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Foster home safe for HOME GIRL Naomi? by Alex Wheatle (YA book review)

book cover of Home Girl, by Alex Wheatle. Published by Black Sheep/Akashic Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Not half-bad foster family, for once,
iccle bro and sis looking up to her –
why are they so nice?

After Mum died, Naomi took care of alcoholic Dad for years. Now the UK foster care system thinks the 14-year-old needs watching over…

Naomi’s hostility to foster families quickly exhausts her social worker’s options, and the white teen is placed temporarily with a black family.

Colleen and Tony are nice enough, their kids like Naomi, too – but Tony’s parents aren’t keen on a white girl taking space where a black foster kid could be safe.

Alternative school kids are quick with their fists and loud with slangy curses. The black girls there aren’t liking Naomi’s new cornrow braids…

When Colleen discovers Naomi’s love of urban dance, she arranges lessons at a real studio! Now isn’t the time for social services to place her with a suburban white family.

Just published in the US by Black Sheep/Akashic, Home Girl is the latest in Wheatle’s YA books set in working class British towns, examining personal identity, racial relations, and finding one’s place in the world.

When do we become ‘grown up enough’ to take on all of life’s responsibilities?
**kmm

Book info: Home Girl / Alex Wheatle. Black Sheep/Akashic Books, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

They rejoice in being STRANGE BIRDS together! by Celia C. Perez (MG book review)

book cover of Strange Birds, by Celia C. Perez. Published by Kokila Books PRH. | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Endangered bird feathers as a prop,
a social club with no social awareness,
time to stop this nonsense!

Waiting out her parents’ transatlantic divorce arguments, Lane decides to take summer at her wealthy grandmother’s palatial Florida estate from boring to bold by inviting other 12 year old girls to form a secret club.

Ofelia’s overprotective Cuban-American parents want the budding journalist to stay safe, quit being so inquisitive, and certainly not apply for news-writers’ camp in New York City.

Helping her grandfather research connections between their Bahamian roots and local citrus growers leaves Aster plenty of time to cook up new dishes while Mom’s overseas in the Army.

As youngest sister, Cat is her society-conscious mother’s final chance to have a Miss Flora in the family, but she’d rather watch living birds than sit in boring club meetings.

The new friends decide to challenge the tradition of Miss Flora wearing a ceremonial hat with feathers from endangered birds – it should be in a museum!

All their low-key protests – stickers, lawn flamingos at the Flora clubhouse – get taken over by the Flora leader for publicity! How can this eclectic crew make the townspeople understand the importance of protecting local birds in peril?

Happy book birthday to Strange Birds, now available at your local library or independent bookstore.

**kmm

Book info: Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers / Celia C. Perez. Kokila Books, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

LEARNING TO BREATHE, to make her own destiny, by Janice Lynn Mather (YA book review)

book cover of Learning to Breathe, by Janice Lynn Mather. Published by Simon Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

“Doubles, you just like your mamma!” – words that Indira never wants to hear in their small town with eyes everywhere and tongues wagging about easy Sharice.

Sent over to Nassau for school and sleeping on the couch at her ever-angry aunt’s house, Indy has to keep up with her popular cousin Smiley in class and keep well away from older cousin Gary – some things are easy, but Gary is persistent.

Indy is ashamed of being taken advantage of, worried that her beloved Granny always thought she’d wind up just like Mamma, terrified that she could be thrown out of Aunt Patrice’s house at any moment.

Granny’s long-time advice to cool her worries in the sea accidentally leads Indy to a tranquil place away from the busy city – a yoga retreat where she finds friends and a tiny measure of peace…for now.

How long can she keep her condition a secret?
Where has Mamma moved Granny?
When will classmate Churchy abandon Indy too?

Striving to rise above difficult circumstances, this strong young Bahamian woman wants to find her grandmother and find some peace and space to be her own self.

How have you helped friends in tough situations?
**kmm

Book info: Learning to Breathe / Janice Lynn Mather. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2018, paperback Aug 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Love, food & stories = HUNGRY HEARTS anthology, edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond (YA book review)

book cover of Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love / edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sweets to tempt away a bitter spirit,
pastries that bring emotions to the surface,
family recipes and secrets to ignore or embrace…

Welcome to Hungry Heart Row, that multicultural neighborhood just across the Yarrow River from a bustling city – an eclectic collection of shops, apartments, and restaurants that reflect new tastes and old flavors, longstanding family traditions and recent changes, tales often-told and episodes never before shared.

I rarely re-read fiction because there’s so much in my to-be-read queue, but I found myself enjoying entire stories once again as I dipped back into Hungry Hearts to find morsels to tempt you with!

This yummy anthology includes interconnected stories by Elsie Chapman, Caroline Tung Richmond, Sandhya Menon, S. K. Ali, Rin Chupeco, Anna-Marie McLemore, Rebecca Roanhorse, Sara Farizan, Jay Coles, Adi Alsaid, Sangu Mandanna, Phoebe North and Karuna Riazi (meet all the authors here on the publisher’s webpage).

Cooking from the heart – what’s your favorite dish?
**kmm

Book info: Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food & Love / edited by Elsie Chapman & Caroline Tung Richmond. Simon Pulse, 2019. [Elsie’s site] [Caroline’s IG] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Magical books to read with your ears as AudioSYNC summer ends

Our magnificent summer of free audiobooks from AudioSYNC and publishers ends with with a magical pair of stories to read with your ears!

Click on the title for the free download page before late-night Wednesday July 31, 2019. You can keep these free audiobooks on your device and listen whenever you want.

Thanks again to the publishers who’ve provided over 2 dozen free professionally produced audiobooks this summer through AudioSYNC!

CD cover of Akata Witch,  by Nnedi Okorafor | Read by Yetide Badaki Published by Tantor Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor Read by Yetide Badaki Published by Tantor Audio

Sunny is mocked in her parents’ Nigerian town for being born American, albino, a girl who loves soccer. The 12 year old discovers that she’s a “free agent” born to non-magical parents and becomes part of a quartet of young people studying magic seen and unseen. Soon it’s up to them to catch an evil criminal, ready or not!

CD cover of All the Crooked Saints,  by Maggie Stiefvater | Read by Thom Rivera Published by Scholastic Audiobooks | recommended on BooksYALove.com

All the Crooked Saints, by Maggie Stiefvater Read by Thom Rivera Published by Scholastic Audiobooks

Under the Colorado desert stars, miracles are waiting to happen in Bicho Raro, where the Soria family lives. Cousins Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin can see the love, happiness, peace that others need – but their own lives and thoughts are not so clear. Two strangers arriving bring changes, perhaps even for the cousins whose help they seek.

What magical tales and audiobooks are your favorites?
**kmm

Making friends or Papa’s best cakes – PIE IN THE SKY dreams? by Remy Lai (book review)

book cover of Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai. Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Everything is different,
no one understands –
moving to a new country is so hard!

Jingwen feels like like an alien when Mom moves him and little brother to Australia, especially when Yanghao picks up English so much faster than he can. Or maybe a ghost, since his classmates hardly include him in anything because he’s so quiet.

Only remembering Papa’s special cakes makes him happy (and sad), so he decides to bake each one, just as Papa taught him back in the family bakery after all the plain, inexpensive ones were done.

Why did Mama decide to emigrate, even after Papa died?
Why can’t Jingwen understand English better? Why?
Will he be held back at school to be in little brother’s class next year!?

Illustrated middle grade novel with so much heart! (and fantastically yummy descriptions of Papa’s cakes)

How can we understand others when words don’t connect us?
**kmm

Book info: Pie in the Sky, by Remy Lai. Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Extraordinary life stories – listen up! #audiobooks for all

Most of us would say that we lead unexceptional lives. That’s why we’re so intrigued by celebrities and folks whose lives are anything but ordinary.

This week, we get to listen in on the lifestories of superstars in the world of sport and the world of art, with two free audiobooks from AudioSYNC (thanks again, publishers!).

Click on a title below by Wednesday 17 July 2019, follow the easy directions at the AudioSYNC page, and you can keep the downloaded free audiobook on your device as long as you wish.

CD cover of Becoming Kareem,  by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar | Read by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Published by Hachette Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Becoming Kareem, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Read by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Published by Hachette Audio

US basketball legend recounts his life from boyhood in New York through his professional career and onward as an activist for social change, sharing the many lessons learned from his mentors.

CD cover of Vincent and Theo,  by Deborah Heiligman | Read by Philip Fox Published by Dreamscape Media  | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Vincent and Theo, by Deborah Heiligman

Read by Philip Fox

Published by Dreamscape Media

The Van Gogh brothers shared dreams and heartaches throughout their lives, with Vincent leaving their family home to pursue his art and Theo later giving him a place to stay and work in Paris. Based on their lifetime of correspondence.

What other biographies would you recommend?
**kmm

Getting schooled? #YAlit to read with your ears!

For some kids, high school will be the best years of their lives – but only for some kids.

Being bullied for being different is the reality for too many kids, and this week’s free AudioSYNC audiobooks bring us some of their stories.

Remember, after you click the title (FREE now through Wednesday, 3 July 2019) and download the professionally produced audiobook, you can keep it as long as you like.

CD cover of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass,  by Meg Medina | Read by Roxanne Hernandez Published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by Meg Medina

Read by Roxanne Hernandez

Published by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, but her relentless bullying erodes the teen’s self-confidence bit by bit, affecting her schoolwork and her relationships.

CD cover of Heretics Anonymous,  by Katie Henry | Read by Michael Crouch Published by HarperAudio  | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Heretics Anonymous, by Katie Henry

Read by Michael Crouch

Published by HarperAudio.

An atheist teen is less than thrilled to move (again) and attend Catholic school. Feminist Lucy (aspiring priest) introduces him to others who don’t fit in at St. Clare’s – maybe Heretics Anonymous is his safe place, too?

What can you do to keep people safe?
**kmm

Fast, fat, funny, real – THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE for him, by Sandhya Menon (YA book review)

book cover of There's Something About Sweetie, by Sandhya Menon. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Parent-arranged dates,
hokey or helpful?
Hopefully heal his heartbreak.

Ashish needs to get over his breakup (first time he’s ever been dumped) and get back his basketball groove, and his Indian-American parents think setting him up with a nice Desi girl will help?

Sweetie wants her mom to realize that losing weight won’t make the high school junior happier (her friends love her right now) or run any faster (no one can beat her on the track), but how? Time for ‘Project Sassy Sweetie’ and getting out of her comfort zone!

Four very specific dates (and a behavior contract – Pappa is always a businessman) – Ashish’s Ma is sure that Sweetie is the perfect girl for him, but his love-and-leave reputation in the close-knit Bay area Desi community makes Sweetie’s mother say no to the idea.

But Sweetie says yes (Project Sassy Sweetie!), so off they go, to the temple and the Holi festival and his eccentric aunt’s place, each time enjoying one another’s company more.

Surely, on their fourth date for Sweetie’s birthday party, Amma will see this indeed was a good idea…
Surely, Ashish’s white ex-girlfriend will completely fade from his memory…

Told in alternating chapters, this fun (but not frivolous) romantic story is a May 2019 companion to When Dimple Met Rishi (Ashish’s perfect big brother) – you can enjoy this book without reading the other (my no-spoiler recommendation here), but make yourself happier by reading both!

What ingrained family opinion have you overcome for the better?
**kmm

Book info: There’s Something About Sweetie / Sandhya Menon. Simon Pulse, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS or the sea will take you! by Nina Moreno (YA book review)

book cover of Don't Date Rosa Santos / Nina Moreno.  Published by Disney Hyperion | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Cursed by the inexorable ocean,
Claimed by the Cuban heritage never discussed,
where is Rosa called to go?

Their unborn daughters never knew their fathers who died in the tumultuous seas…her grandmother and mother are so alike, yet so different.

Mimi is the healer and solid cornerstone of their Florida town, where Mama occasionally wanders back from her art commissions, where Rosa decided to stay after a childhood on the road, where her grandmother’s beloved Cuba is the shared heritage of many, and the sea’s curse on men loved by the Santos women is very well-known.

Rosa is fast-tracking high school to make sure she gets into a college with study abroad in Cuba (why doesn’t Mimi want to go back or even talk about her homeland?) and will never, ever date a sailor (ever).

When Port Coral’s festival loses its sponsor and developers threaten to buy up the waterfront, Rosa’s legendary organizing skills help her neighbors find their own way to bring tourist dollars to town and bring young sailor Alex into her life.

Everyone knows you don’t date Santos women, yet baker Alex dares…and Rosa dreams of happy endings, for once.

When have you gone against ‘common wisdom’ and come out ahead?
**kmm

Book info: Don’t Date Rosa Santos / Nina Moreno. Disney Hyperion, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.