Tag Archive | inventors

Let’s hear it for inventors! (audiobook recommendations)

How clever! This week, AudioSYNC brings us stories of extremely sharp folks and their amazingly inventive minds.

You have until Wednesday 5 July 2023 to download either or both of these professionally produced audiobooks into your Sora shelf. Get all the details here.

Did you miss earlier weeks’ free audiobooks? Check with your local public library or favorite independent bookstore.

Get ready to read with your ears!

CD cover of Bump, by Chiara Atik | Read by Ana Ortiz, Herbert Siguenza, Alma Martinez, and a Full Cast. Published by LA Theatre Works

Bump (free Sora download 6/29-7/5/23)
by Chiara Atik | Read by Ana Ortiz, Herbert Siguenza, Alma Martinez, and a Full Cast
Published by L.A. Theatre Works

The humorous story of Claudia’s plan to deliver her baby at home (using an amateur-built birthing machine!) is bookended by those of a midwife and first-time mother in 1790 and an online bulletin board for December moms.

Includes an interview with the author and a gynecologist.


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CD cover of The Woman Who Split the Atom: the Life of Lise Meitner, by Marissa Moss | Read by Sandy Rustin. Published by Recorded Books

The Woman Who Split the Atom: the Life of Lise Meitner (free Sora download 6/29-7/5/23)
by Marissa Moss | Read by Sandy Rustin
Published by Recorded Books

It was Lise Meitner’s groundbreaking research into the behavior of atoms in the 1930s that led to understanding nuclear fission and its later use in atomic weapons, much to her sorrow.

As a Jewish woman in pre-World War II Germany, brilliant Meitner was given substandard lab facilities, saw her work attributed solely to men, was forced into exile by the Nazi regime, and never received the Nobel Prize honors awarded to her male co-researchers.

On BooksYALove here, you’ll find my recommendation of Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner’s Call to Science, by Jeannine Atkins – a biography of Meitner in verse.


Which invention has most improved your own life?

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Audiobooks teach us about weapons of war – legal, illegal, deadly. (audiobook recommendations)

This week’s free AudioSYNC audiobooks tell of war and weaponry, during declared armed combat and on America’s streets outside the law!

You have until Wednesday 21 June 2023 to download either or both audiobooks into your Sora shelf. They expire in 99 years, so you can listen to them whenever you like, as long as you keep them on your Sora shelf.

Sign up here for a free Sora account and see the entire AudioSYNC season, too.

On to the front lines!

CD cover of Spearhead (Adapted for Young Adults): An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II,  by Adam Makos | Read by Johnathan McClain. Published by Listening Library

Spearhead (Adapted for Young Adults): An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II (free Sora download 6/15-6/21/23)
by Adam Makos | Read by Johnathan McClain
Published by Listening Library

Tank warfare during World War II was brutal, grinding, and deadly – especially for the first tank in formation.

Hear the true story of a 21-year-old American gunner in the newest Pershing super-tank and a 17-year-old German crewman in the legendary Panzer tank as their units battle to the death in the ruined streets of Cologne!


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CD cover of Tommy: The Gun That Changed America,by Karen Blumenthal | Read by Maggi-Meg Reed. Published by Listening Library

Tommy: The Gun That Changed America (free Sora download 6/15-6/21/23)
by Karen Blumenthal | Read by Maggi-Meg Reed
Published by Listening Library

The Thompson sub-machine gun was created by John Thompson as a more efficient weapon during World War I.

But soon the Tommy gun became the gangsters’ firearm of choice during the 1920s and ’30s, to the inventor’s dismay.

An engaging historical look at this iconic gun and its notorious users, as well as its influence on today’s conversations about gun safety and gun rights.


What war stories do you recommend?

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Which side of his family will LUMBERJACKULA follow? by Mat Heagarty & Sam Owen (Graphic Novel review)

book cover of graphic novel Lumberjackula / words by Mat Heagarty, art by Sam Owen. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Chop, chop, chop!
Eerie, eerie, spooky!
What to do? What to do?

Choosing a secondary school is so important! Should young Lumberjackula go to Sorrow’s Gloom Vampire Academy like Dad and Grandpa or to Mighty Log Lumberjack Prep like Mom and her parents did?

The 11 and a half year old will try one day at each school so he can see where he fits best.

But Jack splashes out during the essential lumberjack skill of log-rolling, and he’s scared of heights, so the flying part of being a vampire is out.

Feeling out of place at both schools, Jack dances out his stress in the woods, where a fairy dancer sees him and invites him to try the dance school she attends in a nearby town.

Fibbing to his parents about another trial day at each of their schools, Jack treks to Tip Tap Twinkle Toes Dance Academy where he’s warmly welcomed and complimented on his technique.

This is where he belongs! But how will he convince his family that dancing is the better choice for him?

Some family drama, some friend misunderstanding, and a ManaTeen giving good advice – it’s your future to decide, Lumberjackula!

Enjoy this video interview with writer Mat and artist Sam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwhhJHbHEFg

What family tradition have you veered away from?

Book info: Lumberjackula / words by Mat Heagarty, art by Sam Owen. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. [author site] [artist info] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

B is for BOY BAND OF THE APOCALYPSE! by Tom Nicoll, art by David O’Connell (YA book review)

book cover of Boy Band of the Apocalypse by Tom Nicoll, published by Kane Miller EDC | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The band everyone loves!
Lead singer leaves? Oh, no!
Now the world is doomed… really.

Music reaches into our very souls at times, and this boy band will use their songs to control as many teen souls as they can – unless rather unmusical Sam can infiltrate Apocalips and stop them!

At least that’s what the prophecy says…

Another fun British import brought to the US by Kane Miller Publishing – and yes, the second book is available now: Boy Band of the Apocalypse: Washed Up.

Prophecy, destiny, or free will?

Book info: Boy Band of the Apocalypse (Boy Band of the Apocalypse, book 1) / Tom Nicoll, illustrated by David O’Connell. Kane Miller/EDC Publishing, 2019. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Witnessing the world’s most popular boy band secretly murder their lead singer puts Sam in a tough spot as the British thirteen year old is tapped to stop Apocalips from destroying the world!

After reluctantly attending the concert with her best friend, Sam’s feisty little sister is suddenly a total Apocalips fan, like those bullying Heatherstone quadruplets in Sam’s class… very out of character.

Now that Sam knows Apocalips is intent on conquering the world with a new lead singer, he is forced to audition despite his shaky voice and bad dancing. Genius pal Milo’s invention will help with the singing, and Sam’s boring accountant parents will help with the dancing – really?!

Fame and fortune are his – if Sam can survive the weirdest audition ever and find the secret of Apocalips’ mind-control before it’s too late for everyone!

Ravens of Solemano, by Eden Unger Bowditch (book review) – journey of secrets, families lost?

book cover of Ravens of Solemano by Eden Unger Bowditch published by Bancroft PressBelongings vanish, then reappear.
Mysterious coins and curious murals.
Fabulous food, but no parents to share it with.

The remote village hides the five Young Inventors and their teacher well, but it also hides many secrets, perhaps even the origins of the Mysterious Men in Black who guard, guide, and confuse them! Hopefully, its ravens can hide the children from evil Komar Romak long enough for them to solve a baffling problem which endangers the world.

Just published on Sept. 24th, The Ravens of Solemano  surprises with clever puzzles, endearing characters (except for Romak),and links to historical figures famous and obscure. Ask for it today at your favorite local library or independent bookstore – if they don’t have it, use the Book Info below to request it.

Of course, you’ll enjoy these further adventures of the Young Inventors Guild even more  if you’ve already read The Atomic Weight of Secrets (my no-spoiler recommendation here) , so check it out, too.

If the expectations of the world are on your shoulders, can you ever put family first?

Book info: The Ravens of Solemano: The Order of the Mysterious Men in Black (Young Inventors Guild, book 2) / Eden Unger Bowditch. Bancroft Press, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A daring escape, a too-brief family reunion, then the five Young Inventors must solve cryptic puzzles in a puzzling village before their dreadful enemy strikes again – now the world itself is in danger!

Fortunately, their schoolteacher Miss Brett is with Jasper and little sister Lucy, Wallace, Noah, and Faye as they must travel across the sea from the explosion site where they spent such a short time with their parents, on the run from evil Komar Romak. The Men in Black hustled the children and Miss Brett to safety aboard the strangest ship, crewed by more like them. Such wonders in its library and labs!

But a murdered man’s message sends danger their way, even before the Young Inventors reach the Italian village of Solemano with its ever-present ravens, mysterious garden labyrinth, and many puzzles to solve. Miss Brett helps the children settle in and resume their experiments – their inventive minds find much to ponder here.

Underground passageways with possible clues, garden statues that are not what they appear to be, friendly villagers with secrets of their own. How long will the children stay in Solemano? The Men in Black who guard/protect them cannot (or will not) say.

Has Komar Romak discovered their hiding place yet?
Can the Young Inventors discover enough of Solemano’s secrets to protect themselves?
Will they ever see their parents again?

This second tale in the Young Inventors Guild series takes readers far away, into an imaginatively peopled land of puzzles and parallels as the brilliant children who first met in The Atomic Weight of Secrets  must work together to save themselves and the world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)


Amped, by Daniel H. Wilson (fiction) – amp your brain, lose your humanity?

book cover of Amped by Daniel H Wilson published by DoubledayWelcome to the near-future!
A simple implant negates epilepsy,
another upgrades low IQ,
yet another amplifies physical performance.

We’re not talking 3-D headgear to improve complex visualizations – these are directly attached to relevant brain areas to control problems or enhance capabilities. Shouldn’t disadvantaged children be given help to overcome obstacles to their success, to keep them off the welfare rolls as adults?

And people who don’t use this technology – the pure humans – feel more-threatened every day by it. Should amps really be recognized as citizens? Aren’t they now less than human because of their implants? From lawsuits to concentration camps to outright violence, if you’re Amped, you’re a target – until it’s time to fight back!

The author of Robopocalypse brings us another all-too-possible view of a technology-enhanced future that’s more nightmare than dream-come-true. Published in early June, you’ll find Amped  at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Amped / Daniel H. Wilson. Doubleday, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Brain implants to control seizures help millions like Owen; why shouldn’t implants help amplify limited intelligence or upgrade physical strength for those with challenges? Wealthy parents began enhancing their children’s mental skills and physical prowess with amp implantation, then The Uplift Act authorized amp implants for low-income kids to help them overcome long-standing disadvantages.
Soon, the “pure humans” worry that the “amps” have unfair advantages for college admissions, athletic contests, and job applications. Senator Vaughn and his Pure Pride organization file so many lawsuits against amps that their case goes to the Supreme Court.
Suddenly, amps are no longer full United States citizens, are hounded by Pure Pride, corralled into small enclaves under constant attack. All research on human amplification is stopped, and its leading researchers and doctors are arrested – if the authorities can reach them before they commit suicide.
A final message from his father shocks 29-year-old Owen to the core: his amp is not just for medical assistance, but contains information on amazing skills and abilities that he’ll be able to use some day.  All he has to do is cross half the country without being picked up by the FBI and find Dad’s friend Jim in Oklahoma for some answers.
Did Owen really want to find out about the Echo Company of amp-enhanced soldiers who can access levels of superhuman strength with the flick of a mental switch? Can this calm schoolteacher stand by while Pure Priders attack innocent kids who were amped under The Uplift Act so they could concentrate in class? And exactly what skills did his researcher father add to Owen’s amp?

Newspaper articles and news reports punctuate this fast-moving story, showing the rise and flow of public opinion and occasional outright propaganda in a future not-so-distant from today. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

The Peculiars, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry (book review) – quests, steampunk inventions, strange folk

book cover of The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry published by AmuletLying awake at night,
wondering if she’s “having wild thoughts”
or if her overlong fingers truly are goblin hands,
Lena never hears good things about her father…

Never hears from him until her 18th birthday when the money enclosed in the only letter he’s ever written to her allows her to start searching for him, despite her mother’s concerns and her grandmother’s fretting about unladylike behavior.
Why stay hidden in the City when adventure calls?

This steampunk adventure-romance-paranormal quest is set in a different United States of America than the one seen in our history textbooks about the late 19th century. While both USAs share Charles Darwin, the Pony Express, self-righteous missionaries, and Mark Twain’s writings, only Lena’s world includes winged persons, a cat whose purrs always sound like human speech, and a successful steam-powered flying machine with titanium frame.

Hoping that author McQuerry is a fast writer so that we can have more of Lena’s adventures soon!

Book info: The Peculiars / Maureen Doyle McQuerry. Amulet Books, 2012.  [author’s website]   [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Lena’s long-vanished father is responsible for her elongated fingers and overlarge feet and not much else in her life. So when her 18thbirthday brings a message from him, she feels compelled to travel from the City to the wildness of Scree – hiding place of goblins, flying people, and outlaws – to find him and discover what Peculiar blood might flow in her veins.

As the steam train chugs north, Lena keeps to herself, longtoed boots hidden by her traveling skirt, gray gloves covering her long, long fingers. One young man doesn’t take her hints, insisting on talking about their destination, a coastal town near Scree where he’s taken a position as librarian to a scientist, and about his fiancée and his family’s expectations.

During dinner, the train suddenly halts as masked men rescue a prisoner and rob the passengers! Thankfully, Lena had pinned her father’s envelope inside her bodice, but now has little money to finance her planned expedition into Scree. And the sheriff investigating the train heist has been chasing after her father for years…

Luckily, Jimson’s eccentric employer decides that Lena should also help catalog his unusual collection, giving her time to save up money to venture into Scree. A steam-powered typewriter, doors with intricate opening mechanisms, books with gem-encrusted covers – the library is a treasure of wonders and even a few answers for Lena’s questions about the Peculiars and Scree.

But she sees a strange winged figure on the roof at night, finds drawings of hands like her own in Mr. Beasley’s medical case sketchbook, and is getting more attention from Sheriff Saltre than she wants. If Lena doesn’t go into Scree quite soon, she’ll be trapped by winter weather and her growing affection for Jimson.

Alarmed by the sheriff’s investigations, Mr. Beasley and Jimson prepare for household members to escape Zephyr House. Can the flying machine get everyone out in time? Have they hidden the inventor’s secrets and experiments regarding the Peculiars well enough? Will Lena get to Scree and find her father after all these years?

Set in an alternative steampunk United States of late 1800s, those called The Peculiars face extreme prejudice and lifelong slavery in Scree’s mines, as Lena and compatriots from Zephyr House are about to discover first-hand.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Project Jackalope, by Emily Ecton (book review) – mad scientist, secret agents, crazy science fair

book cover of Project Jackalope by Emily Ecton published by Chronicle BooksResearchers think up lots of unusual things,
like cyborg insects
and tracking devices smaller than a grain of rice.
Some stay on the drawing board forever and some don’t.

So, why not develop a jackalope?  Reputed to have a vicious personality, the ability to mimic human voices, and savage killer instincts, jackalopes would make terrible pets – but might be terrifying weapons as well.

You’ll have to read Project Jackalope  for yourself to see if the Professor has created a true jackalope or if Jeremy and Agatha can keep it away from the scary guys in suits or if Jeremy finally passes science with his science fair project! Find this funny middle-grade book at your local library or independent bookstore.

Book info: Project Jackalope / Emily Ecton. Chronicle Books, 2012.  [author’s website]   [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Something is breathing in the clothes hamper! Why did Professor Twitchett leave his super-secret project in Jeremy’s bedroom and then disappear? It was one thing to run errands for the Professor, but this note about “keeping the experiment safe” is crazy. Can it really be… a jackalope?!

Jeremy’s idea of a science fair project is Styrofoam planets, but Professor Twitchett downstairs is a real scientist, even if he tries to keep things hush-hush. Mom is allergic to furry things, so Jeremy has to let classmate Agatha in on the secret so she can keep the jackalope in her apartment. When government agent-type guys in suits start questioning everyone in their building, Jeremy knows in his gut that he can’t give them the sharp-antlered rabbit.

The Professor’s assistant at the zoo research center hasn’t seen him lately, and his desk is suspiciously neat.  Ditzy old Mrs. Simmons thinks he’s bringing her a dog in a bag when Jeremy hides in her apartment for a minute. The suits show up at the junior high school, intent on getting answers from Jack. Soon Agatha and Jack are on the run, taking the jackalope along, of course.

How long can they elude the scary guys in suits?
When will the jackalope start using his cloth-shredding antlers on them?
Can jackalopes really imitate human voices to confuse their prey?
Why did the Professor create a killer mutant bunny in the first place?

When everyone interested in the jackalope arrives at the junior high science fair, the results are epic! (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Dinosaurs & time travel! Chronal Engine, by Greg Leitich Smith (fiction)

book cover of Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith published by Clarion Books

Rare fossilized dinosaur footprints.

Heart attack, kidnapping, possible murder?

What a way to start a summer!

No one has seen the Loblolly dinosaur tracks on their grandpa’s ranch in years. Max can’t wait – he got the family “dinosaur-hunter” genes, Mom says. Kyle and Emma would rather stay home in Austin the summer before their sophomore year , but with Mom leaving to excavate feathered dinosaurs in Mongolia, they’ve all got to stay somewhere. At least Grandpa’s housekeeper has a daughter their age; Petra seems glad to have some other teenagers on the ranch for a while.

Grandpa’s security-locked basement looks like a 1920s library, if the library had a humming time-travel device in the center. Predicting his own heart attack to the minute, leaving messages in places no one can reach – has Grandpa really used the Chronal Engine to travel through time?

Greg Leitich Smith’s fascination with dinosaurs is firmly woven into this exciting action tale, as our adventurers meet teeny Tyrannosaurs (meat-eaters have horrible bad breath), massive Apatosaurus (even dinosaur expert Max still loves the old name of Brontosaurus), and some human villains back in the Cretaceous Era. You’ll enjoy Blake Henry’s manga-influenced black and white illustrations, too.

I didn’t see any boot prints in the fossilized dino tracks when I visited Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, but that’s well north of Chronal Engine‘s setting in the Texas Hill Country, so who knows? Grab this summer thrill-ride read at your local library or independent bookstore soon!


Book info: Chronal Engine / Greg Leitich Smith; illustrations by Blake Henry. Clarion Books, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Recommendation: All summer out at their grandpa’s ranch? Max, Kyle, and Emma know that rare dinosaur tracks are located there, but they’ll miss their friends and Austin’s city comforts so much. His wild time-travel theories turn out to be truer than they could ever imagine!

Sure, Mom is headed for the most important dinosaur dig in Asia, but the teens have met her father just once; the only time in 15 years that he left the ranch was to attend their own dad’s funeral five years ago. For decades, Grandpa has refused to let researchers on his land to study the dinosaur tracks, even though that “hard science” might erase the taint of craziness left by great-great-grandfather Mad Jack Pierson’s insistence that he’d invented a time-traveling engine.

At the ranch house, it’s nice to meet Petra, who is their age and enjoys the outdoors as much as Max does. She knows the way to the dinosaur tracks and what perils to avoid in the Hill Country.

When Grandpa refuses pecan pie during their first dinner together because he knows an ambulance will arrive in 15 minutes because of his upcoming heart attack, they wonder about it. After he gets Max to promise that all four teens will go to the fossil tracks in the morning and gives him a heavy envelope to open later, Grandpa shows them the Chronal Engine and its last recall device to return to the present time – then has a heart attack, just as the medflight helicopter touches down! If he knew the timing of his own heart attack, does that mean Grandpa has used the Chronal Engine?

Visiting the dinosaur tracks the next morning, they find human bootprints in the fossilized mud! And Emma’s boot fits the print exactly… but how? A sudden flash of light and a man appears next to their sister, grabs her, and disappears into another flash of light. So Emma has been kidnapped…to the Cretaceous Era? Suddenly Max, Kyle, and Petra decide to travel back in time using the Chronal Engine to rescue her.

Will it work? Will their compass work? Can they survive among huge herbivorous dinosaurs and speedy meat-eaters? Can they outsmart other time-traveling humans who have guns and are ready to use them? Will any of them get back to the present – alive?

This mile-a-minute adventure story includes dromaeosaur babies and bow-hunting, toothed prehistoric birds and T. Rexes and 40-foot-long crocodilians among the adventures encountered by four young teens on a time-traveling mission. The author notes currently known facts and recent theories about prehistoric life at the end of the book, which includes funny/accurate illustrations by Blake Henry. (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.