Never check out of Hotel For the Lost, by Suzanne Young (book review)

paperback cover of Hotel For the Lost by Suzanne Young published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.combook cover of Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.comFabulous resort hotel,
remote, elegant, luxurious,
who would ever want to check out?

Audrey’s drowning in grief from her mom’s recent death, but handsome Elias at the Hotel Ruby distracts her a bit… if Dad will just keep extending their stay, perhaps she and brother Daniel won’t get dumped at Grandma’s (forever)

When you visit your local library or independent bookstore, ask for Hotel For the Lost if you want the October 2016 paperback or Hotel Ruby for the original hardback – the story is identical.

I think the publisher really goofed here by changing title and cover.
What do you say?

Book info: Hotel For the Lost / Suzanne Young. Simon Pulse, 2016. (published in 2015 hardback as Hotel Ruby) [author site]  [publisher site]  For both hardback & paperback: Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A mountain shortcut takes Audrey, her brother, and their dad to the elegant Hotel Ruby, where guests and staff members conceal a mysterious secret.

The Arizona teen’s grief over her mother’s recent death is occasionally diverted by tales of the Nevada hotel’s ghosts, especially if told by handsome Elias as they roam its halls, despite warnings from a friendly young housekeeper that Eli is a heartbreaker.

Why did only her dad and brother get invitations to the nightly gala party in the ballroom?
If Elias and Catherine have broken up, why is she so vicious to Audrey?
How much power does the concierge have over absolutely everyone in the Hotel Ruby?

Maybe Dad will keep delaying their departure, and never take them to live forever with their maternal grandmother – but does anyone ever check out of the Hotel Ruby?

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Memory of Things, by Gae Polisner (book review) – amnesia, remembering, 9/11

book cover of The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner published by St Martins Griffin | recommended on BooksYALove.comAshes, smoke, run!
Tension, wings, jumping?
Rescued! Memory? gone…

Kyle can’t unsee the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, can’t unrescue the ash-covered girl with costume wings and no memory, can’t unwish that she would stay with him as he cares for paralyzed Uncle Matt while Mom is stuck in LA with his little sister and Dad is at Ground Zero with his police squad and other rescue workers.

You can find this September 2016 release at your local library or independent bookstore to meet Kyle and Uncle Matt and the jagged-hair girl with wings.

What things have the most weight in your own memories?

Book info: The Memory of Things / Gae Polisner. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Rushing across the Brooklyn Bridge on 9/11, Kyle spots a girl wearing wings, covered with ashes, poised to jump?

Safely home, the 16-year-old finds that the girl can’t remember her name, he can’t get his dad in downtown New York City on the phone, his mom and sister can’t get home from LA, and paralyzed Uncle Matt’s caregiver can’t get to his family’s apartment.

What can Kyle do but help Uncle Matt, keep trying to contact Dad, and wonder if the girl will get her memory back?

He longs for Uncle Matt to recover faster from the wreck that ended his police career (all Donohue men are cops, says his granddad, but Kyle loves music so), for his family to be together, for the girl to stay…

A love story in the wake of disaster, a family story that endures, a possibility of happy endings. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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Desert Dark, by Sonja Stone (book review) – school for spies, time to die?

book cover of Desert Dark by Sonja Stone published by Holiday House | recommended on BooksYALove.comBrilliant students wanted,
Puzzle-solving a plus.
Survival through graduation not guaranteed…

Whoa! Full tuition for boarding school for math genius problem-solvers? And across the country from her cheating boyfriend, too? Best idea that cryptographic whiz Nadia has heard in a long time, till she arrives at… a secret Black Ops academy, funded by the CIA, with a killer double-agent on campus!

The first chapters (provided here free by the publisher) set up the dangerous world that Nadia finds herself in.

How far can you run from heartbreak?

Book info: Desert Dark / Sonja Stone. Holiday House, 2016.  [author site] [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Recruited for an exclusive boarding school where her math abilities will be prized, Nadia discovers that Desert Mountain Academy covertly trains students for CIA black ops careers. When rumors of a double-agent on the remote Arizona campus prove true, suspicion falls on the newly-arrived Virginia teen whose mother is Lebanese.

Nadia is overwhelmed with martial arts and Mandarin, trying to master firearms and survival skills with the other juniors in her team – and resisting her attraction to their senior leader, Jack.

Teammate Damon is willing to help her catch up, but socially-challenged Alan (grandson of a Jewish Mossad agent) is openly skeptical, sure that she’ll bring down the team.

Her germophobic roommate Libby is hiding something – is it about the girl whose death opened a spot for Nadia after the semester had begun?

Chapters by Nadia, Libby, Jack, and the mysterious double-agent tell of assassination attempts (yep, plural), gradual team bonding, survival training, academic challenges, and a growing romance – if Nadia can survive her first year at Desert Mountain Academy!

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Still Life With Tornado, by A.S. King (book review) – artist’s block, memory overload

book cover of Still Life With Tornado by AS King, published by Dutton Books  | recommended on BooksYALove.comAn artist who can no longer draw,
A fractured household that never heals,
Memories buried and unearthed.

All Sarah wants to do is make art, until something stays her hand, blocks her power to create, and keeps the 16 year old wandering Philadelphia on a hunt for something (anything!) original instead of finishing school.

Then her 10-year-old self arrives, followed by her 23-year-old self…

Fall into the middle of Sarah’s existential crisis with this free excerpt of chapter one here on the publisher’s site.

Happy book birthday to Still Life With Tornado ! Mighty stoked that I get to hear author A.S. King as keynote speaker at KidLitCon 2016 (aka paradise for kids’ and young adult book bloggers) in Wichita, Kansas, this weekend.

Family stories dis-remembered? Share, please.

Book info: Still Life With Tornado / A.S. King. Dutton Books, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a teen artist stops going to school because she suddenly can’t create, her 10 year old self appears in her Philadelphia neighborhood, prompting Sarah to relocate memories that she’s hidden and consider if anything is original in the world.

As she wanders familiar and distant parts of town, Sarah wonders why big brother Bruce transferred to college in Oregon right after their not-so-good family vacation in Mexico six years ago and has never contacted her.

Ten-year-old Sarah goes with her to the museum, 23-year-old Sarah tells her that 16 is a popular age for existential crisis (even this isn’t original?!), and Dad is still yelling at night nurse Mom all the time.

Is Sarah going crazy?
Why can’t she remember what happened in Mexico?
What is truly original in life?

Whatever happened at school might be the reason Sarah won’t return, but she will have to bring back some memories – old and new – if she wants to be able to draw and create again. Chapters from Mom’s viewpoint and 10-year-old Sarah’s memories of Mexico sketch out the fragile framework of their family life, together yet distant.

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Think Happy, by Karen Salmansohn (book review) – positivity peptalks!

book cover of Think Happy by Karen Salmansohn published by Ten Speed Press | recommended on BooksYALove.comWords have power,
Power to lift us up or cast us down.
Harness word-power for positivity!

More than just the affirmations we see posterized on Twitter and Facebook, Salmansohn’s 50 personal peptalks are backed up with neuroscientific research and her own experience as a writer, blogger and lecturer.

Published in August 2016, Think Happy should be available now at your local library or favorite independent bookstore.

And speaking of bookstores, be sure to nominate your favorite U.S. indie bookshop employee for a holiday bonus here by Nov. 1st; yes, prolific author James Patterson is giving money away again this year (he really understands how important indie bookstores are to readers).

Share a positive attitude tip in the comments, please!

Book info: Think Happy: Instant Peptalks to Books Positivity / Karen Salmansohn. Ten Speed Press, 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Peptalk your way to better mental and emotional equilibrium with this new collection of memorable positivity statements, backed by behavioral and neuroscience research.

“Thoughts are like a steering wheel.”
“Perfectionism is a form of self-abuse.”
“Think of life as a competition with yourself to become extraordinary.”

The author’s whimsical watercolor illustrations accompany 50 phrases to internalize and live by as she guides readers through “5 things to say when…” chapters from “trying something new (and thereby scary)” to “dealing with toxic people.”

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Language of Stars, by Louise Haws (book review) – poetry or pre-med prose?

book cover of The Language of Stars, by Louise Hawes published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comWhat Mom wants, what Dad demands,
What her boyfriend plans,
When is it her turn to decide?

Mistakes – telling Fry about the Baylor House, trying to please Dad at work, imagining that Mom would allow her off the pre-med career path.

Possibilities – writing poetry with Rufus Baylor himself, finding the ‘me’ instead of only ‘us’ with Fry, discovering her own poetic voice.

So many wonderful (and on-their-way-to-better) poems in this book!

Got a poem to share in the comments?

Book info:  The Language of Stars / Louise Hawes. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Sarah should have talked Fry out having a party at remote historic house in their North Carolina coastal town, but after the house is terribly damaged, her dad is even angrier at her than usual, and the partying teens are sentenced to summer school plus house restoration, she is startled to find their class taught by the reclusive poet whose summer home was wrecked and that she has a gift for words, a gift that may take her far from the med school future that her mom has planned out for her.

Filled with poetry – from the first written in many years by “the Great One” to those created during class together to the gems that Fry texts to Sarah while she’s working at her dad’s fancy restaurant – and revelations, The Language of Stars speaks love, second chances, redemption, and hope.

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Lucy and Linh, by Alice Pung (book review) – be her true self or viewed self?

book cover of Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung published by Knopf | recommended on BooksYALove.comSmart at old school,
struggling at new school,
where is her self and center now?

While the access scholarship admits Lucy to Laurinda, privilege and social power at the fancy private school will keep this child of Chinese immigrants from true success there. Her less-educated parents want her to be happy and do well, but aren’t demanding that she ace every exam.

Her letters to funny and outspoken Linh at her old school chronicle Lucy’s worries about fitting in, finding a friend, and her baby brother’s worsening health.

Entitled Laurinda in its native Australia, Lucy and Linh should be available at your local library or independent bookstore now – if not, ask for it!

How do you stay true to yourself while trying to rise?

Book info: Lucy and Linh / Alice Pung. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As a new scholarship girl at Laurinda, Lucy suddenly walks into a world of generational privilege where acceptance by ‘the Cabinet’ of most-influential students at the historic Sydney girls’ school is more important than grades or kindness.

The distance between her scruffy immigrant neighborhood and the elegance of Laurinda is more than just a bus ride, thinks Lucy, as the disconnect grows between her home life where Ma assembles garments in the back room and school days where the Cabinet connives to discredit any teacher they dislike.

Why did the girls of the Cabinet seek out Lucy?
Why must Laurinda’s social order remain the same now as last generation?
Would Lucy return to her old school where she can be herself?

Worrying about baby brother’s health amid Ma’s sewing dust, trying to understand why the Cabinet gets away with so much, wondering if she can succeed at Laurinda without completely losing herself, this teen child of Chinese immigrants pours out her new life in letters to Linh.

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Last True Love Story, by Brendan Kiely (book review) – memory lane or memories lost?

book cover of The Last True Love Story by Brendan Kiely published by Margaret McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comLosing motivation,
losing opportunities,
losing memories – forever?

Before Alzheimer’s takes everything away from his grandfather, Ted promises to get him back East, to where Gpa and Gma were married – even though the teen poet can’t drive and Gpa must stay at Calypso. Enter guitar-playing Corrina yearning to escape her adoptive parents’ demands to conform – road trip time!

(Today, I’m at a funeral for yet another person whose time with children and grandchildren was stolen away by this terrible disease, despite all their love and excellent care… )

What’s your favorite road trip story?

Book info: The Last True Love Story / Brendan Kiely. Margaret McElderry Books, 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Teddy would do anything for the grandfather who raised him, but a roadtrip to the church back east where Gpa and Gma were married is impossible, until Corrina says road trip and the teen poet says yes.

Of course, they can get to Ithaca from Los Angeles before Alzheimer’s takes away Gpa’s memories of Gma his true love, with the help of Ted’s hard-rocking classmate Corrina (who can drive) and Mom’s car (she can’t use it when overseas for business all the time) and the magic of GPS.

Some days on the road are good, like when Corrina plays the music that Gpa and Gma loved when he was a Marine in Vietnam or when she opens up to him about being adopted from Guatemala and not meeting her white parents’ career expectations.

Other days aren’t so good, like when Gpa thinks Teddy is not his grandson, but his son who died in a car crash near Ithaca, leaving behind his California wife, child, and bitterness.

Can Teddy capture this last story in the Hendrix Family Book so he can tell it to Gpa again and again?
Will Corrina’s guitar or Teddy’s poetry keep them safe?
Can they really get to Ithaca before a Silver Alert gets them?

Love and family, truth and half-truths, a road trip worth every bump and mile. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

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Littlest Bigfoot, by Jennifer Weiner (book review) – being themselves, little & big

book cover of The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner published by Aladdin | recommended on BooksYALove.comMillie is too loud,
Alice is too strong,
If their families only understood them…

The woods outside Standish hide the Yare beings from no-fur humans, until an experiential school moves in just across the lake, close enough that Millie can hear young teen voices, ones that the tiniest Bigfoot would love to meet and sing with…

Read an excerpt from The Littlest Bigfoot at USA Today here to see why Alice is sure that her eighth school in 8 years will be not-so-good – of course, she doesn’t know that she’ll meet Millie soon!

Be sure to visit the book’s wonderful website to explore the world that Millie, Alice, and Bigfoot-hunting Jeremy share.

Share your unexpected friendship in the comments, please!

Book info: The Littlest Bigfoot (Littlest Bigfoot, book 1) / Jennifer Weiner. Aladdin, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Sent away to untraditional school, Alice just wants to make a friend, but the 13 year old New Yorker never imagined that she’d meet petite Millie, a little Bigfoot with a big singing voice, or be chased by Bigfoot-hunting Jeremy from the nearby middle school, or find a way to stand up to bullying once and for all.

(One of 6,000 books recommended on



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Manga Classics : Emma, by Jane Austen (book review) – matchmaking & secrets

book cover of Emma by Jane Austen & Manga Classics published by Udon Entertainment | recommended on BooksYALove.comMatchmaking – so satisfying!
Seeing friends happy – so delightful!
Her own future so dull – oh, dear…

Emma is sure that her matchmaking will result in happy marriages for everyone in her social circle, but she will care for her elderly father instead of ever marrying. Of course, love has other plans, and secrets, too!

Enjoy the first chapter of this lively manga here free, courtesy of the publisher, then get your own copy at your favorite local library or independent bookstore.

Especially interesting are the information sections about adapting the classic text (available in full here) for use with this graphic format and creating these manga characters as reflections of each personality.

Another in Udon Entertainment’s great Manga Classics series, like Pride and Prejudice (my review here) and The Scarlet Letter (my review here), that will help first-time readers and long-time fans alike become more familiar with the characters and plots of classic stories while reading each author’s original words – back to front, of course.

So, what matchmaking have you witnessed lately?

Book info: Emma / Jane Austen; adapted by Stacy King; art by Po Tse. Udon Entertainment, 2015.  [series Facebook page]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Ensuring the happiness of her friends through matchmaking leaves Emma Woodhouse little time for dreaming of her own future through marriage, but secrets and changes add to the complexities of her social circle in the English countryside.

Why is Mr. Fairfax so changeable around Emma?
Who sent Jane a piano as a gift?
What if Emma’s friends all marry and leave her alone?

Jane Austen’s 1815 tale of matchmaking and misunderstandings gains graphic form through Po Tse’s manga art, while Stacy King selects just the right passages from the classic text as each character speaks and thinks.

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