Tag Archive | books

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

Almost time for the April #AtoZchallenge!

#AtoZChallenge 2022 alternative badge

The calendar is sliding toward April, so #AtoZChallenge is just ahead!

This will be my 11th year of participating in the blogging challenge to post alphabetically themed entries throughout April (with Sundays off).

My 2022 #AtoZChallenge theme is… books beyond bestsellers!

For y’all, this means a double-handful of new recommendations of middle-grade and young adult books, plus a few surprises.

You have time to sign up your blog for this free Challenge, too – more info here.

As I wrap up my 12th continuous year of recommending books – without giving away the endings, please let me know which April selections go on your wishlist to find at your local library or independent bookstore (remember – no affiliate links here – ever!).

Happy reading to all!
**kmm

Beyond THE SOUND OF STARS, is there life here? by Alechia Dow (YA book review)

book cover of The Sound of Stars, by Alechia Dow. Published by Inkyard Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Music – illegal.
Books – illegal.
Emotion – forbidden!

Two years after the alien invasion, 17-year-old Ellie’s favorite song by The Starry Eyed still motivates her, presses her to keep a secret library in their New York City apartment basement, to risk execution so a tiny bit of hope stays alive.

The Ilori believe that humans are untrustworthy because of their emotions. Books, music, and art are forbidden, as are outbursts of anger or joy.

In Ellie’s quadrant, M0Rr15 is ready to test the behavior-muting vaccine he was ordered to develop – only controllable humans will be kept alive when the planet is reconfigured as a habitation for the true Ilori by the armored lab-made Ilori on Earth now.

M0Rr15 finds Ellie with a book, but instead of neutralizing the Black teen, he borrows the book, listens to music (his favorite thing about this odd planet) with her, and tries to save her family from the vaccine.

Hiding their meetings from the all-encompassing Ilori in-brain communication network does drain M0Rr15’s electrical charge, but is vital as their friendship grows – no wonder the Ilori say feelings are so dangerous!

Ilori command sends M0Rr15 westward across America to fix a vaccine production glitch – and he smuggles Ellie with him!

Can he trust her with his secret plans to save humanity?
Will her parents be safe after she’s left?
How long until the Ilori officials catch up with them?

Told alternately by Ellie and M0Rr15 – “If I fail, what is the point of my life?” (p. 59) – this near-future story of hope versus destiny reaches for the stars and tugs at our heartstrings.

Ask for this debut novel at your local library or independent bookstore as we celebrate the work of Black creators this month and always.

If you could share only one song, what would you choose?
**kmm

Book info: The Sound of Stars / Alechia Dow. Inkyard Press, 2020 (hardcover), 2021 (paperback). [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

YOU CAN’T SAY THAT! yes, authors can! #BannedBooksWeek (nonfiction book review)

book cover of You Can't Say That! Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell, edited by Leonard S. Marcus. Published by Candlewick Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Too rude! too scary!
Not in our school, our town,
we don’t talk about such things…

Name a ‘controversial topic’ and you can find a list of books for kids and teens that someone, somewhere in the US has tried to censor or ban from class or remove from library shelves.

That’s why this is Banned Books Week and why noted children’s books expert Leonard Marcus decided to talk with authors whose books have challenged by people who think their viewpoint is the only one.

Marcus sets the stage in each chapter by noting the author’s books, the censorship they faced, and how he knows them, so the interviews are conversations between friends as well as explorations of how their depictions of real life often clash with adults trying to protect kids from unpleasant things.

Authors interviewed include: Matt de la Peña, Robie H. Harris, Susan Kuklin, David Levithan, Meg Medina, Lesléa Newman, Katherine Paterson, Dav Pilkey, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Sonya Sones, R. L. Stine, and Angie Thomas.

You’ll recognize challenged titles from Captain Underpants to the Goosebumps series to Heather Has Two Mommies that have been stolen, challenged, and even publicly burned, but might not have heard about authors being ‘disinvited’ from speaking at schools because their books include gay characters or children in families with alcoholism.

Meg Medina expresses the balance between would-be censors and the author’s right to tell their stories freely: “When it comes to formal challenges to books, the problem is not that parents don’t have the right to be involved in deciding what their children read. The problem is that they don’t have the right to make that determination for other people’s children.” (p. 96)

What are your experiences with book banning or censorship at your school?
**kmm

Book Info: You Can’t Say That! Writers for Young People Talk About Censorship, Free Expression, and the Stories They Have to Tell / Leonard S. Marcus, editor. Candlewick Books, 2021. [editor site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Gothic intrigue in DIRE DAYS OF WILLOWEEP MANOR graphic novel! by Shaenon K. Garrity & Christopher Baldwin – YA book review

book cover of The Dire Days of Willoweep Manor, by Shaenon K. Garrity (story) & Christopher Baldwin (art). Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A daring rescue,
a ghost in the manor,
a brooding hero with a dark secret…

Haley’s teacher insists that she must write a book report on anything but a gothic romance if the African American teen wants to pass English class… sigh.

When Haley rescues a man from drowning under the river bridge, they emerge from the water into a different world! But what world and when??

The manor house is “three centuries and four European architectural traditions smushed together” on the eerie moors, brooding older brother Laurence says they’re in “the year of our Lord none of your business,” and there’s a ghost that only Haley can see or hear – are they actually inside a book?

Perhaps so, because Haley is now “the Maiden” attired in a long dress, the sinister housekeeper lets a few secrets out, and youngest brother Cuthbert acts more zany by the hour.

But maybe not, because Montague (the brother that she rescued) insists that he was seeking help from her world because a devouring Penultimate Evil was encroaching on Willoweep Manor, a pocket universe that’s the final defense…and there are cracks in the barrier!

As the Bile seeps out, it infects every creature to join in its attack against all things good!

Will the three brothers finally band together instead of bickering?
Can Haley become the Gothic Heroine that Willoweep needs?
Is she trapped in this pocket universe forever?

This clever graphic novel uses every trope, tradition, and cliche of gothic romances to great effect as our intrepid heroine and the desperate caretakers of Willoweep fight to save… everything!

What what you learned from reading fiction that can help in real time?
**kmm

Book info: The Dire Days of Willoweep Manor / Shaenon K. Garrity (story) & Christopher Baldwin (art). Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Book cover image and review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Whoosh! 11 years of BooksYALove, a decade of April A2Z!

text reads: reflection- Blogging from A to Z April (2021) Challenge http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

Like that snowball rolling downhill toward a cartoon character, growing larger and faster as it goes, time seems to pass more swiftly as the calendar pages flip over.

Eleven years ago today, I stepped out into the then-new world of blogging, thanks to the encouragement of Michelle Rafter’s Blogathon in the early 2010s and the repository of book recommendations that I had written for Barb Langridge’s awesome kids’ book discovery site www.abookandahug.com (still going strong – be sure to take the Reader Personality Type quiz here!).

Ten years ago today, I looked back at a whole month of posts (every day but Sunday) pegged alphabetically from A to Z – wow, I really could create content on a daily basis… for at least one month of the year during the April AtoZ Challenge!

At the end of March every year since, I’ve pondered whether I could really complete another AtoZ, not missing a single alphabetical day (X is so hard). And for 10 years straight, I’ve decided that I should try, and I have succeeded!

Book bloggers don’t get medals or awards for our work promoting books, authors, and illustrators.

Most of us don’t get any money for our writing, some of us get review copies from publishers (thank you, thank you!), and many of us pay out of pocket to host our sites.

We all spend innumerable hours reading, deciding which books to write about, looking at our growing TBR (to-be-read) piles of books…and the books waiting for a review.

Book reviewers may never know whether our recommendation of a specific book led someone to read it… but one review and one book may be what makes life better for one reader – and that is enough for me as I begin my 12th year of BooksYALove.

Have you read any of the 1000+ books that I’ve recommended?
**kmm

X is excitement & mystery of THE INKBERG ENIGMA, by Jonathan King (Graphic novel review)

book cover of The Inkberg Enigma, by Jonathan King. Published by Gecko Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Strange activity in the bay,
the Castle looms above town,
so many secrets and so much danger!

In a new town for dad’s museum job, Miro satisfies his old book habit by selling old diving gear and things that he finds in the attic.

Glimpsing a deep-sea fisherman wrapped by a giant tentacle puts Miro and schoolmate Zia at odds with the Works fish-processing plant manager who threatens to tell Miss Danforth, owner of their town… and employer of their parents.

Digging into the town’s history reveals a tragic last-century Antarctic expedition, eerie creatures discovered on that voyage, and enduring links that may endanger their New Zealand coastal town even now!

What really happens inside the Works?
Will Zia’s photos expose dire secrets?
Would reclusive Miss Danforth help the teens?

A pitch-black iceberg and a perilous journey – the expedition journal is a book of secrets within this graphic novel of mystery and discovery!

What local historical fact has taken you by surprise?
**kmm

Book info: The Inkberg Enigma / Jonathan King. Gecko Press, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

E is empowering words by THE LIGHTNING DREAMER: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, by Margarita Engle (YA book review)

book cover of The Lightning Dreamer, by Margarita Engle. Published by Harcourt | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Reading is escape.
Forbidden now, freedom removed –
She will tell new stories!

Of course she must marry someday, but Tula is told by her grandfather that the highest bidder will claim her next year, that her mother and stepfather will gain enough money in 1828 to buy more slaves to save their Cuban sugar plantation from ruin, that the thirteen year old’s too-brief time with her late father’s books will end forever.

Sent to wait at the convent, Tula meets nuns who accept every child abandoned because their skin is darker, who save every book they can find, who allow her to read the silenced poet Heredia’s calls for equality.

She writes plays and allegories that hide freedom’s songs within folktales, hiding them in her brother’s room. She dreams with her best friends of marriage based on love. She is betrayed, and yet continues composing messages of hope.

As the abolition of slavery is discussed publicly in America’s north, silence reigns on the island of Cuba, enforced by the whip and imprisonment. But what prison bars can keep captive the words of truth?

This novel-in-verse by the author of Jazz Owls (my review) and With a Star in My Hand (my review) sprinkles the voices of Mama, the nuns, and others among Tula’s poems about dreams, love, and a better future for all. Based on the life of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-1873).

What are your powerful dreams?
**kmm

Book info: The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist / Margarita Engle. Harcourt, hardcover 2013, paperback 2015. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Almost time for A2Z Challenge – 26 book reviews in April!

logo of 2021 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge

Every year, I debate with myself about committing to the April A-to-Z Challenge – posting 26 alphabetic entries during April (every day except Sundays).

But after my recent posting doldrums (too much news, not enough sunshine), I knew that I could use my TENTH consecutive A2Z Challenge to refresh my writing routine and bring y’all wonderful books from my To Be Reviewed shelves.

If you want to participate by blogging A to Z about what you love, sign up on the Master List here by April 7 – or just keep on writing!

April #AtoZChallenge, here we come!
**kmm