Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Memories of 9/11

We are coming up on the anniversary of 9/11. Today I wanted to bring you a collection of stories that grapple with the events and repercussions of that event. For readers who are too young to remember the 9/11 attacks and for those who were not yet born, these books can help convey the emotional impact of that day.


Family Ties:
It's the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and Deja and her 5th-grade classmates don't understand why they have to learn about something that happened before they were born. Deja is more worried about her family's money problems, babysitting her siblings, navigating a new school, and whether or not her new classmates will shun her once they learn that she lives in a homeless shelter. As Deja and her friends Ben and Sabeen learn more about the Twin Towers, they find that they have very personal connections to that day. Towers Falling is a heartfelt book, written a manner than is very accessible for middle grade students. I loved the friendships in Jewell Parker Rhodes's book.


Unwanted Fame:
On her first birthday Abbi Hope Goldstein became the face of 9/11 when she captured in a famous photograph and dubbed Baby Hope. Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is looking for one summer of normal; one summer where she's not Baby Hope; one more summer before her 9/11-related medical issues catch up to her. She's not going to find it, but she will find Noah Stern, who has his own reasons for obsessing over the Baby Hope photo. Hope and Other Punchlines is a beautiful, sad, poignant, funny, and hopeful read. I absolutely loved the relationship between Abbi and Noah. Their banter was so endearing. Julie Buxbaum's books always perfectly balance serious subjects with a bit of lightheartedness and a whole lot of humanity.


Confronting Islamophobia:
A Very Large Expanse of Sea is set in 2002, a year after 9/11, and just existing in America as a hijabi teen is extremely difficult. Shirin wears her indifference like armor. She's all angles and jabs and has no time for anyone. But something about Ocean James--maybe it's the fact that he won't accept a brushoff--chips away at Shirin's barriers. But as Ocean and Shirin come together two worlds collide, bringing out so much prejudice and vitriol. Ah. This is a lovely book. Tahereh Mafi excels at bringing the reader into Shirin's world. She delivers the emotions, but the book also really makes the reader think. The character development is exceptional, and I loved the breakdancing. 


The Past and Present:
All We Have Left by Wendy Mills tells the story of Jesse, a 2016 teenager whose brother died in the 9/11 attacks, and Alia, a Muslim-American teen who is trapped in the north tower on that fateful day. The book alternates between the two timelines, eventually weaving the stories of these two girls together.  Wendy Mills does such an excellent job transporting her readers into the towers and taking them through all the psychological and physical struggles of her characters. In Jesse's timeline, we see how 9/11 has a lasting impact for the families of the victims and the survivors. The book handles issues of religion very respectfully and thoughtfully. This book impacted me deeply. It's a powerful, beautiful, emotional, and ultimately healing read.


The Comfort of Strangers:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Kyle Donohue has to evacuate his lower Manhattan high school. Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot on his way home he finds a girl wearing wings. She doesn't remember her name or how she got there. Kyle's father is a police officer, and Kyle worries about the danger his father is in. Meanwhile, his mother is trapped in California after the United States shuts down its airspace. Though expansive in its appeal, Gae Polisner's book focuses on how the events of 9/11 and its immediate aftermath directly impact two teenagers. The narration alternates between Kyle and the girl and between prose and verse. The Memory of Things is a powerful story that is beautifully written.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

History Books for Young Readers

Here's another great collection of nonfiction history books written for young readers. I love putting these lists together. This time around we have some excellent commemorative choices and we have quite a few books about women making history from the Revolutionary War to the present day. Although aimed at a middle-grade or young adult audience, these books are fascinating for readers of all ages.



American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
July 20th, 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. The young reader's edition of Brinkley's book is just one of many histories that revisit the era. This book focuses almost exclusively on the political aspect of the space race, specifically President Kennedy's contribution. Kennedy famously proclaimed that the United States would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. This book explains how and why space exploration became an important aspect of Kennedy's policies. Brinkley also briefly discusses the early years of rocketry with the German's V-2 rockets of World War II. It was interesting to learn about the connections between the war years and the space age. Communism and the Cold War is also a huge factor in Kennedy's embrace of the space program, and this book does a nice job explaining that aspect of the equation. If you decide to read this book, keep in mind that Kennedy does not live to see Neil Armstrong take those first steps on the moon. Out April 2, 2019 from HarperCollins. Review copy from Edelweiss.

1919: The Year that Changed America by Martin W. Sandler
With 1919 we have another commemorative book, and one you will want to be sure to read in 2019. Sandler looks back 100 years to a watershed year in United States history that included fights for suffrage to race riots to strikes for labor rights and more. Sandler lays the groundwork for each big event by discussing the events leading up to the momentous actions of 1919. At the end of each chapter, Sandler includes a timeline of events going forward to today, driving home how the events of 1919 have shaped our present. Extremely well-written and informative and filled with images, 1919 is an engrossing read and a fantastic concept. I love a good commemorative read, and I'm so glad that I didn't miss out on this one.Out January 8, 1919 from Bloomsbury Children's Books. Review copy from NetGalley.

Susan B. Anthony: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield
After my last History Books for Young Readers post, it's abundantly clear how much I love Teri Kanefield's Making of America series. The fourth installment features Susan B. Anthony, and it is every bit as great as the first three. With each book in the series, Kanefield selects a prominent figure from American history who has helped to shape the laws of the United States. With Anthony we learn about a figure who is well known for her fight for women's rights. Kanefield does a great job dealing with some of the trickier aspects of Anthony's life. In recent years, especially, the early suffragists have fallen from grace a little due to their lack of support for African American rights. What struck me as I was reading this, is how intersectional these early suffragists were. Most were abolitionists and suffragists until the causes of women's rights were abandoned by the leaders of the abolitionist movement after the Civil War. At that point, due to lack of funds and support, Anthony and Cady do make some questionable decisions. Kanefield convincingly explains how this came about. In the end, Anthony would not live to see the ratification of the 19th amendment, but it certainly deserves the nickname "The Susan B. Anthony Amendment." Out March 26, 2019 from Abrams Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

The Miracle and Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets by Sarah Miller
On May 28, 1934, five identical baby girls were born to a French Canadian family in Ontario. Their survival was both miraculous and the result of the tireless work of the doctor, midwives, and nurses who delivered the girls and worked round-the-clock in their infancy. Controversy and celebrity followed the girls, who were separated from their family and raised by the state until the age of nine in a hospital built especially for them across the street from their family home. Everything about this true story is mind-blowing. The title is apt in every way. That Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie all lived was truly amazing. The exploitation, experimentation, and trauma they experienced as a result of their celebrity was horribly tragic. Sarah Miller's narrative is gripping and filled with quotations from primary sources and interviews with the surviving quintuplets. Miller does a fantastic job navigating the nuances of these events. Once so famous, the story of the Dionne Quintuplets has been out of the spotlight for decades, but it's not a story that will easily be forgotten.  Out August 27, 2019 from Random House Children's. Review copy from NetGalley.

Fly Girls' Young Reader's Edition: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien
Between World War I and World War II, aviation was still young, and men and women raced to test the limits of flight. I've been drawn to the early years of aviation history over the past couple of years, and I especially gravitate towards the female fliers of this period. (Posts here, here, and here.) These women were defying the odds in so many ways. Keith O'Brien centers his book on five female aviators of the 1930s: Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden. Earhart is the most famous of the bunch today, but I found that I most admired Louise Thaden, who was not only a skilled pilot but also a smart one. This book has a lot of plane crashes and really drives home the sexism of the 1930s; the women were frequently told they couldn't fly, race, or compete with the men. Out March 5, 2019 from HMH Books for Young Readers. Review copy from NetGalley.

Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelace, Computer Pioneer by Emily Arnold McCully
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the celebrated and notorious poet Lord Byron, was one of the world's first computer programmers. Ada had a very unusual upbringing. Her mother left Lord Byron when Ada was just a baby and took a very strict approach to her daughter's education. Ada's education far exceeded that of most girls of her time. She had a succession of tutors and proved to be very gifted at mathematics. After meeting Charles Babbage at the age of 17, she and the inventor collaborated and exchanged ideas. His knowledge of inventing and machinery married with her knowledge of mathematics far outstripped the technology of the day. I really enjoyed this brief biography of Ada Byron Lovelace. It's a very fast and engaging read. Ada Lovelace is a fascinating person, and her life was so usual and in many ways very tragic. All of that was conveyed very well in Emily Arnold McCully's book. Out March 12, 2019 from Candlewick. Review copy from NetGalley.
 
Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti
This is the third book in the Spy on History series. Each book in the series features a spy in a war from American history. I've read and thoroughly enjoyed them all (featured here and here).  With this third book, we've gone back to the Revolutionary War. Anna Strong and her husband lived on Long Island under the occupation of the British and were part of George Washington's spy ring. When Anna's husband was arrested, Anna took over so the spy network would not be broken. She communicated to her contact with her laundry, hanging certain colors to communicate certain information. She traveled into New York City multiple times to relay information. The Spy on History books are a great way to get young readers interested in history. They come with activities in back and a message to decode. Out April 2, 2019 from Workman Publishing Company. Review copy from NetGalley.

Heroism Begins With Her: Inspiring Stories of Bold, Brave, and Gutsy Women in the U.S. Military by Winifred Conkling
In nearly 70 short biographies, Winifred Conkling features the women of the United States' past and present who have served in the military. In doing so, she also traces the progress made by women who sought to gain more acceptance, greater recognition, and an official status for their service. In the early years, many of the women who served were camp followers, nurses, spies; although, a surprising number of women also disguised themselves as men and officially enlisted. In later years, as women were official instated into the military, Conkling continues to emphasize the diversity of roles played by women. She also features a number of women who are firsts in their fields. This book is not one that needs to be read cover to cover. Read about the women who served in one war or, for instance, thumb through the book to find all the medical professionals. This book would be a good starting point for a research project. Out August 6, 2019 from HarperCollins. Review copy from Edelweiss.

Bad Boys of Fashion: Style Rebels and Renegades Through the Ages by Jennifer Croll
This book is a fantastic choice for any fashion lover. In ten chapters, Jennifer Croll takes her readers through small biographies of big names in fashion from Louis XIV to Oscar Wilde to David Bowie. I really enjoyed how this book was organized with three thematically related fashion icons in each chapter. Not only will readers learn a lot about each individual figure, but they will also learn about how their fashion responded to and influenced events in history. One of the best parts about this book is seeing how fashion and history collide, mingle, and respond to one another. Also, this book has good diversity in terms of race and sexuality. I liked this it so much that I now really want to read the author's related title, Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga. Out April 9, 2019 from Annick Press. Review copy from NetGalley. 
 



Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Series Salute: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

The Caraval Series by Stephanie Garber was such a fun ride. I thought the series got better with every book and went out with a bang. (Series featured here and here.)

About the Books


For years sisters Scarlett and Donatella Dragna have dreamed of escaping life with their oppressive father and attending Caraval, a traveling circus-like extravaganza where the visitors are part of the show. When they finally get their chance, the sisters find themselves at the heart of Caraval's high-stake competition. The game is suddenly very real. The first book in the series follows Scarlett as she searches for her sister amidst the magic and mystery of Caraval. With the second book, Donatella gets top billing as Caraval moves to the capital city. The series concludes with both sisters sharing the spotlight as the stakes grow ever higher. 



Why I Love Them

 

1. The Magic of Caraval

The magic of Caraval is what initially drew me to the series. The dreamlike setting has Scarlett questioning what is real and what is not, and the reader is right beside her asking those same questions.

 

2. Scarlett

It's hard to always be the responsible sister! I love how much Scarlett grows in this series and that she learns to stick up for herself. 

3. Tella

I'll admit, Tella is my favorite of the Dragna sisters. A bit impulsive, Tella is such a fun narrator. I love how lively and determined she is.

4. Sisterhood

I love a book about sisters, and the Dragna sisters are there for each other. Except when they're not. It's hard to navigate the world of Caraval, which seems intent on pulling people apart.

5. Legend

We could not have Caraval without the creator. Whether Legend's identity is shrouded in mystery or he's right there in front of the characters, there is nothing straightforward about him.

6. The Fates

The Fates are intriguing and pretty frightening, and they add so much to the series. I loved book two and three when the mythology and reality of the Fates becomes a key element to the mysteries. 

7. The Love Triangles 

Both Scarlett and Tella get wrapped up in a bit of a love triangle. I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of love triangles, but I really enjoyed how Stephanie Garber handled the multiple love interests in her series.

8. Valenda

I love a good atmospheric setting, which is one of the reasons I love the mystery of Caraval. Caraval combined with the capital city's creepy shops, beautiful palaces, and mystical temples ups the intrigue. 

9. The Audiobook narrator

I'm a big fan of audiobooks, and the narrator for the Caraval series, Rebecca Soler, is one of my favorites. She brings so much to the story.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Reading on a Theme: Movie Magic

Let's go to the movies. Or, if you'd rather stay in, here are some books about movies and movie makers.


The Actress:
Lacey Barnes is a debut actress hoping this film will be her big break. But show business isn't all fun and games. The director is worried about her chemistry. Accidents on set seem to happen when she's around. Most embarrassing of all, Lacey's dad keeps reminding everyone that she's the only underage actor on set. He even hired a straight-laced kid named Donovan from the local high school to tutor her. Kasie West did it again with Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss. This book is so delightfully charming. Lacey's spunk makes her so much fun to read about. The zombie movie is entertaining; the mystery is intriguing, and the romance is the sweetest. Out February 5, 2019. Review copy from Edelweiss.


The Hosts:
Best friends Josie and Delia host a creature feature that airs every Friday on a public assess television station. Now that graduation has come and gone, Josie and Delia are facing the big "what comes next" when it comes to the show and their friendship. For Josie, television has always been the goal, for Delia, the bad horror movies are a link to her absent father. It's never easy to say goodbye. Once again Jeff Zentner managed to get me to laugh out loud and cry while reading Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee, and that's why I love his books. This one leans more toward the comedic side than his previous tearjerkers, but there were still plenty of real, hard topics and poignant moments (clearly). Out February 26, 2019. Review copy from NetGalley.


The Manager:
Green Street Cinema is Ethan's home. It's where he went to deal with the pain of his dad's death and where his dad's memory is most alive. Ethan's basically running the place these days, which is why it's up to him to save the cinema when they get an eviction notice. This Book is Not Yet Rated is a poignant and meaningful story about love and loss. I really liked Peter Bognanni's writing style, which conveys angst so well. This book is also populated with a very fun cast of side characters. The employees of Green Street Cinema are super quirky and colorful. There's also Raina, Ethan's best friend who made it big in Hollywood and is now back in town after a breakdown. Out April 9, 2019.


The Studio Owner:
Dario Heyward is the heir to Moldavia Studios, the castle where his father wrote, directed, and filmed the type of B-list horror classics that Rayne and Delilah screen on their show. Dario has six months to turn the studio around, despite the fact that he never wanted this job and he swore he'd never come back after becoming legally emancipated at the age of twelve. Scream All Night was much more serious than I thought it would be. Dario has to confront some real demons from his past (pardon the pun), and he feels a lot of pressure to do right by the residents of Moldavia. The book is also laced with black humor. The scenes with the Ciller Cauliflowers were both hilarious and cringe-worthy. I loved the setting Derek Milman created in his debut novel and the story within a story nature of a book about a film. Out July 2018. Review copy from Edelweiss.


The Filmmaker:
Maya Aziz is a Indian-American Muslim teen growing up in Illinois. Her dream is to become a filmmaker and go to NYU, but her conservative parents don't think this would be a suitable career. In fact, Maya hasn't even told them she applied to NYU. Love, Hate & Other Filters is a coming of age story. Maya is wondering how to best assert her independence. She is navigating what it means to be a Muslim teen in America, what kind of life she wants to lead, and whether or not the expectations of her parents and her religion are right for her. About halfway through this novel, an event occurs that turned the book on its head for me. I was impressed with Samira Ahmed's handling of this serious issue. Out January 2018.




Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Blog Tour: The Oddmire, Book 1: The Changling by Will Ritter

I am a big, big fan of William Ritter's Jackaby Series, and when I was asked if I would like to be part of the blog tour for the first book in his new middle-grade series set in the same world as Jackaby, I said, "Absolutely!" And let me tell you, this book is a real treat.


The Oddmire, Book One: The Changling by William Ritter

Publisher/ Year: Algonquin Young Reader - July 16, 2019

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Source: Review copy from the publisher


ABOUT THE BOOK


The first book in an action-packed fantasy adventure series featuring witches, shape-shifters, and other creatures of fairytale and folklore, including two brothers—one human and one a goblin changeling—on a life-changing quest into the Oddmire.

“Funny, exciting, and ultimately epic. Wow. I can’t wait for the next one.” —Adam Gidwitz, author of the New York Times bestseller A Tale Dark and Grimm

Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

In The Oddmire 1: Changeling, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jackaby series brings to life a bold new adventure, the first in a series about monsters, magic, and mayhem.

 Goodreads | Amazon | Audible | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | The Book Depository



MY THOUGHTS


The Oddmire, Book 1: The Changling is absolutely enchanting. The best part, for me, was the relationship between Tinn and Cole. The two brothers are in it together for the long haul. They both wish for the best case scenario, not for themselves, but for their brother. I just loved reading about these twins. They are clever and kind and mischievous. It's really the best combination.

Another bright point in the novel is Tinn and Cole's mother, Annie Burton. Annie might just be my favorite character in the whole book. You know how parents tend to be absent and/or non-existent in middle-grade fantasy novels? Well, that is not the case in this book, and it is so refreshing. William Ritter demonstrates that you can send kids on adventures and have a present, fiercely devoted, and protective parent, even in a fantasy book. Annie is such a spitfire.

The magic of the Oddmire is very fun. This book feels like a traditional fairy tale where, once you go into the wood, magic is everywhere. I really liked the characters we met in the Wild Wood. Some were funny. Some were mysterious. Some were frightening. Some were all three.

Also, the book is also illustrated by the author, and I the silhouette drawings at the beginning of each chapter make the book a little extra special.

I read this book aloud to my fourth-grader, and we had such a fun time reading it together. I highly recommend sharing this book with the younger readers in your life.

BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO TAKE MY WORD FOR IT


Here's what an actually middle-grader (my fourth-grader) had to say about the book:

I think this book is kind of mysterious. I really liked the mystery in the book. I kept reading because I wanted know which brother was the goblin. I also liked the other characters, especially the ones the boys met in the Wild Woods. Those characters are both very mysterious and funny. I won't tell you much about them because I think you should meet them yourselves and be surprised. I couldn't wait to keep reading this book so that I could find out what happens next. 

And there you have it, folks. It's always fun to find books that he enjoys. We're already looking forward to reading the next book in the series together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


William Ritter is an Oregon author and educator. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark. The Oddmire, Book 1: Changeling is his first book for middle-grade readers. 

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook



Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Highly Anticipated Book Releases for the Second Half of 2019

The year is half over, which means we can start looking forward to all the fall releases. I have a hefty list of highly anticipated new books this time around. I'm looking forward to the next book in several series. I'm eager to read new books by several authors who I absolutely adore. I've also got a few new to me authors on this list, and I can't wait to give their books a go. What books are you eagerly awaiting?
The Philosopher's War by Tom Miller
The first book in this series, The Philosopher's Flight, was such a surprising delight. It was one of my favorite books of 2018, and I'm so excited for the sequel. (series featured here)

Maybe This Time by Kasie West
I've read nearly all of Kasie West's books, and this one about a girl who works for a local florist sounds delightful. (Kasie West's books featured here)

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
I've never read any of Stacey Lee's books, which is a real shame because I love historical fiction. I'm going dive into her oeuvre with her newest book about a girl who works as a lady's maid in turn-of-the-century Atlanta.

House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin Craig
This debut novel is a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale. It's been too long since I've read a good fairy tale retelling.

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake
The conclusion to the Three Dark Crowns series. Need I say more? (series featured here, here, and here)

Bid My Soul Farewell by Beth Revis
Earlier this year I read the first book in this series, and I loved it. I'm excited to find out what happens next. (series featured here)

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
I wasn't expecting to love Carry On as much as I did. I really, really loved it. I'm up for more Simon, Baz, and Penny. (series featured here)

The Tyrant's Tomb by Rick Riordan
I love the Trials of Apollo series. Now that we know who the three emperors are that make up the evil Triumvirate (which I successfully guessed, by the way), what's going to happen? (series featured here)

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett
I love Jenn Bennett's contemporaries, and I love historical fiction. I'm excited to journey to the Carpathian Mountains with these characters. (Jenn Bennett's books featured here)

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
Ruta Sepetys is a master of historical fiction. Her newest book is set in General Francisco Franco's fascist Spain in 1957. (Ruta Sepetys's books featured here)

Our Year in Love and Parties by Karen Hattrup
I adored Karen Hattrup's debut novel. I read it in one sitting, and it was one of my favorite books of 2016. I'm so excited to read her sophomore book. (Frannie and Tru featured here)

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby
Bone Gap was my favorite book of 2015. A World War II novel by Laura Ruby is almost too good to be true. (Bone Gap featured here)

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund
I've been a big fan of Diana Peterfreund's books for years now. This new book sounds like so much fun. It's a mystery based on the board game Clue. Basically, it sounds like the perfect Halloween read. (Diana Peterfreund's books featured here)

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston
This books takes place during Christmas, and I love the idea of reading it during December. It's about Sophie who, after a bad breakup, gets set-up on a series of blind dates by extended family members.

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White
Kiersten White is taking on the Arthurian legends, and I am here for it. (Kiersten White's books featured here)

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Like so many people, I am so excited that the author of The Night Circus has a new book out this November. 

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
I will never not be excited for a new Maggie Stiefvater book. She's returning to the world of The Raven Boys with this series about Ronan Lynch and his family. (Maggie Stiefvater's books featured here)

Supernova by Marissa Meyer
The conclusion to the Renegades series! (series featured here)

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Reading on a Theme: American Girls Abroad

These books gave us a serious case of wanderlust. I love to read books about traveling in the summer. They are the perfect books to take on a trip, or, if you aren't traveling, they allow you to dream of exciting new places.

Doha, Qatar:
Zayneb gets suspended for challenging an Islamophobic teacher, and her parents send her to Doha, Qatar to stay with her aunt. Adam is traveling home to Doha for spring break and dreading having to break some bad news to his father. Turns out, Zayneb's aunt and Adam's father work at the same international school, and the two spend their break together and learn to face their fears. I loved S.K. Ali's first novel, and her sophomore book is just as wonderful. I enjoyed so much about this book. I really loved the Doha setting, Adam's kindness, and Zayneb's passion. The "Marvels" and "Oddities" journal format made for a really clever telling as well. Love from A to Z was out April 30, 2019. Review copy from NetGalley. 


London, England:
Shane's college experience isn't going so well. Sure she has fantastic grades and is on track for medical school, but she doesn't have any good friends and her romantic prospects are even worse. Plus, med school is more her parents' dream than her own, so Shane takes matters into her own hands and decides to reinvent herself on study abroad in London. But, in London, Shane learns she's still Shane, and it will take courage to go after her dreams. I adored Again, but Better. I found it so compulsively readable. Christine Riccio's debut brought back all the joy and all the insecurities of my study abroad experience. I loved the quirky characters. I love that they took advantage of their time abroad and saw things and went places. A fantastic tale of second chances. Again, but Better was out May 7, 2019. 


Sevilla, Spain:
High school senior, Emoni Santiago dreams of becoming a chef, and the new culinary arts program at her school is proving that Emoni has what it takes. Emoni desperately wants to go with the class on its study abroad trip to Spain, but with a two-year-old daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, the more responsible thing may be to stay home. I loved Elizabeth Acevedo's debut, The Poet X, and this book is every bit as magical. The prose is a departure from Ms Acevedo's early verse novel, but the narration is still so beautifully lyrical. I loved Emoni's voice and maturity. The imagery in this book is so vivid, and the characters so well drawn. With the Fire on High was out May 7, 2019. 


Kyoto, Japan:
Kimi Nakamura has been keeping a secret from her mother, and when the secret comes out, it seems like the ticket to Japan from her estranged grandparents couldn't have arrived at a better time. So, to escape her mother, Kimi hops on a plane a flies halfway around the world to stay with grandparents she's never met. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn is such a cute read. I love books about family and finding family, and it was so delightful to see Kimi connect with her grandparents and start to see how that connection could help her understand herself and her mother better. There's also a very sweet romance in this book with a boy who occasionally dresses as a giant mochi mascot. I Love You So Mochi was out May 28, 2019.


Oxford, England:
Ella Durran is finally living one of her life-long goals: she's a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. She's also just been offered a job that's got her poised to have a promising political career once she returns to the States. Well-laid plans go awry when Ella falls for her English tutor, Jamie Davenport. At first it's just a fling, but things get real when Ella discovers that Jamie is keeping a big secret. My Oxford Year is voice actor Julia Whelan's first novel, and I found it completely engrossing. The connection between Ella and Jamie is so mesmerizing, and I was on the edge of my seat hoping that things would go right for them. Listen to the audiobook if you can, it's narrated by the author. My Oxford Year was out April 2018.
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