A year after the accident, Juliette and Abram find themselves hanging out and possibly romantic – if they can just get past the affair that resulted in the death of his dad and her mom, the meds they take to deal with the grief, and the unhappiness of his mom and her dad seeing them together.

Being in the same school and Virginia subdivision, they’ve managed to ignore each other – brisk and efficient Juliette driven by Adderall and comfortably scruffy Abram so becalmed by Paxil that he doesn’t even play tennis anymore.

Trying to clear out their deceased parents’ clothes doesn’t really work, a road trip to his family’s rarely-used beach house in South Carolina gets strange, and maybe Juliette’s dad will finish his novel after 20 years… nah.

Moving from emotionally numb to finishing up their senior year with a wee bit of enthusiasm, Juliette and Abram tell their story in alternating chapters with growing affection, dog hair, and much popcorn.   (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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I for Infandous, by Elana K. Arnold (book review) – mom & daughter share everything?

book cover of Infandous by Elana K Arnold published by Carolrhoda LabDreaming of mom as a mermaid who loved a wolf,
Creating fantabulous art pieces from discarded items,
One misstep away from homelessness…

Sephora has always loved her so-beautiful mother, disliked her own name, and wondered why her dad abandoned mom before her birth.

Snag this March 2015 book at your local library or favorite independent bookstore (those aren’t referral links; never any monetizing links on BooksYALove!) to see how Sephora copes with a fairy tale ending that’s anything but charming.

What kept secrets should remain secret?
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Book info: Infandous / Elana K. Arnold. Carolrhoda Lab, 2015.   [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Eclipsed by her beautiful mom, California teen artist Sephora steps out of her comfort zone with guys and finds the fairy tales she loved as a child transformed into something much Grimmer.

Retaking summer school geometry so she can graduate next year, Sephora swelters over her found-art pieces in a storeroom of the cruddy apartment she shares with her single mom and looks half-heartedly for a part-time job (she’ll visit her aunt and family in Atlanta soon, so really what’s the point in looking?)

Skateboarding and surfing are good ways to forget how almost-broke they are, to forget that older guy Felix from spring break, to try to be someone else like in the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm (Disney lied).

Why can’t she and mom go back to sharing everything?
Why is her mom so interested in the young surfer guy down the hall?
Why isn’t working on her art taking her mind off Felix and stuff?

The Grimm versions of several fairy tales appear between sections of Sephora’s story, reminding us that rarely are their endings happily-ever-after but often as shocking as this book’s conclusion. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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H for harmonica in Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan (book review) – 3 musicians play a promise

book cover of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan published by ScholasticTerror as father is taken,
fear of orphan brothers being separated,
despair at losing friends and opportunities.

Three young people whose lives are terribly disrupted in the turbulent years leading into World War II find comfort in playing a harmonica with magical music and unknowingly fulfill a pleasing prophecy.

Find this wonderful spring 2015 release at your favorite local library or independent bookstore so that you can discover the intricate music this wonderful harmonica threads through lives that need it most.

Have a story of an object that connects you to history? Please share in the comments below.
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Book info: Echo / Pam Munoz Ryan. Scholastic Press, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:  A harmonica crafted through magic and mystery links three young people in different countries and times as they use their musical talents to overcome terrible odds.

In 1933 Germany, Friedrich apprentices in the harmonica factory with his father and uncle, away from those who mock his facial birthmark and conducting of the music he’s heard. As the tide of Nazi fervor overtakes his sister, threatens free-thinkers like his father, and condemns the harmonica as uncivilized, the melodies that 12 year old Friedrich plays are a small consolation.

At a Pennsylvania orphanage in 1935, Mike and little Frankie are determined to stay together. When a lawyer requests ‘musical children’ specifically, the brothers find themselves in a grand mansion whose owner wants to adopt one daughter! Tragedy took music out of Mrs. Sturbridge’s life years ago – perhaps 11 year old Mike’s practice for Hoxie’s Harmonica Band auditions can make her smile again.

Ivy plays harmonica concerts for her brother Fernando before he joins the army in 1942, before Papa is hired to care for a Japanese family’s California orange groves while they are detained in internment camp. The bigger cottage is nice, but not the rundown Americanization school for Mexican children – will the fifth grader be allowed to play in the new orchestra at the main school?

“Your fate is not yet sealed.
Even in the darkest night, a star will shine,
a bell will chime, a path will be revealed.”

Bracketed by the prophecy and promise fairy tale of the harmonica’s creation, the stories of Friedrich, Michael, and Ivy playing this fabulous instrument Echo with hope, joy, and longing to ensure their families’ well-being.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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G is Garage Band, graphic novel by Gipi (book review) – guys+music=rock band?

book cover of Garage Band by Gipi, translated by Spectrum, published by First Second Books One borrowed garage, four teen guys,
four instruments, four opinions,
their own garage band!

The new band’s problems, from equipment problems to practice schedules, mix with Gipi’s gritty sketch-plus-watercolor art to show just how far four working-class Italian teens will go to make their music.

This 2007 graphic novel is still in print, definitely worth your time to read.

Have you ever given it your all striving for a goal?
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Book info: Garage Band / Gipi; translation by Spectrum. First Second Books, 2007.  [artist/author info – English]  [artist/author blog – Italian]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a blown amplifier short-circuits their band’s big audition, four Italian teens must decide whether their integrity or their potential rock music future is more important in this graphic novel by Gipi.

If he’ll stay out of trouble, Giuliano can use his dad’s old garage – perfect place for the band to practice! Also a refuge from the not-so-wonderful family lives of the four guys in the band: Giuliano (obsessed with his music even more than with his girlfriend), Stephano (obsessed with dread diseases after his brother died), Alex (obsessed with all things Nazi after his father fled), and Alberto (obsessed with his father’s precarious health).

Stefano’s dad gets the guys a chance to have a record company listen to their demo songs, so that means lots of practice.

Then their old amp shorts out and can’t be fixed – now what?
“Borrowing” some equipment, that’ll work!
But who they borrow it from…

Italian graphic novelist Gipi’s edgy line art and earth-based watercolors convey all the grit of working class kids trying to make music and make sense of the world on their own terms. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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