Tag Archive | faith

Names They Gave Us – enough against chaos? by Emery Lord (book review)

book cover of Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord published by Bloomsbury | recommended on BooksYALove.com She did everything properly,
all promises kept on her side of the bargain,
but evidently God has other plans for her mom…

Asked by her own parents to be counselor at a different camp, while Mom recovers at their family’s church camp just around the lakeshore – Lucy is angry at God for letting the cancer come back and at her boyfriend for ‘pausing’ their relationship for summer.

If she can salvage even a scrap of comfort from working with little kids who spend the summer at Daybreak to escape terrible situations…

This mid-May 2017 novel is stirring, honest, and powerful – faith isn’t always strong, past history is often murky, and the future is never promised to anyone.

(personally, I think the title has no relevance to the story at all. Wonder why @EmeryLord agreed to it – but authors don’t have total control over titles and rarely have a say about the cover art).

Have you ever bargained with God?
**kmm

Book info: The Names They Gave Us / Emery Lord. Bloomsbury Teens, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: All Lucy wants is summer at her parents’ church camp so she can get over Mom’s cancer returning and her boyfriend ‘pausing’ their perfect relationship, but the midwest teen finds herself at another camp nearby, where worry and hope (and Jones) wrestle for her attention.

The counselors and the campers at Daybreak all carry heavy burdens of past circumstances – Mom thinks this is better for Lucy than being with her between chemo sessions?

Just a mile between both camps so Lucy can still hear Dad’s sermons every Sunday – why does that distance seem to change constantly all summer?

Deepening friendships with fellow counselors during their summer together, especially with Henry Jones – can she have a crush on him, so soon after Lukas?

Big concerns affecting her littlest campers, fretting over chemo effects, wondering if she can remember every tiny detail about Mom, huge secrets revealed and memories made. God didn’t keep his side of Lucy’s bargain to keep Mom healthy, but perhaps Lucy doesn’t have to stay mad at him forever.

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman (book review) – Bollywood plus Hebrew School?

Book cover of My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman published by Amulet BooksHebrew school – check.
Bollywood movie DVD collection – check.
Punjabi and Yiddish grandparents at the same celebration – oy vey!

It’s worth a special trip to your favorite local library or independent bookstore to meet Tara and friends in My Basmati Bat Mitzvah if you like

  • interesting family dynamics
  • a look into two different cultural heritages
  • guys and gals who are trying to sort out relationships and other complicated things
  • middle school experiences that are both funny and typical
  • a strong-minded main character who still has big questions
  • conversations about faith and God that aren’t self-righteous sermons
  • chances to be “both X and Y” instead of having to be “either X or Y”

Samosas at the bat mitzvah reception and chilies in the matzoh ball soup? Count me in!
**kmm

Book info:  My Basmati Bat Mitzvah / Paula J. Freedman. Amulet Books, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Tara just wants to add a hint of India to her bat mitzvah ceremony, to stay friends with her best friends, and to win the robotics contest – how can this all be so hard?!

The twelve-year-old loves her Yiddish-speaking Gran and her Punjabi grandpa, Bollywood movies and cheezy monster flicks, the Diwali and Hanukkah festivals of light that each side of her family celebrates.

Attending Hebrew school in preparation for her bat mitzvah at age 13, she’s confused about God – better talk to Rabbi Aron some more. And she’s confused by best buddy Ben-O’s sudden blushes and breath mints, by the class clown’s attentions, by Rebecca wanting to be best friends with her and that snooty Sheila at the same time.

A mishap with an heirloom sari and continuing jibes that her Indian mother’s conversion to Judaism didn’t really make her Jewish collide with problems on the robotics team and a glimpse into Sheila’s not-so-perfect purple life in the hectic weeks leading up to her bat mitzvah.

How can she balance new friendships and old?
Why are boys so weird now?
Can she really mix India and New York City in her bat mitzvah?

The importance of family traditions and questions about faith thread through this coming-of-age story like the golden threads in Daadiji’s beautiful sari.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Killer of Enemies, by Joseph Bruchac (book review) – mind, heart, death in future

book cover of Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac published by Tu BooksTechnology gone,
New monsters join the old,
Hungry for the people’s blood.

Read this desert-based dystopia for Lozen’s warrior woman spirit, her respectful killing skill, and her tenacious love for her family.

For a taste of  the dangers and monsters that Lozen faces inside and outside Haven, try chapters 17-19 for free here.

Then ask for Killer of Enemies  at your local library or independent bookstore now- you won’t want to miss it!

**kmm

Book info:  Killer of Enemies / Joseph Bruchac. Tu Books, 2013. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Lozen can sense the monsters on both sides of the compound’s walls and kill the mutants outside skillfully. But those holding her family hostage inside…can only be eliminated with a skill that the teen isn’t sure she has.

The land of Lozen’s Apache ancestors survived the Cloud from space which wiped out all technology, but so many people perished. The privileged Ones who survived meltdown of their implanted enhancements have holed up in secure places and gathered small armies, ‘recruiting’ those with blacksmithing or hunting skills to add to their power.

With her family held hostage in “Haven” Lozen must hunt the freakish Cloud-magnified animals who can batter down the former prison’s walls. The four Ones ruling Haven don’t know that the teen can sense the gen-mod monsters’ thoughts, as well as those of most humans.

Carefully-made plans for her family’s escape from the insanity of Haven may have to accelerate when the Ones declare her only friend is a traitor and plan to execute him.

Can she sway their decision without exposing her telepathic powers?
Can she get her family out of Haven before it’s too late?
Can a monster-killer save herself?

Weaving traditional Chiricahua beliefs with a new Stone Age power struggle, the Killer of Enemies  must remember her heritage while she strives to live long enough to have a future.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Gated, by Amy Christine Parker (book review) – safe from evil world…perhaps

book cover of Gated by Amy Christine Parker published by Random HouseInside the gates, it’s safe.
Outside, the evil world will end soon.
Or maybe it’s the other way around.

The messages that Pioneer began receiving from The Beloved in space during 9/11 have sent an entire colony of families to create their own Armageddon-proof underground Silo against the coming endtimes.

Inside the Community’s gates, Lyla’s mother still mourns a long-ago kidnapping, shooting practice uses human-size targets, and no outside TV, radio, or magazines are allowed in – sanctuary or captivity?

Doomsday cults are nothing new, but Lyla’s future is now, and it’s not at all what Pioneer promised!  What a page-turner!

**kmm

Book info: Gated / Amy Christine Parker. Random House, 2013.  [author Facebook page]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Pioneer comforted Lyla’s parents after her sister’s kidnapping and the 9/11 attacks, led them to establish the Community to survive the imminent endtimes, will keep them safe from the world’s evils… maybe.

Lyla has grown from shy little girl to inquisitive teen in this pastoral place of horses and friends and meadows and shooting practice on human-shaped targets. Yes, Pioneer expects everyone to defend the Community when the Earth’s rotation reverses soon and these chosen ones go into their underground fortress to wait out the chaos.

Despite Pioneer’s efforts, the Community hasn’t completely escaped the notice of nearby townspeople during their monthly supply runs. In fact, the sheriff has just come for a visit to make sure everyone is within the gates of their own free will.

When Lyla is chosen as tour guide for the sheriff’s teenage son, she begins thinking about the outside world and finds Cody in her dreams (even though Will is her intended now).

A small mistake on her part leads to disastrous results as Pioneer shows the Community outside news that confirms his prophecies are coming true now!

“This is not a drill!” Pioneer thunders – but Lyla doesn’t want to believe that the endtimes have arrived in this novel about belief, lies, and faith.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Arise, by Tara Hudson (fiction) – spirits prowling New Orleans

Book cover of Arise by Tara Hudson published by Harper Teen

It’s getting worse for the young couple,
Joshua looks like a loner at school because he’d rather talk to her, and no one else can see mostly-dead Amelia.

And when they kiss, Amelia vanishes spontaneously, reappearing elsewhere with no control over her location.

A trip out of town for the holidays doesn’t sound half-bad, even if they might encounter Joshua’s grandmother Ruth who’s a Seer dedicated to eliminating all ghosts like Amelia.

Happy Book Birthday tomorrow (June 5th, 2012) to Arise!  You’ll enjoy this spooky adventure even more if you read Hereafter  first to learn how Amelia and Joshua met (my no-spoiler recommendation here), so grab it at your local library or independent bookstore, then head for the French Quarter with Arise.
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Book info: Arise (Hereafter series, 2) / Tara Hudson. Harper Teen, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation:Amelia longs to kiss Joshua, but the spirit-girl just poofs away when she touches the human boy, rematerializing somewhere else. Perhaps his Seer relatives in New Orleans have an answer to their dilemma, or perhaps the couple is walking into a sinister trap.Getting away from the evil beings clustered near the High Bridge should be holiday enough, but it’s a long, awkward trip from Oklahoma to the Crescent City. Josh’s sister Jillian can sense Amelia in the car, and their parents get them lost more than once. Dozing off, Amelia is brought into the spirit world, seeing her father at last! He’d died shortly after she did, but she hadn’t been able to locate his spirit until now – and he brings her a chilling warning about rising rivers.

Entering the Mayhew family’s ancestral home is like walking into a supernatural force field, as all the relatives gathered there for Christmas are Seers attuned to the spirit world. The teen cousins can see Amelia’s ghost-form and include the newcomers in their mysterious winter-break plans.

Amelia encounters ghosts wandering around the French Quarter tourist areas who warn her of dark demons gathering nearby, all invisible to the living. Gabrielle is another thing entirely, a spirit-girl they meet at a Voodoo shop, one ghost who’s found a way to stay with the living and might be able to help Amelia do the same. For every time that Amelia vanishes and reappears, yet another piece of her ghostly form is lost…

Is it coincidence that the dark forces are rising just when the Seers of the Mayhew clan are all in one place?

Can Gaby’s midnight ceremony in the graveyard anchor Amelia in the world of the living?

Or should she stick with her plan to save Joshua and his family from the deepest evils by disappearing from his life forever?

This sequel to Hereafter  travels from countryside to city, from known dangers to unforeseen perils, from the hope of being together for a lifetime to the agony of potentially being apart forever – ghosts and Seers alike have little time to discover their allies and enemies.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Ashfall, by Mike Mullin (book review) – volcano disaster, dangerous trek, epic determination

book cover of Ashfall by Mike Mullin published by Tanglewood BooksAs volcanic ash fills the Iowa skies,
violent earthquakes rattle the cornfields,
booms louder than cannons go on for hours and hours,
it seems like the end of the world is now…
but the end is just beginning.

Yellowstone’s geysers and fumaroles have always hinted at its geothermal potential for destruction. The supervolcano eruption long feared by geologists has come at last, and Alex’s home 900 miles east is under attack from its furies.

The enormous ash plume will spread through the atmosphere, block out sunlight, cause sudden and long-lasting winter weather. No sunshine means no crops growing, no crops means no food, widespread famine and desperation. Imagine the damage that sharp corrosive ash will do to auto engine air intakes, aircraft jet engines, delicate lung tissue of people and animals.

And Alex heads out into this ashfall with meager supplies and no sunrise to guide him eastward, trying to reunite with his family, to survive.

Visiting Yellowstone National Park last September, I smelled the sulfur of its hot spring pools, saw entire forests killed by rising super-scalding water levels, watched Old Faithful geyser jet up hundreds of feet into the sky. Yep, this supervolcano potential is real, and scientists are closely monitoring it – but can’t stop it.

First-time author Mike Mullin describes a perilous apocalyptic world which is all the more frightening because it really could happen at any moment. Book two in the series, Ashen Winter, will be published in October 2012 – pre-order it as soon as possible at your favorite independent bookstore because you won’t want to wait a single extra day to read what happens after Ashfall!
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Book info: Ashfall / Mike Mullin. Tanglewood Books, 2011. [author’s website]    [publisher site]   [book trailer] My personal copy of book. Cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk:  Alex wants to skip visiting his uncle’s goat farm, and his parents finally agree to let the 16-year-old stay home alone this time, on that September weekend when the whole world changed, when a supervolcano eruption rocked civilization to its core.

It’s not like Alex was planning a wild party in his parents’ absence – just computer games and junk food on the menu. But those teen pleasures are gone now, like clear air and electricity and sunshine and phone service and clean water and trusting other people. Even 900 miles from the Yellowstone supervolcano, earthquakes throw houses around like kids’ blocks in their Iowa hometown. Then the ash begins to fall from the sky…and fall and fall and fall, clogging car engines, making it hard to breathe, getting into every crevice of his clothes.

Determined to get to his family, Alex gathers whatever food and gear he can, then heads east cross-country on Dad’s skis. Driving to Warren takes an hour and a half – how long will it take now? Slogging through ever-deepening ash, running short of water and food, he avoids farmhouses where he can see rifle barrels glinting in the windows, tries to find shelter in this flat farmland it gets colder and colder.

He keeps moving east, encountering very few refugees, some even less-prepared than he is, one much more dangerous than anyone he ever wanted to meet. Wounded, he stumbles into the first farmyard along the road and is taken in by Mrs. Edmunds and her teen daughter. Luckily, Darla has enough veterinary training to sew him up, and there’s corn to feed them for a while. Unluckily, trouble is coming down the road toward them, fast.

Can Alex really get to his uncle’s farm under his own power?
Can he protect Darla and her mom if they go with him?
What’s their biggest danger – the ash searing their lungs, the sudden heavy snowfall, or the viciousness of other people?

Vividly portraying a post-apocalyptic scenario that’s entirely too possible, Ashfall is first in a series, followed by Ashen Winter (book 2).  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

O for Ollie in With a Name Like Love, by Tess Hilmo (book review) – truth, hate, and justice in 1950s Ozarks

book cover of With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo published by Margaret Foster BooksSummertime in the 1950s south,
big revival tent pitched in a meadow outside town,
everyone welcome to sing gospel songs and listen to hopeful words,
three days here, then gone again, down the road to the next town.

But this time, Ollie knows that her singing, preaching family needs to stay a while longer, to help someone who can’t get out of a problem that he didn’t create. This hardscrabble Arkansas farming town had condemned Jimmy’s mom without a second thought. Never mind the impossibility of such a tiny woman beating up her big abusive husband and heaving him into the river…

You need to visit Binder for yourself and meet Jimmy, his wonderful collection of frogs, his gospel-singing neighbor Moody, and Mrs. Mahoney, who opened her home to the family With a Name Like Love – you’ll be so glad that you did.
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Book info: With a Name Like Love / Tess Hilmo. Margaret Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Ollie knows in her heart that Binder, Arkansas could use her daddy’s message of love, but some folks don’t see it that way. A revival won’t change people who jailed a woman just because her abusive husband vanished, will it?

As Ollie and her younger sisters are posting flyers about the revival in town, a boy watches them from behind trees and buildings. Jimmy is not welcome in the general store, whose owner is sure that his mother murdered her abusive husband and disposed of the body without a trace. Many in town agree, so Jimmy keeps to himself up in the Ozark woods, tending to his pet frogs and helping his elderly neighbor Moody. Soon the sheriff will come take his mother to the county jail where no one will speak up for the petite woman, where no one will testify that she and Jimmy were regularly beaten by her hulking bear of a husband.

When Jimmy quietly arrives at the revival grounds, Ollie introduces him to her father, hoping that the young man’s plight will convince Rev. Love to stay in Binder longer than 3 days to help him. The reverend knows that God’s love can help Jimmy, but isn’t sure that the Love family can help Jimmy against townspeople whose minds are convinced about his mother’s guilt.

A shadowy figure slinks through their camp, a fire torches the parents’ sleeping tent, sister Gwen leads them in praying for rain, and the raindrops fall, saving their revival tent and the girls’ bunkhouse on wheels. Who is trying to make the Loves leave Binder? Are Ollie’s questions about Jimmy’s mother getting too close to the real truth?

This mystery takes readers to that dusty Arkansas summer in 1957, when Reverend Love’s message could ease listeners’ sorrows and eventually the truth might be coaxed out of hiding. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

This Thing Called the Future, by J.L. Powers (book review) – tradition, love, AIDS, hope in South Africa

Tomorrow is South Africa Youth Day, celebrating the 1976 youth protest in Soweto. Khosi’s mother and father were among the many who fought for freedom from apartheid, the South African government’s brutal racial discrimination policy.

Although apartheid has crumbled, Khosi and Zi are growing up in an era of changes, as traditional beliefs clash with Christianity, and new menaces stalk the villages and cities of Africa. “The disease of these times” Khosi calls it – HIV and AIDS leaves many children orphaned.

I visited with author J.L. Powers at TLA, and she told me of life in today’s South African townships, the funeral bells, the push for education. Reading this strong book, we can believe that Khosi will stay in school and find a way to balance her beliefs, avoid threats to her health, and see a bright future.
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Book info: This Thing Called the Future / J.L. Powers. Cinco Puntos Press, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Khosi wants to do well in school, keep her family safe, escape AIDS, “the disease of these times” in South Africa. Life can be so confusing at 14, as she prays to the great God-in-the-sky at the church and also honors her ancestors with traditional ceremonies, uses herbal cures from the sangoma as well as modern medicines from the clinic. Born on the day that her grandfather died, Khosi often has vivid dreams – are they merely warnings from her ancestor or dire predictions of the future?

She and her little sister live with their grandmother in Imbali township, while her mother teaches in another city, coming home on the weekends; their father lives so far away that they see him only on holidays. Khosi wishes that Mama and Baba were married, but during the struggle for Liberation who could afford the lobolo, the bride price?

A widowed neighbor accuses Mama of stealing her late husband’s money, a drunken man near Gogo’s house follows Khosi and Zi home from school every day, and the witch woman calls out that she will take Khosi’s spirit! How Khosi wishes she could just ignore these things and plan her future as someone who heals or dream about her crush on Little Man at her school …

When Mama comes home, sick and skinny and weary, Khosi fears that the neighbor and the witch have cursed her family. What can she do?

Author J.L. Powers’ time in South Africa has given her great insight into the lives of its girls and women, ever-shadowed by HIV, neighborhood violence, and the struggle to rise above poverty, as she brings us a powerful story that still holds hope for This Thing Called the Future. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.