Tag Archive | homosexuality

Adaptation, by Malinda Lo (fiction) – bird disasters, brain waves, conspiracy, love and mystery

book cover of Adaptation by Malinda Lo published by Little Brown

All flights grounded due to bird accidents.
Panic, chaos, cellphone systems overloaded.
Desert car crash, coma, 27 days lost…

Lucky their flight was delayed, but their headlong car trip from Phoenix to San Francisco lands Reese and David in a super-secret hospital near Area 51– and it gets weirder.

Extraterrestrials, conspiracy, visions that Reese can’t explain and can’t erase, comfort in Amber’s arms, what is going on??

As authors often do, Lo wrote Adaptation  while listening to playlists of songs that evoked different characters and scenes; listen to her 12 favorites here and read her reasons for selecting each one.

So, aliens among us or not??

Book info: Adaptation / Malinda Lo. Little Brown, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: All flights cancelled due to multiple plane crashes with birds? After her dismal performance at the national tournament, now her debate partner David will be stuck with Reese even longer, as they drive from Phoenix to San Francisco – and it all goes crazy.

Speeding across the Nevada desert near Area 51, their rental car flips when a bird flies into it, and the teens wake up 27 days later in a secret military hospital. Confidentiality statements signed, they’re taken home to their very anxious parents, and Reese’s dreams (or nightmares) begin.
She sees doctors from the secret hospital in town – or does she? David doesn’t call her anymore – did he ever realize that Reese had a crush on him? These dreams of dripping yellow, of a red here, a red there – after-effects of the concussion?
Meeting Amber was a welcome change, with her punky pink hair and her see-it-all attitude for the city she’s visiting while she apartment-sits for her uncle. Reese is a bit mystified that Amber is attracted to such an average person as herself, but relishes the attention and affection.
Her best friend Julian helps Reese paint her bedroom to match the glossy reds and yellows of her dream-nightmare-dream, asks her more about Amber than she really knows, and answers the call for help when David finally contacts her to discuss his dreams, the same dreams, the same doctors seen where they shouldn’t be.
How could her scars heal so quickly?
Is Amber more than she seems? Has their relationship gone too far, too fast?
Why are those doctors following Reese and David?
The city is different without bird song, without any birds anywhere…   
(One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy, by Bil Wright (book review) – chase the dream, ignore the haters

book cover of Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright published by Simon SchusterWe all want to be respected,
and fabulous.

Carlos is already completely fabulous, a fabulous makeup artist at sixteen. He just has to show the world that a Latino guy from the Lower East Side can do perfect makeup on anyone, anywhere – including the fanciest department store in New York City.

Be sure to meet this fabulous guy with a not-so-fabulous family life, the perfect touch with his own makeup, and his ever-positive attitude soon. Just thinking about Carlos and his drive to succeed makes me smile!

Book info: Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy / Bil Wright. Simon & Schuster, 2011 hardback, 2012 paperback.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Carlos wants one thing, and one thing only: to be the most-respected makeup artist anywhere.

Oh, and for the cute guy in his high school class to ask him out, and for Mama to have a decent job that doesn’t wear her down, and for his sister to stay away from that loser Danny at work.

When he hears that the FeatureFace cosmetics counter at Macy’s is hiring, Carlos goes into overdrive: hiring cute rocker Gleason to photograph the models wearing his makeup designs, crafting the perfect job application, watching videos of interview tips, and sweet-talking Rosaria into coming to the interview to be his live model. Of course, the manager will want to see Carlos apply makeup in person – everyone knows that!

At school all day, working at the child care center till late evening, Carlos keeps his cellphone close by, waiting for the call from FeatureFace to set up his interview, to let him prove his fabulous makeup skills, to start on his way to the top!

Carlos proves how well he handles makeup, chatting his way through the demonstration to explain his techniques, so snooty manager Valentino just has to hire him – part-time, since he’s only 16 – and FeatureFace cosmetics has a new star.

Of course, there are still a few problems in life, like Mama’s precarious job situation, that rotten Danny trying to rough up Rosaria if she ever gets the guts to leave him, Soraya screening his calls (how could that problem with the borrowed boots really be his fault?), and the cute guy at school not flirting with him anymore.

Can Carlos really balance work, school, and family at 16?
As his schedule loads up, will his friends let him down?
Will Valentino’s disdain for his talents ever give way to respect?
Ready to take on the world, Carlos Duarte is fabulous indeed. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Difference Between You and Me, by Madeleine George (fiction) – love, be true to yourself

book cover of Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George published by Viking

Fisherman boots and rough-cut hair.
Sweet little flats and pearl buttons.
These two girls couldn’t be more different, yet more attracted to one another.

But fabulous kisses can hardly outweigh Emily’s go-go-go-business attitude when Jesse considers the damage that a large corporation could inflict on their charming small town. 

Beyond the complicated/simple attraction between Jesse and Emily in this story is the larger question of being true to your community. Whether observing the International Day of Peace Vigil every September 21st with millions or demonstrating weekly for peace like Jesse and friends, perhaps humankind can take more steps forward for community and peace in 2013.

Find this honest and enriching story in hardback or eBook today at your local library or independent bookstore.
What’s your most heartfelt wish for this new year?

Book info: The Difference Between You and Me / Madeleine George. Viking, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Her kisses are perfect, her pearl-button sweaters are adorable, but the way that Emily compartmentalizes her life bugs Jesse. Of course, it’s complicated because she’s always second-fiddle to Emily’s boyfriend, and Emily’s work as Student Council VP, and Emily’s upcoming internship with NorthStar…

Jesse’s parents accept her orientation, although they’re not so happy about her frequent detentions for plastering the high school with posters for NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. They think she has a crush on earnest young activist Esther when the girls attend their town’s weekly peace vigil together. Honestly…
Her buddy Wyatt has to contend with his anti-gay father while trying to keep his homeschooling on track so that he doesn’t have to go back to their high school; he and Jesse keep each other real. So why hasn’t Jesse ever told him about her weekly rendezvous with Emily?
Emily cannot understand why the Student Council won’t let NorthStar be the sole sponsor of their dance. Just because the corporation might bring a huge StarMart to town, might endanger all the small businesses, might…might…might!
When should financial gain win out over doing the right thing? How far can you go to protect your community without resorting to violence? How do you decide when a relationship is over?
Alternating chapters by Jesse and Emily weave together a story that’s more than physical attraction and much more than your average StuCo meeting.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Calli, by Jessica Lee Anderson (fiction) – foster sister or rotten apple?

book cover of Calli by Jessica Lee Anderson published by Milkweed EditionsHer boyfriend Dub is sweet,
her moms are loving and supportive,
best friend Delia helps her keep away the blues,
so Calli thinks that having a foster little sister would just make things even better…

Until rebellious teenager Cherish comes to their Lake Charles home as an emergency foster placement,
kissing Dub in the school hall,
spreading lies about Calli,
alienating her friends and stealing Calli’s things.

Now Calli wants to undo her wish for a foster sister and would turn back time in a heartbeat – but everyone knows that time only runs forward.

Jessica Lee Anderson brings us another highly readable story about a teen facing unusual challenges (see my no-spoiler recommendation of her Border Crossing here) and surviving, in spite of it all. Look for this 2011 book at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Calli / Jessica Lee Anderson. Milkweed Editions, 2011. [author’s website]    [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Recommendation:

Trudging home in the coastal Louisiana heat, Calli wonders why she ever wished for a foster sister. Everyone in the high school knows that Calli saw her own boyfriend Dub liplocked with Cherish, guesses he decided that he wanted action instead of affection.
Mom and Liz weren’t sure that they’d be certified as a foster family, but they’re such good parents that Calli never had a doubt (much better parents than her father who returned to France when she was born and never looked back). They’d requested young children, but consented to an emergency placement for “a teenager at risk.”
Whatever weird thing happened with Cherish’s family to get her into foster care, the ninth grader isn’t letting it stop her from hanging around with upperclassmen, wearing tighter shirts than Calli, more makeup than Calli, trying to get Calli to do her homework. The girls bicker constantly at home (thank goodness they don’t share a bedroom), which makes Mom’s lupus flare up. Verbal spats get physical, and now the whole family is at risk.
Cherish steals from Calli, alienates her friends at school – is there anything that Cherish won’t try to take away from her? Is Dub lost to Calli forever? Will Cherish’s willful behavior keep Mom and Liz from ever having a young foster child to care for and love? Is Calli going to stay “plain old Calli” with braces forever?

An insightful look at less-traditional family life from the author of Border Crossing, this novel takes readers into that humid South Louisiana spring semester when Calli’s life changes for the worse, for the better, maybe for always.

X for the unknown – You Are My Only, by Beth Kephart (fiction)

Every mother’s nightmare.
Her baby kidnapped!

Every teen girl knows that her mother really doesn’t understand her.
That’s just the way it is – rules that don’t make sense,
being grounded for no good reason.

We know that the stories of Emmy as a young mother and Sophie as a teen several years later must be connected somehow – author Beth Kephart as much as tells readers this from the start of the book.

But how the connection was made and how it falls apart, that’s the real story, conveyed by the distinctive voices of Emmy in the mental hospital and Sophie in yet another rental house, longing to be with Joey in the world outside.

Published in fall 2011, You Are My Only should be available at your local library or independent bookstore now – don’t miss it!

Book info: You Are My Only / Beth Kephart. Laura Geringer Books / Egmont USA, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Someone stole tiny Baby from her swing, leaving Emmy to face her husband’s wrath, the unbelief of the police, the dark of the mental hospital. Fourteen years later, Sophie and her mom move often, the teen homeschooled and alone, the mother overworked and burdened, always looking to stay ahead of the “No Good” as they find what others have left behind in the rental houses, but never talk about her past.

Then a boy spots Sophie in her upstairs window. Shouldn’t he be at school right now? She would never dare to be near the windows when people were nearby – Mom would be so angry, and the No Good might find them. A young man, Joey, who wants to teach her to throw a baseball, to make cookies with his aunts, to listen as he reads Willa Cather to them to make up for the journeys they can no longer travel together.

Emmy and her vibrant, jangling roommate Autumn have been thinking for years of how they would leave the mental hospital and its moaners and shouters and squeaky linoleum halls. Does anyone on the Outside still remember that they are there? When a message arrives from Arlen, who helped Emmy escape from her abusive husband after Baby was stolen, they know that it’s time to fly.

Sophie wants answers. Joey knows how he was orphaned by a car wreck, knows how he arrived at the home of his aunt Cloris and her sweetheart Helen, knows how they are dealing with Aunt Helen’s failing health. Sophie thinks that answers might be hidden in the boxes marked “personal” that they move unopened from house to house, so she creeps into the basement when Mom is at work.

Mysteries and histories, Cather and cookies, Archimedean solids and wisps of perhaps… alternating chapters told by Emmy and by Sophie weave their stories into a net to catch memories and maybe even the truth. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J for Julia and journeys – A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (fiction)

Cass is waiting to hear about Julia’s secret project,
Funny, smart, drama chick Julia,
Best friend ever.
Dead in a car crash – bam. Just like that.

Now Cass won’t see how Julia would have finished her amazing play and will never know if there could be more than just friendship between them. But she and Julia had long planned that they would bike all the way to the Pacific Ocean after graduation – no reason to wait a whole year, so Cass preps for a solo bike trek in the summer before her senior year, taking along Julia’s ashes from Chicago to the sea.

Let the drama kids take Julia’s work-in-progress and turn it into a play over the summer – Cass is taking action. She doesn’t sit around moping and mourning – she pedals and aches and discovers things about herself and about friendship that she never imagined. That’s probably the most ‘ninja’ way to live of all – Julia would have cheered for that.

Look for this debut novel at your local library or independent bookstore and journey along with Cass and Julia, maybe finding a little more love along the way.

Book info: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend / Emily Horner. Dial Books, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: After Julia’s death in a car crash, Cass can’t stay in town as the Drama Kids get ready to perform Julia’s “top secret” play as a tribute to begin their senior year of high school. Cass decides to bicycle from Ohio to California, just as she and Julia had planned. But instead of Julia as her traveling buddy, she’ll have her best friend’s ashes along for the ride to the Pacific Ocean, Julia’s dream destination.

Why would she want to spend all summer painting sets for Julia’s incredible “Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad” musical, especially when Heather (who loudly questioned Cass’s sexual orientation throughout junior high) gets the lead and Julia’s boyfriend keeps changing the staging? Why?

So, armed with cellphone, maps, spare bike parts, her parents’ blessings, and Julia’s ashes, Cass heads off across the country. She meets good people, not-so-good people, her first love, and herself along the way.

Can Cass make it all the way to California on her bike? Will the Drama Kids be able to put on Julia’s musical with no adult interference? Did Cass love Julia or was she in love with Julia or does it even matter since Julia is dead?

Alternating chapters of Then (the summer trip) and Now (last-minute preparations for the musical) reveal Cass’s worries and wonderment about life, love, and dividing by zero (“so ninja!” according to Julia). (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Huntress (fiction)

Years of rain,
Crops rotting overnight,
Monsters infiltrating villages near the Great Wood,
a sudden summons from the Fairy Queen to her hidden city.

The most talented sage-in-training for generations, Taisin has seen a vision with Kaede accompanying her on this quest, and the oracle stones have confirmed it. Kaede is an able enough scholar, but her years at the academy have merely proved that she has no ability as a sage, despite her noble father’s hopes. He’d rather solidify a political alliance using her as a marriage pawn, but the King has faith in the oracles and in Taisin’s vision – the two young women will indeed answer the Fairy Queen’s call, along with Prince Con and his best warriors.

Whether you’re saving Malinda Lo’s Ash until you finish reading this prequel or you’re returning to the sea islands and forests of ancient Cathair, you’ll be transported to a far place and a far time as you anxiously accompany Kaede and Taisin on their journey, hoping for their political success and future happiness together.

Find Huntress today at your local library or independent bookseller, and beware the monsters of the Great Wood.

Book info: Huntress / Malinda Lo. Little Brown, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: No sunshine, no crops, no hope for their country unless two teens can learn what the Fairy Queen knows about the new monsters attacking under the never-ending clouds. From the sanctuary of their Academy, 17-year-old Kaede and Taisin must travel far – a daughter of the hunt and a sage just coming into her immense psychic powers against threats from… where?

Kaede thought that this quest would be much better than her noble father’s plan to marry her off as a political move, but as their small group encounters human babies born with writhing monster souls and villages scoured clean by ravening creatures of the fog, she’s not so sure. Is it coincidence that the Fairy Queen’s invitation came to the King’s court at this time of great troubles, when only Prince Con could be spared for the journey?

Traveling further into the Wood, whispering winds taunt with empty promises and Xi ghosts try to lure them off the trail. Taisin worries that her spell-knowledge is not enough to protect them. Warrior Shae opines that worry is useless; only action will see them through. Ceaseless rain leaches color from the world and hope from their spirits. The only warm spark in this dismal place is the growing attraction between Kaede and Taisin.

As they near the Fairy Queen’s city, Taisin’s sleeping- self travels to distant icy halls, the Xi ghosts circle closer, and the Huntsman of legend appears with a message. Can they indeed ford that vast river separating Fairy lands from those of humans? Will the Queen know why Cathair’s weather remains always winter? Can she help them bring springtime back to their world?

This evocative prequel to Ash takes readers into a world of menacing shadows trying to overrun a land like ancient China, where much depends on the hearts of two girls who should still be studying in school and falling in love instead of having to fight monsters in order to save their people. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Briar Rose (fiction)

Shh… Sneak-in Saturday has a double meaning today, as we consider an adult book that snuck itself into teens’ hearts and then snuck onto numerous award lists before I could blog about it.

Originally written as a novel for adults, Briar Rose won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 1993, but gathered such a following among older teen readers that it was re-released as a Tor Teen paperback in 2002.

Memories of less-often told stories of the Holocaust spill into the present day as Becca tries to carry out her grandmother’s last wishes on a trek to Poland that becomes a heart-wrenching journey into the hellish days of World War II.

A strong, faithful book that reminds us that history’s headlines are not the only important stories.

Book info: Briar Rose / Jane Yolen. Macmillan/Tor Teen, 2002. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Becca always loved her grandmother’s story about Briar Rose, no matter how many times Gemma told it to her and her sisters. The princess, the black-booted witch’s curse, the mist that covered the kingdom and made everyone sleep for a hundred years… not the same Sleeping Beauty story that you heard or read in books.

Years later, grown-up Rebecca promises her elderly grandmother that she will find out the rest of the story. Upon Gemma’s death, she inherits a small box of photos and papers – clues to the past and the rest of the Briar Rose story that journalist Rebecca must uncover.

From research to refugee camp, Becca traces Gemma’s mysterious arrival in the United States from Europe in the closing days of World War II. The path leads back to a Nazi extermination camp in Poland, not a concentration camp, but a place so deadly that only 4 men ever escaped… and no women ever left it alive.

Why does Gemma’s paperwork say that she came from that place of death? Is she the princess of Briar Rose? How can Becca find her family’s roots when no one in Chelmno will talk about the camp?

A powerful retelling of Sleeping Beauty that explores the brutal depths of the Holocaust. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.