Tag Archive | games

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.

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)

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.

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.


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.

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.

Moon Maze Game (fiction)

Living on the Moon,
working on the Moon,
playing on the Moon?

The most complex and challenging live-action role-playing game of all time will take place on Luna in 2085. Physical agility, weapon skills, and innovative puzzle-solving experience will help players win big money and admiration throughout the Solar System.

New team alliances, old grudges, baffling riddles – what else has game master Xavier planned for the Moon Maze Game? Not the Luna-separatist terrorists who hijack the Game domes, that’s for sure!

Niven and Barnes return to their fascinating Dream Park worlds in this intriguing novel – plenty of subplots to go along with the action, from old romances to new technology hiccups.

Book info: The Moon Maze Game / Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. Tor, 2011. [Larry Niven’s website] [Steven Barnes’ website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: A live-action role-playing game on the Moon! Broadcast in real-time to Earth, this 2085 contest pits clever players against one another. But they’ll have to work together to outwit and outlast the terrorists who try to kidnap them.

The Moon Maze Game includes not only physical challenges, but also mental riddles, countless puzzles, and psychological twists tailored to trip up each player. With the largest viewing audience in entertainment history, every slip or success will be seen by billions of people throughout the Solar System.

Xavier is a supreme Game Master. His decision to construct the first off-world fantasy game complex draws many IFGS league competitors to the trials, but only the very best will get to Luna. Wayne and Angelique know that their former gaming partner has spent years planning this event and would be happy to see them fail.

The high-ranking IFGS pro players are expected; the Crown Prince of the Republic of Kikaya is a surprise qualifier. His father, President for Life of the small African nation, is not pleased that his son will enter the Game, but must allow Ali to go to keep Kikaya’s advisors happy.

The lunar colony where the enormous Game domes have been built is a bit tense as some Moon residents want independence from Earth now, while others remain convinced that support from their homeworld will always be needed.

When the Game takes a turn that Xavier did not script, the command center grows hectic. When Xavier’s main controls to the Game are cut, his team gets worried. When real bullets start flying in the Game’s pressurized domes, the players realize that they’re on their own and must solve Xavier’s complex puzzles before the terrorists crack open Game’s walls to the vacuum of space.

Lots of action and excitement – readers will wish for a chance at The Moon Maze Game for themselves. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Clockwork Three, by Matthew Kirby (book review) – automated man, secret music, hidden clues

book cover of The Clockwork Three by Matthew J Kirby, published by ScholasticMysterious doings, nefarious plots, and a green violin! Three young people from widely different backgrounds become friends as they seek the links between strange items, even stranger events, and villainous strangers in a seaside city with a wild parkland at its heart.

A woodcarver‘s long-stilled hands left behind clues in the hotel doors and banisters. Secret knowledge hidden by the Guild of Clockmakers could be key. A mechanical man has more heart than the city’s businessmen, and the treasure hidden in the park holds the city together.

Debut author Kirby said that a old newspaper article about a young boy kidnapped and forced to fiddle on the streets for his masters was his inspiration for the opening events of this wondrous tale. Share the city and its mysteries with Guiseppe, Hannah, and Frederick.

Book info: The Clockwork Three / Matthew J. Kirby. Scholastic, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Book Talk: A shipwrecked violin whose music is magical… 62 holly leaves carved into the hotel woodwork (or is it 63?)… a mechanical man with no head and a clockwork head with no heart…

In a seaport city, the paths of an orphaned street musician, a young hotel maid, and an apprentice clockmaker cross and recross as they struggle with missing pieces of memory and money and mystery. Who is the lovely lady that selects Hannah as her personal attendant from the hotel staff? Will Guiseppe be able to hide enough coins from the gangboss for a ship ticket back to his homeland? And what of the sinister crates which Frederick sees unloaded at the museum, but are quickly hidden from the Guild of Clockmakers?

When the green park at the heart of the city is threatened by greedy developers, the three young people rush to solve the mystery before the treasure hidden there is lost forever!

Is there really a clockwork man running out of control in the city? Is the park an escape or a trap? And what do the holly leaves mean? Realistic details of an exotic place bring readers deep into this exciting tale’s many twists and turns with Guiseppe, Hannah, and Frederick. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour (fiction)

It’s Fun Friday, and if you’re in the mood for a mystery with several twists, you are in the right place!

A scavenger hunt interrupted years ago leads three friends through the venerable old buildings of their Catholic girls’ school, solving logic puzzles and brainteasers find the location of each clue in the chain.

They’re not the only ones on the hunt for a possible archaeological treasure, so The Red Blazer Girls need to watch their backs! Mystery, history, and fun with friends… what more could you want? (oh, there are some cute guys, too)

Be sure to solve each puzzle before reading the next chapter – it’s so much more fun that way! And, yes, there are more Red Blazer Girl cases ahead!

Book info: The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour / Michael D. Beil. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2009 (*paperback 2010). [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Sophie decides to investigate the white face she saw in the church tower window, which would make anyone scream during 7th grade English class, right? So she, Rebecca and Margaret cross the courtyard from St. Veronica School to St. Veronica Church, where they find mysterious passageways, a huge orange cat, and a new friend with an old family problem.

Mrs. Harriman hasn’t seen her daughter since her ex-husband took Caroline away on an archaeological dig 20 years ago, and they drifted apart. But yesterday, a birthday card addressed to Caroline from her beloved grandfather was found in Mrs. H’s study, giving the first clues for a birthday scavenger hunt. Grandfather Ev died the next day, so he never gave Caroline that card, and the retired archaeologist’s gift hasn’t been found yet. Perhaps it is the missing ruby Ring of Rocamadour, over 1,000 years old…

The card says that the next clue is in St. Veronica School’s library, so slightly eccentric Mrs. H asks Sophie and friends to please search for it. Perhaps if they can track down all the clues and find the gift, then Mrs. H can contact Caroline at last.

They find and work through clues and puzzles, they have to practice for the Dickens skit contest, and someone else is just half a step behind them as they scour their New York City neighborhood for the next clues. Who can they trust? Will the gift still be there after 20 years? What is that odd smell?

When they got their red blazers to start the year as upper school students at St. V’s, the girls never dreamed that they’d be solving mysteries between guitar lessons, art class, and violin studies!

Funny, suspenseful, and totally real, this first book in the Red Blazer Girls series will have you working through the puzzles right along with Sophie, Margaret, Rebecca, and Leigh Ann, just waiting with the St. V’s girls for the next adventure!(One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Luck of the Buttons, by Anne Ylvisaker (fiction) – small-town mystery, big excitement in 1920s

Independence Day!
Pie-eating contests!
Patriotic essay competitions!
Three-legged races!

Is bad luck something you’re born with or something that you can rise above? Are bullies part of every school and neighborhood? Does the world look different when seen through your camera’s lens?

This is a great summer story as Tugs investigates a mystery that the grown-ups in town just can’t seem to see. Wishing you plenty of pie, family, and fireworks this holiday weekend!

Book info: The Luck of the Buttons / Anne Ylvisaker. Candlewick, 2011 [author’s website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Tugs is good at reading and good at running, which keeps her ahead of the Rowdies gang in their small Iowa town in 1929. Independence Day is next week, so she writes a patriotic essay, like every other 12 year old in town, and practices with Aggie for the 3-legged race. Thank goodness, she doesn’t have to run with her short, tubby cousin Ned this year. And she has some tickets for the raffle of a Brownie camera, too! Of course, no one in the Button family is lucky at all, so she’s not getting her hopes up about anything.

Uh-oh, it’s time to worry when Mama has a pie ready for lunch (Buttons always have pie when something bad happens). Granny is moving in, taking her bedroom! Well, at least Tugs can escape to the cool quiet of the library, browsing through the dictionary and reading old newspapers. This newcomer Harvey Moore is so busy collecting money to start a newspaper in Goodhue that he isn’t really starting it at all, so Tugs starts investigating.

On the fourth of July, it’s time for the 3-legged race, the raffle drawing, and the essay contest announcement. Will it be time for pie at the Button family table again? Can Tugs stay ahead of the Rowdies? Does the world look different through a camera lens? And how did Tugs get her first name anyway?

The summer of 1929, surrounded by cornfields and caring, is a great place to be with Tugs and her pie-baking family, as she wonders about luck and persistence in this easy-reading story. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

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.