Monday, October 01, 2018

It's Time to Nominate!

In the world of kidlit blogging, October 1 is not only the start of Halloween season, it's also the day that nominations open for the Cybils!

So you know what to do - get on over to the Cybils website and put in your nominations before someone else does!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Guess Who's Going to be a Cybils Judge?

They've just announced the Cybils judges, and guess who's been tapped to serve as a first round panelist for Young Adult Spec Fic???? (Hint: you're reading her blog.)

This fall, I'll be joining old friends and new pals in reading our way through a stack of books as high as your head to pick out the ones that will go on to the Round Two judges. Can't wait!

The Cybils are a blogger-driven literary award, given to US-and-Canada-published children's and YA books in a whole range of categories, published within the past year (so, October 16, 2017, to October 15, 2018). They've been going since 2006 and the finalist lists are super-handy for all you teachers, librarians, parents, and kidlit-loving readers out there! Seriously, check out the finalist lists from previous years and you'll see some old friends. We've got good taste, y'all.

Nominations start October 1st, and anyone can nominate! That means you! If you've never nominated a book for the Cybils before, only one person may nominate any particular title, so gather up your favorite titles in each category and add a couple of spares in case someone else got there first.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Book Review: Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner

Title: Thick as Thieves
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Published: 2017
Source: Local Library

Summary: Kamet has it pretty good for a slave in the Mede empire. He has a high status within the household and lots of perks. Then everything goes wrong. His master is poisoned and as the slave closest to him, Kamet is almost certain to catch the blame. Offered freedom and escape by a stranger from an enemy country, he takes it, but freedom after a life of slavery is going to take some getting used to. As Kamet and the Attolian journey toward Attolia, encountering friends and foes, he discovers more in himself than he ever thought possible.

First Impressions: This was satisfying as a Queen's Thief book, but I wonder how it would work for someone who doesn't know how sneaky Eugenides is.

Later On: I love the Queen's Thief books, mostly because of the character of Eugenides. Maybe that's why this one doesn't rank as my favorite of the series, because clever, soft-hearted Eugenides barely appears even though his actions have a huge effect on the story.

That said, a not-half-bad Queen's Thief book is still a darn good book. This is a road-trip story, basically - they run into people here and there, and have occasional adventures, but mostly it's about getting Kamet away from the Mede empire and into Attolia, where all will be made clear.
Kamet's life as a slave has ill-prepared him for life outside a certain structure, and for much of the book, (besides trying to figure out why Attolia wants him) he's yearning to return to his old life and scorning the Attolian's friendship and respect. But eventually, he starts to realize that being a big fish in a small and very enclosed pond actually wasn't that great, and that he kind of likes this freedom thing.

If you've read Turner's books before, you know that she's amazing at writing books with a deceptively simple story, and loooooots of things going on beneath the surface. Very often the main character thinks they know exactly what's going on, and seeing things get turned upside down is part of the fun.
However, I was disappointed that a romantic relationship between Kamet and the Attolian was left to be read between the lines. I would have liked to see that made clearer, because it did seem like they were heading that way, and a line at the end of the book could be read to indicate that they were a couple by then. As LGBT stories become more common, such subtlety seems pointless at best.

It's still a satisfying wander through Turner's pseudo-Ancient world, and it's always fun to see Eugenides, even for a little while.

More: The Book Nut
Ms Yingling Reads
Forever Young Adult

Saturday, August 25, 2018

First Impressions: The Emperor's Riddle by Kat Zhang

Title: The Emperor's Riddle
Author: Kat Zhang
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: On a visit to relatives in China, eleven-year-old Mia is having a rough time. Her mom is boring, her brother is getting weird lately, and one day, her beloved Aunt Lin completely disappears! Could the ominous man who visited the apartment the night before be at fault? There's a painting, a map, and a mystery, and even her brother Jake is willing to pitch in and help. Will they find the treasure - and more importantly, will they find Aunt Lin?

First Impressions: Hmf. This was not entirely satisfying. While I loved the detailed setting and the changing relationship between brother and sister, the mystery itself felt mostly like a game with a lot of coincidental discoveries. When I got to the end, I was surprised that this wasn't something cooked up by the aunt to liven up their visit.

Best For: Readers who want a virtual trip to China - not just the tourist destinations, but the everyday life.

More: Ms Yingling Reads

Saturday, August 18, 2018

First Impressions: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Dimple is always at odds with her traditional Indian family, so she's shocked when they actually allow her to go to a six-week coding convention. But when she arrives, all is made clear, because she meets cute, nerdy Rishi - the guy her parents intend her to marry!

No way, not even. Arranged marriages are so last-century! Except that Rishi actually thinks it's a good idea. And Dimple's horrified to find herself kiiiiind of falling for him. What's a modern, forward-thinking Indian girl to do?

First Impressions: What a sweet froth of a book! I love the way both characters are coming at this thing from different angles and how they both have to navigate love and respect for their families and traditions with the things they want out of life.

Best For: Readers who love a rom-com and who might identify with Rishi and Dimple's struggles as they navigate their own identity with the background of a non-White, non-Western culture.

More: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Published: 2017
Source: Local Library

Summary: Starr is in the car when her friend Khalil is pulled over for a broken taillight as he's driving her home from a party. The next thing she knows, Khalil is dying on the street in front of her, shot in the back three times by the policeman who pulled them over.

Starr's heard this story before - Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, and too many others to count. She's always thought she would be front and center, advocating for justice. But when she's in the middle of it, when the complexities of her school life, her family, and her neighborhood are intersecting with the news stories of an innocent boy's death, all her firm resolutions suddenly seem like soap bubbles. What's the right thing to do?

First Impressions: My god this was so good. It's about the murder of Khalil, but it's also about how Starr navigates her identity as a young black woman in several worlds and how she can reconcile those worlds, and how sometimes, they can't be reconciled.

Later On: This draft has been sitting in my Google Docs since June 2017, when I first read this book. Part of the reason it's been so hard to write a review (other than my overall difficulty blogging last year) was that this has gotten so much attention, and it seems like everyone has already said all the things I feel about this book.

What made it such an incredible and affecting book for me was how immersive it is. There are some books that feel like they're being told to you. You're standing at a distance like it's a news report. This is a book that positions you right behind Starr's eyes, and everything that happens and everything she feels about it all feels close enough to touch.

There's the horror of witnessing Khalil's senseless death, and the helplessness you feel along with Starr, knowing it's unlikely that his murderer will answer for the crime.

But there's also Starr at school, and the mask she puts on to fit in among her (mainly) white and well-off classmates. You feel the distance between herself and her friends and boyfriend, who don't understand the devastation she feels because it's not a part of their experience. Some of them are still able to be there for her, and some aren't.

There's Starr existing in her community, the richness and interconnectedness of her life and relationships. She loves her family and her friends and her neighborhood, but also feels conflicted because she wants to leave.

Finally, there's the fear about speaking out, about stepping forward and putting a target on herself, and the courage she has to muster to do it anyway.

I'll be seeing the movie when it comes out.

More: Forever Young Adult
The Brown Bookshelf
Rich in Color
The Book Nut

Saturday, August 11, 2018

First Impressions: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Title: The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Published: 2017
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: At seventeen, Molly can claim twenty-six crushes but not one first kiss. When her twin sister Cassie sails confidently into her own first romance with equally cool and confident Mina, Molly feels even more left behind. She's struggling with anxiety and feelings about her weight, and It doesn't help that her friends are trying to push her into romance with cute Will (spoiler: he's not worth it) and away from dorky Reid (spoiler: he is). With their moms finally able to get married, it's going to be a summer of changes.

First Impressions: Gaaaaaaaaaaaah I loved this book with all of my heart. There's so much here about how growing up and falling in love changes all your other relationships, and it's not really good or bad, it just is.

Best for: Readers who want stories about family and sisters, are encountering (or remember well) this bittersweet feeling, and enjoy a romance that is not with the obvious partner.

More: Forever Young Adult
Not Acting My Age