Tag Archive | habits

Like all EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS, she must fly! by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (book review)

book cover of Extraordinary Birds, by Sandy Stark-McGinnis. Published by Bloomsbury Kids | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sure that she is truly a bird and that wings will soon burst out from the scars on her back, 11-year-old December is placed in yet another foster home, leaving everything behind except her secret journal.

She does find Eleanor nicer than most foster parents and is intrigued by her work rehabilitating injured birds (but not the taxidermy hobby…ew).

At her new school, she’s welcomed by Cheryllynn who loves the brightest dresses and snobby Jenny who says that’s really Charlie.

If December climbs a high enough tree, will she be able to fly away from unhappy memories?

Can she really help Eleanor teach a wounded hawk to fly free again?

Will Eleanor give up on December like everyone else has?

Her vast knowledge of birds hasn’t prepared December very well for dealing with humans, but Eleanor and Cheryllynn seem better than most people.

Who has given you hope when storms kept you from soaring?

Book info: Extraordinary Birds / Sandy Stark McGinnis. Bloomsbury Kids, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Foster home safe for HOME GIRL Naomi? by Alex Wheatle (YA book review)

book cover of Home Girl, by Alex Wheatle. Published by Black Sheep/Akashic Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Not half-bad foster family, for once,
iccle bro and sis looking up to her –
why are they so nice?

After Mum died, Naomi took care of alcoholic Dad for years. Now the UK foster care system thinks the 14-year-old needs watching over…

Naomi’s hostility to foster families quickly exhausts her social worker’s options, and the white teen is placed temporarily with a black family.

Colleen and Tony are nice enough, their kids like Naomi, too – but Tony’s parents aren’t keen on a white girl taking space where a black foster kid could be safe.

Alternative school kids are quick with their fists and loud with slangy curses. The black girls there aren’t liking Naomi’s new cornrow braids…

When Colleen discovers Naomi’s love of urban dance, she arranges lessons at a real studio! Now isn’t the time for social services to place her with a suburban white family.

Just published in the US by Black Sheep/Akashic, Home Girl is the latest in Wheatle’s YA books set in working class British towns, examining personal identity, racial relations, and finding one’s place in the world.

When do we become ‘grown up enough’ to take on all of life’s responsibilities?

Book info: Home Girl / Alex Wheatle. Black Sheep/Akashic Books, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Fast, fat, funny, real – THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SWEETIE for him, by Sandhya Menon (YA book review)

book cover of There's Something About Sweetie, by Sandhya Menon. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Parent-arranged dates,
hokey or helpful?
Hopefully heal his heartbreak.

Ashish needs to get over his breakup (first time he’s ever been dumped) and get back his basketball groove, and his Indian-American parents think setting him up with a nice Desi girl will help?

Sweetie wants her mom to realize that losing weight won’t make the high school junior happier (her friends love her right now) or run any faster (no one can beat her on the track), but how? Time for ‘Project Sassy Sweetie’ and getting out of her comfort zone!

Four very specific dates (and a behavior contract – Pappa is always a businessman) – Ashish’s Ma is sure that Sweetie is the perfect girl for him, but his love-and-leave reputation in the close-knit Bay area Desi community makes Sweetie’s mother say no to the idea.

But Sweetie says yes (Project Sassy Sweetie!), so off they go, to the temple and the Holi festival and his eccentric aunt’s place, each time enjoying one another’s company more.

Surely, on their fourth date for Sweetie’s birthday party, Amma will see this indeed was a good idea…
Surely, Ashish’s white ex-girlfriend will completely fade from his memory…

Told in alternating chapters, this fun (but not frivolous) romantic story is a May 2019 companion to When Dimple Met Rishi (Ashish’s perfect big brother) – you can enjoy this book without reading the other (my no-spoiler recommendation here), but make yourself happier by reading both!

What ingrained family opinion have you overcome for the better?

Book info: There’s Something About Sweetie / Sandhya Menon. Simon Pulse, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Peanut, by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe (book review) – allergy joke gone wrong

book cover of Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe, published by Random HouseTransferring into a new high school,
Everyone else has been here forever.
How can someone get noticed in such a crowd?

Peanut allergies are certainly no laughing matter, but one casual conversation in a fast-food place sets in motion Sadie’s whole new persona to make her unusual enough to stand out at Plainfield Community High School.

Once she makes new friends, she’d like to drop her fake allergy, but doesn’t have the courage to do it. And no way is she telling her mom about all this. How long can Sadie keep up her double life?

If you can’t find Peanut  at your local library, ask them to order it. Or try an independent bookstore which may have gotten copies on the graphic novel’s December publication day.

So, how far would you go to be noticed by “the right people” at your school or workplace?

Book Info: Peanut / Ayun Halliday, illustrated by Paul Hoppe. Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books), 2012. [author’s website]  [illustrator’s website]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: So not fair, having to move during high school! Sadie is sure everyone at PCHS has known each other forever and won’t have time for new friends. When she decides to stand out by pretending that she has a severe allergy to peanuts, there’s no turning back.

The med-alert bracelet ordered in secret is on for school, off at home. Her “about me” essay for homeroom details the life-threatening incident that just a single peanut caused. The school nurse is understandably miffed when she doesn’t have the proper paperwork about her medical condition, but does let Sadie keep the emergency epi-pen in her backpack instead of the office – which is good, since Sadie really doesn’t have the prescription-only device.

She does make friends in Plainfield after all, like Lou, who would also like to cancel PE forever, and Zoo, the cute guy who’s decided that technology doesn’t make life better and forswears computers and cellphones. Zoo’s communications are intricate origami notes, which he delivers to friends’ homes by bike, between trips to the library to consult printed reference books for homework (done with pen and paper, of course). Finding Zoo’s notes in her locker makes Sadie’s day special.

So, Zoo and Sadie are becoming more-than-friends. Why can’t she just come clean about not really being allergic to peanuts? How can he come to her house when Zoo might say something that makes Mom suspicious about all of Sadie’s online research about epi-pens and allergies? Why did she decide on such a radical way to stand out at her new school?

Big bake sale, big muffins, big trouble! What happens next? Read Peanut to find out! Hoppe uses sparing amounts of red to accent his black and white drawings of the Plainfield Community High School crowd as Halliday’s story of trying-too-hard to fit in follows Sadie through her first semester in a new town. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

January progress on TBR2012 Challenge (reflective) – read lots, recommended more

Faced with overflowing shelves of 2012-dated ARCs (advance reader copies) and published books as the old year wound down, I leaped at the TBR Challenge posted by Evie on her Bookish blog (I’m #251). So, in January, I’ve re-read and written recommendations on BooksYALove (and am posting the brief reviews for several titles on www.abookandahug.com) for these 2012 books:Fantasy:
Watersmeet,  by Ellen Jensen Abbott

Historical fiction:
A Hundred Flowers,  by Gail Tsukiyama

Every Other Day, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Unnaturalists,  by Tiffany Trent

Realistic fiction – Young Adult:
The Butterfly Clues,  by Kate Ellison
The Difference Between You and Me,  by Madeleine George
Fish in the Sky,  by Fridrik Erlings
Moonglass,  by Jessi Kirby
Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy,  by Bil Wright
What Happens Next,  by Colleen Clayton

Adaptation,  by Malinda Lo
Year Zero, by Rob Reid

As you’re hunting up these great books, remember to check with your local library and independent bookstore, since all these titles have been published already. Keeping your book-dollars close to home is good sense and good business, as these singing booksellers remind us!

Yes, I’m making progress on my To-Be-Read stack of new books and 2013 ARCs, while also writing up my To-Be-Recommended books from 2012 (and some from 2011!). Let’s see what February brings…

What Happens Next, by Colleen Clayton (fiction) – getting past rape, finding redemption

book cover of What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton published by Poppy Books

Ski trip!
Fresh snow, new guys, curfew broken.
Now Sid is broken, too.

But she won’t let anyone help her past the attack, won’t even tell anyone what happened. The coping mechanisms that she’s chosen aren’t helping her cope too well either.

What can a slacker like Corey teach this former honor student about trust or friendship or caring what happens…

Post this info where people can find it: National Sexual Assault Hotline | 1.800.656.HOPE | Free. Confidential. 24/7. or search for a local crisis center at http://centers.rainn.org/

Grab this debut novel today at your local library or independent bookstore and cheer for Sid as she works past her outrage to a better future. The author gives us Sid’s playlist, too – you can tell a lot about someone by the music they choose.

Book info: What Happens Next / Colleen Clayton. Poppy/Little Brown, 2012. [author’s website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Meeting cool college guy Dax was the best thing about the high school ski trip for Cassidy, until he convinced her to sneak out after curfew to a night she cannot remember.

Back home, Sid’s grades slide, her single-parent mom can’t figure out what’s wrong, her friends eventually give up trying to jolly her back to normal. Sid drops her advanced classes and drifts into “A/V Club” instead. Everyone knows that A/V Club is just Corey-the-Stoner hanging out in the DVD storage room until someone needs a video, so he won’t try to break through Sid’s new protective shell to help her get over things.
Except that he manages to say things that make her think, nudge her to try feeling good about herself again by exercising, make her wonder why she can’t remember anything about being with Dax – and he has no clue that he’s doing it. Nice that he always smells like the bakery where he works before school, that he brings new pastries for her to taste-test, that he’ll just listen if she ever wants to talk.
Why do they call him Stoner when she’s never seen him act druggie?
Could Sid ever be more than friends with Corey?
Will she ever find the key to the locked door of that blank ski trip night?
The author’s time spent working with teens in bad situations really shines through in this debut novel, as readers root for Sid to break through the barricades that her mind put up and uncover what happened with Dax so she can heal herself.

 (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Skinny, by Donna Cooner (fiction) – fat girl seeks true self, true friends

book cover of Skinny by Donna Cooner published by Point

Three hundred pounds and gaining.
Can’t fit in the desks at school.
Can’t find her place in her new blended family.
Can’t filter out the mocking voice in her head

Ever feels so alone in her Texas high school, but she’s one of thousands of obese teens in the US today.

To save her health, she must lose lots of weight in a carefully controlled way. Bariatric surgery is a “last resort” for weight loss, but studies show its effectiveness for older teens, with lots of monitoring and family support.

To save her sanity, she must overcome the inner voice that derides everything she tries to accomplish, must sing out over Skinny’s constant snide remarks, must recognize her true friends.

Grab this compelling book at your local library or independent bookstore today.
How much would you risk to find yourself again?

Book info: Skinny / Donna Cooner. Point, 2012.  [author’s website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Among the size-zero cheerleaders and wannabe goths at Huntsville High, Ever stands out. As a 302-pound freshman girl, she really stands out. And Skinny, the voice in her head, reminds her constantly of how fat and unlovable she is, even when Ever decides on weight-loss surgery to save her health.
Of course, before her mom died, Ever was just normal, with friends and hopes and dreams and songs. But as she insulates herself against sorrow with public fasts and immense private feasts, she becomes even more isolated from her dad, sister, stepmom, and stepsister. The embarrassment at school never seems to end, and Skinny heaps on abusive words that no one else can hear.
Thank goodness her best buddy Rat sticks with her, especially during bariatric surgery in May to reduce her stomach capacity. Now, she can eat only a tablespoon at a time or her new stomach will send her to the bathroom in rebellion. By August, she’s lost 76 pounds, and the snooty girls who used to mock her decide she’s an ideal back-to-school makeover project. Yet Skinny keeps trying to undermine her success, saying that her dreams of singing in the school musical or dating cute Jackson are impossible.
Can Ever truly get herself to a healthy weight, to a healthy relationship with herself and her family? Will she wind up being just the “chunky girl” at school after all this? Can she sing loudly enough to drown out Skinny’s voice?
As Ever and Rat track her mood, weight loss, and theme song for each week following her surgery, readers will root for the teen to create a soundtrack for her new life that can overcome Skinny’s lies. (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Pick-Up Game (book review) – street basketball, city life, real life

book cover of Pickup Game edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R Smith Jr published by CandlewickOur best five players against your best five,
No blood, no foul,
You leaving? Who else wants to play?

Street basketball takes smarts as well as skills, as the guys on your team right now might be on the other team before the hour is out. Sometimes three-pointers will win it all, other times you have to finesse the game.

If you can’t be at The Cage in person, the best streetball games you’ll ever experience are in Pick-Up Game.  These writers love the game, know the people watching, take us to the asphalt heat of the court where we can feel the chainlink between our fingers as we watch the players and the ball rush through the summer swelter, hour by hour.

The first story was completed by Walter Dean Myers, then Bruce Brooks wrote his, and so on down the line. So the players and spectators wander in and out of different stories, sometimes starring, sometimes watching, always wondering how everything is going to turn out. Charles R. Smith Jr. uses his photographs of The Cage and his rhythmic, driving poetry to keep the flow going from story to story.

Get this great collection today in hardcover at your local library or independent bookstore; it’s scheduled for paperback release in mid-October 2012.

Book info: Pick-up Game: A Full Day of Full Court / edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr. Candlewick Press, 2011.  [Marc Aronson’s website]   [Charles R. Smith Jr.’s website]   [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk:  The Cage in New York City – home of the best pick-up basketball games ever, where street basketball means “no blood, no foul.” Many viewpoints, many stories from the players and the watchers and the wannabes on this hot July day.

It starts early with a “Cage Run” as Boo and Fish hit the court to face that Waco guy who’s cooler than ice and twice as scary. The day heats up as players leave and enter the pick-up games, like hotshot ESPN who’s always showing off in case any college scouts are watching and “Mira Mira” who’s fast even if he’s shorter than most.

Outside the Cage’s chainlink wall, some watchers want in the game – like Ruben, who hates being called Kid,  who knows that “Practice Don’t Make Perfect” only playing will. That guy with the video camera is making the documentary that will get him into NYU film school -“He’s Gotta Have It” – the heart of the players, the meaning of the game.

The games get hotter as quality players show up, turning into a “Head Game” as ‘Nique is the only girl on the court and blasts past ESPN, dishes passes to Waco. Do the legends of street ball watch from the bench in the back? Will the TV crew suddenly arriving really shut down the game for some public-service announcement filming or will they use real players in “The Shoot”?

A whole day in The Cage, with so many ways to see the game, to be the game, in this great collective work by top fiction writers who love basketball and its fans and its place in the heart of New York City. Short stories by Walter Dean Myers, Bruce Brooks, Willie Perdomo, Sharon G. Flake, Robert Burleigh, Rita Williams-Garcia, Joseph Bruchac, Adam Rapp, Robert Lipsyte, and Marc Aronson are fittingly connected by poems and photographs of The Cage by Charles R. Smith Jr.  (One of 5,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

If BooksYALove started today… (reflective) – blogging lessons learned in a year

old catalog drawing of manual typewriter

not my typewriter

Today, the 2012 WordCount Blogathon theme asks us to consider what we’d do differently with our blogs: “If I started blogging today I would….”

Hmmm… I’d compare WordPress and Blogger more closely before deciding which one to use. I started BooksYALove just hours before the 2011 Blogathon began, so I went with Blogger where I already had a personal blog for an online technology update course and it was a snap to add another blog.

From reading other bloggers’ experiences with plugins, going to self-hosted blog platform, etc., it sounds like WordPress has an edge over Blogger once it’s time to take off the blogging-training-wheels. But I have gotten used to Blogger’s interface (even when it changed right in the middle of a blog challenge for me) and really like the theme colors and layout that I selected, so I’m staying with Blogger for now.

I wish I’d had enough time and confidence to register my domain name from day one so that all my outreach, publicity, and business cards had pointed to that web address from the very start. I probably will go self-hosted soon to give me more control over my own writings, since BooksYALove is meant to be a searchable archive of great books for young adult book fans.

Some things that I wouldn’t change: I was immensely fortunate in finding my first choice of blog name available; the “YA” in the middle can mean “young adult” which is the book category that I cover or “ya” like the casual “you” since I’m writing recommendations directly to young adult book readers (rather than to librarians or those who purchase books for others).  And every book has to be one that a significant group of readers will love – I don’t review every YA book that I read – so only the books that would rank 4-5 stars get the nod for BooksYALove.

During my first month of blogging in May 2011, I settled on a blog format that suited my writing style, taking some of my YA recommendations posted on Barb Langridge’s www.abookandahug.com website and adding commentary with relevant subject links. Since I hate reading reviews that give away the ending or significant plot twists, I vowed to never do that to my readers – so, no spoilers, ever!

Longtime followers/subscribers have probably noticed some stylistic changes on BooksYALove in recent weeks, as I adjusted font sizes for better readability, added a new logo and blog background (courtesy of my talented daughter, the graphic designer), and started some easy-click book lists in tabs at the top of the page.

And I’ll continue to participate each May in WordCount Blogathons, where I’ve found community (some of us posted in the Blogathon GoogleGroup for an entire year, not just the month of May!), advice, support, and the spark that set me off on this blogging adventure in the first place. Thanks, Michelle & the whole Blogathon crew!

(clipart of antique typewriter courtesy of Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida)

Getting lost in the story (reflective) – why reading can make us better people

young man sitting on top of bookshelves reading a book

You’ve probably heard readers say things like “Reading that book was like being in that world myself” or

“I was so wrapped up in the story that I lost track of time” or

“That’s the last book in the series?
I want to know more about those characters!”

In the very best sort of books, we lose sight of ourselves, our surroundings, our own troubles, as we immerse ourselves in someone else’s world and struggles and victories. It can be a realistic book or the highest fantasy, a short story or a tome as thick as your leg – if the story and characters feel real to us, then we are transported away from our own existence without moving at all.

A recent research study also showed that reading a compelling story can also improve our own behavior and attitudes, even after our reading is done! “Feeling the emotions, thoughts, beliefs and internal responses of one of the characters as if they were their own,” also known as “experience-taking” was studied by Ohio State University researchers in several reading experiments with college students.

OSU assistant professor Lisa Libby noted the difference between  experience-taking and perspective-taking, which is more like looking through a window at someone else’s situation. “Experience-taking is much more immersive — you’ve replaced yourself with the other,” she said. With the right story, readers don’t feel like they are manipulated into being inside the character’s head. “Experience-taking can be very powerful because people don’t even realize it is happening to them. It is an unconscious process,” Libby said.

As you choose to read books with characters who are different from you, you’re giving yourself more ways become a more empathic person, more understanding of differences, more able to see other viewpoints than your own.

And what about reading books filled with people much like you? Then you have opportunities to “try on” their reactions to situations you may not have faced, to take their experiences and learn from them – without having to live through the troubles, trials, and joys yourself.

Here’s to “getting lost in a good book” and to finding our better selves along the way!

Ohio State University (2012, May 7). ‘Losing yourself’ in a fictional character can affect your real life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 19, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/05/120507131948.htm

Photo of man sitting on bookshelves reading a book: (c) Microsoft Office clipart.