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1. Reading Roundup: March 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 2
Children: 1

Sources
Review Copies: 5
Purchased: 1
Library: 6

Standouts
Teen: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Sometimes Felton was astonishingly wise and perceptive, sometimes he had the emotional intelligence of a mummified hamster. A very realistic fifteen-year-old, in other words.
Tween: Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air by Stewart Ross, illustrated by Stephen Biesty
Although parts were problematic (they entirely left out the treatment of native peoples during the Age of Exploration, for instance), it was really interesting to see how people have set off to explore our world and what they used to do it. With fold-out diagrams!
Children: Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh
If you can count, you know this is the only children's book I read this month. That being said, if I'd read ten, I probably still would have mentioned this. It brings a fascinating artist to life and made me hit the web for more of his work.

Because I Want To Awards
Another Cracking Main Character: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Sol is impulsive, prickly, and often thoroughly exasperating. Naturally, I loved her.
Oooh, I Get It Now: Everything by A.S. King
For some reason I was never on the A.S. King train, but all of a sudden I've added all her books to my reading list and am tearing through them.

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2. Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Book: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4. 2014
Source: ARC from a friend

In the Herrani city conquered and occupied by the forces of the Valorian empire, everything and everybody has their place. Kestrel knows what's expected of her, as General Trajan's daughter. She will either join the military or she will marry. Either way, she will take a predetermined place in the adult world by her twentieth birthday.

Unfortunately, at seventeen she's miserably unsuited for either. In spite of her clever strategic mind, she's only okay at actual combat with actual weapons after years of training. And she can't think of a single Valorian man she's willing to marry. The only thing she truly loves is music, and making music is not a suitable pastime for a Valorian lady. It is the business of slaves.

It's music that prompts her to purchase Arin, a Herrani slave. But he refuses to sing. In spite of that, the conquerer's daughter and the conquered man find themselves drawing closer to each other. And it's getting noticed, by Herrani slaves and Valorian high society alike.

But Arin is embroiled in a plot to rescue his homeland from the iron grip of the Valorian empire. When the revolution explodes, the only safety for the conquerer's daughter is with the man who betrayed her country.

And maybe not even there.

Before I delve into this book, I'd like you to have a look at that cover. Go ahead. Study it hard. That girl in a pretty dress, swooning, clutching onto the lettering for dear life, letting a dagger slip from her fingers. Is that Kestrel? To me, it wasn't, and thus I spent most of this book in a quiet simmer of WTF over that cover, while enjoying what was beneath it very much.

Honestly, I was so put off by this cover (I'm really really over the swoony girls in opulent dresses thing, guys) that it was only a cover blurb from Kristen Cashore that got me to try it. I'm so glad I did. It's a love story, true, but it's also about power and politics and rebellion and strategy.
It starts small and intimate (here's a girl, out of place; here's the boy who sees her real self) and grows into a story that concerns itself with the fate of not only countries, but empires. And yet never loses sight of the small and intimate. That's quite a trick.

The love story at the center is also more than your usual love-at-first-sight. In spite of surface differences, Arin and Kestrel are very much alike. Besides music, they both have brilliantly strategic minds, watching the world and people from the outside and seeing game pieces that can be played. They are also both terribly lonely. More than anything else, this loneliness pulls them toward each other.

As they grow closer, they play emotional chess with each other and with themselves, examining their own behavior and each other's at every turn. In this book, love does not switch off the strategic mind. It becomes another game piece, another lever, another way to twist the world into your control or to see how and why it's twisting out of it.

This is (of course) the first of a trilogy. But it's a trilogy that's going on my auto-read list, especially after the end of this book. I just hope the next two covers are better.

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3. Reading Roundup: February 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 9
Tween: 2
Children: 4

Sources
Review Copies: 6
Library: 9

Standouts
Teen: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Two lovers playing emotional chess with each other and themselves, in the midst of the kind of political upheaval that lays waste to empires. The only thing I hated about this book was the cover, and in my review I will tell you why.
Tween: Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
A deeply fun romp about a girl who's arguably smarter than most of the adults around her, and of course frustrated beyond the telling of it.
Children: Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath
As hilarious and weird as the first one. My favorite scene was the one in the bookshop. I dare you not to crack a grin at that.

Because I Want To Awards
Ain't No Thang: Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Lo takes a plot point that would have been front and center in another book (emerging bisexuality) and makes it part of the story of a girl waking to a world that's
changing right before her eyes.
Penguins, Malevolent Refrigerators, and Surfing: The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton III
I think that says it all, don't you?
Worst Bestie Ever: The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols
From page 1, Addison was the worst excuse for a human being, never mind a best friend, that I'd ever met. By the time Gemma puts an end to it, I cheered.

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4. Reading Roundup: January 2014

Sorry to be a day late on this, guys. When I realized it was the first day of the month, I was already half-asleep. It was a light reading month anyhow.

By the Numbers
Teen: 12
Tween: 3
Children: 2

Sources
Review Copies: 6
Purchased: 2
Library: 6

Standouts
Teen: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Wrenching, harrowing, violent, and for me, totally unputdownable. Even though it was a terrible world, I kept wanting to crawl back into it and find out whether Mahlia and the others were going to save their lives or their souls.
Tween: Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
I have to say, while I deeply adored Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Rendi was a much more interesting main character to me than Minli. He had so many secrets and so much anger that I loved seeing how the stories that he and others told began to change him.
Children: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
When people ask for an old-fashioned adventure story, this is the kind of book I hand them. An enchanted boy, a lonely museum, and a terrible evil to right? Yep, this wouldn't have been out of place on a library shelf 50 years ago.

Because I Want To Awards
Disney Movie in Book Form: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
A figure skater and a female hockey player, both named Sloane Jacobs, decide to trade lives for the summer. Unlikely, sweet, fun.
ARGH THE ENDING ARGH: Dead to You by Lisa McMann
Returned to the bosom of his family after being kidnapped nine years before, fifteen-year-old Ethan struggles to fit back into his life while worrying about why he can't remember it. The ending, as you might be able to tell, made me claw my face and howl. Not because it came out of nowhere, (you have your suspicions from the first) but because he just disappears. ARGH.

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5. 2014 Youth Media Awards

John Newbery Medal
for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature
Flora and Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
(H) Doll Bones by Holly Black
(H) The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
(H) One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
(H) Paperboy by Vince Vawter

Randolph Caldecott Medal
for the most distinguished American picture book for children
Locomotive by Brian Floca
(H) Journey by Aaron Becker
(H) Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Scharr Idle
(H) Mr Wuffles by David Wiesner

Michael L. Printz Award
for excellence in literature written for young adults
Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
(H) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
(H) Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
(H) Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
(H) Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
for the most distinguished beginning reader book
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
(H) Ball by Mary Sulllivan
(H) A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems
(H) Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

Coretta Scott King Awards
for the best book about the African-American experience
Author
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams Garcia
(H) March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
(H) Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers
(H) Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
Illustrator
Knock Knock: my dad's dream for me illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Daniel Beaty
(H) Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

John Steptoe New Talent Award (illustration)
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the creation of hip-hop illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, written by Laban Carrick Hill

Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement
Patricia and Frederick McKissack

Schneider Family Book Award
for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience
Picture Book
A Splash of Red: the life and art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Middle Grade Novel
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Young Adult Novel
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Alex Awards
for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences
Brewster by Mark Slouka
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
Help for the Haunted by John Searles
Lexicon by Max Barry
Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
Mother Mother by Koren Zailckas
Relish: my life in the kitchen by Lucy Knisley
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
The Universe vs Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Andrew Carnegie Medal
for excellence in children's video
Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Weston Woods, based on the book by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile

Margaret A. Edwards Award
for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.
Markus Zusack

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site
Brian Selznick

Mildred L. Batchelder Award
for an outstanding children's book translated from a language other than English and subsequently published in the United States
Mister Orange by Truus Matti, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
(H) The Bathing Costume or the Worst Vacation of My Life by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
(H) My Father's Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvid Torseter, translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
(H) The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax illustrated by Caryl

Odyssey Award
best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults
Scowler by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne
(H) Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, narrated by the author
(H) Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, narrated by James Naughton
(H) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Roman and Sunil Mahotra
(H) Matilda by Roald Dahl, narrated by Kate Winslet

Pura Belpre Awards
For the best books about the Latino cultural experience
Author
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
(H) The Living by Matt de la Pena
(H) The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's greatest abolitionist by Margarita Engle
(H) Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a migrant's tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
Illustrator
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
(H) Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenía Una Llamita by Angela Dominguez
(H) Tito Puente Mambo King/Rey del Mambo illustrated by Rafael Lopez, written by Monica Brown, translated into Spanish by Adriana Dominguez
(H) Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a migrant's tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Robert F. Sibert Medal
for most distinguished informational book for children
Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
(H) A Splash of Red: the life and art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(H) Look up! Bird Watching in your own backyard by Annette Cate
(H) Locomotive by Brian Floca
(H) The Mad Potter: George E Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award
Books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
AND (!)
Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
(H) Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
(H) Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington
(H) Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

William C. Morris Award
for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. Finalists are announced in December.
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
(F) Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
(F) Dr Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
(F) Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
(F) In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. Finalists are announced in December
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
(F) Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
(F) Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler
(F) Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
(F) The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson

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6. Reading Roundup: 2013 plus Bonus! New Year's Resolution

By the Numbers
Teen: 176
Tween: 78
Children: 71

Sources
Review Copies: 116
Swapped: 2
Purchased: 8
Library: 167

Standouts
Teen (Selected in September) Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (link leads to my review)
"The companion novel (not sequel!) to Code Name Verity delivers all the same grit and darkness of wartime. I've seen some reviews that say it's darker but I think it's a different quality here."
Tween (also selected in September; that was a good month): The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
"This is a standout pick because of Oscar, who is shy and bewildered by anybody who is not a plant or a cat. Ursu's deft, honest narration brings you right into that place with him."
Children: (selected in August): Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
"On a family visit to Taiwan, Pacy struggles with being in a place where she feels like an alien but is expected to feel right at home. For every kid who's ever been caught in the middle and had to carve out their own place, this is for you."

Soooooo. That was 2013.

I've been thinking about the way I read lately, especially since KidlitCon. In the past, I've tried to read one book a day on average. I'm getting to the point in my life where that's just too much, and I'm reading for the sake of reading fast. There's probably any number of reasons for that, but the effect is that I'm not enjoying the actual reading as much, and that's . . . well, guys, that's just awful.

So, I'm giving myself permission to slow down. To cut my TBR list, to renew my library book if I need to instead of hurrying to finish it, to request books for review only if I'm excited about them, to take as long as I need to over a book, to give myself enough time out to review them if I want to. That's another thing: I've been so busy pushing myself to finish more books that I haven't been writing about them, and what the heck is this blog for, if not that?

I'm also giving myself permission to read other books than the ones on my TBR list. Re-read old favorites, pick up a romance novel or a fascinating adult nonfiction book if I want to.

I guess my New Year's Resolution is to get back to the fun.

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7. Reading Roundup: December 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 15
Tween: 1
Children: 6

Sources
Review Copies: 2
Purchased: 1
Library: 18

Standouts
Teen: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
I admit, there were some parts in the hyper-conservative worldview of the town and the church that made me go, "Whoa . . . okay." However, this was a compelling look at the moment when your faith is tested by direct contradiction of the things you've always known, and whether it's possible to come through with that faith intact.
Tween: No standout this month.
Children: Animal Fights by Catherine Ham
Poems about fighting animals? You wouldn't think it would work. It does, which can be attributed equally to the poems, which are accessible and fact-based, and the great photography.

Because I Want To Awards
Move Over Veronica Mars: Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
Okay, not really, because VMars doesn't move over for anybody and will tase you if you try. But this story of a snarky, clever teen sleuth got me and I'm quite sad that there's only one sequel. Yeah, the plot's a little uncertain, but I was taking the ride with Hartley.
Veronica Mars in 1942: The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
Why did I enjoy this one? See above. Less snark, more history, definitely more character growth as Iris learns painful lessons about the world, her father, her mother, and herself. And there's a sequel to this one too. Yay!
Wow, That Was Something!: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet
I've seen these balloons all my life and never stopped to think of all the engineering and creativity that went into them. This book brought that to life, and what makes it even more stunning is that the first idea and execution came from one man.

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8. Reading Roundup: November 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 15
Tween: 7
Children: 2

Sources
Review Copies: 12
Library: 10

Standouts
Teen: Burnout by Adrienne Maria Vrettos
When Nan falls off the wagon, she wakes up hungover in the subway. I loved how she tracked backward, not only through the night she forgot, but exploring the destructive friendship that brought her there.
Tween: 13 Gifts by Wendy Mass
Shuttled off to the weirdest town on the planet after kidnapping her principal's goat (no, really), Tara finds herself propelled off the sidelines and in the middle of the most random scavenger hunt ever. While this required a lot of suspension of disbelief, it left me smiling.

Children: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans by Kadir Nelson
We all know about the Civil War, civil rights, etc, but there's a lot more to African-American history than that. Starting with the European settlement of North America, Nelson shines a light on a history too often hidden in the shadows.

Because I Want To Awards
Swoooooooooooon: Crash Into You by Katie McGarry
Okay, granted, I wanted to smack both main characters more than once. But like the others in this series, this book really evokes that heady rush of the first time you're in Capital L Love, and the complications of living up to those feelings.
A Fine Finish: United We Spy by Ally Carter
Like Harry Potter 7, this took place mostly outside of the school that's so important to the series as a whole. But everything worked for me.

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9. Interview: Danielle and Delco Library Notes

This was homework for Sheila Ruth's Kidlitcon session on CSS and HTML, but it was also a chance to highlight a brand-new blogger. This is one of my favorite parts of Kidlitcon, discovering new or new-to-me bloggers and what they have to say.

Q.
Who are you and what is your blog?

A.
I am Danielle Guardiola and I work at Delco Primary School as the school librarian. My blog, Delco Library Notes, is for teachers, parents, and kids, to showcase what the library is doing. I review books and talk about the skills that the kids are learning.

Q.
What got you into blogging?

A.
I was exposed to social media resources during library school. I saw many early-grade/picture book blogs and thought I could do this as a way to showcase what the school library is doing for kids.

Q.
What do you hope to learn at KidlitCon?

A.
I'm hoping to acquire practical tips on increasing the blog's reach, how to blog better, and how to keep myself consistently blogging.

After the conference was all over, I caught up with Danielle again to see how she'd liked her first Kidlitcon. If you notice a difference in the interview, it's because I just listened and took notes for the first section, but this second section I actually recorded and transcribed later.

Q.
So what did you learn from KidlitCon?

A.
I think I got a big focus of what I want to start with my blog. Because the one that I have right now is for school, and the purpose of that one is just to inform parents of what we do in the library. But besides that, I want to start one where I'm reviewing literature. I've noticed a big need in bilingual books, that we sometimes don't find good quality bilingual books that are available for students. I've talked to several people who said they thought I could be a really good resource, so I think I found a really good focus. That's one major thing, and just a lot of practical tips on how to reach out to other people, how to stay connected with one another and just also be able to go to the Kidlitosphere website and find as much support as possible. That session about the burnout, I was like oh god, it's good I'm hearing this now.

Q.
Yeah! Well, it's something that happens to a lot of people . . .

A.
[It's good] to know that you're not always going to get a lot of responses, that sometimes you're writing for yourself, and that's okay. So overall there was a wealth of information, but those are the three big things: a focus, a community, and a sense of a place where I can go for help, and just not to get overwhelmed.

Much thanks to Danielle, who let herself be interviewed (twice!) in the middle of what must have been a couple of dizzying days. Visit Delco Library Notes and say hi!

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10. KidlitCon 13

Every year, I set aside some vacation and make my way to KidlitCon, wherever it may be. It's been in D.C., Portland, Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, Seattle, and now Austin.

Other bloggers have done lovely roundups of the different sessions. Since I live-tweeted most of the sessions (see #kidlitcon13 for everybody's tweets) I won't attempt to be comprehensive, especially since the sessions aren't my primary reason for being there. They're useful and informative, don't get me wrong. The session on blogger burnout in particular gave me a lot to chew on, as did the session on diversity. I got to sharpen my tech skills and contemplate the future of blogging.

But my reason for being there was the people. Walking into the pre-con get-together and immediately getting a big hug from Pam of MotherReader, being able to say hello to Lee Wind and Jen Robinson for the first time in years, hanging out with Kelly Jensen of Stacked and Leila "Bookshelves of Doom" Roy and discussing the horrendous addiction that is Candy Crush (seriously, so many of us seemed to be playing it this weekend!), meeting Kim (also of Stacked), Sherry Early of Semicolon, and brand-new blogger Danielle of Delco Library Notes, and that was just in the first day! I also got to room with Sheila Ruth from Wands and Worlds, and dine with Charlotte Taylor and Melissa Fox of Booknut and Sarah Stevenson of Finding Wonderland, as well as many others that my brain is just a little too fried to remember.

I am not a person who loves meeting people, you have to understand. But I always, always love meeting people at KidlitCon, because I know without being told--by the fact of their presence--that they are kindred spirits, a term brought up in the future of blogging session. They love something that I love, and that's a pretty steady foundation. These folks do it for the same reason I do it; for the love of it. Some of us have been doing this for years; some have just started.

We all come at it from different directions. Our keynote speaker, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Lee Wind both discussed the diversity within ourselves. Sitting in a room with an archaeologist, a computer programmer, a film critic, many parents, and a number of librarians, I completely understood that! But we've all got that in common, our shared love of reading, of kidlit, and of spreading that love as far and wide as possible.

Thanks to the organizers, Pam, Jen, Sarah,  Kim, Kelly, and Leila. Also, Tanita from Finding Wonderland and Jackie of Interactive Reader (who both deserve some kind of award for putting in all this work and not even being able to make it!) for another lovely year.

Next year, the West Coast! Will you be there?

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11. KidlitCon Ahoy!

This weekend I'll be on my way to KidlitCon, to hang out with friends old and new. Keep an eye on this space, and on Twitter under mosylu and the hashtag #kidlitcon13. I might actually say a few things. 

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12. Book Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Book: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Published: 2013
Source: ARC acquired from publisher at ALA 2013

It's like the start of an urban legend. Tana Bach wakes up in a bathtub after a party so wild she doesn't remember most of it. But it's not her blood spattering the house. It's everyone else's. In the rush of the party, somebody forgot basic precautions and left a window open, letting the vampires in.

Among the mutilated bodies, she finds her ex-boyfriend, Aiden, tied to a bed. He’s going Cold, but not in the dead sense. It’s what they call someone who has been infected, but isn’t yet a vampire. You can survive going Cold, they say, but it will be up to eighty-eight days of craving blood past the point of madness. The safest place for him right now is Coldtown, the quarantined portion of the city where vampires reign supreme. But first they have to get there.

She also finds Gavriel, a fully-fledged vampire who agrees to help them in exchange for getting him safely to Coldtown ahead of the vampires pursuing him. Now Tana’s on the road with a stone-cold killer, an obnoxious ex that she has to keep human, and oh, she might be infected herself.

For me the best part of this book (besides the gritty toughness of Tana herself) was the world-building. How would the world react to vampires coming out the shadows and chomping down? Well, this one reacts with websites and Twitter feeds, and, naturally, reality shows. There are also border guards at Coldtown and PSAs on the TV. Coldtown itself is a far cry from the reality shows. And of course, there’s the nasty and twisted world of vampire politics, which is as classically Byzantine as every other vampire novel ever has promised.

In some ways this book is guilty of the things it's trying to undermine about vampires. There is a sensual glamor about her vampires, blood soaked as they are. But it’s that balance that makes this book (and vampires themselves, I guess) so intoxicating. They are stone cold killers with a sheen of glamor overlying the fangs, and to your own horror, you find yourself sympathizing with their ageless pain, at least until they start ripping throats out.

Lush, horrifying, gritty, and powerful, this is Holly Black at her very Holly-Black-est.

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13. Reading Roundup: October 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 8
Children: 9

Sources
Review Copies: 8
Swapped: 2
Library: 15

Standouts
Teen: Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin
This prequel/sequel to Impossible was in some ways awfully hard to read. Fenella and her quest are hard to support, but I got sucked in by seeing her brought back to life by the love of her family.
Tween: Golden Girl by Sarah Zettel
More of the American Fairy trilogy! This time Callie's caught in the glamorous web of Old Hollywood, which is of course the natural place for the glamorous Seelie Court. Do we doubt that she can extricate herself? Answer: No. We do not.
Children: Well Wished by Franny Billingsley
While I enjoyed the riffing on Heidi, what I most enjoyed was the realism of the friendship at the core of this novel. Because honestly? They didn't like each other most of the time, but they were friends because they were each other's only option.

Because I Want To Awards
Most Troubling: Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
On the one hand, I really liked the way this was put together, narratively and thematically. On the other, the hazy background of generic Native-American-ness, without reference to specific tribes, is troubling to me.
Most Realistic Ending: Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes
With her mother deported and her dad barely around, Gaby tries to find her own home. My notes: "Omigosh. How much do I love the realism in the way this shook out? A LOT. I love it A LOT." Without giving anything away, it was positive without being sugary or unrealistic.
Just Right for Third-Graders: Velcome by Kevin O'Malley
This book purports to be packed with spoooooky Halloween stories, but in reality are punny groaners that mid-elementary types will get a massive kick out of. Think of it as "Silly Stories to Tell in the Dark."

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14. Book Review: Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Book: Across a Star Swept Sea
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Published: October 15, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss

Everyone on the tiny island of Albion knows silly, fashion-obsessed Persis Blake. The princess’s best friend wouldn’t think of going anywhere without her custom-genetically-engineered sea mink or in an outfit that didn’t match her bright yellow (not blond, yellow) hair. What nobody knows is that she’s the daring Wild Poppy, personally responsible for rescuing aristos from the bloody Revolution in the neighboring country of Galatea. And she likes it that way.

When she gets in a jam, it's one of the Revolution's shining stars, Justen Helo, who comes to her rescue. But can she trust him? Until she has her answer, Persis will have to work overtime to keep her secret, or more than her own life might be forfeit.

Although this book takes place in a radically climate-changed future Earth, I kept wanting to call it “The Scarlet Pimpernel . . . IIIIINNNN SPAAAAACE.” The Scarlet Pimpernel influence is obvious, and the IIIINNNN SPAAAACE part? Well, it’s that kind of sweeping sci-fi adventure. Like her earlier book in this world (For Darkness Shows the Stars, otherwise known as "Persuasion . . . IIIIIINNNN SPAAAAACE") Peterfreund uses a future society and technological advances to evoke and examine a much older time and more rigid class system than what we're used to.

I did spend awhile wanting to smack Justen, who’s so busy being self-righteous and trying to atone for his own sins that he almost misses what’s right in front of his eyes - namely that there’s quite a bit more to Persis than she lets on. But given that she’s working so hard to fool everyone, I can give him a pass on this.

Persis herself - what can I say about her? She’s smart enough to get away with everything from genetically-engineered disguises to making an entire society think she’s a dingbat. She’s tough and loyal and turns on a dime, and yet she’s got great yawning vulnerabilities, chief among them her mother, who is succumbing to an Alzheimers’-like condition brought on by flawed genetic engineering. In some ways, though, she’s having a little too much fun, being a little too clever, which is when she puts herself and her mission in the most danger. While the stakes are deadly serious, it’s still a game, which is one of the appeals of the Scarlet Pimpernel character.

The ending didn’t completely satisfy me. Though I loved them dearly, the inexplicable appearance of Kai and Elliot from the earlier book threw me off. Unless there’s a wrap-up third book coming our way, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But the rest of the book was such a rush that I can forgive it.

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15. Reading Roundup: September 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 13
Tween: 6
Children: 6

Sources
Review Copies: 13
Purchased: 2
Library: 8

Standouts
Teen: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (link leads to my review)
The companion novel (not sequel!) to Code Name Verity delivers all the same grit and darkness of wartime. I've seen some reviews that say it's darker but I think it's a different quality here.
Tween: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
This is a standout pick because of Oscar, who is shy and bewildered by anybody who is not a plant or a cat. Ursu's deft, honest narration brings you right into that place with him.
Children: Year of the Jungle by Suzanne Collins
So . . . this is the story Collins chose to tell after finishing The Hunger Games trilogy. It's about being a child touched by war, and slowly coming to understand how much it can take away from you. I predict we'll see it in a lot of military libraries and homes because it's honest and doesn't sugar-coat fear, yet there is a positive ending.

Because I Want To Awards
I, Um, Actually Wanted More Football: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles
Okay, I Do Not Like football and a football book usually has to promise some real good stuff to get me to read it. That being said, this first in Elkeles' new swoony romantic trilogy didn't have quite enough football to suit me. It was very important to both characters, yet I felt as if we saw very little of it. Hmm. Strange reaction on my part.
Gothic and Sexy and Did You Expect Anything Else?: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Black took a short story she wrote under the same title from an anthology and spun it out into this captivating, dark novel. Does pretty much what it says the tin.
All of the Firsts, All at Once: Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari
As her beloved grandmother is dying, Mira is encountering any number of other firsts in this quietly reflective novel - first period, first crush, first dawning awareness of how desperately unfair, and beautiful, life really is.

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16. Book Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Book: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Published: September 10, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley


Rose Justice is a girl from Pennsylvania, who grew up next door to the Hershey Chocolate factory and captained the basketball team. But her knowledge of piloting planes, her determination to help with the war effort, and a stupid stunt over France have landed her in a German concentration camp.

There she will discover how low she and her fellow prisoners can sink. Huddled together with three and four other women in a single bunk, deprived of food, water, and clothing, and reduced to a number, she finds everything that has ever made her Rose Justice is stripped away.

She also discovers her own strength, and that of the women she is imprisoned with. From the girls who go to their deaths with their heads held high to her bunkmates who create a little family in the most morbid of conditions, Rose sees the durability of the human spirit.

But human spirits are sheltered in human bodies, and human bodies are frail. In a system which famously slaughtered millions, Rose and her friends have very little chance of making it out alive.


At one point I put down this book and wondered why I was reading it. I’m a wimp, really. Stories of privation and torture and hardship are not my cup of tea, especially when I’m so aware that they actually happened. Then I realized that I was in it for Rose. I wanted to be there to witness what she went through, as if she were a personal friend. You know that she made it out, because the conceit of the story is that she's relating it after being saved. But you become terribly, terribly concerned for her friends in the concentration camp. Who made it out? Who died? They're all so carefully drawn that their fates hit you almost as hard as Rose's.

There’s a macabre Hogan’s Heroes feel to Rose's relation of their endless schemes to keep themselves alive. They manufacture riots to cover up condemned prisoners escaping into hidey-holes. They switch out ID numbers to befuddle the guards. They use dead bodies to make the roll call come out right. It’s almost funny, until you remember why they’re doing it, and then you feel a little weird about giving the book an approving grin as they outsmart the guards one more time.

Like Wein's earlier novel, Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire is about female friendships in wartime, and not the hand-holding, brave-smiling homefront portrayals that we normally get. These are women who are fighting the same war as their brothers and fathers and husbands, and showing just as much courage and spirit.

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17. Book Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Book: Rose Under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Published: September 10, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher via NetGalley


Rose Justice is a girl from Pennsylvania, who grew up next door to the Hershey Chocolate factory and captained the basketball team. But her knowledge of piloting planes, her determination to help with the war effort, and a stupid stunt over France have landed her in a German concentration camp.

There she will discover how low she and her fellow prisoners can sink. Huddled together with three and four other women in a single bunk, deprived of food, water, and clothing, and reduced to a number, she finds everything that has ever made her Rose Justice is stripped away.

She also discovers her own strength, and that of the women she is imprisoned with. From the girls who go to their deaths with their heads held high to her bunkmates who create a little family in the most morbid of conditions, Rose sees the durability of the human spirit.

But human spirits are sheltered in human bodies, and human bodies are frail. In a system which famously slaughtered millions, Rose and her friends have very little chance of making it out alive.


At one point I put down this book and wondered why I was reading it. I’m a wimp, really. Stories of privation and torture and hardship are not my cup of tea, especially when I’m so aware that they actually happened. Then I realized that I was in it for Rose. I wanted to be there to witness what she went through, as if she were a personal friend. You know that she made it out, because the conceit of the story is that she's relating it after being saved. But you become terribly, terribly concerned for her friends in the concentration camp. Who made it out? Who died? They're all so carefully drawn that their fates hit you almost as hard as Rose's.

There’s a macabre Hogan’s Heroes feel to Rose's relation of their endless schemes to keep themselves alive. They manufacture riots to cover up condemned prisoners escaping into hidey-holes. They switch out ID numbers to befuddle the guards. They use dead bodies to make the roll call come out right. It’s almost funny, until you remember why they’re doing it, and then you feel a little weird about giving the book an approving grin as they outsmart the guards one more time.

Like Wein's earlier novel, Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire is about female friendships in wartime, and not the hand-holding, brave-smiling homefront portrayals that we normally get. These are women who are fighting the same war as their brothers and fathers and husbands, and showing just as much courage and spirit.

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18. Book Review: The Rules by Stacy Kade

Book: The Rules
Author: Stacey Kade
Published: 2013
Source: ARC borrowed from a friend

Ariane lives by the rules. 1. Never trust anyone. 2. Remember they are always searching. 3. Don’t get involved. 4. Keep your head down. 5. Don’t fall in love.

They’re all that stands between her and discovery. If anyone learned that she was different in any way, the evil GTX corporation would recapture her and drag her back into the bowels of their research division. Yes, recapture. Because Ariane lived the first six years of her life like a mouse in a maze, showing GTX what she could do. And why was what she could so much more special than any other child?

Because she’s not fully human.

Built of human and alien DNA to be GTX’s pet assassin, she was freed at age six by the man who now calls himself her father, and it’s his rules she lives by. She never thought Rule 5 would be a problem - Don’t fall in love - until she starts to get involved with Zane. Popular Zane. Gorgeous Zane. Sweet, gentle, fascinating Zane. The son of the local sheriff, who wants more than anything to get in good at GTX.

This . . . might be a problem.

Like her prior Ghost and the Goth series, this is written in a dual POV, something that’s happening a lot in YA lately. Often, I don’t really know why. In this book, it pretty much works, because Zane and Ariane have very different viewpoints of GTX, but also of their friends, schoolmates, and obviously, each other. Ariane doesn’t trust Zane (for good reason, because his friend Rachel is as mean as a snake). Zane is fascinated by the formerly mousy Ariane’s buried strength, as well as being very concerned about her home life. Seeing the way that their views gradually change was one of the things that kept pulling me through this novel.

There are some things that don’t hold up. For instance, how is it that this girl lived 10 years in the same town with GTX, with her father working for them, and never once thought, “You know, this isn’t the smartest place for me to be.” There’s a spoileriffic reason for that situation, but her unquestioning acceptance of it is what makes me do the simple-dog head-tilt. Plus, Ariane is very delicate, bruising and breaking bones easily, which is part of the reason Zane becomes convinced she’s being abused. How does that work for an assassin, even if she can kill people with her brain?

Overall, however, I liked this book. I’m told (by Goodreads, and if we can’t depend on that, then who can we depend on?) that this is the first in a series. I feel as if it could have just as well been a standalone, but I’ll try out the next one.

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19. Reading Roundup: August 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 16
Tween: 3
Children: 5

Sources
Review Copies: 9
Library: 13

Standouts
Teen: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
In lesser hands, this could have been a standard, soapy girl-power revenge plot. But Han and Vivian are good at characters, brimming with flaws. While I sort of cheered on the girls' vengeance, I also saw their victims as real people who were really getting hurt by their actions and may or may not have wholly deserved it. I had to immediately start reading the sequel.
Tween: The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin
A mother away in Iraq, changing relationships, and the dumb things you do for your first crush perfectly captured the general topsy-turvy of t
hose first shaky steps into the teenage years.
Children: Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
On a family visit to Taiwan, Pacy struggles with being in a place where she feels like an alien but is expected to feel right at home. For every kid who's ever been caught in the middle and had to carve out their own place, this is for you.

Because I Want To Awards
Almost a Standout: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
The first half of this book is so confusing, because the character herself is so lost and confused, that I really had to hang in there and trust the author. Luckily, the second half came together.
Most Batshit Story Element: Gated by Amy Christine Parker
This story of a girl breaking free of a murderous, apocalyptic cult held me captivated, except that every time I came across one of their core beliefs--that the earth was going to reverse its rotation--I looked up from the book and went, "What?" Okay, maybe I'm nitpicky, because they also believed that they'd been chosen for survival by benevolent alien overlords, but boy did that bump me out of the story.

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20. Book Review: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishaswami

Book: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
Author: Uma Krishaswami
Published:
2011
Source: Local Library

Dini is devastated to learn that her parents are picking her up and moving her to India for two years. What about her best friend, Maddie? What about Bollywood dance camp!?

When she arrives in India, however, things start to look up. Swapnagiri, the tiny mountain town where her doctor mother is stationed, is right out of a storybook in its charm and quaintness. She might make a few new friends. And best of all is the rumor that her favorite, favorite Bollywood star, Dolly Singh, might be in the area!

When I finished reading this book, I squealed, “Awww, this was so cute!” And it was. I don’t know whether it’s Krishnaswami’s regular style or an attempt to copy the Bollywood movies that are so important to the plot, but this felt a little like reading a Bollywood movie. The unlikeliness of the plot (not just a movie star hanging around a tiny mountain town, but several other coincidences), the fanciful language, the quirky supporting characters. There’s even a giant song-and-dance number.

There are plenty of entries in the “sweet and charming” genre for middle grade readers. This one stands out because of its setting, but in all other ways, it fits just right. Keep it on hand.

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21. Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Book: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

She is the darling of the Republic, a brilliant, detail-oriented prodigy who achieved a perfect score on the state-mandated Trial and graduated from university at the age of fifteen. When her beloved older brother dies, June Iparis vows to hunt down his murderer and make him pay.

He is the wiliest trickster to ever harass the city of Los Angeles. After flatly failing his Trial, Day found himself on the street. Officially, he's dead; unofficially, his wits are the only thing keeping him from that fate. Five years later, he's made himself into a legend, committing daring acts against the military and the government to get enough money to buy the plague vaccines that will keep his family alive.

They seem fated to be enemies. But when she tracks him down, June and Day discover that they have a bigger common enemy - the Republic itself.

What I would like to know is why I haven't seen this on the big screen yet. It seems to have all the elements: a star-crossed romance, a cruel dystopian future, lots of pulse-pounding action. It was even, famously, optioned months before publication. So? Guys? What are we waiting for?

Okay, enough whinging about that. Why did I like this book, besides the stuff up there? It's because Day and June were so clearly a match for each other, both as enemies and romantically. They're equally smart, equally gutsy, equally compassionate. And they're not just book-smart: both have a tactical awareness and an ability to think flexibly that more than once saves their lives. (That's probably why a twist, introduced late in the book, didn't surprise me one little bit.) These are two people that I'm more than willing to spend a whole trilogy with.

The second book, Prodigy, is already out. I'll be waiting for the third with bated breath.


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22. Book Review: The Rules by Stacy Kade

Book: The Rules
Author: Stacey Kade
Published: 2013
Source: ARC borrowed from a friend

Ariane lives by the rules. 1. Never trust anyone. 2. Remember they are always searching. 3. Don’t get involved. 4. Keep your head down. 5. Don’t fall in love.

They’re all that stands between her and discovery. If anyone learned that she was different in any way, the evil GTX corporation would recapture her and drag her back into the bowels of their research division. Yes, recapture. Because Ariane lived the first six years of her life like a mouse in a maze, showing GTX what she could do. And why was what she could so much more special than any other child?

Because she’s not fully human.

Built of human and alien DNA to be GTX’s pet assassin, she was freed at age six by the man who now calls himself her father, and it’s his rules she lives by. She never thought Rule 5 would be a problem - Don’t fall in love - until she starts to get involved with Zane. Popular Zane. Gorgeous Zane. Sweet, gentle, fascinating Zane. The son of the local sheriff, who wants more than anything to get in good at GTX.

This . . . might be a problem.

Like her prior Ghost and the Goth series, this is written in a dual POV, something that’s happening a lot in YA lately. Often, I don’t really know why. In this book, it pretty much works, because Zane and Ariane have very different viewpoints of GTX, but also of their friends, schoolmates, and obviously, each other. Ariane doesn’t trust Zane (for good reason, because his friend Rachel is as mean as a snake). Zane is fascinated by the formerly mousy Ariane’s buried strength, as well as being very concerned about her home life. Seeing the way that their views gradually change was one of the things that kept pulling me through this novel.

There are some things that don’t hold up. For instance, how is it that this girl lived 10 years in the same town with GTX, with her father working for them, and never once thought, “You know, this isn’t the smartest place for me to be.” There’s a spoileriffic reason for that situation, but her unquestioning acceptance of it is what makes me do the simple-dog head-tilt. Plus, Ariane is very delicate, bruising and breaking bones easily, which is part of the reason Zane becomes convinced she’s being abused. How does that work for an assassin, even if she can kill people with her brain?

Overall, however, I liked this book. I’m told (by Goodreads, and if we can’t depend on that, then who can we depend on?) that this is the first in a series. I feel as if it could have just as well been a standalone, but I’ll try out the next one.

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23. Reading Roundup: August 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 16
Tween: 3
Children: 5

Sources
Review Copies: 9
Library: 13

Standouts
Teen: Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
In lesser hands, this could have been a standard, soapy girl-power revenge plot. But Han and Vivian are good at characters, brimming with flaws. While I sort of cheered on the girls' vengeance, I also saw their victims as real people who were really getting hurt by their actions and may or may not have wholly deserved it. I had to immediately start reading the sequel.
Tween: The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin
A mother away in Iraq, changing relationships, and the dumb things you do for your first crush perfectly captured the general topsy-turvy of t
hose first shaky steps into the teenage years.
Children: Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
On a family visit to Taiwan, Pacy struggles with being in a place where she feels like an alien but is expected to feel right at home. For every kid who's ever been caught in the middle and had to carve out their own place, this is for you.

Because I Want To Awards
Almost a Standout: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
The first half of this book is so confusing, because the character herself is so lost and confused, that I really had to hang in there and trust the author. Luckily, the second half came together.
Most Batshit Story Element: Gated by Amy Christine Parker
This story of a girl breaking free of a murderous, apocalyptic cult held me captivated, except that every time I came across one of their core beliefs--that the earth was going to reverse its rotation--I looked up from the book and went, "What?" Okay, maybe I'm nitpicky, because they also believed that they'd been chosen for survival by benevolent alien overlords, but boy did that bump me out of the story.

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24. Book Review: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishaswami

Book: The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
Author: Uma Krishaswami
Published:
2011
Source: Local Library

Dini is devastated to learn that her parents are picking her up and moving her to India for two years. What about her best friend, Maddie? What about Bollywood dance camp!?

When she arrives in India, however, things start to look up. Swapnagiri, the tiny mountain town where her doctor mother is stationed, is right out of a storybook in its charm and quaintness. She might make a few new friends. And best of all is the rumor that her favorite, favorite Bollywood star, Dolly Singh, might be in the area!

When I finished reading this book, I squealed, “Awww, this was so cute!” And it was. I don’t know whether it’s Krishnaswami’s regular style or an attempt to copy the Bollywood movies that are so important to the plot, but this felt a little like reading a Bollywood movie. The unlikeliness of the plot (not just a movie star hanging around a tiny mountain town, but several other coincidences), the fanciful language, the quirky supporting characters. There’s even a giant song-and-dance number.

There are plenty of entries in the “sweet and charming” genre for middle grade readers. This one stands out because of its setting, but in all other ways, it fits just right. Keep it on hand.

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25. Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Book: Legend
Author: Marie Lu
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

She is the darling of the Republic, a brilliant, detail-oriented prodigy who achieved a perfect score on the state-mandated Trial and graduated from university at the age of fifteen. When her beloved older brother dies, June Iparis vows to hunt down his murderer and make him pay.

He is the wiliest trickster to ever harass the city of Los Angeles. After flatly failing his Trial, Day found himself on the street. Officially, he's dead; unofficially, his wits are the only thing keeping him from that fate. Five years later, he's made himself into a legend, committing daring acts against the military and the government to get enough money to buy the plague vaccines that will keep his family alive.

They seem fated to be enemies. But when she tracks him down, June and Day discover that they have a bigger common enemy - the Republic itself.

What I would like to know is why I haven't seen this on the big screen yet. It seems to have all the elements: a star-crossed romance, a cruel dystopian future, lots of pulse-pounding action. It was even, famously, optioned months before publication. So? Guys? What are we waiting for?

Okay, enough whinging about that. Why did I like this book, besides the stuff up there? It's because Day and June were so clearly a match for each other, both as enemies and romantically. They're equally smart, equally gutsy, equally compassionate. And they're not just book-smart: both have a tactical awareness and an ability to think flexibly that more than once saves their lives. (That's probably why a twist, introduced late in the book, didn't surprise me one little bit.) These are two people that I'm more than willing to spend a whole trilogy with.

The second book, Prodigy, is already out. I'll be waiting for the third with bated breath.


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