Tag Archive | Illinois

Ghost tours? Really!? Just Kill Me, by Adam Selzer (book review)

book cover of Just Kill Me by Adam Selzer published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.comGhosts aren’t real,
Money worries are,
Being a ghost-tour guide will be easy…

Surely her new bosses aren’t serious about making their exclusive ghost tour stops even more haunted by helping senior citizens leave this world a bit early?

You can find the hardcover now at your local library and independent bookstore, with paperback release of Just Kill Me scheduled for late August 2017. (and, yes, the author does run ghost tours in Chicago!!)

Ever visited the death site of someone famous?
**kmm

Book info: Just Kill Me / Adam Selzer. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Ghost tours in Chicago are truly a cut-throat business, Megan discovers as she begins working for Cyn and Rich, who may just be creating a few new ghosts of their own to compete with the big companies.

Megan grew up in a funeral home (a “black diaper baby”), is comfortable with death (naturally), doesn’t believe in ghosts (ditto), but does need a summer job after high school graduation – perfect for the ghost tour biz (as long as Mom doesn’t find out).

As she learns the stories behind famous crime scenes, infamous murder sites, and secret haunted spots, Megan wonders if Cyn and Rich really see the spirits they point out to tourists.

When new ghosts appear on the tour just after her bosses take their nursing home patients on evening outings, she ponders the coincidences.

Cyn continues commenting on Megan’s resemblance to a flapper who mysteriously disappeared in the 1920s, so it’s time to dig into history and get her secretive online-but-no-photos girlfriend to help unravel the mystery… before it’s too late!

People aren’t only Saints and Misfits – some are monsters! by S.K. Ali (book review)

book cover of Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali published by Salaam Reads  | recommended on BooksYALove.comThe darkness is crushing her,
Attacker masquerading as righteous,
Why can’t anyone see it?

Janna can cope with being considered a nerd because she studies or different because she wears the hijab at public school, which her remarried dad says is “too religious”.

But when the guy who assaulted her keeps her in sight at every mosque activity and is welcomed at friends’ homes, her fear grows – and she doesn’t want to be afraid anymore!

This June 2017 debut novel would be better titled as Saints and Misfits and a Monster, as Janna’s attacker stalks her in plain sight of everyone who sees only his pious exterior.

How can you support someone in Janna’s situation?
**kmm

Book info: Saints and Misfits / S. K. Ali. Salaam Reads, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Mom is the only divorcee at the mosque, brother Muhammad is is taking a year off from college, and Dad cannot understand why Janna wears the hijab – this school year cannot end fast enough for the Illinois teen who loves her friends greatly and is being stalked mercilessly.

Pleasant things: elder-sitting Mr. Ram with his poetic mind, laughing at Nuah’s jokes, daydreaming about cute Jeremy who’s in no school cliques, re-reading Flannery O’Connor.

Less-pleasant: explaining at school that she’s fine wearing hijab on hot days, her BFF’s continued cluelessness about how Janna absolutely cannot date, competing on Islamic Quiz Bowl team (tricked into it!), chaperoning Muhammad and Sarah as they begin spending time together (Saint Sarah as future sister-in-law?!)

Most unpleasant: watching popular kids bully people who are a little different, trying to avoid Farooq of the so-pious Noor family, finding photos online of herself with uncovered hair and tagged with her name!

What’s worse – having a crush on a non-Muslim boy or memories of a ‘pious’ Muslim boy’s assault crushing her?

The imam’s answers to emailed questions are both witty and wise – will Janna take the advice given by her uncle as she edits it for the mosque’s website?

Farooq seems to be everywhere, all the time – will she ever be able to forget what he did to her?

Sometimes saints aren’t so good and the not-good-enough are better than their detractors – it’s up to Janna to decide where the lines are drawn in her own life.

Nine, Ten: a September 11 Story, by Nora Raleigh Baskin (book review)

book cover of Nine, Ten: a September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers  | recommended on BooksYALove.comA beautiful day for travel on September 9th,
nice weather in much of the USA on September 10th.
On September 11th, planes were crashed into buildings…

Many young folks today have no personal memories of the Twin Towers falling – or weren’t even born yet.

By seeing this history through the eyes of four different kids whose paths briefly crossed just before those terrible events of 9/11, we get viewpoints beyond the television images and news stories.

You can find the 2016 hardcover or May 2017 paperback at your local library or independent bookstore.

Were you alive on that fateful day in September 2001?
**kmm

Book info: Nine, Tenn: a September 11 Story / Nora Raleigh Baskin. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: On September ninth, many people came through the Chicago airport – Sergio heading back to New York from the math awards, Aimee leaving with Dad for their new life in California while Mom races away on business, Naheed waiting for family arriving to stay with them in Ohio, Will tiredly helping Mom get his sisters to the next plane home to Pennsylvania after a vacation they didn’t want.

On September tenth, Sergio was so mad at his deadbeat dad that he skipped school and met a police officer (the wrong way), Aimee is struggling to find her place in a new school where everyone else’s parents are in the movie business, Naheed faces even more questions about wearing the hijab at middle school, and Will keeps flashing back to the way his truck-driver dad died a year ago.

On the morning of September eleventh 2001, the world changed for everyone, as the World Trade Center towers crumbled not far from Sergio’s Brooklyn school, as Aimee woke up very early California-time to phone Mom before her New York City business appointment, as Naheed decides it’s safer for her to find little sister and walk home together instead of hearing kids say “terrorist Muslims” on their, bus as Will feels the plane crash into a nearby field as skips school to think about Dad.

By September 2002, everything is different for everyone.

Lois Lane: Double Down, by Gwenda Bond (book review) – crime, corruption, conspiracy!

book cover of Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond published by Switch Press | recommended on BooksYALove.comMobster-controlled doctor,
conspiracy theorist with a grudge,
just another day in Metropolis…

Yes, that Metropolis, where student reporter Lois Lane is tracking down city corruption, worrying about online pal (maybe more?) SmallvilleGuy, and trying to keep a low profile at school, while learning how this ‘being a friend’ thing works (Maddy has a twin?).

Second in the series, but if you haven’t read Lois Lane: Fallout (my no-spoilers recommendation here) you can still enjoy Double Down as backstory to the well-known Superman saga.

Any advice about friendship for moved-too-many-times-to-count Lois?
**kmm

Book info: Lois Lane: Double Down (Lois Lane, book 2) / Gwenda Bond.  Switch Press, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  [author interview video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher; all opinions are my own.

My book talk: When Lois discovers her best friend’s twin in a perilous situation, the student reporter begins to unearth a diabolical doctor’s connection to Metropolis’ underworld while a conspiracy theorist online threatens her friend Smallville Guy.

It should have been a routine news story about a young mural artist, but Lois finds Maddy’s too-cool twin sister delirious and searching for a mysterious doctor in Dante’s slum neighborhood.

‘The Boss’ controls this slum, rumor says, along with much of Metropolis behind-the-scenes, so Lois’ nose for news is on the hunt – is the new mayor in his pocket?

Her online friend SmallvilleGuy is concerned about new predictions of ‘flying man’ sightings, as reported on their favorite discussion site – how could Insider01 really know?

Maddy and Melody say that the supposed ‘twin connection’ is just a myth – why is Melody seeing through someone else’s eyes now?!

This second installment of the Superman backstory as told from Lois Lane’s teen point of view is a race to uncover corruption in the city and save her friends’ sanity.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

C for compassion – in a Valkyrie maiden of death? by Kate O’Hearn (book review)

book cover of Valkyrie by Kate O'Hearn published by Aladdin | BooksYALove.com War! Glory! Valhalla!
Death. Separation. Loss.
Soul-harvest is a tricky business.

After seeing warriors of all eras battle endlessly for fun and glory in Valhalla, the youngest Valkyrie thinks humans are all war-crazed savages.

But her promise to a dead soldier takes Freya and her raven companion to Chicago, and human school with its bullies, and being hunted by Odin’s own Dark Searchers for breaking the law!

Read the first chapter here (courtesy of the author) and meet Freya as she faces a destiny that she longs to change.

Struggling against “the way it’s always been” – yes?
**kmm

Book info: Valkyrie / Kate O’Hearn. Aladdin, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Allowed to visit Earth only when reaping valiant warriors’ souls, young Freya defiantly escapes Valhalla to fulfill a soldier’s last request, but at what cost?

As the youngest Valkyrie battle-maiden, Freya is reluctant to interact with humans as they die during their petty wars. Her first soul-harvest may be her last as she agrees to help Tyrone’s family in Chicago, against Odin’s law.

Trying to camouflage her wings, listening to her raven companion (a little), helping kids stand up to school bullies – so far so good, until she begins interfering with Angels of Death, and Odin discovers that she’s on Earth!

Can she protect Tyrone’s family without giving away her identity?
Is Loki the trickster on her side or not?
How far will Odin go to retrieve this absent Valkyrie?

First in a series that brings Norse legend oh-so close to modern Midgard/Earth. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

How to Be Brave, by E. Katherine Kottaras (book review) – live large is mom’s last request

book cover of How to Be Brave by E Katherine Kottaras published by St Martin Griffin Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.comA challenge from her late mom,
a best friend willing to do anything,
a chance for an epic senior year… and maybe love.

Meet Georgia (and snarky best pal Liss) in this excerpt, courtesy of the publisher – check out her Do Everything Be Brave List, then get the whole story of how she tackles the list, copes with heartbreak, and struggles with body image.

This isn’t one of those “my mom died and I will mope through life until someone else makes it worthwhile” stories. Georgia creates her own ups (and downs), although Liss and Evelyn are with her for many things.

I loved the way that Georgia would reframe negatives into possibilities (although not always with ease) and the winding routes that her thoughts took as time passed, too.

Don’t miss the interactive book trailer so you can help Georgia ‘be brave’ – http://howtobebravebook.com/

What’s on your Do Awesome Stuff list?
**kmm

Book info: How to Be Brave / E. Katherine Kottaras.  St. Martins Press/ Griffin Teen, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site]  [interactive book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Inspired by her late mother’s letter, Georgia makes a list of daring things to do during her senior year, little realizing how much she and her friendships and her dreams will change along the way.

Her Greek-American father tries to keep their Chicago restaurant going despite his grief, and Georgia tries to break out of her shell by following Mom’s advice to “go do anything you like – in fact, do everything” with an I Want to Live Life list – including jump out of a plane, cut class (no, she never has), learn how to draw like Mom, ask him out…

So she and best friend Liss and new pal Evelyn start in the middle of the list and work their way around to tribal dancing (and maybe Georgia will ask Daniel out, some time).

But one ill-timed party fractures their friendship, and senior year’s zip turns to blah.

Is it worth doing the adventures on her list alone?
Can she ever get Liss back on her side?
Will she be brave enough to leave behind her mom’s artistic style?

Change is scary, but staying the same on-the-sidelines-of-life chubby girl is not an option for Georgia after Mom’s last request entreating her to learn How to Be Brave.
(One of 8,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

X is eXactly, as in Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You, by Todd Hasak-Lowy (book review)

book cover of Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy published by Simon Pulse1. Parents shouldn’t change
2. Friends shouldn’t move
3. Lists should make it easier to cope
4. Really, they should help…

Darren’s life seems so out-of-his-hands right now, after the divorce and Dad’s lifestyle change and Nick being at college.

He copes by making lists, and skipping school with amazing artist Zoey to visit Nick, and making lists, and wondering where Zoey has gone…

Just published last week, Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You  lets Darren tell his story in his own way.

What have you done to keep things under control during an extremely hectic time?
**kmm

Book info: Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You / Todd Hasak-Lowy. Simon Pulse, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Making lists and enduring all the changes in his life leaves Darren enough energy to skip school (just once), get in trouble at brother’s university (just once), and have two girlfriends at the same time (just once), but the high school junior is still trying to figure things out – in lists.

After Dad and Mom divorced, they both were different – Darren’s not sure he likes either change, but what can he do? Making lists helps.

Names that he’d rather have, reasons that he can’t drive yet, ways to convince Zoey to take him to see Nate at college – lists are good.

But somehow, all the lists haven’t made it easier to tell a girl at band camp that he’s sort of dating Zoey or know why Mom suddenly needs to have Shabbat dinner every Friday or figure out what to tell Dad’s analyst…

Is visiting Dad’s new place going to be okay?
Where has Zoey suddenly gone?
Will anything be back to normal by his 16th birthday? (c’mon, universe!)

This Chicago teen tells his story in lists, but who knows what the last entry will be.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Dissonance, by Erica O’Rourke (book review) – traveling to parallel worlds through music

book cover of Dissonance by Erica O'Rourke published by Simon Schuster BFYREvery choice creates a parallel world.
Nothing can destroy these echo worlds.
But something is!

Del has the talent to Walk between worlds, but when an echo of popular Simon actually notices her, she ignores safety protocols and Walks from echo to echo until she finds a Simon who adores her. Then the trouble really begins!

Read chapter one here for free on the publisher’s site, find this 2014 book at your local library or independent bookstore, and look for just-published book 2 Harmonic, realizing that your choice might spin off another world…

**kmm

Book info: Dissonance (Dissonance, book 1) / Erica O’Rourke. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Following the family talent of world-walking, Del ventures far beyond what her apprenticeship allows, searching for love in the parallel worlds created by every choice and endangering our Key world with what she discovers!

Having older sister Addie supervise her final practice Walks instead of Mom or Dad or even ditzy Grandpa Monty doesn’t suit the Chicago teen, so musical Delaney explores on her own – entering the pivot where a choice split that echo away from the Key world, listening for an echo world’s specific frequency, leaving a tiny origami star in each world as a breadcrumb trail home, just in case.

When Del interacts too much with an echo, creating a dissonance in that world that the Consort of Walkers will need to erase, she saves them the trouble by doing it herself, with scary results.

Now forbidden by the Consort to Walk alone, stuck on a music class project with standoffish Simon yet aching to return to echo Simon who cares for her, Del only dares to Walk when Grandpa leaves the Key world to continue his search across echos for Grandma, an experienced Walker who never returned home.

Why can’t they just tune a dissonance instead of erasing an echo world?
Can she Walk and make a teensy change to fix something in the Key world?
Will the real Simon ever love Del?

When Del’s extracurricular Walks uncover a startling secret, the Consort of Walkers argues about the best course of action, but it may be too late to save the multiverse! First book in the Dissonance series. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Get Happy, by Mary Amato (book review) – wanted: uke, dad, happiness

book cover of Get Happy by Mary Amato published by EgmontTeen songwriter wants an ukulele and better days.
Teen’s long-gone dad wants to see her at last.
Teen’s hyper-organized mom wants him to stay gone.

As the Rolling Stones sang, “You can’t always get what you want,” but be assured that the teens eventually do get what they need, even if they don’t know what it is Read on, read on!