Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Review Copies: 10
Teen: Sway by Kat Spears
I really liked this examination of a morally grey kid with a surprisingly good heart.
Tween: My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros (link goes to my review)
It's a tale as old as time - dumped by your BFF on the first day of seventh grade. Luckily for Nina, there's nowhere to go but up from here.
Children: Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George
The third adventure for the royal family finds them far from home and trying to work out what really happened hundreds of years before. You really have to have read the whole series to understand everything that's going on in this one, but if you have, this continues the enjoyment.
Because I Want To Awards
Because What Could Go Wrong with a Jailbreak?: The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas
Good kid, poor choices. Lots of poor choices. Oh, so many poor choices.
The Path of True Love Never Did Run Smooth: Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan
See, this is what Shakespeare meant by that. After getting together at the end of the last bo
ok (I'll Be There), Sam and Emily find themselves hitting speedbumps, hard. Nice to see a book where happily-ever-after isn't shown as smooth sailing.
Almost Named a Standout: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
It was so hard to pick, you guys. SO HARD. Nelson's novel of estranged twins, each narrating a different era in their lives, is full of sneaky surprises and lovely language.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Go on, guess!
Okay, fine, I'll tell you. Starting tomorrow through October 15, you get to nominate books for the Cybils! The world's only Children's and YA Blogger award opens its nomination period tomorrow, in thirteen categories from picture books to YA fiction, from book apps to poetry.
Anybody can nominate, and the books can be anything published in English in the US or Canada in the past year.
Remember, each book (or app) can only be nominated by one person. So if you're going in, take at least a few faves in each category with you.
More info here: Nominating for the Cybils.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Author: Geoff Herbach
Source: Local Library
Things look pretty sweet for Felton Reinstein. He's big and strong and has football coaches from schools all over the country panting after him. He has a beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a brother who idolizes him. But he has a secret, and here it is.
He's a mess.
He hates the scouts and the attention, even while he loves football (well, any kind of athletics). His girlfriend has mysteriously stopped talking to him, as has (less mysteriously) his best friend, and his little brother is just off the rails completely. He's paralyzed by fear, of the future, of the past, and of the present. He just wants to run away from it all.
But it's Andrew who runs away, and it will take a quixotic road trip with the best friend who's not anymore to find the grandfather and cousin he's never known before Felton can start to understand why.
God, how I love Felton Reinstein. Yes, he's fictional, yes, he's seventeen, and yes, he's a complete goober and a mess. That last is why I love him. Geoff Herbach has a particular gift for getting you into Felton's brain, with all its self-involvement and uncertainty, without turning you off completely. He structures this book as a long letter to Aleah and Felton opens a vein all over the page, because it's not something he would do from the outside. There's so much going on inside his head, but he's still developing the emotional tools to express them to others.
I really appreciated the through-line of his father's suicide. In the first book, Felton started coming to terms with who his father was, what he did, and what that means for himself as he lurches toward adulthood. In this book, it keeps messing him up, it keeps messing his family up, but in new ways. Or rather, in ways that are only uncovered in this book. I appreciated that because a parent's death, particularly a parent's suicide, isn't something that you get over in 275 pages. It's a long, evolving process and one that may never end.
Lucky for me, there's one more Felton Reinstein book for me to enjoy.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
I'm pleased as heck to share the news that I've been picked to be a Round 1 judge for the Cybils in the YA Speculative Fiction category.
What does that mean, exactly?
It means that from the beginning of the nomination period on October 1st, through the selections of the finalists that go live on New Year's Day, I'll be reading YA fantasy and sci fi until my eyeballs fall out. I'll be stalking my library catalog, I'll be hunting down books at the store, I'll be stalking the ebook sales.
But Bibliovore, I hear you say. Isn't that what you do anyway?
Yes, but I get to discuss and debate them with my fellow Round 1 judges! Honestly, that's why I love doing this. You can take the girl out of the English courses, but you can't take the English courses out of the girl. Right around Christmas, we'll be picking 5-7 finalists that will be sent on to Round 2. And then we'll all collapse in a heap and wait, oh, maybe about two hours before going to find another book to read.
These fellow judges are:
Pull together your nominations right now, folks, because I expect to have some awesome books to read come October! And since each book can only be nominated once, grab some backups, just to make sure that your favorites all get their day in front of a judge's eyeballs.
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Author: Andrea Pyros
Published: September 2, 2014
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Nina can't wait for the start of seventh grade, even if her best friend hasn't called her back at all since getting back from her summer trip. She's sure that things will be just like they always have, Nina-and-Brianna ready to take on the world.
But on the first day of seventh grade, Brianna seems more interesting in hanging out with sophisticated Shelley than even talking to Nina. It doesn't take long for Nina to be exiled to the "allergy table" in the cafeteria, where all the weird kids with food allergies (of which Nina is one) sit every day.
There's a lot more to all those weird kids than just their allergies. When they discover that Nina can play drums, they decide to form a band to play at the school talent show. In spite of her misgivings about participating in an event that Brianna and Shelley have decreed "totally lame," Nina is getting a little excited about it. Maybe there's more to her than being half of Nina-and-Brianna. Maybe she's a rock star.
It's a tale as old as time. Hit middle school and people change. Friendships change. You change. Probably why this storyline ("Oh god, my best friend just dumped me WHAT NOW!?") is such a staple of middle-school literature. Where this story shines is in the details (the allergies that draw them all together, the fact that Nina is drummer and not a guitarist or a singer) and the realism of the interpersonal relationships.
One of my favorite things was how Nina made male friends who were simply friends. Tiernan and Shane are her buddies, not extra rival love interests. Tiernan, in fact, is the friend who lays down the law to her late in the book. ("We aren't here to be playing backup for you, Nina. We're supposed be your real friends, not second choice ones.") As someone who's has male and female friends all my life, even in middle school, I appreciated this a lot.
A sweet, upbeat story that will strike a chord with middle school readers.
Monday, September 01, 2014
Review Copies: 11
Teen: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
It starts with a murderous ghost who's not even the villain, and ends . . . well, no, I can't tell you that. In between, it crawls through Japanese ghost stories and gives you the creepies to no end.
Tween: The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
While I thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned adventure story feel of this (with a soupcon of steampunk!), my favorite part lay in the construction of a world where Europeans, mysteriously cut off from Europe, get absorbed into the pre-existing Native American society of the New World.
Children: Rose by Holly Webb
Rose has a bedrock of good common sense, which is why it's so interesting to see her go head-to-head with magical goings-on and discover her own magical power.
Because I Want To Awards
For the Whovians in the Crowd: Jackaby by William Ritter
This fast-paced murder mystery, careering through Victorian New England, with a supernatural detective who has a Really Bad Habit of not imparting all the facts to his long-suffering assistant (and our narrator), was definitely built on the Dr. Who/Sherlock Holmes model model.
For an Author Who's Done So Many Teen Girls, This was a Spot-On Tween Boy: Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown
As legions of older sisters and younger brothers will tell you, there's a world of difference between the two. But Brown nailed it, first try.
Tissue-Paper Premise, Slam-Dunk Execution: Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers
Twins who didn't know it find each other over the internet in a story told solely through text communication of one kind or another. Oh, yeah, it's a tough sell, but Rivers' spot-on tween girl voices do the trick.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Author: Carol Antoinette Peacock
Source: Local Library
At eleven years old, Wen has finally been adopted by an American family. She gets to leave the poor, crowded, noisy orphanage in China, but she'll also have to leave behind her best friend, Shu Ling. Even though they've always promised each other that the first to get adopted will find a family for the other, the separation is wrenching.
Family life in America isn't all that easy, either. Wen struggles with her English, with the differences between China and America, and with fears of being rejected by her new family like she was rejected by her old one. She wants to bond with her new family and make new friends, but every time she does it feels like a betrayal of her old life and Shu Ling. And just as she is starting to settle in and enjoy things like Halloween and Thanksgiving, she gets horrifying news: if Shu Ling is not adopted by mid-January, she'll age out of eligibility and never get adopted at all.
From halfway around the world, can Wen save her friend and find her a family in less than three months?
For everything she's been through, Wen has a quiet toughness that can work against her - as when she rejects her new family's overtures - or for her - as when she takes on the impossible task of getting one young teenager out of thousands adopted by somebody.
Though most kids reading this may never have seen China or known anything like the orphanages, they'll identify with Wen - scared, uncertain, out of place, but still willing to tackle the challenge in order to keep what she's been given.
When most people think of overseas adoption, they think of babies, brought home before they can walk or talk, or remember their old life. But the truth is there are many, many older children out there. This is the story of two of them, and of the unbreakable bonds of friendship that can stretch much farther than around the world.