Tag Archive | research

Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, by Laurie Ann Thompson (book review)

book cover of  Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thompson published by Beyond Words Simon PulseUnfair things bother you, a lot.
It’s time to do something about it!
But how to make it happen?

If you have an idea for fixing the world, jumpstart it by getting this book at your local library or favorite independent bookstore, and visit the Be a Changemaker website to share your stories and questions.

How are YOU going to change our world for the better?
**kmm

Book info: Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters / Laurie Ann Thompson. Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Ever gotten so angry about something that you vowed to make it right? Started a great helping project, but run out of ideas or enthusiasm? Get good advice on making a difference in the world from those who’ve tried, failed, and then succeeded so that you can devote your energies to your cause.

Each chapter begins by profiling a youth-led nonprofit group along with their challenges and successes. Be sure that you think through your passions, skills, and the problem that’s bothering you before jumping into your venture. Learn how to work the media, plan a stellar event, and avoid burnout so that your idea goes the distance.

With good research, a dream team and adult mentor who share your vision, and savvy planning, you can truly Be a Changemaker  and make positive things happen with the tools and tips in this book.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Arm of the Starfish, by Madeleine L’Engle (book review) – regeneration research, bad guys, international plot

book cover of Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L'Engle published by Square FishResearch with an “interesting” new development,
Remote island lab closed to outsiders,
Whispers of miracles or perhaps monsters…

Adam will have to rely on his own wits and instincts during this summer of 1965, when an amazing opportunity to assist with cutting-edge regeneration research lands him right in the middle of medical espionage, undercover agents, and foreign country misunderstandings.

Written as a near-future story in 1965, The Arm of the Starfish  reads almost like alternate history today, as events in Dr. O’Keefe’s island lab blur the line between science fiction and mysticism, with Adam having to decide whether to believe young Poly O’Keefe or beautiful Kali Cutter about the researcher’s true intentions.

You’ll find this classic beginning to the O’Keefe family stories at local library or independent bookstore in the new Square Fish edition. And, yes, the O’Keefes are related to the Murry family you know from A Wrinkle in Time.

How far should research take us toward a future with no limits on life?
**kmm

Book info: The Arm of the Starfish / Madeleine L’Engle. Square Fish, 2011 (originally published in 1965 by Farrar Straus Giroux).  [author site]  [publisher site]

My book talk: Adam’s summer job as research assistant to a noted marine biologist on a Mediterranean island is a dream come true – until he’s blamed for a young girl’s disappearance from his flight, chased through Lisbon by thugs, and drawn into a secret with international implications.

Unusual for his professor-mentor to send a recent high school graduate to assist Dr. O’Keefe with starfish regeneration experiments. Unusual that beautiful Kali warns him that O’Keefe and his associate Canon Tallis are not what they seem when she meets Adam for the very first time.

Diverted to Madrid by fog, Adam worries that he’ll miss his connection in Lisbon, but Canon Tallis assures him that they’ll wait, especially as O’Keefe’s preteen daughter Poly is on this same plane.  But when Poly goes into the airplane lavatory and doesn’t return, the flight crew tells Adam she was never aboard!

Dr. O’Keefe himself meets Adam at the airport, telling him that Poly has been kidnapped by someone wanting his research results. Before they can get to the boat for Gaea, Adam is chased and shot at, lied to, brought up-to-date on espionage, and sworn to secrecy.

How can they get Poly back safely?
What is so important about this starfish research?
Which side is Kali really on?

Science and mystical forces weave together in a 1965 outside of our history books on this island paradise where family and community must guard against mercenaries and greed. First of the O’Keefe family stories by A Wrinkle in Time  author Madeleine L’Engle, The Arm of the Starfish  is followed by Dragons in the Waters.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Fellowship For Alien Detection, by Kevin Emerson (fiction) – strange memories, time rewind,

book cover of Fellowship For Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson published by Walden Pond PressVoices in his head.
Time losses that catch her eye.
It really is aliens this time!

It’s easy to identify with Dodger’s sense of never fitting in or with Haley’s alternating affection and annoyance with her family, but entire towns experiencing 16 minutes of missing time? People vanished from each place? Radio transmissions from a town not shown on any map?

Somehow, this is not the summer vacation that Dodger or Haley envisioned… and the extraterrestrials are trying to make them disappearance statistics, too!

Published in late February 2013, Kevin Emerson’s The Fellowship for Alien Detection  is a bit more light-hearted than his Atlanteans series (see my review of The Lost Code  here), but the perils for Dodger and Haley are very real.

Any “missing time experiences” in your life?
**kmm

Book info: Fellowship for Alien Detection / Kevin Emerson. Walden Pond Press, 2013.  [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  Awarded money for a short summer trip to investigate their theories of aliens on Earth, two young teens find more adventure than they anticipated and more danger than they could have imagined during their search for missing people and a vanished town.

Haley follows obscure news online that might lead to a reporting breakthrough; that’s how she uncovered “missing time episodes” experienced by people in several towns and knows each place has missing persons now. She’s going to interview folks in those missing-time towns – if she can just get Dad to stick to the travel plan instead of trying to see every oddball attraction on their route west from Connecticut.

The radio station that unpredictably plays in Dodger’s head is from Juliette, Arizona (which is not on any maps) and from a different day and year than now. He’s always felt different, unsettled – and it’s gotten worse as the radio broadcasts started this year. His dad looks at him like Dodger is a disappointment – the trip from Seattle to Roswell, New Mexico is going to be mighty long if Dad has as little to say to him as usual.

Debit cards from the Foundation in hand, the two families depart from opposite coasts on their fellowship journeys. But soon Haley’s investigations are noticed by United Consolidated Amalgamations which owns old mines near every missing-time town, and Dodger becomes a transmitting loudspeaker for the Juliette radio station during the gathering at Bend.

The two fellowship winners aren’t the only folks who have made the connection between UCA mines and missing-time or who have heard KJPR from Juliette, but they’re the only ones who are tracking down the clues step by step – the falling star dream in missing-time towns, the significance of the 16-minute time loss, the radio transmissions from one April day years ago. And the extraterrestrials are tracking down them and their families!

If Juliette is a real place, why isn’t it on the map?
Why does that same day play over and over on KJPR?
Can Dodger and Haley join forces before it’s too late?

This summer before starting high school may be the start of something big…or the end of Earth as we know it!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Altered, by Jennifer Rush (fiction) – build-a-soldier: strength tweak here, loyalty serum there

book cover of Altered by Jennifer Rush published by Little BrownSecret laboratory.
Experimental subjects.
Super-soldiers with no memories…

Anna reads the journal that her mom left, makes the recipes just as she noted, wishes that she could be with Sam more often – but what future could she have with a memory-wiped young man who’s confined like a lab rat?

What future is there for Anna anyway? She could never talk to outsiders, in case she accidentally said something about the Lab beneath their farmhouse, the Lab housing four young men that the Branch is secretly training for some sort of mission… the four young men who escape, taking Anna with them!

This 2012 title is a “don’t blink” thriller; imagine what will happen to the crew next!
**kmm

Book info: Altered / Jennifer Rush. Little Brown, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [audiobook excerpt]

My Recommendation:  Anna is content in her secluded home-schooled world of the remote farmhouse with her dad and the underground lab where “the boys” live. Why the Branch wanted four young men with no memories to be part of this research was never discussed, nor were the many scars on those very physically fit bodies.

When she turned 16, Dad asked Anna to assist him with testing Sam, Nick, Trev, and Cas, little knowing that she’s been sneaking downstairs to play chess with Sam every night for months. When a routine lab inspection by the Branch brings along highly armed soldiers to remove the boys, Anna’s calm life shatters as the boys manage to escape – and Dad sends her along with them, insisting that she must stay as far away from the Branch as possible!

Suddenly, they’re on the run, trying to outguess agents of the maybe-government-related Branch and stay ahead of police when desperation forces them to steal a car and food. Every hour away from the lab unlocks more of the boys’ impressive physical skills as they seem to react before danger occurs and fight as a team without speaking.

Somehow, tendrils of memory guide Sam to a remote farmhouse where he might have lived before his memories were wiped out by the Branch. Everything is now a clue that could help them unlock the boys’ secrets and regain their pasts.

When Anna’s long-absent mother arrives at the farmhouse with surprising news, there’s little time for a tender reunion as gunfire from Branch agents zings through the walls and windows. Was this a set-up or an accident?

Fleeing again, Anna, Sam and company keep trying to figure out the meaning of the numbers within their scars and messages hidden in their tattoos. Code? Map coordinates?

Harder and harder to stay ahead of the Branch as the crew darts from hiding place to newly remembered landmark to safe house. Graveyards and memories, dead men and long-dead children… whatever happens, Anna cannot leave Sam!

Why were the four young men in the Branch lab in the first place?
Why were their memories wiped out?
How far will they all go to stay out of the Branch’s grasp forever?

Jennifer Rush’s debut novel races along faster than Anna’s feelings for Sam, diving into a dark past that could lead to an even darker future. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

A Girl Named Digit, by Annabel Monaghan (fiction) – FBI takes teen math genius undercover

book cover of A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan published by Houghton Mifflin

A brain for numbers that never, ever stops.
A hunger to have a normal senior year.
A set of digits on television that shouldn’t be there…

And now Farrah goes from understated jeans to completely undercover as the FBI realizes that her OCD about numbers and patterns is their best bet for catching an ecoterrorist whose been sending others out to do his dirty work for years.

Grab Digit’s first adventure now in hardcover or eBook at your local library or independent bookstore (it won’t be out in paperback with the much-better cover until late May 2013) then hang on for Digit’s first year at college when Double Digit  is published in January 2014!

Which of life’s codes would you be most anxious to crack?
**kmm

Book info: A Girl Named Digit / Annabel Monaghan. Houghton Mifflin, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site] [fan-created book trailer]  

My Recommendation: To get away from the kids who nicknamed her “Digit” for her math abilities, Farrah transfers to another high school for her senior year. But it’ll take the FBI to keep her safe from the terrorist group that she accidentally exposes. Faking her own kidnapping wasn’t quite the way she’d planned to stay unnoticed at her new school…
Farrah wishes that she didn’t see patterns in everything and has had to learn extreme coping strategies to blunt her obsessive-compulsive tendencies when real life is uneven and disorganized. Her math professor dad says she can put her “gift” to work later in life and urges her to enjoy being a teen for now. Wish it were that easy…
Numbers pop up on television when they shouldn’t be there, but the station says she’s imagining them. Her genius skills crack the code, pointing to a terror attack at JFK Airport, but her report to the FBI is ignored…until it happens.
Now a ruthless band of ecoterrorists is gunning for Digit, so she has to fake being kidnapped and go undercover to help the FBI break the rest of the code to prevent more attacks and catch the terrorists. Nice to really be appreciated for her skills, even nicer to be undercover with cute young FBI agent John as they race to interpret more clues.
But somehow, the bad guys find one of the safe houses, John and Digit have to go into deep cover without contacting anyone, and the stakes in this math puzzle get deadly in a hurry.
How fast can they unravel the last parts of this puzzle?
What will the ecoterrorists’ next move be?
Will Digit’s “kidnapping” have an unhappy ending?

(One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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?
**kmm

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.

Island of Thieves, by Josh Lacey (fiction) – treasure, travel, trouble in Peru!

book cover of Island of Thieves by Josh Lacey published by Houghton Mifflin

Historic voyage journal to find!
Hidden treasure to uncover!
Trigger-happy bad guys to avoid!

Somehow, Tom doubts that his parents expected Uncle Harvey to take him to Peru, but curiosity is a Trelawney family trait… how could he pass up the chance to find John Drake’s lost journal detailing the Golden Hind‘s voyage?

The nephew of Sir Francis Drake noted the flora and fauna of the South American coastline – and the treasure that they captured from the Spaniards in 1578-79 and hid safely on an island.

Look for this fast-moving adventure tale at your local library or independent bookstore today, one of this summer’s fun reads.
**kmm

Book info: Island of Thieves / Josh Lacey. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site

My Recommendation:

Visiting his uncle might have been boring for Tom, except for the mysterious journal and the sudden flight to Lima and the hidden treasure they’re seeking and the vicious killers after them. They just have to locate the island where the gold is buried and get it back to New York City in 5 days, before Tom’s parents get back from vacation – easy, right?
Uncle and nephew share the Trelawaney nose and family talent for unearthing interesting things, so away they fly to Peru, where Harvey had recently acquired a very old journal page that mentions gold buried on an island. As they search for more pages, they are chased by villains who think that Harvey already has the treasure in hand.
Dizzying mountain roads, scattered journal pages to sort and puzzle through. They know that the first journal page found is 500 years old – could this truly be a voyage log from Sir Francis Drake’s expedition?
Allies and enemies, double-crosses and unexpected assistance. Tom’s mom and dad will be at Harvey’s apartment to pick him up in a few days – can the adventurers really find the correct island in time?
Car chases and car crashes, boat trips through towering waves. The treasure has remained hidden for so many centuries – what other traps and tricks will nephew and uncle encounter along the way?

For adventure and intrigue, with a side order of Peru’s national dish, head for the Island of Thieves with the too-curious-for-their-own-good Trelawney guys, as the clock ticks toward their departing flight and perhaps to their own departure from the land of the living!  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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.
**kmm 

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.

If BooksYALove started today… (reflective) – blogging lessons learned in a year

old catalog drawing of manual typewriter

not my typewriter

Today, the 2012 WordCount Blogathon theme asks us to consider what we’d do differently with our blogs: “If I started blogging today I would….”

Hmmm… I’d compare WordPress and Blogger more closely before deciding which one to use. I started BooksYALove just hours before the 2011 Blogathon began, so I went with Blogger where I already had a personal blog for an online technology update course and it was a snap to add another blog.

From reading other bloggers’ experiences with plugins, going to self-hosted blog platform, etc., it sounds like WordPress has an edge over Blogger once it’s time to take off the blogging-training-wheels. But I have gotten used to Blogger’s interface (even when it changed right in the middle of a blog challenge for me) and really like the theme colors and layout that I selected, so I’m staying with Blogger for now.

I wish I’d had enough time and confidence to register my domain name from day one so that all my outreach, publicity, and business cards had pointed to that web address from the very start. I probably will go self-hosted soon to give me more control over my own writings, since BooksYALove is meant to be a searchable archive of great books for young adult book fans.

Some things that I wouldn’t change: I was immensely fortunate in finding my first choice of blog name available; the “YA” in the middle can mean “young adult” which is the book category that I cover or “ya” like the casual “you” since I’m writing recommendations directly to young adult book readers (rather than to librarians or those who purchase books for others).  And every book has to be one that a significant group of readers will love – I don’t review every YA book that I read – so only the books that would rank 4-5 stars get the nod for BooksYALove.

During my first month of blogging in May 2011, I settled on a blog format that suited my writing style, taking some of my YA recommendations posted on Barb Langridge’s www.abookandahug.com website and adding commentary with relevant subject links. Since I hate reading reviews that give away the ending or significant plot twists, I vowed to never do that to my readers – so, no spoilers, ever!

Longtime followers/subscribers have probably noticed some stylistic changes on BooksYALove in recent weeks, as I adjusted font sizes for better readability, added a new logo and blog background (courtesy of my talented daughter, the graphic designer), and started some easy-click book lists in tabs at the top of the page.

And I’ll continue to participate each May in WordCount Blogathons, where I’ve found community (some of us posted in the Blogathon GoogleGroup for an entire year, not just the month of May!), advice, support, and the spark that set me off on this blogging adventure in the first place. Thanks, Michelle & the whole Blogathon crew!
**kmm

(clipart of antique typewriter courtesy of Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida)

Getting lost in the story (reflective) – why reading can make us better people

young man sitting on top of bookshelves reading a book

You’ve probably heard readers say things like “Reading that book was like being in that world myself” or

“I was so wrapped up in the story that I lost track of time” or

“That’s the last book in the series?
I want to know more about those characters!”

In the very best sort of books, we lose sight of ourselves, our surroundings, our own troubles, as we immerse ourselves in someone else’s world and struggles and victories. It can be a realistic book or the highest fantasy, a short story or a tome as thick as your leg – if the story and characters feel real to us, then we are transported away from our own existence without moving at all.

A recent research study also showed that reading a compelling story can also improve our own behavior and attitudes, even after our reading is done! “Feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own,” also known as “experience-taking” was studied by Ohio State University researchers in several reading experiments with college students.

OSU assistant professor Lisa Libby noted the difference between  experience-taking and perspective-taking, which is more like looking through a window at someone else’s situation. “Experience-taking is much more immersive — you’ve replaced yourself with the other,” she said. With the right story, readers don’t feel like they are manipulated into being inside the character’s head. “Experience-taking can be very powerful because people don’t even realize it is happening to them. It is an unconscious process,” Libby said.

As you choose to read books with characters who are different from you, you’re giving yourself more ways become a more empathic person, more understanding of differences, more able to see other viewpoints than your own.

And what about reading books filled with people much like you? Then you have opportunities to “try on” their reactions to situations you may not have faced, to take their experiences and learn from them – without having to live through the troubles, trials, and joys yourself.

Here’s to “getting lost in a good book” and to finding our better selves along the way!
**kmm

Ohio State University (2012, May 7). ‘Losing yourself’ in a fictional character can affect your real life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/05/120507131948.htm

Photo of man sitting on bookshelves reading a book: (c) Microsoft Office clipart.