Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book Review: Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler

Book: Revenge of the Flower Girls
Author: Jennifer Ziegler
Published: 2014
Source: review copy from publisher via

Triplets Dawn, Delaney, and Darby are shocked to learn that their adored big sister, Lily, is getting married to her dull, allergy-ridden, armadillo-looking boyfriend, Burton. Disaster! Calamity! Unthinkable! They just know that it will be the biggest mistake of Lily's life.

Burton is booooring. His favorite president is Franklin Pierce. He got them sparkly buzzing toy cats meant for six-year-olds. He looks like an armadillo. Worst of all, he doesn't make Lily happy, they just know he doesn't. Not like her old boyfriend, Alex, did.

Somehow they've got to stop this wedding. By hook, by crook, by schemes and plots and plans, inopportune sprinklers and pirated USB sticks and faked phone calls, these redoutable triplets are going to stop this wedding. And when all else fails, they'll bring in the big guns: Alex himself.

Ever had a day where you just needed a book that made you smile? Yeah, so do I, and this book filled that bill,. It's nonstop fun. Not only the crazy schemes they get up to (one involves Darby being held out the window by her ankles, and taking the inevitable tumble), but the narration made me laugh out loud. I also really enjoyed that the girls are obsessed with politics and the US presidents, just as a facet of their characters.

Plotwise, it doesn't hold up particularly well, but this is such a romp of a book, I was mostly able to switch off my nitpicks. If there's one complaint I have, it's that it was awfully hard to tell the difference between Darby, Dawn, and Delaney. Yes, they each had their little quirks (one is the ball of energy, one is super-shy, one is the yakker) but the first-person narration and the focus of the story being on someone other than the narrators made them all blend together. It didn't really detract from the story that much. The effect was mostly of one girl who managed to be everywhere and do everything.

I'll be watching for more of these triplets, and more of Jennifer Ziegler.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Review: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez

Book: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel
Author: Diana Lopez
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Erica is a regular girl dealing with regular problems like annoying siblings, struggling with school, and wondering whether any boy, ever, will notice her. Then her mom drops a bomb on the family: she has breast cancer.

Suddenly, Erica has a whole host of new problems on top of her old ones. She has to step up and take on more responsibility for her younger brother and sister. She's scrambling to fulfill a promesa made to La Virgen - five hundred names on her sponsor list for Race for the Cure. Her friends are all acting different around her and don't seem to understand any of her worries. With all this weight on her shoulders and all the confusing emotions piling up inside of her, even the best mood ring could get confused.

I have to say, this book hit me where I live. Like Erica, I had a mom who got breast cancer. (She's fine now.) I also grew up Latina, with Spanish and English in my ears and Tex-Mex cooking in my home. And of course, no matter what your ethnicity, everybody can relate to the agonizing experience of being a middle-schooler.

Erica is a Latina girl, but not one who emigrated from another country or suffers from prejudice or poverty. Like millions of American girls, her background is simply there, in family traditions like the promesas, the bits of Spanish floating around her house and neighborhood, and even dishes like migas (eggs scrambled with fried tortillas and salsa, nom nom nom!) It's refreshing after many books that are about being Not White.

For a book with a cancer theme, this was surprisingly light and sweet. Even though her mom is in treatment, Erica is still a preteen with all the usual preteen problems. Though her mom's fate is left somewhat up in the air (she's still doing radiation as the book ends), you have the feeling everything is going to be okay.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

48HBC: Finish Line!

Well, I'm done! I'm not as exhausted as I have been in past years, although I could feel myself losing a little steam toward the end of today, particularly as I blogged.

Reading, including audiobook: 19 hrs, 45 min
Blogging: 4 hrs, 7 min
Networking: 1 hr, 9 min

Total: 25 hrs

With 9 books finished, that's at least 90 dollars for my chosen charity. I'll wait until Monday night to total up the comments.

I'm happy with the books I chose. I tried to pick books that weren't explicitly About Diversity, and succeeded with about half of them.The other half had plots dependent on the non-white/non-straight/non-neurotypicalness of their characters, and while I think those are valuable too, it was nice having a book like Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel or While We Run, where the diverse elements are a background note for the characters and not the source of the plot.

How did you do? Share!

48HBC Audiobook: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier

Time: 5:55:29
Source: Local Library

Mel and Cathy have always been best friends, inseparable. Mel and Cathy, Cathy and Mel, that's just the way it is. Practical and down-to-earth Mel considers it her bounden duty to get and keep the dreamier Cathy out of trouble. So when Cathy goes and falls in love with a vampire, well, it's just business as usual. Even when Cathy decides to become a vampire herself, in order to be with Francis forever, Mel believes that she can rescue Cathy from her own folly. But something Mel fails to consider is that this trouble might be impossible to get Cathy out of, and even if it is, Cathy might not want or need her help.

I picked this as my audiobook because I remembered that Mel is Asian-American. But it's an interesting pick in another way, and that's how Mel finds her own prejudices about a group of people sometimes confirmed, sometimes confounded. She finds Francis thoroughly obnoxious (and frankly so did I) but Kit, the human raised in a vampire shade, challenges her beliefs. So does Camille, his vampire mom who also happens to be a cop and extremely, disconcertingly mom-like.

I can see the seeds of Kami, the intrepid/reckless teen detective from Brennan's Unbroken, in Mel. But Mel is sometimes harder to like, especially when she is explicitly not listening to Cathy. Yes, Mel hates the idea of Cathy becoming a vampire. Yes, it's dangerous, but Mel has to learn that supporting friends and respecting their choices is not the same thing as agreeing with them. Mel is invested in the idea of being Cathy's guardian - it's a central tenet of her identity. She's not sure who she'd be if she lost that, and so she's fighting.

This started life as a send-up of Twilight, and you can really see that in the bones of the story. But at its heart, it's really about lifelong friends pulling away, making different choices from each other, and also about how incredibly uncomfortable it can be to face down your own flaws and prejudices.

48HBC Book 9: Red Thread Sisters by Carol Antoinette Peacock

Time: 1:03
Source: Local Library

Last book!

Capsule review: "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."

 I don't have time to read another one, so I'll just listen to my audiobook and run my time out.

48HBC Book 8: A Certain October by Angela Johnson

Time: 0:42:03
Source: Local Library

Well that book flew by. I had a hard time writing about it, though. Can't quite get a grip on the main character or the plot.

Capsule review: ". . . the jumbled tangle of emotion and uncertainty is awfully close to living inside Scotty's head. It's a quick and often confusing read. I'd give it only to people who are fans of Johnson's other work."

Torn now between picking up a longer book that I might not finish before two hours are up, or a short one and filling in the time with my audiobook and knitting. Hmmm.

48HBC Book 7: A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar

Time: 1:32
Source: Local Library

Awwwwwwwww. This book is like a puff pastry, sweet and delicious and just what I needed after my last book.

Capsule review: "This is a sweet, funny book with an incredibly sense of place. I want to visit Alex and Bijou's Brooklyn with all its color and variety and energy. It's not all sunny good fun, though. There are some ugly prejudices lurking under the surface. But Farrar keeps those light, brushing the edges of the story without making them the central conflict, and keeping his book light and sweet. Highly recommended for middle-school readers."

Might take some networking and knittting-with-audiobook time before I'm off to peruse the shelves for my next pick.

48HBC Book 6: While We Run by Karen Healey

Time: 2:12
Source: ARC from a friend

I won't say that I couldn't put this book down, but it came close.

Capsule Review: "I feel as if I should have re-read When We Wake, because I know I didn't catch all the subtleties, but as it is, I was held captive by Abdi and Tegan's story. They're trying to do the right thing, but everyone seems to have a different perspective on what the right thing is. It's not black and white in any sense of the word, but dappled in shades of grey, and that's the most interesting pattern if you ask me."

Lunch and a little break for the eyes before I dive into the next one. I've read several long books, so I think I'll pick up a few short ones now.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

48HBC Book 5: Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery

Time: 0:48
Source: Local Library

Probably my last full book for the night. I'm not dragging as much as I have in other years, I think because I'm interspersing a lot of audiobook time. (I'm over halfway through it . . . yikes!) Anyway, this particular book was a quick, engaging read.

Capsule review: "As I read the chapters on her childhood, I was struck by how often young Temple came close to being institutionalized or marginalized, and how often a supportive adult or accepting friend was there to let Temple be who she was. Part of this was being autistic in the 50's and 60's when many people still thought it was something that could or should be fixed. Part of that is still around today, which makes me think about the valuable role of people who work with kids."

My next book will be Karen Healey's While We Run, an ARC that generated an "EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!" from me when I got my hot little hands on it.

48HBC Book 4: The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Time: 2:15
Source: Local Library

This one I liked much better.

Capsule review: "While I liked the different immigration story, and (oh, let's be honest) the love story, what I loved best about this book was Jade Moon herself. She's definitely a Fire Horse girl, and often immature and impulsive along with all her other flaws. It's only when she learns to channel her fiery nature that she's able to control it, and find places and people who will not only accept her, but value her too."

I'll take a walk and listen to my audiobook for a little while before picking up my next book.

48HBC Book 3: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Time: 2:20
Source: Local Library

I wasn't entirely thrilled with my third pick. I hoped it would be a tight, thrilling story but it dragged quite a bit for me. It did have some interesting themes of identity and the right to live, however.

Capsule review: "What I did like? Eva's tense, wobbly relationship with Amarra, like a younger sister always in her older sister's shadow, with the older sister resenting that she exists at all. The portrait of the parents' grief, both assuaged and heightened by Eva's presence. There was also the boyfriend's grief, which is a complicated beast, all tangled up with sadness and guilt and interest in Eva. The setting is also a view of India we don't often get, a well-to-do middle-upper-class world with light touches of non-Western detail."

Time for some networking!

48HBC Book 2: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Time: 1:27
Source: Local Library

I finished this one last night just before going to sleep, and got up to write the review before going to work.

Capsule review: "One of the things I liked best about this book was the slowness of the process. Gabe comes out to his parents, to close friends, and then painfully, to the world, in baby steps like asking a radio station to change the name on his entry form from Liz to Gabe, and telling his new boss that though his W-2 says one name, it's really another. Each outing is its own different brand of scary, and some go better than others."

Now off to work for a few hours! Excitement: I'm going to be on local radio today talking about teen books for summer reading. If there's a podcast, I'll link it here.

Friday, June 06, 2014

48HBC Book 1: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez

Time: 1:29
Source: Local Library

My first book is down, refreshingly fast! I picked this one because I felt like I was going to identify strongly with the main character. I was right.

Capsule review: "I have to say, this book hit me where I live. Like Erica, I had a mom who got breast cancer. (She's fine now.) I also grew up Latina, with Spanish and English in my ears and Tex-Mex cooking in my home. And of course, no matter what your ethnicity, everybody can relate to the agonizing experience of being a middle-schooler."

Since the sun has gone down, the temperature has cooled off to something less than the surface of Mercury, so I'm going to take a walk and cue up my audiobook for a little while before I start my next book.

The Starting Line!

As I type these words, it is 6:00 pm Mountain time, so it's time for me to start my 48-HBC for this year! I've got my audiobook (Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier) and my first book (Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez). Like last year, I'll be posting short capsule reviews and saving the longer-form reviews for later in the summer.

For the charity portion of it, I'll be donating to local charity Make Way for Books, with 10 dollars for each book finished and one dollar for each comment posted between now and Monday night.

Follow me on Twitter @mosylu or comment here if you have suggestions for my next book, want to tell me what you think of what I'm reading, or just want to let me know you're doing it too, so I can cheer you on!

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Are You Ready for the 48-HBC?

Did you clear your schedule?

Did you order pizza and caffeinated beverages?

Do you have your Twitter feed ready to go?

Do you have MotherReader's blog bookmarked?

Did you stack up your books in an orderly fashion? (Or a disorderly one, whatever.)

Did you pick your audiobook?

If the answer to any of these is "Bwuh?" there's still time to get in on the action. You can start your 48HBC anytime between Friday, June 6, at 7 am and Saturday, June 7, at 7 am. You finish it exactly 48 hours after starting. Hop over to MotherReader's blog to find out what it's all about.

I'll be starting after work on Friday, and reading until Sunday night. My audiobook is Team Human and my stack of books is mighty and tall. I'll be writing capsule reviews for the challenge itself, and saving up the longer reviews to post later in the summer.

Join in! Follow me at mosylu and keep an eye on this blog. Let me know if you're joining in or just cheerleading.

And don't forget to have fun!

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: May 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 5
Tween: 5
Children: 5

Review Copies: 6
Library: 6

Teen: Sunrise by Mike Mullins
As the human race is pulling itself out of the Dark Ages, Alex rises to the occasion. Less action-packed than the first two, more community-building, but I appreciated seeing this kid make some hard choices in his new world.
Tween: The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Can I explain how much I love a con story? I love the twists and the turns and the con man's brain that figures out twelve angles at once and how to make them work to his advantage, and what actually manages to surprise him in the end. This book fed that love.
Children: Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler
A fluffy ball of cute, this book. Although the girls seriously blurred together, to the point where I had to think of them as one girl who managed to be everywhere and do everything.

Because I Want To Awards
The When-Harry-Met-Sally Award: Played by Liz Fichera
Not like THAT. Geez, you guys. Insta-love is rampant in teen romance, as is longtime friends-to-lovers, but this is the first time I've seen two teens genuinely becoming friends before falling in love. Sam and Riley baffle each other as often as they get each other, but their love story has a firm basis in honest liking, and I appreciated that.

The Quirk Factor is Through the Roof: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
With numerous asides and slyly hilarious details, it was just like one of my other favorite hoot-and-a-half series, M.T. Anderson's Pals in Peril!