Tag Archive | TBR2012

L for Lost Crown, by Sarah Miller (book review) – Romanov grand duchesses, sisters, doomed

book cover of The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller published by Atheneum Books for Young ReadersOlga and Tatiana,
Maria and Anastasia.
Royal blood unites them,
Royal blood dooms them.

The sisters Romanov truly believed that the Russian people loved them and their ailing young brother, the Crown Prince. But World War I revealed the truth, and their lives went from merriment and joy to grim gratitude for being allowed to stay together under house arrest in Siberia during the Revolution.

And does author Sarah Miller think that Anastasia survived? Read The Lost Crown  at your local library or independent bookstore to find out for yourself!

Book info:  The Lost Crown / Sarah Miller.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [author interview video]

My recommendation: Sailing on the imperial yacht that 1914 summer day, none of the sisters could imagine that their world would soon erupt in war, that the whole world would go to war, that the people’s love for their papa would turn to hate and “Down with the Tsar!” would sound throughout Russia.

When war is declared, the four grand duchesses – eldest Olga, prim Tatiana, peacemaker Maria, and Anastasia, who wishes she could fight alongside her father – and little Alexei, the Tsarevich, the royal heir, whose hemophilia makes every bruise life-threatening, must stay behind when Nicholas II goes to command the Russian troops.

As their mother, the Tsarina frets over every fever; as Mother of all Russian Children, she agonizes over the waves of wounded soldiers returning from the front. Her increasing reliance on mystic Rasputin and her German heritage condemn her in the eyes of the rebels who overthrow the government in the midst of World War.

The royal guard deserts them, Papa must abdicate the crown, and suddenly the longest family reign in history is broken as the Romanovs are taken from their palace, shifted through different cities secretively, and erased from Russian memory.

Why did the military turn on their Tsar and join the rebel forces?
How long can Alexei endure the rough travel without his doctor?
Will the royal family live through the glory days of the Russian Revolution?

Each chapter tells the fateful story from the viewpoint of a different sister, whose personality shines through, enlivening this pivotal tale of history with everyday customs and Russian endearments whispered by their parents. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

K for Key to the Golden Firebird, by Maureen Johnson (book review) – road trip with their late father

book cover of The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson published by HarperTeen K for the key,
Baltimore baseball-loving Dad’s key,
the key to his beloved gold Pontiac Firebird
but what’s the key to the teen Gold sisters coping with life without him?

Things get interesting when May starts thinking of Pete as more than just the annoying practical-joker boy-next-door during their driving lessons.

Maureen Johnson’s tale of the three sisters’ summer of tough love, rough breaks, and glimmers of new hope holds up well several years after its initial publication in 2004 (with a different cover; this is the 2008 version) and is a great choice for National D.E.A.R. Day as you “Drop Everything And Read” (which I hope you do every day).

Is it always this difficult to pick up the pieces after an unexpected loss?

Book info:  The Key to the Golden Firebird / Maureen Johnson.  Harper Teen, 2008.  [author site]  [publisher site]

My recommendation: The heart attack that took their dad a year ago also shattered life for the three Gold sisters. No more cheering at their softball games, no more road trips to baseball games, no more of lots of things since Dad’s life insurance didn’t cover much. It’s still up to May to watch out for everyone; maybe she can find some time for herself…someday.

Now Mom works double-shifts at the hospital to keep the family afloat, older sister Brooks is coping by drinking instead of starring on the softball team, 14-year-old Palmer rejects almost anything that she should eat, and middle sister May is going crazy trying to take care of them and keep up her grades. To stop depending on wildly undependable Brooks for a ride to work, May must get her driver’s license, but has failed her first test – ever.

It’s finally come down to this, asking Pete for help – Pete, whose pranks pulled at May’s expense are legendary – desperate times indeed, if she has to get her life-long nemesis to teach her to drive. And so the summer begins, with May stalling out at stop signs, listening to Nell at work chronicle her dates with Pete, telling Palmer to turn down the television over and over, worrying about Brooks, wondering about this new friendship with Pete.

When Palmer discovers something they’d almost forgotten about, the sisters realize that they have to make one more road trip in Dad’s beloved Firebird before they have to sell the classic car.

Can they honor their dad’s love of baseball without tearing themselves apart?
Can they pull off the trip without Mom learning about it?
Can they put their family back together before it’s too late?

Maybe family and friendship can overcome the odds in this story of finding what’s important in the midst of sorrow for this trio of sisters, named after baseball greats by the dad they adored.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Book in my personal collection. Cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J for Jessica Spotswood – Born Wicked (book review) – eccentric sisters, witches in hiding

hardback book cover of Born WIcked by Jessica Spotswood published by PutnamDon’t talk about the girls who disappeared,
Pray that the Brotherhood will approve your choice of husband,
Hide any hint of difference or intuition or possible magic skill,
Witches persecuted in New England… how 19th century?

A new alternate history, where New England is the ultra-religious patriarchy and the Middle East is the home of freedom.

The next book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, Star Cursed,  will be published in June 2013, so grab Born Wicked  now at your  local library  or independent bookstore – and if you buy your copy from Jessica’s favorite indie bookstore, One More Page Books,  she’ll autograph it, too!

Oh, In case you wondered, clicking any link in BooksYALove posts won’t benefit me in any way, shape, or form, just like my Policies page states.

Is Cate right to keep secrets if the truth will put her family in grave danger?

Book info: Born Wicked (Cahill Witch Chronicles, Book 1) / Jessica Spotswood. Putnam, hardcover 2012; Speak, paperback 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My recommendation: Magic only in the rose garden, avoid attracting the Brotherhood’s attention, watch over one another – that’s what Mother told Cate before she died. How can a sixteen-year-old keep her younger sisters from spellcasting in this land where suspected witches are sent to Harwood Prison?

Oh, to live in Dubai where women have freedom, can learn more than reading and simple sums, where they can use their magic gifts if they choose! Here in New England, the Brothers preach that magic is “devil-sent” and the Brotherhood Council runs absolutely everything.

Keeping to themselves except to attend Services and piano lessons hasn’t stopped gossip about the Cahill sisters, as Cate had hoped. Now Father has hired a governess for them! Worse yet, she’s from the Sisterhood, where women must go if they do not marry by 18. She will polish their manners and perhaps help them repair their social standing in their small town.

Cate’s own intention ceremony is in just six months, when she’ll announce who she intends to marry – probably Paul, her lifelong friend who’ll return from university soon. But she’s becoming fond of Finn, the bookstore owner’s son who’s had to take on other work as the Brotherhood drives off their customers.

Social calls among Brotherhood wives bring out new information about old situations, and the most influential daughters decide that Cate is worth spending time with after all, to her chagrin. A letter from “Z.R.” tells Cate to search for her mother’s diary and find answers there.

Who is Z.R. and why did she wait so long to contact them?
Is there truly a prophecy about three sisters like Cate, Maura, and Tess?
Will Cate’s intention ceremony begin a life of contentment or close the door on happiness?

This first book in the Cahill Witch Chronicles introduces an alternate world where New England is a place of religious oppression, where truth can be more dangerous than lies, and where Cate must decide how much she’ll sacrifice to protect her sisters from the Brotherhood’s menace.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

F for Freaks Like Us, by Susan Vaught (book review) – voices in his head, missing person mystery

book cover of Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught published by BloomsburyThe police say…
The FBI special agent says…
The voices in his head say…
What if Jason did something to make Sunshine disappear?

Jason answers to the nickname Freak, counts himself lucky enough to be with his best friends Sunshine and Drip in the special class full of “alphabets” like ADHD, and knows that he can’t trust his own memories because of his schizophrenia – yet is determined to find out what happened to selectively mute Sunshine when she just vanished.

Discover Jason’s unusual story of friendship, love, and loss at your local library or independent bookstore and consider how you treat the “alphabet” people in your life.

Book info:  Freaks Like Us / Susan Vaught. Bloomsbury Books for Young Readers, 2012. [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer]

My recommendation: When their best friend goes missing, Jason and Derrick know they have to find Sunshine, because she had let them know that someone was hurting her. These self-contained class teens are best friends forever, and if they have to go off their meds to get the answers, they will.

Jason knows he’s schizophrenic, hears voices even when he takes his medication, calls himself Freak like everyone else at the high school, and worries that Sunshine’s delinquent brother will drag her along into his troublemaking. Derrick’s big brothers nicknamed him Drip when he was little, and the name stuck when he didn’t outgrow his allergies and ADHD. And sweet Sunshine is selectively mute: she can talk, but she just doesn’t want to.

The three friends got off the short bus together in their neighborhood at 4:30, and by 5 o’clock Sunshine had vanished. Their routines never vary; they must keep things the same to cope in the big world; there’s no way that Sunshine left of her own choice!

Jason’s mom, the Army colonel, pulls some strings to get the FBI on the case before too much time has passed. The voices in Jason’s head tell him that he should remember something that would help the searchers find Sunshine…so he decides to stop taking his medication so the voices will tell him the answer.

The FBI agents say the best chance of finding Sunshine is in the first 24 hours, so Jason counts the hours remaining, tries to hear which voice in his head is reminding him of clues he heard earlier, and agonizes that he might have something to do with her disappearance.

Should Jason and Drip try to find Sunshine on their own?
Why won’t her stepdad cooperate more with the agents?
What about those boys who always tease her at school?
Why can’t Freak remember that important clue?

The clock is ticking, the voices are insistent, and Jason’s not sure whether he can trust Agent Mercer of the FBI or not – Freak’s world turns upside down when Sunshine vanishes, and readers are along for his dangerous and confusing journey toward the truth.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

D for Doty’s Surviving High School (book review) – school, swim, sleep, repeat?

book cover of Surviving High School by M Doty published by Poppy Books Ultra-competitive swim team,
Every life-minute scripted by Dad-the-coach,
Why isn’t big sister Sara here to help Emily cope with her freshman year of high school?

No wonder Emily wants to sidestep the schedule and have some time with Ben. After all, Sara didn’t get to have her first love before dying in that car crash

Whether you know the mobile game of the same name or not, you’ll agonize with Emily over the choices she has to make and cheer when at least some things go her way. Max Doty’s second book in the series, How to Be a Star, features Emily’s best (and only) friend Kimi and will be published in May 2013.

How far should you push yourself to get to the victor’s stand?

Book info: Surviving High School / M. Doty. Poppy, 2012.  [author website]  [publisher website]

My recommendation: Competitive swimming is Emily’s whole life as she enters high school. Gotta keep up her grades to stay eligible, gotta keep her race times fast to stay on top. But what if there’s more to life than this?

Her dad is the high school swim coach, just as he was when her older sister was at Twin Branches, before she died in the car crash. There’s Sara’s name on the state records plaque with her national record time for the backstroke – a lot to live up to, a goal for Emily to beat.

She’ll have to beat Dominique, too, who’s just a trace faster on freestyle and backstroke, just a bit slower than Em in breaststroke and butterfly, way beyond anyone else at school in mean-girl remarks, nicknaming her “Swimbot” on their first day of varsity practice. That article in Swimmers’ World magazine comparing the girls as future Olympians just adds fuel to the fire.

Emily’s entire life is optimized for swim racing – nutrition intake, sleep hours, strength training – and there’s no room for anything else. With the national qualifying meets coming up, she’s got to concentrate. Handsome Ben starts paying attention to her, but can’t understand why she doesn’t have time to see him outside school…sigh.

Could Emily possibly squeeze in a little time with Ben between her honors classes and the ever-increasing demands for perfection from Coach/Dad?

Does senior Nick flinch when he sees Emily because she looks so much like her late sister, who never had time for a boyfriend?

Will she swim through her freshman year or sink from the weight of everything?

This first YA novel from screenwriter/author Max Doty reflects his experience as game writer for the related mobile game, but stands alone as a story of big demands on young athletes – are all the choices theirs to make? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

TBR2012 Challenge Marches On (reflective) – more 2012 titles recommended, more to go!

sketch of tired walking stickman from Online ClipArt LibraryAnother swath of my to-be-reviewed-2012 bookshelf cleared in March, bringing my total to 28 this-year recommendations of last year’s books, including my January and February lists.

Just in case you missed a few, try these 2012 titles:

The Dark Unwinding – Sharon Cameron

Exposure  – Kim Askew and Amy Helmes  

Mothership – Martin Leicht and Isla Neal 

The Secret War (Jack Blank #2) – Matt Myklusch

Sisters Red  – Jackson Pearce

Tempestuous  – Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Making pretty good progress on the TBR2012 Challenge at Evie’s Bookish blog, but wait till you see the list after the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April!

(sketch of Stickyman Tired courtesy of OpenClipArtLibrary http://openclipart.org/detail/86137/stickyman-tired-by-cybergedeon)

Secret War (Jack Blank #2), by Matt Myklusch (review) – superhero-in-training with dark secret

book cover of The Secret War by Matt Myklusch published by Simon Schuster

Job-shadowing true superheroes!
Saving humanity from brutal invading robots!
Finding the robot virus too close to home…

From a bleak orphanage to the technological marvels of the Imagine Nation, Jack has now found true friends, a productive outlet for his power to communicate with machines, and a growing sense of dread regarding the Rustov virus that has crept into his new home city.

You can get all three books in the Jack Blank series now at your local library or independent bookstore.

Be sure to read book one, The Accidental Hero (my no-spoiler review here) before you meet up with the Secreteers in book two, and yes, I’ll have a recommendation of The End of Infinity (book three) on BooksYALove soon!

How can you tell whether an inner voice is friend or foe?

Book info: The Secret War (Jack Blank #2) / Matt Myklusch. Simon & Schuster, 2011 hardcover, 2012 paperback. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation:  Jack has found his place in the world at last, a superhero-in-training in the Imagine Nation. But some still think he has connection to the evil Rustov who won’t stop until they’ve conquered all worlds, and something inside Jack whispers that they might be right!

Called into the real world on an emergency with their superhero mentors, Jack and his classmates have their first brush with the Secreteers who keep humanity in the dark about the Imagine Nation. Selective memory wipes erase the superheroes’ involvement in these outside rescues, although Jack is sure he saw the true form of one Secreteer.

Jack’s gift of communicating with any machinery leads him to investigate the rumored Rustov virus that’s targeting the Mecha citizens of his city – another secret to hide from his School of Thought friends, like his growing concern that he really could turn into the most feared enemy of all.

When a rogue Secreteer announces that he’ll sell any and all secrets of the Imagine Nation to the highest bidder, the young superheroes decide to track him down before he can further endanger everyone. But how can you find the best-hidden place in the universe?

Will Jonas Smart buy the secrets and discover that Jack might truly become Revile?
Can Jack disarm the virus before it infects the city with evil?
Can he dismiss the new voice inside him that swears it is Rustov?

This second book in the Jack Blank trilogy follows the astounding developments in Jack’s life told in book one, The Accidental Hero, and sets the stage for the mighty war at The End of Infinity, book three.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Mothership, by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal (book review) – pregnant teens, space yacht, attacked!

book cover of Mothership by Martin Leicht and Isla Neal published by Simon Schuster BFYRPregnant at sixteen,
the dad leaves town,
by 2074, some things haven’t changed.

But having such a surplus of unused earth-orbiting luxury cruise ships that one can be repurposed into a school for unwed mothers? That definitely puts this book into sci fi category (aliens as high school teachers and vid-ads targeted to your personal nutritional and health needs are just bonus!)

You can find Elvie’s rather offbeat pregnancy journey at your local library or independent bookstore as it’s a 2012 release (still waiting on publication date for book 2).

Anyone you know been abducted by aliens lately?

Book info: Mothership (The Ever-Expanding Universe, Book 1) / Martin Leicht and Isla Neal. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012. [Martin’s info]  [Isla’s info]  [video interview]   [publisher site] [book trailer]   (Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher)

My Book Talk: Elvie wanted to go into space, but as part of the Mars colonization project, not as a pregnant teen in the first-ever low-orbit high school for unwed mothers… Getting attacked by paramilitaries wasn’t part of the plan either, but Elvie still has some brains despite the Bump.

She’s been planning her whole life to travel everywhere, like her mom didn’t get to do, dying when Elvie was born, leaving behind a huge book of maps with notes about future family trips. Her dad has an emergency plan for absolutely any possible (or improbable) event and decides that Hanover School for Expecting Teen Mothers is just the place for her; he obviously didn’t know that Elvie’s nemesis in the Class of 2076 would be part of the school’s first group, too.

And the baby’s daddy? Vanished into thin air as soon as Elvie told him the news. Thankfully, she has best-friend-for-life Ducky as backup; that guy is so dorky about researching pregnancy stuff. Too bad he’s on Earth, and Elvie’s in orbit with snooty cheerleader Britta, who got pregnant a couple of weeks before her. No, Elvie won’t tell her that Cole fathered both babies; she doesn’t have a death wish.

When an unexpected ship docks onto the space cruise liner, Hanover is boarded by paramilitary forces…including Cole, who tells Elvie that her teachers are aliens and that their babies aren’t exactly their own anymore. She decides her baby belongs on Earth when it’s born in a few weeks, so she and the other very-pregnant teens waddle through escape routes and try to sabotage the aliens’ plans along the way.

If the teachers are aliens, what are the paramilitary guys?
Should Elvie believe the handsome hunk who knocked her up and left town?
Will there be any chocolate-pretzel-caramel-prenatal ice cream left in the snack center?

In this first book of the Ever-Expanding Universe series, Elvie’s life changes drastically in a short time; the rest of Earth’s population is in for a big surprise as well!

Sisters Red, by Jackson Pearce (fiction) – werewolf-hunting sisters long for love

book cover of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce published by LBTeenRemote town or crowded city,
more “missing” young women reported,
time to hunt down the werewolves.

The first in Pearce’s Fairytale Retellings, Sisters Red  takes the Little Red Riding Hood tale several steps into the present-day with chilling effectiveness.

The Atlanta-based author keeps her Retellings series firmly rooted in today’s South with Sweetly (Hansel and Gretel…and Fenris) and Fathomless (the Little Mermaid…and Fenris). Click the title links to go to my no-spoiler recommendations.

Which cover art do you prefer – the new paperback release with the hatchet or the original hardback and paperback art with the two girls’ faces and those red wolfeyes?
original paperback cover of Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce published by LBTeen
Book info: Sisters Red (Fairytale Retellings #1) / Jackson Pearce. LB Teen, 2010 hardback, 2011 paperback. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation:  Girls are disappearing – time for Rosie and Scarlett to take up their hatchets, don their red cloaks, and hunt down the werewolves again. Perhaps the teen sisters can kill enough of these Fenris before their power becomes too strong…

Closer than twins, Scarlett and Rosie feel like they are one heart divided between two people and that they have a mission to protect people from the Fenris who slaughtered their grandmother, clawed out Scarlett’s right eye, left the March sisters selling off Oma’s things to stay afloat – hunting killer werewolves near and far leaves no time for a regular job. At least Silas is back from California, back to being their nearest neighbor out in the Georgia countryside, even if he didn’t take the traditional woodsman’s path like the rest of his family.

Attacks on young women during the Apple Time Festival reveal that outside clans of Fenris are converging on their area, and the sisters’ scan of the news tells them that Atlanta is getting hit hard. It’s Silas who suggests that they temporarily move to the city to deal with the werewolf outbreak, the three of them hunting together again to keep unwitting victims safe.

Now the trio has a whole new landscape to learn, trying to remain unseen as they stalk the leering men whose skin bursts forth into full fur when their prey has no more way to escape, the two girls donning mysterious red capes to entice the Fenris away from others and into the death trap of their hatchets and knives.

Silas insists that Rosie do something – just one thing – that’s not Fenris-related so she can keep her mind and soul together, so she tries an origami class. In the calm classroom, Rosie wonders if she’ll fight the Fenris forever, if she could have a future with Silas.

What is luring the other Fenris into territory not their own?
Can the three young people stop them?
Is there more to life than fighting away this darkness?

Told in alternating chapters by Rosie and Scarlett, Sisters Red brings an old fairytale into the here and now as the author’s home city is plagued by werewolves.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tempestuous, by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes (book review) – blizzard, robbery, clique wars, corndogs

book cover of Tempestuous by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes published by Merit PressPopular crowd versus geek teens,
Trapped together by a blizzard
With bad cellphone reception… and a robber!

It’s Gossip Girl  and MacGyver woven into Shakespeare’s play The Tempest as authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes throw the Bard’s heroine Miranda Prospero into a winter-whipped shopping mall with Ariel as her corndog-cooking sidekick.

Check your local library or independent bookstore for this first book in the Twisted Lit series from new publisher Merit Press.

Kind of crazy, lots of fun! What other Shakespeare remixes do you know of?

Book info: Tempestuous (Twisted Lit #1) / Kim Askew and Amy Helmes. Merit Press, 2012. [Kim’s website]  [Amy’s website]   [publisher site]   [book trailer]    (Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher)

My Book Talk: Trudging through the snow toward the mall, Miranda again laments the unfairness of her life. Forced to work at a corndog stand in the mall to pay back the finks who turned her tutoring-matchmaking service into a cheating scam, Daddy taking away her platinum charge cards, wearing this hideous uniform with the revolving-wienie hat… at least other teens working in the mall turn to her for advice in sticky situations.

Thank goodness perky co-worker Ariel also pulled this Saturday night shift at Hot Dog Kebob, so Miranda can throw her a surprise birthday party for her after closing. The petite home-schooled 17-year-old deserves the ice cream cake that Grady the security cop will pick up later. Maybe moody Caleb from the game store and gangly Chad from the sports store will come by, but no one has seen their pal Mike from collectibles tonight.

The news is forecasting blizzard conditions overnight so the food court supervisor leaves early; in fact, most customers are heading out, but the closing employees must stay to lock up. Too bad Miranda’s ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend didn’t go when they could – the mall doors are now completely blocked by snow! No one is getting home from here tonight and the mall cop has just discovered a burglary!

Suddenly shoppers and workers try to find the best places to stay for the night, praying that the power stays on and that the robber stays away. Miranda accidentally gets handcuffed to Caleb, someone stalls the elevator with a panicked teen inside, and boredom threatens to become chaos if something exciting doesn’t happen soon. Finding another teen knocked out cold by the robber wasn’t in the plan!

How long are the rival factions of teens going to be trapped in the mall?
Will Caleb’s impromptu concert keep things from getting crazy?
Can Grady trap the robber before someone else gets hurt?
How can Miranda get out of these handcuffs and get to the bathroom?

A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, this first book in the Twisted Lit series has more wild and crazy twists than Miranda ever dreamed of, with quotes from the play as chapter headings to add to the fun. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)