Monday, February 22, 2021

FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA by Crystal Maldonado for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)

(My attempt at a #bookstagram on Instagram! Find me there, @joannerossfritz)

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (February 2021, Holiday House, for ages 12 and up)

What a warm and delightful read! 

An empowering novel for fat girls everywhere and brown girls everywhere, but also for all of us, because we're all human. And we all need to learn to cut ourselves some slack. 

Charlie (short for Charlotte) Vega, is a high school student, and a Latina in a mostly-white Connecticut town. She's smart and funny, loves fashion, and loves to write. 

She's also fat. 

Her best friend, Amelia, is thin and popular and could date anyone she wants. But Charlie has never dated anyone. The opening line drew me right in: "I imagine being kissed about a hundred times a day." 

Can Charlie learn not to compare herself to Amelia? Can she learn to get along with her mom, who used to be fat and then lost a lot of weight, and is always lecturing Charlie? 

Will Charlie ever have a boyfriend?

After a disastrous high school dance that Charlie was sort-of but not really invited to by handsome Cal (who really wanted Charlie to bring Amelia along!), Charlie is depressed about ever finding love. And then Brian, a nice guy in her Art class, starts talking to her. Could there be something there? 

First-person, present-tense narration gives this novel immediacy and warmth and liveliness. The diverse cast is refreshing. The voice is perfect -- Charlie's desires and worries come across as highly authentic. Reading this book is a lot like being back in high school. 

I got so caught up in Charlie's world I didn't want it to end. The last chapter brought tears to my eyes. (And the last line is gorgeous!) You will love this novel!

(Of course, I may not be totally impartial. Crystal is not only one of my fellow 21ders, but also a fellow Holiday House debut author, along with Kate Albus, author of A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON!)

#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!

Monday, February 15, 2021

AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke, for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)


An Occasionally Happy Family by Cliff Burke (May 18, 2021, HMH, for ages 8 to 12)

This is one of the funniest books I've read from The21ders, my debut group of MG and YA authors. But there's also a touching undercurrent of sadness running through it. 

Heartfelt doesn't begin to describe it.

Thirteen-year-old Theo's mom died two years ago, and he and his dad and his fifteen-year-old sister, Laura, still haven't really talked about it. Then Dad informs the siblings they're going on a road trip to go camping in the hottest park in Texas during the hottest part of the summer, with a promised surprise at the end. Neither Theo nor Laura want to go on this trip and would prefer to spend all their time in air conditioning and on their phones. 

What follows is hilarious, as one disaster after another befalls the family, from a broken cooler that turns their lunch to mush, to a vlogging teen hiker who tries to include Laura in his vlogs, to a bear in their campsite, to a naked elderly couple in the Hot Springs. But what you'll love most about this book is the spot-on dialog between the siblings and their father. Judicious use of dialog tags, and a finely-tuned ear for the way kids really speak makes this dialog sound like a real family squabbling and teasing each other. Plenty of snark. And I never lost track of who was speaking.

When Dad's "surprise" turns out to be a new girlfriend, Theo and Laura react as any grieving kids would. Long before the end, you'll fall in love with this family, and your heart will ache for them to finally talk about their feelings.

A winner in my book!

You can pre-order AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY from Bookshop!

Other pre-order info and more on Cliff Burke's website

#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor TextsVisit their blogs to see all the participants.

Monday, January 25, 2021

THE LAST SHADOW WARRIOR for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)

First a quick health update (feel free to skip to the post below the photo if you prefer): Good news! The retina specialist says I don't need surgery on my blurry right eye. He also showed me what the swelling looks like in a picture of my retina (it looks like a wave!), and claimed it's a direct result of the laser treatment I had way back at the end of October, to correct my rising Glaucoma pressure.

This is just as I suspected, although my regular eye doc, who gave me the laser treatment, claimed that had nothing to do with the swelling! 

More good news: those steroid drops I've been using three times a day since mid-December are really helping! (So my eye doc got that part right!) There's still a fist-size portion of blurriness in my vision but I can manage to read despite this (although my eyes tire easily, so I can't read for long, which drove me nuts when I received the ARC below in the mail). I have to keep using the drops for three more weeks and then taper off for a month.

Now, as we wait for the announcements of the ALA Youth Media Awards, it's onto today's post! Another exciting debut novel from #the21ders!

The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity (Scholastic, April 6, 2021, for ages 8 to 12)

What a thrilling page-turner! You'll be staying up late to finish this one. This book has it all -- three friends banding together to face the enemy, Viking folklore and history, one exciting adventure after another, and lots and lots of humor and heart. The chapter endings will blow you away!

Abby is still grieving for her dead mother, a descendant of Viking warriors, who died fighting a Grendel. In the gripping first chapter, a shadowy creature attacks Abby in the home she shares with her father in North Carolina. Was it a Grendel? She and Dad pack quickly and head for Minnesota, for a school, Vale Hall, where Dad can teach and Abby can be safe. But Dad is badly hurt in a car accident, caused by a demonic motorcycle rider,  just as they arrive at Vale Hall. With Dad unconscious in the hospital, Abby must navigate her new school, find a cure for her father, and at the same time convince the school's headmaster and the Viking Council that Grendels really do exist!

Luckily, she makes friends immediately with Gwynn, a secret Valkyrie, and Grimsby, an endearing (and funny!) boy who's assigned to be Abby's guide to Vale Hall. Together, they fight a sea monster in the school pool, a Dark Valkyrie who plays Bingo for their souls, and much much more. I learned a lot too. Knattleikr is an ancient Viking ball game, similar to lacrosse. Svefnthorn (or Sleep Thorn) can be found in centuries of Norse literature.

The strong friendship between Abby, Gwynn, and Grimsby, the fast-pace, the thrilling adventures, and above all, the unexpected flashes of humor (Hmm, Vale Hall = Valhalla?) make this a winner in my book. Kids will love this and it makes a great read-aloud. Thanks to the publisher for letting me read an ARC. 

You can pre-order this exciting book from Bookshop, right here!

#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A week ago today...

It's a new year, and it's also my debut year! 2021 should be a wonderful year. 

But it didn't start out so well, did it?

As everyone knows by now, on Wednesday, January 6th, insurrectionists (i.e. Trump followers who refused to accept the fair and accurate vote count that made Joe Biden our next President) stormed the US Capitol building, where lawmakers were gathered for the usually-ceremonial act of counting the Electoral College votes. This violence ultimately resulted in five deaths and excessive damage. 

Were you glued to the news as I was? 

Normally, I never watch TV news, but from 3 pm to 7 pm, I couldn't tear myself away from CNN, watching with growing horror, sickened that something like this could happen at all in our country. 

And, yes, that day also happened to be my cover reveal day

Obviously, this minor news was soon eclipsed by the raging mob that took over the Capitol for a few hours. We still need answers about why this was allowed to happen, why the Capitol Police were overwhelmed so easily and why it took the National Guard so long to get there and quell the riot. 

I sincerely hope there is no more violence before Biden is sworn in next Wednesday. And especially not during the Inauguration!