Tag Archive | civil rights

Jump Into the Sky, by Shelley Pearsall (book review) – black paratroopers in WWII, secret mission or phony war?

book cover of Jump Into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall published by KnopfLevi Battle was always being left.
His mom left when he was a baby,
His dad left to serve in the Army.
Now his aunt says it’s his turn to leave his friends and go be with his father – in the middle of World War II!

Hard to be a teenager without his dad around, harder to trade the big city of Chicago for the prejudices of the South, harder still to imagine what life would be like if every paratrooper of the 555th doesn’t come home from their missions…

Be sure to visit the “Triple Nickle” website to learn more about this little-known battalion and the brave paratroopers who served the nation during World War II, like Bradley Biggs, the first African-American officer accepted for parachute duty in the US Army.

Get this great book today at your local library or independent bookstore; it is also available as an audiobook. Could you be as brave and loyal in the face of prejudice and danger as Lt. Battle and the men of Triple Nickle?

Book info: Jump Into the Sky / Shelley Pearsall. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Book Talk:  Rattling over the rails, Levi tries to figure out how he got here, dress shirt covered with coal dust, stuck on a “Jim Crow” train car so very far away from home. Why his Aunt decided right now it was time for him to be with his father on an Army base in the middle of the War, he’ll never know.

Sure, he missed his dad, but in 1945 so many fathers and brothers and cousins were gone. If it wasn’t war-time, the Army wouldn’t let a colored man be an officer, says everyone in their Chicago neighborhood, and not one single soul believes that Charles Battle is a paratrooper.

It doesn’t help that Levi’s jazz-singer mother left home when he was a little baby, that his father has no idea that the tall thirteen-year-old is on his way to North Carolina to join him, that Aunt Odella’s prayers and fried chicken might not get him safely to Fort Bragg.

Levi couldn’t believe that white people in the South would act so hateful, but he learns quickly to stay away from town, stick with the other black soldiers’ families, and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. When the Army says leave for Oregon, off they go, Levi helping Sgt. Cal’s wife with the new baby on the long cross-country trip.

But why is the 555th battalion really in Pendleton?
Is it just busy-work to make it look like the Army is letting black soldiers fight?
What if Lt. Battle doesn’t come back from the next mission or the one after that?

Inspired by interviews with real veterans of the original 555th, this journey of discovery will take readers back to the home front during World War II as Levi watches his father and brothers-in-arms Jump Into the Sky  to defend the USA, whether acknowledged for their bravery or not. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Amped, by Daniel H. Wilson (fiction) – amp your brain, lose your humanity?

book cover of Amped by Daniel H Wilson published by DoubledayWelcome to the near-future!
A simple implant negates epilepsy,
another upgrades low IQ,
yet another amplifies physical performance.

We’re not talking 3-D headgear to improve complex visualizations – these are directly attached to relevant brain areas to control problems or enhance capabilities. Shouldn’t disadvantaged children be given help to overcome obstacles to their success, to keep them off the welfare rolls as adults?

And people who don’t use this technology – the pure humans – feel more-threatened every day by it. Should amps really be recognized as citizens? Aren’t they now less than human because of their implants? From lawsuits to concentration camps to outright violence, if you’re Amped, you’re a target – until it’s time to fight back!

The author of Robopocalypse brings us another all-too-possible view of a technology-enhanced future that’s more nightmare than dream-come-true. Published in early June, you’ll find Amped  at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Amped / Daniel H. Wilson. Doubleday, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Brain implants to control seizures help millions like Owen; why shouldn’t implants help amplify limited intelligence or upgrade physical strength for those with challenges? Wealthy parents began enhancing their children’s mental skills and physical prowess with amp implantation, then The Uplift Act authorized amp implants for low-income kids to help them overcome long-standing disadvantages.
Soon, the “pure humans” worry that the “amps” have unfair advantages for college admissions, athletic contests, and job applications. Senator Vaughn and his Pure Pride organization file so many lawsuits against amps that their case goes to the Supreme Court.
Suddenly, amps are no longer full United States citizens, are hounded by Pure Pride, corralled into small enclaves under constant attack. All research on human amplification is stopped, and its leading researchers and doctors are arrested – if the authorities can reach them before they commit suicide.
A final message from his father shocks 29-year-old Owen to the core: his amp is not just for medical assistance, but contains information on amazing skills and abilities that he’ll be able to use some day.  All he has to do is cross half the country without being picked up by the FBI and find Dad’s friend Jim in Oklahoma for some answers.
Did Owen really want to find out about the Echo Company of amp-enhanced soldiers who can access levels of superhuman strength with the flick of a mental switch? Can this calm schoolteacher stand by while Pure Priders attack innocent kids who were amped under The Uplift Act so they could concentrate in class? And exactly what skills did his researcher father add to Owen’s amp?

Newspaper articles and news reports punctuate this fast-moving story, showing the rise and flow of public opinion and occasional outright propaganda in a future not-so-distant from today. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Legend (fiction)

Elite soldiers and expendable worker drones.
Iffy electrical power and repeated plagues.
Endless slums and a handful of luxury apartments.

Future Los Angeles is a far cry from today’s sunny tourist destination. Most of its 20 million people are doomed to slums because of their mediocre Trial scores at age 10. Those who score too low are removed by the Government as a useless burden on society.

Scoring well on the Trial means high school and college and a good position in the Elector’s own police force. June is the only person who ever made a perfect score and has raced through all her classes in just four years, getting ready to stand as an officer on the front lines with her brother Metias.

When he is murdered by the notorious teen-criminal Day, who’s survived on his own since escaping from prison after his failed Trial, June’s hunger for revenge and Day’s drive to protect his impoverished family set the pair on a collision course with consequences that no one could envision.

Scheduled for Nov. 29 publication, so grab the first book in the Legend trilogy at your nearest indie bookstore tomorrow!

Book info: Legend / Marie Lu. Putnam, 2011. [author’s website] [series website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: No one expected a 10-year-old to break out of prison like Day did. No one expected a 10-year-old to get a perfect Trial score like June did either. Future Los Angeles only educates the very brightest – the middling ones become drudge labor, the Trial failures are turned over to government prisons or research labs.

Now 14, June is bored with her military college classes and longs to be on active duty full-time like her older brother Metias. Her parents would be so proud of them both, if they were still living… When Metias is killed on a routine patrol, June is not sure she can keep on living, but duty to the Elector keeps her going.

Day moves along the fringes of underground society, stealing supplies to keep his family alive in the slums, even though they think he’s gone forever. Fleetingly captured on security cameras, Day’s exploits against government stations are becoming legendary, even though no one knows exactly who he is.

Another plague is stalking the poor areas of the city, and Day spies as his family’s house is marked with the infected-quarantine mark. Now, getting the plague suppressant for his brother is Day’s main concern – and that means infiltrating high-security hospital labs undetected.

As Day searches for the medicine, the police continue searching for Day. June is assigned to the case and takes to the streets in disguise, trying to capture this renegade before he becomes more of a folk-hero in the slums.

The more Day learns about this plague, the more worried he is for his family. The more June learns about Day, the more she questions the Republic’s actions.

Was Day involved in Metias’s death? Why are the plagues so common in the City? Will June find answers in her brother’s journals or just more questions?

Leap into a gritty future adventure with Legend, recounted by Day and June in alternating chapters, first in a series. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Disunited States of America, by Harry Turtledove (book review) – alternate history with no USA!

book cover of Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove published by Tor TeenYesterday was a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriotic celebrations. At least, it was in this timeline for the USA… but what if the Constitution were never ratified? What if the states never united?

Welcome to “alt hist” – the alternative histories produced by wondering “what if” some key event of history had happened differently, then writing in great and grand detail about the results of that new path through time.

Turtledove is an acknowledged master of alternative history (his Guns of the South and WorldWar series are epic), and this trip with Crosstime Traffic to an alternate timestream is as thought-provoking as it is dangerous for Beckie (native to that timestream) and Justin (visiting with his mom on a trading mission).

Biological terrorism launched before the antidote is ready? Rampant racism and unrest? Remember, this is an alternate history, right?

Among all the freedoms that we celebrate today, be sure to exercise your freedom to read!

Book info: The Disunited States of America (Crosstime Traffic #4) / Harry Turtledove. Tor Teen, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: War between Ohio and Virginia? In Beckie’s world, it could happen any day. Justin’s seen enough alternate timelines to know that, as a Time Trader traveling through the many realities of how Earth’s history could have turned out.

Justin and his mom travel to Beckie’s alternate to make sure that researchers there hadn’t discovered Crosstime secrets and to help improve race relations. That North America is a crazy-quilt of big and little countries, and there are certainly no equal rights. If you weren’t white and male, you were powerless (except in Mississippi…strange, strange Mississippi).

This alternate never saw the states become united under the Constitution, so Beckie and her grandmother must have passports and visas and permission-to-travel letters for every border crossing between the civilized nation of California and Grandma’s hometown in rural Virginia. The “cousin” who gives them a ride across the bridge from Ohio gives her the creeps…the big guns hidden in his car give her the chills.

Beckie is glad to meet someone her own age when Justin visits the aunt and uncle she’s staying with. Justin is careful to speak like the locals, trying to blend in. Soon, they’re both glad that they met.

Suddenly, people in border towns start dying of a mysterious fever and Ohio is blamed for it. As Virginia soldiers roll in and bombing begins, Beckie and her ever-grumbling grandma search for a safe place, Justin is separated from his mom with communication lines cut, and the fever is confirmed as the plague. Plague! Who has a cure for the plague?

Will Beckie ever get home to California?
Will Justin and his mom find their way through time to their world?
Can Justin tell Beckie where he’s really from without poking holes in the fabric of time?

Turtledove is the master of alternate history, and his “Time Traders” series takes readers to fascinating timelines that truly make you wonder… what if? (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow (book review) – future USA Homeland insecurity

book cover of Little Brother by Cory Doctorow published by Tor Teen

Another Sneak-In Saturday, with one of my favorite books which has crept onto bestseller lists before I could get my recommendation to you!

This chilling near-future USA tale has won numerous awards, including 2009 John W. Campbell Science Fiction Novel of the Year, and is included on many best books lists for young adults.

Through 6 July 2011, you can download the mp3 audiobook of Little Brother FREE at SYNC’s site (2 free YA audiobooks each week all summer – yay!) with free Overdrive listening service, no DRM restrictions.

Or you can have Little Brother delivered free by e-mail (the whole book, in 139 chunks) through the fabulous Daily Lit service on the schedule you select (stop and start as you wish, have the next chunk delivered now, etc.)!

And any time you can download a text-readable version of Little Brother FREE here, with the author’s permission and blessing. Yes, really! Cory has found out that folks read his books and short stories online/on screen, then go buy the print books or eBooks (he’s right – that’s what I did).

Of course, you can pop down to your local library or indie bookstore to get it, too!
Don’t miss Little Brother! Stay free!

Book info: Little Brother / Cory Doctorow. Tor Teen, 2008. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailers one and two]

MY Recommendation: When terror attacks strike San Francisco, Marcus and his friends were skipping school to play a high-tech search game. Getting past the school’s ever-present cameras and snooper-computers had just been a game, too, but the authorities think those technogeek talents may connect the teens to the attacks. Although Darrell was stabbed during the panic following the bombings, Homeland Security detains them for days without their parents’ knowledge.

When the friends are released, but Darrell is nowhere to be found, Marcus vows to use his technical talents to strike back against intrusive security surveillance in every neighborhood, constant wiretapping, and increasing loss of citizens’ personal liberties. Hundreds of others join him online to fight against the “Big Brother” tactics being used to monitor everyone in the city.

But the pressure is on – Why is his social studies teacher replaced with someone who lectures that the Bill of Rights only applies sometimes?
Why don’t the US newspapers report about the chaos in San Francisco?
Will Marcus be able to keep up the fight for freedom of speech while staying a jump ahead of the authorities and still keep his friends safe?

A cautionary tale with a techno-twist. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Diamond Ruby (fiction)

Yes, girls can be baseball stars! But when the men with the money and the men with the clout got involved, early 20th century dreams faded for talented women, like Jackie Mitchell who faced the great Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the 1930s – and struck them out!

Mitchell’s brief career struck a chord with author Wallace, who took the idea of a phenomenal female pitcher into the Roaring 20s of baseball-mad New York City.

Ruby faces incredible odds to keep her family together following the Spanish Influenza epidemic which killed more people than World War I. She encounters good guys like Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey, bad ones with the KKK and organized crime, as well as women’s rights activists and folks on both sides of the Prohibition issue.

A great story and a great baseball story (and a happy birthday today to MB, Braves-loving gal and baseball fan extraordinaire!).

Book info: Diamond Ruby / Joseph Wallace. Touchstone, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailers one and two]

Recommendation: Ruby’s pitches were straight and true, but girls weren’t allowed to play baseball in 1913. She kept practicing in secret, through the end of World War I and the Spanish influenza epidemic that ravaged her neighborhood and wiped out most of her family.

It was her pitching skills that kept her orphaned nieces alive into the 1920s, first to put squirrels into their soup pot, then as Ruby became a speed pitcher for a Coney Island sideshow. Amanda kept the speed-sensing machine working, Allie posted the pitch speed, and “Diamond Ruby” hurled pitch after pitch, seven days a week, equaling the velocity of most major league pitchers. Her extra-long arms were good for something at least.

Her amazing pitching performances drew celebrities, like Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey, as well as the attention of women’s rights activists, organized crime bosses, and a minor league baseball team that needed publicity to stay alive, but needed a great pitcher even more.

Could Ruby really earn enough money by pitching to keep her small family intact? Can she keep her new friends from harm during the raucous days of Prohibition? Can she keep on pitching accurately despite threats, violence, and blatant prejudice?

This intriguing tale of survival, grit, and amazing athletic skill, set amid the glitter and glare of the Big Apple’s speakeasies and rum-runners, is inspired by a real woman pitcher of the era. Play ball, Ruby! (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Ten Miles Past Normal, by Frances O’Roark Dowell (book review) – goats, guitars, determination

book cover of Ten Miles Past Normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
You’ve gotta feel for Janie – her first year at a small town high school and already labeled as ignorable. And since her mom sometimes blogs about Janie’s personal life, she’s doubly doomed…

But learning about the “citizenship school” that existed near her North Carolina town in the 1950s during the Civil Rights movement and the brave people who taught African-Americans to read and write so they could register to vote helps Janie find her voice in the here and now.

Book info: Ten Miles Past Normal / by Frances O’Roark Dowell. Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), 2011. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher website]

My Book Talk: Janie loved the idea of moving to a farm when she was 10, but in high school it’s not so cool. Goat manure on her shoe, hay stuck in her hair that awful first week of school – now the kids call her “Farm Girl” and treat her like she’s invisible. Except Sarah, the only friend from their junior high who came to this high school; they only have one class together… so it’s lunchtime in the library, every day, alone.

When a cute guy invites them to play and sing with Jam Band, Janie is amazed to find that she’s a natural on bass guitar. Monster (that’s really his name on his birth certificate – crazy parents) teaches her to play, and she just feels the energy grow.

Researching their women’s studies project introduces them to real heroines in their North Carolina town, women who taught black adults to read and write so they could register to vote in the 1950s, despite threats from the KKK. As Janie and Sarah interview Mrs. Brown and the late Mrs. Pritchard’s husband, they decide that the old farmhouse site of the “Citizenship School” should be preserved as a museum.

Will Jam Band ever make real music? Does Monster like Janie (you know, “like” like)? Can she survive her craft-clueless mom’s blog about farm life that veers a little too often into Janie’s personal life? And Mom’s plan for a hootenanny at the farm for her 15th birthday? Yikes! (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through NetGalley.com.