2021 in Review: Beth Rodgers, Staff Reviewer’s Top 5 books

Staff-Picks.jpg

Staff-Picks.jpg

2021 in Review
The Team at YAbookscentral.com have worked hard all year reading wonderful books and creating insightful reviews to help readers find their next great read. 
The staff has reflected on their top 5 favorite books of 2021.  We hope you are inspired to check out these great books too! Feel free to share your Top 5 books in the comments as well!
Today we are featuring Beth Rodgers. She is a Staff Reviewer at YABC. 
Here are her Top 5 books of 2021 (In no particular order):
 
 
 
Recipe for Disaster by Aimee Lucido
 
 
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About This Book:
 
Hannah Malfa-Adler is Jew . . . ish. Not that she really thinks about it. She’d prefer to focus on her favorite pastime: baking delicious food! But when her best friend has a beyond-awesome Bat Mitzvah, Hannah starts to feel a little envious …and a little left out.

Despite her parents firm no, Hannah knows that if she can learn enough about her own faith, she can convince her friends that the party is still in motion. As the secrets mount, a few are bound to explode. When they do, Hannah learns that being Jewish isn’t about having a big party and a fancy dress and a first kiss — it’s about actually being Jewish. Most importantly, Hannah realizes that the only person’s permission she needs to be Jewish, is her own.

 
*Beth’s Review*
 
Very Enjoyable and Thought-Provoking
 
 
‘Recipe for Disaster’ by Aimee Lucido is a heartwarming, deliciously enjoyable book about the beauty and trouble that come with family, food, and religion, to name but a few themes. When Hannah goes to Shira’s Bat Mitzvah, she intends to be happy for her best friend. Everything goes wrong, though, when everyone, including Shira, claims that Hannah isn’t really Jewish. She doesn’t practice Judaism or go to Hebrew School, or come to synagogue on Saturdays. This begins to irk Hannah to no end, and she decides, then and there at Shira’s Bat Mitzvah party, that she is going to have a Bat Mitzvah. Mostly she does it out of spite for Shira not believing she could do it, but as she gets more and more into the idea, she comes to really love it. She starts studying with her Aunt Yael, her mother’s sister, who so happens to be the rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom where Shira had her Bat Mitzvah. The problem is that Hannah’s mom doesn’t want anything to do with Yael, her sister. Something happened between them years ago that has effectively ended their relationship, and Hannah is determined to do something to fix it, even though she doesn’t know what the trouble is and how to truly mend it.

Hannah’s grandmother, Mimi, lives with Hannah’s family, and while Mimi, Hannah, and her brother, Sam, are always baking rugelach, babka, challah, and other delicious Jewish foods, even her own family jokes that they aren’t really Jewish. Hannah wants to change this, so she starts taking Hebrew and Bat Mitzvah lessons with Aunt Yael. In the meantime, she grows in many ways, yet finds herself further than ever from having a relationship with her best friend, Shira. They can’t find a way to bridge the gap between what they believe about Judaism, so Hannah finds a new friend in the meantime, Vee.

When Hannah finds out something interesting about Vee, she mistakenly treats her poorly, much in the way she has been treated when people question her Judaism. She feels terribly, but Vee makes it clear that an apology must be real, and it must be done correctly, meaning that the person who is apologizing fully intends to make it right and never have it happen again.

While relationships suffer as the story goes on, Hannah’s love of Judaism and what it means to her grows substantially. She learns about “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world,” and she knows that it isn’t just about her, but about how she can help others to make peace as well.

Aimee Lucido has done a fantastic job having her characters ask the questions that are constantly on people’s minds. From “What does it mean to be Jewish?” to “If I didn’t convert, but I do Jewish things and think Jewishly, why am I not Jewish enough?” to “Is being Jewish just about your mother being Jewish first?” there are so many more questions to be discussed. All of the characters find their own truth and work together to engage in apologies that are long overdue. The story is one of growth, not only of each individual’s character, but of the value of conversation to truly understand different perspectives. The story is quick and easy to read, interspersing narration, recipes, and enough questions and answers to get any reader thinking. Highly recommended!

 
Good Points
The story is one of growth, not only of each individual’s character, but of the value of conversation to truly understand different perspectives. The story is quick and easy to read, interspersing narration, recipes, and enough questions and answers to get any reader thinking. Highly recommended!
 
 
 *Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*
 
 
 
 
Chasing the Stars by Melanie Hooyenga
 

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About This Book:
 

They’ve both sworn off romance, but love is written in the stars. Naomi Insta-love isn’t a thing. Even if fans of my podcast think differently. But I can’t deny the insta-sparks with the cute boy Hunter on my family camping trip. My fans think I’ve got it all figured out, so maybe it’s time to follow my own advice and listen to my heart. Hunter’s scowly attitude almost makes me hit rewind, but our interfering siblings convince me to give him another chance. Just when he starts to open up, I get an offer that could change everything I had planned for the future—and ruin my shot at happily ever after. Hunter My friends say I have a one-track mind, but it’s not what you’re thinking. If I’m going to finish college in three years and be a book editor in New York, I don’t have time for distractions—not even by girls as charming as Naomi. Despite my attempts, it’s impossible to ignore this love interest who’s fallen into my orbit. I finally have the opportunity to be the hero in my own story, but I have a secret that puts more than just my future at stake, and if I make the wrong decision, it could alter my plotline forever. Book two in the Campfire Series, Chasing the Stars, is filled with stolen kisses, tipping canoes, and stars so bright you can see into the next galaxy.

 
 
 
*Beth’s Review*
 
Under the Stars
 
‘Chasing the Stars’ by Melanie Hooyenga is a great sequel to ‘Chasing the Sun,’ the first in this series. Naomi is trying to get her bearings as she wraps her head around graduating from high school and getting a great offer for her podcast that has been doing really well, and which is destined to be bigger than she imagined. She doesn’t know where this offer will lead, in terms of where she goes to college, and in terms of how she finds a way to tell her twin brother, Theo, with whom she usually shares everything, including the podcast for which he serves as her producer.

Then there’s Hunter, a freshman at Berkeley, who has some hard decisions of his own to make. He isn’t sure that being away at college is right for him, even though he dreams of being an editor. He’d rather be closer to home for school so he can watch over his younger sister and mom.

When both of their moms decide that a trip away for the week to go camping and stargazing is the right thing for their families, Naomi and Hunter meet, and while neither is looking for a relationship, they soon find that despite their mutual misunderstandings of each other, they is definitely an attraction between them. Though they try to fight it, the way they challenge each other and enjoy each other’s company becomes apparent, and their siblings are eager to bring them together. At first, the two serve as more of a listening ear for the other’s troubles, but that soon morphs into something more.

Even for those readers who aren’t really outdoors people, this book will make you want to sit outside under the stars, enjoying nature and the beauty of it all. The cover art alone is definitely capable of making anyone want this. Naomi, Hunter, and their individual and family drama make the story blossom and will make readers interested to know more about how their lives will turn out. Looking forward to the third book in the series!

 
Good Points
Even for those readers who aren’t really outdoors people, this book will make you want to sit outside under the stars, enjoying nature and the beauty of it all. The cover art alone is definitely capable of making anyone want this. Naomi, Hunter, and their individual and family drama make the story blossom and will make readers interested to know more about how their lives will turn out.
 
 
 *Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*
 
Making the Play by Cait Marie
 

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About This Book:
 
The school of her dreams? Check. The perfect boyfriend? Check. The only problem? He’s best friends with her brother… and her dad is their coach. Kaley didn’t intend to fall in love, but what started out as innocent study dates with her favorite baseball player has turned into excuses to see each other as often as possible. They know they need to stay just friends, but they can’t fight the pull toward one another. When the lines start to blur, Jax must decide whether he’s willing to risk his friendship with her brother and his spot on the Firebirds. If not, he’ll have to leave behind the one girl who reminds him that there is still some good in the world. The girl who reminds him that love is real.
*Beth’s Review*
Deserving of Love
 
 
 ‘Making the Play’ by Cait Marie follows Kaley and Jax as they navigate a relationship with each other, despite hurdles that they must overcome before they can be truly happy. One such hurdle is Kaley’s brother Kade, who just so happens to be Jax’s best friend and roommate. They play on the college’s baseball team, and while Kaley’s relationship with her brother is strained at best, she still doesn’t want to hurt him. When she and Jax start seeing each other, even for tutoring sessions, she keeps it a secret, as does Jax. What Jax doesn’t expect in return is to fall for his best friend’s sister, especially when he’s never had too much more than some one-night stands.
The story reflects so many emotions, from caring to uncertainty, like to love, anger to understanding, and more. The sweetness of Kaley and Jax’s relationship with each other comes across, even through the conflict that must occur in any book of this nature that is meant to keep them apart and shine a light on the troubles that might ensue if they stay together. Yet, through it all, they keep finding that they are drawn to each other, no matter how many obstacles stand in their way.

Jax is a great book boyfriend, and Kaley is definitely deserving of the love he so desperately has to give based on other issues in his life, from his parents to his sister and aunt. Life isn’t always easy, as Jax very well knows, and even though he doesn’t share his troubles with Kaley right away, readers do learn how he and Kade understand each other and find ways to cope with their issues together, making it all that much harder for Jax to tell Kade the truth about his feelings for Kade’s sister.

Definitely a recommended contemporary romance for any lover of that genre!

 
Good Points
Jax is a great book boyfriend, and Kaley is definitely deserving of the love he so desperately has to give based on other issues in his life. Definitely a recommended contemporary romance for any lover of that genre!
 
 

 *Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*

 
 
 
 
 
 
Listified! by Britannica Books
 

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About This Book:
Ever wondered which 10 dinosaurs were the largest, and what they weighed…in cats? Or how much of your DNA you share with other animals…and bananas? Enter the listiverse and get ready to see the world in a whole new way. Listified! takes the best and most amazing parts of the universe —erupting volcanoes, medieval machines, jumping spiders, exploding stars, and everything in between — and organizes them into quirky list form for curious kids and their friends and family to enjoy.

Brought to life by imaginative and hilarious artworks, each list presents subjects from new and unexpected angles. So let Britannica’s Listified! take you on a journey through 300 lists that illuminate everything from the human body, to prehistoric creatures, planet Earth, outer space, and the mysteries beyond. Here are three mind-blowing facts from Listified! to get you started…

A Tyrannosaurus rex could swallow 15,000 hamburgers in a single bite.
A bolt of lightning is the width of your thumb and five times hotter than the surface of the Sun.
If you tied all your hair together into a single cord, it could support the weight of 18 cows.
An utterly absorbing compendium of amazing facts and trivia that will keep children aged 8+ entertained for hours!

 
 
 
*Beth’s Review*
‘Listified!’ by Andrew Pettie, illustrated by Andres Lozano, is a fascinating addition to the Britannica Books. There are 300 lists in the book to engage anyone with interest in almost anything. Some pages detail odd jobs, such as teddy bear surgeons, dog food tasters, and professional sleepers, while other pages go into detail about dinosaurs, planets, animals, babies, machines, quotes, and so much more!

Coupled with illustrations that are great for kids and adults alike to further explore the facts in the book, this is a perfect addition to anyone’s library, especially lovers of trivia. You can read the book in any order, as there are lists for all different sorts of topics; however, the book is separated into chapters, including space, nature, dinosaur times, animals, the body, being human, inventions, and game changers. It also contains an eight-page glossary and an index to help find whatever one might have the urge to learn more about at any given moment.

Great for anyone of any age to explore facts and figures, bust myths, and quiz oneself, this will be a book to be picked up time and time again.

 
 
 
 *Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*
 
 
When Carrot Met Cookie by Erica S. Perl
 
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About This Book:

Can a vegetable and a dessert really be friends? Find out in this sweet story of solidarity!

Cookie and Carrot are a true dynamic duo. Carrot teaches Cookie how to dip (in hummus), and Cookie teaches Carrot how to dunk (in milk). But when Cookie and Carrot’s other pals make fun of their friendship, the two start to wonder if different food groups can ever really be friends. Packed with plenty of puns, this satisfying tale of acceptance and forgiveness will leave kids asking for more.

Exciting, easy-to-read books are the stepping stone a young reader needs to bridge the gap between being a beginner and being fluent.

 
*Beth’s Review*
 
Sweet and Entertaining
 
‘When Carrot Met Cookie’ by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Jonathan Fenske, is an adorable story about an unlikely friendship, but one which endures. While Carrot and Cookie are good friends, some of their other friends and family don’t understand their interest in each other. It makes them question their own relationship.

Full of cute puns and carrot and cookie humor, the illustrations perfectly capture the fun they have with each other and the sadness they feel when others don’t understand their companionship. There are cute nicknames for some of the food characters, as well as interesting twists that bring them back together, and allow them to show others just what is so special about the way they care for each other.

Not only is this book about friendship, kindness, and understanding, but it also shows how the way you feel should never be overshadowed by someone else’s opinion. A sweet, entertaining, creative story that will fast become a favorite among children and adults alike!

 
Good Points
Not only is this book about friendship, kindness, and understanding, but it also shows how the way you feel should never be overshadowed by someone else’s opinion. A sweet, entertaining, creative story that will fast become a favorite among children and adults alike!
 
 
 *Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*
 
 
 
 
 
We would like to take a moment to thank all the wonderful authors, publishers, and publicists out there that have so graciously sent these books to our review staff. We would also like to thank all of our YABC community members who visit our site each day.  
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