Tag Archive | cooking

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.

U is being unhappy with TAKING UP SPACE, by Alyson Gerber (MG book review) #A2Z

book cover of Taking Up Space, by Alyson Gerber. Published by Scholastic Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Basketball is her favorite thing!
Her changing body isn’t
How to fix this??

Since she’s getting curvier and taller all at once, Sarah feels awkward on the basketball court for the first time ever. Coach says this is normal and that the 7th grader will get used to herself again – but how long will that take!?

As Coach discusses nutrition in health class, Sarah and so-cute Benny decide to be partners for the Chef Junior competition at their Massachusetts school – he cooks such wonderful things for his family!

When Dad’s away, Mom can forget that Sarah needs a good dinner every night. At least she remembered to sign the Chef Junior permission slip.

Mom hides candy from herself, eats only little bits of boring food, forgets to buy Sarah the healthy food she asks for – how will she get back to her best size for basketball?

Will Benny start to really like her as they practice cooking together?
Why can’t Mom remember to keep enough food at home?
When will Sarah feel like herself again on the court?

Big questions during a tumultuous junior high year for her whole friend group.

What advice from health class nutrition do you remember?
**kmm

Book info: Taking Up Space / Alyson Gerber. Scholastic Press, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

T is for Trix, family secrets & A CONSTELLATION OF ROSES, by Miranda Asebedo (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of A Constellation of Roses, by Miranda Asebedo. Published by Harper Teen | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Thieving is a gift,
all that Trix has now
since Mom has gone again.

Running away from that foster home wasn’t her best idea, but Trixie knows that if drug-addicted Mom is coming back, she’ll come to this cheap motel – exactly where her social worker finds the 17-year-old and takes her to relatives on her dad’s side, a family she never knew about.

Her aunt Mia bakes amazing pies, almost magical Lucky Lime, Never-Lonely Lemon – all the McCabe women have some kind of gift, according to her great-aunt. Eventually her very quiet teen cousin Ember will tell Trix about her gift, maybe.

What’s a streetwise teen with a gift for undetectable theft going to do in this tiny Kansas country town? Live with her aunt and graduate from high school – or go to prison! Okay… but Trix missed so much school that it’ll take two years to finish now!

She’s sketched since she could hold a stolen pencil, so art class is fine (artistic just like her late father, folks say), and some of the students are okay, like Jasper who helps with pie deliveries.

How did Jasper’s brother die last year?
Why does everyone in Rocksaw have a different story of how her dad died?
What future does her great-aunt see in Trix’s palm?

Putting down roots like the climbing roses at the McCabe house or blowing away with the drifters in the city – Trix thinks and thinks…

What paranormal gift would you choose, if you knew it was in control?
**kmm

Book info: A Constellation of Roses / Miranda Asebedo. Harper Teen, hardcover 2019, paperback 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

N is no, not again! Oh HONESTLY ELLIOTT! by Gillian McDunn (MG book review) #A2Z

book cover of Honestly Elliott, by Gillian McDunn. Published by Bloomsbury Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Some days at different houses,
so many assignments (just hide them),
not sporty, just his messy honest self…

Every kid in town goes to sixth grade in the same building for project-based learning and cool stuff together, except Elliott’s best friend who’s homeschooling across the country with his moms this year…sigh.

That leaves Elliott and his guinea pigs alone to deal with his divorced parents, his ADHD making his brain zone-out more often, and his lunch-buddies to excluding him from their year-end group project.

Well, brilliant Maribel can’t agree with her friends on what project to do, so it looks like she and Elliott are partners – with their semester grade on the line!

Their project must be something they can make themselves to sell, that’s related to their hometown, staying within a budget…hmmm.

Super-organized Maribel must avoid gluten in food or her digestive system goes haywire – how about gluten-free pies?

Easily distractible Elliott loves to experiment with cooking, but baking? His star chef idol says “cooking is about inspiration and baking is about control” (pg. 60) – can’t hurt to try.

In his mom’s cozy kitchen, the pair gets to work. Elliott’s attempt at gluten-free pie crust is disastrous, and Maribel’s wonderful strawberry filling is too expensive, so they search the cookbook library at Avery Local market for ideas.

As the weeks count down, the pressure builds up – have a successful project, get ready for his new step-brother to be born, stop ignoring The Incident, stop disappointing Dad about everything…

Honestly, Elliott is a guy you want to cheer for – and hope he can cope with all these changes!

What do you prefer – baking or cooking?
**kmm

Book info: Honestly Elliott / Gillian McDunn. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is for Japan, living and learning in HIMAWARI HOUSE, by Melody Becker (Graphic novel review) #A2Z

book cover of Himawari House, by Melody Becker. Published by First Second | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A gap year,
a new start,
away from family…far away.

Three young women move to Japan, living with people from other cultures in a Tokyo sharehouse and becoming good friends in this bilingual (sometimes trilingual) graphic novel.

Nao had moved to the US Midwest with her American father and Japanese mother when she and her brother were young, never quite fitting in there. Returning to Japan after high school graduation, she wants to reconnect with her roots and family here.

Tina came from Singapore to learn Japanese well enough to pass the university entrance exams here, close to home and also far away from her boisterous family for a while.

Hyejung left Korea because she was so very deeply unhappy with the treadmill of going to college to get a job to work till retirement; her parents didn’t approve, and they don’t communicate.

Japanese brothers Shinsan and Masaki anchor Himawari House, the elder suggesting festivals they can all attend together, and Masaki being generally moody (what is his problem?).

The girls work at low-skill jobs as they attend gogakuin to improve their Japanese, with not a few cultural mishaps along the way. Thank goodness they can all communicate in English at Himawari House!

Childhood memories are revived as Nao visits her mother’s family in the countryside where she played with her cousins, now also all grown up.

Will Tina and Hyejung pass their entrance exams?
Can Nao become fluent in Japanese during the short time she’s here?
Will Masaki ever come out of his shell?

A fun and thoughtful look at family, expectations, and friendship by the illustrator of the graphic novel version of George Takei’s memoir, They Called Us Enemies (recommendation coming soon).

If you could take a year off from your current life, where would you live?
**kmm

Book info: Himawari House / Harmony Becker. First Second, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Library book; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

F is Florida & friendship for ABBY, TRIED AND TRUE, through so many difficult life changes, by Donna Gephart (MG book review) #A2Z

book cover of Abby, Tried and True, by Donna Gephart. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Best friend moving away,
big brother so sick,
seventh grade ahead…sigh.

Honestly, shy Abby doesn’t know how she’ll get over her lifelong friend Cat moving from Florida all the way to Israel. She does know that she’ll write in the journal that Cat gave her, this summer when she’s turning twelve (Fudge is a very good pet turtle, but their conversations are very one-sided).

Her 16-year-old brother Paul will play Monopoly with her (when he’s not practicing basketball with his buddies), Mom Rachel will keep inviting Abby to make cooking videos with her and Paul (nope, too shy to get in front of the camera), and Mama Dee’s sweet treats from her bakery make everyone feel better (but not Abby, this time).

Hmmm… who’s this boy moving into Cat’s house? Maybe she can be brave and meet him… Conrad, whose mom is renting the house after her divorce. He’s in her grade, good at basketball and board games and listening.

Paul comes back from summer camp so sick. Oh no…. cancer! After the going-away party for his cancerous testicle (boys are so weird), he’ll have surgery and start chemo. That means he’ll miss lots of school; it doesn’t mean his friends should stay away.

Seventh grade begins, and Abby is glad that Conrad is there so she doesn’t have to walk home alone with her worries (will they celebrate the Jewish high holidays in the hospital or at home?).

Many difficult days ahead for Abby’s family – she’s really, really glad to have Conrad by her side… maybe more than glad.

Available in paperback this week – find Abby at your your local library or independent bookstore.

When have your friends supported you through tough times?
**kmm

Book info: Abby, Tried and True / Donna Gephart. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2021, paperback 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Take a chance to do this AGAIN, BUT BETTER? by Christine Riccio (YA book review)

paperback book cover of Again, But Better, by Christine Riccio. Wednesday Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Creative writing in London!
Not her parents’ plan –
Finally, what she wants…

Journaling, blogging – Shane wants to improve her writing, but her parents are laser-focused on their only child becoming a doctor. Thanks to the fake YU brochure she created, they think she’s in London for a pre-med semester abroad in 2011, so she has to keep up that charade.

She likes her roommates – Babe, whose dream is becoming president of Disney, and Sahra, serious pre-law with a sense of humor. They share a kitchen with theater-major Atticus and musician Pilot (“like the first episode of a show”). All are excited about their classes and internships and getting to travel all over Europe.

The very first weekend, she’s off to Rome with Babe, Sahra, and Pilot – staying together in a hostel, a marvel around every corner, almost losing her passport!

Is Pilot flirting with her? Shane’s no good at flirting, hasn’t dated much, her family keeps asking when she’ll bring a boyfriend when she goes home every weekend. But Pilot has a girlfriend back home…

When her parents discover what she’s really studying, everything will crash and burn, of course…

Fast forward several years, and Shane has the chance to rewrite the ending of that unforgettable semester abroad – magic?

Pilot is carried back, too – does he want to change the script?

Will either of them push the rewind button that erases their second chance?

Filled with references to music, television, and movies that the London friends all love (and the books that Shane insists they need to read), this debut novel considers the weight of family expectations and the costs of being true to yourself.

p.s. the paperback edition (with the pink cover) contains a bonus scene!

If you could study abroad, where would you go?
**kmm

Book info: Again, But Better / Christine Riccio. Wednesday Books, paperback 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

ALEXIS VS SUMMER VACATION – all work & no fun? by Sarah Jamila Stevenson & Veronica Agarwal (MG Graphic novel review)

book cover of Alexis vs Summer Vacation, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson; illustrated by Veronica Agarwal. Published by Avenue A Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

School’s out!
Time for summer fun!
Or not so fun…

Alexis is dreading this summer before high school with BFF Lara gone to adventure camp for six weeks, the others in their G&G gaming group traveling away with family… and she’s stuck here, babysitting her little brother and sister for free!

So many changes since her parents divorced recently that the 14-year-old isn’t sure about what she wants to do with her future anymore, likes guys and gals but can’t summon the courage to talk to the girl she has a crush on… sigh.

Mom gets them pool passes so finally they can hang out with other kids. Alexis sees some classmates there and discovers they’re all going to the same high school… even that bully Mack.

Jason works with his dad in their Japanese fusion food truck, and Luke is in lifeguard training, but they both get time off so Alexis introduces them to Goblins & Gauntlets, her favorite role-playing game.

If only Mack would quit picking on Jason, and Luke’s perfect big brother would quit singling him out during exercises, and Alexis would quit stalling and actually go talk to Hayley…

Can the friends level themselves up, as well as their G&G characters?
Will Lara still be her BFF after all summer away?
What if Hayley won’t even talk to Alexis?

This graphic novel takes us through Alexis’ eventful/boring summer as she discovers more about herself with the help of new friends and her much-loved G&G game.

What’s your favorite game to play with friends?
**kmm

Book info: Alexis vs Summer Vacation / Sarah Jamila Stevenson; illustrated by Veronica Agarwal. Avenue A Books, 2019. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

THE JASMINE PROJECT – everyone’s finding her the perfect guy (secretly), by Meredith Ireland (YA book review)

book cover of The Jasmine Project, by Meredith Ireland. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

He dumped her?!
Future plans now murky,
her family wants to fix it… look out!

Jasmine had everything arranged, counting down to graduation, moving into an apartment with her longtime boyfriend Paul, starting nursing school (it’s a secure career… sigh).

Her family and enormous network of cousins and aunts know that Paul is cheating on her before the Korean adoptee does (not savvy about social media at all).

To help Jasmine get over Paul, her Filipino-white family decides to bring the best young bachelors in central Florida to her graduation party (big sister Cari’s podcast about The Bachelor is really popular).

All a secret from Jasmine, including the bets that Davey takes on which guy she’ll bring to the family Fourth of July party! (her adopted Dominican younger brother will surely grow up to be a bookie…)

Maybe it will be Justin, her junior high pal back from four years in Texas (so cute, so grown up).

Or Eugene, son of famous restaurant chefs (Jasmine dreams of cooking, not nursing).

Perhaps Aaron, the minor league pitcher from Nashville (that accent, those manners).

Everyone involved knows the rules, except Jasmine of course, but when some bachelors go rogue and Paul contacts her mid-summer (he never did treat her right), who knows what will happen by July!

Funniest inter-generational group texts ever punctuate this story of Jasmine discovering who she really is and what she wants for her own future.

Grab this debut novel at your local library or independent bookstore to find out who Jasmine chooses.

What’s your best “we met at a party” story?
**kmm

Book info: The Jasmine Project / Meredith Ireland. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

SMALL TOWN HEARTS, don’t fall for a summer boy! by Lillie Vale (book review)

book cover of Small Town Hearts, by Lillie Vale. Published by Swoon Reads | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Future plans – check
Summer to enjoy – check
Romantic complications – ohhhh.

Babe is content to enjoy the summer after graduation, living in the lighthouse and managing Busy’s coffeehouse as tourist season in their little Maine coastal town begins.

Even knowing that her two best friends will leave for college is okay (soon she’ll tell them she’s staying at Busy’s… soon) – until Penny dumps Chad who decides to kiss Babe, then Penny finds out and takes Chad back, freezing her out of their lifetime friendship!

Add to that Babe’s ex-girlfriend Elodie (still not out) back from college and the almost-college guy Levi (already a famous artist!) who’s renting Mom’s house while she’s working away, both here for the summer art residency (small, small world in this small, small town).

Nice to show Levi around, watch him sketch and learn to appreciate life at the shore and her baking skills (always experimenting for the coffeehouse)… and her.

But when the beach picnics and blueberry picking and the residency are over, he’ll leave for art college (so say his parents and agent), and Babe is going to stay here, baking and managing Busy’s.

Summer ends with the artists’ exhibition and the town’s sandcastle building contest – what else will end?

“Never fall for a summer boy” – local wisdom is rarely wrong, but maybe this time?

This debut novel softly celebrates becoming yourself and being yourself in the face of others’ expectations.

What’s your favorite summer out-of-town memory?
**kmm

Book info: Small Town Hearts / Lillie Vale. Swoon Reads, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.