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1. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. Book Review: A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar

Book: A Song for Bijou
Author: Josh Farrar
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

When Alex spots the beautiful girl in the corner store, that's it for him. He's in looooooove. He has to find a way to get to know her. But Bijou Doucet isn't so sure about this strange American boy. Back home in Haiti, she was never allowed to spend time with any boy outside of her family, and she's not entirely sure she wants to defy that for a boy who can't seem to talk to her without tripping over his own feet.

Determined friends and creative thinking get the two into each other's company, and they shyly stumble toward something like romance. But they come from very different worlds, not just culturally but in their own experiences. Can a Brooklyn-born white boy and a Haitian girl ever find a way to be anything more than friends?

I'm going to declare it, there's not enough MG romance out there. There's especially not enough MG romance with a male point of view out there. And yet, for many middle schoolers, love is about all they can think of. Does anyone like them? Are they ever going to go on a date? What if he or she wants to hold hands? Or (gasp!) kiss?

The first-person POV switches back and forth between Alex and Bijou, a technique I appreciated because they do come from such different worlds. However, I wish there had been some stronger delineation of Bijou's chapters from Alex's. Different font, a chapter heading, something. Every time there was a switch (and it wasn't a consistent pattern), it might take me up to a page to figure out whose POV I was in.

This is a sweet, funny book with an incredibly sense of place. I want to visit Alex and Bijou's Brooklyn with all its color and variety and energy. It's not all sunny good fun, though. There are some ugly prejudices lurking under the surface. But Farrar keeps those light, brushing the edges of the story without making them the central conflict, and keeping his book light and sweet. Highly recommended for middle-school readers.

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14. Reading Roundup: July 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 4
Children: 6

Sources
Review Copies: 7
Library: 9

Standouts
Teen: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
My two favorite secondary characters from the Shiver series get their own book! Isabel and Cole are each broken in their own way and it's fascinating to watch them trying to line up their jagged edges.
Tween: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
I don't always love the Newbery picks, even if I can see why they won. That said, I both appreciated AND loved this story of a lonely, artistic gorilla.
Children: Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 by Dav Pilkey
I've been pointing children at these books for my entire librarian career, but I hadn't read one in a long time. This book reminded me why the kids still flock to them. Funny, swift-moving, and tongue firmly in cheek (at one point, a character notices a gaping plot hole and the other says to him, "Whaddya think this is, Shakespeare?"), there's a reason they're modern classics.

Because I Want To Awards
Longest Awaited: Mortal Heart by R.L. LaFevers
The last of the assassin nuns! That being said, this one was rather slower and I felt occasionally lost amidst the medieval politics. But it was still a satisfying ending to a complex and addictive series. Best part: how many NunFriend scenes we got, and how integral that friendship was to the plot. I think I have to read the series all in a row now to get all the undertones. Oh, darn. (Out in November; sorry, guys.)
Darn Near a Standout: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Nobody does alienated, struggling teen girl quite like LHA. Hayley actually seemed to have acquired some of her father's crippling PTSD, just in dealing with it.
Euwwwwwwwww!: In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
This author doesn't stint on the blood and guts. That would up the appeal already, but he backs it up with strong main characters and a satisfying arc for each.

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15. Book Review: The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Book: The Lost Girl
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Eva has always known that her life doesn't belong to her. She is an echo. Like the backup of a hard drive, her sole purpose is to absorb all the details of another girl's life, so that if that first girl dies, she's on hand to step in.

But Eva wants her own life, not Amarra's. She wants to create art, she wants adventures that haven't already happened to somebody else, she wants to love the boy she picks and not the one Amarra loves.

Then Amarra dies, and Eva must travel from England to India to take her place. The only people who know she isn't the original Amarra are her new family members, and since echoes are illegal in India, she has to be extra-careful to pass with Amarra's friends and boyfriend.

She's always known that she's not Amarra, but now those differences could mean the end of her.

I feel as if this book could have used another pass through the editing process. The beginning is slow and my interest didn't really kick in until  Eva got to Bangalore. The world building is also somewhat rickety. Everything seems contemporary, but the echo creation process has been (so we are told) in place for 200 years.  Echos are well-known enough to be legislated, but there's only three people in  the world who can create them, Also, Eva spends a lot of time being irritatingly passive, accepting her fate until someone drags her into action. This fits with her life experiences (she's always been told what to do and how to do it), but it doesn't fit with the way other people talk about her as someone bold and daring.  I wish we could have seen more echoes, or at least heard of them, to get a better picture of how echoes actually do fit into the world.

What I did like? Eva's tense, wobbly relationship with Amarra, like a younger sister always in her older sister's shadow, with the older sister resenting that she exists at all. The portrait of the parents' grief, both assuaged and heightened by Eva's presence. There was also the boyfriend's grief, which is a complicated beast, all tangled up with sadness and guilt and interest in Eva. The setting is also a view of India we don't often get, a well-to-do middle-upper-class world with light touches of non-Western detail.

If there's another book about echoes, I'm interested in the premise, but I would want a stronger execution.

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16. Book Review: While We Run by Karen Healey

Book: While We Run
Author: Karen Healey
Published: 2014
Source: ARC from a friend

In 2127, Tegan Oglietti is a symbol of hope for the world. The first girl ever to wake from cryonic suspension, she tours internationally, along with her boyfriend, Djiboutian music sensation Abdi Taalib. They're fundraising for the Ark Project, a spaceship that will take cryonically frozen humanity to the stars.


Except that it's all a lie.

Captured by the government shortly after the events of When We Wake, Tegan and Abdi are held prisoner, subject to brutal physical and psychological torture if they don't do and say exactly what they're told. The Ark Project is a lie. It's stocked with the rich of the world, but it's also stocked with the poorest of refugees, and it's not hard to figure out what the power structure will be on the new planet. That's if anybody besides Tegan can ever be revived successfully in the first place.

When help comes from an unexpected and possibly untrustworthy source, Abdi, Tegan, and the rest of their friends have to go on the run while trying to figure out how to tell the world what they know, without bringing about the end of it.

Healey tells this story from Abdi's point of view, which was the right choice for this twisty, turny, suspenseful story. Abdi is a political thinker. He manipulates people almost automatically, and sometimes it's a struggle for him to be totally honest even with the people he cares most about. This is all tangled up with his own PTSD from captivity (his captor was an especially sociopathic one) and his perspective as a "thirdie" or third-world, outsider in the "firstie" world of Australia. This last forces the reader to think uncomfortably about our own world and how we view the others in it. He's especially conflicted about Tegan. He loves her, but sometimes he hates her too, from their experiences in captivity. It takes a long time for them to start working together again.

I have to mention the diversity in this book, too. Healey just does that right. It's plentifully stocked with characters from many races, backgrounds, and faiths (there's a running thread about Abdi's atheism contrasted with his family's Muslim religion), as well as two lesbian characters, one of whom is also transgender. And they're just that - characters. They don't exist to be diverse, they exist because that's the way our world looks and they are people with flaws and gifts as well as labels.

I feel as if I should have re-read When We Wake, because I know I didn't catch all the subtleties, but as it is, I was held captive by Abdi and Tegan's story. They're trying to do the right thing, but everyone seems to have a different perspective on what the right thing is. It's not black and white in any sense of the word, but dappled in shades of grey, and that's the most interesting pattern if you ask me.

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17. Book Review: Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery

Book: Temple Grandin: how the girl who loved cows embraced autism and changed the world
Author: Sy Montgomery
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

Temple Grandin was different from every other kid she knew. She could zero in on the tiniest details, but missed the subtleties of body language. Things that didn't faze them caused her intense distress, but she could work all night and day on her out-of-the-box inventions. Her mom and friends knew that she would grow up to be something special - but what?

If you were to ask the average person on the street to give the first name that they associated with autism, odds are most of them would come up with "Temple Grandin." (Unfortunately, some of them might come up with "Jenny McCarthy" but that's a fight for another day.) Grandin is arguably the face of autism for many Americans, and it's because she's made a success out of what most would consider a disability.


As I read the chapters on her childhood, I was struck by how often young Temple came close to being institutionalized or marginalized, and how often a supportive adult or accepting friend was there to let Temple be who she was. Part of this was being autistic in the 50's and 60's when many people still thought it was something that could or should be fixed. Part of that is still around today, which makes me think about the valuable role of people who work with kids.

Though the author spends a lot of time on matter-of-fact explanations of the experience of having autism, that's not all the book is about. Alongside the biographical chapters, the author intersperses chapters on the engineering and animal science that made her famous. Some of the details of the animal slaughtering and the inhumane conditions that Grandin battles might be pretty strong for sensitive kids. Still, for its science, its biographical information, and its message that true success lies in embracing your own abilities, no matter how atypical, this is an invaluable book for any library.

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18. Book Review: The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman

Book: The Fire Horse Girl
Author: Kay Honeyman
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Jade Moon is the unluckiest zodiac combination for a Chinese girl: a Fire Horse. Stubborn, argumentative, hot-tempered, a Fire Horse girl is a curse on her family because she can never conform to the ideals of Chinese womanhood. And nobody in Jade Moon's household or village will ever let her forget it.

When a handsome young man named Sterling Promise offers her and her father the chance to go to America, Jade Moon thinks it's a new chance at a life she never could have lived in China. But a long sea voyage ends in detainment at Angel Island. The promise of freedom seems further away than ever. To get to America, to find a place that will allow her to truly be herself, Jade Moon is going to have to embrace all the things that make her a Fire Horse girl.

So, we've all heard about Ellis Island, which was often no picnic for the European immigrants who funneled through there. Angel Island was a lot worse - Jade Moon is held for long, dull, dehumanizing weeks before she finds her way to San Francisco. The picture of Chinatown, too, isn't pretty. Jade Moon finds herself in the midst of the tong underworld, working as a bullyboy (literally; she disguises herself as a boy) for a Chinese crime boss.

While I liked the different immigration story, and (oh, let's be honest) the love story, what I loved best about this book was Jade Moon herself. She's definitely a Fire Horse girl, and often immature and impulsive along with all her other flaws. It's only when she learns to channel her fiery nature that she's able to control it, and find places and people who will not only accept her, but value her too.

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19. 48HBC: Finish Line!

Well, I'm done! I'm not as exhausted as I have been in past years, although I could feel myself losing a little steam toward the end of today, particularly as I blogged.

Reading, including audiobook: 19 hrs, 45 min
Blogging: 4 hrs, 7 min
Networking: 1 hr, 9 min

Total: 25 hrs

With 9 books finished, that's at least 90 dollars for my chosen charity. I'll wait until Monday night to total up the comments.

I'm happy with the books I chose. I tried to pick books that weren't explicitly About Diversity, and succeeded with about half of them.The other half had plots dependent on the non-white/non-straight/non-neurotypicalness of their characters, and while I think those are valuable too, it was nice having a book like Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel or While We Run, where the diverse elements are a background note for the characters and not the source of the plot.

How did you do? Share!

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20. 48HBC Audiobook: Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier

Time: 5:55:29
Source: Local Library

Mel and Cathy have always been best friends, inseparable. Mel and Cathy, Cathy and Mel, that's just the way it is. Practical and down-to-earth Mel considers it her bounden duty to get and keep the dreamier Cathy out of trouble. So when Cathy goes and falls in love with a vampire, well, it's just business as usual. Even when Cathy decides to become a vampire herself, in order to be with Francis forever, Mel believes that she can rescue Cathy from her own folly. But something Mel fails to consider is that this trouble might be impossible to get Cathy out of, and even if it is, Cathy might not want or need her help.


I picked this as my audiobook because I remembered that Mel is Asian-American. But it's an interesting pick in another way, and that's how Mel finds her own prejudices about a group of people sometimes confirmed, sometimes confounded. She finds Francis thoroughly obnoxious (and frankly so did I) but Kit, the human raised in a vampire shade, challenges her beliefs. So does Camille, his vampire mom who also happens to be a cop and extremely, disconcertingly mom-like.

I can see the seeds of Kami, the intrepid/reckless teen detective from Brennan's Unbroken, in Mel. But Mel is sometimes harder to like, especially when she is explicitly not listening to Cathy. Yes, Mel hates the idea of Cathy becoming a vampire. Yes, it's dangerous, but Mel has to learn that supporting friends and respecting their choices is not the same thing as agreeing with them. Mel is invested in the idea of being Cathy's guardian - it's a central tenet of her identity. She's not sure who she'd be if she lost that, and so she's fighting.

This started life as a send-up of Twilight, and you can really see that in the bones of the story. But at its heart, it's really about lifelong friends pulling away, making different choices from each other, and also about how incredibly uncomfortable it can be to face down your own flaws and prejudices.

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21. 48HBC Book 9: Red Thread Sisters by Carol Antoinette Peacock

Time: 1:03
Source: Local Library

Last book!

Capsule review: "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."

 I don't have time to read another one, so I'll just listen to my audiobook and run my time out.

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22. 48HBC Book 8: A Certain October by Angela Johnson

Time: 0:42:03
Source: Local Library

Well that book flew by. I had a hard time writing about it, though. Can't quite get a grip on the main character or the plot.

Capsule review: ". . . 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."

Torn now between picking up a longer book that I might not finish before two hours are up, or a short one and filling in the time with my audiobook and knitting. Hmmm.

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23. Book Review: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez

Book: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel
Author: Diana Lopez
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Erica is a regular girl dealing with regular problems like annoying siblings, struggling with school, and wondering whether any boy, ever, will notice her. Then her mom drops a bomb on the family: she has breast cancer.

Suddenly, Erica has a whole host of new problems on top of her old ones. She has to step up and take on more responsibility for her younger brother and sister. She's scrambling to fulfill a promesa made to La Virgen - five hundred names on her sponsor list for Race for the Cure. Her friends are all acting different around her and don't seem to understand any of her worries. With all this weight on her shoulders and all the confusing emotions piling up inside of her, even the best mood ring could get confused.

I have to say, this book hit me where I live. Like Erica, I had a mom who got breast cancer. (She's fine now.) I also grew up Latina, with Spanish and English in my ears and Tex-Mex cooking in my home. And of course, no matter what your ethnicity, everybody can relate to the agonizing experience of being a middle-schooler.

Erica is a Latina girl, but not one who emigrated from another country or suffers from prejudice or poverty. Like millions of American girls, her background is simply there, in family traditions like the promesas, the bits of Spanish floating around her house and neighborhood, and even dishes like migas (eggs scrambled with fried tortillas and salsa, nom nom nom!) It's refreshing after many books that are about being Not White.

For a book with a cancer theme, this was surprisingly light and sweet. Even though her mom is in treatment, Erica is still a preteen with all the usual preteen problems. Though her mom's fate is left somewhat up in the air (she's still doing radiation as the book ends), you have the feeling everything is going to be okay.

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24. Book Review: Revenge of the Flower Girls by Jennifer Ziegler

Book: Revenge of the Flower Girls
Author: Jennifer Ziegler
Published: 2014
Source: review copy from publisher via NetGalley.com

Triplets Dawn, Delaney, and Darby are shocked to learn that their adored big sister, Lily, is getting married to her dull, allergy-ridden, armadillo-looking boyfriend, Burton. Disaster! Calamity! Unthinkable! They just know that it will be the biggest mistake of Lily's life.

Burton is booooring. His favorite president is Franklin Pierce. He got them sparkly buzzing toy cats meant for six-year-olds. He looks like an armadillo. Worst of all, he doesn't make Lily happy, they just know he doesn't. Not like her old boyfriend, Alex, did.

Somehow they've got to stop this wedding. By hook, by crook, by schemes and plots and plans, inopportune sprinklers and pirated USB sticks and faked phone calls, these redoutable triplets are going to stop this wedding. And when all else fails, they'll bring in the big guns: Alex himself.

Ever had a day where you just needed a book that made you smile? Yeah, so do I, and this book filled that bill,. It's nonstop fun. Not only the crazy schemes they get up to (one involves Darby being held out the window by her ankles, and taking the inevitable tumble), but the narration made me laugh out loud. I also really enjoyed that the girls are obsessed with politics and the US presidents, just as a facet of their characters.

Plotwise, it doesn't hold up particularly well, but this is such a romp of a book, I was mostly able to switch off my nitpicks. If there's one complaint I have, it's that it was awfully hard to tell the difference between Darby, Dawn, and Delaney. Yes, they each had their little quirks (one is the ball of energy, one is super-shy, one is the yakker) but the first-person narration and the focus of the story being on someone other than the narrators made them all blend together. It didn't really detract from the story that much. The effect was mostly of one girl who managed to be everywhere and do everything.

I'll be watching for more of these triplets, and more of Jennifer Ziegler.

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25. Reading Roundup: June 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 13
Tween: 7
Children: 0

Sources
Review Copies: 4
Purchased: 1
Library: 12

Standouts
Teen: TIE
While We Run by Karen Healey
The link leads to my 48-HBC entry, which kinda says what needs to be said. Until the full review goes up, anyway.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
When all her old love letters go out to the boys who were never supposed to see them, Lara Jean deals with the consequences. Equally as interesting, at least to me, was the subplot about her trying to step into her older sister's mother-figure shoes and keep the family together.
Tween: Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez
It's never a good time for your mom to get cancer, but when you're just hitting the tween years might be the absolute worst.
Children: none this month

Because I Want To Awards
Sex is Not Love, TYVM: The Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
In another book, Tia Cruz would have been labeled as "the slut" and probably brought to see the error of her ways or something. In this one, she's just a girl who likes to fool around but runs away from love at speed. By the end, she still likes to fool around, but she's going to try out that love thing. And guys, I adored that.
Not Really About Bullying: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
I've seen this everywhere as a "bullying" book. While that's an accurate representation of one of the major plot threads, I found it to be a background to the story of a girl and her mother learning to see each other clearly.
Simultaneous Hug and Smack: Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach
Oh, Felton Reinstein. If it weren't for those other two books, yours would have been the standout. I spent most of the book wanting to either smack you or hug you, and often both.
Awwwwww: A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar
I mean, seriously. It's hard not to just awwwwwwwwww your way through this book.

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