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1. Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Book: The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: 2014
Source: review copy from publisher, picked up at ALA last year

When Ellie's grandfather comes to live with her and her mom, it's worse than most people's grandfathers suddenly moving in. An old man would be bad enough. But Ellies grandfather is a scientist who's learned how to dial back the aging process, so now he's in the body of a thirteen-year-old boy, with all the stinky socks and boundless appetite that go with it.

That stuff is no fun, and neither is listening to her mom and grandfather fight all the time. But he also recruits Ellie to help him get back his experiments from his old lab, and in the process shares his love of science and the scientific process with her. For the first time, Ellie feels like she has a passion of her own.

But she soon learns science is a double-edged sword. Are there things you shouldn't do, even if you can?

Some years ago, I got a piece of writing advice about "gimmes." You get one "gimme" per story. It's the one thing that the audience has to accept for the story to work. It can be as outlandish as you (like a lone scientist secretly and successfully reversing the aging process on himself). But you only get the one, and everything else that builds on that "gimme" has to be real and logical. This is an example of how well that works. Holm uses the idea of reversed aging to explore complicated family dynamics and moving on with life even after things have changed on you - like the death of a spouse, a divorce, or even a one-time best friend who's moved on to other things.

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.

Funny, sweet, and swift-moving, this will appeal to a lot of middle-schoolers.

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2. Book Review: Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Book: Goblin Secrets
Author: William Alexander
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Rownie isn't like all the other children who live in Graba's house, because Rownie has a brother of his own. But Rowan disappeared a couple of months ago, leaving Rownie all on his own without any defenses against the old witch.

When Rownie runs away from Graba's house and falls in with a troupe of goblin actors, he discovers a place where he's welcome, and moreover a gift for acting. With a mask on, he can be anybody. But Graba doesn't let go of what's hers that easily. Not to mention, the floods threaten their city and the Mayor, who has outlawed acting and is prejudiced against goblins, threatens the theater troupe. What can one small boy without his brother do against any of these dangers?

When this won the National Book Award a few years ago, I hadn't really heard of it. This is a quieter book, not very action-packed in spite of the action that occurs, because Alexander has a very detached prose style that made me feel as if I were being told the story rather than living it. Still, 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.

Give this book to lovers of other quiet fantasy books.

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3. Book Review: Starglass by Phoebe North

Book: Starglass
Author: Phoebe North
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Terra's world is bounded to a single spaceship, the Asherah. It's been that way since she was born, and her mother, and her mother's mother back through generations since they left the dying Earth to travel to their new home of Zehava. Her life is laid out in a similarly confined way. At sixteen, she will take the job that the ruling Council has chosen for her, she will marry before the age of eighteen, and she will have her requisite two children in her early twenties.

But unlike her ancestors, Terra will land on Zehava. As she approaches adulthood, and as the Asherah approaches its final destination, she begins to realize that life is not nearly so simple as doing what you're told when you're told to do it. She gets involved with the Children of Abel, a rebel group seeking to overthrow the system, but she has her doubts about their motives and their methods.

The Council has one idea about life on Zehavah, and the Children of Abel have another. Somewhere in the middle is Terra's - but what exactly is it?

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.

On starting this, I worried that we would have the inevitable love triangle. And we do . . . but at the same time we don't. There are two, and neither of them are quite standard. Koen, the boy Terra has agreed to marry, is in love with Van, another man, and both of them are Children of Abel. But same-sex marriages don't exist on the Asherah, so he's settling for Terra (who, to be fair, is settling for him). There's also Silvan, in line to be the next captain, who is arrogant and spoiled but also exciting and tempting. Terra doesn't love him either, but at least he evokes a reaction. But it makes things complicated that he once dated and dumped her best friend, who has never gotten over him. And then, of course, there's the one she's told nobody about - the mysterious boy in her dreams of the new planet. I appreciated the complexity of these relationships (well, except the last one, which seems more like wishful thinking than anything) and how Terra's feelings toward them were more about trying to be in love than actually being.
 

One of the other things that sets this book apart is the culture aboard the Asherah. Besides the standard, regimented dystopian system, the customs and language of the ship draw on cultural Judaism. Religion and faith, at least as far as God is concerned, seemed to have disappeared but ideas remain, like tikkun olan (the responsiblity of humanity to heal the world) or mitzvot (used in the sense of duties or good deeds in this book, but a minor Google search tells me is really more related to God's commandments).  Not being Jewish myself, I suspect I'm missing the subtleties and would love to talk this book over with somebody who knows both the culture and the faith.


A complicated, sophisticated sci-fi dystopia with a complex main character, suitable for those already into the genre.

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4. Reading Roundup: July 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 2
Children: 5

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 7

Standouts
Teen: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
The rich world of Puerto Rican Brooklyn comes to life, with a plot and powers that have their roots in Sierra's heritage and everyday life. I wanted to spend a lot more time there.

Tween: The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Wilson
Calpurnia Tate, that science-minded girl, is back. While this was fairly episodic in nature and had an oddly abrupt ending, I still loved seeing how she matures, starts to understand what she wants and how the world may not be willing to give it to her without a fight.
Children: Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford, illustrated by Elanna Allen
In order to get what you want, you have to have a plan. But it may not go as . . . well . . . planned. I loved how this book respected the deep and imaginative inner life and turmoil of its young narrator.

Because I Want To Awards
Addictively Readable: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
This look at escaping from the Quiverfull ideal takes its heroine out of her family and shows her struggle to adjust to the world outside, as well as her longing to retain a connection with God.
Sniff: The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
A tender and sad look at changing families, letting go, and moving on, in which the romance is almost incidental.
Slyly Hilarioius: One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath
Though it deals with heavy subjects (a character in foster care, the yearning for a best friend who really gets you), there were several moments that had me howling aloud. While it takes place in Canada, I thought of the very best of the kooky Southern small town genre.

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5. Book Review: Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners

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.

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6. Book Review: The Doublecross (and other skills I learned as a superspy) by Jackson Pearce

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.

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7. Book Review: Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Book: Hold Me Like a Breath
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Published: 2015
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.

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8. Book Review: Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman

Book: Will Sparrow's Road
Author: Karen Cushman
Published: 2012
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.

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9. Reading Roundup: June 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 13
Tween: 7
Children: 4

Sources
Review Copies: 11
Library: 11

Standouts
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.

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10. Book Review: Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway

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.

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11. 48-HBC: Finish Line

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!

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12. 48-HBC Book 8: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

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.

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13. 48-HBC Book 7: Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

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.

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14. 48-HBC Book 6: Gabby Duran and the Unsittables by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners

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.

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15. 48 HBC Book 5: The Doublecross (and other skills I learned as a superspy) by Jackson Pearce

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.

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16. 48HBC Book 4: Starglass by Phoebe North

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.

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17. 48-HBC Book 3: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

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.

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18. 48-HBC Book 2: Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman

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.

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19. Book Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Book: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: 2012
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.

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20. Reading Roundup: May 2015

By the Numbers
Teen: 9
Tween: 3
Children: 2

Sources
Review Copies: 2
Library: 10

Standouts
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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21. Book Review: Endangered by Lamar Giles

Book: Endangered
Author: Lamar Giles
Published: 2015
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.

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22. Book Review: Dead to Me by Mary McCoy

Book: Dead to Me
Author: Mary McCoy
Published: 2015
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.

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23. The 48-Hour Book Challenge starts Friday!

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?

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24. 48HBC Book 1: Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

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.

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25. 48-HBC: It Begins

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.

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