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Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli

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I know, I know! I'm sorry! It's been a while. I'm still reading away, but have been putting out a lot of reviews in professional venues as opposed to my blog, so please forgive me. I'm coming back with a strong one, though, so hopefully that will help with the forgiveness! I present to you, Leah on the Offbeat!
When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.
So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—espec…

Social Intercourse - Greg Howard

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Beck: The Golden Girls-loving, out-and-proud choir nerd growing up in the “ass-crack of the Bible belt.”

Jax: The Golden Boy, star quarterback with a slick veneer facing uncomfortable truths about himself and his past.

When Beck’s emotionally fragile dad starts dating the recently single (and supposedly lesbian) mom of former bully, Jaxon Parker, Beck is not having it. Jax isn’t happy about the situation either, holding out hope that his moms will reunite and restore the only stable home he’s ever known. Putting aside past differences, the boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.


This irreverent novel overflows with teenage hormones and drag-queen-worthy sass, all the while exploring topics of homophobia and religious discrimination, sexual fluidity, and toxic masculinity. Told through alternating viewpoi…

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All

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An incredible lineup of authors explore the lives and deaths of the wives of Henry VIII. A complex and in-depth examination of complicated people, each of whom has very different reasons for wanting to be queen (or not) and the sometimes bizarre behind-the-scenes reasons for their downfalls.

Henry VIII - M.T. Anderson
Katharine of Aragon - Candace Fleming
Anne Boleyn - Stephanie Hemphill
Jane Seymour - Lisa Ann Sandell
Anna of Cleves - Jennifer Donnelly
Catherine Howard - Linda Sue Park
Kateryn Parr - Deborah Hopkinsons
Queen Elizabeth I - M.T. Anderson

This thorough collection of detailed accounts is a history-lover's dream. Each queen's voice is distinctive, exploring each woman's ascent to the precarious position of Henry's wife. Henry's obsession with a male heir fuels much of his unhappiness with each woman, but others are also working in the background for their own purposes, throwing out false accusations of infidelity, incestuous relations, and other troubling alleg…

Tradition - Brendan Kiely

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Jules Devereux just wants to keep her head down, avoid distractions, and get into the right college, so she can leave Fullbrook and its old-boy social codes behind. She wants freedom, but ex-boyfriends and ex-best friends are determined to keep her in place.

Jamie Baxter feels like an imposter at Fullbrook, but the hockey scholarship that got him in has given him a chance to escape his past and fulfill the dreams of his parents and coaches, whose mantra rings in his ears: Don’t disappoint us.


As Jules and Jamie’s lives intertwine, and the pressures to play by the rules and remain silent about the school’s secrets intensify, they see Fullbrook for what it really is. That tradition, a word Fullbrook hides behind, can be ugly, even violent. Ultimately, Jules and Jamie are faced with the difficult question: can they stand together against classmates—and an institution—who believe they can do no wrong?

No. No is a word with a lot of power. At least, it's supposed to be. We live in a world…

We'll Fly Away - Bryan Bliss

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Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling.

This book is a lot of things. It is difficult to read, but it is worth reading for some many reasons. Bliss's narrative is like a well-intentioned punch in the gut (if that makes any sense... it does to me...)
We'll Fly Away is about love and family, hopefulness and hopelessness, friendship and sex, crime and consequences. Above all,…

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

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Elizabeth Lavenza hasn't had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her "caregiver," and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything--except a friend. Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable--and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth's survival depends on managing Victor's dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.
As I finish the last sentence and the loose pages of the bo…

Morris Finalists and Prediction!

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Each year I try to read as many of the Morris Finalists as I can and make a prediction about the winner. So here we go!

This lineup is incredible, not only because of the impressive range of topics being explored, but also because of the fact that the authors themselves are so diverse and each comes from such a unique background. I've read four of these and, unlike some other years, I am having a heck of a time making any predictions.

I know it would be easiest to say THUG will win, simply because of the impressive amount of accolades and the sheer number of weeks on the NYT Bestseller list. But as with so many awards that include much-hyped books, the accolades can sometimes (even subconsciously) act as a deterrent in awards processes. But I love the book and would love to see it get further rewarded.

At the same time, I would love to see Saints and Misfits get some love since it's part of the first year of publications coming out of Salaam Reads, and the book itself is phenomen…

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground - Rita Williams-Garcia

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Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.

Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

This book is brief, but with a lot of emotional depth and the expected moments of tender-hearted, childhood honesty that Williams-Garcia is known for bringing to the page. Clayton and his grandfather, Cool Papa, get along very well, and Clayton feels more connected to him than his mom or dad. His mother is not a fan of their relationship though, having had her own compl…

The Sidekicks - Will Kostakis

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Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people--the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they've ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.

When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.

This is a novel about loss and about finding human connection in the wake of tragedy. The Sidekicks is a novel told through three points of view: Ryan, Harley, and Miles. All three boys had Isaac in common, but as they move through the loss of their friend, they realize they might actually have more in common than they previously thought.
Ryan's narrative was probably my favourite of the three, mostly because I could relate to him the most, particularly in the sexuality department. I liked that Ryan wasn't entirely a fan of Isaac, but al…

A reduction in posts...

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Dear Internet People:

I enjoy reading to a great degree, as many of you know. I love reviewing books as well, and sharing my excitement with people all over the world! So why do I have to start reducing my posts?

Well, first of all, I'm sure many of you have seen the controversies around blogging while serving on book award committees. Currently I'm on a committee that doesn't have such a strict policy, so I will still be doing reviews, but I am on the ballot to possibly serve on the 2020 Newbery committee, so at that point, I will have to keep things to a minimum here.

Secondly, what with an increased teaching load, and with my activities reviewing books for Canadian Review of Materials and Booklist Online, I will need to reduce my reviews in number and length a bit more often.

Thirdly, I am starting my own novel writing adventure, so I'm going to be trying to curate my reading a bit more in order to keep my own imagination on track.
BUT DON'T TAKE ME WRONG!  I wi…

White Rabbit - Caleb Roehrig

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Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to "talk." Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.


This review has been temporarily removed in anticipation of an official review being released through Booklist. Once that review has become public, this review wi…

The Poet X - Elizabeth Acevedo

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Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.


In the rapidly growing world of novels in verse, The Poet X is a wel…

Black Chuck - Regan McDonell

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Psycho. Sick. Dangerous… Réal Dufresne’s reputation precedes himself. But except for the nightmares, all Ré remembers is beating the living crap out of Shaun the night of his death. Now Shaun’s girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Evie Hawley, I pregnant and the father of her baby is dead. Their grief and guilt draw Evie and Réal together. But the closer they get, the faster things seem to fall apart. And falling in love might just be the card that knocks the whole house down.

McDonell’s novel is not one that was immediately on my radar, but Andrew Smith asked me if I had come across it, and what my thoughts were. So I am grateful to both Andrew and Orca Books for bringing this beautiful and painful novel to my attention.

McDonell’s background in creative writing and poetry is evident in this excellent debut novel. The pain and angst of each main character is palpable, and the struggles they each face within their individual relationships as well as their shared community as large are real an…

The Serpent's Secret - Sayantani DasGupta

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MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they've kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and eve…

[GUEST POST] Release - Patrick Ness

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More GUEST POST goodness from the amazing Keith Reynolds!

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It's a big day. Things go wrong. It's intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches...

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It's a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won't come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.


Adam is not having a good day. What I liked most about all of it though was the steady pace of it kept me enthralled. Despite Adam’s emotional highs (cute friendships and a soupçon of sex) and lows (basically everything else), my interest didn’t …