AprilAtoZ 2015 Challenge is in the books!

graphic of April AtoZ blog challenge 2015 calendarI did it!
26 new books recommended in 26 days this April!
AprilA2Z Challenge 2015 is complete!

Was it worth all the effort? Let’s look at the numbers: Google Analytics says that my April readership was up 15% from March. Hooray! My Akismet site stats give a more detailed picture, showing a huge increase during first week of April, with lower numbers for the rest of the month, but page view total still about 20% above March 2015.

Of course, the opportunity (with deadlines!) to move 26 books from my “to be reviewed” shelf to the “y’all must read this & here’s why” files of BooksYALove is probably the main reason that I jump in to April AtoZ Challenge each year.

I might not have gotten to visit as many fellow participants’ blogs during the past month as I’ would have liked, since April also brings the Texas Library Association conference, but I will be visiting others during May and beyond because I do enjoy finding new ones to enjoy throughout the year.

A huge thank-you to the A2Z organizers who take time away from their own blogging to set up the challenge, visit participants’ blogs, retweet our #AprilA2Z tweets, and give us all a boost.

So, will I be posting 6 days a week from now on? No way! I plan to post frequently, with book birthday Tuesdays and audiobook Thursdays guaranteed, plus 1-2 more recommendations weekly.

You’ll definitely want to stay tuned to BooksYALove this summer, as SYNC and Audiofile Magazine once again will provide 2 FREE young adult audiobooks for you to download each week from May 7 through August 13. I’ll post direct links to each pair on Thursdays, starting next week; you can also sign up for reminders on the SYNC site here.

If you subscribe to BooksYALove by email or RSS feed, please do come over to the site occasionally and comment so that I know you’re out there! I don’t think that the site stats or Google stats can measure your smiles, trips to the library, or visits to your favorite bookstore resulting from my recommendations.

So many more great books coming up in the weeks and months ahead!
Let me know what you’ll be reading.

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Z for Zach in Fire Sermon, by Francesca Haig (book review) – her twin, her enemy

book cover of The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig published by Gallery BooksBorn together, yet separated forever,
always one perfect and one flawed –
when one twin dies, so does the other.

Centuries have reduced radiation levels, but now every human pregnancy bears twins – one perfect, one deformed. Alphas have all power, outcast Omegas have none, no one has the power to stay alive when their twin dies!

Cass can control neither her visions nor her brother’s lust for power, but she still seeks a place where his captive seer cannot peer into her mind, where Alphas and Omegas can coexist.

First in a series, The Fire Sermon of nuclear holocaust seared technology’s dangers into the souls of survivors and a convenient blindness to justice into the genes of their descendants.

If your life-thread were entwined forever with that of someone you despised, how careful would you be?

Book info: The Fire Sermon (Fire Sermon, book 1) / Francesca Haig. Gallery Books, 2015.  [author’s Twitter]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Four hundred years after the Blast, a young seer wishes that her life-link could carry these visions of tragedy into her twin’s brain to stop his power-grab that will shatter their society forever.

Hiding her visions kept Cass with her Alpha twin brother into their teens, but now powerful Zach uses another seer to probe her mind about the Island where the Omega resistance is said to hide.

Mutated Omegas cast out as tots are being herded into refuges so they can keep their perfect Alpha fraternal twins alive. But how can that work when every birth is an Alpha-Omega pair and every injury to one twin is experienced by the other?

As she escapes from the Alpha prison, Cass locates the tanks seen in her visions with a young man alive and aware inside one! They head to the coast, to the possibility of the Island, to a chance that the young Omega can find his missing memories.

In this world, every death is doubled – is Cass the only one who mourns both?
Omegas and Alphas living as equals – does anyone besides Cass imagine this?

First in a series, this debut novel of power and balance asks if the lessons taught by The Fire Sermon  that nearly destroyed civilization have been forgotten. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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Y is You’re Not Proper, by Tariq Mehmood (book review) – Christian or Muslim? She cannot be both!

book cover of You're Not Proper by Tariq Mehmood published by Hope RoadWhite mother, Pakistani father – who is Kiran?
Hijab-wearer, track star – who is Shamshad?
Tied to the old ways, seeking the new ways – who are they?

Two Pakistani-British teen girls share a school and neighborhood, but not much else until Kiran decides that the Christian church isn’t her place and begins asking Dad about Islam. Shamshad certainly doesn’t want to teach Kiran at the mosque school – her father said to always stay away from that family!

You’ll probably need to ask your local library or independent bookstore to get You’re Not Proper  since it’s a recent release from a small publisher, but you’ll definitely want to read both girls’ views on where religion and teen life can intersect, how life in their crowded London neighborhood is/isn’t good, and how searching for identity can bring uncomfortable insights.

Have you seen prejudice or bullying of those who wear clothing that reflects their faith?

Book info: You’re Not Proper (Striker, book 1) / Tariq Mehmood. Hope Road Publishing, 2015.  [author interview]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Trying to find their place in their British urban school’s pecking order and in a society that distrusts Muslims, Kiran and Shamshad are enemies until a crisis brings the girls closer to understanding one another.

Kiran is uncomfortable at the Christian church she attends with her white mum (who doesn’t even believe) and wonders why her Pakistani dad drinks beer instead of going to mosque.

Shamshad wishes her Pakistani family were a bit more modern, so Father would let her have TV and music in the house. Of course, he is right to warn her away from that mixed-race Kiran girl!

When Kiran decides to wear the hijab and learn more about Islam, Shamshad is furious that her friends want to help – that’s not proper!

A white classmate’s brother serving in the British Army goes missing in Afghanistan, and tensions rise between Christians and Muslims in their town.

Should the girls listen to the young imam with radical ideas?
Why is Kiran’s mom so depressed now and Shamshad’s mother suddenly so outspoken?
What’s the truth about the feud between their families which began back in Pakistan?

Alternating chapters by Kiran and Shamshad unfold the complexities of being different, being accepted, being rejected, and being yourself during troubled current times in their English city. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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X is eXactly, as in Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You, by Todd Hasak-Lowy (book review)

book cover of Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy published by Simon Pulse1. Parents shouldn’t change
2. Friends shouldn’t move
3. Lists should make it easier to cope
4. Really, they should help…

Darren’s life seems so out-of-his-hands right now, after the divorce and Dad’s lifestyle change and Nick being at college.

He copes by making lists, and skipping school with amazing artist Zoey to visit Nick, and making lists, and wondering where Zoey has gone…

Just published last week, Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You  lets Darren tell his story in his own way.

What have you done to keep things under control during an extremely hectic time?

Book info: Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You / Todd Hasak-Lowy. Simon Pulse, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Making lists and enduring all the changes in his life leaves Darren enough energy to skip school (just once), get in trouble at brother’s university (just once), and have two girlfriends at the same time (just once), but the high school junior is still trying to figure things out – in lists.

After Dad and Mom divorced, they both were different – Darren’s not sure he likes either change, but what can he do? Making lists helps.

Names that he’d rather have, reasons that he can’t drive yet, ways to convince Zoey to take him to see Nate at college – lists are good.

But somehow, all the lists haven’t made it easier to tell a girl at band camp that he’s sort of dating Zoey or know why Mom suddenly needs to have Shabbat dinner every Friday or figure out what to tell Dad’s analyst…

Is visiting Dad’s new place going to be okay?
Where has Zoey suddenly gone?
Will anything be back to normal by his 16th birthday? (c’mon, universe!)

This Chicago teen tells his story in lists, but who knows what the last entry will be.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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W for Walrath writing Like Water On Stone (book review) – can siblings survive Armenian holocaust?

book cover of Like Water On Stone by Dana Walrath published by Delacorte PressTied to the land, torn out by the roots,
Furrows running red, victors write the history books.
Holocaust… in Armenia?

Some Christian families fled their Armenian villages when Turkish troops ransacked their homes looking for weapons in 1915.

But Papa stayed put, believing that his Muslim neighbors will remain his friends.

Papa was wrong.

Hear the long-silent voices of the Donabedian family, speaking for all Armenian Genocide victims, as their wonderings, laments, and wishes lyrically weave through this novel-in-verse where an eagle soars from the Palu village sky through the mountains above the youngest ones as they try to find safety.

Did you know about this holocaust – which marked its 100th anniversary last week – before now?

Book info: Like Water On Stone / Dana Walrath. Delacorte Press, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [video author interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Twin brother and sister disagree often, but when Ottoman troops attack their Armenian village, the teens follow their parents’ orders and flee over the mountains with their little sister, away from the slaughter, watched over by an eagle whose quill made music in Papa’s hands in this many-voiced verse-novel.

Shahen longs to attend school in America with his uncle; his twin sister Sosi wants to stay always in their village. Papa counts Muslims and Christians as friends, teaches Shahen to play the oud with an eagle quill. Mama shows Sosi the cooking secrets, the best ways to weave.

In 1915, soldiers arrive in Palu, searching Christian homes for guns, taking away young men, and the killing begins. Mama dresses beardless Shahen as a girl, sends him with Sosa and so-small Miriam up the mountain trail before bravely returning home.

As Ardziv the eagle watches from the sky, the young ones hide and climb and grow hungry…

Can they survive to reach a place of safety?
Will they ever be able to contact Uncle in New York?
How can lifelong neighbors turn into enemies overnight?

This novel-in-verse hauntingly revisits a little-discussed historical event and the terrors experienced by Armenians of all ages when the Ottoman Empire decided that their land and their lives were forfeit during World War I.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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V is Ven traveling under the sea, where it’s eat or be eaten – Tree of Water, by Elizabeth Haydon (book review)

Tree of Water by Elizabeth Haydon published by StarscapeFrom known dangers into unknown perils,
testing the bonds of friendship,
seeking wonders under the sea.

If Ven’s curious streak made him stand out from his cautious Nain brethren, then his venture into the Sunlit Sea makes the son of earth an easy target for ocean-dwellers who don’t care at all about his mission of discovery or the fate of folk on the land.

The Tree of Water  can be read by itself, but you’ll enjoy Ven’s current adventures even more if you read the first three books (available in paperback) starting with The Floating Island (my www.abookandahug.com review here), followed by The Thief Queen’s Daughter  (my review here) and The Dragon’s Lair.

These wonderful fantasy books are recreated from fragments of the Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme ‘found’ by Haydon. If someone found pieces of your journal, what adventures would they read between the lines?

Book info: The Tree of Water (Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, book 4) / Elizabeth Haydon; illustrated by Brandon Dorman. Starscape/Tom Doherty, 2014.     [illustrator site]  [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Escaping his enemies by following a mermaid under the sea will also let Ven report on its wonders to the King, if the young nain and his best friend can survive its perils!

Amariel the merrow hides Ven and Char from the Thief Queen beneath the waves, where the young King’s Reporter and his friend use a magical gift to breathe water. Too bad that it cannot protect them from the sea’s law – “Everything in the sea is food for something else” – as the son of earth and son of air are so often reminded.

An underwater forest, a hippocampus race, storms, and predators interrupt the group’s race to find the mythic Tree of Water and prevent the sea-Lirin commander from attacking the land-city!

This fourth book in this fantasy series can stand alone, but for maximum enjoyment, read them in order: The Floating IslandThe Thief Queen’s Daughter,  and The Dragon’s Lair. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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U is Universal car competition for Lowriders in Space, by Cathy Camper; illustrated by Raul the Third (book review)

book cover of Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper, art by Raul the Third, published by Chronicle BooksThree friends with a dream,
ready to work hard
to drive their lowrider into orbit!

Enjoy cool cars, playful science, Spanglish conversation (and lots of glossary notes about both), and the pride of lowrider creators as Lowriders in Space takes off.

The publisher provides a free preview of the first pages here  so you can see Raul the Third’s art as you meet Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio.

Ask for this fun graphic novel at your local library or local independent bookstore and head for the Universal Car Competition to ride “bajito y suavecito!”

Working together on a special project – share your story in the comments, please!

Book info: Lowriders in Space /Cathy Camper; illustrations by Raul the Third. Chronicle Books, 2014. [author site]  [illustrator site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Three friends who love custom cars work together to build the best lowrider in the galaxy so they can win enough money to open their own garage.

Lupe, Flapjack, and Elirio admire lowriders that zoom and drift, but they love cars that drive low and slow – bajito y suavecito.

This girl mechanic, expert car-washing octopus, and mosquito car-painter are so tired of working for others in the barrio. If they can win the Universal Car Contest, they will be able to open their own garage!

Can Lupe make the abandoned old junker run again?
Will Flapjack’s eight arms be enough to clean it up?
Does Elirio have time to paint their lowrider brighter than the stars?

A box of rocket parts and lots of determination add to Raul the Third’s ballpoint pen art with Sharpie accents and Cathy Camper’s mix of Spanish, English, and super science in this first book of a graphic novel pair.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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T is Torn Away, by Jennifer Brown (book review) – tornado tears apart her family & life

book cover of Torn Away by Jennifer Brown published by Little Brown Books for Young ReadersThe tornado smashed her house,
killed her mom and half-sister,
whirled away what she knew as truth…

As tornado season revs up in the Midwest and South, please be sure that your family has disaster plan in place for the likely perils in your area, including the part that Jersey’s family forgot – where to meet up when the all-clear sounds.

You’ll find this sad-but-hopeful 2014 book at your local library or independent bookstore with Jennifer Brown’s other strong books about teens in difficult situations.

Got a disaster story to share?

Book info: Torn Away / Jennifer Brown. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As she is shuffled from her estranged dad’s house to the grandparents she never knew, Jersey regrets her harsh words to Mom and little sister on the day that a tornado swept them away.

Jersey did go into the basement when the warning sirens began, but couldn’t imagine that the tornado would really touch down in her Missouri neighborhood – or crush the dance studio with Mom and five-year-old Marin in it.

Her stepdad is devastated by their deaths and can’t cope with anything, so Jersey must go live with her alcoholic dad who abandoned them and his new family. So far away from her friends, unable to come home for any of the funerals…

Stashing tiny notes about what her mom and half-sister liked best in the old purse Marin loved, trying not to make problems for dad’s extended family who’d very grudgingly taken her in, things go from bad to terrible for the high school junior, and Jersey is forced to meet Mom’s parents who disowned her when she married.

How can she catch her fading memories of Marin and Mom?
Why don’t any of the relatives’ stories line up with what Mom told her?
Will anything ever feel right again?

Have a handkerchief handy – Jersey’s story of loss is so real and so true.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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S is Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli (book review) – secret admirer? too many options!

book cover of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli published by Balzer + BrayA secret correspondent,
in this age of tell-all social media?
Too romantic for words!
But who can it be?

Hard to blame Simon for wanting to keep all drama in theater class, but he knows that mysterious “BlueGreen” of flirtatious e-mails is a guy at his school and really, really wants to meet in person.

That is, if he can keep his best friends from exploding at each other and outwit a blackmailing classmate who wants to out him before he’s ready.

This early-April release should be in your local library or independent bookstore – if not, ask for it!

Simon says the ‘homo sapiens agenda’ is that straight and white are the norm options, but he believes there should be no default setting for a human being! What do you think?

Book info: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda / Becky Albertalli. Balzer+Bray, 2015. [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher via Edelweiss.

My book talk: Simon has a bit part in the play, but when a classmate threatens to publish his flirty emails with an anonymous guy at school, the Georgia teen must decide whether to step up to protect the sweetest guy he’s never met or set up his best friend Abby on the most awkward date ever.

As ‘Jacques’ he shares favorite music and deepest dreams with ‘Blue’ but they haven’t met in person. No one will probably care when Simon comes out publicly, but Blue hasn’t come out either, so letting nerdy Marty put their relationship on Creekwood High’s gossip tumblr isn’t the junior’s decision to make.

Best friend Abby has a huge crush on best friend Nick (who is completely oblivious), Blue wants to keep his growing relationship with Simon as email-only, and Oliver Twist rehearsals are getting strange as Marty always tries talking to Abby and Simon wonders who, who, WHO is Blue?

As hints about their true identities creep into their emails (Blue is Jewish, Jacques has two sisters), the guys discuss coming-out to their families, music to dream of the future by, and whether they should stay forever unknown to each other.

Wait, not ever get together in person?
Is this a love story or a tragedy? Simon sighs… (One of 7,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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R for road trip Finding Paris, by Joy Preble (book review) – big sis gone? little sis searches!

book cover of Finding Paris by Joy Preble published by Balzer + BrayA scavenger hunt!
In Las Vegas!
For sister who doesn’t want to be found…

It’s always been just-younger Leonora who’s watched over Paris as their mother’s rapid job turnover so often let the sisters loose wherever they lived.

Now Paris has set Leo on a scavenger hunt to find her – seems more like a wild-goose chase – and is promising to take care of Leo??

Happy book birthday to Finding Paris! (yes, most US books/movies/music are published on Tuesdays)

Ever have a scavenger hunt that was just perfect? Share, please!

Book info: Finding Paris / Joy Preble.  Balzer + Bray, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When artsy Paris disappears, the clues she leaves for little sister Leonora send the high school junior all over Las Vegas and beyond, accompanied by cute Max she met at the diner and a growing sense of dread.

Moving from Santa Monica to Las Vegas was Mom’s idea, sure that marrying so-so gambler Tommy would stabilize their lives.

Leonora just saves her money from work, studies for SAT, and counts down until she can leave for college, med school some day. Big sister Paris creates found art, fascinating jewelry, would do anything for Leo.

Then Paris abandons Leo at an all-night diner and sends her on a scavenger hunt. Max has time before work to help Leo find her sister, so they follow clues all over Las Vegas.

The clues get frantic – what trouble is Paris escaping from?
A road trip? That far? Will Max really help?
Something important has been taken from Leo – can she get it back?

Love and loyalty are tested as secrets peel away and the miles add up.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

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