Showing posts from September, 2014

Blood of My Blood - Barry Lyga

Jazz, Connie, and Howie are all in the hospital. No surprise after the thrills and gruesome, murderous action of Game (Book #2). Billy Dent is still on the loose, and Jazz is determined to track him down and kill him, once and for all. But Jazz, with Connie and Howie's help, still needs to figure out the mystery of the Crows. As he gets closer, Jazz starts to find out some seriously disturbing things about his childhood and his anxiety over the possibility of becoming like his father grows. Meanwhile, Connie and Billy come into very, very close contact, Howie manages to get into his fair share of trouble with the law, and Jazz realizes that his life will never be the same. This thrilling conclusion will leave you wishing you could turn away... but I promise you won't be able to.

I have been waiting in eager anticipation and fear for the conclusion of Lyga's I Hunt Killers series. Billy Dent was incredibly disturbing, engrossing, and my morbid curiosity often kept me awake m…

Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

Ohio. The Buckeye State. My fingers curl into fists, automatically This is the way, my mother said, of every baby's hand. I do not know if these hands will become Malcolm's--raised and fisted or Martin's--open and asking or James's--curled around a pen. I do not know if these hands will be Rosa's or Ruby's gently gloved and fiercely folded calmly in a lap, on a desk, around a book, ready to change the world . . .
I know there has been a LOT of positive press about Woodson's memoir in verse, written for child readers, but I have to say I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Anyone who knows me well or who reads this blog, knows that I am hesitant about novels in verse. This year I've actually come across a number that I've enjoyed, though, and this is definitely one of those! I can only imagine the impact of hearing it read out loud by the author herself. I am definitely jealous of people who got a chance to listen to Woodson read from the book earlier this year.


El Deafo - Cece Bell

I'm a huge advocate of more (and better) representation of disability and diversity in literature for young readers. There are definitely some fantastic books out there, as evidenced by the Schneider Family Award selections over the last few years. I am so incredibly happy to have El Deafo out in the world and I hope it makes it into the hands of many, many children!!

Cece is your typical free spirit as a child, until one day she gets sick and loses her hearing. As if school's not tough already, now Cece has hearing aids and she has to wear a Phonic Ear strapped to her chest. When she discovers that the microphone that her teacher has to wear can be heard from all over the school, Cece decides to look at it as a superpower. Soon she is learning that not everyone sees her as abnormal and she actually finds ways to use her hearing difficulties to her advantage and to help her on the path to stronger friendships.

Bell's narrative is tragic, humorous, and emotionally poignant. E…

The Magician's Land - Lev Grossman


Okay, I'm not totally sure if this is just because I'm such a fanboy of Grossman, or because it really is that good (most likely both!!!), but I really love The Magician's Land.

This is the conclusion to The Magicians series. I don't totally know how to comfortably describe this series other than that it seems to be a combination of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia, only with more swearing, sex, and raw magic. I think that sounds like a good thing. Right? In any case, I mean it to sound like a positive thing!!
Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it co…

Boys of Blur - N.D. Wilson

From the Prologue:

Shall we run with them, you and I? Shall we dodge tractors and fire for small handfuls of fur? Will we grin behind shirt masks while caught rabbits kick in our hands?

Shoes are for the slow. Pull 'em off. Tug up your socks. Shift side to side. Chase. But be quick. Very quick. Out here in the flats, when the sugarcane's burning and the rabbits are running, there can be only quick. There's quick and there's dead.

Wilson's novel follows Charlie, as he discovers the deep magic and secrets embedded in the world of the Florida everglades. Sure, the swamps and the forests are mysterious enough, but add to that a mysterious figure wearing a sword and a helmet, along with leopards and shadow enemies, and you have a book that will captivate audiences, both young and old, that have an interest in the supernatural and the unsettling.

Though the novel itself is only a brief 200 pages, Wilson is able to cover a number of intriguing and disconcerting issues without…

The Doubt Factory - Paolo Bacigalupi

I'm torn. I like many parts of this novel, but there were others that I just couldn't get past, namely the romance. The political and social commentary were particularly poignant and relevant, but I felt that the full impact of those elements was overshadowed by the superficial love story between the protagonist and her kidnapper. But I think I'm getting ahead of myself... Let's start from the beginning!

Synopsis:Everything Alix knows about her life is a lie. At least that's what a mysterious young man who's stalking her keeps saying. But then she begins investigating the disturbing claims he makes against her father. Could her dad really be at the helm of a firm that distorts the truth and covers up wrongdoing by hugely profitable corporations that have allowed innocent victims to die? Is it possible that her father is the bad guy, and that the undeniably alluring criminal who calls himself Moses--and his radical band of teen activists--is right? Alix has to ma…

Rhyme Schemer - K.A. Holt

this isn't even poetry.
It's just thoughts
on paper
rapid fire
with not as many words
as usual thoughts
and none of those dumb
likes or as-es
or talking about trees
that old ladies like.
These are real thoughts
like a TV scroll
with a flow that's like a stream
that just flies out of my brain
like barf
but less gross.
Most of the time.

Three likes just then.
Oh man.
Maybe this is poetry.

There! Right there! In just a few very short sentences, my thoughts on verse and its use in novels! Though Rhyme Schemer is brief and many pages contain short poems, the impact is no less than many other novels of 200 pages or more. Holt's novel hits home on motivations behind bullying and how bullies are just as easily affected by bullying as those being bullied (maybe a little confusing, but stick with me here.) Kevin is a bully, but when Robin, the boy he has been messing with, manages to gain leverage against him, Kevin's views on bullying change dramatically over the course of the story.


A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius - Stacey Matson

My name is Arthur Aaron Bean, but I normally just go by Arthur. I spent the summer at my grandparents' house in Balzac. It was a long summer. I actually live in one of the apartment buildings pretty close to the school. I like to knit and watch movies, sometimes at the same time. I'm a very good multi-tasker. I like creating writing, so I hope that we will do that and that I didn't miss it. I was probably the best writer in my elementary school, and I plan on getting rich as a novelist when I'm a grown-up. I don't have any siblings, but my cousin Luke is kind of like my twin brother.And thus begins the story of Arthur Bean, a wonderfully honest (if not slightly delusional) young boy writing a letter to his new teacher before attending school after being away for a time. Though really (and it's not just because I know her) the true genius in this book is the author herself.

Arthur Aaron Bean is a totally real kid. He is multi-dimensional, full of exaggeration, se…

Top 14 of 2014 - Summer Edition

Here's an updated Top 14 of 2014 list, giving you a glimpse of my favorite books of the year so far!

In no particular order...
Noggin by John Corey WhaleyGracefully Grayson by Ami PolonskyI'll Give You the Sun by Jandy NelsonSome Assembly Required / Rethinking Normal by Arin Andrews and Katie Rain Hill*Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. KingComplicit by Stephanie KuehnTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew SmithThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonThe Art of Secrets by James Klise(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus QuinnIn the Shadows by Kiersten White & Jim di BartoloThe Night Gardener by Jonathan AuxierGrasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

(*I realize this is technically two titles, but they go together in so many wonderful ways that I find it hard to mention one without the other)

Love is the Drug - Alaya Dawn Johnson

Haters (i.e. ridiculous reviewers on GoodReads) who think this book is taking on too many issues at once are probably just unfamiliar with intersectionality or are part of a very privileged group. But I suppose I can get into that more later in the review. Let me begin with the synopsis, though.

Bird has just woken up from a week-long coma unable to remember what happened to her the evening she blacked out, except for a few snippets that just don't make sense. Upon waking up, Bird is met by a rather shady government agent named Roosevelt, who informs her that a new flu virus has swept through the United States and is ravaging the population. There are now quarantines, curfews, martial law has been enacted, and Roosevelt seems to think Bird knows something that could be terribly damaging to the government. Bird manages to connect with the one person who might be able to help her figure things out, a young man named Coffee, who is a drug dealer at a neighboring prep school in the DC …

Gracefully Grayson - Ami Polonsky

First, let me say that I am so incredibly excited to see a book for middle-grade readers that deals with gender creativity/transgender issues in such a thought-provoking and nuanced way. Kudos to Disney Hyperion for publishing this, and to Polonsky for writing it!!
Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.
I pull on the skirt and zip it up the side. It fits me perfectly. I…

Monstrous Affections - Kelly Link & Gavin J. Grant (Eds.)

Let's be honest with each other. We have questions about monsters. That's why we put this book together. That's why you're reading this book right now. Remember those old maps? The ones where the cartographer wrote, around the margins, "Here be monsters." That's where monsters exist, in the unmapped spaces. In the places where we haven't filled in all the gaps. In outer space, or in the deepest parts of the ocean. At all the seams of the worlds and relationships that we build for ourselves. Sometimes we see the monster in a mirror. Sometimes we find the monster in the face of someone that we love. Sometimes we fight monsters, and sometimes we love them. Sometimes it isn't bad to be a monster.

Monsters are a continual source of fascination for humanity, and Link and Grant have managed to capture many of our fears, desires, and attractions to the monstrous in this collection of short stories from acclaimed authors of YA fiction. A true examination of…