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The death of the QUEEN OF THE TILES was no accident?! by Hanna Alkaf (YA book review)

book cover of Queen of the Tiles, by Hanna Alkaf. Published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Same tournament,
same competitors,
who wished her dead?

Maybe making her re-entry into the cutthroat world of teen Scrabble competition at this venue was a mistake. But after a lonely year, coming to the last place that Najwa saw her best friend Trina alive seems fitting somehow.

Trina’s gameplay was stunningly brilliant, her popularity off the charts – why the wealthy girl befriended quiet Najwa when she changed schools was a mystery.

Everyone (else) is here at the Malaysian hotel – Trina’s on-and-off boyfriend Mark, socially inept Josh, fidgety Emily (cheating scandal, yah), Singapore Ben and his hover-mother, Yasmin who knew Trina as a child… plus two annoying young players making a tribute documentary about Trina.

Najwa’s roommate this weekend is Puteri, Mark’s ex-girlfriend before Trina – no happy late-night chatfests with her fellow hijabi this weekend!

When Trina’s dormant Instagram account suddenly posts Scrabble tile photos that spell out clues, Najwa and companions begin wondering if Trina’s death during her final game with Josh was really accidental.

Pushing past grief and panic attacks, Najwa wants to win the tournament in memory of her best friend and find answers, even if asking questions puts her in danger, too.

Trina was “easy to love and easy to hate” – which emotion led to her demise?

Peppered with high-scoring Scrabble words, definitions, and anagrams, Najwa’s journey to win this tournament as she recreates Trina’s last moments makes for a high-stakes mystery!

What’s your favorite word game?
**kmm

Book info: Queen of the Tiles / Hanna Alkaf. Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Classic tales retold – read with your ears!

Get ready for week 3 of Audiofile SYNC season by registering free here.

Every Thursday through Wednesday this summer you can download either or both featured audiobooks onto your Sora shelf and listen to them online whenever you like.

If you miss any AudioSYNC titles during their free download time, just check your local public library or independent bookstore.

This week: classics retold take us back to vital roots of relationships:

CD cover of Never Look Back, by Lilliam Rivera | Read by Almarie Guerra, Samuel Maria Gomez. 
Published by Recorded Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Never Look Back (free Sora download 5/5-5/11/22)
by Lilliam Rivera | Read by Almarie Guerra, Samuel Maria Gomez
Published by Recorded Books

This retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth centers Afro-Latinx characters in the Bronx today: upbeat, suave Pheus who serenades all the girls and Eury who’s troubled by the spirits that haunt her after she survived Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

swirled lines divider lipart http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/mondays-throughout-the-day-17164159
CD cover of When Morning Comes, by Arushi Raina | Read by Jamie Bloch, John Fleming, Patience Mpumiwana, Tony Ofori. Published by ECW | recommended on BooksYALove.com

When Morning Comes (free Sora download 5/5-5/11/22)
by Arushi Raina | Read by Jamie Bloch, John Fleming, Patience Mpumiwana, Tony Ofori
Published by ECW

Romeo and Juliet set in the apartheid struggles of 1976 South Africa: a white boy from the best school in Johannesburg falls in love with a black girl from the poor side of the city in the time leading up to the bloody Soweto Youth Uprising for racial justice.

What other classic retellings would make great audiobooks?
**kmm

divider clipart http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/mondays-throughout-the-day-17164159

THEY CALLED US ENEMY – Japanese-Americans in WWII, by George Takei (Graphic novel review)

Book cover of They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Published by Top Shelf Media | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Leaving their home and possessions,
not his parents’ choice…
Why? Why!?

His mama’s purse is full of treats for five-year-old George and little Henry as they make the long train trip with her, Daddy, and baby Nancy from their home in Los Angeles to a camp in the woods of rural Arkansas.

Not a vacation place, but an internment camp with barbed wire fences, unfamiliar foods, very little privacy, and their loyalty to the USA constantly in question – boring for kids, disheartening for adults.

Later, George’s family was moved to a facility in the California desert at Tule Lake, another of several concentration camps that housed 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese who were forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II.

At war’s end, they hoped to move back to their homes and businesses, but their properties had been seized and sold to others… time to start all over again.

Will the US government deport George’s family?
How can they live in a country that hates them?
What will the future be like in a world after war?

This is a sobering portrayal of a dreadful time in America’s history, as seen through a child’s eyes and reinforced by decades of subtle and overt racism against Asian Americans.

(One of the white co-authors had worked previously with Takei and pitched the idea of capturing his childhood memories as a graphic novel. The book’s artist is Japanese-American, creator of Himawari House graphic novel that I recommended here.)

The well-known Star Trek actor and social activist continues to speak out against discrimination, racism, and the rights of all to love and be loved.

What young childhood memory would you write or draw?
**kmm

Book info: They Called Us Enemy / George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Media, 2019. [author site] [co-author site] [co-author interview] [illustrator interview] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Listen to African Voices this week on AudioSYNC – free!

It’s finally Audiofile SYNC season! Register free here, then you can download two audiobooks into your Sora shelf free every week (Thursday-Wednesday) through the summer.

Keep either or both of these professionally produced audiobooks on your Sora shelf online so you can listen anytime, on any device.

Enjoy this week’s African Stories, African Voices:

CD cover of The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi, by Ngugi wa Thiong'o | Read by Benjamin A.  Onyango. Published by Brilliance Audio | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The Perfect Nine: The Epic of Gikuyu and Mumbi (free Sora download 5/5-5/11/22)
by Ngugi wa Thiong’o | Read by Benjamin A. Onyango
Published by Brilliance Audio

The origin of the Gikuyu people of Kenya is masterfully narrated in this poetic and stirring creation story adventure.

https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/188758/the-perfect-nine-by-ngugi-wa-thiongo-read-by-benjamin-a-onyango/

http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/mondays-throughout-the-day-17164159
CD cover of This Book Betrays My Brother, by Kagiso Lesego Molope | Read by Jacqui Du Toit. Published by ECW Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

This Book Betrays My Brother (free Sora download 5/5-5/11/22)
by Kagiso Lesego Molope | Read by Jacqui Du Toit
Published by ECW Press

Thirteen-year-old Naledi stays quiet about her brother’s crime until she realizes years later that the truth must be told in their South African community.

https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/186126/this-book-betrays-my-brother-by-kagiso-lesego-molope-read-by-jacqui-du-toit/

What other African stories would you recommend?
**kmm

No party for MISS QUINCES, por favor, please! by Kat Fajardo (Graphic novel book review)

book cover of Miss Quinces, by Kat Fajardo; color by Marianna Azzi. Published by Graphix /Scholastic Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A month away from her friends,
no internet, no cellphone service…
a surprise quinceaneara! What?!

Suyapa loves reading graphic novels and trying to draw her own. Her friends in Comics Club will go to Camp Willow later this summer, but not her – Mami won’t let the 15 year old go anywhere (anywhere!) without her older and younger sisters!

Same when their family goes to Honduras for a month – cousins everywhere, people in and out of Abuelita’s house, even going to a village shop with Papi becomes a parade. The introverted teen cherishes moments alone with her artistic grandmother who agrees to do a travelogue comic with her!

Surprise!! Mami has invited the whole town to Sue’s quinceanera, the traditional ceremonies and dances marking a young lady’s 15th birthday as she moves from childhood to the adult world!

But Sue had told them repeatedly she didn’t want a quinces! She hates speaking in front of people, can’t dance, and certainly can’t wear the required high heels!

Abuelita suggests that she and Mami compromise, so Suyapa agrees to the quinces as Mami has arranged it, and Mami agrees to call the camp so she can go with her friends when they get back to New York!

A poufy pink dress (so different from Abuelita’s satiny white one), stepping on her cousin’s toes as she tries learning to waltz, big sister choreographing the big dance, writing a speech of thanks – aggggghhhhh!

When a tragedy strikes their family, the quinces drops off their priority list – but having heard Abuelita’s quinces stories, maybe this is what Sue wants to do after all…

Family or friends, old ways and new ways – happy book birthday to Miss Quinces!

Be sure to grab this just-published graphic novel today at your local library or independent bookstore to see just how pink and poufy that dress is! Compare quinces traditions by reading Once Upon a Quinceanera (recommended here).

What’s your least-favorite family tradition?
**kmm

Book info: Miss Quinces / Kat Fajardo; color by Marianna Azzi. Graphix /Scholastic Books, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

#AprilA2ZChallenge complete – for the 11th year!

April A-to-Z Blog Challenge logo. Blogging from A to Z

Every year, I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew with the A2Z Challenge.

Every year, I do recommend a double-handful of new middle grade and young adult books in April that might not be on your radar if you rely on bestseller lists for recommendations.

Every year, a few more folks stop by and comment on the titles I’ve highlighted – welcome!

Thanks again to the #AprilA2Z organizers for providing great graphics, inspiration, and a hub for us bloggers to congregate around as we keep on working to communicate our particular passions to the world.

Now – back to my regular 2-3 times weekly posting schedule, even though there are SO many great new books to recommend!

What was your #AprilA2Z favorite? (Check the tag A2Z for all my April recommendations)
**kmm

Z is for ZERO O’CLOCK in Covid-19’s early days, by C. J. Farley (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of Zero O'Clock, by C. J. Farley. Published by Black Sheep/ Akashic | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Mysterious plague,
not fiction, not science fiction,
how will it end?

Geth’s hometown, New Rochelle, New York, is ground-zero for the Covid-19 pandemic in USA, as the entire world hits the pause button in March 2020.

The sixteen year old and her best friends are unhappier to miss next weekend’s Broadway show than about school being closed for two weeks (more teleteaching, more homework… ugh). Diego is the star quarterback, so that’s his ticket to college. Tovah is tiny and mighty and a math genius; Geth is sure that they’ll both be accepted to Columbia soon.

Two weeks’ closure keeps stretching out, stores in ‘the containment zone’ are running out of essentials, and the neighborhood foxes are scavenging boldly as trash pickup is delayed and delayed again. After each face-touch, the Black teen washes her hands for safety (her OCD compulsions are getting companions now).

Worrying about her mom working at the hospital, the Native American teen who’ll be isolating with them in their little house (Mom’s boyfriend’s stepson?), whether prom will be cancelled – Geth gets more stressed by the day, clinging to her friends’ text messages and BTS songs as a lifeline.

Neighbors dying of Covid at home, friends hospitalized on ventilators, the President saying there’s nothing to be concerned about… .

Why are they still reading The Plague for English class?
Who’s trying to sabotage Diego’s football scholarship?
What advice would her late father have?

Three months, a million emotions, thousands upon thousands of deaths – then 8 minutes 32 seconds of video that sparked a movement.

How do you look back on the early days of the pandemic?
**kmm

Book info: Zero O’Clock / C. J. Farley. Black Sheep/ Akashic, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Y is for YOUR HEART, MY SKY, love despite starvation in Cuba, by Margarita Engle (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger, by Margarita Engle. Published by Atheneum / Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Food is dwindling,
government rule tightens,
can people survive on hope alone?

Words feed your soul, but not the gnawing hunger across the island during el periodico especial en tiempos de paz in 1991, as the Soviet Union collapses and its food shipments to Cuba cease, starting a decade of starvation.

Out in the countryside, Liana is adopted by a brown dog who sings to the sky and helps the 14 year old find things to cook for her family. No, she won’t go to the government’s “summer camp” working in the sugarcane fields and leave her siblings to starve.

Neither will 15-year-old Amado, even though he’ll be an outcast in the village. If they knew his plan to evade military conscription, he’d be in prison with his brother who did the same. Constant hunger makes rebellious thoughts of freedom difficult, but he will persevere.

As the two young people try to fight their growing attraction, the singing dog called Paz does his best to nudge them together, knowing that they’ll be stronger together.

Can they grow any food without the government finding out?
Can hope alone sustain them as the police keep watch on Amado?
Should they also make a raft and try to escape to Miami?

Celebrate Poetry Month with this verse novel in three voices, by the author of Rima’s Rebellion (I recommended here).

To this day, Cuba imports most of its food – where do your representative and Senator stand on ending the decades-long US trade embargo?
**kmm

Book info: Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger / Margarita Engle. Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

X marks the spot for free audiobooks thru summer – it’s AudioSync season! #A2Z

It’s finally Audiofile SYNC season! Register free here, then you can download two audiobooks into your Sora shelf free every week (Thursday-Wednesday) through the summer.

Each thematic pair of professionally produced audiobooks is yours to listen to as long as you can access your Sora shelf online!

I’ll highlight each new audiobook pair on Thursdays so you’ll have time to download them. If you miss any, check your local public library or independent bookstore.

This week – time for adventure!

CD cover of Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda, by Jesse J. Holland [Ed.] | Read by JD Jackson, Joy Sunday. Published by Dreamscape | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda (free Sora download 4/28-5/4/22)
by Jesse J. Holland [Ed.] | Read by JD Jackson, Joy Sunday
Published by Dreamscape

This “groundbreaking anthology from the African diaspora” features 18 short stories of Wakanda by several authors.

Listen to new adventures of T’Challa, Shuri, and other personalities of the Black Panther universe.

curved lines divider http://www.clipartpanda.com/clipart_images/mondays-throughout-the-day-17164159
CD cover of audiobook Four Short Stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Carl Rigg. Published by Naxos Audiobooks | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Four Short Stories (free Sora download 4/28-5/4/22)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Read by Carl Rigg
Published by Naxos Audiobooks

Mysterious and terrifying – and not about Sherlock Holmes!

Enjoy “The Horror of the Heights”, “The Terror of the Blue John Gap”, “Lot No. 249” and “The Sealed Room” short stories, professionally narrated. Perhaps you should make sure your door is locked first.

What audiobooks on the AudioSYNC summer list are you looking forward to most?
**kmm

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P is painting! P is president? BLAINE FOR THE WIN, by Robbie Couch (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of Blaine for the Win, by Robbie Couch. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Dumped! In public!
On their anniversary!
Gotta win him back…

Blaine was sure that Joey was planning to ask him on a ritzy trip with his rich family, not break up on their one-year anniversary! The mural-painting junior doesn’t fit into senior Joey’s long-range plan to become the first out US President, since he’s “not a Serious guy” like Blaine’s classmate Zach.

Well, Blaine will show Joey that he’s serious – he’ll run for Senior class president! His best friend Trish says she’ll be his campaign manager, her girlfriend Camilla will help too (between interning at the Field Museum with dinosaur bones).

His loving, workaholic parents support him, as does his biggest fan Aunt Starr who’s living with them between jobs – best company ever on these long, no-Joey nights.

Whoa, so many requirements to get onto the ballot: 50 junior classmates’ signatures in two days, a speech to the 94-member student council, then a debate between the highest-ranked candidates in front of the whole school!

Trish helps Blaine stand out from the other candidates – he asks fellow students to talk to him, instead of telling them why he’s great. So many concerns that center around stress and mental health issues…

And cute Dannie, whose aloe vera plant was a casualty when Blaine literally ran into him on the sidewalk, joins the group as his dad’s coffeehouse in their Chicago neighborhood becomes their campaign headquarters, complete with amazing Vietnamese pastries.

Can he really make a difference for his classmates?
Will he win back Joey if he wins the race?
Where did his passion for painting murals go?

Easy-going Blaine shifts his focus from big murals to the big picture and finds out what’s really important to him.

When did you step out of your comfort zone?
**kmm

Book info: Blaine for the Win / Robbie Couch. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.