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Three Young Adult Librarians blather about YA literature, YA librarianship, and maybe even the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
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1. Getting ready for ALA + a couple of reviews

ALA "I'm attending" badge

It’s been ages since I last blogged here so I’m not sure how many people will read this, but a couple of updates:

I’ll be at the ALA annual conference this weekend. If you’re also attending, let me know so we can meet!

I’ve written a couple of reviews at Guys Lit Wire which I haven’t cross-posted here. I know, I know, bad blogger! Anyway, the reviews were for The Freedom Summer Murders by Don Mitchell, Fake ID by Lamar Giles (great mystery!), and Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George.

Some other reading highlights so far this year, in the order in which I read them

  • Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley (picture book; sooooooo cuuuuuuuute)
  • Crash Into You by Katie McGarry (didn’t finish her first two books, but liked this one)
  • Command and Control by Eric Schlosser (freaked me out! too bad it didn’t make the Outstanding Books for the College Bound list)
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (okay, so I admit I had really low expectations for it going in and didn’t actually think I’d read the whole thing, but then I couldn’t put it down and ended up loving it)
  • The Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carleson
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
  • Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson (I hope I can make Robinson’s signing at ALA)
  • Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

Filed under: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Reviews

2 Comments on Getting ready for ALA + a couple of reviews, last added: 6/25/2014
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2. Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson

cover of Zombie Makers by Rebecca L. JohnsonThis is one of those books filled with so much fascinating yet disgusting information that you can’t help but read parts out loud to other people so they can be grossed out right along with you.

Or maybe that’s just me. Because I started reading this book at work one day and just had to read some sections aloud to my co-workers. Like when Rebecca L. Johnson explains how a certain fungus grows inside the corpse of a type of carpenter ant, until “a long, skinny stalk erupts through the dead ant’s head.” Or the description of a wasp laying an egg on a cockroach, then the egg becoming a larva that slowly eats the roach’s internal organs while the roach is still alive. (And then I absolutely had to show my co-workers the accompanying pictures, as well. I mean, just look at page 24.)

Maybe you think zombies aren’t real, but zombification of sorts actually exists in nature. In Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead, Johnson explains how parasites like hairworms and the jewel wasp, among others, reproduce by infecting their host and making them act in weird, practically zombie-like ways. Vacant stares and stilted movements? Check. Unresponsive to pain, injury, even loss of body parts? Check.

Johnson (whose Journey Into the Deep I reviewed several years ago) focuses on just a few parasites in this short but, uh, engrossing book. Her writing is vivid, the design and photo selection effectively complements the text, and a lot of information is packed into this short book. Besides describing how the parasite infects its host and reproduces, Johnson also briefly discusses the scientific observations and experiments that informed our knowledge of the parasites. Back matter includes an author’s note, glossary, and bibliography. Whether you’re interested in science or just want to read a good gross-out book, or both, I highly recommend Zombie Makers.

Book details:
Middle Grade nonfiction
Published in 2012
ISBN 9780761386339

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Filed under: Non-Fiction

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3. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

I’ve neglected to cross-post my last few reviews for Guys Lit Wire (Bomb by Sheinkin and Sumo by Pham, if you’re interested), but Spillover. Oh my god, this book was awesome and I loved it. If I’d read it when it came out last year, it would have easily topped my list of favorite books of 2012. But since I didn’t actually have a chance to read it until this past March, I’ll have to settle for putting it on my 2013 list.


cover of Spillover by David QuammenPick an infectious disease.

Influenza. Ebola. Bubonic plague. SARS. AIDS. I could go on.

Whatever disease you chose, there’s a good chance the pathogen that causes it originated in an animal and then jumped to humans. “This form of interspecies leap is common, not rare; about 60 percent of all human infectious diseases currently known either cross routinely or have recently crossed between other animals and us,” writes David Quammen. Such pathogens are known as zoonoses, and the moment when a pathogen jumps from one species to another is called spillover.

In Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, Quammen investigates a handful of zoonoses and how they spilled over, traveling all over the world and going into the field to speak to doctors, scientists, and survivors. He joins a biologist in Gabon who is conducting a biological survey of Central African forests, visits the “wet markets” of Guangdong, China, and helps trap monkeys and bats in Bangladesh. Along the way, he talks to men who were in the village of Mayibout 2 when Ebola struck in 1996, the doctors in Singapore who treated patients suffering from what was later identified as SARS but at first seemed merely a severe case of pneumonia, scientists who identified previously unknown diseases and tracked them to their original hosts, and many others.

Which would make for compelling reading on its own. Yet what really pushes this past compelling to outstanding is Quammen’s prose, sometimes wry (as when he notes “If you’ve followed all that, at a quick reading, you have a future in biology” after a paragraph-long description of the life stages of the Anopheles mosquito, and later “Mathematics to me is like a language I don’t speak though I admire its literature in translation.”), always sharply observant and erudite.

But for all the in-depth sections explaining scientific, medical, or epidemiological terminology, this is not a dry, detached scientific discourse. In a way, Spillover is about the human experience of infectious zoonotic disease–both those who are stricken and those who investigate it. And I could not put this book down. It’s timely and relevant, endlessly fascinating, and eloquently written.

Spillover happens to be one of three shortlisted titles for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, along with Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan and The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore. The winner will be announced at the ALA annual conference on June 30.

Book source: personal (purchased) copy.

* If, like me, you are into books about pandemics, David Dobbs put together a reading list at Slate. I haven’t yet read everything he recommends (must work on that!), but I also want to plug one article he didn’t mention, “Death at the Corners” by Denise Grady from Discover magazine. It’s not about a pandemic, but it is about a zoonotic disease outbreak, and probably THE article sparked my reading interest in infectious diseases.

Filed under: Non-Fiction, Not YA, Reviews

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4. Final stats for the #48hbc

I finished up my 48 hours by listening to a couple chapters (roughly 1 hour 14 minutes worth) of The Exiled Queen audiobook by Cinda Williams Chima.

Total reading + listening time: 15 hours 11 minutes
Total blogging time: 2 hours 25 minutes
Pages read: 1727

So I met my 12-hour goals, even with having to work yesterday. Yay!

And a big thank you to Ms. Yingling for organizing this year’s Challenge!

Filed under: Uncategorized

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5. Less than two hours left in the #48hbc

My Beloved Brontosaurus, concluded

  • As I said earlier, I’m not interested in dinosaurs. A few hours ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you much more than Tyrannosaurus had short arms, Triceratops had horns, Archeopteryx had feathers, and Velociraptor were those scary dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.
  • But! Quoting from p. 121: “However, what we think of as Velociraptor was really Deinonychus. … An actual Velociraptor wouldn’t have been very threatening. While exceptionally well armed, the predator would have been about the size of a turkey, too small to consider a full-grown human a meal.”
  • So, needless to say, I learned a lot reading this book. I did struggle to keep all the different dinosaur names and categories straight, and had to stop and refer to the index several times before I could remember what a sauropod was, so some kind of dinosaur ID chart would have been handy (though I suppose that’s what the internet is for…).
  • But that’s just me. Otherwise, Switek’s writing is thoroughly engaging, with humor and pop culture references to keep it entertaining, but without overshadowing the solid science. And it’s not so scholarly that I couldn’t understand what Switek was saying.
  • It’s about how we know what we know about dinosaurs. So not just this is what we know about dinosaurs, but also how early paleontologists may have reached the conclusions they did, and how scientists since then have come to different conclusions. I think it will interest both dinosaur aficionados and the general science reader.

cover of The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae MillerThe Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

  • The book in brief: for the past five years, Maddie has been determined to hide her geeky interests. She’s a cheerleader, dating the quarterback of the football team, and everyone seems to have forgotten the Spectrum Girl incident from sixth grade. Until, desperate to read the final issue of The Super Ones, she sneaks in to her local comic book store and the cute classmate working their recognizes her.
  • This is one of those books I’d struggle to review, because while it was a pleasant, temporarily diverting read, and not a bad book, it also didn’t make much of an impact on me. I don’t really have much to say about it.
  • There is a support small businesses! angle (Logan–the cute classmate–works at the struggling comic book store his parents own) and Maddie learns that her friends are more tolerant than she thought they’d be, but otherwise… Yeah, I don’t know what else to say about this one.

Today’s stats
Reading time: 4 hours
Blogging time: 35 minutes
Pages read: 404

Filed under: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Not YA

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6. #48hbc update 2: Science!

I was very indecisive this evening and could not decide what book to read. I picked up Martha Wells’ Emilie & the Hollow World but wasn’t feeling it, so put it down after reading the first chapter. Maybe I’ll get back to it later.

I did finish the next book I tried, which was

cover of Itch by Simon Mayo

Itch: The Explosive Adventures of an Element Hunter by Simon Mayo (fiction)

  • The book in brief: Some people baseball cards. Others collect books. {looks around} Itch collect elements. You know, as in lead, sulfur, phosphorous. His collection is pretty small, since he has to buy what he can’t scavenge from home and other elements are too dangerous to sell. When Itch gets his hands on what he thinks is uranium, but turns out to be an extremely radioactive unknown element that could change the world, he must figure out how to keep the rocks out of the villains’ clutches.
  • Continuing the trend of reading long, 400+ page books for this year’s challenge…
  • It’s overly long. It takes a while before the radioactive rock part of the plot is introduced, and I thought the denouement dragged a bit. Also, there’s reluctant reader appeal in terms of plot and characters, but I think the length will turn off some potential readers.
  • On the other hand, how often do you see a middle grade/YA fiction storyline with this much science that doesn’t involve cloning, genetic engineering, or extreme weather? If you can think of other recent books, let me know in the comments!
  • Another thing I liked: kids in school think Itch is weird, so he is very close to, and has positive relationships with, his younger sister and a female cousin.
  • Includes an author’s note with some background information about the scientific topics that are mentioned during the story.
  • Possible readalikes: The Project by Brian Falkner (which is a much shorter book), the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowtiz (except Alex is a trained spy and Itch is not), maybe Icecore by Matt Whyman. And Digit by Anabel Monaghan has a similar geek-whose-love-of-math/elements-leads-them-to-a-discovery-with-serious-like-we’re-talking-national-security-here-implications plot.

which put me in a scientific mood, so I followed that up with the first third of

cover of My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian SwitekMy Beloved Brontosaurus: On the Road with Old Bones, New Science, and Our Favorite Dinosaurs by Brian Switek (adult nonfiction)

  • I’m not actually interested in dinosaurs per se, but how and why our knowledge of them has changed? And what “they’ve begun to teach us about evolution, extinction, and survival”? I’ll give a book about that a try.
  • Hey, he quotes Mike Brown in How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.
  • Switek is a genial paleontological tour guide, part of what I’m beginning to consider the Mary Roach Road Trip School of Science Writing. Case in point: chapter three, “Big Bang Theory,” about dinosaur sex.

Then I decided I needed to go to sleep and will finish the book in the morning.

Today’s stats
Time read: 4 hours 9 minutes
Blogging time: 50 minutes
Pages read: 511

Filed under: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Not YA

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7. A #48hbc update: two books completed

I think my book reviewing muscles are out of shape, so back to the bullet points.

cover of This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. SmithThis Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

  • The book in brief: an email accidentally sent to the wrong address sparks a relationship between two strangers. Ellie lives with her single mother and doesn’t know the guy she’s emailing is movie star Graham Larkin. So what will happen when the movie Graham’s filming goes on location in Ellie’s small hometown in Maine?
  • Great choice for a book challenge like this one. I don’t know how memorable it’ll be in 48 (well, 46) hours, after I’ve hopefully read a bunch more books. But it was a very fast read. Fun, charming, and sweet, without being heavy or making me feel like I need to take a break.
  • Liked it better than Smith’s last book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, which I thought was pretty meh. Maybe because the time span of this one covers more than one day? Or the third person narration being less distant? Or, even though Graham is a movie star, it seemed more grounded (no pun intended).
  • Possible readalikes: Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby, Teen Idol by Meg Cabot

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowancover of Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

  • The book in brief: Meg was raised in an acting troupe. Although women are not allowed to perform on stage, Meg has learned how to disguise herself, to act, to pick pockets. Which catches the attention of Queen Elizabeth I and Sir William Cecil, who press Meg into the Queen’s service as a spy.
  • A typo (smell instead of small on p. 26) and some anachronisms, or what I think might be anachronisms (e.g., Meg calling herself an actress, when, at least according to this, the word didn’t come into use until 1580-90 and the book is set in 1559, though of course it could have been used in speech prior to it appearing in print…) took me out of the story several times.
  • Which, yes, is totally nitpicky, but otherwise, the book is enjoyable. I mean, the last Elizabethan-set YA novel I tried was The Other Countess by Eve Edwards, and I don’t think I got more than a fourth of the way through it before giving up. Maid of Secrets, on the other hand, features spy girls. (Which, obviously, is a point in its favor.) Plus a complex plot, a sympathetic and engaging narrator, and female friendship.
  • Possible readalikes: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (although Maid of Secrets doesn’t have as much swoon, or depth), the Lady Grace mysteries by Patricia Finney (although the series is for a younger audience)

Reading time: 4 hours 58 minutes
Blogging time: 50 minutes
Pages read: 812. Yeah, besides being written by an author named Jennifer, both books are 400+ pages and, though they don’t feel bloated, could still be tighter.

Filed under: Fiction

3 Comments on A #48hbc update: two books completed, last added: 6/9/2013
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8. Back to blogging for the #48hbc

48hbc I know, I haven’t been around the blogosphere much this year. But it’s 48 Hour Book Challenge time, which is always a lot of fun. Although I do have to work on Saturday, which I haven’t had to do the previous times I participated, so we’ll see how this goes.

My goal is to read for at least 12 hours, reading primarily YA fiction. If I need a break from the YA, then head to adult romance (the new Tessa Dare book is just begging to be read…) or nonfiction. Or listen to an audiobook instead, since I’m up to chapter 13 of Cinda Williams Chima’s The Exiled Queen, read by Carol Monda, and really want to know what will happen next.

Starting: Friday, 7 pm
Ending: Sunday, 7 pm

Filed under: Uncategorized

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9. WOW!

That’s my one-word summary of this morning’s ALA Youth Media Award announcements.

Who cares if more than half of my predictions were wrong? The sheer number of surprises (not to mention, completely unknown titles) in this year’s announcements was incredibly exciting.

Okay, I did get Tamora Pierce winning the Margaret A. Edwards correct, but I’ve been saying that for a couple of years now, and I think it was inevitable that she would win it at some point—such a huge influence on YA fantasy (there’s a reason so many YA fantasies with strong heroines are compared to Alanna or another Tamora Pierce book, right?), plus very diverse casts of characters—that it’s not like I was going out on a limb with this one. I’d be super happy about it even if I hadn’t predicted it.

And Seraphina by Rachel Hartman winning the Morris and Bomb by Steve Sheinkin the Excellence in Nonfiction were not surprising. But the rest of the awards?

After Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secret of the Universe won the Stonewall, I suppose it’s Printz Honor didn’t come as a shock. Lots of people loved Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. Terry Pratchett previously won a Printz Honor for Nation, and Dodger did earn excellent reviews. Then came the two shockers: White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna as an honor book and In Darkness by Nick Lake as the big winner. I was like, “White Bicycle? What is that?” because I’d never heard of it. According to Whitney,


Seriously, I think it must be the most unknown Printz title since One Whole and Perfect Day in 2008. In Darkness did get a couple of starred reviews, but it had no Printz buzz. (In other words, if I do Printz predictions again next year, I am definitely going under, if not completely off, the radar.)

Which would have been surprising in itself. But then, no Pura Belpré illustrator honors? Three overlapping YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction and Sibert books? (Though I would argue that a lot of the best kids nonfiction these days is aimed toward that overlapping ALSC/YALSA middle school age range.) Weston Woods not winning the Carnegie? Five Caldecott honors? Jon Klassen getting a Caldecott Honor (for Extra Yarn) AND the medal (for This is Not My Hat)? Oh, and the Batchelder committee giving an honor to a graphic novel (A Game for Swallows)! And the Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award* (Drama), too.

Check out the full list of winners and honors.

Just, wow.

What do you think about the books that were honored, or snubbed?

* the title of which actually makes YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults look short in comparison

Filed under: Book News

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10. It’s Youth Media Awards prediction time!

Last year, my predictions were mostly wrong. We’ll see if I do better this year.

The Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
So, Code Name Verity: you are a complex, beautifully written novel, outstanding in story, characterization, structure, and voice, to name just a few of the Printz criteria. But until a Printz committee surprises me by actually awarding the medal to the book most people considered the odds-on favorite, I’m going to keep predicting an underdog will win. This year, that underdog is

cover of Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Bonus points for Lanagan being 1) a two-time honor winner and, most importantly, 2) Australian.

For Printz Honors, I’m going with

cover of Seraphina by Rachel Hartmancover of Bomb by Steve Sheinkin cover of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award
The Morris Award was one of the few I correctly predicted last year. This year, I’m picking Seraphina by Rachel Hartman to win.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
Having predicted Seraphina as a Printz Honor and Morris winner, you may think I’ll likewise go with Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon for the Nonfiction Award. And, well, Deborah Heiligman’s Charles and Emma won a Printz Honor and the Nonfiction Award back in 2010, so I can see Bomb winning here. Still, another part of me wonders if some of the issues regarding Bomb‘s presentation and style that came up at Heavy Medal will also be problematic for Nonfiction Award committee. It didn’t seem to have been a problem when Sheinkin won last year for Benedict Arnold, though that was selected by a different committee.

But then again, I have no idea what the award criteria actually are. Compare what’s on this page to the Sibert Terms and Conditions, and…yeah. Am I just not seeing it, or is “The title must include excellent writing, research, presentation and readability for young adults” the only thing on the YALSA Nonfiction Award policies and procedures page that even comes close to defining anything? So I’m torn between picking Bomb and

cover of Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Margaret A. Edwards Award
I said it before, but I’ll say it again: I’d love to see Tamora Pierce win. Who knows if it’ll happen, but I’ll be very happy if it does.

The Odyssey Award
I got nothing. Especially after being so sure Beauty Queens was going to win last year.

As for the other, non-YALSA Awards, the Sibert committee’s really got their work cut out for them, with so many great books published last year. I hope Jason Chin’s gorgeous Island is honored somehow, and I do have a soft spot for Elizabeth Rusch’s The Mighty Mars Rovers. I think Sharon G. Flake has a pretty good chance of being recognized by both the Coretta Scott King and Schneider Family awards for Pinned. I’m not well-read enough in children’s books to even think about predicting the Newbery or Caldecott, but I have to say that I absolutely loved Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Extra Yarn.

What books do you think will win on Monday?

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11. On my must-read books of 2013: Christa Desir’s Fault Line

Fault LineFrom On Steubenville and where we go from here… (Trigger warning)

Months later, I was speaking about this experience and one of the guys in the audience came up to me afterwards and said he was a high school teacher and he was quite certain that if I told that story to his classroom, most of the guys would just laugh and call the girl stupid.

Background reading: “Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City” in the New York Times, updates at the Atlantic Wire.

Filed under: Not Yet Published

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12. A belated* list of my notable reads of 2012

* because I thought I scheduled this post to publish earlier, but I guess not.

As you can probably tell by the lack of posts, I’ve been in a major reading—and blogging—slump for most of this year. Well, to be more specific, the reading slump has been very YA fiction-centric (though I haven’t read many adult mysteries this year, either), since it hasn’t affected how many adult romances I’ve read and I’ve also read a lot of nonfiction, both YA and adult.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the YALSA Nonfiction Award and Morris Award shortlists were announced, I’d read all of the Nonfiction finalists (and reviewed two of them, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson and We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson) and read all of…1/3 of 1 Morris finalist. To me, the only shocker on the Nonfiction shortlist is Karen Blumenthal’s Steve Jobs bio. It’s solidly written, but I didn’t think it was outstanding.

cinderThere were some YA novels this year that I did like and which I should have reviewed, including Cinder by Marissa Meyer (though I did mention it over at Stacked), Black Heart by Holly Black (on the to do list, assuming I get back in the habit of blogging: a Cassel Sharpe/Jazz Dent comparison), Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (though Janine discussed some of the same things that stood out to me—namely regarding reconciliation and South Africa—in her review at Dear Author), and A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger (because in a year in which so many people raved about YA romances that did nothing for me—on the rare occasion I even made it through the book—this was about the only one I really liked).

The only recent YA novel that truly hooked me was Speechless by Hannah Harrington. (It also broke through Sarah’s reading slump, so you know, if you’re also struggling to find something to read that you just can’t put down…) It’s told in the first person by Chelsea, an inveterate gossip, who stumbles upon a secret at a party and drunkenly announces it to her friends. The consequences are disastrous and, knowing she made a huge mistake, Chelsea takes a vow of silence. And remains silent, even as all her friends turn on her. It kind of struck me as a cross between Some Girls Are (though much less visceral) and Just Listen, with a bit of Kody Keplinger thrown in, along with more caring parents (compared to all three). Harrington made me care about Chelsea—who is not always likable, especially at the beginning of the book—and convinced me of her determination to change. While, objectively, I can pick out aspects of Speechless that could have (maybe should have) detracted from my enjoyment of it, they ultimately didn’t matter.

My top non-YA books? Sherry Thomas’s Tempting the Bride. Loved it, even though I usually don’t care for amnesia plotlines. Which again goes to show that in the right hands, trite or clichéd plot elements can be turned into great books. AND, Thomas packs so much emotion into only 278 pages that it made so many YA books seem even more bloated and overlong in comparison. (Yes, The Diviners, I’m looking about you.) So I’m really hoping that her upcoming YA trilogy (!) retains these same traits that made Tempting the Bride so good.

What else?

A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare was my second-favorite historical romance of the year. Her Best Worst Mistake by Sarah Mayberry was my favorite contemporary. Scorched wasn’t my favorite of Laura Griffin’s romantic suspenses, but I am totally hoping for a Derek and Elizabeth book soon. Favorite non-romance adult novel was probably Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook.

In nonfiction, I thought Jon Gertner’s The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation was fascinating and eye-opening. If you’re like me and don’t read business or management books, the jacket copy probably makes the book sound dull. And maybe it is instructive to people in those fields, but I read it primarily as a history of science and technology—about the history of Bell Labs and how its scientists developed the transistor, the laser, information theory, and a lot more—and was just amazed at the achievements of the Bell scientists.

I really wish I’d been able to read Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco’s Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt and Chrystia Freeland’s Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else closer together, instead of several months apart, because of how they focus on opposite ends of the wealth spectrum. I found the Hedges and Sacco book a more compelling read overall because of their anger and how it energizes the book, even if I was skeptical about parts of the Occupy chapter, but both books are extremely illuminating in their own way.

breach of peaceAlso: Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders by Eric Etheridge (so stunning and moving. Etheridge found mug shots of Freedom Riders arrested in Mississippi, tracked down as many of them as he could, and photographed and interviewed those who were willing to meet him. Published in 2008 for adults, it would be a great companion to YA books like Ann Bausum’s Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movement.). Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (because I don’t think I knew who Thurgood Marshall was until he died, and I was too young at the time to appreciate his legacy and impact and, maybe most of all, his bravery. And because in giving readers a sense of the racial and political climate at the time, King describes so many more appalling and heartbreaking miscarriages of justice in the same time period—not just just the four Groveland boys, not just Emmett Till, but other I’d never heard of before.). Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t (loved how Silver examined different fields, so I felt like I was not only learning about forecasting and prediction, but also geology, epidemiology, economics, etc. Except, what was up with that comment about predicting the weather in Honolulu vs. Buffalo? Because I’ve never been to Buffalo, but when I went to college in Ohio, I was shocked by how much more accurate the weather forecasts seemed. Though maybe that was because I wasn’t getting my forecasts from television meteorologists anymore.). And, of course, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Filed under: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Not YA, Year in Review

2 Comments on A belated* list of my notable reads of 2012, last added: 1/13/2013
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13. The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch

mighty mars roversMore than eight years before the Curiosity rover landed in Gale Crater, two rovers named Spirit and Opportunity landed on opposite sides of Mars. While previous NASA missions to Mars, such as the Viking landers, had carried scientific instruments, their capabilities were limited. To Steve Squyres, then a college student, it was obvious that the Viking landers were not the ideal way of studying the geology of Mars. True, valuable pictures and information had been collected, but so much more could be discovered—if only it could move around the planet and crush rocks or dig things up.

Perhaps it is therefore not surprising to learn that Squyres had arrived at college considering a major in geology. An astronomy course taught by a member of the Viking science team inspired Squyres to study planetary science instead, with the dream of exploring Mars. Sending an actual person to Mars seemed impossible, but what about a robot, “a rolling geologist, with the hammers and drills and tools of a human geologist”?

His idea was a tough sell. “Rovers are risky. They are expensive and difficult to do,” he admitted. “And people kept asking, Why do you need a rover when all the rocks on Mars look alike? But all you had to do was look at pictures from orbit and it was obvious that Mars is an incredibly scenic, diverse, and complicated planet.”

For eight years, Steve wrote proposals to NASA for a Mars rover.

For eight years, NASA refused to fund the proposals. (p. 12)

Then, in 2000, Squyres received a call from NASA. They weren’t interested in one rover. They wanted two. Oh, and he only had three years to build the rovers (and rockets and landers) instead of the typical five. Squyres, leading a team of 170 scientists, and Pete Theisinger of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, leading hundreds of engineers, rose to the challenge. Spirit and Opportunity became the centerpieces of Mars Exploration Rover Mission, with the primary goal of “search[ing] for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars.”

The Mighty Mars Rovers by Elizabeth Rusch is part of the the outstanding Scientists in the Field series. Although Squyres is the scientist whom Rusch focuses on, she also emphasizes the teamwork that was essential to overcoming challenges, from the technical difficulties of building the rovers to troubleshooting obstacles on Mars. Rusch keeps readers engaged throughout the book, even in the more technical sections, and especially towards the end, when the rovers have long exceeded their expected three-month life span, and the team must maneuver the rovers in tricky situations during the harsh Martian winter.

The book’s design is effective and inviting, with sidebars that take readers behind the scenes (like brief explanations of how to drive a rover) and captioned full-color images on every page. Back matter includes a source list, chapter notes, a “For Further Exploration” section, glossary, and index.

Readers looking for information about Curiosity should be aware that it is only briefly mentioned at the end of the book (which was written prior to Curiosity landing on Mars), but they—along with many others—will still find much to fascinate, inform, and inspire them in these pages.

Published 2012 by Houghton Mifflin (ISBN 9780547478814).

Book source: public library.

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Filed under: Non-Fiction, Reviews

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14. Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Here are the numbers:

  • 2,208 people were on board the RMS Titanic on her maiden voyage
  • of these, 891 were crew members and 1,317 were passengers
  • yet she carried just 20 lifeboats that could have held a total of 1,178 people
  • she sank, after hitting an iceberg, on April 15, 1912
  • only 712 people survived

But numbers can only tell us so much. They don’t convey the excitement surrounding the largest and most luxurious ocean liner ever built at the time, the confusion and fear on board when disaster struck, the bravery of many crew members and passengers, or the heartbreak of realizing a loved one did not survive.

As the subtitle of Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices from the Disaster implies, this is a human history of the Titanic. After describing the building of the ship and giving readers a sense of its massive scale, Hopkinson introduces some of the crew and passengers (from several countries, and different social backgrounds) who were on board. Their memories add depth and intimacy to events, engaging Titanic buffs as well as readers less familiar with the disaster. Hopkinson does an excellent job weaving multiple voices together—first describing, well, “normal” life on the Titanic for passengers and crew, then the chaos after the iceberg was spotted—with contextual information regarding different aspects of the Titanic (both in terms of what was known or custom at the time, and based on what we know now) into an organically flowing narrative.

Numerous images (photos, reproductions of telegrams, and more) spread throughout the book provide additional atmosphere; it’s one thing to read about some of the amenities on board, but seeing photographs of the gymnasium and a life preserver made of cork give the details even more impact.

The back matter is another thing to rave about here. Seriously, it is awesome, especially if you love back matter as much as I do. It’s comprehensive (comprising about a quarter of the book!), including a glossary, timeline, selected bibliography, source notes, additional biographical information about some of the passengers, and an excerpt from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry Report.

Book details: middle grade nonfiction, published 2012 by Scholastic, ISBN 9780545116749

Book source: public library.

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Filed under: Non-Fiction, Reviews

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15. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Y. Levinson

cover of We've Got a Job by Cynthia LevinsonAs Cynthia Levinson notes in We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March,

Segregation in Birmingham wasn’t just a way of life. It was the law. The city’s Racial Segregation Ordinances, adopted in 1951, demanded almost total separation of blacks and whites.

Many southern cities mandated separate drinking fountains, bathrooms, scools, and seats on buses for blacks and whites. But Birmingham’s ordinances went even further… (p. 7)

Even after other Southern cities desegrated, Birmingham resolutely refused to do so. When segregation finally came to an end in Birmingham, it was due to the courage and strength of thousands of children and teens who would not give up despite a faltering plan to fill city jails and, therefore, impede the enforcement of segregation laws. Dwindling numbers of adults marched and were arrested in April. But in early May, thousands of young people protested, marched, and went to jail, bringing the nation’s attention to Birmingham.

We’ve Got a Job is moving and inspiring, with compelling firsthand accounts of the Birmingham Children’s March from several of the participants. Interviews with four people who participated in the march and went to jail form the core of the book. Not only does it give readers personal insights and a strong sense of immediacy into what the time period was like, it’s a great way of organizing information, especially since the four youths Levinson focuses on—Audrey Faye Hendricks (who was 9 years old at the time!), Washington Booker III (14 years old), James W. Stewart (16 years old), and Arnetta Streeter (15 years old)—came from a couple of different neighborhoods, economic backgrounds, and varying levels of family involvement in the Civil Rights movement. It allows Levinson to explain background issues in a natural way, building off of the relationships and experiences of Audrey, Wash, James, and Arnetta. Levinson also covers dissent among black leaders, who disagreed over strategies and methods to use in their push for desegragation, and briefly touches on the beliefs of several white teens living in Birmingham at the time.

The design of We’ve Got a Job is simple but effective. Chapters are broken into clearly delineated sections, and the majority of sidebars are placed in such a way that does not interrupt the flow of the text. The black and white photos, interspersed throughout the book, are not as arresting (no pun intended) as those in Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary but many are still striking and effectively convey the atmosphere and passion of the time.

Back matter includes a brief author’s note, source notes and bibliography, and an index. The notes are adequate, but I have to admit that I would have liked more details about how Levinson conducted her research and found her four informants (a la Marc Aronson—I mean, have you seen the notes in Master of Deceit: J. Edgar Hoover and America in the Age of Lies, which are comprehensive and just as fascinating as the main text itself? Chapter 10 of We’ve Got a Job briefly discusses how many Civil Rights leaders were suspected of being Communists, a subject Aronson covers in more detail in Master of Deceit).

We’ve Got a Job is one of several excellent books for older kids and teens about the Civil Rights movement published in recent years. If We’ve Got a Job piques your interest in the subject, you should definitely take a look at the aforementioned Marching for Freedom by Partridge, as well as Philip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice.

Book details: upper MG/YA nonfiction, published 2012 by Peachtree, ISBN 9781561456277.

Book source: public library.

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Filed under: Non-Fiction, Reviews

1 Comments on We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Y. Levinson, last added: 9/8/2012
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16. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

cover of I Hunt Killers by Barry LygaNo one in the town of Lobo’s Nod wants to believe that the dead girl in the field was the victim of a serial killer.

Jazz knows better.

Spying on the cops and crime scene tech gathering evidence, his father’s words echo in Jazz’s mind.

Most of these guys, they want to get caught. You understand what I’m saying? I’m saying most of the time, they get caught ’cause they want it, not ’cause anyone figures ’em out, not ’cause anyone outthinks ’em.

Anything that slows them down—even if it’s just by a few minutes—is a good thing, Jasper. You want them nice and slow. Slow like a turtle. Slow like ketchup.

Always check the hands and feet. And the mouth and ears. You’d be surprised what gets left behind.

And Jazz is sure that, despite the sheriff’s insistence otherwise, Lobo’s Nod has another serial killer on its hands. After all, Jazz knows the signs, knows how serial killers think—because his father was the most notorious serial killer of the century, and Billy Dent liked to share his wisdom with his young son.

Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers is one twisted, yet morbidly compelling, book. (Especially for one that was “accidentally” created!) The mystery aspect of tracking down the serial killer is very good, but what really elevates the book is Jazz and all his contradictions. He has a couple of troubling, misogynistic thoughts, yet it’s easy to see why, with Billy Dent as his father and teacher, he might think in such a way. Jazz knows how to read people and how to manipulate them, and takes advantage of this—just like his father. Even though he fears that most people think he’ll end up like his father. And deep down, he’s afraid they’re right.

Other readers have compared this book to the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsey (which I haven’t read or watched) and Dan Wells’ John Cleaver series (only read the first book), but I really think I Hunt Killers has a ton of appeal to fans of Chelsea Cain’s Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell series. (Speaking of which, Cain’s newest book, Kill You Twice, is coming out next month.) I mean, the charisma of Billy and Gretchen, the grotesqueness of their crimes and their perverse genius, Jazz and Archie’s inner turmoil and the fact that their connection to Billy/Gretchen is public knowledge…

But getting back to I Hunt Killers, many of the crimes are gruesome and disturbing, and described as such. Not in a sensational way, but serving in part to emphasize how Jazz’s childhood—brainwashed into being an assistant of sorts to his serial killer father—continues to affect him.

Book source: public library.

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Filed under: Fiction, Reviews 1 Comments on I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, last added: 7/31/2012
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17. Me! Recommending books!

Stacked has been running an awesome So You Want to Read YA series over the last couple of months, with bloggers, authors, and editors writing about the books they’d recommend to readers who are unfamiliar with YA fiction. (Did you see that epic flowchart from the ladies of The Readventurer?) I was invited to contribute and, in what should come as absolutely no surprise to readers of this blog, I think I wrote one of the longest guest posts thus far.

If you’d like to see what books I picked, head on over to Stacked.

Filed under: Uncategorized

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18. A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan

I should probably preface this review by saying that A Girl Named Digit is basically a YA spy thriller with a female lead, and I’m a sucker for those. But even though I’ll automatically pick up this kind of book, I tend to be extremely nitpicky once I actually start reading, probably because my hopes are always so high that it’s easy to be disappointed. While Annabel Monaghan’s debut YA novel includes many elements I adored, there were nearly as many things that didn’t work for me.

Farrah has spent years trying to pass as normal. She’s succeeded so well that now, as a high school senior, her best friends are the four most popular girls at school and no one knows Farrah is a major math genius who was nicknamed, derisively, Digit in middle school. While watching television with her friends one night, Farrah sees a string of numbers on the bottom of the TV screen. The same thing happens the next two weeks, but Farrah, desperate to keep geeky Digit in the past, doesn’t mention it to anyone. Once Farrah realizes it’s a code, however, she is compelled to decode it. The dates encoded seem to point to a terrorist attack. Only, by the time Farrah finishes decoding the message, the attack has already happened.

Farrah goes to the FBI with the message, where she is interviewed by an extremely young agent who initially doesn’t believe a thing she says. Soon it’s obvious that Farrah is on to something and she must work with the John, the FBI agent, to catch the terrorists.

So, again, I really wanted to like this book. I mentioned the spy thriller thing before, but it’s also about a female math genius. I was never that good at math myself, and didn’t exactly like the subject, but I will read a YA novel about a girl good at/interested in STEM subjects any day. And there were a lot of individual parts that I did like, such as Farrah’s relationship with her family, John’s pride in Farrah’s abilities, the way Farrah realizes she ignored hints about her friends’ real interests. Plus, a couple of sections I really appreciated after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

Although there was some infodumping at the beginning and a romance I wasn’t invested in, my biggest problem was that the story required more suspension of disbelief than I was capable of (maybe I shouldn’t have read it immediately after Fake Mustache?). To name just a couple things, I found it hard to believe Farrah was able to keep her past as Digit and all of her mathematical accomplishments a secret, and that a rookie agent would be assigned to protect/assist Farrah instead of someone more experienced. Even trying to read it as a spoof didn’t make suspending my disbelief any easier, or successful.

Despite these criticisms, I’d still recommend A Girl Name Digit, with the caveat that, even for its genre, it’s on the more implausible end of the spectrum. But ultimately for me, the parts

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19. Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley

You don’t have to be a cat person to get a kick out of Kimberly Pauley’s Cat Girl’s Day Off. It’s a comedic mystery, a bit like Michele Jaffe’s Jas Callihan, only without the footnotes and with a haughty pink cat.

Natalie Ng’s real Talent is being able to understand what cat’s are saying, but she often feels like invisibility is her unofficial talent. That all changes when Oscar, one of her best friends, shows Nat a video on YouTube. Sure, the video is hilarious…if you don’t understand what the cat in the middle of it is saying.

Someone is impersonating a famous celebrity blogger. Nat is the only one who realizes it, but would the police really listen to a teenager whose only evidence is the howls of a cat? Oscar and Melly, her other best friend, insist that Nat must do something, however. Together, the three of them manage to kidnap the cat and try to figure out the identity of the impersonator.

Overall, Cat Girl’s Day Off is an enjoyable and very funny mystery. Nat herself is a likable and self-deprecating narrator, and some of her interactions with various cats are a hoot. That said, I do think the book is overlong—it dragged in places and could have been shorter without losing any of its effectiveness. Still, it didn’t make the book any less funny. I also would have appreciated more context about how Talents work, especially since {semi-spoiler! highlight to read! ** part of the mystery aspect hinged on different Talents ** end semi-spoiler}. Still, I’d definitely hand this teens looking for a humorous mystery (it’s not a YA cozy, but close) or to teens needing a break from the darker, heavier mysteries.

Book source: public library

Total 48 Hour Book Challenge time spent reading/reviewing: 6 hours 4 minutes

Filed under: Asian-Americans in YA Lit, Fiction, Reviews 1 Comments on Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley, last added: 6/10/2012
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20. 48 Hour Book Challenge, day one recap

Read and wrote about

Also finished reading

  • Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
  • Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger (a middle-grade break from the YA—amusing, but I won’t be reviewing it)
  • A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan


  • Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig — maybe the prologue should have been my first clue, because chapter one actually seemed a better starting point. In any case, after another 50+ pages of lots of description, lots of talk, but no story, I was bored and couldn’t be bothered to finish.
  • Black Dawn by Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires #12) — oh Morganville, I just can’t quit you. I really liked the first six books, but I’ve become less and less invested in the series as it’s gone on. I mostly skimmed the last couple of books, and skimmed even more of this one. Still, I’ll probably end up borrowing the next one from the library, anyway.

Total time spent reading and reviewing: 12 hours 47 minutes

Filed under: Fiction

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21. 48 Hour Book Challenge final stats

Since my last update, I finished Kelley Armstrong’s The Calling (The Gathering, book 2), which was…very like the first book in the series, and also very second-book-in-a-series. Even as I read The Calling, I realized that nothing much was happening (just like book 1!). Yet, I kept reading and reading. These are the only two books by Armstrong that I’ve read, so I can’t speak about all her books. But there’s just something effortlessly and compulsively readable about this series, at least, that the lack of story doesn’t really bother me.

I also read Dark Eyes by William Richter. This one had a lot of story, but it’s not as readable as The Calling. Hey, and I just realized they’re both about teenage girls who were adopted and big birth parent secrets. Anyway, the violence in Dark Eyes means the book won’t be for everyone and I struggled to care about Wally’s quest to find her birth mother at times. I put the book down a couple of times to finish up the two reviews (to be posted later) I started writing yesterday, as well as to work on a couple of things that’ll be posted this week, but did ultimately finish Dark Eyes.

Then I hit the proverbial wall before my 48 hours were up, so I don’t think I’m completely over my YA slump yet. But this weekend has gone a long way in revitalizing me as a reader—I finished as many YA novels in two days as I read in all of May, and I’m much more excited about catching up on YA fiction than I have been over the past several months.

Books completed: 7 (1 adult, 1 middle grade, 5 YA)

Unfinished books: 2 (both YA, but still a very good ratio of finished/unfinished books for me)

Total reading/blogging time: 19 hours 24 minutes, so I surpassed my goal

Donation to Reading is Fundamental: $50.00 (rounded the 19:24 up to 20 hours, threw in a bonus for books completed, which I rounded up to 10)

Filed under: Events 4 Comments on 48 Hour Book Challenge final stats, last added: 6/11/2012
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22. Summer Blog Blast Tour: Y. S. Lee

Y.S. Lee is the author of the Mary Quinn historical mystery series. The books skilfully blend historical detail, feminism, mystery, romance, and more. Needless to say, I’m quite the fan. So I was pleased to be able to interview Ying and ask some of my burning questions.

I know you have a PhD in Victorian Literature and Culture, but how did you become interested in the era in the first place? What is its primary appeal to you?
I am, first and foremost, a sucker for its fiction: Charles Dickens, George Eliot, the Brontës. But as a student, the more I learned about the period, the more I became entranced by its many contradictions. It’s an era we feel confident stereotyping (repressed, rigid, stuffy, blah blah blah), yet there are dozens of exceptions to each rule. And it’s a time of immense social and technological change, when people often felt that the world was really coming unmoored. You know how people now like to talk about our fast-paced society, how technology has never changed so rapidly, how our lives are moving at light speed? That’s exactly how the Victorians felt, too.

The Victorian era lasted for so long, why set The Agency books specifically in 1858-1860 (so far)?
It was really hard to narrow it down. But (you guessed it, in Q3!) when I read anecdotes about the Great Stink of 1858, I knew I had my setting. What’s not to love about a perfect storm of mega-pollution, heat wave, and the great public health panic of urban London?

If it has anything to do with the Great Stink, is this why you made James an engineer?
In part, yes; engineers are so useful. I also chose a professional background because I wanted James to be smart and quite well-educated, but simultaneously struggling to define himself and make his own way. He’s worlds away from Mary’s background, but not light years.

Anyway, the Victorian period seems to be *cough* fertile ground for mysteries. (I feel like I should be making some kind of night soil comment here…) Is there something about the period that makes it so conducive to mysteries? (Wilkie Collins, Conan Doyle, Jack the Ripper, et al.? Scotland Yard? Something else?)
Well, there are all the social contradictions and complications I mentioned in the first answer, which are so useful when building labyrinthine plots. It’s also the period in which the modern mystery novel was born. You mentioned Wilkie Collins, in your question. He and his good friend Charles Dickens invented the genre, between them! Also, I love night soil jokes. You deserve a prize just for musing about one.

Ooh, a prize!

One of the things I like best about your books is how you balance feminist elements without making Mary seem too modern, as well as the historical detail that doesn’t overwhelm or slow down the story. How do you go about trying to achieve this balance?
Thank you so much! I hope this answer doesn’t make you roll your eyes, but I don’t consciously know how I do it. I work hard to make Mary’s thoughts and actions historically realistic, although her stance is far from mainstream. Even so, she’s definitely a part of her culture – just a politically radical part. As for the historical detail, it’s already there in my head. Imagine stepping into a room and noticing the furniture – that’s kind of what I do, when I’m noting period details.

How much planning/pre-plotting do you do, both in terms of

6 Comments on Summer Blog Blast Tour: Y. S. Lee, last added: 6/15/2012
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23. Why I’m a fan of The Agency series by Y. S. Lee

I read and reviewed the first book Y. S. Lee’s The Agency series, A Spy in the House, when it came out a couple of years ago, but never got around to discussing its sequels, The Body at the Tower and the recently published The Traitor in the Tunnel. Since I’m interviewing Y. S. Lee as part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour (the full schedule is up at Colleen’s), well, what better time to remedy the situation?

This series, I have to admit, features so many of my favorite elements that I was predisposed to enjoy the books. It’s historical fiction with a vividly depicted setting; featuring a strong female protagonist; solid mysteries that involve, to varying degrees, issues of feminism, class, and race; a satisfying romantic element; and is just plain enjoyable to read. The history is seamlessly integrated so it doesn’t weigh down the story, the feminism doesn’t feel out of place or too modern, the mysteries are plausible, and there’s a lot of chemistry between Mary and James. I was so happy to pick up the first book and discover that it surpassed my expectations, and the same with the following books, as well. Seriously, how often can you say that?

We first meet Mary Quinn in A Spy in the House. Her first assignment for the all-female investigative firm known as The Agency is to work undercover as a lady’s companion to Angelica Thorold. Angelica’s father is suspected of smuggling, and while searching Mr. Thorold’s office one night, Mary bumps into James Easton, a young engineer who has his own reasons to want to look into the Thorolds’ affairs.

cover of The Body at the Tower One year after the conclusion of the Thorold investigation, Mary and James cross paths again in The Body at the Tower. This time, after a construction worker is killed under mysterious circumstances, Mary goes undercover disguised as a boy on behalf of The Agency. James, meanwhile, is recently returned from India, recovering from malaria and a harsh dose of reality that stymied his hoped-for growth of Easton Engineering.

cover of The Traitor in the TunnelIt’s hard to describe the plot of The Traitor in the Tunnel without spoilers for the previous books, so let’s just say that Mary is working as a maid at Buckingham Palace in order to find a thief, but the original case quickly takes a backseat to a murder few want investigated in detail.

In each book, the mystery Mary must investigate forces her to revisit aspects of her past that she’d prefer to avoid. It’s not just her work for The Agency that she must keep secret from James, but also her own background as a convicted thief and her parentage. Basically, Mary is in the position of having to lie to a man she’s drawn to, or at least keep major secrets from him. But Lee depicts Mary so sympathetically, and gives readers enough insight into her background and motivation, that it’s hard to fault Mary for not wanting to tell James the truth about herself.

Yet for all that I appreciate Mary, one of my favorite things is how James evolves over the course of the series. From the start, he’s honorable and respects Mary’s intelligence and ability, but to see how he changes because of his growing relationship with Mary is wonderful.


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24. Summer Blog Blast Tour 2012 wrapup

Kate Milford @ Chasing Ray
Randa Abdel-Fattah @ Crazy QuiltEdi
Tim Lebbon @ Bildungsroman
Nalo Hopkinson @ TheHappyNappyBookseller

Timothy Decker @ Chasing Ray
Y. S. Lee here
Tanita Davis @ TheHappyNappyBookseller

Cynthia [email protected] TheHappyNappybookseller
Amy Reed @ Stacked
Rosemary Clement-Moore @ Finding Wonderland

Dave Roman @ Bildungsroman
L. Divine @ Crazy QuiltEdi
Robin LaFevers @ Finding Wonderland

Jennifer Miller @ Bildungsroman
Ashley Hope Perez @ Crazy QuiltEdi
Benjamin Alire Saenz @ TheHappyNappyBookseller

Filed under: Events, Interviews

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25. Listen Up

Heard any good audiobooks recently?

I didn’t listen to audiobooks when I was a teen, back when they were only available on cassette tapes or CDs. Technology has changed since then, and now there is also much more variety in terms of titles available to listeners.

Basically, it’s a great time to be an audiobook fan.

Audiobooks extend the reading experience. A good narrator can draw you in to a story that you struggled with in print, or highlight nuances that you may have missed while reading the book. A great narration (and production) can make a good book even better, a funny book even funnier.

But maybe you haven’t tried an audiobook before. Maybe you don’t think it really counts as reading. Maybe some free audiobooks will change your mind?

Sync is a FREE promotion, giving away two audiobook downloads (a recent YA book and a classic) each week. This summer’s first set of downloads has already expired, but a full schedule of upcoming titles is available. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud is coming up later this week, then Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood the following week, and Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant near the end of the summer, to name just three of the books that will be available.

For more audiobook suggestions, try the Audies and the Odyssey Award lists, or the monthly AudioSynced roundups at Stacked and Abby (the) Librarian. And don’t forget to check out your public library’s audiobook collection!

As for what I’ve been listening to, Susan Duerden’s narration of Daniel O’Malley’s The Rook is excellent (I blogged about the print book earlier this year). Also, with the last(!) Artemis Fowl book coming out next month, I’ve been revisiting the audiobooks, read by Nathaniel Parker. Except for his pronuncation of the name Nguyen in the first chapter of book one, I love Parker’s narration. He gives each character a distinctive voice, using a variety of accents, and he really captures both the humor and adventure of Eoin Colfer’s books.

If you already like audiobooks, what have you been listening to?

Cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

Filed under: Audiobooks 4 Comments on Listen Up, last added: 6/27/2012
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