Tag Archive | illness

12.21, by Dustin Thomason (fiction) – Mayan codex, deadly epidemic, end of the world?

book cover of 12 21 by Dustin Thomason published by Dial

Disease and rioting…
Airplane crashes…
Attacks on immigrants…
Just another day in L.A. or is it the end of the world?

The mysterious codex smuggled to Chel from rural Guatemala might verify the doomsday interpretations of the Mayan “Long Calendar” or just the last days of a single Mayan town… but how to be sure?

As December 21st approaches, look into the great museum exhibits clarifying Mayan timekeeping and the Long Calendar; are researchers even using the correct conversion factor to match Mayan and modern dates?  Be sure to check out the excellent interactive tutorial on reading Mayan glyphs on the book’s website, too.

You’ll find this medical thriller/apocalyptic tale at your local library or independent bookstore now. Probably better to read it sooner than later, right?

Book info: 12.21 / Dustin Thomason. Dial Books, 2012.  [book website]   [author’s Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Gabe Stanton leaves his disease research lab to check on a mystery patient at a Los Angeles hospital. Chel Manu wonders if the astounding Mayan codex brought to her by a smuggler might not be a forgery. And an airplane falls from the sky, as a rampaging epidemic begins sweeping through L.A. 
This cluster of symptoms described by the hospital matches an extremely rare incurable prion disease, one so infectious that hazmat suits are required just to enter the patient’s room. Perhaps with the help of the right translator they can get some information from the young man to track down the disease’s origin…before he dies of acute insomnia and panic. 
So Chel is asked to translate, pulled away from her volunteer time with Guatemalan refugees, away from her research on ancient Mayan writings, away from the black market antiquities dealer who brought her a never-seen codex from a forgotten city, away from those who think that the 12.21.12 end of the Mayan ‘Long Calendar’ marks the end of the world. 
With few clues and the disease spreading rapidly, Stanton tries to pinpoint how the infection is spread, as Chel surreptitiously translates the new-found codex. Both sets of information point back to a hidden ancient city in the homeland of Chel’s mother, thousands of miles away. 

As the government quarantines LA to stop the epidemic, Stanton and Chel must find a way to get to Guatemala before it’s too late. Is there any possible cure for this disease? How much of the codex’s unusual tale is true? Will the countdown to the end of the Long Calendar become the countdown to the end of civilization? (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Laugh With the Moon, by Shana Burg – grief and laughter, new friends in Africa (book review)

book cover of Laugh With the Moon by Shana Burg published by Delacorte

Roosters wandering through the school.
Sharing one pencil between ten students.
Daily anti-malaria pills too pricy for most families

On this World Wednesday, United Nations Day, travel us to Malawi, as a grieving American teen and her dad try to help others, despite their own pain.

Clare does indeed  feel like “a marshmallow that fell into a bag of dark chocolate” (p. 5) as she arrives with her doctor-dad in the “warm heart of Africa” which has the fewest doctors per capita of any country in the world.

Missing her late mother, her friends, the conveniences of modern life, Clare learns to ignore enormous centipedes, to find alternative ways to get around shortages, and to appreciate her newfound friends, especially Memory, who has lost both her mother and her father.

This summer 2012 new book takes you to a far-off land with just a short trip to your local library or independent bookstore. Could you Laugh With the Moon,  instead of crying alone, if you were in Clare’s place?

Book info: Laugh With the Moon / Shana Burg. Delacorte Press, 2012, paperback 2013.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

My Book Talk:  Malawi is not Massachusetts – Clare can’t believe that her father has uprooted her from junior high school to come to Africa for a season. After her mother died, they were both so sad for so long… he thinks the change of scenery will do them good, but Clare isn’t sure she can adjust to any more changes!

Mosquito netting around her narrow bed, no cellphone service out here in the bush, riding a borrowed bicycle down a bumpy dirt road to Mzanga Full Primary School where she’s the only white student, wearing a hand-me-down school uniform, but is fully welcomed with smiles…

Soon Clare becomes accustomed to helping pack up her classroom’s books to take to the school’s only lockable room, to placing cans beneath its worst leaks during the rains, to understanding almost enough about her classmates to keep from embarrassing herself too much.

Her sketchbook fills with drawings of her friends who have chosen English names like Innocent and Memory, of jungle animals, and of Fred the hen who arrived as a mystery gift on their doorstep. She finally can see her mother’s face and hear her voice in her dreams. And her father the doctor tries to help all the children who flood into the free hospital, day and night.

An emergency during an outing to Lake Malombe leaves the school friends stranded, with time running out. How can they get everyone to safety? Why can’t an ambulance get there? Why is everything so difficult in Malawi? How will Clare ever feel whole in her heart without her mother’s gentle love?

From teaching tools made from termite-mound mud to the charming style of English spoken in Mkumba, readers will be delighted to explore Clare’s new world as she learns to Laugh With the Moon and embrace life after loss. 

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.

R for Radiate, by Marley Gibson (fiction) – cheerleading, cancer, redemption

Go for your dream!
Work hard, practice hard, cheer hard!
Cancer? How can she have bone cancer?

Hayley isn’t going to let surgery or radiation or chemo stop her. It’s her senior year and her only chance to shine as a cheerleader. Stubborn runs in the family, it seems, and her parents’ reluctance to tell her about their hardware store’s dire financial situation could be their undoing.

Great that her grade-school buddy Gabe has moved back to town and is the football team trainer; he’ll make sure that she does her physical therapy correctly before cheer practice every day. Not so great that her hair falls out from the chemotherapy or that her boyfriend Daniel is so squeamish about medical stuff.

The author had bone cancer in high school and used her experiences as the basis of Hayley’s story. She is setting up the Radiate Foundation so that local cheerleading groups can bring goodie baskets, cheers, and smiles to pediatric cancer patients during their hospital stays, just like those visiting cheerleaders did for Hayley.

Book info: Radiate / Marley Gibson. Graphia Books/HMH, 2012. [author’s website] [book website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Hayley decided to try out for cheerleader her senior year and made it! That painful lump on her leg must be just from practicing too hard, learning learning all the cheers. But it’s bone cancer…

No time to waste on worrying about it – it’s aggressive cancer and Hayley’s doctor uncle helps her find the best treatment at the University hospital, three hours away from home and her handsome football player boyfriend Daniel and her buddies and her childhood pal Gabe who just moved back to town.

Thank goodness for cellphones and computers so she can stay in touch a bit. Head cheerleader Chloe isn’t very sympathetic, more worried about having an unbalanced cheer squad for cheerleading camp than about Hayley enduring chemotherapy before school starts.

It’s tough for Hayley to miss cheer camp, to miss the first football game, to stay away from her friends for so many weeks. Thankfully, a group of cheerleaders from a high school near the university find out she was there and burst into her hospital room to invite her to come to their practice and teach them some PHS cheers.

Finally, Hayley gets to go home, back to school – on crutches, with a huge scar on her leg, and with exacting physical therapy instructions – determined to cheer again. But even the most positive thoughts won’t stop her from losing her hair after chemo, won’t keep Daniel close to her, won’t make Chloe less snippy about Hayley missing a little practice time to do her physical therapy under Gabe’s supervision.

Can she truly overcome this cancer? Will her medical bills overwhelm her family? Will her long-absent big sister finally come home to see her?

Based on the author’s true experiences with bone cancer as a teen, Hayley’s story goes beyond mere medical facts to explore what it takes to truly Radiate as a positive force to help others overcome the odds in their lives, too. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Eleventh Plague, by Jeff Hirsch (book review) – tough road in the future

book cover of The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch published by ScholasticMaybe some canned food is still hidden in that store,
Maybe they can pull some scrap iron from that bombed-out building,
Maybe the soldiers won’t capture them,
Maybe the slavers will.

Germ warfare
on a global scale – China started it, but everyone was threatened by the virulent strain of flu. Only a third of the population survived that Eleventh Plague, and now living day to day is the hardest thing the survivors will ever face.

Granddad was tough on Stephen and Dad, but how else were they to survive after Mom died and the Quinns took to the salvagers’ ways? Anything not practical was useless in Granddad’s eyes, especially when they had to carry everything, so Stephen never let him see The Lord of the Rings book deep in his pack, nor the only photograph of his mother.

Is Settler’s Rest too good to be real? The school must have over a hundred books! Stephen can even play baseball, like Dad did in the pros before the war.

Yet many townspeople mock and despise Jenny, who was adopted from China years before the war began. And some still suspect Stephen and Dad of being spies, even after the teen works hard alongside the other kids.

Jeff Hirsch’s debut novel sends us along America’s deserted backroads and shattered shopping centers on this Future Friday, always watching for soldiers and slavers, always wondering if the P11 plague is truly gone.

Book info: The Eleventh Plague / Jeff Hirsch. Scholastic Press, 2011. [author’s website] [author interview] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Recommendation: Always moving, Stephen learns survival skills from his dad and granddad as they travel through ruined America. Searching for salvage on the way to the traders’ gathering, they stay clear of the old paved roads where soldiers and slavers travel. What was it like before the Chinese bombed the USA and two-thirds of the world’s people died of the Eleventh Plague, that deadly flu? What would it be like if Mom were still alive?

A chase, an accident, a long drop – now grumpy Granddad is buried, Dad is in a coma, and Stephen must keep them safe. When a group of teens finds the pair near the river, he reluctantly accepts their offer of help for Dad. After blindfolding, the group travels a winding trail to a town – a real town, with a school and houses with unbroken glass windows! So many people in one place, mostly refugees who have built a true community in this remote gated subdivision.

Stephen can hardly believe their luck, finding an actual doctor who can treat Dad. Violet even lets them stay in Jenny’s room since her rebellious adopted Chinese daughter moved into an old barn, away from the taunts about her birthplace.

But not everyone in Settler’s Landing thinks it’s a good idea to let strangers in their gates. Some think that Stephen and Dad are spies from Fort Leonard where soldiers are in charge, others worry that they’re an advance party for the region’s ruthless slaver gangs.

For the first time in his fifteen years, Stephen can attend school and play baseball, like Dad told him about. Sure, the town’s kids have chores afterward, but they can go swimming and there’s almost always enough to eat – the adults have worked so hard to keep the town and people safe.

Jenny is always the wild card, questioning their teacher during the few times she attends school, challenging her peers to think for themselves. When one of Jenny’s pranks gets out of hand, the small community jumps to the wrong conclusion. Perhaps Stephen really is a spy, they worry.

Now Settler’s Landing finds itself divided – do they launch an attack against outsiders or stay inside their town walls to defend it? What can the town council do to keep this hard-earned fragment of civilization intact? Will they even be able to survive if the slavers or soldiers march into their hidden valley?

A future that might be true, a future that we pray never happens, the only reality that Stephen knows – this is America after The Eleventh Plague. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

LIttle Women and Me (fiction)

Fun Friday with a blast into the past, as a middle-school girl is launched back into the pages of Little Women – no cellphone, no jeans, no kidding!

It seems like the world of Little Women is so much simpler than modern life, but Emily finds that even in 1861, human nature keeps things interesting. And the personalities of those March girls!

So, can Emily change the parts she dislikes about her favorite book? Will her actions as “the middle March” fix it or spoil it?

You’re sure to find the original Little Women at your local library or indie bookseller, but if you’d like to read Emily’s favorite online -free!- in a variety of formats, visit Project Gutenburg here.

Book info: Little Women and Me / Lauren Baratz-Logsted. Bloomsbury, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site]

Recommendation: Emily jumps into the assignment to change something in a classic novel – she can’t change her real-life family, can she? Being a middle sister is just so annoying…

Back in the pages of her favorite book, Little Women, Emily tries to decide on just one thing to change: Prevent sweet Beth from dying? Keep Papa out of the Civil War fighting? Have boy-next-door Laurence marry Jo instead of silly Amy?

Suddenly she is whirled into the book itself – as middle March sister Emily!! What a different world – life for 13 year-old girls in 1861 means corsets and needlework, not jeans and text messages.

As she lives through the events chronicled in the novel’s pages, Emily tries to fit into the story without giving herself away as a time-traveler. School isn’t mandatory for girls? Hooray! Reading aloud to grumpy, demanding Aunt March? Yikes! Long evenings at home with sewing instead of the internet? Urrr…

Key events in the story are just around the corner – can Emily change things enough to keep Beth alive or make Laurie realize that he loves his best friend Jo instead of her sister Amy? And what will happen to Emily when the last page of the book is turned?

Whether reading this before or after Little Women itself, readers will see 19th century life and Alcott’s classic tale in a deeper way through Emily’s humorous adventures and misadventures. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren (fiction) – time travel, romance, the Black Death

It’s mysterious Monday (after time off for a wonderful Caribbean interlude last week at the International Association of School Librarianship conference in Kingston, UWI-Mona), and we’re hurtling back to 14th century Italy with Gabi and Lia.

Have the teens convinced their rational archaeologist mother that they can truly travel into the past? Worry that time is moving faster in Marcello’s world while she is in the present is causing Gabi true pain.

And consider the classic time traveler’s paradox – if they do go back and stop the people of Castle Forelli from succumbing to the Black Plague, will that change history as we know it?

Romance, adventure, intrigue, and a trio of strong women make this second novel in the Rivers of Time Trilogy as good as the first book in the series, Waterfall. And the final volume, Torrent, will be released on September 1, 2011 – I can hardly wait!!

Book info: Cascade / Lisa T. Bergren. David C. Cook, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

Recommendation: Her heart belongs to Marcello – Gabi knows this now that she’s back in modern times and he is in 1342. But she and her sister Lia had to come back to find their mother – and find a way to keep the black plague from wiping out their friends in old Tuscany.

Their archaeologist mom can’t quite believe that her daughters have traveled to the 14th century and back; her scientific background demands proof. When the three Bettarini women visit the ancient tomb, Mom gets more than proof – she goes back with them!

Marcello’s betrothed has given him up for his older brother, who is finally recovering from his long illness; becoming Lady of Castle Forelli is a political move, of course. Free to express their affection at last, Gabi’s reunion with Marcello is interrupted by invaders from Castle Paratore.

The regional war between is still going strong, as the republics of Siena and Florence fight over the borderland castles. So the enemies of Castle Forelli would love to capture the Ladies Bettarini who are strong and wise and fearless in battle.

Intrigue, conflict, and the coming Black Plague – can the “She-Wolves of Siena” turn the tide? Will the troops of Florence break through the Sienese defenses to capture the capital? Will Gabi stay with Marcello in 1342, or will Lia and their mom try to draw her back to their own time?

This second book in the Rivers of Time series answers questions raised by Waterfall (#1 – blogged here July 26th) and leaves readers anticipating more intrigue and romance in Torrent (#3 – Sept 1, 2011 pub date). (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Reformed Vampire Support Group, by Catherine Jinks (fiction) – ethical vampires hunt a killer

Sneak-in Saturday and another fun book that sneaked onto the bestseller lists before I could blog it for you.

Ahh, being a vampire must be exciting, right? Nah, can’t do much outdoors if bright light makes your eyes bleed. How to explain to the neighbors that you’re never getting any older? And if you just don’t believe that it’s ethically right to fang another human and turn them into a vampire without their consent?

Welcome to the small, but annoying world of the vampires in Australia, all of whom were changed by one vicious vampire. So for years, they’ve held regular Tuesday night support group meetings so they can stay “reformed” and keep their blood cravings under control. When one member is thoroughly and brutally snuffed out, it’s up to the Reformed Vampire Support Group to find the killer, even if they go into coma-like sleep the moment that the sun peeks over the horizon…

Lock up your guinea pigs when you read this funny take on the vampire mythos.
Followed by The Abused Werewolf Rescue Society.

Book info: The Reformed Vampire Support Group / Catherine Jinks. Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009 (hardcover) [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Recommendation: When a vampire is murdered, the other vampires have to find the killer, right? Especially reformed vampires who fang guinea pigs instead of humans. A stake through the heart and a silver bullet and exposing the vampire to sunlight – that’s overkill, even for the undead. A real vampire-hater has accessed doubly-dead Casimir’s online address book and is coming after the other vampires of Sydney!

After complaining for years in their weekly support group meetings that nothing happens when you’re asleep all day and lock yourself up every full moon, suddenly the group has too much to do. Relying on Father Ramon, the human priest who helps them stay reformed, forever-15 Nina (who writes vampire fiction to pay her mom’s rent) and friends travel in a dark, sealed van to the Outback, following clues from silver bullet sales records and online bulletin boards.

Trapping a vampire-killer, finding a werewolf, getting back to safety before their supply of guinea pigs runs out – who knew that being a vampire would suddenly be so complicated?

This story of the good-hearted undead battling a pack of heartless humans is a wild romp with unexpected twists. Dark glasses? Check. Guinea pig? Check. Barf bag? Ooof. Followed by The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Ghostopolis, by Doug TenNapel (book review) – accidental afterlife, time to escape

book cover of Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel published by GraphixGarth is dying, and he knows it. His mom isn’t ready for him to go, but she’s a lot less ready for him to get pulled into the realm of ghosts while he’s still alive!

Yep, a bumbling special agent gets sloppy in a supernatural capture-and-return so Garth is accidentally pulled into the afterlife.

Garth finds that the afterlife has its own politics and alliances, feuds and friendships. (I just love his new pal Skinny!)

A rescue team heads after him, even if some beings in the Afterlife don’t want to let him go!

Book info: Ghostopolis / Doug TenNapel. Graphix (Scholastic), 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Book Talk:No ghosts among the living – that’s the rules. The living in the ghost world? Well, Garth is finding out how that works, as he gets dragged into the afterlife during a ghost capture gone wrong.

Garth would be getting to Ghostopolis sooner rather than later, since he has an incurable disease, but his mom really wants him back among the living now. It’s up to the Supernatural Immigration Task Force to correct their ghost-wrangling goof and retrieve Garth. This may take a while, even with an Earth-assigned ghost helping the SITF agents…

Meeting his grandpa’s ghost, riding a night-mare, getting mixed up in Ghostopolis politics – soon Garth finds that he has special powers that unscrupulous ghosts want to use for their own bleak purposes. The young hero’s only hope of returning home is locating the Tuskegee Airman, that great-hearted man who built up Ghostopolis, who helps dead souls out of it and into their true homes Beyond. It won’t be easy, though.

Life and afterlife, ghosts and the living, good guys and bad guys, and a chronologically illogical sense of time – hope the ghost-wranglers can get Garth out of Ghostopolis before it’s too late! This Eisner-nominated graphic novel is 288 pages of wow-factor art and snappy dialogue. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Devil’s Paintbox, by Victoria McKernan (fiction) – teens struggle on Western frontier

book cover of Devil's Paintbox by Victoria McKernan Life on the western frontier was far more difficult than the Little House on the Prairie books showed us.

Aiden and Maddy are the last surviving members of their family whose homesteading dreams turned into a row of graves on the bleak Kansas prairie.

Their unlikely savior is gruff Jackson, recruiting for the even-tougher demands of the Pacific Northwest’s logging camps, who only agrees to take along Maddy if Aiden signs on for an extra year of logging work to pay their way West.

Friendly Nez Perce, not-always-friendly U.S. Army soldiers, and the dreaded smallpox shadow the wagon train, as they traverse open range, strain up mountain grades, and struggle across rivers.

Aiden toughens up as they travel, but will he be able to hold his own against the roughs and rowdies of the lumber camps? Adventure, peril, and possibilities fill this gripping tale of the West.

Book info: The Devil’s Paintbox / Victoria McKernan. Random House, 2009. [author bio] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: The shoe leather soup is gone, so Maddie and Aiden will starve to death soon, just as their family did on the Kansas prairie in 1865. But over the hill rides Jefferson J. Jackson, recruiting workers for the lumber camps in Washington.

He allows the teens to join the wagon train going west, warning them that “any way you can think up to die is out there waiting” on the trail. Aiden agrees that his first two years’ wages will go to Jackson in payment for their travel, and they head west, away from the graves on the hillside, away from the dried-up homestead.

Jackson is all too correct, and dangers face the travelers day and night – rampaging rivers to cross, wolves stalking them, Indians who might attack, and diseases with no cures.

Aiden works with his bow and arrow, bringing in deer and rabbits for his sister Maddie to cook. He meets friendly Indians who cross their trail from time to time, teaching him bareback horse riding and improving his hunting skills.

But soon smallpox, “the Devil’s Paint”, appears at a nearby fort, and the deadly disease threatens them all. The wagon train’s doctor soon runs out of medicines, the Indians blame government-issued blankets for the epidemic, and survival is now a gamble for everyone.

Will Aiden make it to the lumber camp? How will a scrawny, malnourished 15-year-old keep up with strong men and dangerous work? Smallpox is just the first challenge that he must face as he tries to live long enough to grow up. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)