Tag Archive | Washington

Geography of You and Me, by Jennifer E. Smith (book review) – postcards from the road?

book cover of The Geography of Me and You by Jennifer E. Smith published by Little Brown Books for Young ReadersConversation while stranded in an elevator,
exploring the city as the blackout continues,
but having just met, they must travel in opposite directions!

This long-distance “wondering what if?” story should be at your local library or independent bookstore – if not, ask for it! Jennifer also wrote The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love (my no-spoiler recommendation here).

Read the first chapter here (thank you, Poppy Books!) for the stuck-in-elevator meeting that starts it all.

Surprise someone by sending them a postcard today!

Book info: The Geography of You and Me / Jennifer E. Smith. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014 (hardcover); Poppy Books, 2015 (paperback). [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Stranded in an elevator during a blackout before moving away from New York City, Owen and Lucy send postcards from places they travel and think of each other more and more.

Owen wouldn’t even have been in the elevator if he and Dad hadn’t fled Pennsylvania after Mom died. Lucy had ridden this elevator for 16 years without getting stuck – why now, when her jetsetting parents are in Paris and her brothers away at college?

Lucy’s dad accepts a position in Scotland, not exactly the London job that her British mom had hoped for. Owen’s dad decides that they should head west, find a job somewhere away from NYC where they cannot see the stars.

No smartphone or email for Owen, by choice – he sends Lucy postcards from the road. He meets a beautiful girl at Lake Tahoe, and yet…

Each postcard spurs a lengthy email from Lucy, full of her life in Scotland, excluding mention of the handsome rugby player who’s interested in her, however…

When Lucy’s family gathers for a wedding near San Francisco where Owen’s dad is trying to get a job, the pair will get to see each other after all these months, but what if…

Does absence truly make the heart grow fonder?
Is “wish you were here?” ever enough?

A tale of travel, love, and learning from the author of The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak, by Brian Katcher (book review) – comics, quizzes, and captures

book cover of Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher published by Katherine Tegen BooksAt a comic-con, he’ll be happy.
Finally away at college, she’ll be overjoyed.
Trouble… who wants that?

When 13-year-old Clayton slips out of the QuizBowl team hotel for his first comic-con, Ana is terrified – if she loses track of him, their hyper-protective parents will disown her like they did when big sister stepped out of line.

And when things go sour during their search for Clayton at WashingCon, Zak boggles at constants that could end and possibilities that arise- without cons in his life, what else would a certified geek do?

Happy book birthday to The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak,  your invitation to explore the world of comic-conventions, gaming, and love among geeks. For some how-to from the female perspective, try The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy recommended here last week.

So, be honest – Star Wars or Star Trek?

Book info: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak / Brian Katcher. Katherine Tegen Books, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Chasing her little brother through a comic-con wasn’t on Ana’s list of ways to stay perfect, but with the help of cute slacker Zak, she may get the QuizBowl team back together before curfew… or maybe not.

If no-effort Zak wants to graduate, he must serve as QuizBowl alternate during weekend of Seattle’s biggest comic convention, even though he’d already planned out every moment in geek paradise.

If super-achiever Ana wants to please her parents and not get thrown out of the house like her big sister, she’s got to win this QuizBowl tournament, even though it’s no fun anymore.

If her whiz-kid little brother Clayton wants to check out WashingCon because Zak said it was cool, he’s gonna go, because why not?

The search for Clayton jumps from Ana’s world of well-rounded student activities to Zak’s universes of cosplay and card games to the death, as t-shirt slogans, a backpack mixup with deadly consequences, and the clock ticking down to QuizBowl curfew send them all racing through the night.

Zak’s old friends, Ana’s new enemies, and a cross-cultural wedding (Trek or Wars, the eternal con question) punctuate the pair’s growing appreciation for one another’s strengths and charms, as they chart their progress (or lack thereof) in alternating chapters.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Stronger Than You Know, by Jolene Perry (book review) – moving beyond abuse

book cover of Stronger Than You Know by Jolene Perry published by Walt Whitman TeenAway from her abusers at last,
trying to become normal…
but what is normal?

Held captive all her life by her own mother, cigarette burned and hurt by mom’s ‘friends’ – how can Joy suddenly go to high school, or feel safe with a man in the same room, or let anyone get close to her?

A powerful story that isn’t all ‘woe is me’ or suddenly happy forever, Joy relates her struggles with things most folks take for granted – learning to use a cellphone, going to a restaurant – as her aunt, uncle, and cousins help her as best they can.


Book info: Stronger Than You Know / Jolene Perry.  Albert Whitman Teen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Rescued from a lifetime of abuse, fifteen year old Joy tries to move forward with her life with her aunt’s family, fighting the brokenness created by her own mother.

All the changes – from being locked in a California trailer for months at a time to having her own room in Seattle with a door that locks from the inside, from never going anywhere to attending a big high school, from having no one care about her to having family and friends who want Joy to be happy – even if they are good changes, it’s so difficult to forget the past, to get over the nightmares…

Perhaps today, Joy can stay in the room with her uncle, who wants to protect her.
Maybe soon, she’ll be able to hold hands with sweet Justin from history class.
Eventually, she might have to face her tormentors again…

A candid yet hopeful portrait of the shattering effects of abuse and the many adjustments large and small that can allow some measure of healing.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

The Taking, by Kimberly Derting (book review) – aliens or the government: who’s the enemy?

book cover of The Taking by Kimberly Derting published by HarperTeenAbducted by aliens,
Awakening in her hometown years later,
What’s different, except everything?

Kyra can’t remember anything about the past 5 years, except that flash of light. She’s stayed 16, everyone else has grown older – is that why the National Security Agency wants to take her away?

Read the first chapters of The Taking  here for free (gotta love publishers who do this!) and you’ll be itching to discover why Kyra was taken and what happens next.


Book info: The Taking (The Taking, book 1) / Kimberly Derting. HarperTeen, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Returned to her hometown five years later but not one day older, Kyra struggles with changes in family and friends, but must flee when government agents try to imprison her.

Her high school classmates are now in college, her parents divorced, her mom remarried (a baby brother? after all this time?). No one truly believes that she can’t remember anything about the time she was gone, no one except her dad and her boyfriend’s younger brother; Kyra has stayed 16 for five years and Tyler has finally caught up with her.

The aliens took her memories, leaving her with super-fast reflexes, amazing strength, and ability to heal in mere moments – but did they leave her anything else?

On the run from National Security agents who want to experiment on her, Kyra and Tyler are trying to get to a safe place … if there is one. First in new paranormal/ sci-fi series. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Dangerous Boy, by Mandy Hubbard (fiction) – good girl, daredevil boyfriend, dangerous twin

book cover of Dangerous Boy by Mandy Hubbard published by RazorbillNew guy in the small-town high school.
Handsome, rich, daring.
Falling for everyday girl Harper?
Swept off her feet, toward danger.

Logan wants a fresh start to his life after the difficulties he and his brother had in their hometown. Harper’s life after her mom’s death had gotten quieter and quieter. Boom! Romance like a whirlwind, eerie vandalism, brother Daemon mocking Harper’s affection for Logan.

If you sense a whiff of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (read it free at Project Gutenberg here), you’ve found one inspiration for author Mandy Hubbard’s fast-moving story of Harper’s hope for happiness and the too-real peril she faces.

Grab this one today at your local library or independent bookstore but do watch for strange happenings in your neighborhood, won’t you?

Book info: Dangerous Boy / Mandy Hubbard. Razorbill, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: When handsome Logan Townsend moves to her small town, Harper is intrigued. When he asks her out, she’s amazed and delighted. When his twin brother threatens her, she doesn’t know what to think. But if she merely thinks instead of acting, it might just be too late.

Living in the old Carson mansion with their uncle way out on the river road must be boring for Daemon, who’s doing school online instead of at Enumclaw High with his twin brother. He never comes along with Logan and Harper as they go to a Halloween haunted corn maze with friends or riding four-wheelers. Logan says that Daemon messed up relationships for him at their old school, so it’s better that he doesn’t want to be with their group anyway

Bloody cow bones showing up in rural mailboxes, red handprints on every car in the school parking lot, stop signs stolen – this new rash of vandalism is getting dangerous.

Harper has never really liked doing dangerous things, but after her mother’s death, her own father is like a ghost, going through the motions at their farm, without enough energy to warn her against trying reckless things that Logan loves to do. That four-wheeler rollover when a wheel fell off was just an accident, right?

Wondering what Daemon did at the twins’ former school to make them leave that town, Harper does some checking on Facebook and the newspaper, but comes up with more questions than answers.

Why isn’t Logan tagged in any pictures with his former classmates?
What did Daemon do that was hushed up so quickly in the media?
Why does his twin want Harper to stay away from the creaking house that he shares with Logan?

Echoes of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde drift through this spooky tale, with a young woman’s safety and sanity depending on her reactions to the dangers she uncovers.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Return to Me, by Justina Chen (fiction) – moving away, moving on…or not

book cover of Return to Me by Justina Chen published by Little BrownHooray for going away to college at last!
Umm, family moving there, too?
One part breaks, everything shatters…

Reb is trying to figure out whether she and Jackson can make things work for now, not forever. But this is not just another long-distance teen romance; it’s a novel with real heart and soul (and a few visions along the way).

How have long-distance, long-term relationships worked out in your life?

Book info: Return to Me / Justina Chen. Little Brown, 2013. [author’s blog] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Rebecca is so ready to go far away to college. When her dad moves the whole family to her new college town across the country for his new job, then immediately abandons Mom, she’s shocked. If she can’t trust rock-steady Dad, who can she trust?

She’d already decided that she must break up with Jackson before the family leaves Seattle, convinced that a long-distance relationship won’t work out. Her best friends agree with her, but she just can’t do it.

When Reb gets an overwhelming sense of something about-to-happen, she learned long ago to keep it to herself. She will be able to use her innate sense of whether a space works or not as she studies architecture, following in the footsteps of her dad’s business-minded family.

In the too-large McMansion in suburban New Jersey, far from their cozy island home and Reb’s custom-built treehouse, she watches her mom crumble as Dad makes the separation permanent and sees her 10-year-old brother retreat ever further into himself. After Reb calls Grandpa for advice, he invites them to his Hawai’i home to restore themselves.

Perched in a tropical treehouse, Reb worries about Jackson, about whether she really wants to do commercial architecture, about whether she really wants to go to college at the end of summer.

What’s this prophecy that women of her family can never stay with the men they love?
How can she balance family expectations about her career with what she truly wants to do?
How hard must she shake her phone so that Jackson will start communicating again?

Separation and reunion, perception and reality – Justina Chen once again brings readers a story with the right ending in a complex real world. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Paper Daughter, by Jeannette Ingold (book review) – family tree with hidden branches?

When what you “know” about your family isn’t true,
When the person with the real answers is gone,
How far can you search back into the past without losing yourself?

Maggie knows that she wants to be a reporter like her father, recently killed by a hit-and-run driver. But when investigations get too close to home, when the truth upends everything she thought she knew about her family background…

Her hometown of Seattle has always been shaped by immigration and change – from its wild days as a frontier logging town through the countless immigrants from China who made one corner of the city their own, despite the strangling restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

So what does Maggie discover about her family’s past and her own future?
Find out at your local library or independent bookstore on our World Wednesday – and remember to share family stories around the table this Thanksgiving.

Book info: Paper Daughter / Jeannette Ingold. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. [author’s website] [publisher site] [student video book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: As a young journalist, Maggie Chen has her late father’s writing skills and reporting instincts. His recent death has left a gaping hole in her life, but she is determined to complete the summer internship he helped her arrange at the local newspaper.

That Jillian rushed in and grabbed photo desk before Maggie could even open her mouth – good thing Maggie won’t be working directly with the other intern, who is all talk and nosiness. But internship means trying every aspect of the job, so she’ll start at the sports desk and move to other assignments as the summer goes on.

Maggie and her professor mom start to notify Dad’s out-of-town contacts about his death, about that hit-and-run driver. When one call connects Maggie to Dad’s best friend in college, pieces of his life story begin to crumble as the truth about his past erases the family stories that he’d always told them. Now she’s wondering about the unfinished articles in her dad’s files.

If Dad wasn’t from a well-to-do family, then where did he come from?
Why did he contact so many people in California just before his death?
Was he in Seattle’s old Chinatown on the day he died for a newspaper story or on a personal investigation?

During her first “hard news” assignment, Maggie learns that someone else was killed in the same area on the same day, someone who might have been ready to blow the whistle on corrupt land development deals. Was her father’s death connected to that, too?

Murmurs of Chinese immigrants’ stories thread through Maggie’s search for answers, stories of “paper sons” claimed as blood relatives on immigration applications, of changed names and unchanged resentments. Can she ever know who she really is? (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Payback Time, by Carl Deuker (book review) – football, journalism, secrets

What’s going on at Lincoln High?
Coach is keeping a talented player on the bench?
A gifted athlete refuses interviews?
His “previous school” history is… blank?

Mitch, stuck as sports reporter instead of newspaper editor his senior year, is puzzled about the new guy on the football team after accidentally witnessing his amazing catches and footwork at the park. Coach says to forget that and just feature the quarterback in every story to help his college scholarship chances.

Trying to find out the truth stirs up more than Mitch could have imagined.
Can he and newspaper photographer Kimi stay out of danger? Is he right about Angel’s past? Is Coach covering up so they can win the state championship?

A compelling mystery-action story that you’ll enjoy, whether you’re a sports fan or not, especially as we go into high school football playoff season, just like Lincoln High…

Book info: Payback Time / Carl Deuker. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010 (paperback Feb. 2012). [author’s website] [publisher site] [book recap video] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Sports reporter instead of editor? Mitch isn’t sure he wants to work on the school paper his senior year, even though he’s planning to major in journalism in college. Well, he can write some great articles for his portfolio since Lincoln High is predicted to have a winning football season. And as photographer, Kimi will be with Mitch on most assignments. Maybe it’s time for him to lay off his parents’ fabulous bakery creations and start doing a little running…

When a new transfer player stays on the practice squad despite his obvious talent and the football coach won’t comment, Mitch’s reporter instincts sense a deeper story. Injuries during a crucial game bring Angel off the bench, and he leads the team to victory. But the next game, he’s riding the bench again – is he an undercover cop?

As Mitch and Kimi investigate the story, they receive anonymous threats and begin to worry for Angel’s safety. Lincoln’s football team is headed for the State playoff game, and the midnight caller promises that Angel won’t make it home on the team bus…

Full-contact football games, hard-hitting news investigations, and a cute girl who actually talks to Mitch – will everyone come through safely, now that it’s Payback Time? (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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