Tag Archive | games

Can they escape The Gauntlet’s deadly game of blood and sand? by Karuna Riazi (book review)

book cover of The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi published by Salaam Reads | recommended on BooksYALove.comAn old board game comes to life,
little brother rushes in and vanishes!
All puzzles must be solved to rescue him…

Although that wooden box looks like an outdated game, the dangers of entering “the Gauntlet of Blood and Sand” are very real – but how else can Farah get Ahmad back?

True friends Alex and Essie go with her – not the birthday party that any of them expected!

How far would you go to help your best friend?
**kmm

Book info: The Gauntlet / Karuna Riazi. Salaam Reads, 2017. [author Twitter]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Escaping her 12th birthday party for just a moment to open her aunt’s gift, Farah and her best friends find themselves transported from New York into an exotic board game that they must win in order to find her little brother Ahmad and to stay alive!

A good Bangladeshi girl would welcome her new classmates to the party, but Farah would rather play games with little brother Ahmad (letting him win keeps his ADHD tantrums to a minimum – a Mirza family rule).

Quietly creeping upstairs with Alex and Essie from her old neighborhood, Farah unwraps “The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand” and the ancient-looking game comes to life. Ahmad vanishes into the gameboard, just as Aunt Zohra says that it ruined her life at age 12!

Of course, Farah, Alex, and Essie must play the game to save him, but if they don’t solve each puzzle in time, none of them will escape the Gauntlet.

Who can they trust in the souk marketplace?
What otherworldly perils will the teammates face next?
How will they find Ahmad in this multi-level city made of sand?

A lifetime of playing board games may help Farah, Essie, and Alex outwit the Architect’s deadly puzzle challenges – if he doesn’t cheat! (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

How is videogame rehab a Cure for the Common Universe? by Christian McKay Heidicker (book review)

book cover of Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com Plays videogames more hours than any full-time job,
Sees sunlight on alternate Thursdays (maybe),
Why would they send him to game-addiction rehab?

And just minutes after Jaxon meets a real, breathing teen girl who agrees to go out with him! Quick – how can he level up and prove that he’s cured and get to that date?!

Read an excerpt here, courtesy of the publisher, then go find your own Cure for the Common Universe at a local library or independent bookstore – just out in paperback this month!

What’ll they throw you into rehab for??
**kmm

Book info: Cure for the Common Universe / Christian McKay Heidicker. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017. [author site] [publisher site] [author video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Banished to a rehab center for videogame addicts, 16 year old Jaxon is desperate to escape in time for his first-ever date with a girl in the real world, but earning his way out could involve actually talking about being abandoned by Mom – no other way to level up?!

Not his fault that his parents divorced when he was just 8 or that his mom’s addictions always make her forget he’s coming to visit or that he is escaping from his stepmother’s perfectionism by living in the videogames that he so loved playing with Mom…

Hustled away to the desert rehab center, Jaxon meets teens who truly are videogame addicts (he isn’t, just likes playing them 60 hours a week in summer) and tries to figure out how he can get back to Salt Lake City in just four days so he can meet Serena (no cellphone, no FaceBook) for their date (first date, first girl who laughed with him instead of at him).

Doing chores earns points, doing dumb stuff loses points for you and your guild (yep, using different names and being in guilds is not like gaming at all – ha!).

Earn enough points, and you can go home from v-hab (again, not at all like gaming – ha!)

But no one in the whole two-month history of Horizons has earned their way out in just 4 days – and that’s what Jaxon has to do, if he wants to see Serena… (was any gaming reward worth this much??)

Soup, Aurora, Meeki, Zxzord, and Fezzik want to help their guildmate get to that golden date with Serena, but he’ll have to see beyond his own limitations first.

Lois Lane: Fallout, by Gwenda Bond (book review) – Metropolis, new reporter, online dangers

book cover of Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond published by Switch PressStay out of trouble,
don’t get involved…
when a friend is being bullied?
Yeah, right.

Lois Lane is a born investigator, and her Army dad’s latest move puts her into a virtual reality mystery at her newest school – yes, that Lois Lane and the Daily Planet  and an online-only friend who calls himself SmallvilleGuy.

Read the free prequel short stories here (look below the book cover on left), then head to your local library or independent bookstore to get Lois Lane: Fallout.

When have you stood up against bullying?
**kmm

Book info: Lois Lane: Fallout (Lois Lane, book 1) / Gwenda Bond. Switch Press/Capstone, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Unnerved by the tech gang at her newest school, fledgling reporter Lois investigates its hush-hush ‘field trips’ and uncovers dangers that her online pal SmallvilleGuy and her Army general father can’t ignore.

She promised herself to fly under the radar at Metropolis High, but Lois can’t stand bullies. The Warheads move in unison, finish each other’s sentences, and work on a special virtual reality project off-campus. Now, they want to ‘assimilate’ computer whiz Anavi who feels them pressing on her mind.

Recruited by editor Perry White for the Daily Planet’s new teen reporting team, Lois investigates the Warheads, finding weird connections between the principal and a local research lab.

While new friends on the Scoop team back her up during her research, her online friend SmallvilleGuy (who is he, really?) warns Lois about ARL and its virtual reality plans.

Can Lois keep Anavi safe from The Warheads?
Are their minds truly connected?
Will she ever meet SmallvilleGuy outside the virtual reality game worlds?

A smart and subtle prequel to the Superman saga that we all know so well, Lois Lane: Fallout  balances high-tech gone wrong with friendship done right.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, by Brian Katcher (book review) – comics, quizzes, and captures

book cover of Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher published by Katherine Tegen BooksAt a comic-con, he’ll be happy.
Finally away at college, she’ll be overjoyed.
Trouble… who wants that?

When 13-year-old Clayton slips out of the QuizBowl team hotel for his first comic-con, Ana is terrified – if she loses track of him, their hyper-protective parents will disown her like they did when big sister stepped out of line.

And when things go sour during their search for Clayton at WashingCon, Zak boggles at constants that could end and possibilities that arise- without cons in his life, what else would a certified geek do?

Happy book birthday to The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak,  your invitation to explore the world of comic-conventions, gaming, and love among geeks. For some how-to from the female perspective, try The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended here last week.

So, be honest – Star Wars or Star Trek?
**kmm

Book info: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak / Brian Katcher. Katherine Tegen Books, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Chasing her little brother through a comic-con wasn’t on Ana’s list of ways to stay perfect, but with the help of cute slacker Zak, she may get the QuizBowl team back together before curfew… or maybe not.

If no-effort Zak wants to graduate, he must serve as QuizBowl alternate during weekend of Seattle’s biggest comic convention, even though he’d already planned out every moment in geek paradise.

If super-achiever Ana wants to please her parents and not get thrown out of the house like her big sister, she’s got to win this QuizBowl tournament, even though it’s no fun anymore.

If her whiz-kid little brother Clayton wants to check out WashingCon because Zak said it was cool, he’s gonna go, because why not?

The search for Clayton jumps from Ana’s world of well-rounded student activities to Zak’s universes of cosplay and card games to the death, as t-shirt slogans, a backpack mixup with deadly consequences, and the clock ticking down to QuizBowl curfew send them all racing through the night.

Zak’s old friends, Ana’s new enemies, and a cross-cultural wedding (Trek or Wars, the eternal con question) punctuate the pair’s growing appreciation for one another’s strengths and charms, as they chart their progress (or lack thereof) in alternating chapters.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Dirt Bike, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly, by Conrad Wesselhoeft (book review) – grief, honor & gaming

book cover of Dirt Bikes Drones and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft published by Houghton MifflinPlaying chicken with big trucks on the highway,
joysticking into the Drone Zone,
adrenaline removes Arlo’s grief…for a while.

Trying to cope with Mom’s murder, Siouxsie’s progressive neurological disease, Dad’s retreat into the bottle – Arlo keeps his dirt bike running, scrounges change to play Drone Fighter at his tiny town’s online cafe, but then what? One early morning phone call changes things (but not everything).

Traveling recently through bone-dry northern New Mexico where the author strands this small town, I can see why anyone there would want to find a way to get away, even if it means trading the make-believe of gaming for real drone piloting and its violent consequences.

Read this April 2014 book now – right now!
**kmm

Book info: Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly / Conrad Wesselhoeft. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author blog]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Arlo’s gaming skills could pay his sister’s huge medical bills, his dirt bike prowess could salvage his reputation in their small New Mexico town, but it’ll take something more to rescue his family from their endless grieving for Mom.

When the US Air Force wants Arlo to fly real reconnaissance drones over Pakistan from their base at White Sands, based solely on his Drone Fighter video game world ranking, the 17-year-old’s journalist dad is skeptical – until the Colonel erases their debts for Siouxsie’s treatments.

When gorgeous Lee slides into dusty Orphan County to stay with her aunt until her dad returns from his Afghanistan deployment, Arlo thinks she’ll scorn scruffy dirt bikes after leaving her smooth Harley in Seattle – until she helps his Evel Kneivel-style jump go higher and farther.

Zooming down I-25 from the New Mexico-Colorado borderlands whenever the Colonel phones, Arlo has too much time to think on his way to White Sands. Even if he can discover the most-wanted terrorist’s whereabouts with his drone, how can he recover what his family lost when Mom was murdered?

Mountain vistas, Mom’s ashes spread atop the mesa, small-town football as seen from the snack bar, and a moto-stunt for the ages fill this don’t-miss novel about love, grief, and honor.

O for Out of Nowhere, by Maria Padian (fiction) – black refugees, white town, seeing red

book cover of Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian published by KnopfMoving far away is difficult.
Keeping your faith in a new place is hard.
Soccer… is wonderful.

The Somali migration to Lewiston, Maine, that began in the early 2000s saw the arrival of newcomers who had almost nothing in common with its residents – not race, not religion, not food traditions, not clothes styles. Yet this influx of families has revitalized the formerly dying factory town; everything’s not perfect, but many positive things are happening there.

And the love of soccer? Seems to be universal, a language that every cheering fan and would-be goalie understands. Will it be enough to keep things calm at Chamberlain High? You’ll have to read this new novel yourself to find out what happens to Saeed and his family, to Tom and his family, to the town whose mayor asked refugees to stop inviting their relatives to live there.
**kmm

Book info: Out of Nowhere / Maria Padian. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Saeed’s soccer is brilliant, his smile is blinding, his skin as black as the Somali refugee camp that his family had fled. Maybe Saeed could help Chamberlain High win against their biggest rivals, thought Tom, but winning over the townspeople to accept the Somali Muslim immigrants would be a far larger battle.

Tom’s small Maine hometown wasn’t thrilled at the secondary migration of Somali refugees from the big cities like Atlanta where they’d been placed on first arrival in the US. Most of these new students spoke very little English so the school counselors are frazzled.

Luckily, soccer has its own global language, so once Tom can get Saeed’s mother to sign his permission slips, the team will have their best chance ever against fancy Maquoit High School. Too bad Saeed’s sister Samira took an instant dislike to Tom (everyone likes Tom, especially the girls).

Too bad that Tom went along with his lifelong pal Donnie on a prank where they were caught redhanded. Now it’s hours of community service (bet that stoner doesn’t follow through)  along with soccer practice which lands Tom at the community center, tutoring a young Somali boy, meeting a cute college girl, and wondering if he really wants to stay with his affectionate but less-than-intelligent girlfriend.

What an amazing soccer season! Thanks to Saeed and the other Somali players, the team becomes a fast, accurate scoring machine. But the final games against their arch-rivals fall during Ramadan, when the Muslim students fast until sunset, so the team’s dream may drift away. Tom’s relatives continue to argue about the refugees, Donnie goes one goof too far, and a white supremacist group plans a rally in Enniston.

How much tension can a small town take before something snaps?
How can very different religions co-exist peacefully?
How can one small action change everything?

Tom thinks things through as he accepts these new players who came from Out of Nowhere, trying to make up his own mind about how the past impacts the future during his tumultuous senior year. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Deadly Pink, by Vivian Van Velde (fiction) – escape into virtual reality game, forever?

book cover of Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde published by Harcourt

Sights, sounds, smells…
How close to your video game action do you want to be?
What if the game can plug directly into your brain?

The Rasmussem Corporation wants players to be totally immersed in their role-playing games for hours at a time – for the proper fee.

But there is a time limit for staying in a virtual reality world, so unbreakable fail-safes pull players out of game before their brains get too detached from physical reality.

Unless a computer whiz like Emily entirely disables the fail-safes on purpose to trap herself in the pink and sparkly pre-teen gameworld she was helping design… and younger sister Grace must battle through to rescue her, before it’s too late.

You’ll find Deadly Pink in hardback now at your local library or independent bookstore, with author Vivian Vande Velde’s earlier books featuring Rasmussem games (User Unfriendly  and Heir Apparent) available in paperback.
So, how long would you want to stay in a virtual world? (dragons optional)
**kmm

Book info: Deadly Pink (Rasmussem, book 3) / Vivian Van Velde. Harcourt, 2012 [author’s website]   [Deadly Pink Facebook page]   [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Grace is just slogging through high school, while her brilliant older sister Emily is at college with full scholarships for computer science. So why does Rasmussem Corporation need Grace’s help to get Emily out of a virtual reality game?

Their mother is frantic with worry, Dad is away on business, and the note Emily left behind sounds very, very final. Her body is there, hooked up to the virtual reality game panel, but she’s disabled every fail-safe that would allow the company to bring her back to the real world.
So away Grace goes, into the cotton-candy and unicorns world that Emily’s team was developing for preteen girls. Butterflies that give gold coins, quests to collect flower bouquets and tiaras, tea parties and fancy dress balls – Emily wants to stay in little-princess land forever?
When Em ignores Grace during her first venture into the game, it might be a fluke. But when big sister has her thrown out of the manor house, Grace knows something is truly wrong. Wish-granting sprites with a grudge, close calls with disaster – every time Grace reboots and re-enters the game, something else goes haywire (and this is a game for kids?).
And the clock keeps ticking down, edging ever-closer to the known-safe time limits for Emily’s brain to stay in virtual reality without a break.
What’s so wrong in the real world that Em has to escape to the virtual world that she helped create? What will happen to Emily’s brain if they can’t get her out of the game in time? Can Grace convince her to come home?  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Pick-Up Game (book review) – street basketball, city life, real life

book cover of Pickup Game edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R Smith Jr published by CandlewickOur best five players against your best five,
No blood, no foul,
You leaving? Who else wants to play?

Street basketball takes smarts as well as skills, as the guys on your team right now might be on the other team before the hour is out. Sometimes three-pointers will win it all, other times you have to finesse the game.

If you can’t be at The Cage in person, the best streetball games you’ll ever experience are in Pick-Up Game.  These writers love the game, know the people watching, take us to the asphalt heat of the court where we can feel the chainlink between our fingers as we watch the players and the ball rush through the summer swelter, hour by hour.

The first story was completed by Walter Dean Myers, then Bruce Brooks wrote his, and so on down the line. So the players and spectators wander in and out of different stories, sometimes starring, sometimes watching, always wondering how everything is going to turn out. Charles R. Smith Jr. uses his photographs of The Cage and his rhythmic, driving poetry to keep the flow going from story to story.

Get this great collection today in hardcover at your local library or independent bookstore; it’s scheduled for paperback release in mid-October 2012.
**kmm

Book info: Pick-up Game: A Full Day of Full Court / edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr. Candlewick Press, 2011.  [Marc Aronson’s website]   [Charles R. Smith Jr.’s website]   [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk:  The Cage in New York City – home of the best pick-up basketball games ever, where street basketball means “no blood, no foul.” Many viewpoints, many stories from the players and the watchers and the wannabes on this hot July day.

It starts early with a “Cage Run” as Boo and Fish hit the court to face that Waco guy who’s cooler than ice and twice as scary. The day heats up as players leave and enter the pick-up games, like hotshot ESPN who’s always showing off in case any college scouts are watching and “Mira Mira” who’s fast even if he’s shorter than most.

Outside the Cage’s chainlink wall, some watchers want in the game – like Ruben, who hates being called Kid,  who knows that “Practice Don’t Make Perfect” only playing will. That guy with the video camera is making the documentary that will get him into NYU film school -“He’s Gotta Have It” – the heart of the players, the meaning of the game.

The games get hotter as quality players show up, turning into a “Head Game” as ‘Nique is the only girl on the court and blasts past ESPN, dishes passes to Waco. Do the legends of street ball watch from the bench in the back? Will the TV crew suddenly arriving really shut down the game for some public-service announcement filming or will they use real players in “The Shoot”?

A whole day in The Cage, with so many ways to see the game, to be the game, in this great collective work by top fiction writers who love basketball and its fans and its place in the heart of New York City. Short stories by Walter Dean Myers, Bruce Brooks, Willie Perdomo, Sharon G. Flake, Robert Burleigh, Rita Williams-Garcia, Joseph Bruchac, Adam Rapp, Robert Lipsyte, and Marc Aronson are fittingly connected by poems and photographs of The Cage by Charles R. Smith Jr.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Don’t Sit On the Baby! by Halley Bondy (book review) – babysitting skills and safety guide

book cover of Dont Sit on the Baby by Halley Bondy published by Zest BooksThinking about babysitting to make money?
Can you tolerate runny noses and poopy diapers?
Are you calm in emergency situations?
Ready to fold paper hats or read a bedtime story?

With the advice and skills in this book, you can become a better sitter as you advertise and run your own business providing an important service for parents and families in your community.

So update your infant and children CPR training, practice your pattycakes and freeze tag skills, and keep both eyes on the kiddos with your cellphone in your pocket for emergencies on the job.

As a mom, grandmother, and former babysitter, I think that Don’t Sit on the Baby  is a great addition to your sitter’s bag, along with the storybooks, washable markers, and origami paper. Get it today at your local independent bookstore and ask your library to get a copy so other sitters can be prepared, too.

**kmm

Book info: Don’t Sit On the Baby: The Ultimate Guide to Sane, Skilled, and and Safe Babysitting / Halley Bondy. Zest Books, 2012.  [author’s website]   [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Babysitting can be a great way for teens to earn money and gain skills for future jobs. Use the advice and fun hints in this guide to get ready for the unique challenges of caring for children while learning how to balance their fun and safety, too.

First off, take the quiz in chapter one to see if your personality is suited for being a sitter. The author is very honest about the messes and possible behaviors of newborns, infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and grade-school kids. Certification in infant and child CPR is a must for any potential sitter. Keeping parents up-to-date on possible concerns about kids’ health and behavior is part of the job, too.

Diapers and potties are part of any sitting job, as is safety in the house and outside. Important issues covered include being prepared for emergencies, creative playtime, feeding hungry kids, homework help, dealing with tantrums, bathing kids safely, and getting them to sleep.

Enjoy “Tales From the Crib” recounted by teen sitters, like the lengthy question-and-answer game to find something (anything!) that a toddler would eat, an unstoppable smoke alarm, and the four-year-old who discussed how her boyfriend proposed marriage on the playground.

Since sitting involves money, this book also includes advice on how to advertise, interviewing with parents, deciding how much to charge, your income tax obligations, and how to gracefully resign. An annotated list of websites about sitter training, emergency information, and kid-friendly entertainment ideas rounds out this great guide to a popular and important teen job. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

P for Prized, by Caragh O’Brien (fiction) – not enough daughters, not enough time

In the desert-dry future,
when the oil is depleted and hope is imprisoned,
there are rumors of a safe place beyond the wastelands.

Gaia and her tiny infant sister actually make it to Sylum, to a lake with more water than the teen midwife has ever dreamed of, to morning mists instead of parching winds, to the Matrarch‘s iron-fisted rule over everyone – the women citizens and the second-class males who vastly outnumber them.

Her own grandmother fled here years ago, and Gaia had hoped against hope that she’d still be in Sylum. Alas, she died a decade before their arrival, but left coded messages addressed to Gaia’s parents. Perhaps they’re family history, perhaps they’re clues to why fewer and fewer daughters are born to Sylum each year.

To fully appreciate Gaia’s story, read Birthmarked first, but if you just can’t wait to jump into this dystopian world, the author subtly brings in enough snippets of information from the first book to let you read Prized by itself. If you have read Birthmarked (book 1) and want a “bridge” to Prized, or if you just want a bit more backstory on The Enclave, look for O’Brien’s short story “Tortured” (free eBook at this time).

A mystery, a love story, a cautionary ecological parable.
**kmm

Book info: Prized (The Birthmarked Trilogy, book 2) / Caragh O’Brien. Roaring Brook Press, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [video book review]

My Recommendation: Gaia is afraid that her infant sister might not survive their escape across the wasteland, but the rumors hadn’t prepared her for the women-ruled settlement that rescues them. Staying in the Enclave would have enslaved them both; living in Sylum will give Maya to someone else to raise as the Matarch rules everyone. And once Gaia stays in Sylum for two days, she can never cross its borders or she’ll die.

So few females have been born in Sylum during recent decades that Gaia, with the birthmark streaking down her face, is accepted at once, and Maya is doubly prized. Now men drastically outnumber women, and they are forbidden to touch women or to vote in assemblies – a kiss means time in prison for assault. Men who have been tested as fertile have a chance to marry, if they impress a woman during the thirty-two games and the Matrarch approves.

When Gaia uses her midwifery skills to help a young woman in distress and won’t tell who, the Matrarch puts her under house arrest. Eventually, Gaia relents, stepping into the sunlight and a wealth of confusion as two brothers very delicately express their interest in her as a wife – and an intruder turns out to be Vlatir, who helped her escape from the Enclave!

As time approaches for the thirty-two games, Gaia gets strong hints that she’ll be the winner’s choice for chaperoned time together. Even prisoners can be chosen to play, so seeing Vlatir on the field is only a slight surprise. But the winner’s choice of companion shocks the whole community, and Gaia finds herself in a whirlwind of old secrets, new information, and terrible danger.

Can Gaia discover why so few girls are born here? Will the Matrarch let her act on any knowledge that she gains? Can she or Maya or even Vlatir survive in this strange place of marshes and lakes and women-archers who guard the assembly hall?

Readers who begin the Birthmarked Trilogy with this second volume will easily follow Gaia’s story as the author skillfully weaves in characters and incidents from the first book throughout the tale. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.