Tag Archive | writing

F is four friends FACING THE SUN & big changes, by Janice Lynn Mather (YA book review)

book cover of Facing the Sun, by Janice Lynn Mather. Published by Simon & Schuster BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Poems and stories and whispers,
Secrets and revelations and sorrows,
Good friends can endure them together… right?

Eldest of five, Eve is so tired of chasing after siblings, being the perfect pastor’s daughter, awash in her parents’ worries about losing the church to developers and something about her father’s health that they won’t tell her. Singing with Toons in the perfect acoustics of that small building is harmony and peace and maybe a little more.

Her single mom keeps Nia on such a short rope, claiming that an all-girls summer arts camp just across the bay wouldn’t be safe, that she needs to read every story before they print the neighborhood newspaper. Borrowing a song heard in the sea-grove as the poem for her camp application could be Nia’s ticket to some breathing room this summer.

Faith’s mother is getting further from reality, and trying to balance homework and dance lessons at her sister’s studio and maybe liking Toons and getting home to keep Mummy safe while her father works late is pulling Faith apart. She doesn’t live on Pinder Street like most of her school-friends, but it hits hard to find out that Daddy’s down there, saying the neighbors have no rights to go onto the beach anymore.

Keekee wonders why she’s the one getting grief from their mom when it’s Toons who’s stepping around with Faith and Eve and Paulette. Her songs channel some of the sting from neighbors’ scorn, those who don’t understand that Angel’s home laundry business supports folks who can’t afford to go to the clinic for condoms or period products.

What’s good about fencing off the beach and tearing down the church so rich people can stay at yet another Bahamas hotel?
Who set the church building on fire as protest?
Where is Toons? Where?

Ties between friends and families twist and tangle in this beachside neighborhood where change seems all-peril, little promise. A tale told in the voices of all four friends, from the Bahamian-Canadian author of Learning to Breathe (my no-spoiler review here).

How do you make yourself brave enough to face changes?
**kmm

Book info: Facing the Sun / Janet Lynn Mather. Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers, 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

Just picture it – A PHO LOVE STORY, by Loan Le (book review)

book cover of A Pho Love Story, by Loan Le. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her family is suspicious of his.
His family is hostile toward hers.
Restaurant rivalry or something more?

When their paths cross in the high school newspaper room, neighbors Bao and Linh actually talk to each other instead of turning away.

After years as a just-average student, Bao might finally have found something he’s good at: writing date-night restaurant reviews. Gifted painter Linh sketches each dining venue, showcasing the talent that her parents dismiss as a hobby.

They begin enjoying time together (far away from Little Saigon‘s gossip) and wonder about the feud that’s separated their families so long – did it start with their competing pho restaurants here in California or back in Vietnam?

Evie and Linh’s aunt is a successful artist in Vietnam – why do their parents keep insisting that Di Vang is miserable?

The chance to paint a stunning restaurant’s mural is a dream for Linh, as long as her parents never know about it… or Bao.

If Allison (his editor & her best friend) is right about theirs as a Romeo & Juliet story, how can there be a happy ending?

Bao and Linh recount A Pho Love Story to us in alternating chapters – just published this week!

The ideal path to ‘happily ever after’ – smooth or bumpy?
**kmm

Book info: A Pho Love Story / Loan Le. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. [author Twitter] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

KENSY AND MAX face danger, secrets & spies! by Jacqueline Harvey (middle grade book review)

book cover of Kensy and Max: Breaking News, by Jacqueline Harvey. Published by Kane Miller Books (US) | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Not where they expected to be,
family secrets trigger extreme events,
twin-power must save them!

Kensy and Max are used to frequent moves since their parents’ work takes the family to medical clinics all over the world, but this time…Mum and Dad have gone missing!

The 11-year-old twins are suddenly at a magnificent country estate, then their manny Fitz winds up being more bodyguard than housekeeper when they’re enrolled in an unusual school in London.

Glad to make new friends at school, Kensy and Max await word from their parents, learn more about long-lost family members, and are nearly kidnapped!

Kensy is impulsive, messy, and amazing with machines – can she figure out what’s up with the grannies at the corner newspaper shop?

Max is neat, orderly, and brilliant with codes – can he decipher the messages that Mum and Dad left in favorite books?

They keep notes on a wealthy newspaper owner, a butler with mysterious skills, secret classes at school, loads of rubble coming from their neighbor’s renovation – what does it all mean?

First in an exciting series that take Kensy and Max around the world as they search for their parents and keep one step ahead of the bad guys! Four books are available now in paperback in the US.

What mystery would you like to decode?
**kmm

Book info: Kensy and Max: Breaking News (Kensy and Max, book 1) / Jacqueline Harvey. Kane Miller Books, 2020 (US). [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Rivalry or romance? TODAY TONIGHT TOMORROW, by Rachel Lynn Solomon (book review)

book cover of Today Tonight Tomorrow, by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.com

For four years, every morning began with their snarky texts, and every school event was completely Rowan vs. Neil.

After four years, everything comes down to now… now what?

At their Seattle high school, Rowan and Neil have competed for the top spot in everything from student council to recycling, all to earn the honor of valedictorian.

Concentrating on competition this last semester has kept Rowan from spending time with her best friends, even as Keely and Mara became a couple – they’ll have all summer to catch up, right?

Howl is her last chance to one-up Neil, as the senior class scavenger hunt ranges across the city, tagging-out classmates until only one remains.

Near-tags and crazy coincidences cause Rowan and Neil to partner up, hoping to split the cash prize for college costs.

Can Rowan and Neil overcome their rivalry to win Howl?
Why didn’t they know each other was Jewish?
Might they actually like each other…really like each other?

As Howl continues, the pair shares secret plans (a name change?) and secret worries (is romance writing a real career?) while keeping watch for other students – 24 hours, so many plot twists and turns!

Read an excerpt here from this love story in Seattle that’s a love story to Seattle, courtesy of the publisher. From the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (recommended here).

What’s your favorite Happily Ever After?
**kmm

Book info: Today Tonight Tomorrow / Rachel Lynn Solomon. Simon Pulse, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, via NetGalley.

A SONG ONLY I CAN HEAR tempts him to dare, by Barry Jonsberg (book review)

book cover of A Song Only I Can Hear, by Barry Jonsberg. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Try something new?
Stay quiet as a mouse?
Show his true self to the world?
Better choose well…

Rob is utterly smitten with the new girl in his class and too tongue-tied to even say hello. Easier to play chess with his grandfather every afternoon at the old folks’ home.

But when text messages from an unknown number challenge the 13 year old to get out of his comfort zone if he wants to succeed, Rob enters his Australian town’s youth talent show, even though public speaking gives him panic attacks.

Inspired by another text, non-sporty Rob tries out for the soccer team because Destry likes athletes – and makes the team as goalie! (but no changing in the locker room…)

Publically protesting the environmental damages of meat production gets Rob featured in the newspaper, as one text challenged, and also sent to the principal’s office for the very first time.

Bad at math, he can count on best pal Andrew and sailor-mouthed grandad.

Great in English, Rob struggles to write the perfect poem for Destry!

Will the Vietnam War ghosts ever stop tormenting his grandad?
When will Daniel stop bullying Rob?

As the mysterious texts continue, Rob moves slowly off his path of comforting routines and begins to find himself, despite how others see him.

What challenge would you like to see in your inbox?
**kmm

Book info: A Song Only I Can Hear / Barry Jonsberg. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020 (USA). [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

When WAR IS OVER – what next? by David Almond (book review)

book cover of War Is Over, by David Almond, illustrated by David Litchfield. Published in US by Candlewick | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Mam working at the munitions factory,
Dad away, fighting overseas,
the Great War goes on and on.

John writes to Buckingham Palace in 1918, asking when the terrible war will be over, but neither King nor teachers nor mothers can answer the boy’s question.

As his class walks to tour the gigantic weapons factory, they encounter a man who refused to fight, a conscientious objector against war who knows that German and British children are more alike than different.

After the police beat the man and take him away for speaking unpatriotic thoughts in public, one photo of a German boy is left behind.

Soon the boy Jan appears in John’s dreams, and though they speak different languages, their wish for peace is the same. “I am just a child. How can I be at war?” (pg 20)

Among the extensive black and white illustrations, the reader’s mind can imagine the red of homemade rosehip jam and of the tiny scars on Mam’s cheeks left by faulty shrapnel in the factory and of sunsets preceding John’s dreams of children spreading seeds of peace instead of hate.

Published in the UK in 2018 to mark the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I, this child’s eye view of war is a May 2020 US release.

Can we love our country and hate war?
**kmm

Book info: War is Over / David Almond; illustrated by David Litchfield. Candlewick Press, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

48 HOURS to find THE VANISHING! by Gabrielle Lord (book review)

book cover of 48 Hours: The Vanishing, by Gabrielle Lord. Published by Kane Miller EDC | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her best friend kidnapped!
She’s being watched, too –
a ‘cold case’ getting hot again?

Anika has been publishing those old diary entries on her blog. Was there a murder 20 years ago in the spooky mansion in their Australian neighborhood?

“No police!” the kidnapper tells Anika’s parents, so her best friend Jazz quietly starts gathering clues and enlists the help of tech whiz Phoenix to help analyze them in his mum’s lab.

Collecting hair samples, footprints, and other observations in their CrimeSeen app, Jazz and Phoenix race to identify the kidnapper.

Jazz knows the first 48 hours of a case are the most important – and Anika’s life is at stake!

The kidnapper is searching for them, too…

Followed by 48 Hours: The Medusa Curse, as Jazz and Phoenix work to retrieve a stolen supercomputer and prove their friend Mack’s father had no part in the museum heist.

When something goes missing, what’s your first step?
**kmm

Book info: 48 Hours: The Vanishing (48 Hours series, book 1) / Gabrielle Lord. Kane Miller EDC Publishing, 2019. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

New situation? A FIELD GUIDE TO GETTING LOST, by Joy McCullough (middle grade book review)

book cover of A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Joy McCullough. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Her mom is a penguin researcher,
his Guatemalan dad was an artist –
what on earth could they have in common?

Sutton thrives on order, routines, things going precisely according to plan. She is not happy about her robot still stuck in its maze, or Dad starting to go on dates, or Mom not getting home from Antarctica in time for her tenth birthday, not happy at all.

Kids are heroes in the fantasy stories Luis writes, but in real life his many serious allergies have made his widowed mom super-protective. Hiking in a Seattle park with Sutton and her dad sounds a bit risky – maybe dating is making Mom less focused on Luis’s health.

Could Sutton and Luis learn to get along as well as Mr. Wong’s cat and Mrs. Banjeree’s dog, apartment best friends?

Can their different problem-solving styles get them out of a perilous situation?

Told in alternating voices, this Field Guide to Getting Lost might actually be a way that Sutton and Luis can find themselves. Read chapter 1 here free, courtesy of the publisher.

When has a occasion you’ve dreaded turned out to be not so bad after all?
**kmm

Book info: Field Guide to Getting Lost / Joy McCullough. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.