Tag Archive | A2Z

Nine years of #books… did it!

logo of 10th April Blogging A to Z Challenge

Yesterday, I wrapped up my 9th April A to Z Blog Challenge – 26 new books reviewed in a month. Nine years in a row!

Thank you to the A2Z organizers for providing annual graphics, badges, sign-ups, and promotion for free. During this pandemic, having a scheduled daily task was especially welcome.

Every year, I wonder if I should push myself to post every April day but Sundays, forcing books to fit into that A to Z progression (X, I am looking at you), and every year I am glad that I did it so y’all have 26 more books worth seeking out.

And today marks the beginning of my TENTH year of blogging about books beyond the bestsellers as BooksYALove!

Big thanks to Michele Rafter, whose Blogathon caught my attention in late April 2011 so I could start my very first blog on May 1st and learn the ins and outs of blogging during that May and several to follow.

Huge thanks to Barb Langridge, who asked me in 2010 to join other librarians in writing reviews for her book discovery site for kids www.abookandahug.com. Building up a digital folder of no-spoiler Young Adult and middle grade book reviews to post on my new blog was a true gift.

Much appreciation to the publishers who provide review copies and who have begun bringing us more books by #ownvoices authors, people of color, underrepresented populations – still a long, long way to go, but it’s a start.

All the love to my daughter Emily who designed the BooksYALove logo, helped me move this blog to self-hosting several years ago, and is the best kind of tech support always – mwah!

Will I post every day from now on?
Probably not.

Will I seek out books that are #ownvoices or beyond bestsellers, always worth your attention?
You bet!

Will I promote libraries and independent booksellers over other options?
Always, always, always!

What’s new in your book-reading world?
**kmm

Z for zap! with LIGHTNING GIRL! by Alesha Dixon & Katy Birchall (middle grade book review)

book cover of Lightning Girl, by Alesha Dixon & Katy Birchall, illustrated by James Lancett. Published by Kane Miller Publishing EDC | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sparks from her fingers!
Light beams from her hands!
Growing pains or superpowers?

Big brother is brilliant with computers, little sister is a genuine genius, and Aurora is in the middle, just average at everything, until the birthmark on her hands starts shooting light when she gets angry!

Mum is a secret superhero? Grandma and Aunt Lucinda too? Aurora has inherited superpowers?

Training sessions with Mum, keeping her secret from best friend Kizzy, Mr. Mercury ready to fail her in science – the British 11 year old is stressing out!

Her parents are arguing a lot now, the class trip to her dad’s exhibit of mysterious gemstones gets wild, and Aunt Lucinda drops by with her ostrich sidekick… what was her superpower exactly?

It’s up to Aurora to solve the gemstone mystery, repair her friendship with Kizzy, and make her parents happy together again…but how?

This illustrated adventure is the first in a series as the biracial middle-schooler meets other superheroes and fights against more villains. Look for all 4 books at your local library or independent bookstorehome delivery is a winner!

What superpower would you want to have?
**kmm

Book info: Lightning Girl (Lightning Girl, book 1) / Alesha Dixon with Katy Birchall; illustrated by James Lancett. Kane Miller EDC Publishers, 2020. [author interview] [co-author site] [publisher site] Review copy, sample page, and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

sample page from Lightning Girl, by Alesha Dixon & Katy Birchall

Y for be yourself? PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME, by Erin Yun (middle grade book review)

book cover of Pippa Park Raises Her Game, by Erin Yun. Published by Fabled Films Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Scholarship to private school? Cool!
Expectations from family? Heavy.
Keep both worlds apart? Ummm…maybe?

Pippa loves basketball, but her big sister won’t let her try out for the middle school team until her grades are better. Algebra tutor, from snooty Lakeview Private? Yuck.

Their mother agrees, back in Korea after her work visa in Massachusetts expired. Good grades will be Pippa’s path forward, beyond the family laundromat and its long hours of work.

When Lakeview offers Pippa a basketball scholarship, Omma and sister are delighted. Pippa decides to reinvent herself as a cool girl… but can she do it at the same school as her math tutor Eliot, where his father is the principal?!

How can Pippa keep her fancy new friends from knowing her humble origins?
Can she keep up her grades to keep this scholarship?
Who recommended her for this scholarship anyway?

Worried about her best friend since forever Buddy, about Omma’s health, about playing against her old school in the big game… action on and off the court is getting intense!

How hard is it to live up to family expectations?
**kmm

Book info: Pippa Park Raises Her Game / Erin Yun. Fabled Films Press, 2020. [book site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

X is where we aren’t, in SPEED OF FALLING OBJECTS, by Nancy Richardson Fischer (YA book review)

book cover of The Speed of Falling Objects, by Nancy Richardson Fischer. Published by Inkyard Press/Harlequin | recommended on BooksYALove.com

One eye, one focus,
One week, time to finally be with Dad,
One downed plane, any chance to survive?

It was easier to cope with losing one eye at age 7 than with her dad’s leaving a few months later. Now Cougar’s adventure survival show takes him all over the world, rarely to Seattle where he left Mom and Dannielle.

Big surprise that he’s taking her to Peru for her 17th birthday, filming episodes with teen superstar Guy (bigger surprise that Cougar remembered Danny’s birthday at all).

But their small plane crashes far off-course in the remote Amazon rainforest, with minimal supplies. Of course, Cougar knows everything about survival…right?

Guy isn’t an airhead celebrity after all, even as Cassandra keeps filming the small group’s efforts to get edible plants and find their way in the pathless forest.

Injuries, lethal creatures, rain and rain and rain…how are they going to make it to a river that could take them to civilization?

Danny is a city kid with a true blind side… she’ll just follow Dad’s lead and everything will turn out fine, just like his TV shows…

When someone you idolize turns out to be very human, then what?
**kmm

Book info: The Speed of Falling Objects / Nancy Richardson Fischer. Inkyard Press/Harlequin, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

W for HOW WE BECAME WICKED, by Alexander Yates (YA book review)

book cover of How We Became Wicked, by Alexander Yates. Published by Caitlyn Dloughy/Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Safe in their domed towns,
from the zing-sting of plague-bringer Singers,
but not from the secrets, deadly secrets!

Turned into a Wicked cannibal by an insect’s sting! No wonder rich investors fled to this remote resort on the rocky Atlantic coast, fortified it with domes and tunnels and walls and supplies aplenty.

Those turned Wicked by sting or breath or blood look human and are so polite, asking first if they may rip off your arm to eat it – only their inability to answer a certain question unmasks them as no longer True.

Natalie’s grandfather is Wicked, and there are only so many places to lock up a clever cannibal on small Puffin Island – how long can she and her parents keep him at bay?

Years pass and children become few in Goldsport, as the radio voice reminds True families that on a certain night a youngster may be stung by Singers and become immune to the Vex, but no guarantees…

The island lighthouse starts working after years of darkness, a Wicked woman at the Goldsport gate knows Astrid’s father, and the town archives reveal things that teens Astrid and Hank aren’t supposed to see.

Can anyone really become Vexed, infected yet remaining True?
What happened in the little town near Goldsport as the Wickedness advanced?
What happens when the blue spray doesn’t chase the Singers away anymore?

Trying to wall out what you don’t want…has that ever worked?
**kmm

Book info: How We Became Wicked / Alexander Yates. Caitlyn Dloughy Books/ Atheneum, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

V for VALIANT HIGH, superhero teens & secrets, by Daniel Kibblesmith & Derek Charm (graphic novel book review)

book cover of Valiant High, graphic novel by Daniel Kibblesmith & Derek Charm. Published by Valiant Entertainment | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Usual high school cliques,
usual high school worries,
very unusual high school students…

Welcome to Valiant High,”where extraordinary students become extraordinary people” – that’s right, an entire campus filled with superpowered teens who aren’t allowed to use their powers during school (yeah…sure).

When Principal Harada founded this school, he made sure that power-blocking badges were mandatory and that faculty members like scary Coach Bloodshot had superpowers too.

Unlucky for Amanda that her ability to talk to machines won’t work in driver ed – is this the only test she can’t pass?

Lucky for Aric that he found his place on the football field – who could challenge his destiny as Homecoming King?

As for Peter, he’s not so sure that he wants the new guy to transform him from forgotten to unforgettable as a social experiment to challenge Aric.

The creepy janitor they call Shadowman, eternal sophomore Gilad (maybe immortal?), bloodball in PE (dodgeball with no rules and all their superpowers activated), flying Faith (fat and phenomenal) – what other secrets does Valiant High hold?

Time to meet Livewire, X-O Manowar, Zephyr, Quantum and Woody, and others before their super-careers (for good or evil) in the Valiant Universe!

What superpower would you want to have in high school?
**kmm

Book info: Valiant High (Valiant High, issues 1-4) / Daniel Kibblesmith (writer), Derek Charm (artist), David Baron (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer). Valiant Entertainment, 2019. [author site] [artist Twitter] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

U is undaunted Ellie, trying to ROLL WITH IT in a new town, by Jamie Sumner (middle grade book review)

book cover of Roll With It, by Jamie Sumner. Published by Atheneum BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The next great celebrity baker!
Wheelchair user extraordinaire!
Moving to a new town? oh, no…

Oklahoma is a lot farther from Nashville than it looks on the map, but Ellie and Mom have to get there and convince Mema to let them help take care of Grandpa whose dementia is getting worse.

Small town, small school, no one cares how far Ellie has progressed medically or that the 12 year old is a great baker, seeing only a kid in a wheelchair, someone from that old-people trailer park.

Carpooling with Coralee who loves outrageously bright clothes and Bert who quotes facts instead of making conversation… middle school isn’t kind to any of them.

Ellie will stand up for Coralee and Bert, even if her legs won’t due to cerebral palsy, and her new friends will stand up for her.

What if her distant dad convinces Mom they’re too far from a specialist?
What if Ellie, Mom, and Mema can’t keep Grandpa safe at home?

Ellie writes letters to famous bakers after she tries their recipes in search of the perfect one to enter in the town Pie Contest…maybe a little victory could be a big win.

How do you power through circumstances that you cannot change?
**kmm

Book info: Roll With It / Jamie Sumner. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

T is train tickets & FIELD NOTES ON LOVE, by Jennifer E. Smith (book review)

book cover of Field Notes on Love, by Jennifer E. Smith. Published by Delacorte Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Transcontinental train trip…romantic!
She dumps him before departure…tragic.
Non-refundable tickets…anyone have her same name?

Hugo’s big chance to travel, and it all goes sideways when Margaret breaks up with him. Oh, she’ll just fly to university in California, but he’ll stay home in the UK, quietest of the ‘Surrey Sextuplets’ forever, unless…

He just has to find another Margaret Campbell to travel with him, since everything was booked in her name! Such interesting responses to his social media request…

Maybe the train trip with this British guy will inspire Mae’s new movie to make the film school admissions committee reconsider…

Nana convinces her two dads that Mae is traveling with her new roommate to college in California, finally escaping her small New York hometown.

Rolling westward, cell service is erratic, so there’s lots of time for Hugo and Mae to talk, instead of calling to reassure her family that all is well or texting to remind his siblings that he needs time apart…time to keep talking and dreaming.

Can one week together make such a difference?
How can it not?

Her best friend says Mae’s usual impulsiveness deserts her at the most important times… is that now?

Hugo’s biggest question is whether the university will honor their full scholarship if all six siblings aren’t there…or is it?

Now out in paperback, Field Notes on Love is another travel tale of understanding and romance from the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (my recommendation here), The Geography of You and Me (my notes here), and You Are Here (see here).

How do you decide what’s best for you instead of rolling along with everyone else?
**kmm

Book info: Field Notes on Love / Jennifer E. Smith. Delacorte Press, hardcover 2019, paperback 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

S is for SALTY, BITTER, SWEET flavors and emotions, by Mayra Cuevas (book review)

book cover of Salty, Bitter, Sweet, by Mayra Cuevas. Published by Blink YA Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Food is Isa’s love language – this debut #ownvoices novel could fit anywhere in the April A to Z blog challenge calendar!

Like D, E, F for divorce, that took Papi from the 17 year old and her mom in Chicago to a new, now-expectant wife in southern France.

G for chef Grattard’s cooking school nearby, Isa’s chance to win a place working at his world-famous restaurant.

S for her stepmom’s college-age Spanish stepson who flirts with Isa’s classmates and is staying the summer too.

Or P for peeling potatoes, perfection, problems at the school – 13 teens from around the world competing for a single apprenticeship.

T is taste, trial and error, tradition, and Chef Troissant demanding total concentration from her students.

A,B,C for her late Abuela, beloved Cuban grandmother whose magical touch in the kitchen spread love through a small Kansas town, whose handwritten cookbook Isa still can’t open.

L is the charming city of Lyon and learning and legacies and… love?

How do you psyche yourself up for big opportunities?
**kmm

Book info: Salty, Bitter, Sweet / Mayra Cuevas. Blink YA Books, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

R is for Red and ALL THE IMPOSSIBLE THINGS, by Lindsay Lackey (middle grade book review)

book cover of All the Impossible Things, by Lindsay Lackey, published by Roaring Brook Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her life is a storm,
mom blown off course,
counting days till she’s home…

Red swirls through the foster care system after drugs send Mom to prison and Gamma can’t take care of the middle-schooler anymore.

So hard to control the wind whispering under her skin when she gets upset, the storm clouds that gather above when she is angry!

Maybe it’ll be okay at the Grooves’ place in the Colorado countryside with their petting zoo and giant tortoise and goats who can climb trees.

Her new neighbor Marvin’s online ‘Kitchen Kahuna’ show features his Hawaia’an heritage, but their small-town classmates aren’t adventurous eaters.

Can Red dare to hope this might be a safe place?
How many more letters before Mom writes back?
What if the magical wind inside them both roars out?

Red keeps researching bumblebees and other “impossible things” on the list that she began with her grandmother, trying to find out how to make “live with Mom forever” come true.

Meet Red in the first two chapters of this debut novel of magical realism, free from the publisher here.

How do you work past things that seem impossible on the surface?
**kmm

Book info: All the Impossible Things / Lindsay Lackey. Roaring Brook Press, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.