Tag Archive | dance

Her parents’ dreams or hers? American Panda, by Gloria Chao (book review)

book cover of American Panda by Gloria Chao, published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.comGraduate from best college for prestigious career,
Marry the right person, have many sons…
why is everything already set in stone?

Mei’s parents don’t understand that she wants some traditions of Taiwan and some of America, that she will survive if she doesn’t follow their exacting standards. But what if they disown her, as they cut off all contact with her brother?

Read the first chapter here for free (thank you, Bustle!) to get into Mei’s world, the world of her demanding parents that will stifle her own dreams.

When to break free of the “correct” path?

Book info: American Panda / Gloria Chao. Simon Pulse, 2018. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The path meticulously mapped-out by her Taiwanese-American parents has led Mei to MIT, but the 17 year old now must decide how far from their dreams she can venture in search of what she truly wants.

She uses hand sanitizer constantly, the mere idea of cadavers makes her squeamish, and biology class bores her – why do her parents insist that she must become a doctor?

When older brother Xing announced his engagement, Baba and Mama disowned him because Esther might not be able to give them grandsons, completely erased him from their lives – how can Mei tell them she’s dating a Japanese-American guy from California?

Dancing set her apart from other Asian students applying to MIT, so her parents allowed it just until her acceptance letter arrived – why can’t she tell them what joy it brings her and that she’s teaching dance classes on weekends?

Fast-tracked to college by her parents’ demands, Mei never dated in high school, never chose her own path – maybe with Darren’s support and affection, she can break away from their rigidly traditional expectations without breaking herself.

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 www.abookandahug.com)

Escape from peril to danger! Journey onward with free audiobooks

Tales of difficult decisions and travel travails in this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC.

Nearing the end of this great summer program, so please download either or both books (click on link following title) before Wednesday 3 August 2016, so that you can listen free as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device.

CD cover of audiobook Juba! by Walter Dean Myers | Read by Brandon Gill Published by HarperAudio | recommended on BooksYALove.comJuba! (download here 28 July – 3 August 2016)

by Walter Dean Myers
Read by Brandon Gill
Published by HarperAudio

After Mr. Juba dances for appreciative crowds in England at the behest of Charles Dickens, the black freedman must decide whether to return to America where he could be captured and enslaved.

Pennies for Hitler (download here 28 July – 3 August 2016)CD cover of audiobook Pennies for Hitler by Jackie French | Read by Humphrey Bower Published by Bolinda Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com
by Jackie French
Read by Humphrey Bower
Published by Bolinda Audio

Escaping from Nazi Germany, Georg becomes George as this child of British professor is smuggled to England, then Australia, leaving behind family and friends, encountering prejudice and possibilities.

What to do when it’s not safe to stay, dangerous to leave?

U is uncertainty & Rules for 50/50 Chances, by Kate McGovern (book review)

book cover of Rules for 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern published by Farrar Straus Giroux | recommended on BooksYALove.com Hereditary disease.
Test to find out
or live till it grabs you?

Rose’s mother has Huntington’s Disease and is losing control of herself and her abilities bit by bit.  At 18, Rose can take the genetic test that tells whether she inherited the fatal disease or not. Then she meets Caleb…

Would you want to know how you’re going to die?

p.s. May is Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month, so look for a Team Hope HD Walk near you.

Book info: Rules for 50/50 Chances / Kate McGovern. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers , 2015 [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As her mother’s condition worsens, 18-year-old Rose wonders whether taking the genetic test to see if she also has Huntington’s Disease would stop her from dancing ballet or planning for college or letting new friend Caleb have her heart.

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?

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.

Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, by Kate Hattemer (book review) – reality TV + high school = yikes!

book cover of Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer published by Knopf Books for Young ReadersA reality show in the arts high school?
Who really thought this was a good idea?
Who’s profiting from the TV crew’s invasion…hmm?

Inspired by their study of  The Cantos by Ezra Pound, Ethan and friends risk expulsion to get their protest Contracantos into classmates’ hands:

“The Serpent Vice betrays our cause.
He trades appraisal for applause.
True art is beauty; beauty, truth.
But For Art’s Sake is low, uncouth.
It sells our talent, vends our youth.”

Find this April 2014 release now at your local library or independent bookstore so you can decide whether “For Art’s Sake” reality show is awe-inspiring or awful, and meet fearless gerbil Baconnaise, as well.


Book info: The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy / Kate Hattemer. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As a reality show invades their arts high school, four friends strike back with poetic declarations against its disruptions and unethical editing.

Being somewhat talented among Selwyn’s prodigies stresses Ethan plenty, but when the reality show based at their school makes his longed-for Maura look bad for a national audience, the teen gets angry.

When Luke’s investigative article questioning Selwyn Academy’s financial arrangements with “For Art’s Sake” is banned from the Cantos school paper, he’s fighting mad.

As Luke, Ethan, Elizabeth and Jackson quietly post their Contracantos protest poems around school, the administration wants to stamp them out.

It may be up to Ethan and talented gerbil Baconnaise to make sure that the final Contracantos are published as classmates are voted off the show (“there’s just one full scholarship”) and creative editing alters every scene.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Ask Again Later, by Liz Czukas (book review) – 1 prom, 2 dates, too crazy!

book cover of Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas published by Harper TeenHelp out the shy tech guy with a secret?
Console the newly-dumped jock senior?
Stick to the “No Drama Prom-a” plan with her pals?

When even the Magic 8 Ball can’t tell Heart which Prom date to choose, she just flips a coin!

Discover which date she goes with and why the junior avoids all romantic relationships in this fun read.

Would you allow a coin toss to decide something with potentially huge consequences?

Book info: Ask Again Later / Liz Czukas. Harper Teen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Flipping a coin to choose her prom date gives Heart two very different evenings, certainly not the “No Drama Prom-a” that she’d expected!

Her theater pals know she doesn’t do relationships since her teen-mom walked out when Heart was a baby, so they all planned to dance at Prom as a group of friends – no pressure.

But shy Ryan from backstage asks her to be his date, since his parents don’t know he’s gay (in fact, Heart is the first person he’s told) – how sweet!

Then her big brother’s best friend gets dumped, so Phil wants Heart to go with Troy the jock – it’s his senior Prom, after all.

She can’t decide who to go with, the Magic 8 Ball is on the fence, so she finally flips a coin and…

Will her drama friends, especially pianist “Schroeder” who calls her “Spleen” instead of Heart, be okay if she chooses one of the guys? They did ask her first, sort of…

Alternating chapters detail Prom Night as Ryan’s date (amazing tux) and as Troy’s date (those seniors sure do drink hard) – will Heart and her vintage dress survive it all or will Prom win? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Other stories, other poets (book reviews) – novels-in-verse

Much like eclipse-viewers look indirectly at the sun, we can get a glimpse into life situations which may or may not mirror our own through novels-in-verse.

Click each title link to open my no-spoilers recommendation in a new window/tab for each of these BooksYALove favorites.

book cover of After the Kiss by Terra Elen McVoy published by Simon PulseCamille and Becca don’t realize that they share a school, a coffeehouse, and one boy’s kiss… until an ill-timed cellphone photo makes all the connections fall into place.

Told in alternating chapters by each teen, their free verse ranges through the emotions that they must deal with as they try to reconcile what they thought was true with what reality is, After the Kiss  of Alec, the haiku-writing baseball star.


book cover of Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe published by VikingSara feels like her life at the ballet academy, far from her small New England hometown, is a never-ending Audition, as the dancers constantly compete for lead roles, for advanced classes, for the eye of handsome student assistant Remington.

Is he really interested in Sara? Can she continue to keep up with her schoolwork and her dance lessons and her hidden relationship with Remington? Only her poetry journal hears her fears and dreams.


book cover of Karma by Cathy Ostlere published by Razorbill

Religious turmoil becomes armed warfare in 1980s India, and Maya is caught in the upheaval almost as soon as she arrives with her father and the ashes of her mother, brought “home” to the family which disowned them when they married, a Sikh and a Hindu who thought that love would overcome all.

Is it Karma  that brought their only child to a place she’s only heard of, far from her birthplace on the Canadian prairies, that separates her from her Bapu, that makes her versified memories a clouded mirror?

(all review copies and cover images courtesy of their respective publishers)

N for Naive: Strings Attached, by Judy Blundell (fiction) – mobsters, favors, payback

Kit has see if she can make it in New York City on her own,
since Billy left for the Army.
She can sing, act, dance. She just has to do it.

So what if Billy’s dad wants to help her a little?
“No strings attached,” says Nate the Nose…
How much can you trust a gangster, Kit? How can you be so naive?

New York City in 1950. Recovered from World War II, all hustle and bustle and bright lights, with plenty of time for nightclubs and business deals – legitimate and otherwise. Lots of big theaters and smoky little dives like the one where Kit gets a job, where they’ll believe she’s old enough to work, not a 17-year-old running away from home.

Eventually she has to decide whether Nate’s help is worth the risks of observing which lawyer talks to which shady character at the nightclub, especially when some of them disappear. Can she risk not telling Nate when his son will come visit her? Why does she feel like the Korean warfront might be a safer place for Billy than being with his father?

Find out what Kit decides when you pick up Strings Attached at your local library or independent bookstore. (A fun note about author Judy Blundell: she’s also written Star Wars Journals and Star Wars Jedi Apprentice books under pen name Jude Watson.)

Book info: Strings Attached / Judy Blundell. Scholastic Press, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: This chorus line job just could be Kit’s lucky break. When Mr. Benedict offers her an apartment near the New York City club, she considers it – after all, he is her boyfriend Billy’s father…and rumored to be a gangster.

Anything’s better than staying in Providence, with her father’s drinking and her siblings trying to hide it (like triplets could ever hide anything from each other – ha!) and the scorn of Billy’s upper-class mother for the Corrigans’ genteel poverty.

Oh, how Billy argued with his father before leaving for basic training! Nate Benedict just couldn’t believe that he’d be stupid enough to join the Army during the Korean War. Now Billy returns his father’s letters unopened, and Nate wants Kit to let him know how his son is doing when he writes to her.

Nate brings Kit lovely clothes “like Billy would want for her,” and soon her upstairs neighbors think she’s a kept woman. The Greeleys were both teachers until they were fired for possible “Communist sympathies,” so they have lots of time to keep an eye on the neighborhood.

Kit often sees Nate in the nightclub audience, talking to known mobsters and crooked lawyers. When he asks her to have dinner with some of these guests, she realizes that her great apartment has a bigger price than she expected. When Billy forbids her to tell his father that he’s coming to the city, Kit knows that something is going to go wrong.

Does Billy really love her? Is his father a real gangster or just trying to make himself look good to the big city guys? How close is the Greeleys’ opinion of her to the truth of the matter?

A mystery, a love story, a growing-up tale – all piled into the hustle and bustle of 1950 New York City – with Strings Attached. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Bunheads, by Sophie Flack (book review) – dance, dream, stretch, strain, strive, dance

book cover of Bunheads by Sophie FlackIf you sleep under a ballerina blanket,
practice second position waiting for the schoolbus,
live and breathe ballet – then you’re probably a bunhead.

On this Fun Friday, we catch up with 19-year-old Hannah, who’s living the dream of many a young girl, dancing every night (and weekend matinees) in pointe shoes and tutus, a professional ballet dancer while still in her teens.

But those cute little grade-schoolers can’t know the realities of being a corps de ballet dancer – sewing yourself into your shoes before every performance, dieting constantly, plagued by bunions and muscle strains, worrying about being promoted to soloist or being cut from the company roster.

Listen to the author talk about her recent experiences in the corps de ballet and you’ll know that Hannah’s story may be fiction, but it’s also very true.

Read Bunheads along with Audition (review) for a deep journey into the world of teen professional ballet dancers – you’ll never look at those dancing Snowflakes in The Nutcracker quite the same way again.

Book info: Bunheads / Sophie Flack. Poppy Books, 2011. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My booktalk: Hannah is a ballet dancer, not a ballerina – not the star…yet. Moving to New York at age 14, she’s danced with the Manhattan Ballet Company for 5 years, doing homework between performances, stretching tired muscles and massaging her bunions after twice-daily practices, striving for perfect technique and lithe flexibility.

When the calendar turns to fall, it’s time to begin rehearsing The Nutcracker. A holiday favorite of audiences from Thanksgiving to New Year, it’s merely part of the routine for the dancers who perform over 50 different ballets in the Company’s repertoire.

Excitement builds as the director choreographs a new ballet for the Company and selects dancers for each piece. Hannah is thrilled to become Lottie’s understudy, practicing the lead ballerina’s dances as her alternate, less-thrilled to see that Zoe is also chosen as Lottie’s understudy. Competition is an integral part of Company life; friendships are often optional.

Sometimes she escapes the endless cycle of studio to apartment to studio by visiting her cousin’s restaurant, journal in hand. A chance meeting with singer-songwriter Jacob after his guitar performance there shakes up Hannah’s perfectly orchestrated life – could she really find time for a relationship?

When Lottie is hurt and Hannah suddenly steps into the spotlight, will her performance get her promoted to soloist? Can her body cope with the demands to be ever slimmer and stronger? How much of real life is Hannah willing to sacrifice to remain a dancer?

Personal dreams and performance realities dance their erratic and realistic duet in this well-crafted debut novel, as the author’s own experiences as a professional ballet dancer provide behind-the-scenes details. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)