Monday, December 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: November 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 1
Children: 1
(Still reading for the Cybils! A note about my numbers: this is books finished, not books half-read and set down.)

Sources
Review Copies: 4
Library: 8

Standouts
Teen: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
With a title like that, I gotta love it. I also loved the snarky narration, the musical-theater subplot (turned out demons love the show Sweeney Todd) and the fact that Cynthia gets her crush's attention and he turns out to be capital-A Awesome.
Tween/Children: Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel
Okay, this was the only book this month that I marked tween or children's (I think it straddles the line). But I still might have picked it out even if I'd read others. What I loved best was how much Lucy loves her baby sister, born with Downs Syndrome, without hesitation or reservation. It's also worth noting that very few of Lucy's problems stem from her sister's differences, even when adults think they do.

Because I Want To Awards
Finally, a Girl Who Knows Her Worth: Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier
Natividad is a special magical girl that all the werewolves want, and does she ever know it. With clear-eyed unsentimentality, she uses her value to wangle safe haven for herself and her brothers, and her powers to fight for the pack once they've accepted her. Girlfriend, I want to take you out for a drink. Yanno, once you're done saving the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Book: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Lara Jean Song has loved many boys, but never one who’s loved her back. She formed a habit of writing a goodbye letter to each boy and hiding it in her treasured hatbox as she gets over them.

Suddenly the letters disappear, sent out to the boys who were never supposed to see them. Lara Jean finds herself facing the consequences of her own emotions for the first time.

The most horrifying consequence is that one of the letters went out to Josh, her next-door neighbor, and also her big sister’s recent ex. Desperate to stop him from thinking she still likes him (although she sort of does), she begs one of the other crushes, Peter, to pretend to be her boyfriend. He’s amenable because he’s trying to make an ex jealous. They embark on a fake relationship, but as it goes on, Lara Jean gets more and more mixed up about what she wants. Is it Josh? Or Peter? Or neither?

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare - your old crushes suddenly discovering the feelings you hid so deeply! Okay, not the worst nightmare. Zombies and public nudity are probably worse, but this is right up there. Han explores this situation by having Lara Jean encounter all her old crushes again in the course of trying to get the letters back. Some are great, some are horrifying, some are, “What did I ever see in him?!”

Lara Jean starts off the book childish and impulsive, almost slappably so. But as the story goes on, you can see her maturing. Is this because she’s having to face the consequences of the letters? She always crushed on boys silently before, never giving any indication of her feelings. Is it because she is having to step into her older sister’s Margot’s place as the caretaker of the family, or possibly coming out from under Margot’s shadow? Is it because she gets the opportunity to see how she herself has changed over the years, through the lens of the boys she once crushed on? For me, it was a mixture of all those things.

I was a little disappointed in the end because it left us dangling as to the resolution of Peter and Lara Jean’s story. Although Lara Jean had made a decision, we didn’t get to see the effects of it. Luckily, according to the author’s blog, there will be a second book called P.S. I Still Love You due out in the spring.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: October 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 16
Tween: 1
Children: none
(All Cybils reading, all the time!)

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 9

Standouts
Teen: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Blue and her raven boys continues to unfold at a leisurely pace, though there's progress toward the climax that devoted readers of this series have been dreading for three books now.
Tween: The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan
Though the character is stated to be seventeen, she read younger to me. Kids who can handle rough and tough survival stories will be drawn to this. Like Mike Mullins in his Ashfall series, Aslan has given careful thought to the large-scale ramifications of the end of the world, and the Hawaiian setting is an interesting new one.

Because I Want To Awards
Longest Awaited: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Seriously. The entry date on my wishlist in LibraryThing is 2012, so even though this just came out I've been waiting a loooooong time for this one. I was happy, if gutted at points, with the way things ended up.
Should Feel Overstuffed with Diversity: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
But it doesn't, and that's amazing. Between the two main characters, we have a minority (Mexican
, with mentions of Spanish and Nahuatl spoken in the home), two disabilities (one with a prosthetic leg, one mute), and bisexuality. And yet, the book isn't about any of that, but about two people trying to navigate a very difficult situation together, not always easily or well. Nicely done, Duyvis.
Just Because I Want to Talk About It: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
As the world is falling apart, Bird is coming into her own as a young black woman, and starting to see the machinery that might be behind the seemingly random flu pandemic that's sending the nation's capitol into a tailspin.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Have You Nominated for the Cybils Yet?

Because today is the Very. Last. Day.

If you're not sure what to nominate, check out some of the posts on http://www.cybils.com, where people have gathered lists of the books they would like to see nominated and would have nominated themselves except they already nominated one because it's sooooo haaaard to choooooose!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: September 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 3
Children: 2

Sources
Review Copies: 10
Library: 3

Standouts
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

Cybils Eve

Guess what!

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

Book Review: Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach

Book: Nothing Special
Author: Geoff Herbach
Published: 2012
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.