Thursday, July 26, 2012

Update: Under the Mesquite

Guadalupe Garcia McCall "liked" my review!  Whoop!  This is my first author response to the blog.  I'm pretty excited!  Now, go read the book! :)

The Red Pyramid

Fans of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books should definitley give The Kane Chronicles a try!  The Red Pyramid is the first book in the trilogy, and all three books are now available.

Sadie and Carter Kane may be brother and sister, but they've only seen each other once or twice a year since their mother's death.  Sadie grew up in London with her mother's parents, and Carter has spent the past years traveling the world with their father, a respected Egyptologist.

When their father is involved in a accident and disappears, Sadie and Carter are thrown together into a new and dangerous world where magic is real and the gods of ancient Egypt not only existed, but they are alive and free in the modern the world.

But Sadie and Carter aren't innocent bystanders.  They are descendants of two powerful ancient families, and this brother and sister team must learn to work together and master their abilities or lose the world to the forces of chaos!

Visit Rick Riordan's website to find out more about this series and all his books and explore cool extras and info.

Heart of a Samurai

In 1841 Manjiro is a fourteen year old boy, the youngest member of a Japanese fishing crew.  When their small wooden boat is overtaken by a storm, the small crew survives but is stranded on a small island that is little more than a rock jutting out of the sea.  The others laugh when he tells them he wanted to be a samurai.  Even he thinks it is a foolish thought.  Samurai are sons of the wealthy, born to privilege and excess, but Manjiro is the poor son of a fisherman.

He knows that his life would've been nothing but fishing and bowing to his betters, but he can't help thinking about what his father told him about the brave and noble Samurai of the past.

This is the beginning of an adventure that will take Manjiro around the world and back again.  He will work on a massive whaling ship, attend school in America, and even learn to ride a horse.  Manjiro knows he would never have these opportunities in Japan where he was destined to be a humble fisherman.  He will experience the excitement of new cultures and find a new family, but his heart always longs for home.

Because of Japan's policy of isolation, Manjiro knows he might not be welcomed back by his countrymen.  He will need the heart of a Samurai to even attempt return and to try to convince Japan's rulers that a leap into the modern world is necessary for the island nation.

Be sure to read the epilogue to find out what happened to the real Manjiro on whom Margi Preus based her story!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Under the Mesquite

For Lupita, family is everything.  Her mother is the driving force that keeps everything together from Lupita's young childhood in Mexico to life now in los Estados Unidos.  Mami can make everything work from squabbling little brothers and sisters to fresh tortillas to a yard full of beautiful rosebushes.  As the oldest, Lupita has always helped out, but she doesn't really mind the extra time those chores give her with Mami.  Papi spends most of his time working to provide for his family and save for the future, so Mami counts on Lupita to help with the little kids.

When Lupita is 14, her mother is diagnosed with cancer, and life changes forever.  There are moments of lightness and occasional trips to Mexico to visit family and friends there, but most of the family's energy and all of their prayers are devoted helping Mami get better.

Even with the stress about Mami and her responsibilities at home, Lupita finds time to take drama at school, and she's pretty good.  But as Mami's cancer gets worse, Lupita feels overwhelmed with responsibility, and her efforts to improve herself, could pull her away from family and friends.

The verse novel is a beautiful story of heartbreak and triumph and the struggle of balancing who you were with who you want to be.  I highly recommend Guadalupe Garcia McCall's novel.  Plus, she is San Antonio middle school teacher who used her own immigration experiences to inform Lupita's story.

Silhouetted by the Blue

Serena Shaw has never been so stressed, and life seems to be getting more complicated every day.  Her family is still struggling to move on with life since her mother's death over a year ago, but her father is getting worse instead of better.  He has always gone through "blue" times, but he hasn't showered in weeks, and he barely seems awake even when he's out of bed.

She wanted more than anything to get the lead in the school musical, but now her involvement in the play is creating more problems.  Not only does she have to add play practice to already towering stack of responsibilities, but the play has to be perfect in order to win a grant for the school or the drama program will be cut.

It doesn't seem possible to take care of her little brother, do the shopping, clean the house, do the laundry, pass her classes, and keep up with the play.  Add her increasing worry about her father, and you can forget about being a normal girl like figuring out her friends and the little flutter she gets in her stomach when Elijah talks to her.

Serena desperately wants her father to step up, but things are just getting desperate with no one to be the adult.

Visit author, Traci L. Jones's website to find out more about her and her inspiration for writing.