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Preview: Confessions of a Bibliovore

Confessions of a Bibliovore

The generally book-related ramblings of a recovering English major and children's librarian.

Updated: 2017-02-22T11:14:02.002-07:00


Book Review: Interference by Kay Honeyman


(image) Title: Interference
Author: Kay Honeyman
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Disgraced and expelled from her exclusive private school at precisely the wrong time for her father's campaign, Kate finds herself banished to the tiny Texas burg where he was raised, She's a world away from everything familiar. But she's not going to let that stop her. Even in the middle of nowhere, she can still do some good - right?

First Impressions: This was at its best when it wasn't consciously trying to hit the beats of Emma. I liked that her political savvy both helped and hurt her.

Later On: I'm sure that the fact this was a contemporary retelling of Emma was why I requested this, but I'd forgotten that by the time I got around to reading. It wasn't until one very obvious parallel whacked me over the head that I remembered it. Like I said above, it worked best for me when it let go of slavish imitation of the original plot and focused instead on the theme - a well-meaning, somewhat overbearing girl learning more about herself and the people around her.

More: Kirkus

Book Review: Steeplejack by A.J. Hartley


(image) Title: Steeplejack
Author: A.J. Hartley
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Anglet is a chimney-climber, accustomed to risking her life on the rooftops, knowing she won't be mourned or even cleaned up if she falls to her death on the cobblestones. It's the risk you take. But when another chimney-climber plummets to his death under mysterious circumstances, she also knows she's the only one who's willing to figure out what really happened to him.

Threading her way through three very different and uneasily mixed societies, Ang will uncover a far bigger pit of snakes than even she was expecting.

First Impressions: As a mystery, it was decent, even if there was some Sudden Knowledge at the end. As a book about a girl navigating her racial/ethnic identity, not so much.

Later On: Ang's quest for the truth takes her through the highs and lows of a fantasy metropolis. The world she navigates, based on South Africa's mix of Dutch, Indian, and South African cultures, is one we haven't seen in fantasy before. The story, both in the plot and the world-building, clicked along in an interesting way, although an unsupported revelation came out of nowhere at the end and weakened the mystery somewhat.

However, my issue is with the portrayal of Ang moving within and around the culture she was born into. When she visits the area of town where she grew up, her tone is not that of someone visiting their estranged home and family, but instead an anthropologist. There's no clear emotional connection to the beliefs, the customs, and the surroundings of her origin, or what's left of her family. She might as well be talking about either of the other two cultures in the book.

While I can appreciate the narrative of alienation from your own culture (it's very close to my own experience), it felt like she'd never spent any time in that culture and was observing it from the outside. Given that she was supposedly struggling with this issue, and that something related to this was the great revelation at the end, this was a part of the book that fell flat for me.

More: Writing POC While White  an article by the author which shows that while they are conscious of the issues, it didn't translate very well to the page

Book Review: Run by Kody Keplinger


Title: RunAuthor: Kody KeplingerPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Born with severely limited vision, Agnes Atwood is even more protected than most girls in her tiny Southern town. Her parents barely let her step out the front door without someone to watch over her, usually her best friend, who seems to be using their friendship for Christian brownie points. As Agnes gets closer to graduation, she feels like she'll never escape, that she'll be Poor Agnes the Blind Girl forever.Then she meets Bo.Bo Dickinson of the Dickinsons, the infamous hellraising family that every tiny town seems to have. Bo swears, drinks, smokes, and sleeps around. But she's also the best friend Agnes will ever have, because she knows exactly what it's like to feel trapped, to yearn for escape, and to fear that the chance will never come.But when it does, will their friendship survive?First Impressions: This was incredibly touching, although I feel like I want to chew on the ending for awhile.Later On: This book is told from two alternating viewpoints - Bo's, in the present, and Agnes', looking backward over the path of their friendship. I generally enjoy this because it's interesting to see the different perspectives. However, I felt like I got more into Agnes' head than Bo's, maybe because I spent so much time trying to work out what was going on during the night of their escape. Also maybe because Agnes' half of the story is slower-paced, and Agnes herself is more given to introspection. But both girls are compelling, flawed, and extraordinary friends to each other and no matter who was telling it, I didn't want to put it down.SPOILER - what I want to chew on about the ending is that Bo and Agnes part ways. Agnes goes back home and Bo stays where she ends up. You have the sense that their friendship will never again be what it was, but it's not handled in a tragic way or an angry way. Rather, it's a friendship that both girls badly needed at the time, and that forced them both to learn and grow - which is not something that this kind of ending usually declares. SPOILERMore: Disability in Kidlit: The Beautiful Tragedy The author talks about the "beautiful tragedy" disability narrative. That was something I appreciated about this book, is that Agnes is nobody's inspirational disability story, and in fact chafes against a former BFF who just seems to be using her for Christian brownie points.Teen Librarian Toolbox [...]

Book Review: Exit Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston


(image) Title: Exit Pursued by a Bear
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: 2016
Source: Local Library

Summary: Hermione is determined to make this the best year ever for her cheerleading squad. At camp, she aims to crush the competition. But it's Hermione who gets crushed - by a faceless attacker who drugged her drink at the camp dance and raped her in the dark, leaving her to be discovered at the edge of the lake in the morning.

With little chance that her attacker will ever be brought to justice, Hermione now has to reassemble herself, to be more than "that girl who got raped", to deal with the horrible choices that come on the heels of her assault - and to find the strength to handle the fact that she'll never be the same again.

First Impressions: What kills me about this book was that she had just about everything on her side - support system, good parents, access to services, sympathetic cops - and it was still dreadful to an unholy degree.

Later On: I've read criticism that this rape story is too "easy," too convenient. The cops believe her, her parents support her, all but a few classmates are on her side. She even (spoiler) figures out whodunit by the end and we are left with the impression that justice will be done. Is this the experience of every raped person? Of course not. But does any of this cancel out that she was violated, that the choice was taken from her, and that she'll never be the same? Again: of course not.

Even with all her sturdy support systems, Hermione is still the one to bear the terrible weight of what was done to her. That's something that remains the same in every story. When we start to say that one rape is more valid than another is when we start to discount the heinousness of the act itself.

More: Not Acting My Age
By Singing Light
Waking Brain Cells

First Impressions: Defending Taylor, The Scourge, And I Darken


Title: Defending TaylorAuthor: Miranda KenneallyPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Kicked out of her ritzy private school, Taylor sees her mistakes splashed all over the front page just as her dad is running for re-election. Now she has to try to make her way in a new school, and try not to fall for her brother's friend Ezra, who has himself mysteriously dropped out of college.First Impressions: While this was a valuable story about mistakes and working through them, I just kept thinking of how tremendously privileged these kids were. While they got a lot of flak from family for their screw-ups, they also kept getting second chances rarely provided to lower-class kids.Title: The ScourgeAuthor: Jennifer A. NielsenPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Ani and her best friend Weevil have been captured, tested positive for the dreaded Scourge, and sent to an island hospital colony. Even there, they're scorned for being River People, and given all the worst jobs.But Ani is smart and savvy, and she knows something's not right. She's going to get herself and Weevil off this island and back home if it's the last thing she does.First Impressions: So I saw (most) of the twists coming from a mile away, but that's because I know tropes. I think kids might get a little more shock out of it. And Ani was pretty awesome.Title: And I DarkenAuthor: Kierstan WhitePublished: 2016Source: NetGalleySummary: In 15th century Transylvania, Lada and Radu are the scorned children of a brutal king - Lada for her gender, Radu for his gentleness. Sent away to the Ottoman Empire as hostages to their father's good behavior, they grow up alongside the captivating Mehmed, the crown prince. As they do, they both find their way into their own identities.But they'll never stop trying to prove themselves - to their father, to each other, and to themselves.First Impressions: Very sprawling and epic in scope but it slowed down hard toward the end. Although this is the first in a series, I don't think I'll keep reading it. [...]

Book Review: All the Feels by Danika Stone


Title: All the FeelsAuthor: Danika StonePublished: 2016Source: NetGalleySummary: Liv, Starveil fangirl extraordinaire, is devastated. Her favorite character died at the end of the most recent movie, and her life is over. But she's not going to take this lying down. She enlists her best friend Xander's help and launches a campaign to bring Captain Tom Spartan back. To her delight, she sees it balloon into an online phenomenon that might actually succeed.In real life, though, her mother wants her to drop all this silly fan stuff and focus on real world questions, like what's she actually going to do with her life. But Liv has no idea. Isn't there a way to just do what she loves?First Impressions: Definitely saw Xander coming a mile away. I liked the examination of fandom, of its emotional importance, and that counter to her mother's disdain, it brought her something concrete in the end.Later On: As someone who's been around various fandoms for years, and has actually had good things come of it professionally, I appreciated the respect and realism in this novel's portrayal of fandom, as well as the broad range of creative fanworks and the part that social media plays in connecting fans to each other.You also see the other side - besides her mother's disapproval, Liv gets sexually harassed at a con, is shocked to see that some of her online friends are way different than she pictured them, and even gets yelled at by the very actor she's trying to revive.I was worried that Liv was going to realize she was using fandom as an emotional crutch and discard it for the "real world." Part of her emotional attachment to the movies dates back to her dead father, after all. But the novel is clear that she's also built more out of it. She's taught herself to edit videos, built an online network, and started a grassroots campaign. To my relief, she never discards fandom wholesale. She learns more about it, but it's woven through her learning more about herself, about what she wants and how people work. (Including the sweet, light-handed romance between her and Xander.)As she starts to see her beloved movies (and the actors in them) as products of an industry, she sees how the skills she's honed as a fan creator can support an adult career in that industry, without sacrificing her enthusiasm for the created world.More: Teen Librarian Toolbox [...]

Book Review: The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass


(image) Title: The Cresswell Plot
Author: Eliza Wass
Published: 2016
Source: NetGalley

Summary: They are the weirdest family in town. Shut-ins with odd clothes and strange ideas, the the Cresswells know they are special, chosen by God, and will go directly to heaven when the end times come - which will be soon, their father assures them.

But waiting for the end times isn't good enough for Castella. She yearns to be normal, to act in plays, and hang out with people she's not related to. She may not get the chance.

As their father spirals further into his megalomaniac religious fervor, she and her siblings start to fear that instead of waiting for the end times, he's going to make them happen.

First Impressions: So that was weird, but not quite as weird as it really wanted to be, I feel.

Later On: I don't have a whole lot to say about this book, but the thing that made me most violently uncomfortable was the quasi-romance with her brother. Her brother. There's not even adoption, secret or otherwise, to maybe make this a little less icky, this is straight up DNA matching incestuous attraction. They've been told their whole lives that they're fated to marry each other in Heaven, so there's some family brainwashing at work, but it still icked me out so terribly that I kept reading for the moment when she started to break free of that. SPOILER: she never really did. Yiiiiiikes. SPOILER

Beside that, the plot was diffuse and meandering and I kept wondering what exactly was going on and where it was all headed and why so much of it felt like weird for weird's sake. The psychological barriers to escaping this messed-up family were well-done, I'll give you that. But . . . her brother!

More: Not Acting My Age

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo


Title: If I Was Your GirlAuthor: Meredith RussoPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Amanda is moving to a new town - always traumatic for a high-schooler, but she has even more to worry about than most teenage girls. In this small, conservative town, her very life could be in danger if people discover she was originally named Andrew.She's coming to live with her father after a terrible transphobic incident in her mom's hometown. Her dad wasn't nearly as supportive as her mom throughout her transition, so that will be weird. But at least nobody here knows who she used to be, and for Amanda, it's like the shackles falling off.First Impressions: This was a fascinating look into the experience of living as a transgender girl. Some of it felt very wish-fulfillment but there were some wrenchingly honest moments too.Later On: Like George (which, spoiler, I loved) this is a book about a trans character written by a trans person, and I'm told a trans model was used for the cover. Also like George, the value of this shows in Amanda's lived experience.Like I said, a fair amount of her new life smacks of wish fulfillment. She easily acquires a crowd of popular, genuine friends and an adorable boyfriend, and (spoiler!) she gets named homecoming queen! However, it's not all sunshine and roses. In the brief flashbacks to Andrew's life, you can see her depression and despair, and her new life isn't absent of trauma and harassment once people learn about her past.I also liked that the people around her, even the sympathetic ones, have realistic, complex emotions regarding her transition, but they aren't allowed to narratively overwhelm Amanda's own journey. This isn't a book about her parents' uncertainty over suddenly having a daughter instead of a son, or her boyfriend's conflicted feelings over the fact that she was once biologically male. While these all clearly impact her, this book is about Amanda finally, openly living life as the person she's always been.More: Abby the Librarian Not Acting My AgeBook NutTeen Librarian Toolbox [...]

First Impressions: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, The Darkest Hour, P.S. I Like You


Title: The Way to Game the Walk of ShameAuthor: Jenn P NguyenPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: When good-girl Taylor wakes up in genial player Evan's bed with no memory of how she got there, she knows her reputation is ruined. The only option is to convince Evan to pretend to be her boyfriend for awhile. It'll salvage her reputation, give him a breather from his predatory ex, and then they'll break up with no hard feelings! Yeah, that always works out exactly as planned.First Impressions: This was pretty fun, but there was a real "not like other girls" thing with Taylor that made me uncomfortable. It was really heavily implied that Evan had been hanging out with all the wrong girls (dirty nasty sex-having girls like his ex, who did everything but hum "Barracuda" every time she appeared on the page) and he just really needed a Good Girl to fall in love with. See? Uncomfortable.Title: The Darkest HourAuthor: Caroline TungPublished: 2016 Source: EdelweissSummary: A few years ago, Lucie was a regular Franco-American girl, living her life and waiting for her brother to come home so they can escape their oppressive home life. Then her brother died, and she ran away to Paris to help the war effort any way she could. That turned out to be becoming a spy. But now she has to contend with deception and murky moral decisions at every turn - not only from the Nazis but also from the people she's working for.First Impressions: The pacing was all off in this one. It felt like it should have been a couple of books, or like it started or ended in the wrong places. Just very confusing. I rarely advocate for something to be a trilogy or duology instead of a single title, but this might have benefited from being broken up in that way.Title: P.S. I Like YouAuthor: Kasie WestPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Lily Abbott is getting love letters every day in Chem class from a mystery correspondent. They write back and forth, sharing parts of themselves that they've never revealed to another living being. She's convinced they're from adorable, soulful Lucas. Just as long as they're not from her best friend's ex and snotty class clown, Cade. That would be horrifying! Right?First Impressions: So it was pretty blindingly obvious who the letter writer was, but I like the way it played out. Kasie West does really enjoyable YA romantic comedy that unashamedly goes for the tropes and makes them mad fun instead of tired and stale. [...]

Book Review: Anything You Want by Geoff Herbach


Title: Anything You WantAuthor: Geoff HerbachPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Taco Keller thinks he's doing okay. Sure, his mom died last year and his dad is never around and his brother has a short temper and drinks too much. But Taco just knows every day is the best day of his life!When his beloved girlfriend, Maggie, gets pregnant (they didn't use birth control because it was for recreational purposes), he greets this life-changing news with his customary optimism. He can do this! He'll get a job (maybe two) and he'll get excellent grades and also a role in the school play and he'll just be the best husband and father ever. It doesn't matter that Maggie is blowing hot and cold constantly, and that nobody thinks he can actually do this, and everyone is encouraging him and Maggie to give the baby up for adoption. After all, every day is the best day of his life.First Impressions: This kid was as dumb as a box of hair. At least he knew it, unlike everyone else.Later On: One of the reasons I keep reading Geoff Herbach's books is for how real his teen male protagonists feel. (He doesn't do as well with his female characters - they all tend to default to Nice Lady or Crazy Lady in this one.) But there's a lot going on with Taco in particular.His unflagging optimism both papers over and attempts to compensate for some real pain and uncertainty. The power of this novel is how he gradually comes to realize that he's really, really not ready to be a father, that Maggie's not ready to be a mother, and that he's not abandoning his child (as he feels himself abandoned) by allowing it to be put up for adoption, but instead giving the baby the best chance at life.While I realize this is Taco's story, I truly wish that the narrative had gotten more into Maggie's head. She was presented as a mystical, confusing creature who makes whimsical decisions and changes her mind the next day. I could see her uncertainty and confusion and could guess at the pressures on her, but it's all filtered through Taco's perception of her. There also seemed to be very little closure with her at the end.For its flaws with female characters, this is still a wrenching, funny, honest, emotional book. When I wasn't laughing, I was crying.More: Ms Yingling Reads [...]

First Impressions: Grayling's Song, Booked, Unplugged


 Title: Grayling's SongAuthor: Karen CushmanPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: When her hedgewitch mother is attacked and turned into a tree, shy Grayling must venture out of her hometown for the first time and journey to find the person who's attacking all the magical folk in the land. Along the way she's joined by a crew of misfits who are all that's left.First Impressions: This is a quieter book, for all there's a magical threat. Grayling grows into her own power and courage convincingly. The true identity of the villain, though, was a little bit of a bait and switch and I'm still not sure I like it.Title: BookedAuthor: Kwame AlexanderPublished: 2016Source: Local LibrarySummary: Nick is having a rough time. His parents are splitting up, his best friend is on a different soccer team, his dad is trying to get him to read more (blech! yuck!) and he's kinda sorta maybe in like with  a girl.First Impressions: This was pretty good! There were so many elements (soccer, parental relationships, luuuuurvvve, divorce) that it should have felt overstuffed but everything wove together very realistically.Title: UnpluggedAuthor: Donna FreitasPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Living a virtual life in the App World, Skye longs for the day when she can disconnect and see her family, left behind in the real world. When the government announces that the borders between the App World and the real world have been closed permanently, she fears it might never happen - until a celebrity offers her the chance to sneak across the border. But the real world isn't quite what she expected, and neither is her family.First Impressions: Yay no love triangle! In fact, there's very little romance, and female relationships are more important to the plot. On the other hand it really ran out of steam when she moved to the real world. This is the first in the series and I really wish it had been all one book because all the scenes in the real world felt like they were mostly treading water. [...]

First Impressions: Gasp, Unidentified Suburban Object, The Lost Twin


Title: Gasp Author: Lisa McMannPublished: 2014Source: Local LibrarySummary: In the third book of the series, the visions have hopped to a whole new person. Unfortunately, Jules and Sawyer don't know who that person is, and they have to find out before tragedy crashes down on them again.First Impressions: I'm glad the series ended here. The tie to the visions was getting way more tenuous and I thought the wrap-up worked.Title: Unidentified Suburban ObjectAuthor: Mike JungPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: As the only Asian kid in her whole school, Chloe Cho barely even feels Korean. Even though both her parents came to the States from Korea as adults, they seem to want to forget it completely. When her teacher, Mrs. Lee (who is also Korean!) assigns a family history project, Chloe puts her foot down with her parents. She's going to learn about her background if it kills her! But she's not really prepared for the truth.First Impressions: I was spoiled for the twist so I saw the setup but I have to say that her frustration with racist stereotypes and her yearning to connect with her heritage was very well done and the spectacular tailspin when she learned the truth was also realistic.Title: The Lost TwinAuthor: Sophie CleverlyPublished: 2016Source: NetGalleySummary: After her twin sister Scarlet dies at boarding school, Ivy is sent to take her place. Not just to attend the school, but to completely impersonate her own sister. But how did Scarlet die? What is the school's sinister secret? And can she make it through the school year without being exposed?First Impressions: I feel like this was trying to be a really fun old-fashioned English boarding school mystery story, but the death of the sister and the impersonation scheme was a much more somber premise than the story could support. Just never gelled for me. [...]

Book Review: Break Me Like a Promise by Tiffany Schmidt


Title: Break Me Like a PromiseAuthor: Tiffany SchmidtPublished: 2016Source: NetGalleySummary: Maggie is the spoilt princess of an organ-transplant mafia family, but her life is not completely sunshine and roses. She's still struggling with her grief over her secret boyfriend's violent death, and her father is actually supporting an act of Congress that would implode their whole business model. When she accidentally opens a suspicious email and infects her computer (and by extension all the computers in the house) with nasty spyware, the only person who can help is Alejandro - and the only way he'll do it is if she pulls a few strings and gets him the kidney he so desperately needs. She agrees, never planning to keep her promise, but finds out she's not getting off the hook so easily.First Impressions: I found Maggie supremely unlikeable in the first quarter of the book or so, but after that it improved. The ending felt very abrupt though, with some sequelitis.Later On: Somehow I missed that this book is based on "The Frog Prince" until partway through. I think if I'd known this going in, I would have been a lot more secure in the main character and where the story was going. Yes, Maggie has it very, very rough at the start. But she still makes a promise that she never intends to keep, seemingly because it's to someone who's gross to look at. And what can you say about a character who whines about her emotional pain not being respected by a boy who is terminally ill? If you can get past the unpleasant start, Maggie improves a lot in the course of the book. She learns to be less self-centered and comes to see the bigger picture of her family's business and where it's headed after paid organ donation is legalized. She also learns to see the human impact of what they do as well as the economic one, and works through her grief and her feeling of being stuck in a realistic way.I worried about the portrayal of Alex, who is Latino and definitely not of Maggie's social class. For awhile there it seemed like he was going to be the Inspirational Minority or the Inspirational Sick Person. In some ways he still was, unfortunately. We got a little exposition about his family but mainly he was a guest in Maggie's world, upending her notions of the world but ultimately remaining a static character himself.This is the second book in a series, and some of the loose threads and rushed finish can be attributed to that. More: my review of the first book in the series, Hold Me Like a BreathKirkus [...]

Book Review: Once Was a Time by Leila Sales


Title: Once Was a Time
Author: Leila Sales
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: In 1940's Britain, Charlotte struggles to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of wartime privations. At the same time, she doesn't have it so bad - she has her best friend, Kitty.

But when she, Kitty, and her father are kidnapped by Nazis in an effort to find out the secrets of time travel, the war comes home in a terrible way. Charlotte jumps through time to save her life, and finds herself alone in early 2000s America. Adrift and lost, she learns to adjust to her new life - but she never stops missing the time and the people she left behind.

First Impressions: Awwww, this was so sad and yet so perfect. Sniff.

Later On: Honestly I kept expecting a magic time jump back to the 40s, everything fixed. When it didn't happen by the end of the book, it made me reframe the whole story. Charlotte's memories of her family and of Kitty fade over the years, until she's become a person they wouldn't recognize (even not accounting for the clohtes and hairstyle).

But a hint that Kitty might be out there, looking for her, brings her old self back and reminds her who she really is. This is a story about the things that change and the things that don't, and one of the things that doesn't change is the kind of friendship that reminds you who you really are.

More: Charlotte's Library

Book Review: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian


(image) Title: The Last Boy and Girl in the World
Author: Siobhan Vivian
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: With her hometown threatened by torrential rains and a failing dam, Keeley is determined to keep everybody's spirits up, to save her town, and to ride off into the sunset with her adorably perfect crush. And no matter how many people abandon her, she's going to have her happy ending.

First Impressions: Sniff! Everyone is so screwed up and flawed and messy. It felt so realistic.

Later On: Keeley's not an easy character to like at times, but she's so very real. She's the clown, the person who keeps everybody smiling. As things like her town, her school, her childhood friendships, and even her relationship with her parents are changing, she's having a difficult time realizing that a smile and a laugh are not the right expression in all circumstances. Her slow realization that sometimes you do need to be serious, you do need to accept change, and you do need to give in to the inevitability of loss (loss of home, loss of identity, loss of friendships) is wrenching,
because you see people all around her at different stages of the same journey.

The interesting thing about the love triangle was that the "other boy" wasn't wrong for her - he was wrong for her at that time. While these two class clowns could have made it in another setting, they were too much alike, trying to ignore the end of their world and laugh away the sadness.

When Keeley wants to get serious, he pulls away. That's not to say he's a bubblehead - he has his own life issues. But Vivian doesn't use these to excuse him or to bring about a happy ending for them. Keeley learns to recognize that the relationship is going nowhere and walk away on her own, without the romantic intervention of her other possibility.

I haven't read all of Vivian's books, but if they're all this thoughtful, and all her characters are this beautifully drawn, I have some catch-up to do.

More: Not Acting My Age

First Impressions: Save Me a Seat, Just Like Me, Handbook for Dragon Slayers


Title: Save Me a SeatAuthor: Sarah Weeks and Gita VaradarajanPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Ravi is looking forward to his first week in an American school after moving from India. But his accent gets mocked, his habits are too formal, and he even gets sent to the resource room! And the other Indian kid in the class, who he expected to be his best friend, does some very peculiar things sometimes. Almost like he's not Ravi's friend at all.Meanwhile, Joe, the class "dumb kid," watches Ravi try to fit in and make friends with the class bully. While he doesn't want to reach out and make himself even more of a target to Dylan, he can't help connecting with another outcast. By the end of the week, both boys will have an unexpected new friend.First Impressions: This was very good! It was so painful to see Ravi thinking the bully was his friend though.Title: Just Like MeAuthor: Nancy J CavanaughPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Julia is not looking forward to a week at church camp with Becca and Avery. They were all adopted from the same orphanage in China, but she's never felt close to them, and she's definitely never felt as in tune with her Chinese side as they are. But being put in the same cabin together with three bossy and unlikeable girls, and trying to work together to win the camp competition, will bring them all together.First Impressions: This felt exactly like it had been written by an adoptive parent. It hit a lot of adoption tropes and summer camp tropes but I never really felt like any of them landed. I did like that it took place at a church camp, with bible verses and theology as an integral part but never overwhelming or evangelizing to the reader.Title: Handbook for Dragon SlayersAuthor: Merrie HaskellPublished: 2013Source: Local LibrarySummary: Princess Matilda wants to spend her life in a cloister, copying the beautiful books that she loves, away from people afraid of her deformed foot. But the threat of a scheming cousin and a forced marriage propels her out of her home and into a life of adventure, where she discovers that even a shy girl can save the day.First Impressions: I like how this book handled her disability - no miracle cure. There did seem to be a lot of story threads by the end. One could have been dropped no problem. [...]

Have You Nominated for the Cybils?


Nominations for the Cybils opened yesterday, so get crackin'! You can nominate for any and all categories, but check what's been nominated already because a book can only be nominated once. So have a few backups ready.

I'll be participating in Round 2 of YA this year. I'm so excited!

Book Review: George by Alex Gino


Title: GeorgeAuthor: Alex GinoPublished: 2015Source: Local LibraryA note: While she's called George through most of the book, Melissa is the name she's chosen for herself, so that's what I'll use in this review. Please see: How to Talk About George at AlexGino.comSummary: Melissa knows she's a girl, even if the whole world seems to think she's a boy named George instead. She's scared to tell anybody - her mother, her brother, even her best friend - the truth that she knows in her heart. But when the chance to play Charlotte in Charlotte's Web comes her way, she realizes that this may be a way to be who she is.First Impressions: This was so quietly sweet, and yet so comprehensive in how the world was enforcing gender on her. I keep getting the sniffles over it. I also loved how unexpected some of the reactions were.Later On: The thing that kept running through my head was how thoroughly this is a children's book. Melissa is in the fourth grade. The class play is Charlotte's Web. There's little to no discussion of sexuality or attraction - it's this vague, misty thing that feels as far away as the moon. There's a little discussion of genitalia: she hates taking a bath and having to see "what's between her legs", and she talks briefly and vaguely about transitional surgeries and medication with her best friend. But Melissa is primarily and appropriately concerned with a child's world - her family, her friends, school woes, why nobody seems to know who she really is.Her gender is a source of constant stress - not confusion. I think it's important to clarify that. She knows her own gender, even though everything from the bathroom pass to the play's casting call conspires to shout at her, boy boy BOY BOY BOY. It's this constant screaming that makes her miserable. When she gets the chance to be her real self, in public, with her loving and accepting best friend at her side, I swear that I felt a weight lift off my shoulders.I know that strictly because of the topic, this will be shelved in some YA sections. That's the wrong place for this book. This is a tender, beautiful, relatable book for children of all gender identities.More: Waking Brain Cells Interview with Alex Gino at School Library Journal [...]

Book Review: The Taming of the Drew by Stephanie Kate Strohm


(image) Title: The Taming of the Drew
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Headed out to play Kate in a summer stock theatre's production of The Taming of the Shrew, Cass runs afoul of her very own Petruchio . . . who of course turns out to be playing Petruchio in the show. Drew is a persnickety know-it-all who's just begging for a setdown - and Cass is more than up for the challenge.

First Impressions: A cute but slight retelling of Taming of the Shrew. The ending came way too fast and I didn't quite believe it.

Later On: The more I think about this book, the more I'm coming down on the "meh" side. While Drew was pretty obnoxious at times, some of the pranks Cass played could have been genuinely dangerous, such as the one that irritated his extreme allergies. (As someone with allergy-related asthma, I got really worried that he was going to wind up in the hospital.) If I were a guy who'd been having a really awful summer and found out that one girl was behind my inability to sleep because of phantom noises, my clothes all being dyed pink, and other annoyances, I wouldn't be kissing her at the end.

At least some of that emotion is probably my feelings about the source material, which with its themes of emotional and physical abuse, is one of the Shakespeare plays that make modern audiences very uncomfortable. There's some attempt to examine the complexities of putting on the play in a time of wildly different gender roles, but Strohm mostly abandons that in order to uncomplicatedly replicate the original with a gender reversal.

Still, the summer stock theater tropes (wacko director, varying stereotypes of actors) are pretty funny and Cass does have an encounter with fame that forces her to rethink who and what is worth being attracted to. If you can switch off your brain and your nitpick engine (not my strength, obviously), you could probably enjoy this novel.

More: Kirkus

First Impressions: Where You'll Find Me, March Book 1, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl


Title: Where You'll Find MeAuthor: Natasha FriendPublished: 2016Source: NetGalleySummary: After her mother's suicide attempt, Anna winds up living with her father and her brand-new stepmother. She's determined to hate it (among other things, her father left her mother to be with her stepmother) but she soon finds that things aren't uniformly awful in her father's house.First Impressions: Gaaaaaaaaah this was honest and tough. I liked the stepmother, Marnie, a whole lot more than I expected to.Title: March Book 1Author: John Lewis, Nate Powell, Andrew AydinPublished: 2013Source: Public LibrarySummary: The civil rights leader and congressman's early life and first forays into peaceful demonstration, presented in graphic novel format.First Impressions: Interesting to see the intra-movement divisions of the mid-century civil rights movement as well as the intensive training they went through in order to hold to their credo of non-violence.Title: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon GirlAuthor: Melissa Keil, comic sections by Mike LawrencePublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: A dot on the map in Australia is supposed to be the last holdout of humanity when the apocoalypse hits on New Year's Day, or so says a sketchy TV psychic. Alba watches with her friends as hippies and doomsday believers flood to their tiny town. At the same time, she tries not to brood about the end of high school and the beginning of her adult life, and the changes and separations that will inevitably go with it.First Impressions: Awww, this was sweet. It felt realistic especially set on the end-of-the-world backdrop because it did feel like her world was ending. [...]

Book Review: Two Summers by Aimee Friedman


Title: Two SummersAuthor: Aimee FriedmanPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: It all comes down to a phone call at the airport gate. In one universe, Summer answers it, and discovers that her unreliable father has putzed out once again, and she shouldn't board the plane to France to spend the summer with him. Unwilling to face the idea of another boring summer at home, she takes a photography class with her aunt, sees her relationship with her best friend undergo some strain, and reconnects with an old crush.In another universe, she ignores the phone call and gets to France, looking forward to a summer of quaint villages, beautiful scenery, and her father's art. When she arrives, jet-lagged and miserable, she discovers that her father has flitted off to Berlin for several weeks. She's forced to stay with her father's business partner, Juliette, and her unfriendly daughter.In both universes, she spends a summer of self-discovery, including truths both painful and beautiful.First Impressions: Hmm. The interesting part was that she changed in the same ways whether she went to France or not.Later On: I saw the twist regarding the business partner and her daughter's true identity a long way off, given what we knew of the father. I wasn't terribly surprised but I was pleased with the honest (and not entirely mature) reaction to it from almost all participants.The French boyfriend was so amazingly charming and attractive and perfect that he bordered on smarmy, and I was waiting for him to do something scuzzy. When she dumped him without much of a second thought and went back home, I was relieved that she wouldn't be pining.Overall, this book is a funny mix of Deep Thoughts, Life Changes, and fluff. Summer is changing drastically, coming out of her rather unpleasant mid-teen self into a person who actually has interests and compassion outside her very small world. But it's also a lot of wish fulfillment. It was a fun, quick read and might be just what you're looking for.More: Kirkus [...]

Book Review: The Star Touched Queen


Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Scorned and overlooked in her father's court because of her inauspicious horoscope at birth, Maya is set to be married off for political gain. Then Amar sweeps her away to his mysterious castle, full of magic and secrets and traps for the unwary. And Maya is very unwary.

First Impressions: Very atmospheric South Asian retelling of Cupid and Psyche.

Later On: I fell in love with the first part, which felt as if it had a lot of setup (a tense political situation, Maya's father, evil horoscopes, awful aunties, her mysterious mother, her relationship with a beloved sister) for things that ultimately never played out fully, or played out on the sidelines of the rest of the book.

After Amar married her and took her away, it all started to feel quite standard fantasy stuff, dressed up with a lot of magical and exotic-to-me surroundings but ultimately nothing I haven't seen before. If I had to grade the two sections separately, I would call the first part a 10 and the rest of it a 7 or an 8 . . . still pretty good but not quite keeping up.

On the strength of that first section, I'll be watching out for more of Chokshi's writing, in hopes that she can sustain it through the whole story next time.

More: Waking Brain Cells

Book Review: Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn


Title: Down With the Shine Author: Kate Karyus Quinn Published: 2016 Source: Edelweiss Summary: Lennie's uncles are moonshiners. Scandalous, but in an everyday way. That's what she thinks anyway. But when she steals a case of the family product for a party, in hopes of purchasing a little popularity, she finds out differently. Turns out that the quaint toast her uncles repeat every time they sell to a customer isn't just a quaint toast after all. It's the ritual for granting wishes, a gift that's passed down through the family. And because the wishes of drunken teenagers are about what you'd expect (for her to love me, to be taller, to be more athletic, to turn everything I touch into Cheetos) they come true in nightmarish fashion. Now it's up to her and the brother of her dead best friend to find some way to reverse these wishes before it gets any worse. First Impressions: This was kind of a mess. An enjoyable mess, but a mess. Later On: This book was positively overstuffed. Murdered best friend, serial killer father, magical moonshine uncles, wishes with horrifying consequences. Any one of these could have been their own book. Jumbled together like this, they were just a mishmash of plot points for Lennie to ping-pong between. It still could have worked if the different threads had woven together well, but as it was, they just sort of trundled along concurrently. SPOILER The time-rewind ending was sort of a cop-out, but also a relief because things had fallen apart so spectacularly that it was the only chance for any kind of decent ending.SSPOILER  Finally, I have to say something about Dylan, Lennie's murdered best friend who gets brought back to life by the wishes. I honestly couldn't figure out why they were such good friends. Dylan was so selfish and unpleasant when she returned from the grave that I didn't know why they hadn't left her there, and given that the tragedy of her gruesome murder underpinned so many of Lennie's other relationships with her peers, it weakened the book for me. More: Kirkus [...]

Book Review: Nightstruck by Jenna Black


(image) Title: Nightstruck
Author: Jenna Black
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: When Becket follows a baby's cry into a dark alley, she unwittingly looses demons on Philadelphia. Things get grimmer and grimmer for her and for her city until finally her own best friend is within their grasp. Is it possible Becket is the only one who can end this?

First Impressions: Why do I keep requesting horror books. Whyyyyyy. And the ending was a pointless cliffhanger.

Later On: This started very promisingly, but Beckett spent most of the book in a puddle of helplessness, punctuated by moments of horrific gore. And the pointless cliffhanger ending just made me furious, since we arrived at the cliff because Becket was so busy dithering. Still, if you love blood-splashing horror, you might as well give this a try.

More: Kirkus

First Impressions: A Tangle of Gold, A Darker Shade of Magic, A Hundred Hours of Night


Title: A Tangle of GoldAuthor: Jaclyn Moriarty Published: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: People from the parallel worlds of Earth and Cello scramble to find Cello's royal family on Earth, but anarchists stand in their way - including, maybe, one of their own.First Impressions: For me, this would have been better off being the only book. I had a really hard time remembering what happened in the others but all the good stuff happened in this one.Title: A Darker Shade of MagicAuthor: V.E. SchwabPublished: 2015Source: Local LibrarySummary: Kell is one of only two Travelers left - magicians able to step between three different versions of London, with three different magics. When danger threatens his own version of London (Red), he finds himself working with con-woman Delilah Bard from Grey London to save all the worlds.First Impressions: I was disappointed that the villains were so obvious from the beginning. However, when she turned up, Lila was kickass. I'll be reading the rest of the series for more of her.Title: A Hundred Hours of NightAuthor: Anna Woltz, translated from the Dutch by Laura WatkinsonPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: When shy, anxious Emilia runs away, she does it in grand style, all the way from the Netherlands to New York City. In the shadow of Hurricane Sandy, she'll discover new friends and reserves of strength she never knew she had.First Impressions: This was pretty damn good! Snapshot of NYC during Hurricane Sandy as the backdrop of upheaval. Her OCD was handled a little too cavalierly though. I couldn't tell if she had a diagnosed condition or she was merely calling her many anxieties OCD. [...]