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Book: Gabby Duran and the Unsittables
Author: Elise Allen and Daryle Conners
Published: May 12, 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley.com
Gabby Duran has a reputation as the babysitter who can handle even the toughest cases with ease, and has a thriving babysitting empire. She's well used to things like being flown to Florida for the day to babysit a movie star's rambunctious triplets. However, she's thrown for a bit of a loop when she gets tagged to babysit little extraterrestrials by Edwina, the humorless head of A.L.I.E.N. (Association Linking Intergalatics and Earthlings as Neighbors). Seems that little extraterrestrials scare away most human babysitters.
But no matter where they come from, children are children, and Gabby lives up to her reputation. Her second alien charge, a tiny shapeshifter named Wutt, seems easy enough, even if she does have to cart her around school all day long. But then Edwina lets her know that another mysterious organization called G.E.T. O.U.T. is out to eradicate all alien visitors from the planet, and they have their sights set on Wutt. Who just happens to be a member of the royal family on her planet of origin, a planet that has a history of striking first and asking questions later.
No pressure or anything.
I had to read this with two sets of viewpoints. As an adult, I was appalled at how little infrmation Gabby got about dangerous situations and how willing Edwina, her A.L.I.E.N. contact, was to let her handle all these things herself with stakes like the future of planet Earth. I also thought Gabby was almost prenaturally good-natured and self-sacrificing for a twelve-year-old, but it's nice to read a middle school book with a minimum of whining. As a reader with an eye to what kids would like, I have to admit that Gabby being left almost completely on her own added to the appeal and the adventure of this story. I think kids will enjoy the breakneck pace, the goofy action, and the familiar, everyday events given a silly sci-fi twist.
Book: The Doublecross (and other skills I learned as a superspy)
Author: Jackson Pearce
Published: July 14, 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via Netgalley.com
Hale's parents are two of SRS's best spies. The Jordans are known worldwide. Too bad for them that he's a chubby, awkward kid who couldn't win a footrace against a herd of snails - hardly the kind of son to live up to superspy parents. Still, when they disappear on a mission, Hale knows he can break into the evil League's headquarters and rescue them, because he's got plenty of brains and wits, and really, what's more important to a spy?
But the League isn't the evil super-organization he's always been told it was. It's a rickety affair, drained of its funding, limping along with only one spy and some hapless support staff. And what they tell Hale turns his whole world upside down - because it turns out SRS are the ones who made his parents disappear. SRS are the bad guys.
Just like with his initial plan to rescue his parents, Hale knows the right thing to do, and that's to bring down the SRS from inside.
This is a book you probably shouldn't think about too closely, what with its prepubescent spies and I-Spy antics. It's awfully fun once you have a generous suspension of disbelief. The plot romps along, with plenty of explosions and gadgets and excitement, as well as humor. I also enjoyed Hale's confidence in his own abilities. Yes, he's overweight and not that great at the physical stuff. (Pearce mostly avoids making fat-shaming a source of comedy, luckily.) Hale is also observant, nimble-witted, and is able to oversee a mission with a variety of challenges.
What really appealed to me the most was the generous dose of heart in Hale's friendships with new League pals Ben and Beatrix, as well with his baby sister Kennedy, and his one-time friend/one-time nemesis/now maybe friend again, Walter Quaddlebaum.
The end is open to a series of Hale's adventures fighting the SRS, and that's a series that would probably be popular among middle-schoolers.
Book: Hold Me Like a Breath
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley
Penelope Landlow is a Mafia princess, the daughter of one of the most successful organ traffickers in the country. But she's shielded from the business because of her illness, an autoimmune disorder that means she bruises at the barest touch. Wrapped up in cotton wool and sheltered from the world, she chafes at her restrictions and dreams of escaping to New York City and being allowed to love Garrett Ward, her brother Carter's bodyguard.
When Carter is murdered, apparently by the rival Zhu family, Penelope's world is rocked to its foundations. But when her parents are slaughtered, just as she's planning to run away with
Garrett, that world is shattered beyond hope of repair. Spirited away to New York City, without Garrett, she finds only loneliness in the city she's longed for.
Then she meets Char. Still in hiding, she gives him a fake name and discovers unexpected freedom in the role of Maeve. Maeve isn't sick. Maeve has never so much as heard of organized crime. Maeve is free to create her own life. But Penelope Landlow's dangerous life is waiting to suck her back in.
This book took a long time to get started. Schmidt spends a considerable number of pages on setting up Penelope's pampered, confining life and her longings for something more. I almost put it down, but things picked up around the 1/3rd mark and after that I was glued to the pages - especially once I figured out that the rather dull Garrett wasn't actually the love interest.
In fact, I was heartened to realize that while Penelope falls in love with somebody else, Char is a secondary character at best. This is Penelope's story, through and through - how she moves from being an overprotected, fearful, and naive girl to a young woman willing to take risks for herself and the people she loves.
My favorite part? Penelope doesn't get magically cured of her autoimmune disorder. Instead, she learns how to manage it, how to live with it instead of allowing it to define her. A harrowing sequence late in the novel leaves her black and blue from head to foot, quite literally, but you can tell it's all worth it.
Drawing on both The Princess and the Pea and Rapunzel, this is a fairy tale retelling with a hefty dose of suspense, betrayal, and inner strength. This is apparently the first in a series, and while I don't know where it will go from here, I'm willing to find out.
Book: Will Sparrow's Road
Author: Karen Cushman
Source: Local Library
Sold by his father for ale, mistreated by his new master, twelve-year-old Will Sparrow takes off, vowing to care only for himself. But the world of Elizabethan England isn't known for its kindness to the young and the vulnerable, and Will is taken advantage of time and again.
When he falls in with a most unusual group - a dwarf man, a cat-faced girl, their wagon full of oddities, and Tidball, the man who owns them all - Will thinks he's found a place to belong, at least for a little while. But how long can such a life last?
I love Karen Cushman's writing for the vivid way it brings history to life, but also for its complicated, realistic, and not always likeable main characters. Will is both hardened by life and tremendously naive, taking people at face value yet unsurprised when they betray him. Both of these qualities are things he has to unlearn in the course of the book. When he meets Fitz and Grace Wyse, he dismisses them as freaks and believes in his new master's promises of food and pay. But as Tidball breaks those promises over and over, and both Fitz and Grace prove to be more than the brawler and the monster Tidball calls them, he learns both to look beyond the surface and to trust that others will be there for him.
History is generally a hard sell for kids, and the first part of this book moves somewhat slowly. It picks up when he meets Tidball, but the changes in both Will and how he sees others still unfold at a gradual, if realistic pace.While it takes place four hundred years ago, Will's loneliness and his found family will strike a chord with kids willing to dive in.
By the Numbers
Review Copies: 11
Teen: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Riffing on both Rapunzel and the Princess and the Pea, this story about a frustrated, sheltered, and naive girl becoming a self-reliant young woman caught me hard. I just had to hang there through the slow start.
Tween: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
This story of a grandfather who's discovered the fountain of youth and a granddaughter who's discovering science, and the way they both learn to accept that life is about change, tugged at my heart with its humor and emotional honesty.
Children: Locomotive by Brian Floca
Do you know a history-and-trains-obsessed kid? They will eat this up.
Because I Want To Awards
Precious Cinnamon Roll: Sebastian in The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler
The younger brother of the love interest, Sebastian is also a little boy who adores mermaids, and gets enormous flack for this love from his father and the town, but never lets that daunt him from dressing up as the princess of the sea. Ockler places no labels on him, other than "loves mermaids," and it's a beautiful thing.
Brains Not Brawn: The Doublecross by Jackson Pearce
A lot of books overtly express that value, but this one really lays it down by showing how Hale's intelligence and ability to coordinate a team stands him in much better stead in spycraft than being able to run a mile.
Book: Emmy and Oliver
Author: Robin Benway
Published: June 23, 2015
Source: review copy from publisher via Edelweiss
Emmy and Oliver have been best friends since the day they were born. But when he was seven, he disappeared, kidnapped by his own father. Emmy spent the next ten years not knowing what became of him.
Ten years later, Oliver is back, but he's changed. He's no longer a second-grader. He's taller, he's quieter, and he's spent the last ten years hidden away by his father. He's a completely different person - except for the moments when he remembers an old joke, an old event, or even just smiles in a particular way that reminds her of the little boy who was her best friend.
Emmy's not the only one feeling unsettled by Oliver's return. His relationship with his mother is rocky, he struggles to connect to other kids at school, and he's not so sure that his return was the best thing for anybody. Is there a way to find some semblence of normal again, for any of them?
One of the reasons I wanted to read this book so much was that Robin Benway's stories have a surface lightness with a surprising depth and heft once you get into the story. The narration is light and witty, the characters enjoyably snarky, but the themes that move through the book aren't light or fluffy. In this book, that theme is the impact of a traumatic event on friends and on the community.
Oliver's disappearance, its immediate aftermath, and the years of just not knowing, have had a profound impact on Emmy. She thinks about it often, recalling the media circus, the police interviews, and her own seven-year-old's realization that the world is big and scary and nobody, not even your parents, can protect you.
Emmy's parents, while loving, are overprotective to the point of stifling, and that's a direct result of Oliver's disappearance. She can't even tell them that she's surfing secretly and wants to go to UCSD instead of staying at home for community college. Oliver's return starts to dredge up all the feelings that led up to that overprotectiveness, and ultimately make it possible for Emmy break free of it.
Truly, I expected this to be a dual-POV book, which has been fashionable in YA so long as to become nearly a trope, especially for teen romances. Unlike some others, this would have worked pretty well in that structure. But the book is thoroughly Emmy's point of view, and it works awfully well that way too. She's the only one that Oliver feels normal around, and their growing intimacy allows him to tell his story to her.
I'm calling it done right now, even though I started at 1:00 on Friday, because I have to go to work this afternoon.
Books Read: 8
Time Read: 11 hrs, 22 minutes (just shy of the 12 hour mark, boo)
Time spent on my audiobook: 4 hours, 24 minutes
Time spent Blogging: 4 hours, 11 minutes
Time spent cheering others on via Twitter and visiting their blogs: 41 minutes
Besides having to work, I also had a family birthday lunch to go to on Saturday, as well as laundry and cleaning, so I definitely did not get as much time in as I wanted. That's okay, though, I still got a lot of books read!
While I tend to focus on YA in this blog, I found myself picking up a lot of middle grade novels for this challenge. Maybe because I happened to have a lot of them checked out from the library? Maybe because I didn't really have the energy to tackle big fat books (except one)? Who knows.
Thanks as always to Pam for running this crazy game, and thanks to everyone who sent me their encouragement! Happy reading, everyone!
My last book for this challenge was Jennifer L. Holm's The Fourteenth Goldfish.
From my review: "I especially loved that she didn't just go the "rah-rah-science!!" route. A major theme of the book is the negative consequences of scientific discovery, such as Marie Curie's death from radiation poisoning or the aftereffects of Oppenheimer's atom bomb. At the same time, Holm balances that with the wonder of discovering the world and its possibilities - a more nuanced rah-rah-science theme than most."
I'm going to write a wrap-up post and also take some knitting time with my audiobook before I have to get ready to go to work.
I started Goblin Secrets by William Alexander last night, hoping to get it done before I fell asleep. But I crashed pretty hard, so I finished it up this morning.
From my review: "I kept reading this for the world of goblins and witches. Alexander has a way of dropping grotesque and magical details about the world and the people that indicate intriguing secrets, which we never fully get but know are there. I also read this for Rownie himself, discovering the magic of acting and his own strength, which both help him when he finds his brother again."
I have a couple of hours before I have to go to work, so I'm going to find a book I can read in under an hour.
My sixth book was another fluffy, zany middle grade novel, Gabby Duran and the Unsittables
by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners.
From my review: "I think kids will enjoy the breakneck pace, the goofy action, and the familiar, everyday events given a silly sci-fi twist."
I'm debating whether to pick up a thick, weighty tome or go for another fluffy one. I only have until noon tomorrow and I do plan to sleep tonight.
My fifth book was the middle-school funfest, The Doublecross (and other skills I learned as a superspy) by Jackson Pearce.
From my review: "This is a book you probably shouldn't think about too closely, what with its prepubescent spies and I-Spy antics. It's awfully fun once you have a generous suspension of disbelief. The plot romps along, with plenty of explosions and gadgets and excitement, as well as humor."
I think I'll take some time for knitting and listening to my audiobook before I pick up my next book.
My fourth book for this challenge, which I started late last night and worked on throughout the morning and early afternoon, around chores and meeting family for a birthday lunch, was Phoebe North's Starglass, a weighty tome at 439 pages.
From my review: "This is a doorstop of a book, but I didn't want to put it down. Terra's world and her narration were completely compelling. Sometimes it's hard to put up with Terra herself. She seems naive, self-centered, often clueless about the motives and emotions of others or the political system that rules her world. And there are also times when she willingly keeps her blinders on, going along with what's expected because it's easy, trying to be a good Asherite because it's too hard to swim upstream. These things also make her tremendously real and sympathetic, and made me willing to see how she was going to change and grow."
I actually have the second book on my shelf, a review copy from the Cybils that I hadn't gotten around to reading yet because I wanted to read Starglass first. I'm debating whether to pick it up this weekend, because it's also a doorstopper of a book and those get wearing in a marathon like this. At the same time, I would really like to see what happens after the cliffhangery ending of the first.
My last full book for the night was Holly Bodger's 5 to 1.
From the review: "I have to be honest: I've been completely over the whole novels in verse thing for awhile, so while Sudasa's free-versified thoughts and feelings were interesting, I was always relieved when I got back to the prose of Contestant 5's sections. That being said, seeing Sudasa slowly realize that there was a life for her outside of Koyangar and her grandmother's control was a fascinating character arc. I just wished it had been more fleshed out. Free verse tends to be extremely spare, without a lot of detail. This is obviously a personal preference, so your mileage may vary."
I had trouble with the formatting until I tweaked the settings on my reader about 2/3rds of the way through, so I spent a lot of time squinting and angling my reader. I'm going to pick up one of my library books for my bedtime reading and into tomorrow.
My second book for this challenge, Karen Cushman's Will Sparrow's Road, was shorter and younger-skewing. I haven't been reading or writing about as much middle grade lately, so it was good to get into that.
From the review: "I love Karen Cushman's writing for the vivid way it brings history to life, but also for its complicated, realistic, and not always likeable main characters. Will is both hardened by life and tremendously naive, taking people at face value yet unsurprised when they betray him. Both of these qualities are things he has to unlearn in the course of the book."
I think I may pick up something more sci-fi-ish for my next book. I've been in a sci-fi mood lately.
I started my 48-Hour Book Challenge at lunchtime, and spent it reading Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway.
From my review: "One of the reasons I wanted to read this book so much was that Robin Benway's stories have a surface lightness with a surprising depth and heft once you get into the story. The narration is light and witty, the characters enjoyably snarky, but the themes that move through the book aren't light or fluffy. In this book, that theme is the impact of a traumatic event on friends and on the community."
I'm going to take some time to visit blogs and Tweet before going onto my next book.
This weekend is the 48 hour Book Challenge, hosted by MotherReader. I'm so in, you guys!
As in years past, I'll write up a review of each book, but not post the whole thing this weekend, just a snippet. I'll space my reviews out on my regular Saturday schedule. (One of the reasons I love doing this is because it gives me content all summer and sometimes into the fall, depending on how much I read. It also flexes my reviewing muscles and I find myself reviewing more afterward.)
I'm not reading on any particular theme this year, just whatever looks good to me. My audiobook will be an old favorite, Beauty by Robin McKinley.
My starting time was 1:00 pm on Friday, which means my 48 hours will be up on Sunday at 1:00. Although I have to work Friday afternoon, I also have to work Sunday afternoon, so between the two I picked the earlier.
Cheer me on (as well as all the other readers) via Twitter (#48HBC) or by visiting our blogs. Want to join in or see who else is doing this crazy thing? Go to the starting lineup post over at MotherReader. It lasts until Sunday night.
Time once again for one of my favorite challenges in the kidlitosphere, the 48-Hour Book Challenge, hosted by MotherReader. This is a special year because it's the 10th annual. Tenth! We've been doing this for 10 years! That's the Mesozoic in the life of the Internet.
How it works: pick 48 consecutive hours in between the start and the finish and read, read, read! Blog about your reading and cheer others on Twitter and Facebook with the #48HBC tag. Check out MotherReader's blog post for more details and to throw your hat into the ring.
I love doing this because I often get my TBR pile winnowed down and build up a stock of reviews for my busy summer months. Plus I also make new friends!
It starts at 7 am on Friday, June 19th and concludes at midnight on Sunday the 21st. That's just about enough time to order your pizza, gather up your books, and worm out of all but the most pressing social engagements.
Will you join in?
Book: Dead to Me
Author: Mary McCoy
Source: Review copy from publisher via Netgalley
In 1948, sixteen-year-old Alice Gates gets a call from a hospital, telling her they've found her sister beaten half to death in a public park. This is surprising in more ways than one. This is the same sister Alice hasn't seen in four years, ever since Annie stormed out of the house. Alice has spent those four years bewildered and depressed. Meanwhile, her parents refuse to acknowledge that they even have an older daughter and continue to pursue Hollywood glitz.
Alice rushes to the hospital by herself, unwilling to trust her parents. Once there, she discovers her sister still conscious and a private detective who tells her Annie was mixed up with some very shady people. To understand what happened to Annie, Alice will have to take on her sister's quest, and follow a mystery through the glittering highs and festering depths of Hollywood.
This is very much a Hollywood noir book. The film industry, shown here at the height of the glamour period, glitters and dazzles while the center rots away. But it's more than a cynical novel about terrible people. As Alice slowly uncovers the mystery of why her sister left and what she's been doing in the interim, she learns about her sister and herself in equal measure. Put together with the mix of women that Alice meets along with the way, as well as discovering new things about her mother and her once-best-friend, McCoy injects a powerful meditation on relationships between women as friends, sisters, mothers, and adversaries.
Fast-paced, addictive, full of flawed and untrustworthy people, this book will feed the appetites of those who love a dark-edged mystery.
Author: Marissa Meyer
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.
By the Numbers
Review Copies: 3
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.
By the Numbers
Review Copies: 7
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
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.
By the Numbers
Review Copies: 6
Teen: Dead to Me by Mary McCoy
When the hospital calls, Alice is beyond astonished, because she hasn't seen or heard from her idolized sister Annie in four years. This was the very best kind of Hollywood noir mystery and I felt like I should be reading it with a cigarette and a bottle of scotch at my elbow.
Tween: P.S. Be Eleven / Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
Okay, these are two different books, but I have to count them together, if only because I picked up the second as soon as I was done with the first, just to spend more time with the Gauthier sisters as they learn more about themselves, their family, and their world.
Children: Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty
Sniffle. I teared up over this meditation on fathers and sons, and growing up without each other.
Because I Want To Awards
Eye-Opening: None of the Above by IW Gregorio
While it could veer into the clinical (every so often it sounded like a pamphlet on AIS, the biological trait that makes Kristin intersex), this was also notable for the way that friends and family reacted, and not always in the way that you'd think.
Fascinatingly Flawed: Lauren in Endangered by Lamar Giles
This one stayed on my TBR list because of the biracial main character, but I tore through it because of what was going on inside her. While Lauren thinks she's a Robin Hood, her actions were almost as reprehensible as those of her "secret admirer." Part of the fascination of this book was how she came to understand that.
How Did I Not Know This?: Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell
First off, I didn't know anything about the Berlin Airlift, an audacious campaign to feed the people of West Berlin in the face of Russian blockades in 1948 and 1949. Second of all, I had no idea about the pilots who dropped candy and chocolate for the children of West Berlin. I loved this story, and even more so for being true.
Still Gathering My Thoughts: Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
I just finished this last night and it's one of those that has to sit for awhile. Initial thoughts? Dark, sexy, tangled, and with some fascinating riffs on belief and religion.
Book: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Source: Local Library
Ever Sloane was abandoned by her older sister Lily, her only ally against their abusive father, she's been drifting through her days, trying to keep going. Now she's decided that she's done with drifting, done with hanging on, done with living. Of course, this would be the day that the zombie apocalypse starts.
Sloane ends up barricaded in her school with four other kids, all of them trying to survive and digest the horrors that brought them there. Every day that passes is another chance for Sloane to die. But for some reason, she keeps going, even while people die around her.
This book had a number of strikes against it for me to pick it up. Zombies? Sooooo depressing. Suicidal main character? Even more so. So why did I pick it up? Simple answer: Courtney Summers. I've loved her other books, which also had topics I usually wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole, and she didn't disappoint. This book is claustrophobic and dark and slow and horrific and I just didn't want to stop reading.
Somehow I still wanted to hang in there with Sloane, to find out whether she would eventually give in, but knowing she wouldn't. For a girl who professes to be suicidal, Sloane constantly chooses to live, to fight, to defend, and to survive.
The very end of the book has Sloan confronting a little-girl zombie and . . . well, it ends there. From another author, I'd go, "Ugh, sequel bait." But in this one, it works more as the revelation that Sloan has finally come to a place where she's willing to look her illness in the eye and keep fighting, with no easy promise as to who will come out the victor.
By the Numbers
Review Copies: 2
Teen: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Hannah is haunted by her dead best friend - literally. Now a series of gruesome murders adds more ghosts to her sight, and Lillian doesn't have much more idea what to do than Hannah does. This was dark, sad, scary, and surprisingly hopeful by the end.
Tween: Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch
Mirka is back, and she's got someone new in her life: a meteorite that decided to take on human form, and is kinda trying to take over Mirka's life, too. This girl remains as fun, as flawed, and as relateable as she was in the first book.
Children: Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead by Rebecca Johnson
Nifty and gross and I think the cover alone will sell it. I mean, seriously! Put that thing on display right now.
Because I Want To Awards
Pure Fun: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
Besides the breezy, tongue-in-cheek tone, what I loved best was how Sophronia's education teaches her both the butt-kicking espionage stuff and the social niceties and both are equally useful by the end.
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Author: Lamar Giles
Source: Review copy from publishers via Edelweiss
At school, Lauren keeps her head down, carefully camouflaged so nobody will look at her twice, laugh at her, or call her Panda the way they used to do. It's survival, in the nasty world of high school, but it's also to keep her other identity secret. Because Lauren is Gray, the ninja photographer who always seems to catch people at their worst, and publishes that worst to the world. She's not a bad person. She only targets terrible people - the bullies, the douches, the assholes of Portside High School. She's evening the playing field by showing them what it's like to be on the receiving end for once.
But then her latest expose blows up bigger than she ever expected, and brings her the attention of a self-proclaimed secret admirer. He challenges her to an ever-escalating contest of photographic daring, and for a little while she's caught up in the rush of competition. Then things turn dark, very dark, and Lauren starts to fear not only for her life, but those of the people she cares about most.
What I loved most about this book was how tremendously flawed Lauren was, and how long it took her to realize that she was really no better than the people she targeted. Even when her secret life blows up in her face, she still thinks of herself as a Robin Hood figure, and the rage of her peers is just bullying that somehow proves she's better than them. It will take tragedy, and coming face-to-face with her twisted secret admirer, for her to admit that she's no better than the people she first targeted. Simply being the victim of bullying herself, due to her biracial background, does not give her a pass to be horrible to others.
Want a tense, dark thriller? Want a flawed character, drawn into a dangerous game? Here, take this book. You won't want to put it down.