Saturday, April 22, 2017

What's New? Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got this week.

My mailbox has been a bit quiet lately and that's good because I am so-o-o behind! However, I bopped into BN to buy a gift certificate and could not resist a quick pass through the YA and children's departments before heading to the cafe to grab a caramel frap (you won't find me trying that unicorn crap). So yeah, I couldn't resist picking this one up. First, the cover grabbed me, then the clever title. I was pretty much sold before reading the jacket flap. And, it's a debut!

Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant.  315 p. Kids Can Press, Limited, April, 2017. 9781771387927.

Publisher synopsis: Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn't do wonders for her popularity, there's another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them --- from clothes to textbooks to cell phones --- she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person's fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves ... and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it's because she's a clean freak --- with the emphasis on freak --- but it's all she can do to protect herself from other people's issues. 

Then one day a new student walks into Eva's life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn's skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart. 

Zenn Diagram, Wendy Brant's sparkling debut novel, offers an irresistible combination of math and romance, with just a hint of the paranormal. Readers will swoon over Zenn and connect instantly with Eva, the most fully drawn prodigy in teen fiction today.
That's what's new with me. What's new with you?

Arc Review: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. 239 p. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, May 16, 2017. 9781101997239.

Thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora lives and works with his large extended family. They own and run a Cuban American restaurant, La Cocina de la Isla, walking distance from the apartment complex where they all live. Arturo's grandmother, and founder of the restaurant, is the glue that holds the family together. She founded the restaurant with her now deceased husband and has recently passed the reins of running the restaurant to Arturo's mother. Arturo's family gathers at the restaurant each Sunday for dinner where they engage in spirited conversation and bicker good-naturedly. The clan is hosting a new addition for the summer. Carmen and her father have moved into the complex. Arturo views her as family and is confused by the sudden rush of feelings for her. Arturo has two best friends, who will be off to separate camps for the summer soon while Arturo begins work at the restaurant as a junior dishwasher. 

Arturo is an endearing narrator and clearly adores his family, especially his Abuela. He's also charmingly awkward with Carmen. When Wilfredo Pipo invades the restaurant to introduce himself one day, everyone takes an instant dislike to him and his oily ways, even Abuela, who likes everyone.

Turns out, they have good reason to suspect Pipo, he plans on gentrifying the neighbor and La Cocina de la Isla is not on the blueprints. He's pushing them out. What's more, the rest of the neighborhood seems charmed by the idea. Arturo's aunt wants to do something and Arturo's mother has a more wait and see attitude. Arturo's scared and he and Carmen team up to get to the bottom of things. 

There's a lot to like about this debut. It's a gentle story of family, connection and growing up. Reading it was like being enfolded into Abuela's warm hug. It was like meeting a family for the first time but feeling like I've know them forever. Arturo's voice is earnest and awkward and at times, hilarious but always genuine. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Memes: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. 380 p. Simon Pulse, May 30, 2017. 9781481478687.

Publisher synopsis: A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

First line: Dimple couldn't stop smiling.

Page 56: Dimple hadn't met Celia until after she'd already put in an application (well before Papa and Mamma had actually said yes-she had to save her spot, just in case), so they hadn't requested each other. She wondered whom she be paired with. Hopefully, not that frosty blond girl who looked like she ate little kids for dessert, though Celia probably wouldn't mind, judging from the way she was still darting glances over at that group.

I picked this arc up at Midwinter just on the cover alone. Isn't it adorable? 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Swing It Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm

Swing It Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Matt Holm. 224 p. Scholastic Inc. September 12, 2017. 9780545741729.

Publisher synopsis: Summer's over and it's time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of . . . middle school. When her Gramps calls her from Florida to ask how she's doing, she always tells him she's fine. But the truth? Sunny is NOT having the best time.

Not only is the whole middle school thing confusing . . . but life at home is confusing, too. Sunny misses her brother Dale, who's been sent to boarding school. But when Dale comes back, she STILL misses him . . . because he's changed.

Luckily Sunny's got her best friend and a mysterious new neighbor on her side . . . because she is NOT going let all this confusion get her down. Instead, she's going to remain Sunny-side up!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Non-Fiction Monday: SI Kids: My First Book of Soccer

SI Kids: My First Book of Soccer. By Beth Bugler and Mark Bechtel. Illustrated by Bill Hinds. A Rookie Book. 48 p. Liberty Street/ Time Inc. Books, May 16, 2017. 9781683300021. (Review from finished copy courtesy of publisher.)

This colorful fourth entry in the Rookie Book series joins older siblings, My First Book of Football, My First Book of Hockey and My First Book of Baseball. It's attractively designed featuring a cartoon girl and boy providing commentary and humorous asides. Hilariously, the boy runs onto the title page in a football uniform despite the fact that the hip girl explains on the front end-pages, the fact that  soccer is called football all over the world except the U.S. A. The basic rules are explained using real men's and women's soccer teams and players in posed and action shots to illustrate the concepts. 

The background pages are brightly colored, the fonts are varied, fairly large and prone to exuberance. The layout is the same as the other books framing the sections by soccer halves and counting the time down as explanations range from field layout through positions and skills like dribbling, tackling, passing, etc. 

This is another fabulous, kid-friendly introduction to a sport. Perfect for newbies, oldbies, gym teachers, coaches and parents alike. Collect all these for any school or public library collection.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Arc Review: Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker. 286 p. Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, June 6, 2017. 9781524775254. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

This book is Felix Yz's (pronounced "iz") blog. He's counting down the days to Zero Day when he will undergo "the Procedure" where he will be separated from Zyx (rhymes with six). Zyx is an alien from the fourth dimension who was accidentally fused with Felix when he was three-year-old in a science experiment gone horribly wrong. His scientist father was killed in the accident and Felix was in a coma for quite a while. He lives with his mother, sister and Grandy, a grandparent who is gender fluid. Grandy spends three days a week identifying as female and goes by the name Vera. Then she spends three days a week identifying as male and answers to the name Vern. On the seventh day, "vo stays in veir room and doesn't eat and doesn't talk and doesn't wear any clothes and meditates all day." (p. 19)

Felix is understandably, very worried about the Procedure. If he does not have it, he and Zyx will die. If he does, there's a good chance one or both of them will die. He types in his blog, which is secret, to sort out his feelings about all this. He likes Zyx (mostly) despite the fact that their fusion results in Felix's inability to communicate normally as well as some fine and gross motor difficulties. All of which make him a target for bullying at school.

Felix is an endearing character and his voice is at once wholly unique and so like a twelve-year-old. He pours his heart out, then dances around painful topics only to circle back again. Interspersed in his musings and reveries are Zyx's comments. Zyx learned English, more or less, thanks to Grandy's running commentary as she sat vigil beside Felix while he was in a coma. 

There is so much grief here. Felix and his family are close and loving and as fragile as they are strong. Were I to enumerate all the "issues" this wondrous tale covers, you'd be rolling your eyes. Yet, somehow, it works. There's a first crush, mom's boyfriend, Grandy, a sister's loss, chess, webcomics, a comic con, and more, packed into the 29 days before Felix's separation from Zyx. 

And then there's Zyx - a being trapped in an alien dimension struggling to understand his human and humanity. He? She? Felix settles on the pronoun "vo" becaue Zyx cannot be fully described. He is incapable of understanding sarcasm and loves Felix unconditionally. 

There will be tears folks. Many, many tears. Not ugly crying but a steady stream of tears to blink away while trying to read towards the end. It's achingly beautiful. Thoughtful readers will come away changed by Felix, Zyx and all the possibilities. Please don't miss this unique and utterly compelling debut.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Arc Review: Yvain: the knight of the lion by M.T. Anderson

Yvain: the knight of the lion by M.T. Anderson. Illustrated by Andrea Offerman. 144 p. Candlewick Press, March 14, 2017. 9780763659394. (Review from arc courtesy of publisher.)

Master storyteller M.T. Anderson makes his graphic novel debut with the story of Yvain, one of King Arthur's Knights. The story was originally a poem by Chr├ętien de Troyes as the author explains in his note at the end of the graphic novel.

A prelude introduces an unseen narrator, we see just hands, one gloved with a hooded hawk perched on it. The other unhoods the hawk, which then soars overhead. From this bird's eye view, we see a bloody trail following a horse carrying a knight slumped in a saddle. He is severely injured and returning to a castle seen in the distance.

The saga is told in three action-packed parts. Yvain leaves a feast at King Arthur's palace to avenge his cousin's beating at the hands of Sir Esclados. He mortally wounds the lord and follows his retreating horse to the castle where a maid, Lunette,  finds Yvain and hides him using magic to make him invisible. When Yvain sees the lord's widow, Laudine, he falls instantly in love with her and begs Lunette to find a way for him to meet her. The wily Lunette manages to convince her lady to meet Yvain and they quickly wed. He for love, she for the safety of her people. Unfortunately, when King Arthur and Sir Gawain come for a visit, Gawain goads Yvain into traipsing about the countryside jousting and competing in tournaments. When Yvain does not return within the prescribed time, Laudine renounces him. This repudiation sends Yvain spiraling into self-destructive despair.

In part two, after some time living as a wild man, Yvain happens upon a bloody battlefield where he sees a lion doing fierce battle with a deadly serpent. Yvain plucks a sword and shield from a corpse and joins the battle, eventually cleaving the serpent in half. The lion bows before him. He collects clothing and armaments from the dead and sets off on foot with his new best friend. Eventually, he rests by a stone hut and finds that Lunette is imprisoned in it and is to be executed the next morning. He vows to be her champion.

Phew! And there's still part three to come! The writing is spare yet compelling. The Medieval setting is vividly drawn by Andrea Offerman, who explains the details of her research and some of the symbolism she incorporated into some of the art. 

We've got something to please many types of readers here - knights, battles, magic, a little chivalry, quite a lot of bloodshed, a touch of romance, a number of quests, misunderstandings and a shrewd Machiavelian maid. Oh! And much magnificent art. The muted palette is evocative of Medieval manuscripts and tapestry. Give this to fans of graphic novels, fantasy, and King Arthur legends. 

I first read this book back in..., hold on, let me check. Whoa! Back in December! I set up a post for a review but each time I sat down to try and write about it, I found myself rereading and getting lost once again. I found something new on each reread and also found the storytelling compelling each time, if not more so. But I got stuck trying to synopsize the circuitous tale first getting bogged down in too much detail, then not enough. I'm still not sure I've got this review right but here it is. Read it. It's magnificent!