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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: 2017-12-12T03:21:51.025-07:00


First Impressions: The Forgetting, This Savage Song, Goldenhand


Title: The ForgettingAuthor: Sharon CameronPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Every 7 years, a fog sweeps across Nadia's fortified town and erases everyone's memory. In order to pick their lives back up, the citizens of the town write everything down in books that they keep locked to their bodies. Anyone who goes missing during the Forgetting is presumed dead or lost.Nadia has a secret. Unlike everyone else, she remembers what happened before the Forgetting. She remembers secrets, horrors, and even entire people that she was supposed to forget. She's kept her secret for years, but the Forgetting is coming again soon. Will she remember this time?First Impressions: This was pretty enjoyable while I was in it, but when I closed it, I was like, "well that was a pretty cookie cutter dystopia."Title: This Savage SongAuthor: Victoria SchwabPublished: 2016Source: Local LibrarySummary: In a city of monsters, August is one of the worst. Others eat blood or flesh, but he consumes souls, especially souls marred with sin. He hates himself, but it's how he survives, being a threat looming over the heads of his father's enemies. Kate Harker is the daughter of one of those enemies, and it's his job to keep tabs on her in her prestigious private school. But she's much more than he was prepared for - and the secrets both their families have been keeping are also much more.First Impressions: This is pretty dark stuff, and I liked that the romance was low-key or maybe not even there at all. This was about the monstrous identities of both protagonists.Title:  GoldenhandAuthor: Garth NixPublished: 2017Source: EdelweissSummary: When she finds old friend Nicholas Sayre possessed with dark magic, Lirael - once a shy Assistant Librarian, now the Abhorsen-in-waiting - must journey back to her childhood home to find a way to save him. At the same time, a young woman from a distant land flees from enemies, carrying a mysterious message to Lirael. Will their paths cross in time for either of them?First Impressions: So this felt like a prelude or something - it cut off in the middle before anything really happened. I was really frustrated, especially because the two groups didn't even meet by the end. [...]

Book Review: This is Where It Ends by Marieke Niejkamp


(image) Book: This is Where It Ends
Author: Marieke Nijkamp
Published: 2016
Source: Local Library

Summary: On a chilly winter morning in Opportunity, Alabama, every student in the high school shuffles into the auditorium for yet another semester-opening assembly, complete with the same speech they've been hearing every year. It goes about like usual, until everyone gets up to leave, and finds every door locked. They're trapped.

And then the shooting begins.

First Impressions: This was so hard to read. I liked the multiplicity of views on the shooter from different viewpoints, and the mirroring of the sibling relationships.

Later On: Truthfully? I really didn't want to read this book, and I wouldn't have if I hadn't been judging it for the Cybils. Not because I thought it was going to be bad. I'd been hearing good things about it. But the topic was enough to make me go NOPE, so I went

I couldn't put it down, but at the same time, I didn't want to be reading it. Does that make sense? I hated what the characters were going through (and I guess that's an endorsement in its own way, that the characters were well-drawn enough around all the bloodshed that I cared about every one of the many, many kids we were introduced to), but at the same time, I wanted to be with them as they did.

My favorite part was the way it took a hard look at the shooter from various perspectives - as a brother, as a boyfriend, as a bully. The other thing I appreciated is that everyone in this book has their challenges and hardships, but still, Tyler is the only one who chose to pick up a gun. There were some glitches in logic, but I was able to overlook that. More seriously, there was a revelation toward the end that felt too late to really have the desired effect.

I don't regret reading it, but at the same time I can't really say that I'm glad I did. It was a harrowing experience, but if that's what you want from your reading, then go for it.

More: Kirkus

Book Review: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter


Title: Vassa in the Night
Author: Sarah Porter
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: The nights in Brooklyn are growing longer lately, and night is the scariest time to go to BY's convenience store, surrounded by the heads of shoplifters on pikes. Vassa has no choice, though, when one of her stepsisters insists that she needs lightbulbs right now, that it can't wait until the distant morning.

Armed only with her tiny living doll, Erg, a gift from her long-dead mother, she ventures forth. Almost immediately, Vassa gets captured by BY's horrifying proprietor, Babs Yagg, and her hideous severed-hand henchmen. Babs says she will let her go, but only if she can survive three nights working at the front counter as cashier. Three very, very long nights.

First Impressions: This was really neat and creepy. It got more horror-ish as time went on but never quite tipped over into that genre, I think.

Later On: When it comes to horror, I'm a wimp. I don't watch scary movies and in general, I stay away from the most hard-core thngs-that-go-bump-in-the-night novels. But I like books with a little bit of an edge, just a flash of teeth.

As I was explaining to a co-worker while trying to get her to read this book (a noble cause, I think you'll agree), it's not so much horror as it is tremendously dark fantasy. There are dismemberments and those creepy little hands and heads on pikes, and not everything is magically fixed at the end. What keeps it from being the darkest of horror, in my mind, was that Vassa has a lot of resources of her own. There's Erg, for one, and then there's Vassa herself, who is smart and resourceful and has a gentler heart then maybe she would like to admit.

There's also a sense of a bigger magical world outside the one that Vassa inhabits within BY's. In flashbacks, we get some of her backstory and that of her parents filled in. For all its gory threats, it's one I would be happy to return to.

More: Cuddlebuggery
Waking Brain Cells
Interview with the Author at Barnes &

Book Review: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero


(image) Title: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces
Author: Isabel Quintero
Published: 2014
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Gabi's senior year is shaping up to be a big one. From her best friend getting pregnant, her meth-addict father gumming up her life, her frustration with the constraints of trying to be her mother's ideal Latina daughter, and the travails of her first (and second) boyfriend, this will be a year to remember. Lucky thing she has her friends and her poetry to help her through.

First Impressions: AAAAAAAAAGH I loved this. Gabi is so incredibly real and complex.

Later On: This is one of those books that doesn't have a terribly tight plot. It's really just a year in Gabi's life, with all the accompanying ups and downs. But as I told co-workers, I kept reading because I really just wanted to hang out with this girl. She's funny, loyal, fierce, and loving, and she's continually learning more about herself and what she wants for her life and those she loves.

More: Latinos in Kidlit

Book Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge


Title: Bright Smoke, Cold FireAuthor: Rosamund HodgePublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: In a post-apocalyptic world where the undead have invaded everywhere except one walled city, Mahyani Romeo and Catresou Juliet have just committed suicide. But in a world where death isn't so much the end as a stop along the way, it's not that simple. Torn apart from each other, each believing the other is (permanently) dead, Romeo and Juliet find themselves in unlikely partnerships with two of the play's secondary characters.Juliet bonds to the perpetually angry novice Mahyani Runajo (the play's Rosaline) as they seek to unravel the mysteries of the Sisters of Thorn, magical guardians of the city's defenses against the undead. For his part, Romeo finds himself working alongside Juliet's fiance, Catresou Paris, to uncover the nefarious dealings of illegal necromancers, who might very well be coming from inside his own family.If either of them fail, the city could fall to the ravening hordes of the undead. So . . . yikes?First Impressions: This was a really interesting tweak on Romeo and Juliet, and I'm very much hoping it won't end as tragically as the classic. But I don't know because CLIFFHANGER ugh.Later On: I love retellings, because the best ones have an effect on your interpretation of the original. That said, this isn't quite a retelling of Romeo and Juliet.Picking up as it does after the end of the play, this book is more concerned with exploring the alternate world that Hodge has set up, using Paris and Runajo's points of view, with occasional diversions into the tale of Romeo and Juliet's courtship through their eyes. So it's more like a spinoff set in an alternate universe.This world is extremely complicated. It throngs with conflicting loyalties, complex family and community obligations, and of course, the feud between families that started it all. In this world, the feud is more about differing beliefs and practices around death and life. Wading through all this takes some patience. I felt that it was rewarded.Even more of a reward is getting to spend time with the ferocious Runajo and Juliet. Both are warriors, fierce and strong-willed. They have both spent their whole lives focused on a singular purpose - to become the Catresou family executioner, on Juliet's part, and to become a nun and magical defender of the city in Runajo's - but now in the rocky position of having to rethink everything they once believed. Paris and Romeo were less compelling as characters, but they spent more time in the city itself, illuminating the inner workings of the complex world that Hodge has built.  And, fair warning: in this book at least, Romeo and Juliet get all the way to the end still believing the other to be dead. The second book has no release date or even title yet (curses!) but when it comes out, I'll be picking it up.More: Kirkus [...]

Book Review: A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas


(image) Title: A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids
Author: Shelley Tougas
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Mary Margaret Miller's life is turning upside down, and even her beloved saints don't seem to be helping. Not only is her family moving away from their hometown, she has to live with her grandparents while her parents try to earn enough money so they can get settled somewhere else. She's been tapped to be junior bridesmaid to her cousin's wedding, but since her cousin is terribly shy and her grandmother is (to put it nicely) a total steamroller.

Then there's the cute boy next door, who is (gasp!) a Unitarian and keeps asking her challenging questions about being Catholic. Let's not even mention what she did to the local bully, back at home. Surely there's a saint for all of this . . . right?

First Impressions: This was adorable! And included a surprisingly thoughtful examination of maturing faith.

Later On: One of my very favorite themes in children's and YA is faith and religion, because it's so rare (other than "religion ebil" or "religion is old-fashioned and naive") and yet so important in the life of many kids and families.

Mary, who is from a Catholic family, is obsessed with the saints and all their weird specialties. As a lifelong Catholic myself, I have to say this wasn't so much a feature of the religion as I've experienced it, as it was one of those random obsessions that kids sometimes get. Certainly the saints are important to Catholics, but Mary uses them to try and organize and control her life, and part of the faith theme of the book is that it's not nearly that simple.

Of course, there's more at work here than Mary Margaret's deepening faith. For such a funny book, this covers surprisingly serious topics, including bullying, economic instability and its stresses on families, and inter-family conflict, whether it's about having a giant spectacular wedding or the differing practices of religion. You can certainly read it strictly for fun, but there is more there for kids to engage with if they choose.

More: Ms. Yingling Reads

Book Review: My Unscripted Life by Lauren Morrill


(image) Title: My Unscripted Life
Author: Lauren Morrill
Published: 2016
Source: NetGalley

Summary: Reeling after her rejection from her first-choice art school, Dee impulsively takes a job on a movie set to pass the summer. Once there (and once past the initial bumps and bruises) she discovers a surprising aptitude for set dressing. She also discovers an attraction to the leading man, Milo - not so surprising, because he's a teen heartthrob with legions of adoring fans. But the biggest surprise? He actually seems to be attracted to her back.

First Impressions: Awwww cuuuuute! I liked how she refocused her love of art. But the ending was very rushed.

Later On: Lauren Morrill writes what I think of as Disney movies on paper. They're fun, they're cute, they're not terribly realistic, but it's a good time. As long as you pick this book with that in mind, you should enjoy it.

More: Kirkus

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova


Title: Labyrinth LostAuthor: Zoraida CordovaPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Alex is a bruja, a witch. She doesn't want to be, but her magical gifts are passed down from her entire family, and the whole family is likewise looking forward to her deathday, the ceremony that will bring her into her full power as a bruja. So she knows that when she sabotages the ceremony in hopes of getting rid of her powers forever, people aren't going to be happy.She didn't expect her entire family, living and dead, to get sucked into Los Lagos, the otherworld of powerful magic, strange creatures, and unfathomable rules. Now with the help of mysterious Nova, she's the only one who can get them back, using the very powers she was trying to escape.With a fascinating mythology drawing on multiple Latin American traditions and beliefs, this is a whole new kind of fantasy.First Impressions: The premise and the setting were amazing, the characterization not so much. But I did love some things about this.Later On: I loved this world. I loved the complexity of her family dynamics, and the pressures on her from all sides to be something she's not particularly ready for. I loved the dangerous and mysterious world of Los Lagos, with the classic mythical trope of rules that our heroes don't know, but must abide by or pay the price.I particularly loved that she is attracted to both bad-boy Nova and her BFF Rishi. While her own bisexuality seemed to be news to her, it was no big thing within the larger arc of the story.My beef with the characterization is that everyone was pretty static and flat. While Alex was our main character, she was more of a conduit to narrate what was happening to her. Still, the world and the conflicts set up mean that I'll be back for the rest of the series.More: Latinos in KidlitSmart Bitches, Trashy BooksCuddlebuggeryAn essay from the author, talking about the difficulties of writing a story that reflects her own background in fantasy, over at Diversity in YA [...]

Book Review: Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Title: Towers FallingAuthor: Jewell Parker RhodesPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: Deja doesn't know why she and her family have gone from bad to worse over the years, her father constantly losing jobs and sinking into deep depressions. Now they're at their lowest point yet, living in a shelter. But her new school is a boon, with new friends and a teacher who asks them to consider how history affects them personally. Is it possible that she could begin to understand the mystery of her father's illness?The answer reaches back to a September morning, fifteen years ago.First Impressions: This was SO HARD to read, and yet so wrenchingly honest. Wah.Later On: With last year being the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, there was a little flurry of books published to tie into that, especially since kids in school now have little to no direct memory of it. At the same time, while the adults in their lives have this massive shared memory, it is still so swamped in pain that we find it difficult to talk about.Rhodes riffs on this disconnect, and how it could lead to exactly Deja's situation where she has no awareness of the 9/11 attacks at all, and learning about it, even years after the fact, brings about the same wrenching emotions that we suffered watching it unfold live. (Just as many people saw it live on TV, she sees the airplanes slam into the towers in a YouTube video.) She also witnesses Islamophobia visited upon the family of her friend Sabeen, and realizes that this is another wound on the American psyche.I also appreciated that ultimately, her father's physical illness and his mental illness are portrayed in the same way. Just as he can't help the days that he's coughing too hard to get out of bed (from breathing in the dust and debris on 9/11) he also can't help the days he can't get out of bed due to depression. Deja's revelations are not a panacea for either illness, but they do help her learn to understand her father better, and in that way their strained relationship starts to rebuild.Like I said in my first impressions, this was hard to read, so it's very difficult to assess it. However, I do think the honesty of this book, its acknowledgement of pain and how it ripples outward even when it's something you never experienced yourself, will speak to kids, especially those living with the aftereffects of 9/11.More: Ms. Yingling ReadsBook Nut [...]

Book Review: The Swan Riders by Erin Bow


Title: The Swan Riders
Author: Erin Bow
Published: 2016
Source: Local Library

Summary: After sacrificing her humanity for the good of her people and the ones she loves, the once-Princess Greta journeys with the older AI and two of his Swan Riders across the Canadian wilderness, trying to make sense of how to live as an AI and still remain herself.

First Impressions: Slower-moving than the first one - I took several days to read it. But I loved its meditation on what it means to be human, and how you have be at least a little human to be a ruler.

Later On: This builds heavily on the first book - on the world that's been set up, on the horrors and terrors and various interpersonal relationships that were established. So it's best to read this after The Scorpion Rules. 

In the first book, the Swan Riders lurked in the background, mostly just Tallis's horrifying, death-dealing minions. In this book, the histories and present lives of individual Swan Riders, as well as other functions they serve for Tallis, come to the fore. Though Greta is now an AI like Tallis (and presumably may make use of the Swan Riders herself), it is their secrets and the ways they keep their humanity that drive this book. Witnessing the slow unfurling of this information shows Greta how to navigate the increasingly tricky path of her new AI powers and abilities, while retaining her own humanity.

Tellingly, Greta realizes that one of the ways they keep their humanity is to keep a little bit back from Tallis - something that is solely theirs. And further, she realizes that in order to continue to lay claim to her own humanity, her own decency and sense of right and wrong on a micro level, she has to let them.

While slow and intricate and not for everyone, if you loved the Scorpion Rules, you should read this book.

More: School Library Journal
My review of The Scorpion Rules

Book Review: Dara Palmer's Major Drama by Emma Shevah


(image) Title: Dara Palmer's Major Drama
Author: Emma Shevah
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Horrors! Dara Palmer, in spite of being clearly destined for stardom, has been passed over for the part of Maria in the school production of The Sound of Music. How could they?! Is it because she doesn't look right? Is it because the drama teacher hates her? Well, no matter. Dara Palmer is going to be a star one way or the other.

First Impressions: This was a delightful stew of serious topics like adoption and identity and the loss of friends, blended with Dara's hyperdramatic and hilarious tone. It just went together so nicely.

Later On: Dara was adopted from Cambodia, and feels decidedly out of place in her family. Both her siblings are white (one adopted from Russia, one the biological child of their white British parents) and she feels like she sticks out wherever she goes, especially since she knows very little about the country where she was born. At the same time, she's conflicted over whether to probe more into Cambodia and her own past, feeling disloyal to her parents. And of course, at the same time she's being your typical tween girl, obsessed with her acting dreams, school, and friends.

It can be hard to like Dara at first. She's vain, self-centered, and severely lacking in self-awareness. (In other words, she's a pretty typical girl of her age.)

But she's also completely hilarious, and it's her slow awakening to the inner lives of others and her acknowledgement of her own complex and evolving identity that will win you over. And I love that this isn't a story solely about being adopted. Dara's struggles and triumphs are multi-faceted, just like her.

More: Waking Brain Cells
Ms Yingling Reads

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


Title: SteeplejackAuthor: A.J. HartleyPublished: 2016Source: EdelweissSummary: 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 pageKirkus [...]

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