Tag Archive | mothers

The death of the QUEEN OF THE TILES was no accident?! by Hanna Alkaf (YA book review)

book cover of Queen of the Tiles, by Hanna Alkaf. Published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Same tournament,
same competitors,
who wished her dead?

Maybe making her re-entry into the cutthroat world of teen Scrabble competition at this venue was a mistake. But after a lonely year, coming to the last place that Najwa saw her best friend Trina alive seems fitting somehow.

Trina’s gameplay was stunningly brilliant, her popularity off the charts – why the wealthy girl befriended quiet Najwa when she changed schools was a mystery.

Everyone (else) is here at the Malaysian hotel – Trina’s on-and-off boyfriend Mark, socially inept Josh, fidgety Emily (cheating scandal, yah), Singapore Ben and his hover-mother, Yasmin who knew Trina as a child… plus two annoying young players making a tribute documentary about Trina.

Najwa’s roommate this weekend is Puteri, Mark’s ex-girlfriend before Trina – no happy late-night chatfests with her fellow hijabi this weekend!

When Trina’s dormant Instagram account suddenly posts Scrabble tile photos that spell out clues, Najwa and companions begin wondering if Trina’s death during her final game with Josh was really accidental.

Pushing past grief and panic attacks, Najwa wants to win the tournament in memory of her best friend and find answers, even if asking questions puts her in danger, too.

Trina was “easy to love and easy to hate” – which emotion led to her demise?

Peppered with high-scoring Scrabble words, definitions, and anagrams, Najwa’s journey to win this tournament as she recreates Trina’s last moments makes for a high-stakes mystery!

What’s your favorite word game?
**kmm

Book info: Queen of the Tiles / Hanna Alkaf. Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY – Japanese-Americans in WWII, by George Takei (Graphic novel review)

Book cover of They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Published by Top Shelf Media | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Leaving their home and possessions,
not his parents’ choice…
Why? Why!?

His mama’s purse is full of treats for five-year-old George and little Henry as they make the long train trip with her, Daddy, and baby Nancy from their home in Los Angeles to a camp in the woods of rural Arkansas.

Not a vacation place, but an internment camp with barbed wire fences, unfamiliar foods, very little privacy, and their loyalty to the USA constantly in question – boring for kids, disheartening for adults.

Later, George’s family was moved to a facility in the California desert at Tule Lake, another of several concentration camps that housed 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese who were forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II.

At war’s end, they hoped to move back to their homes and businesses, but their properties had been seized and sold to others… time to start all over again.

Will the US government deport George’s family?
How can they live in a country that hates them?
What will the future be like in a world after war?

This is a sobering portrayal of a dreadful time in America’s history, as seen through a child’s eyes and reinforced by decades of subtle and overt racism against Asian Americans.

(One of the white co-authors had worked previously with Takei and pitched the idea of capturing his childhood memories as a graphic novel. The book’s artist is Japanese-American, creator of Himawari House graphic novel that I recommended here.)

The well-known Star Trek actor and social activist continues to speak out against discrimination, racism, and the rights of all to love and be loved.

What young childhood memory would you write or draw?
**kmm

Book info: They Called Us Enemy / George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Media, 2019. [author site] [co-author site] [co-author interview] [illustrator interview] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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.

Z is for ZERO O’CLOCK in Covid-19’s early days, by C. J. Farley (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of Zero O'Clock, by C. J. Farley. Published by Black Sheep/ Akashic | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Mysterious plague,
not fiction, not science fiction,
how will it end?

Geth’s hometown, New Rochelle, New York, is ground-zero for the Covid-19 pandemic in USA, as the entire world hits the pause button in March 2020.

The sixteen year old and her best friends are unhappier to miss next weekend’s Broadway show than about school being closed for two weeks (more teleteaching, more homework… ugh). Diego is the star quarterback, so that’s his ticket to college. Tovah is tiny and mighty and a math genius; Geth is sure that they’ll both be accepted to Columbia soon.

Two weeks’ closure keeps stretching out, stores in ‘the containment zone’ are running out of essentials, and the neighborhood foxes are scavenging boldly as trash pickup is delayed and delayed again. After each face-touch, the Black teen washes her hands for safety (her OCD compulsions are getting companions now).

Worrying about her mom working at the hospital, the Native American teen who’ll be isolating with them in their little house (Mom’s boyfriend’s stepson?), whether prom will be cancelled – Geth gets more stressed by the day, clinging to her friends’ text messages and BTS songs as a lifeline.

Neighbors dying of Covid at home, friends hospitalized on ventilators, the President saying there’s nothing to be concerned about… .

Why are they still reading The Plague for English class?
Who’s trying to sabotage Diego’s football scholarship?
What advice would her late father have?

Three months, a million emotions, thousands upon thousands of deaths – then 8 minutes 32 seconds of video that sparked a movement.

How do you look back on the early days of the pandemic?
**kmm

Book info: Zero O’Clock / C. J. Farley. Black Sheep/ Akashic, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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.

W is for weaving & crafting with NETTLE & BONE she must master to stop great evil, by T. Kingfisher (book review) #A2Z

book cover of Nettle & Bone, by T. Kingfisher. Published by Tor | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A kingdom threatened,
no prince as heir,
daughters as pawns… or not.

Third daughter of a king with no sons, 15-year-old Marra is hidden away at a convent, remaining within its walls for years and years, as her older sisters are married in political alliances to save their tiny kingdom.

The weaving and healing skills she learns there will serve her well as now-grown Marra flees the security of Our Lady of Grackles, seeking ways to save her sister from the brutal prince of the Northern Kingdom.

She travels far and then farther to find the powerful dust-wife who communes with the dead and has the magic she needs. The spell requires Marra to make a cloak from nettles and cursed wool, to fashion a dog from bones, and bring moonlight in a jar – three impossible tasks (and she does them).

Away they go to kill the prince – Marra and Bone Dog, the dust-wife and her demon-possessed hen, through enchanted marketplaces and haunted lands, releasing from ensorcelment a man who unwisely slept in a fairy fort.

Secrets of the Northern Kingdom lie deeply buried in the crypts beneath its palace – danger and doom.

Its king lost in madness, the terrible prince rules with an iron fist and paranoia.

How to infiltrate the crypts? How to steer all blame from Marra’s sister? How to escape with their own lives?

A princess exists solely for the kingdom’s benefit, but not Marra…

Just published yesterday (4/26/22) – read the first two chapters on the publisher’s website here, free!

What non-traditional princess story is your favorite?
**kmm

Book info: Nettle & Bone / T. Kingfisher. Tor, 2022. [author info] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

V is for VIOLETS ARE BLUE, Wren and her makeup are, too, by Barbara Dee (MG book review) #A2Z

book cover of Violets Are Blue, by Barbara Dee.Published by Aladdin / Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

New town, new school,
same Mom, new stepmom,
same worries, plus some…

They move the summer after the divorce, after her sixth grade sort-of-friends abandon her, after Wren starts learning to do special effects makeup, after Dad marries pregnant Vanessa in faraway Brooklyn.

Wren hides the high-quality makeup that Vanessa buys so she can create mermaids and super-characters like KatFX videos show. Mom adds a lock to her bedroom door to keep the cat out… huh?

When her skills catch the attention of new friends, Wren is asked to do makeup for the school play – turning snooty Avery into so-green Elphaba might be fun.

Kai is really talented – draws superheroes, runs sound and lights for the play. Wren hopes he doesn’t really have a crush on her.

Mom’s an ER nurse on different shifts, sleeps all the time she’s home, pill bottles under the sink… now she’s missing work.

Why can’t Wren make KatFX’s mermaid instructions work?
How can she keep Kai as just a friend?
Why did Dad say she could call him about anything?

Seventh grade year is full of tension for Wren as she tries to balance two families and navigate too many changes at the same time.

When someone you love is in trouble, how do you know when to help?
**kmm

Book info: Violets Are Blue / Barbara Dee. Aladdin / 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.

S is for sisters & THE SPLENDOR, hotel of secrets & stolen memories! by Breeana Shields (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of The Splendor, by Breeana Shields. Published by Page Street Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Glamour, luxury,
delights and dreams,
upheld by secrets, dark secrets!

At the Hotel Splendor, whatever you wish for comes true! This glittering promise has kept hope alive for orphaned sisters Juliette and Clare, now young women struggling to make ends meet.

A year of working extra jobs allowed Juliette to save up enough to give Clare the chance to live out her dreams at The Splendor, but a few weeks later, Clare returns as a stranger instead of Juliette’s dearest friend!

Whatever happened at the Splendor, Juliette must find a way to reclaim her sister’s love, so she takes their rainy-day money and becomes a guest at the dazzling hotel up on the hill.

There, she finds possibilities beyond her dreams – diving beneath the sea, riding on a giant bird, a garden made of sweets – as the staff creates a Signature Experience for each guest using the Splendor’s unique magic.

It is handsome young Henri who makes those Experiences seem more than real, with his mother Stella directing their huge staff of seamstresses, chefs, and concierges at the glittering, luxurious hotel.

How can Henri grant Juliette’s dearest wish when it was the Splendor that took away Clare’s love for her?

Every elegant inch of the Splendor Hotel is enhanced by Henri’s magic, but at what cost?

After Juliette is caught exploring behind the scenes, will the extravagant costume ball be her last dance?

Told in alternating chapters by Juliette and Henri, the dark secrets of the Splendor Hotel are gradually revealed! By the author of The Bone Charmer (recommended here).

What amazing experience would you choose?
**kmm

Book info: The Splendor / Breeana Shields. Page Street Publishing, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Cover image from the author; review copy courtesy of the publisher.