Tag Archive | theater

Love, Lucy, by April Lindner (book review) – Italy, love, goodbye forever?

book cover of Love, Lucy by April Lindner published by PoppyOne last summer of freedom,
the beauty and glory of Florence,
the excitement of love…

And then Lucy must give up her theater dreams to become a business major, or her father won’t pay for college at all! Hard choices…and Jesse back in Italy so hard to get in touch with.

Read the first 2 chapters on the publisher’s website free here as you listen to the author’s Love, Lucy  playlist, and you’ll be whisked away to Florence with Lucy, love just around the corner.

This modern interpretation of E.M. Forster’s classic A Room With a View  comes from the author of Catherine (based on Wuthering Heights – my review here) and Jane (Jane Eyre).

Could you give up true love for family demands?

Book info: Love, Lucy / April Lindner. Poppy, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Giving up her dream of being an actress is hard for Lucy, but giving up the young man she loves so her dad will pay for college is heartbreaking – must she really choose?

Her ever-practical father reluctantly allows Lucy to backpack through Europe with Charlene after high school graduation, in trade for Lucy majoring in business (which she hates).

When Lucy meets Jesse in Italy, she delights in the beauty of Florence, the shimmer of Tuscan sunlight, the warmth of his kisses. However, her troubadour intends to continue traveling abroad, playing his guitar, not returning to his family in New Jersey any time soon.

So it’s a tearful goodbye at the train station, a sad flight back to dad’s alma mater. Spying a poster for theater tryouts puts some pep in Lucy’s step – why can’t a business major be in a play?

How can she reconcile her father’s demands with her love for performing?
Why hang out with college boys when she can’t stop thinking about Jesse?
Will she ever see him again?
(One of 7,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson (book review) – daring to-do list & a mystery

book cover of Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson published by Simon Schuster BFYR4. Break something.
8. The backless dress. And somewhere to wear it.
11. Hug a Jamie.

If timid Emily does all 13 daring (for her) things on live-in-the-moment Sloane’s epic summer list, will her suddenly-gone BFF return? Maybe with cute Frank’s help…

You’ll want to grab this summer tale at your local local library or independent bookstore today so you can find out if Emily completes Sloane’s list and what she discovers about herself along the way.

What would you add to a gotta-do-this list for your best friend?

Book info: Since You’ve Been Gone / Morgan Matson. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.   [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The letter with no return address brings Emily her only clue about Sloane’s sudden disappearance  – a to-do list that her vivacious best friend promises will make an epic summer.

With her parents in a playwriting haze and little brother Beckett sulking about missed vacation, Emily is on her own to check off the adventures on Sloane’s list – with help from her new running partner Frank (Captain Responsible to pal Collins), while his girlfriend is away for the summer.

Ride a horse!? Kiss a stranger?! Facing her fears and making new friends in their coastal Connecticut town as she works through the list will surely bring back her best friend – but where is Sloane now? And what about her runs and shared playlists with Frank when summer ends? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Expiration Day, by William Campbell Powell (book review) – created or birthed, what makes human?

book cover of Expiration Day by WIlliam Campbell Powell published by Tor TeenI’m definitely human.
Wait! I’m not?!
But I feel human…

As a rare human child, Tania knows that her humanoid robot classmates will go back to the factory at age 18. Shocked to discover that she too is just a teknoid, she’ll fight to stay alive past her Expiration Day!

Tania addresses her diary (read free excerpt here) to alien Zog, whose observations surprisingly appear among her musings on playing bass guitar and doing a Shakespeare play with nearby boys’ school.

Rather eerie to discuss this book just after a computer passed the Turing Test for the first time, tricking researchers into thinking it was a real 13 year old boy!


Book info: Expiration Day / William Campbell Powell. Tor Teen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:  In the 2050s when humans so rarely have babies, music-loving Tania suddenly discovers that she’s a robot and decides to fight to stay alive past her mandatory recycling date.

The global fertility crisis couldn’t end adults’ longing to have children to love,  so teknoids were created.Each is reused or reprogrammed by the Oxted factory at age 18.

For Tania, that means no more playing bass with her band, no more Shakespeare performances, no more helping Dad navigate their shared grief over Mum’s recent death…

But she feels so human, with burning philosophical questions in her heart and such a desire to study psychology at university!

Taking Oxted to court to break their “lease” of Tania to Dad is their only option – could their desperate ploy work?  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Honor and betrayal in SYNC audiobooks this week

If you like stories filled with suspense, betrayal, and tension, then you’ll love this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC!

Free downloads of these complete audiobooks are only available through Wednesday June 11. However they’re yours to listen to as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device.

CD cover of  All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill read by Meredith Mitchell published by Tantor AudioAll Our Yesterdays
By Cristin Terrill
Read by Meredith Mitchell
Published by Tantor Audio
(US & Canada only)

Time travel, loyalty, deception, and love – this is a race with dire consequences for the loser.


Julius CaesarCD cpver of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare read by Richard Dreyfuss, Kelsey Grammer, Stacy Keach, JoBeth Williams and a Full Cast published by L.A. Theatre Works
By William Shakespeare
Read by Richard Dreyfuss, Kelsey Grammer, Stacy Keach, JoBeth Williams and a Full Cast
Published by L.A. Theatre Works

Betrayal, ambition, and murder in ancient Rome – the Shakespeare classic performed by an all-star cast.

Which perilous tale will you download first?


Tales of power, parents, and kings in SYNC audiobooks this week

Powerful kings, vengeance and justice – Time to download this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC so you can read with your ears!

Click on each title to go directly to the SYNC download page for it and follow the easy instructions there.

CD cover of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge Read by Elizabeth Knowelden Published by Harper AudioCruel Beauty
By Rosamund Hodge
Read by Elizabeth Knowelden
Published by Harper Audio

Betrothed since birth, Nyx plans to slay the evil ruler when they marry – Beauty and the Beast retold.

Oedipus the KingOedipus the King by Sophocles Read by Michael Sheen Published by Naxos AudioBooks
By Sophocles
Performed by Michael Sheen and full cast
Published by Naxos AudioBooks

Classic tragedy follows Oedipus as he solves the Sphinx’s riddle and commits terrible crimes before becoming king.

Remember that although these complete audiobooks are only available from Thursday through Wednesday, you have free use of them as long as you keep them on your computer or electronic device

Bookmark the SYNC site now so you can download great audiobooks all summer long: http://www.audiobooksync.com/

Ask Again Later, by Liz Czukas (book review) – 1 prom, 2 dates, too crazy!

book cover of Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas published by Harper TeenHelp out the shy tech guy with a secret?
Console the newly-dumped jock senior?
Stick to the “No Drama Prom-a” plan with her pals?

When even the Magic 8 Ball can’t tell Heart which Prom date to choose, she just flips a coin!

Discover which date she goes with and why the junior avoids all romantic relationships in this fun read.

Would you allow a coin toss to decide something with potentially huge consequences?

Book info: Ask Again Later / Liz Czukas. Harper Teen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Flipping a coin to choose her prom date gives Heart two very different evenings, certainly not the “No Drama Prom-a” that she’d expected!

Her theater pals know she doesn’t do relationships since her teen-mom walked out when Heart was a baby, so they all planned to dance at Prom as a group of friends – no pressure.

But shy Ryan from backstage asks her to be his date, since his parents don’t know he’s gay (in fact, Heart is the first person he’s told) – how sweet!

Then her big brother’s best friend gets dumped, so Phil wants Heart to go with Troy the jock – it’s his senior Prom, after all.

She can’t decide who to go with, the Magic 8 Ball is on the fence, so she finally flips a coin and…

Will her drama friends, especially pianist “Schroeder” who calls her “Spleen” instead of Heart, be okay if she chooses one of the guys? They did ask her first, sort of…

Alternating chapters detail Prom Night as Ryan’s date (amazing tux) and as Troy’s date (those seniors sure do drink hard) – will Heart and her vintage dress survive it all or will Prom win? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

U for Undo tradition in Darkbeast, by Morgan Keyes (book review) – to murder or to escape?

bookcover of Darkbeast by Morgan Keyes published by  Margaret K. McElderry Books Give your bad habits to your darkbeast,
Give your sins to the darkbeast,
They are gone forever…
and soon your magical companion will be gone forever, too.

The ultimate end of childhood, having to kill the magical beast who’s been conversing with you mentally since you were tiny – and Keara just cannot do that to Caw.

Running away with a theatrical troupe who must perform religious plays to the satisfaction of the high priests and ruler may or may not be the escape that the young woman envisioned!

The sequel, Darkbeast Rebellion,  is scheduled for September 2013 publication, when the paperback of Darkbeast  will also be released.

Please share your favorite books where someone defies tradition to do what they know in their heart is right.

Book info: Darkbeast / Morgan Keyes.  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012.  [author site] [publisher site]

My recommendation: Keara wants to be good, tries to give her rebellion over to her darkbeast Caw, to let him take her fault into himself. But she can’t let it go, can’t kill Caw on her twelfth birthday as she becomes a woman, can’t stay in the village where she’s broken custom and her mother’s heart.

It was the tales spun by the Travelers, performed on the village green just before her nameday, stories of the gods and goddesses which entranced Keara and made her twist around Mother’s orders to stay home. Now her world is bigger than Silver Hollow, and her life there will be empty when the troupe leaves.

No one else in her village has ever defied the gods and the law by refusing to sacrifice the darkbeast which contained all their sins and faults of childhood. Keara cannot imagine losing that magical connection of mind and heart which has filled her whole being, so they run away, girl and raven, trying to hide from the Inquisitors.

Catching up with the Travelers, Keara finds a cautious welcome when she shows them an error in their play about the goddess Nuntia. For these plays teach and retell the legends of the Twelve, and if the villagers hear a fact told wrong, they’ll never again trust this company of Travelers for the truth – and the Primate himself could order the company disbanded or worse.

Holy plays about the Twelve gods and goddesses, common plays about funny everyday things – the Travelers of Taggart’s troupe will soon decide which one to perform before the Primate and priests at the great festival three months hence. And Keara means to be with them when they do.

Can she and Caw avoid the Inquisitors while traveling and performing?
Why is every other twelve-year-old so eager to sever the magical bond with their darkbeast?
Can Keara learn the Travelers’ ways quickly enough to become a troupe member?

It’s a dangerous path that Keara has chosen for herself and Caw, a treacherous way that Taggart and his troupe choose as they prepare for the festival in the land of Duodecia where the the gods and goddesses rule over all, disregarding love.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

S for Sisters in Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, by Abby McDonald (book review) – Sense and Sensibility and sunscreen

book cover of Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald published by CandlewickPoor relatives can’t be picky about things,
Change can be painful…
but landing on your feet in Beverly Hills – wow!

Hallie and Grace’s very rich stepmother sells the sisters’ home so that their half-brother will “be provided for” – curses on Dad for dying without a valid will!

And Grace is attracted to stepmother’s brother (her step-uncle?) who appreciates her love of science combined with art.

You can read the first three chapters  free here, then be ready to head for your local library or independent bookstore because you’ll want to read the rest of this updated version of Sense and Sensibility ! While you’re there, look for other titles by McDonald, like Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots  (my no-spoiler recommendation here).

What other modernized classics have you read lately?

Book info: Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood / Abby McDonald. Candlewick Press, 2013. [author site] [publisher site]

My recommendation: Dad suddenly died and left everything to his new wife, including their childhood home. So Mom, Grace, and Hallie leave the misty cool of San Francisco and move in with Mom’s cousin – in his Beverly Hills mansion. Reinvent themselves or stay the same?

So weird to meet their stepmother’s brother at Dad’s wake – he’s just a bit older than the sisters. Theo and Grace visit all her favorite places in San Francisco one last time before she moves to L.A. and he heads back east to college. They were getting along so well…

Sometimes, Grace feels like the parent as big sister is dramatic to extremes and mom is artistic, laid-back. For them, being in Cousin Auggie’s guesthouse is starting anew; for shy Grace, it’s anguishing to change, no matter how nice their cousin’s young starlet wife is to them.

Hallie can’t wait to start her acting career, but agencies won’t even let her in the door. A chance encounter on the beach gets her into an exclusive circle of young actresses where she meets Dakota, lead singer for the hottest band, new love of her life! She’ll be his inspiration now, and life is very, very good. Never mind scarred Brandon next door, offering to photograph her for agency headshots, trying to get over his tour in Iraq.

Grace stays by the pool at Auggie’s all summer, then tries to find her place among the rich and ritzy at her new high school. Her lab partner Harry at least does his share of work and business-builder Palmer is a crazy-fun antidote to the celebrity gossip around them. Mom is so wrapped up in painting a new portrait series that she honestly has no idea what her daughters are experiencing, aside from the careful comments they make during family Sunday brunch.

Will Hallie ever get an audition? Will Dakota stay true to her?
Can Grace get over what might have been with Theo?
What happens when the in-crowd gossip hits a little too close to home?

Yes, this is Sense and Sensibility  transplanted into 92010 with all the social posturing and misunderstandings intact – and an added dose of sunscreen, rock music, and current events.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

N for Naive: Strings Attached, by Judy Blundell (fiction) – mobsters, favors, payback

Kit has see if she can make it in New York City on her own,
since Billy left for the Army.
She can sing, act, dance. She just has to do it.

So what if Billy’s dad wants to help her a little?
“No strings attached,” says Nate the Nose…
How much can you trust a gangster, Kit? How can you be so naive?

New York City in 1950. Recovered from World War II, all hustle and bustle and bright lights, with plenty of time for nightclubs and business deals – legitimate and otherwise. Lots of big theaters and smoky little dives like the one where Kit gets a job, where they’ll believe she’s old enough to work, not a 17-year-old running away from home.

Eventually she has to decide whether Nate’s help is worth the risks of observing which lawyer talks to which shady character at the nightclub, especially when some of them disappear. Can she risk not telling Nate when his son will come visit her? Why does she feel like the Korean warfront might be a safer place for Billy than being with his father?

Find out what Kit decides when you pick up Strings Attached at your local library or independent bookstore. (A fun note about author Judy Blundell: she’s also written Star Wars Journals and Star Wars Jedi Apprentice books under pen name Jude Watson.)

Book info: Strings Attached / Judy Blundell. Scholastic Press, 2011. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: This chorus line job just could be Kit’s lucky break. When Mr. Benedict offers her an apartment near the New York City club, she considers it – after all, he is her boyfriend Billy’s father…and rumored to be a gangster.

Anything’s better than staying in Providence, with her father’s drinking and her siblings trying to hide it (like triplets could ever hide anything from each other – ha!) and the scorn of Billy’s upper-class mother for the Corrigans’ genteel poverty.

Oh, how Billy argued with his father before leaving for basic training! Nate Benedict just couldn’t believe that he’d be stupid enough to join the Army during the Korean War. Now Billy returns his father’s letters unopened, and Nate wants Kit to let him know how his son is doing when he writes to her.

Nate brings Kit lovely clothes “like Billy would want for her,” and soon her upstairs neighbors think she’s a kept woman. The Greeleys were both teachers until they were fired for possible “Communist sympathies,” so they have lots of time to keep an eye on the neighborhood.

Kit often sees Nate in the nightclub audience, talking to known mobsters and crooked lawyers. When he asks her to have dinner with some of these guests, she realizes that her great apartment has a bigger price than she expected. When Billy forbids her to tell his father that he’s coming to the city, Kit knows that something is going to go wrong.

Does Billy really love her? Is his father a real gangster or just trying to make himself look good to the big city guys? How close is the Greeleys’ opinion of her to the truth of the matter?

A mystery, a love story, a growing-up tale – all piled into the hustle and bustle of 1950 New York City – with Strings Attached. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

J for Julia and journeys – A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, by Emily Horner (fiction)

Cass is waiting to hear about Julia’s secret project,
Funny, smart, drama chick Julia,
Best friend ever.
Dead in a car crash – bam. Just like that.

Now Cass won’t see how Julia would have finished her amazing play and will never know if there could be more than just friendship between them. But she and Julia had long planned that they would bike all the way to the Pacific Ocean after graduation – no reason to wait a whole year, so Cass preps for a solo bike trek in the summer before her senior year, taking along Julia’s ashes from Chicago to the sea.

Let the drama kids take Julia’s work-in-progress and turn it into a play over the summer – Cass is taking action. She doesn’t sit around moping and mourning – she pedals and aches and discovers things about herself and about friendship that she never imagined. That’s probably the most ‘ninja’ way to live of all – Julia would have cheered for that.

Look for this debut novel at your local library or independent bookstore and journey along with Cass and Julia, maybe finding a little more love along the way.

Book info: A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend / Emily Horner. Dial Books, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: After Julia’s death in a car crash, Cass can’t stay in town as the Drama Kids get ready to perform Julia’s “top secret” play as a tribute to begin their senior year of high school. Cass decides to bicycle from Ohio to California, just as she and Julia had planned. But instead of Julia as her traveling buddy, she’ll have her best friend’s ashes along for the ride to the Pacific Ocean, Julia’s dream destination.

Why would she want to spend all summer painting sets for Julia’s incredible “Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad” musical, especially when Heather (who loudly questioned Cass’s sexual orientation throughout junior high) gets the lead and Julia’s boyfriend keeps changing the staging? Why?

So, armed with cellphone, maps, spare bike parts, her parents’ blessings, and Julia’s ashes, Cass heads off across the country. She meets good people, not-so-good people, her first love, and herself along the way.

Can Cass make it all the way to California on her bike? Will the Drama Kids be able to put on Julia’s musical with no adult interference? Did Cass love Julia or was she in love with Julia or does it even matter since Julia is dead?

Alternating chapters of Then (the summer trip) and Now (last-minute preparations for the musical) reveal Cass’s worries and wonderment about life, love, and dividing by zero (“so ninja!” according to Julia). (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.