Tag Archive | Canada

Will she SHINE as K-pop star? by Jessica Jung (book review)

book cover of Shine, by Jessica Jung. Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Not Korean enough in Seoul,
not American enough in New York City –
does she have enough to make it as a star?

Her family’s support of Rachel’s quest to become a K-pop performer is both a comfort and a cage.

Umma, Appa, and her little sister left behind their lives in New York City six years ago when they moved to Seoul so she could train with DB Studios.

But the 17 year old must live at home instead at DB’s trainee house, attending school full-time, then cramming all rehearsals and lessons into the weekends…and doing her homework.

No boys, no social media, weekly weigh-ins – competition is fierce as DB plans to announce its new girl group soon.

Amid mounting pressures to excel in singing, dancing, interviewing skills, and poise, snooty heiress Mina leads her crew in harassing Rachel as a camera-shy American princess.

Rachel’s chance encounter with Jason Lee, internationally famous Korean-Canadian star of DB’s hit boy group, leads to an opportunity to perform with him – can she beat out Mina?

Romantic relationships are forbidden by DB Studios – is her friendship with Jason okay?

One poor decision makes Rachel’s mother furious and disappointed – will the huge disruption of her family’s lives be for nothing?

Written by former K-pop star Jessica Jung, this debut novel takes us behind the glitz of costumes, choreography, and luxury travel to the grind, sweat, and tears of the K-pop studios’ trainee system.

Read chapter one here, courtesy of the publisher, to meet Rachel, Mina, and the DB trainees striving for the chance to Shine on the international music scene.

How far would you travel to pursue your dream?
**kmm

Book info: Shine / Jessica Jung. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through Edelweiss.

Statistics show OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, right? by Susin Nielsen (book review)

book cover of Optimists Die First, by Susin Nielsen. Published by Tundra Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sister’s death wasn’t her fault-
Everyone says so,
but she can’t accept that…

Everyday life in Vancouver is filled with deadly risks, so 16-year-old Petula takes every precaution now (but nothing can bring back her little sister or her best friend).

The new guy with the prosthetic arm witnesses her panic attack in class and is in her youth art therapy class and thinks Petula is nice (but doesn’t know how Maxine died).

Ack! Petula and Jacob have to do a project together for English?! His movie-making skills and her recently abandoned crafting supplies plus her mom’s rescue cats should be perfect (but Dad doesn’t agree about having so many cats, not one bit).

As they work together, Jacob reveals his struggles with surviving the crash that killed his best friends back in Toronto, Petula begins to look forward to spending time with him, and life becomes brighter for both of them (but hopefully kissing is less germ-filled than she thought).

When the art therapy class rebels against their teacher’s little-kid ideas, she challenges them to find creative ways to face their issues – parental rejection, grief, survivor’s guilt, addictive behaviors – and they begin working together (but don’t call them friends quite yet).

But when one secret comes to light, Petula’s new happiness and the art therapy group’s progress are all threatened.

From the author of We Are All Made of Molecules (recommended here).

How do you know when it’s time to let old problems go?
**kmm

Book info: Optimists Die First / Susin Nielsen. Tundra Books, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Oh, such joy! ONCE UPON AN EID, edited by S.K. Ali & Aisha Saeed (book review)

book cover of Once Upon an Eid, edited by S.K. Ali & Aisha Saeed. Published by Amulet Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Watching for the new moon to appear,
Special foods enjoyed for generations,
Gifts and love and faith and joy!

Muslims observe the two Eid holidays with celebratory traditions as varied as the world is wide.

New clothes can be a hallmark of Eid – even as cousins Hawa and Fanta disagree about which style of dress is “Perfect” during the African community’s Eid parties in New York City or Makayla worries that friends will make fun of her new-ish abaya from the second-hand store in “Creative Fixes.”

Gifts” make Eid special for Idrees who begins understanding that giving is more important than getting, and a young man saving up for a new bike is repeatedly reminded by his grandmother that his name “Kareem means ‘generous’. “

The same foods every year are family traditions, so when big sister is busy, it’s just “Yusuf and the Big Brownie Mishap”, and Nadia quietly goes to the bakery for their favorite pastries while Mama sleeps after chemo in “Don’ut Break Tradition.”

Despair lifts when a kind Greek villager helps Bassem “Searching for Blue” bring the taste of Eid love to his refugee camp, and a grieving father helps his daughter try to make the “Taste” of Mama’s special lontong, always cooked by heart in their Malaysian apartment instead of written down.

Going high above the City of Boundless Light, “Seraj Captures the Moon” marking the end of Ramadan in a graphic novel illustrated by the same artist who sketched the chapter headings and book cover showing young people preparing for Eid from Canada to the US to Australia.

Fifteen Muslim authors bring us stories that reflect the wide range of community and family traditions for celebrating Eid – all with food, all with love, all with renewed hope.

What says home and hope to you?
**kmm

Book info: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices / edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed; illustrated by Sara Alfageeh. Amulet Books, 2020. [S. K. site] [Aisha site] [Sara site] [publisher site] Personal copy; video and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

STEPPING STONES, from city to farm life – graphic novel by Lucy Knisley (book review)

book cover of Stepping Stones, by Lucy Knisley. Published by RH Graphic | recommended on BooksYALove.com

From bustling city to quiet farm,
from only child to a trio of girls,
chores, chickens, snakes? (please, no snakes!)

Jen’s mom and her boyfriend are the ones who dreamed of living on a farm and selling their produce at the summer market, not Jen who would rather spend summer with Dad (who’s too busy in the city to talk on the phone).

The pre-teen gets flustered trying to make change at their market stand, is annoyed with chicken-keeping chores (twice. every. day), enjoys time alone in the hayloft to sketch, read comics, and play with the barn kitties.

Then Walter’s daughters come to Peapod Farm for the summer – younger Reese is okay, but same-age Andy is a smartypants, pointing out Jen’s problems with math and changing things at their market stand.

Can Mom and Walter make Peapod Farm a success?
How can Jen’s sketching talent compete with Andy’s intelligence and Reese’s utter cuteness?
Will the nearly-sisters ever get along?

Jen’s summer on the farm begins getting better, one step at a time, in this graphic novel sprouting from Knisley’s own experiences growing up. Find this first book in the Peapod Farm series at your local public library or indie bookstore.

What “oh no!” experience turned into “okay” for you?
**kmm

Book info: Stepping Stones (Peapod Farm, book 1) / Lucy Knisley; colored by Whitney Cogar. RH Graphic, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Can CHICKEN GIRL ever be herself again? #yalit by Heather Smith (book review)

book cover of Chicken Girl, by Heather Smith. Published by Penguin Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.com

When her Rosie the Riveter tribute photo is altered and mocked online, 1940s culture fan Poppy withdraws from her friends and family.

The Canadian teen’s twin brother is happily out, her roller derby team will just have to do without her.

At least she’s hidden from the world as she wears a chicken suit to advertise for a local restaurant.

Introduced to a group of homeless-by-choice friends by a lively little girl, Poppy looks forward to evenings with them under the bridge – Thumper with his Bible, Lewis saving money for transition surgery, Buck photographing absolutely everything.

Poppy’s now becomes bearable, but what of the future?
Will social services take little Miracle from her struggling mom?
Is her twin Cam really happy at his new summer job?

Chicken Girl is puns and poses, exploration and misunderstanding, community and much more. Read an excerpt here for free, courtesy of the publisher.

Who’s in your friend-family?
**kmm

Book info: Chicken Girl / Heather Smith. Penguin Teen, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Her life torn apart when THE PROPHET CALLS, by Melanie Sumrow (YA book review)

book cover of The Prophet Calls, by Melanie Sumrow. Published by Yellow Jacket/Bonnier | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A house full of children,
being second or twelfth wife…
not her dream, not her future!

Gentry’s mother is Father’s second wife, her love of music blooming in her children – an unhealthy practice from the outside say the other wives who also sniff that food is wasted on her sister Amy because the Prophet will never allow a disabled person to be a wife.

If Gentry could only play the violin instead of worrying about outsiders attacking the polygamist compound or becoming a wife as a young teen or hearing the Prophet calling out punishments…

When do you say that your elders don’t know what’s best?
**kmm

Book info: The Prophet Calls / Melanie Sumrow. Yellow Jacket/ Bonnier Publishing USA, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Playing the violin is Gentry’s dream, not becoming a wife and mother, but how far will the young teen go to make music in defiance of their polygamist cult’s Prophet?

Bad luck for Gentry that her 13th birthday comes just as the Prophet declares in a phone call from prison that no women may leave the Watchful compound, days before she and Tanner are due to play at the folk music festival in Santa Fe!

Father’s other wives have long said that her Mother’s love for music is too worldly, but surely Gentry’s talent is a blessing…

Can Tanner find a way for them to perform at the festival?
Can Gentry stay clear of the Prophet’s eldest nephew and his grabby hands?
Can she keep little Amy safe from those who can’t see past her disabilities?

Every call from the Prophet brings new fears and restrictions as he decides what is taught at their school, which devout men get to marry more wives, and who is banished to the outside where crazy people think men walked on the moon.

And she sings… Freedom’s Just Another Word, by Carolyn Stellings (book review)

book cover of Freedom's Just Another Word, by Caroline Stellings. Published by Second Story Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Famous musicians!
Her chance to perform…
and get out of town for good.

Easy doesn’t fit in – a half-Black girl in this Canadian prairie city, raised on zydeco music and working in her dad’s garage.

Then Janis Joplin‘s tour train stops nearby, and Easy’s future path becomes clear… to a certain extent of uncertainty.

Questions, secrets, and such a 1970 roadtrip!

How far have you gone to see someone perform?
**kmm

Book info: Freedom’s Just Another Word / Caroline Stellings. Second Story Press, 2016. [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Easy absolutely must find a way to get from Saskatoon to Texas so she can sing with Janis Joplin!

The Canadian prairie is as far from the segregated South as her black parents could get after the war, then a scandalous affair produced biracial Louisiana who’s done with high school and past ready to get out of town.

Between 1970 concerts, Janis Joplin’s train will stop here, and Easy is determined to sing the blues for her idol.

Through her drunken haze, Joplin recognizes Easy’s talent and invites her to Texas so they can sing together!

Hmmm…on the way to Austin, Easy can return some WWII medals to the mother of the man who was injured saving her father’s life at Pearl Harbor…

A road trip with two nuns, a stopover on Route 66, secrets whispered, secrets unleashed.

Ship capsizing! Can she survive the Big Water? by Andrea Curtis (book review)

book cover of Big Water, by Andrea Curtis, published by Orca Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Storm! Shipwreck!
Are they the only survivors?
Scan for land, for rescue!

Hoping to lose herself in Sault Ste Marie, away from her parents never-ending grief, away from memories of her late twin brother, Christina thought the voyage across gigantic Georgian Bay would be summer-smooth like the last time.

Daniel hopes that he’ll be able to escape the illegal schemes that his uncle tricked him into, his heart as troubled as the storm-roiled lake waters.

No chaperones, no supplies, just their own wits and strength will get these young people to safety!

The dangerously overloaded Asia remains at the bottom of the “sixth Great Lake” and only a few bodies were recovered in the days following the 1882 disaster.

What new survival skills are on your list to learn in 2019?
**kmm

Book info: Big Water / Andrea Curtis. Orca Book Publishers, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Running away from her parents’ unrelenting grief over the death of her twin brother, 17-year-old Christina is shipwrecked after a Great Lakes steamer capsizes and must work with a mysterious young man if they hope to survive.

Her parents mourn anew every time they see her instead of Jonathan, but she won’t let them pack her off to be a nursemaid or country schoolmarm.

An overheard argument on the Asia between two men – a family quarrel or criminal betrayal?

The massively overloaded steamship cannot survive this storm – how can Christina swim to a lifeboat in these heavy skirts?

She and Daniel of the argument struggle to find other survivors, a safe place to land – are any nearby islands inhabited?

Based on the true story of an 1882 shipwreck in huge Georgian Bay on Lake Huron where only two teenagers survived, Christina and Daniel’s harrowing adventures on the Big Water reveal how strong they really are.

R = Riot School – we won’t let it be closed! by Robert Rayner (book review)

book cover of Riot School by Robert Rayner, published by Lorimer | recommended on BooksYALove.comTrying to close our small town’s school?
Why should we spend hours on a bus to another school?
Why won’t adults listen to what the students have to say?

Bilan, Arn, Lettie, Grant, and Barlow each have their own reasons for wanting St. Isaac’s School to stay open.

But the Gang of Five can’t agree on what to do – a sit-in? messages to the media? more “extreme” actions?

Sidestreets is one of Canadian publisher Lorimer’s quick-read series with diverse characters and relatable situations and current topics like immigration and sexual identity in small towns and big cities.

How to decide which injustice to fight against?
**kmm

Book info: Riot School (Sidestreets series) / Robert Rayner. Lorimer, 2017. [author bio] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

She can step into The Painting? by Charis Cotter (book review)

book cover of The Painting by Charis Cotter, published by Tundra Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comThat painting is so real,
she can smell the salt air
and step into its lighthouse?!?

The girl who calls her sister, the girl’s mother who cannot see Annie… or can she?

This lighthouse on a rocky Newfoundland cliff may hold more than a lonely girl and her worries – but how can Annie of today also be back in the past?

You can listen to the author read the opening of this spooky tale at her website here.

Would you believe a specter who shared secrets with you?
**kmm

Book info: The Painting / Charis Cotter. Tundra Books, 2017.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When Annie suddenly can step into a painting after her mother’s car wreck, the girl in its lighthouse calls her ‘sister’ and insists that their artist mother must never show those paintings with hidden meanings.

Two sisters, separated by death. Claire knows it was her fault.
One lighthouse, one artist, one almost-ghost. Annie isn’t sure why Maisie can almost see her.

Why did Annie’s own mother say she’d never, ever return to Newfoundland?
What if she never comes out of the coma?
Who is Claire of the lighthouse?

Storms battering the Newfoundland coast, cold wind blowing through Claire’s lonely life, Toronto hospital room lights that never sleep – perhaps artistic Annie has fallen down the rabbit hole from the girls’ beloved Alice in Wonderland. A two-voices tale of now and then, connections that blink and fade like the lighthouse’s rotating beam, warning of dangerous currents and cliffs.