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1. Reading Roundup: March 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 13
Tween: 3
Children: 6

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 12

Standouts
Teen: 37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon
This was a lovely, melancholic story about a girl coming to terms with all manner of changes in her life, including her own romance with another girl and her comatose father.
Tween: Smek for President! by Adam Rex
I read the first book (The True Meaning of Smekday) years ago, so I was worried I wouldn't be able to remember the story. Groundless fears. There was much fun to be had here and some answers to some dangling threads from the first book.
Children: Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, ill. Matthew Myers
Okay, it's shelved as a picture book, but I classified it for early elementary anyway because of the interplay between the traditional text and the additions made by the young creator/birthday boy. Not only will it resonat
e with kids already starting to react to and think about narrative, it actually is something of a challenge to follow both stories.

Because I Want To Awards
Unexpectedly Serious in Places: Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm
As the subtitle promises, this is a novel told in stuff: IM chats, notes, report cards. Not a scrap of traditional prose, narration, or dialogue to be found. Holm works in themes of family strife, economic woes, new sibling stress, and illness without losing the warm and realistic feel.
Really Strange Cameos: Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
I loved 98% of this book, which shows Keplinger's deft touch with flawed characters (and the guy is biracial and shown on the cover! Score!) My beef? The weird cameos from the couples of other books. That was just . . . odd.
Hoping This Found a New Home: The Case of the Devil's Interval by Emily Butler
Originally slated to be published by Egmont, this funny, bouncy ghost story/murder mystery with a delightfully sarcastic and no-nonsense ghostly protagonist was orphaned when Egmont folded. I've heard that Lerner bought up about 100 of Egmont's titles; I'm hoping this was one of them.

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2. Reading Roundup: February 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 7
Tween: 5
Children: 8

Sources
Review Copies: 3
Library: 12

Standouts
Teen: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Oh, the atmosphere on this one. This tale of wicked faeries and brothers and sisters got a boost from the dreamy feel of the whole book.
Tween: Drama by Raina Telgemeier
That one-word title just sums up the whole of middle school, as far as I'm concerned. Crushes and friendships and just drama all around in this graphic novel of a middle-school stage crew. Also, I really wanted to join stage crew.
Children: Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Tricia Springstubb
While Mo Wren clearly lives in a poorer urban area, this book doesn't focus on that, but on her difficult adjustment to big changes in her life. As purely charming as the first.

Because I Want To Awards
Must Have the Last Book NOW PLEASE: Fairest by Marissa Meyer (link leads to my review)
While it was interesting to see how Levana got to where she is, this book mostly left me desperate for the final book in the series, due out in November.
Most Confunding: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
This one threw me for a loop, mostly to do with the ending, which veered away from what I expected in a middle-grade fantasy title.
Niftiest Hook: Follow Follow: a book of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer
Read the poem, then read it backward. They're deceptively simple, but must have taken forever. Hats off, Ms Singer. 

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3. Book Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Book: Fairest
Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Princess Levana has always been overlooked. The second daughter of the Lunar royal house, scarred and ugly, overshadowed by the glittering heir, she yearns for oh so many things. She wants her thoughts and ideas to be taken seriously by the court. She wants people to admire her the way they admire her sister Channary. Most of all, she wants Evret Hayle, the handsome royal guard, to look at her the way she looks at him - with love and longing.

She gets her chance when Evret's wife dies in childbirth, and she takes it, magically brainwashing him into marrying her. When her sister dies, leaving Levana to rule, everything she wants is within her grasp.

Really, though, it's not. Evret only loves her when she's forcing her own will onto his. Levana isn't the queen, only the queen regent, standing in until her young niece Selene is of age to take the throne. But she's gotten this far. Why stop now?

When I heard the next book in Lunar Chronicles series was coming out in January, I was delighted. Cress left us with a doozy of a cliffhanger. When I heard it was not going to be Winter, but instead Levana's story, I was bitterly disappointed and a little cynical. Ridiculously popular series tend to bring out the spinoffs and tie-ins. I wanted to read it, of course, because Meyer does write an interesting story, but I wasn't sure what I would get.

What I found most interesting was that Levana actually is, for some values of the word, a good queen. She's interested in more than flirting and glittering. She thinks carefully about the problems facing Luna as a nation, and she dreams up smart and savvy methods of solving those problems. Of course, smart and savvy do not mean good or even conscionable. One of her first breakthrough ideas is for the deliberate spread of a virus that will weaken Earth's defenses and put Luna into a position of stronger political power. This will, of course, become the horrific letumosis epidemic that haunts the other novels in the series.

The saddest part is how you can see where she went wrong. She has good aims, understandable motivations. She wants to be loved. She wants to be a good queen. She wants constant, never-ending affirmation that she is good enough. She is very young at the beginning of the novel, just fifteen, and she falls prey to the flaws that often plague that age - self-centeredness, thoughtlessness, and a tendency to blow things out of proportion. But the reason she turned out the way she does (and will), is because nobody has ever taught her that love means putting other people first, or that anyone besides herself is more than a tool or an obstacle.

As a standalone novel, this would not hold up. It isn't meant to, really. There are too many references to other characters from the series and their origins for the new reader to make sense of it. (Why, for instance, is the toddler son of her husband's friends given so much page space? Unless you know him as Jacin Clay, the hero of the last book, it makes no sense.) I also wish we'd gotten more of Evret than just the handsome love interest, because it would have made his decisions and his eventual fate more tragic. But as a peek into the workings of a powerful villain that we already know and fear, this book is fascinating.

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4. Book Review: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

Book: Evil Librarian
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Cynthia doesn’t want much out of life, really. She wants the school production of Sweeney Todd to be the best ever. She wants super-cute Ryan Halsey to notice her. She wants to get through Italian class.

Now there’s something else to add to that list. She wants her best friend to stop acting like a zombie space cadet around the new librarian. Sure, he’s young and hot, but he’s still an adult and a teacher. Eww. And now Annie is swearing that she’s in love with him. Cyn knows there’s something seriously wrong with this picture. But she’s not prepared for the truth, which is that Mr. Gabriel is a demon who’s bent on sucking out the souls of the student population as part of his quest to rule hell.

That’s not good.

Luckily, she’s got some advantages in this fight. Such as, she seems to have a resistance to demon mojo. Also, super-cute Ryan Halsey is actually helping her out. Still, that’s not much help against a demon. And now there’s more than one. Uh-oh.

With a title like that, you know I had to read it. I mean, come on. I’d gone through several DNFs before this one (at least one of them throw-it-at-the-wall bad) and I was ready for a funny, entertaining paranormal romp. This fit the bill.

Cynthia is smart and self-aware, but still recognizably a teenager. The plot rattles along with good humor and a certain wink at the reader as to the unlikeliness of this whole thing. At times the light and funny tone wavers, particularly with the deaths of several teachers. These are all off-screen, but at least one was an important ally to Ryan and Cyn. Still, this is 98% rollicking fun.

In her review, Ms. Yingling mentions that for her middle-school population, Cynthia’s lusty yearning for Ryan was a little too old. Myself, I liked that a lot. It’s a nice thing to see a teenage girl frankly acknowledging her sexuality and how that feeds into romantic feelings without being branded a slut or a bad girl.

Though the story is complete (no cliffhangers!) the door is also left open a crack for a sequel, or perhaps two.

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5. 2015 Youth Media Awards: Newbery! Caldecott! Printz! All of the Shiny Medals!

John Newbery Medal
for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature
The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
(H) El Deafo - Cece Bell
(H) Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson

Randolph Caldecott Medal
for the most distinguished American picture book for children
The Adventures of Beekle: the unimaginary friend - Dan Santat
(H) Nana in the City - Lauren Castillo
(H) The Noisy Paint Box: the colors and sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art - ill. Mary GrandPre, written by Barb Rosenstock
(H) Sam and Dave Dig a Hole - ill. Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett
(H) Viva Frida - Yuyi Morales
(H) The Right Word: Roget and his thesaurus - ill. Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant
(H) This One Summer - ill. Jillian Tamaki, written by Mariko Tamaki

Michael L. Printz Award
for excellence in literature written for young adults
I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
(H) And We Stay - Jenny Hubbard
(H) The Carnival at Bray - Jessie Ann Foley
(H) Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith
(H) This One Summer - Mariko Tamaki, ill. Jillian Tamaki

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
for the most distinguished beginning reader book
You Are (not) Small - Anna Kang, ill. Christopher Weyent
(H) Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page - Cynthia Rylant, ill. Arthur Howard
(H) Waiting is Not Easy - Mo Willems

Coretta Scott King Awards
for the best book about the African-American experience
Author
Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson
(H) The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
(H) How I Discovered Poetry - Marilyn Nelson, ill. Hadley Hooper
(H) How It Went Down - Kekla Magoon
Illustrator
Firebird: ballerina Misty Copeland shows a young girl how to dance like the firebird - ill. Christopher Myers, written by Misty Copeland

John Steptoe New Talent Award
When I Was the Greatest - Jason Reynolds
(H) Josephine: the Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker - Patricia Hruby Powell, ill. Christian Robinson
(H) Little Melba and Her Big Trombone - Katheryn Russell-Brown, ill. Frank Morrison

Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement
Deborah D. Taylor - Enoch Pratt Free Library

Schneider Family Book Award
for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience
Picture Book
A Boy and a Jaguar - Alan Rabinowitz, ill. Catia Chien
Middle Grade 
Rain Reign - Ann M Martin
Teen
Girls Like Us - Gail Giles

Alex Awards
for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Bellweather Rhapsody - Kate Racculia
Bingo’s Run - James A Levine
Confessions - Kanae Minato, trans. Stephen Snyer
Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
Lock In - John Scalzi
The Martian - Andy Weir
The Terrorist’s Son - Zak Ebrahim, w/ Jeff Giles
Those Who Wish Me Dead - Michael Koryta
Wolf in White Van - John Darnielle

Andrew Carnegie Medal
for excellence in children's video
Me … Jane - Weston Woods, based on a book by Patrick McDonnell

Margaret A. Edwards Award
for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.
Sharon M. Draper

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
Pat Mora

Mildred L. Batchelder Award
for an outstanding children's book translated from a language other than English and subsequently published in the United States
Mikis and the Donkey - Bibi Dumon Tak, ill. Philip Hopman, trans. Laura Watkinson
Honors
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust - Loie Dauvillier, ill. Marc Lizano, trans. Alexis Siege
Nine Open Arms - Benny Lindelauf, ill. Dasha Tolstikova, trans. John Nieuwenhuizen

Odyssey Award
best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults
H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination - Christopher Myers, narrated by Dion Graham and Christopher Myers
(H) Five, Six, Seven, Nate! - Tim Federle, narrated by same
(H) The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place - Julie Berry, narrated by Jayne Entwhistle
(H) A Snicker of Magic - Natalie Lloyd, narrated by Cassandra Morris

Pura Belpre Awards
For the best books about the Latino cultural experience
Author
I Lived on Butterfly Hill - Marjorie Agosín, ill. Lee White, trans. E.M. O'Connor
(H) Portraits of Hispanic-American Heroes - Juan Felipe Herrera, ill. Raúl Colón
Illustrator
Viva Frida - Yuyi Morales
(H) Little Roja Riding Hood - ill. Susan Middleton Elya, written by Susan Guevara
(H) Green is a Chile Pepper - ill. John Parra, written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
(H) Separate is never equal : Sylvia Mendez & her family's fight for desegregation - Duncan Tonatiuh

Robert F. Sibert Medal
for most distinguished informational book for children
The Right Word: Roget and his thesaurus - Jen Bryant, ill. Melissa Sweet
(H) Brown Girl Dreaming - Jacqueline Woodson
(H) The family Romanov : murder, rebellion & the fall of Imperial Russia - Candace Fleming
(H) Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker - Patricia Hruby Powell, ill. Christian Robinson
(H) Neighborhood sharks : hunting with the great whites of California's Farallon Islands - Katherine Roy
(H) Separate is never equal : Sylvia Mendez & her family's fight for desegregation - Duncan Tonatiuh

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award
Books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.
This Day in June - Gayle E. Pitman, Ph.D., ill. Kristyna Litten
(H) Beyond magenta : transgender teens speak out - Susan Kuklin
(H) I’ll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson
(H) Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress - Christine Baldacchio, ill. Isabelle Malenfant

William C. Morris Award
for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. Finalists are announced in December.
Gabi: A Girl in Pieces - Isabel Quintero
(F) The Carnival at Bray - Jessie Ann Foley
(F) The Story of Owen, Dragonslayer of Trondheim - E.K. Johnston
(F) The Scar Boys - Len Vlahos
(F) The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - Leslye J Walton

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
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek - Maya Van Wagenen
(F) Laughing at My Nightmare - Shane Burcaw
(F) The family Romanov : murder, rebellion & the fall of Imperial Russia - Candace Fleming
(F) Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman who Challenged Big Business and Won - Emily Arnold McCully
(F) The Port Chicago 50 : disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights - Steve Sheinken

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6. Reading Roundup: January 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 9
Tween: 4
Children: 3

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 6

Standouts
Teen: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

This is what a relationship story looks like, as opposed to a love story. Perkins explores how a relationship changes and impacts the people in it, particularly their flaws and screw-ups.
Tween: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
I've been over the written-in-verse thing for awhile, but this one (and The Red Pencil, mentioned below) were exceptions. Woodson takes us through her young life, with all its trials and joys, in a story worthy of the National Book Award it garnered.
Children: The Mighty Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch
Did you know how much geology went into interplanetary exploration? Because I didn't. This book goes behind the scenes of the little-rovers-that-could to show the humans that worked their butts off. Another worthy entry in the long-running Scientists in the Field series.

Because I Want To Awards
Come Here, I Need to Smack You: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
This book is a worthy successor to one of my very favorite books of 2014, with its twisty plot and its heroine trapped between a rock and a hard place. But boy, did I spend a fair amount of time wanting to smack its hero. (Out in March)
Personal Connections: The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
I work in a library where many of my patrons, large and small, are refugees from the kind of situation that this book explores. As such, it was very difficult to read, because I kept seeing people I knew in the story. But oh, so good.

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7. Reading Roundup: 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 127
Tween: 36
Children: 27

Sources
Review Copies: 78

Purchased: 7
Library: 81

Standouts
Teen: The Drowned Cities (chosen in January)
"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." (Link goes to my review, which finally went up last week.)
Tween: The Swift Boys and Me by Kody Keplinger (chosen in April)
"One tumultuous summer changes all the things eleven-year-old Nola has always taken for granted. Some better, some worse, some just different. I've loved Keplinger's work for teens, and she displays the same deft touch with people and relationships in her first book for younger readers."
Children: Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath (chosen in February)
"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."


Last year, I made a resolution to actually read less. To make room for other things, focus on reading the books instead of finishing them, blog more.

Well I didn't really blog as much as I wanted to, but I definitely gave myself more breathing space when it comes to my reading. I can see it in the numbers, but I can also feel it in how many more books I remember enjoying and diving into. My TBR list grew mountainous, of course, because there are so many good books out there, but I'm getting really good at pruning hard.

For 2015, I'd like to keep up that mindset, and definitely try to blog more steadily, rather than going in spurts the way that I have for some time. At least two reviews a month. You heard it here first, people.

Happy 2015!

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8. They're Here, They're Here!

Check out the 2014 Cybils finalists! What do you think?

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9. Reading Roundup: December 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 0
Children: 0
And Cybils reading is done!

Sources
Library: 6
Review Copies: 5

Standouts
Teen: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
This sci-fi coming-of-age story takes Ava from a safe, ordered existence within a patriarchal polygamous spaceship to a scary, uncertain life on her own, in futuristic India. I can't even explain how much I fell in love with Ava and her world.

Because I Want to Awards:
Better Than Expected: Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy
This was a very difficult reading experience, partly because the main character’s outlook was so different than mine, and also because the nightmare scenario of a United States imploding, starting with Idaho, felt like it could happen all too easily in my own home state of Arizona. But I cared about Danny and his friends and family, caught in the middle of something far bigger and scarier than they ever bargained for.
Yaaaaaay Serial Killers!: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Um, so to explain that. This was the first realistic book I read in three months, having been neck-deep in fantasy and sci-fi for the Cybils. So this book’s firm roots in the real world was a refreshing change, no matter how you feel about teenage prodigy profilers for the FBI. Aside that palate cleansing aspect, I did enjoy this tense and twisty thriller.

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10. Cybils Wrap-Up and Statistics

Well, round 1 is done. We've picked a shortlist, we've sent in our blurbs, and now all the round 1 panelists wait to hear the announcement, simultaneously grinning over our secret knowledge and anxious to hear from the other categories.

With all that, I thought I'd type up a few thoughts and numbers. Because I like numbers.

Books nominated in YASF - 205
Books I read before the nomination period - 21
Books I finished during the nomination period - 34
Books I didn’t finish during the nomination period - 41
Books I didn’t read but am keeping on my TBR list - 43

See, this is why we have more than one person on the judging panels.

One of the adventures of the Cybils is reading books I would otherwise never pick up. Maybe the premise didn't appeal to me. Maybe I'd overlooked them. Maybe I wasn't a fan of the author's other work so had planned on giving them a miss. For the Cybils, I read them, and stretched myself. Some of them were stellar. Some . . . were not. That's okay. I'll talk a little bit more about the stellar ones after the announcement. 

Thanks to Sheila Ruth and all my fellow Round 1 judges for the past three months. It's hard, hard work but it's also a lot of fun with people as opinionated as you guys to debate the books with. For me, talking about the books is just as much fun as reading them. In some cases, more.

Check out Cybils.com on January 1 and see the fruits of our labor. And thanks. The Cybils are a community effort, and everything that you do to support it, like nominating books, cheering us on, talking up the shortlists, and even retweeting each other, makes these prizes what they are.

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11. Book Review: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book: The Drowned Cities
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

In the future, America has been knocked from leader of the free world to a war-torn wasteland, torn to shreds by guerrilla civil war and abandoned even by the Chinese peacekeepers. In this world, four different people struggle to survive.

Mahlia and Mouse have already lived through the worst and are keeping their heads down in a backwoods village. Tool is a genetically modified man-beast, created to serve warlords and wage war. He’s decided to strike out on his own, serving no master. Ocho is a guerrilla soldier, sergeant of the squadron that hunts Tool and invades the village.

When Mahlia takes the risky step of saving Tool’s life and helping hide him from the soldiers, she sets off a chain of events that will take all four from the relative safety of the backwoods into the Drowned Cities and the heart of the never-ending war. None of them expect that they’re going to live to a ripe old age. They’ll settle for living to see tomorrow.

I told a colleague that if I’d known that this was about child soldiers and guerrilla warfare, I probably wouldn’t have read it. (Upon hearing that description, of course, he was all over it.) If I’d skipped it, I would have missed one hell of a book.

At every turn, the characters (minor and major) must make the decision about whether to see to their own safety or honor their connection to another person. Intriguingly, Bacigalupi doesn’t always prioritize one over the other. Sometimes you have to save your own skin. Sometimes, you have to save your soul instead.

A harrowing, powerful, and complex story about the things we do to save ourselves and others.

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12. The Bibliovore is in Your Ears!

Or I will be.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is one of my very favorite non-kidlit book blogs, and I am a devoted listener to their weekly podcast as well. Awhile ago, blogger/host Sarah Wendell put out a call for kidlit recommendations. Not only was I all over that, much of her audience was as well. She was reading kidlit booklists for months.

When she asked for possible interviews, I put my name out to her, and to my great excitement, she said yes! We talk about everything from picture books up to YA, and everything in between.

You can hear the podcast, which is almost an hour long, at the Smart Bitches Trashy Books website or you can download it from iTunes under "DBSA romance fiction podcast," episode 120.

Enjoy!

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13. Reading Roundup: November 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 1
Children: 1
(Still reading for the Cybils! A note about my numbers: this is books finished, not books half-read and set down.)

Sources
Review Copies: 4
Library: 8

Standouts
Teen: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
With a title like that, I gotta love it. I also loved the snarky narration, the musical-theater subplot (turned out demons love the show Sweeney Todd) and the fact that Cynthia gets her crush's attention and he turns out to be capital-A Awesome.
Tween/Children: Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel
Okay, this was the only book this month that I marked tween or children's (I think it straddles the line). But I still might have picked it out even if I'd read others. What I loved best was how much Lucy loves her baby sister, born with Downs Syndrome, without hesitation or reservation. It's also worth noting that very few of Lucy's problems stem from her sister's differences, even when adults think they do.

Because I Want To Awards
Finally, a Girl Who Knows Her Worth: Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier
Natividad is a special magical girl that all the werewolves want, and does she ever know it. With clear-eyed unsentimentality, she uses her value to wangle safe haven for herself and her brothers, and her powers to fight for the pack once they've accepted her. Girlfriend, I want to take you out for a drink. Yanno, once you're done saving the world.

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14. Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Book: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Lara Jean Song has loved many boys, but never one who’s loved her back. She formed a habit of writing a goodbye letter to each boy and hiding it in her treasured hatbox as she gets over them.

Suddenly the letters disappear, sent out to the boys who were never supposed to see them. Lara Jean finds herself facing the consequences of her own emotions for the first time.

The most horrifying consequence is that one of the letters went out to Josh, her next-door neighbor, and also her big sister’s recent ex. Desperate to stop him from thinking she still likes him (although she sort of does), she begs one of the other crushes, Peter, to pretend to be her boyfriend. He’s amenable because he’s trying to make an ex jealous. They embark on a fake relationship, but as it goes on, Lara Jean gets more and more mixed up about what she wants. Is it Josh? Or Peter? Or neither?

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare - your old crushes suddenly discovering the feelings you hid so deeply! Okay, not the worst nightmare. Zombies and public nudity are probably worse, but this is right up there. Han explores this situation by having Lara Jean encounter all her old crushes again in the course of trying to get the letters back. Some are great, some are horrifying, some are, “What did I ever see in him?!”

Lara Jean starts off the book childish and impulsive, almost slappably so. But as the story goes on, you can see her maturing. Is this because she’s having to face the consequences of the letters? She always crushed on boys silently before, never giving any indication of her feelings. Is it because she is having to step into her older sister’s Margot’s place as the caretaker of the family, or possibly coming out from under Margot’s shadow? Is it because she gets the opportunity to see how she herself has changed over the years, through the lens of the boys she once crushed on? For me, it was a mixture of all those things.

I was a little disappointed in the end because it left us dangling as to the resolution of Peter and Lara Jean’s story. Although Lara Jean had made a decision, we didn’t get to see the effects of it. Luckily, according to the author’s blog, there will be a second book called P.S. I Still Love You due out in the spring.

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15. Reading Roundup: October 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 16
Tween: 1
Children: none
(All Cybils reading, all the time!)

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 9

Standouts
Teen: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The story of Blue and her raven boys continues to unfold at a leisurely pace, though there's progress toward the climax that devoted readers of this series have been dreading for three books now.
Tween: The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan
Though the character is stated to be seventeen, she read younger to me. Kids who can handle rough and tough survival stories will be drawn to this. Like Mike Mullins in his Ashfall series, Aslan has given careful thought to the large-scale ramifications of the end of the world, and the Hawaiian setting is an interesting new one.

Because I Want To Awards
Longest Awaited: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Seriously. The entry date on my wishlist in LibraryThing is 2012, so even though this just came out I've been waiting a loooooong time for this one. I was happy, if gutted at points, with the way things ended up.
Should Feel Overstuffed with Diversity: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis
But it doesn't, and that's amazing. Between the two main characters, we have a minority (Mexican
, with mentions of Spanish and Nahuatl spoken in the home), two disabilities (one with a prosthetic leg, one mute), and bisexuality. And yet, the book isn't about any of that, but about two people trying to navigate a very difficult situation together, not always easily or well. Nicely done, Duyvis.
Just Because I Want to Talk About It: Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
As the world is falling apart, Bird is coming into her own as a young black woman, and starting to see the machinery that might be behind the seemingly random flu pandemic that's sending the nation's capitol into a tailspin.

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16. Have You Nominated for the Cybils Yet?

Because today is the Very. Last. Day.

If you're not sure what to nominate, check out some of the posts on http://www.cybils.com, where people have gathered lists of the books they would like to see nominated and would have nominated themselves except they already nominated one because it's sooooo haaaard to choooooose!

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17. Reading Roundup: September 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 3
Children: 2

Sources
Review Copies: 10
Library: 3

Standouts
Teen: Sway by Kat Spears
I really liked this examination of a morally grey kid with a surprisingly good heart.
Tween: My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros (link goes to my review)
It's a tale as old as time - dumped by your BFF on the first day of seventh grade. Luckily for Nina, there's nowhere to go but up from here.
Children: Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George
The third adventure for the royal family finds them far from home and trying to work out what really happened hundreds of years before. You really have to have read the whole series to understand everything that's going on in this one, but if you have, this continues the enjoyment.

Because I Want To Awards
Because What Could Go Wrong with a Jailbreak?: The Graham Cracker Plot by Shelley Tougas
Good kid, poor choices. Lots of poor choices. Oh, so many poor choices.
The Path of True Love Never Did Run Smooth: Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan
See, this is what Shakespeare meant by that. After getting together at the end of the last bo
ok (I'll Be There), Sam and Emily find themselves hitting speedbumps, hard. Nice to see a book where happily-ever-after isn't shown as smooth sailing.
Almost Named a Standout: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
It was so hard to pick, you guys. SO HARD. Nelson's novel of estranged twins, each narrating a different era in their lives, is full of sneaky surprises and lovely language.

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18. Cybils Eve

Guess what!

Go on, guess!

Okay, fine, I'll tell you. Starting tomorrow through October 15, you get to nominate books for the Cybils! The world's only Children's and YA Blogger award opens its nomination period tomorrow, in thirteen categories from picture books to YA fiction, from book apps to poetry.

Anybody can nominate, and the books can be anything published in English in the US or Canada in the past year. 

Remember, each book (or app) can only be nominated by one person. So if you're going in, take at least a few faves in each category with you. 

More info here: Nominating for the Cybils.



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19. Book Review: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills

Book: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

In the studio, Gabe runs his community radio show, "Beautiful Music for Ugly Children." He plays eclectic mixes and chats over the airwaves to night owls just like him. In the studio is the only place Gabe can truly be himself. Because to the outside world, Gabe is Liz, and Liz is female.

But Gabe has always known he's male, even if it's a scary thing to declare that to the world. As his radio show gains a cult following and he starts to dream of bigger and better (a career in radio, a life as himself, even--gulp!--a girlfriend), he needs the courage to stand tall against a world that doesn't know quite what to make of him.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the slowness of the process. Gabe comes out to his parents, to close friends, and then painfully, to the world, in baby steps like asking a radio station to change the name on his entry form from Liz to Gabe, and telling his new boss that though his W-2 says one name, it's really another. Each outing is its own different brand of scary.

There's a realistic variety of reactions to Gabe's secret. Some people are immediately accepting, like John, his musical mentor who's seen many, many things in a long career in radio and music. Paige, his best friend and sort-of crush, is also completely supportive, if sometimes a little clueless. On the other end of the spectrum are his parents and his brother, who are baffled and horrified. There's also Mara, a girl who's initially into Gabe until she realizes he's transgender, and then reacts with horror and vindictiveness, and of course, the almost-obligatory vicious transphobes, who harass Gabe through Facebook and eventually attack him and his friends.


There's not a lot of transgender books out there. I'm glad to add this one to the stack.

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20. Book Review: A Certain October by Angela Johnson

Book: A Certain October
Author: Angela Johnson
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

When she's in a horrible accident that kills a friend and severely injures her seven-year-old brother, Scotty feels responsible - for Kris's death, for Keone's injuries. It's all her fault, but there's no way she can make up for it. In the face of her helplessness, Scotty starts to do things to help other peoples' lives, and that might be just enough to get her through this October alive.

It's always hard for me to characterize an Angela Johnson book. They don't seem to have beginnings or ends, you feel like you're dropped in the middle of someone's life and then get plucked out again. I feel more as if I should like them than I actually do. But the jumbled tangle of emotion and uncertainty is awfully close to living inside Scotty's head. It's a quick and often confusing read. I'd give it only to people who are fans of Johnson's other work.

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21. Book Review: Red Thread Sisters by Carol Antoinette Peacock

Book: Red Thread Sisters
Author: Carol Antoinette Peacock
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

At eleven years old, Wen has finally been adopted by an American family. She gets to leave the poor, crowded, noisy orphanage in China, but she'll also have to leave behind her best friend, Shu Ling. Even though they've always promised each other that the first to get adopted will find a family for the other, the separation is wrenching.

Family life in America isn't all that easy, either. Wen struggles with her English, with the differences between China and America, and with fears of being rejected by her new family like she was rejected by her old one. She wants to bond with her new family and make new friends, but every time she does it feels like a betrayal of her old life and Shu Ling. And just as she is starting to settle in and enjoy things like Halloween and Thanksgiving, she gets horrifying news: if Shu Ling is not adopted by mid-January, she'll age out of eligibility and never get adopted at all.

From halfway around the world, can Wen save her friend and find her a family in less than three months?

For everything she's been through, Wen has a quiet toughness that can work against her - as when she rejects her new family's overtures - or for her - as when she takes on the impossible task of getting one young teenager out of thousands adopted by somebody.

Though most kids reading this may never have seen China or known anything like the orphanages, they'll identify with Wen - scared, uncertain, out of place, but still willing to tackle the challenge in order to keep what she's been given.

When most people think of overseas adoption, they think of babies, brought home before they can walk or talk, or remember their old life. But the truth is there are many, many older children out there. This is the story of two of them, and of the unbreakable bonds of friendship that can stretch much farther than around the world.

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22. Reading Roundup: August 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 5
Children: 3

Sources
Review Copies: 11
Purchased: 2
Library: 3

Standouts
Teen: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
It starts with a murderous ghost who's not even the villain, and ends . . . well, no, I can't tell you that. In between, it crawls through Japanese ghost stories and gives you the creepies to no end.
Tween: The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
While I thoroughly enjoyed the old-fashioned adventure story feel of this (with a soupcon of steampunk!), my favorite part lay in the construction of a world where Europeans, mysteriously cut off from Europe, get absorbed into the pre-existing Native American society of the New World.
Children: Rose by Holly Webb
Rose has a bedrock of good common sense, which is why it's so interesting to see her go head-to-head with magical goings-on and discover her own magical power.

Because I Want To Awards
For the Whovians in the Crowd: Jackaby by William Ritter
This fast-paced murder mystery, careering through Victorian New England, with a supernatural detective who has a Really Bad Habit of not imparting all the facts to his long-suffering assistant (and our narrator), was definitely built on the Dr. Who/Sherlock Holmes model model.
For an Author Who's Done So Many Teen Girls, This was a Spot-On Tween Boy: Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown
As legions of older sisters and younger brothers will tell you, there's a world of difference between the two. But Brown nailed it, first try.
Tissue-Paper Premise, Slam-Dunk Execution: Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers
Twins who didn't know it find each other over the internet in a story told solely through text communication of one kind or another. Oh, yeah, it's a tough sell, but Rivers' spot-on tween girl voices do the trick.

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23. Book Review: My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros

Book: My Year of Epic Rock
Author: Andrea Pyros
Published: September 2, 2014
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley

Nina can't wait for the start of seventh grade, even if her best friend hasn't called her back at all since getting back from her summer trip. She's sure that things will be just like they always have, Nina-and-Brianna ready to take on the world.

But on the first day of seventh grade, Brianna seems more interesting in hanging out with sophisticated Shelley than even talking to Nina. It doesn't take long for Nina to be exiled to the "allergy table" in the cafeteria, where all the weird kids with food allergies (of which Nina is one) sit every day.

There's a lot more to all those weird kids than just their allergies. When they discover that Nina can play drums, they decide to form a band to play at the school talent show. In spite of her misgivings about participating in an event that Brianna and Shelley have decreed "totally lame," Nina is getting a little excited about it. Maybe there's more to her than being half of Nina-and-Brianna. Maybe she's a rock star.

It's a tale as old as time. Hit middle school and people change. Friendships change. You change. Probably why this storyline ("Oh god, my best friend just dumped me WHAT NOW!?") is such a staple of middle-school literature. Where this story shines is in the details (the allergies that draw them all together, the fact that Nina is drummer and not a guitarist or a singer) and the realism of the interpersonal relationships.

One of my favorite things was how Nina made male friends who were simply friends. Tiernan and Shane are her buddies, not extra rival love interests. Tiernan, in fact, is the friend who lays down the law to her late in the book. ("We aren't here to be playing backup for you, Nina. We're supposed be your real friends, not second choice ones.") As someone who's has male and female friends all my life, even in middle school, I appreciated this a lot.

A sweet, upbeat story that will strike a chord with middle school readers.

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24. The Cybils Judges - Including Me!

YOU GUYS.

I'm pleased as heck to share the news that I've been picked to be a Round 1 judge for the Cybils in the YA Speculative Fiction category.

What does that mean, exactly?

It means that from the beginning of the nomination period on October 1st, through the selections of the finalists that go live on New Year's Day, I'll be reading YA  fantasy and sci fi until my eyeballs fall out. I'll be stalking my library catalog, I'll be hunting down books at the store, I'll be stalking the ebook sales. 

But Bibliovore, I hear you say. Isn't that what you do anyway?

Yes, but I get to discuss and debate them with my fellow Round 1 judges! Honestly, that's why I love doing this. You can take the girl out of the English courses, but you can't take the English courses out of the girl. Right around Christmas, we'll be picking 5-7 finalists that will be sent on to Round 2. And then we'll all collapse in a heap and wait, oh, maybe about two hours before going to find another book to read.

These fellow judges are:

Sheila Ruth
Wands and Worlds
@sheilaruth

Karen Jensen
Teen Librarian’s Toolbox
@tlt16

Kim Baccellia
Kim Baccellia
@ixtumea

Allie Jones
In Bed With Books
@wearedevilcow

Kathy Burnette
The Brain Lair
@thebrainlair

Kimberly Francisco
Stacked Books
@kimberlymarief

I look forward to working with you! Congratulations to all the judges in all the categories and both rounds.

Pull together your nominations right now, folks, because I expect to have some awesome books to read come October! And since each book can only be nominated once, grab some backups, just to make sure that your favorites all get their day in front of a judge's eyeballs.

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25. Book Review: Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach

Book: Nothing Special
Author: Geoff Herbach
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Things look pretty sweet for Felton Reinstein. He's big and strong and has football coaches from schools all over the country panting after him. He has a beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a brother who idolizes him. But he has a secret, and here it is.

He's a mess.

He hates the scouts and the attention, even while he loves football (well, any kind of athletics). His girlfriend has mysteriously stopped talking to him, as has (less mysteriously) his best friend, and his little brother is just off the rails completely. He's paralyzed by fear, of the future, of the past, and of the present. He just wants to run away from it all.

But it's Andrew who runs away, and it will take a quixotic road trip with the best friend who's not anymore to find the grandfather and cousin he's never known before Felton can start to understand why.

God, how I love Felton Reinstein. Yes, he's fictional, yes, he's seventeen, and yes, he's a complete goober and a mess. That last is why I love him. Geoff Herbach has a particular gift for getting you into Felton's brain, with all its self-involvement and uncertainty, without turning you off completely. He structures this book as a long letter to Aleah and Felton opens a vein all over the page, because it's not something he would do from the outside. There's so much going on inside his head, but he's still developing the emotional tools to express them to others.

I really appreciated the through-line of his father's suicide. In the first book, Felton started coming to terms with who his father was, what he did, and what that means for himself as he lurches toward adulthood. In this book, it keeps messing him up, it keeps messing his family up, but in new ways. Or rather, in ways that are only uncovered in this book. I appreciated that because a parent's death, particularly  a parent's suicide, isn't something that you get over in 275 pages. It's a long, evolving process and one that may never end.

Lucky for me, there's one more Felton Reinstein book for me to enjoy.

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