A for assassin in Seeker, by Arwen Elys Dayton (book review) – higher purpose or highest bidder?

book cover of Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton published by Delacorte PressYou can endure tough training for a good cause.
You can sacrifice personal ease for a higher purpose.
But what if it’s all a lie?

Quin’s shock at discovering that she and Shinobu have been honed into elite assassins instead of justice-seekers is matched by John’s fury at being denied that same life – the birthright that brought them together will separate them forever.

But John isn’t so ready to let the ancient artifacts slip away from him, craving the power of travel through space-time that Seekers use.

Find this February release at your local library or independent bookstore so you can get the whole story before it becomes a movie (yes, already in scripting!)


Book info: Seeker / Arwen Elys Dayton. Delacorte Press, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Trained in deadly martial arts since childhood to become a peace-Seeker like her stern father, Quin finds instead that she’s blood-bound into life as an assassin – unless she and her training partners can find a way to break free.

Family heritage and ancient artifacts allow Seekers to travel through time and space, but few apprentices train in the wilds of Scotland now. Shinobu lost his Japanese mother to an accident, John saw his mother vanish into thin air, and Quin’s mother tries not to hear the 3 teens’ mental grumbling about how hard Briac and Alistair work them.

When the Dreads arrive from somewhere in time to administer the Seeker oath, Quin and Shinobu learn the truth about their heritage and gift, while John has been cast out.

Brutal attack on the stronghold, leaping across the world to Hong Kong, strange messages from unexpected sources – can the Seeker way be turned back to peace or must they remain assassins for the highest bidder forever?

Chapters told by Quin, John, Shinobu, and the Young Dread add depth and dimension to this tale of determination to shift destiny’s course versus purpose warped by greed. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Almost AtoZ Challenge time!

logo of AprilAtoZ ChallengeAre you ready?

26 book reviews, alphabetically aligned, in 30 days!

This year’s AtoZ Challenge begins on April 1st, and I think that I’m ready…

You still have time to sign up and build your blogging muscles: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2015/01/the-2015-to-z-challenge-list-is-open.html BooksYALove is number 507, if you’re checking.

I’ll also be digging in to the 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge – 12 book categories to stretch perceptions and horizons (listed here).

And you have till April 10 to register for the great giveaway package at DiversityInYA’s blog here – 20 winners each get 5 books from their amazing list, which includes some I’ve recommended on BooksYALove, some on my upcoming list, and some that I can’t wait to read.

See y’all on the first!

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Ready! Set! Vote for Children’s & Teen Choice Book Awards now!

logo for 2015 Children's Choice Book Awardslogo of 2015 Teen Choice Book AwardsIf you’re disappointed that the recent kids’ or young adult book you adore hasn’t won any awards, take heart!

It’s your turn to vote for your favorites in the Children’s Choice Book Awards

Voting is open through May 3, 2015 in several categories:

Kindergarten-2nd grade
3rd & 4th grade
5th & 6th grade

Each category includes 5 nominees for book of the year, plus Children’s Choice Debut Author and Children’s Choice Illustrator of the Year.

Individuals may vote in each category (once only, please!), and there’s a special spot for group ballots from entire classes, families, and book clubs, too.

See all the categories on their cute staircase here, and get all the kidlit and YAlit fans you know to vote! May 3rd will be here before you know it.

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Searching for Sky, by Jillian Cantor (book review) – from island innocence to modern conflict

book cover of Searching for Sky by Jillian Cantor published by BloomsburyMoving to Island as babies,
surrounded by beauty and bounty and love –
swept away unwillingly into modern life!

Of course, an island paradise would be better than the strife and hustle of city life, but to discover that deceit and death were used to get baby Sky and toddler River to Island in the first place?

Pick up this May 2014 release at your local library or independent bookstore to see how Sky and River adjust to modern life, or if they even can.

And read the letter than the author wrote to her teen self on the Dear Teen Me site – wise words.


Book info: Searching For Sky / Jillian Cantor. Bloomsbury, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Taken from their remote Island home where only four lived to the frantic noise of California, teens River and Sky must learn to cope with modern life and discover whether the world’s truth is their own.

On Island, River’s father Helmut and Sky’s mother Petal taught them all the skills of life – fishing in Ocean, counting, storing food in Shelter. But Helmut and Petal ate mushrooms and died, just before Sky’s 16th birthday.

Then a boat came and took them to the California place where Petal once lived. Now Sky and River are separated, and Sky must live inside a house-box with her mother’s mother and listen to Searching for Sky, by Jillian Cantor (book review) – from island innocence to modern conflictpeople who try to teach her about money and murder and reading.

Only Ben next door listens when she wants to visit Ocean, to not be called Megan.

Are these things the people say about Helmut true -murder and kidnapping?
Where has River gone?
Can Sky find any way to be herself again?

From innocence to confusion, Sky must suddenly grow up in a world she never imagined as she grapples with terrible truths and irresistible lies. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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My AtoZ Challenge theme for April…

logo of AprilAtoZ ChallengeOnce again, I signed up for the April AtoZ Challenge (see me at #507 here).

Posting 26 times in 30 days sounds straightforward enough, BUT the posts must follow the alphabet, with A on April 1 and so forth.

Using a theme for April AtoZ makes it easier for readers, since they know your subject for the month, and harder for writers, as we must find relevant posts for that tricky X on April 29th!

So, my April theme for 2015’s AtoZ Challenge is…

drumroll, please…

young adult books beyond bestsellers!

Ha! If you thought that I’d wander off into cat photos or recipes for two for a whole month, you must be new to BooksYALove! I’m pleased that many of April’s titles will have diverse characters or be set in other cultures.

Use the links in the right-hand column to subscribe to my posts or add to your blog-reader so you don’t miss any of these great books.

Counting down until April 1st – no fooling! (you can still sign up for the challenge here and build up your writing/blogging muscles along with hundreds of others)



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A Different Me, by Deborah Blumenthal (book review) – surgery will make her life perfect

book cover of A Different Me by Deborah Blumenthal published by Albert WhitmanThe bump on her nose absolutely dominates her face.
But no one else knows she hates it so.
If she could just make it go away, everything in her life would get better!

Having nose surgery isn’t a whim for Allie. At 15, she’s more than ready to erase the bump that’s bothered her for years, backed by teens she meets at online support group. If she can just convince her parents…

This September 2014 release should be available at your local library or independent bookstore. If not, ask for it – you need to read Allie’s story for yourself.

Would you change yourself drastically if you could?

Book info: A Different Me / Deborah Blumenthal. Albert Whitman, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Allie tries to lay low at school so no one comments on her nose, but a mentoring assignment and an online support group give the New York City teen enough courage to ask her parents for surgery.

Keeping quiet, hoping she’ll “grow into her nose” – it hasn’t worked for Allie, who tells no one about her preoccupation with a surgical fix, not her best friend, not her examine-all-options parents.

Forced into mentoring Amber who’s fallen behind in English gives the 15 year old a look into someone else’s troubles and helps her ignore goth David taking pictures all the time at school.

She meets Mel and Katrina in an online rhinoplasty support group, and the three are there for each other as they research nose surgery facts and recommended area surgeons.

Can Allie ever convince her parents to allow this surgery?
Can Amber shake free of the worries that are hounding her?
Will David ever put away that stupid camera?

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but when looking at your own face in the mirror is painful, it takes much more than platitudes to change that view.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Dissonance, by Erica O’Rourke (book review) – traveling to parallel worlds through music

book cover of Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke published by Simon Schuster BFYREvery choice creates a parallel world.
Nothing can destroy these echo worlds.
But something is!

Del has the talent to Walk between worlds, but when an echo of popular Simon actually notices her, she ignores safety protocols and Walks from echo to echo until she finds a Simon who adores her. Then the trouble really begins!

Read chapter one here for free on the publisher’s site, find this 2014 book at your local library or independent bookstore, and look for just-published book 2 Harmonic, realizing that your choice might spin off another world…


Book info: Dissonance (Dissonance, book 1) / Erica O’Rourke. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Following the family talent of world-walking, Del ventures far beyond what her apprenticeship allows, searching for love in the parallel worlds created by every choice and endangering our Key world with what she discovers!

Having older sister Addie supervise her final practice Walks instead of Mom or Dad or even ditzy Grandpa Monty doesn’t suit the Chicago teen, so musical Delaney explores on her own – entering the pivot where a choice split that echo away from the Key world, listening for an echo world’s specific frequency, leaving a tiny origami star in each world as a breadcrumb trail home, just in case.

When Del interacts too much with an echo, creating a dissonance in that world that the Consort of Walkers will need to erase, she saves them the trouble by doing it herself, with scary results.

Now forbidden by the Consort to Walk alone, stuck on a music class project with standoffish Simon yet aching to return to echo Simon who cares for her, Del only dares to Walk when Grandpa leaves the Key world to continue his search across echos for Grandma, an experienced Walker who never returned home.

Why can’t they just tune a dissonance instead of erasing an echo world?
Can she Walk and make a teensy change to fix something in the Key world?
Will the real Simon ever love Del?

When Del’s extracurricular Walks uncover a startling secret, the Consort of Walkers argues about the best course of action, but it may be too late to save the multiverse! First book in the Dissonance series. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Out of the Dragon’s Mouth, by Joyce Burns Zeiss (book review) – fleeing Vietnam, holding on to hope

book cover of Out of the Dragon's Mouth by Joyce Burns Zeiss published by FluxIf the communists find them – dishonor and death.
If the soldiers search the boat for refugees – death by drowning.
If they don’t get out of the refugee camp soon – death by despair?

Mai must obey her parents when they send her with uncle Hiep to escape the Vietnamese communists, but how will a sheltered teen schoolgirl survive the terrible trip across the gulf, packed like salted fish in the creaking boat’s hold, or the primitive conditions in the refugee camp?

Read the first chapter here free, then look for this recent paperback release at the local library branch or independent bookstore nearest you.

Forty years after the US military left as Saigon fell to communist forces, so many stories need to be told and remembered.
Did Vietnamese refugees settle in your community?


Book info: Out of the Dragon’s Mouth / Joyce Burns Zeiss. Flux Books, 2015.   [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Fleeing Vietnam after communist takeover, 14 year old Mai and her just-older uncle Hiep must survive the rough crossing to refugee camp before they have any hope of reaching their relatives in America, but living in the camp becomes an ordeal, too.

When Mai’s brother fell ill, the teen daughter of Chinese business family had to take his place with Hiep – the bribes were paid, and the Communist forces were searching too near their hiding place.

Fortunately, Small Auntie would be waiting for them at the Malaysian island camp; unfortunately, her nickname described her temper as well as her height. She demanded that Mai and Hiep pay to stay with the family in shelter of a small boat, even though the Red Cross provides food for all.

Every day, they listen for their names to be called so they may leave for their uncle’s home in America. Days turn to weeks – Small Auntie casts them out because they have no money left.

Weeks turn to months as Mai and Hiep live under a tarp tent with other young people whose parents didn’t make it to camp. Lan and her sister Ngoc teach Mai to knit – Chicago is very cold, says Uncle.  Kien of the blue eyes tells her about his American soldier father who tried to get him and his mother out of Saigon as US forces departed.

The slim gold bracelet that Mother sewed into Mai’s clothing seems to be running out, as accidents and disease touch the camp. Will Mai and Hiep ever get to America?

As the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon nears, this refugee tale is both a moment in history and a reflection of realities still faced by too many. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Sketch! by France Belleville-Van Stone (book review) – draw what you see, no lessons required

book cover of Sketch! by France Belleville-Van Stone published by Watson GuptillYou truly want to draw,
but haven’t had art lessons.
News flash – you don’t need lessons at all!

This author-artist transplanted from France to the USA didn’t have art classes available in school after junior high, doodled designs during high school, then decided that she really wanted to draw after her university days and just did – over and over.

The subtitle highlights what’s important about this book: inspiration (an idea alphabet fills the last third of the book), technique (not how you must draw, but the many ways that you can draw), and drawing daily life (from photos, on the go, while you wait).

So grab some paper and pencil (or sketchbook and pen, or tablet and stylus), open your eyes to the shapes around you, and just Sketch!

Book info: Sketch!: the Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life / France Belleville-Van Stone. Watson Guptill, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, through Blogging For Books.

My book talk: Yes, you can draw what you see around you without formal art lessons or being an artistic genius – practice, trying new tools and techniques, and more practice are what non-artist and avid sketcher Belleville-Van Stone demonstrates in Sketch!

No step-by-step boring lessons, no assignments to draw shapes before attempting real things – just encouragement and technique ideas and reviews of drawing tools, papers, and technology. Get loosened up with contour drawings, try a different paper or app on your tablet for 10 minute drawing, take your sketching tools with you everywhere, and draw whenever you have a moment.

Drawing is a process and a state of mind, the author-artist believes, so giving up the idea of a perfect product and enjoying the act of drawing can be liberating and also lead to clearer perceptions of the objects and people around you.

Start sketching now (the waiting room, your shoe), keep drawing what you see (a banana isn’t just a yellow crescent), and celebrate your improvement over time as your hands, your favorite tools and techniques, and your artistic eye are freed to just Sketch!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Seed, by Lisa Heathfield (book review) – cult or commune? so many secrets

book cover of Seed by Lisa Heathfield published by Running PressTending the crops,
striving to stop sinful thoughts,
did she really just imagine footsteps in the attic?

Pearl enjoyed an idyllic childhood at Seed, but as a young woman struggles with new ideas from Outside. Why would the children need school when Papa S. tells them everything they need to know?

Seed could be a commune, whose exceptional produce is eagerly sought by Outsiders at the market in town.

Or it could be a cult, whose leader controls every facet of life, from reproductive partnering to the exact moment for collecting honey from the beehives.

Just published on March 10, this novel is takes place in England today – even more frightening than a post-apocalyptic thriller or dystopian future tale.


Book info:  Seed / Lisa Heathfield. Running Press, 2015. [author on Twitter]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: At Seed, Pearl and her extended family are safe under the watchful care of Papa S. until a young man from from Outside questions why they’ve rejected modern medical care and schooling.

At last, Pearl has become a woman at age 15 and may soon be Papa S’s companion, there in the big house where all the children of Seed and Kindred adults live together. Working the land, worshiping nature under the stars… Pearl loves Seed and hates going away to the town market where their produce is sold.

Papa S. announces that new people are arriving – a woman he knew long ago who wants healing from what life Outside has done, along with her teen son Ellis and little Sophie.

Ellis questions so many things that Pearl knows as truth – the origin of the stars, how the oil they rub into motors helps clean pollution from the air as they drive to market, why Pearl shouldn’t know which Kindred woman is her mother.

When Jack is injured in an accident and pregnant Elizabeth becomes desperately ill, Papa S. refuses to call a doctor – Nature will heal all.

Did Pearl really see someone in the locked attic’s window?
Could Ellis be right about men going to the moon and other things?
Does Pearl really want to be Papa S’s companion?

In present-day Great Britain, Seed  could be a haven celebrating life in harmony with nature or a cult whose founder must control everything. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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