Wednesday, November 06, 2013


I was warned not to read THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING right after FANGIRL because according to my YA librarian friend,  while it is awesome, it is no FANGIRL.

I found them to be different enough that I was able to fall head over heels in love with both. Hurrah for me and my easy, easy emotions!

So Ezra is starting his senior year with a tragedy - he has been in a horrible car crash and his leg will never recover properly and he has to walk with a cane and be kind of an object of pity. Because he used to be super cool. He was student body president and dated the hottest girl in school. But now he is avoiding his old friends (because he thinks they avoided him when he was hurt) and he is hanging out with the debate team and the new girl who is the manic pixie dream girl of his...well...dreams.

From zero to hero is a good plot line, add some interesting and realistic friends, concerned parents, clueless teachers (Oh, is there any other kind? Thanks LEONARD PEACOCK for giving us at least one good one this year...) and you have a wonderful read that is both heartfelt and funny in the best possible ways.

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

I snagged this picture from reblog book club because it is what I should have done. If I had put a little post it note over every bit of writing I adored, it wold have looked much like this.

And I am a fan of clever wordplay, but when it is combined with a great plot and stories within stories (!) I am completely on board.

AND THEN when you add characters that I would love love love to be friends with - well, let's just say I liked it a lot. Okay? Because I did.

Story is thus - Cath goes away to college. She will not be rooming with her identical twin sister Wren and she is freaking out about it. She writes a hugely popular fanfic based on the Simon Snow books. They smell a lot like Harry Potter and now I kind of want to read them.

So Cath has to forge her own path and there is a wild roommate, some cute boys, a difficult writing class, father issues, mother issues, sister issues and it is funny as can be.

Just read it.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Thanks, PSATs!

Then two weeks ago during the PSATs I had a stack of 10 books, seven of which I fell in love with. (I have since forgotten the other three...)

 Purple Daze by Sherry Shahan - I can't decide if I love or hate the title. The cover looks pretty good. I was obsessed with books about the 60s when I was in my upper teens. I think I would have loved this story in poems about a group of friends in that era. I bought it for the library and plan to finish it.
Possibility of summer reading 50%.

 The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston - It seems like a book about a family in the witness protection program, but it could be more ominious. I can't tell yet. But I bought it and I plan on reading it.
Possibility of summer reading 60%.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle - Oh love, love, love! This was a wonderful love story about two kids from very different backgrounds who fall in love the summer after graduation.  It was pretty specific in the love scenes, but so sweet and respectful of first love. I finished it because it was the last one on my pile and I just couldn't stop reading!
Possibility of summer reading 5%

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller - The first two chapters of this were INTENSE! I was completely hooked. It was all I could do to put it down to move on to the next book. A girl has lived "off the grid" with her mother for years after a nasty divorce. When the mother (who is clearly mentally ill) is arrested, she is reunited with the father she was told didn't want her. I bought it for the library and plan to inhale it next!
Possiblity of summer reading 90%

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein - I am 38 pages from the end of this book and I had to leave it in the car so I wouldn't finish it at work where everyone can see me cry. It is about Rose, an American ferrying planes for the British during WWII who ends up a prisoner at Ravensbruck, a concentration camp. You know that she survives from the beginning, but the way the story draws you in to her experience is amazing. It is by the author of CODE NAME VERITY which I was a huge fan of last year, and even though (so far) there is no huge reveal like in VERITY, I like this one even more. I am surprised that I have not yet bought it, but I will.
Possibility of summer reading 85%

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I loved it so much - full review coming.

To Be Perfectly Honest by Sonya Sones - Oh Sonya Sones, with your clever novels in verse. How can I resist you? This has humor, lying and movie stars. These are a few of my favorite things! It won't be out in paperback by summer but it is on the list I have already started for 2015!

Thanks, SATs!!

Once again, fall is upon us and I start proctoring standardized torture...I mean tests. The upside is I get to take a look at great stacks of books. Last month at the SATs I started in on some really excellent ones.

 And here are my quite uninformed opinions as of today -

Starstruck by Rachel Shukert - Started reading this story of a very sheltered girl in Los Angeles in the 1930s who is "discovered" by a producer in a soda shop. There are two other "stars" one is a successful girl who has a horrible stage mother and one has a shady past and is currently missing. It looks terrific and I just bought a copy for the library.
Possibility of summer reading - 75%

Margot by Jillian Cantor - This alternate history surrounds a Philadelphia secretary named Margie Franklin who is actually Margot Frank, sister of Anne Frank. And the book is set as the movie of her sister's diary is opening  and how it effects Margie and her secret life. I bought a copy for the library.
Possibility of summer reading - - 62%

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn - Meh... I think they are werewolves or something. I forgot everything about it as soon as I put it down.I think it would definitely appeal to paranormal fans, but LIAR broke me for werewolves.
Possibility of summer reading  - 0%

Ten Girls to Watch by Charity Shumway - A girl just out of college is hired to research the past subjects of the "Ten Girls to Watch" column of a successful magazine as she is also navigating an awkward breakup. Very cute but not a ton of teen appeal.
Possibility of summer reading - 8%
Possibility of my middle aged lady book club reading this - 68%

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban - A very evocative story set in a boarding school where each student is expected to write a tragedy paper their senior year. One student finds one fully written waiting for him the first day of school telling the story of his room's previous occupant and the love story that no one knew about that happened to him. I bought it for the library.
Possibility of summer reading - 80%

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin - An interesting he said/she said story about two kids at a school for teens with emotional problems. He has been sent by what seem to be deranged parents to treat sex addiction or something and she is blind to the fact that she has an eating disorder. I like the characters, but the premise is not realistic enough to be real and not fanciful enough to be...well...fanciful.
Possibility of summer reading - 29%

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan - This got great reviews and I usually love David Levithan, but I couldn't fall into the story like I did with EVERY DAY or THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY which I adored. These are the (I am assuming eventually) related stories of a group of boys who are coming to terms with love and acceptance. There is also a heartbreaking chorus of spirits of men who died in the early years of the AIDS crisis which some people found off putting, but I really loved. I will be buying it next order.
Possibility of summer reading - 72%

Unremembered by Jessica Brody - I don't remember much of this - Oh the irony! - but I did buy it and will read it. Although I am in the midst of Patrick Ness' MORE THAN THIS which also involves a tragedy and amnesia of a sort. A girl is the lone survivor of a plane crash and can't remember why she was on the plane. Twisty enough for me...
Possiblity of summer reading - 57%

 Up next - the PSATs!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


First read: I read this over February vacation this year while visiting my parents in Florida. I kept sneaking off to read, which I know is rude, but the book was so funny, I didn't want to put it down. Sorry parents...

The story: This is a non-fiction account of Jacob's quest to become the healthiest man in the world. In 27 short chapters he visits all the areas of the body and presents his experiments in maximizing their healthiness. Some areas he manages to master right away. Some take several chapters. He spends a lot of time on the stomach and the heart with hysterical results. His wife and children are also affected by his experiments and the whole thing is just wonderful.

Re-read: I read it so recently I didn't feel a need to read it again for summer. But I probably will at some point because it was fun as well as informative.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • Make your own health plan based on Jacob's research.
  • Read this book standing up.
  • Better yet, read this book on a treadmill!

THE LIST by Siobhan Vivian

First read: June 2012. I read this at the very end of the school year last year. As I read it I was thinking about the difference between fall and spring at a high school. It isn't just the Freshmen who change, everyone seems much more confident in the spring and more relaxed. (Except maybe Juniors who begin to really freak out about the SATs. Relax Juniors in 20 years the only thing your SAT scores will be good for is to hang them over the head of your husband when you are arguing about who is smarter.)

The story: The List comes out every fall. No one knows who writes it, but it is law at Mount Washington High School. The prettiest girl in each grade and the ugliest girl in each grade are posted and they are treated accordingly. The book is told in the voices of the eight girls in the seven days between when the list comes out and when the homecoming dance takes place. It shows their inner lives as their outer lives are changing. And they are all affected. It isn't the label of "pretty" or "ugly" that causes the trouble, it is the fact that there are labels at all.

Re-read: Last month I read it again and was surprised at how well the voices of the girls held up. They are all unique and tell the story beautifully.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • Think about your definition of pretty and ugly. 
  • Write an emotional timeline for each character.
  • Do NOT make a list of your prettiest and ugliest friends. Seriously, did you even read the book?


First read: I don't remember where I started it, but I finished it at my desk at work in January of 2012. And I cried and cried! A kind senior asked what was wrong and since she had read the book, she knew exactly what I was feeling. It was very moving!

The Story: Hazel Grace and Gus are in love. And Hazel has cancer. And they love this book written by a reclusive writer who lives in Amsterdam. And their friend is going to go blind. And the play video games and watch movies. It is just beautiful.One of my all time favorites. Romantic and funny. Really funny...

The re-read: I reread this the beginning of last month and I read it on my ipad which was an interesting experience. It was no less wonderful for the technology.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • Check out Nerdfighters. You may already be one.
  • Fall in love.
  • Read this with a box of tissues next to you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


First Read: August, 2012. I read this in line for the Toy Story Midway ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida. I am not even kidding. It was a long line and a really fun book. I read a bunch of stuff in line. Hey, it beats fiddling around with my phone.

The Story: Althea is a beautiful young girl who MUST marry well. Her family (widowed mother, little brother, awful stepsisters and assorted servants) are depending on her to keep the castle that her grandfather build standing and they are going to need a LOT of money to make that happen. Althea keeps driving off men with her common sense and honesty, so when she sets her cap for Lord Boring, the new rich boy in town, she dumbs it down a lot. But she still tells it like it is with Boring's pal Mr. Fredericks, who just makes her crazy. You might be able to see where this is going, but it is very fun getting there.

Re-Read: February vacation, at my sister's house. Sure, it had only been 8 months, but I didn't remember a lot of details and I am glad I reread it. It is charming and very funny and after a winter being obsessed with DOWNTON ABBEY it was fun to step into British nobility, or at least money, even though KEEPING THE CASTLE is in a much earlier era. It is just jolly good fun.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • Well, drink tea while reading it, of course. 
  • You know that guy you have had a crush on forever? Take a look at his friends, they may be the reason he is so charming.
  • For your project, you could make a castle out of popsicle sticks and compare it to Crawley Castle. And maybe film yourself tossing it into the sea.

GIRLS LIKE US by Rachel Lloyd

First Read: February 2013. I read this one at the end of February break. I was right in the middle of my annual nonfiction bender. I always end up reading a ton of nonfiction over break because it is the hardest for me to find for summer reading. This book was heartbreaking and changed my perspective on a lot of things regarding the way that girls are treated and even how they treat each other.

The Story: Rachel Lloyd was an exploited child. She ran away as a teenager and ended up in Germany where she was trafficked into sex work. After leaving the life, she became a missionary working with girls in similar circumstances. Here is the one thing that blew my mind. Do you know the average age that girls become prostitutes? It is 12. And once you are trafficked, everything in your life is designed by your exploiters to make sure you stay there. Lloyd knows what it is to live under these circumstances and what it takes to escape. She intertwines stories of her own experience with those of the girls she now works with for an excellent overview. It starts out harsh, gets harsher and eventually leaves you feeling that, in spite of what you have read, there is still hope for these girls. It was far less salacious and more moving than I expected.

Re-Read: I just read it recently so only the one time, but it stayed with me.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • Again, the kleenex! And it will make you rethink how you speak - I hear the words whore and pimp thrown around and this book will excise those from your vocabulary.
  • Talk about this book with your parents, this is a social issue that is affecting teenagers just like you.
  • For your project, look at how one of the girls got to where she is. Write a life for her that would have a happier narrative.

BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver

First Read: November 2011. I have been trying to get this on summer reading for the past 2 years, but it took forever to come out in paperback. I described it as MEAN GIRLS meets GROUNDHOG DAY and that is pretty apt. I forgot most of the details though, I just remembered the main themes. I read it fast, probably in a day, because the faster I read the less I remember!

The Story: Samantha is one of the 4 most popular girls at her high school. In the first chapter, she and her 3 best friends are in a horrible car crash on February 12 and she dies. But then then she wakes up and it is February 12 again and she has another chance to live that last day. Will she be able to finally do it right?

Re-Read: It is so easy to "sell" this book. The hook is irresistible. But in rereading (at my sister's house again over April vacation) I realized how much there is to the book. Sam is very popular, but she hasn't always been and she dishes out the details of her transformation a little at a time. Her three best friends, particularly the "Queen Bee' Lindsay, are given enough depth to make them as interesting as they are mean. The way Oliver deconstructs popularity and its polar opposite are very interesting. I was really moved by the book.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • Be nice! Seriously, people can be mean. It's not right.
  • Choose a day from your life and imagine you would have to live it over and over. What would you do differently from Sam? What would you do the same?
  • Don't read this in the car. reason.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


First Read: October, 2011. I don't remember where I was when I read it or why I liked it so much bit I do remember liking the story a lot. It made me rethink my stance on boxing (that it looks ouchy) and reminded me of the movie CINDERELLA MAN which I liked very much. But as they years went on, I began to wonder, "Did I really love it so much? Would anyone want to read historical fiction, no matter how sporty?" See the Re-Read section to find out! I do remember researching Max Schmeling after I read this. Even though this story is fiction, Schmeling was a real person - a champion boxer and a German national hero.

The Story: Karl is 14 when things start to get really bad with the Nazis. At first, he doesn't feel too much pressure. Sure, he's Jewish, but he is blond and Aryan looking so no one really knows it. But now he has been marked by a gang of bullies who beat him up in the stairwell at school. (If you are unfamiliar with the history of Germany, I assure you things get even worse.) It just so happens that the night he is all bruised and wretched looking, there is an art show at his father's gallery where Karl meets Max Schmeling, who offers to teach Karl how to box in exchange for a painting in the gallery.

Re-Read: I reread this at my sister's house in California over April vacation. I would get up extra early to read because I was so into the book. Short answer, I DID love it! It is really well written and the characters are strong. I had forgotten about the art subplot - Karl's parents run a gallery and he wants to be a cartoonist. I had forgotten about his little sister and what a great character she was. And I had forgotten about The Countess. Wow, good book.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • This is kind of a rainy day book. It is a heavy topic, but with an interesting hook. (Get it, hook? Like the punch?)
  • This book will make you want to box. Please find someone in your own weight class and make sure you are both wearing protective gear. You can tell your sparring partner all about the book as you pound them to bits.
  • For a project you could look up read information about Schmeling and compare it to the fictional Schmeling of the book.


First Read: January, 2013. And January is the perfect time for a summer book. I had enjoyed Matson's AMY & ROGER'S EPIC DETOUR which was on the list last year. Usually I picture books happening in places that are familiar to me. If it is a summer book, I picture a place I have been in the summer. This book, for some reason, made the Edward's lake house seem like a real place for me. And not someplace I had been before.

The Story: Taylor is going in to her senior year of high school. Up until she was 12, her family spent every summer at "the lake". Something happened that summer and Taylor never went back. Until now.  The one weakness of the book is that Matson really tries to sell that it was something SHOCKING that happened so I was all agog - What could it be? When will we find out???? But it ended up being fairly predictable. Now the sad part. The reason they are going back to the lake is that Taylor's dad is dying and he wants, for his last summer, to be surrounded by his family. Matson does a beautiful job of presenting this group of high achievers (her brother is a genius, her little sister a ballet prodigy) who never really connected as a family as they come to realize how very lucky they are to have each other. There is a very sweet love story and a bit about Taylor getting her "second chance" from her old friends from when she was younger, before she RUINED EVERYTHING. But the real joy of the story is how Taylor goes from someone who cuts herself off from everyone to a someone who is willing to take a chance on people.

Re-read: I didn't reread it because I read it only 4 months ago and shockingly still remember what I thought and why I loved it so much! And I remember crying like a snotty-faced baby a couple times. I may have had a cold.

Summer Reading Tips:
  • This is a great book to read at a lake or at the shore. 
  • Parts of this are hilarious, but parts are really sad, bring tissues!
  • For your project, write the story of what happens the following summer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

BLINK & CAUTION by Tim Wynne-Jones

First Read - June 2011 - Is is any wonder I didn't remember anything about this book other than that I loved it? I do remember finishing it in a cemetery. Don't judge me, I like to read outside and cemeteries are very peacful and there isn't a lot of dog poop.

The Story: Blink is a runaway living on the streets who stumbles upon a kidnapping. At first he is just trying to help out, but if an opportunity to make some money comes up, who is he to avoid it? Caution is living with a very bad man and if her attempt to escape leads her to take advantage of Blink, how can you blame her? Will you be surprised to know they join forces? Probably not because it is in the jacket flap copy...

Re-Read:April 7-9, 2013 - At first I was a little worried. The chapters are split in two voices. The Caution chapters are in standard third person. But the Blink chapters are in the second person, which is frankly annoying. The narrator calls you "you" so you are you and Blink is you and it is just weird. But eventually, it begins to feel natural and doggoned if it doesn't draw you in a little bit. (See what I did there? Second person...hee...) I didn't remember for the first few chapters why I loved this book so much, but soon I was just as wrapped up as I was last time. It is a great ride and a very well written with an extremely satisfying payoff.
Summer Reading Tips:
  • Read this one in a graveyard. Ah, just kidding. Read it in Canada. Did I mention it takes place in Toronto? It is interesting that it is kind of a gritty urban setting and yet Canadian. It's not all hockey, beer and comedy there, you know... But do read it downtown where traffic sounds and crowds of people will put you in the mood for this. Then you can go somewhere quieter when the action moves to the country.
  • For your assignment, maybe you can work out different survival strategies for Blink and Caution than the ones they went with and show how your ideas might have worked better.
  • Investigate the street life of teens. Not first hand, please, but by researching what happens to runaways and maybe find a way you can help out.

Friday, April 05, 2013

JENNA & JONAH'S FAUXMANCE by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

First read: April 2012 - So it was a year ago that I read this and I don't remember reading it anywhere specific. I do remember laughing out loud and really enjoying the story. I don't know how long it took to read, but I do remember ripping through the last few chapters to see how it ended, as I do. As a consequence, the details were hazy when I was trying to remember how it all came together.

The Story: Jenna and Jonah star in a TV series called How to be a Rock Star or some such nonsense. They have been forced, for the sake of ratings, to fake a romance. But they really loathe each other. Or do they?  And then all hell breaks loose career-wise and they are forced to take a look at their relationship, their careers and what they want out of life. I make it sound serious, but it is pretty light and fluffy, but also tender and thoughtful.

Re-read April 3-5, 2013 - I love the behind the scenes in Hollywood feel as well as the misunderstanding the vagaries of love aspect. I still feel like the ending was a little confusing, even the second time around. I get what happened, but the last chapter is written in a way that makes you twist your brain a little bit. Go ahead and read it, you'll see what I mean. It's worth it!

Summer Reading Tips:
  • This is a beach read if there ever was one! It is pretty much pure romance with a dash of fame.
  • For a project you might write an episode synopsis for a reunion show of Jenna & Jonah.
  • Read this one during commercial breaks in Zoe 101 and get an appreciation for what the actors might be going through!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

ESCAPE FROM CAMP 14 by Blaine Harden

First read: March 2013 - I started it in a hotel parking lot at the Massachusetts School Library Association Annual Convention. It occurs to me that I read in parking lots pretty often. Hmmm... weird... Anyway,  Matt Smith, special education teacher here at BHS, practically threw this book at my head and demanded I read it. And furthermore that I put it on summer reading. And since he did that back in September, and I finally deigned to read it in March,I started reading it waiting in a parking lot.
Duration: 3 days because it was too terrifying to read all at once!

The Story: It starts with two executions. The first one is when Shin is 4. It is the first of many he remembers. The second one is 10 years later and the people being put to death are his mother and brother. Shin Dong-hyuk was born in a North Korean prison camp and is the only person raised from birth in one of the camps who is known to have successfully escaped. His story is harrowing and fascinating. As North Korea is posturing in front of the world, this is an important story.

Re-read: I read it LAST MONTH! I am not rereading it any time soon.

Summer reading tips:
  • Compare the propaganda that Harden illustrates with what you see in the news about North Korea. 
  • Contact one of the human rights agencies who work with North Koreans who have escaped their country and find out what you can do to help.
  • Compare the way of life in the North Korean Camps as illustrated in this book to those of the Nazi concentration camps. I think you will be shocked.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein

First read: May 2012 - I loved it so much that I was reading it in  Burlington mall instead of shopping. I loved it so much that I finally pulled into a church parking lot to just finish it! And I cried a LOT while reading it.
Duration: 1.5 days

The Story: Julie is a spy. Maddie is a pilot. They are best friends. It is October 1943 when Maddie drops Julie behind enemy lines and then crashes her plane. As Julie tells everything she knows to the Gestapo in order to save herself, Maddie emerges as the heroine of her story.

Reread: March 28, 2013
Upon rereading this I was surprised at how the way that the action is revealed a little at a time made me so hungry to finish the book. The way that Julie tells her story and then the way that her story is brought to light were just so perfectly put together it was fun to see it from the other side, knowing how everything turns out. But it did lack the emotional punch of the first time. However, just as I was finishing it, I ran into Kate Carpine, the children's librarian at the Beverly Public Library, and we ended up talking about this book for 20 minutes and I was completely reminded about how much I loved it. So read it with a friend!

Summer Reading Tips:
  • If you like history, espionage and war, you will love this. But it also has a big dollop of the mechanics of friendship and responsibility.
  • Read this on a trip where you won't have distractions. You will be very angry at the friends who call you when you are deep in the French Resistance. 
  • For a project, figure out what Julie was trying to say and explain it. I would appreciate it, I am still a little hazy.

Monday, April 01, 2013


Good grief, it has been a mere two months since I last posted! I feel like a WINNER!

So I have set a new challenge for myself. (Although it isn't much of a challenge.) During the month of April, I am going to write a post about each of the summer reading books. That way, if I should be hit by a bus, summer reading can still go on without me.

And the entire student body of BHS breathes a huge sigh of relief...

Now some of these books I read AGES ago, so I am going to have to reread or at least skim them to make sure I haven't made a horrible, horrible mistake in choosing them for summer reading. Wouldn't that be embarrassing? Others I have read quite recently so I will not have to reread them, but I will give a little background about the reading experience. Unless I forget.

Okay, brace yourselves - here I go!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Five Star Books of 2012

I feel as if I spent the entire four star post apologizing for why those books didn’t get five stars. And now I feel like I am going to spend this whole post justifying why I gave these ones five stars. So here is my blanket justification – these books are the ones that I wanted to read to the exclusion of all else. I didn’t want to put them down for anything. I did, obviously, but sadly. In some cases they aren’t as well written as some of the four stars, but they just dug their little claws into me and wouldn’t let go. So there…


Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews – It’s the kind of light fluffy fun I have come to expect from Andrews. This time a young woman faces the remarriage of her ex-husband as well as the dissolution of the business that keeps her small town going. Great summer read.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – You don’t need me to tell you about this one – everyone was reading it this summer. A twisty tale of the most unlikable marriage combatants you can imagine.

Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon – A woman whose marriage is getting stale agrees to be a study subject for a very involved survey, and begins to build a connection with her interviewer. It seems like the sort of thing I would hate – I have no patience for “cheating” books – but it pulled me in.

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshlyn Jackson – Three generations of southern women seem to be making the same bad decisions. And a corpse is found in their backyard. Jackson writes Southern women like nobody’s business. Funny, touching and insightful all at the same time.

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman – A Washington lobbyist by day, high class madam by night realizes her life is in danger when her old associates start showing up dead and she is pretty sure the father of her young son is involved. A couple of steps up from a guilty pleasure.

The Spellman Files and Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz – A family of wacky private investigators in San Francisco have adventures. Hilarity ensues.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – A Midwestern matron with a surprising past and a painful present is chosen to chaperone a teenage out-of-control Louise Brooks to New York City. There are so many of my favorite historical bits in here as well as some great characters.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – A teenage girl witnesses her mother kill a man. Years later, when her mother is near death, she tries to unravel a mystery that reaches back to London during the Blitz.  I COULD NO STOP READING!

The 500 by Matthew Quirk – A young feller gets a job with a very shady firm.  The similarities between this and Grisham’s THE FIRMI are so minuscule I can barely remember them. And like that book I was compelled to read it super-fast to see how it turned out. Boy, if I remembered how little I remember about this I might have given it 4 stars, but too late!

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple – Snarky, funny and ultimately moving – this story of a very odd Seattle housewife who has people issues (to say the least) was a slow start that had me rooting for weirdness the whole way through.

One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonatha Tropper – I absolutely loved HOW TO TALK TO A WIDOWER and THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU and while this one wasn’t as accessible, it was equally as rich and funny.

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral – Man, there were very few words in this book. But I got a TON of kids to read it and each one that did was able to deconstruct it with me in conversation. I loved how it brought up different theories from different readers and yet had an easily definable story. (Piano playing girl with strict single father falls in love with new neighbor boy and then disappears. Or not. Or something.) It was awesome.

Unterzakhn by Leela Corman – This one hurt. Jewish twins sisters in the lower east grow up to very different ends. It starts in 1910 and goes up to the 30s. Lots of detail and great story make for a real heartbreaker. This is not even mitigated by the fact that the title is Yiddish for underpants.

Goliath by Tom Gauld – Brief and funny, this is a retelling of the Biblical story of David and Goliath from Goliath’s perspective. Sweet and light, with a nice little punch at the end. Spoiler, Goliath dies.

Free Range Chickens by Simon Rich – Just silliness, Damn silliness. My favorite is the one about if adults were required to behave the way we expect small children to behave. (“Mr. Smith you HAVE to share your Mercedes with Mr. Jones. Good adults SHARE!”)

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston – I didn’t quite master all the rules about blackness, but Thurston did give me a working knowledge that might allow me to fake it for awhile. Very funny indeed.

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles – Still a little tender from this one… A family in, I think, Maine, runs an ice cream place. But the story is in the characters. Four kids, named for literary characters who have very different personalities and challenges.

New York Drawings by Adrian Tomine – Okay, I just looked at the pictures, but they were awesome!

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti – Is it ever. It is a fine line between wanting our girls to be safe and putting dangerous expectations on them. This book deconstructs that beautifully. I wish I had read it at 18…

We Are In a Book by Mo Willems – We are, indeed. And it is Mo Willems so it is cute, sharp and funny.

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore           - WRITE FASTER KRISTEN CASHORE! I adored GRACELING, fell even more in love with FIRE and now the worlds kind of come together with this one. The fallout after the death of King Leck is epic as his daughter Queen Bitterblue tries to sort out the lies from the truth. I am not a fan of “other world” fantasy AT ALL, but this is the exception. The world is detailed and fascinating and the characters, while not always likeable, are sympathetic and real.

The Selection by Kiera Cass – CINDERELLA meets HUNGER GAMES meets THE BATCHELOR. This was a slick piece of awesome about a girl who is plucked from near poverty and obscurity in a future dystopian North America to compete in a televised pageant of sorts to find a wife for the prince who will one day be king. The only problem is that she is completely in love with a boy back home.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – If you haven’t heard of this you probably don’t read books. A young girl with debilitating cancer is forced to go to a support group where she meets a boy who is the FREAKING LOVE OF HER LIFE. I laughed, I cried, I want to read it over and over, but since I am a grown up with responsibilities I really can’t. But if I were still 15 I would have read it 12 times already. Gosh, I had a lot of time to read when I was 15.

The Whole Stupid Way We Are by N. Griffin – Disclosure, the author is a good friend. And I am in the acknoledgements (for a horrible reason…) but I would have loved it anyway. A quirky girl and her best friend, a boy who is dealing with a lot, take seriously their part in community. So much is going on here and it is beautifully written.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler – Pictures and snappy writing make this first-love account absolutely wonderful. It blows my mind that this is written by Lemony Snicket because it is not arch at all. A box of artifacts and a letter tell the story. The boy is a little one dimensional, but the girl who is writing the letter is amazing.  And it kind of turns teen stereotypes on their head. Loved it.

Legend by Marie Lu – A fast paced slice of dystopian fiction where the seams don’t show and the characters seem like they could actually exist. I couldn’t stop reading.

The List by Siobahn Vivian – Each year a list comes out that has the names of both the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade. The chapters in this story are told from the perspective of these 8 girls. The story is great, the concept is clever and most amazingly of all, each of the girls has her own distinct voice. I loved it.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I am going to have to reread this, now that I know what was going on. This is a WWII story of two friends who are shot down in a spy plane. One is captured by the Nazis and forced to write a confession in order to stay alive. Good grief, I loved it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Four Star Books [part 2, YA] 2012

Here are my four star young adult picks. I really liked these a lot, but they did not DEMAND me to drop everything and read them. I highly recommend them, you might find yourself powerless in their sway.

The Diviners by Libba Bray – Finally the perfect combination of snappy BEAUTY QUEENS dialogue and deep supernatural GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY characterization! I love that Libba Bray. This one, set in New York in the 20s, is a little scarier than I usually go for, but it is snappily written and has great period detail. Almost too much period detail, frankly. Sometimes a little distracting. That being said, I can’t WAIT for the sequel.

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin –  These two are my four star champs this year! The also wrote Tessa Masterson  [see below] which I enjoyed very much. Their stories are fun and they focus in a really interesting way on friendship. Jenna & Jonah are the stars of one of those cable series that my kids [thankfully] were a little too old for. They fake a romance for the show but they can’t stand each other. Or can they? Ooh, can you guess if they really end up caring for each other? I bet you can!

My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend – This is pretty close to a five star, but I found the ending a little weak, Lexi is gorgeous until an accident that makes her not gorgeous. And almost as damaging is the betrayal of a friend. I really loved the character of Lexi and I cared what happened to her.

Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon – This is a creepy little story. It was described in School Library Journal as a teen Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and there are some similarities between Noa, the heroine and Lisbeth Salander – they are both loners and hackers, but Noa’s journey isn’t as brutal as Lisbeth’s. Another lead character, Peter, distills the impact of Noa’s story in a way that kept me from giving this five stars, but it is a terrific read!

Radiate by Marley Gibson – Maybe it is the fact that Gibson wrote this as a fictional version of her experience as a teenager with cancer, but it has a strong feeling of realism. The story itself follows a fairly predictable line, but it had me in tears at least three times! Gibson is a terrific writer and only a little drag in the middle kept this from being a five star.

The Girl is Murder by Katheryn Miller Haines – Okay, finally an actual four star book that I don’t feel I have to apologize for not giving it five! This is a great combination of VERONICA MARS and Francine Pascal’s  Hanging Out With Cici. Iris is the daughter of a 1940s private dick who insists on her keeping out of his business. But she doesn’t. The characters are not very deep, but the story is fast moving and a whole lot of fun.

Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom by Brendan Halpin and Emily Franklin– Oh these two again! This one is lovely – a story of a boy who discovers he might be in love with his best friend just as she is discovering that she prefers girls in the love department. I am always a little sad when I read about these anti-gay Midwestern towns, and I hope that they are exaggerated. . I love the Midwest! But I know I am lucky work in a high school where gay is almost a non-issue. This book is a reminder that there are all kinds of different coming out experiences, and also a story of how to be a friend. 

Slide by Jill Hathaway – This is an interesting murder mystery with a bit of a supernatural twist. Vee is narcoleptic-ish. She falls “asleep” all the time. But what is actually happening is that she is sliding into the bodies of other people. Imagine her surprise when she finds herself sliding into the body of the person who is currently murdering her sister’s best friend. If there had been a mirror in the room, this would have been a very short book! As it is, the story is killer [sorry…] but the writing is just okay.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake – No wait, THIS was the creepiest thing I read this year! Gee, looking back, I read a lot more scary stuff than I usually do. This was terrific, but again, scarier than I usually like. Cas is a ghost hunter. Like, he hunts ghosts and then kills them. He is looking for Anna Dressed in Blood, a legendary bloodthirsty ghost so that he can put her out of her misery. But instead they become friends. But there is plenty of grisly stuff going on, never you fear.

Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl – Remember Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle? This is quite similar-  a regency love-or-maybe-just-marriage story. Althea must marry well and she is on the job. But there are the usual charming impediments. This is rather slight, but exquisitely done!

Ask the Passengers  by A.S. King – Astrid isn’t a manic-pixie-dream-girl, but she is pretty close. She sends love up to the passengers in the planes that fly over her back yard. I adore A.S. King’s writing and the impact of the sent-up-love on these passengers is one of the many treats in this story. Astrid is working as kind of a beard for her gay best friend and is kind of seeing a girl, but she doesn’t want to label herself. I guess I kind of find this annoying. I label my self all the time. I am like George Bailey’s mythical suitcase. This book is rich and full and just because I was kind of irritated by Astrid herself is probably a credit to her being such a realistic character. Okay, dammit, it should be a five star, but I just didn’t love it the way I should. It is me, Passengers, not you…

Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis – This was a supernatural riddle that was fun to read but actually got less comprehensible as it went on. Marshall and Elyse wake up together both with amnesia. It is a great start to this puzzle about what the heck is up with their weirdly perfect town. But it gets convoluted at the end.

Every Day by David Levithan – I ADORED this book, but I am punishing David Levithan by hacking off one of his stars. This is the story of A who wakes up in a different body every day. A falls in love with Rhiannon and tries to start a relationship with her despite being a DIFFERENT FREAKING PERSON EVERY DAY! A is sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl. A has been a junkie, a jerk, a suicidal teen. And A feels love and sympathy for all the souls that move over a bit to make a place in their bodies for A. The ONLY non-sympathetic character? The only person so horrific that A can’t even muster up a glimmer of sympathy? A fatty, of course. Because fattys deserve no love or acceptance. David Levithan, I am going to forgive you for this because of all the beauty you have brought to the world. But damn, you disappoint. Other than those 3 or 4 pages, this book is damn near perfect.

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – These two wacky kids are driving cross country trying to get over a deceased parent [Amy] and an abruptly ended relationshop [Roger]. Obviously, Amy wins the who-is-suffering-more contest. They are both likeable and lovely, and there are cute little graphics at the beginning of each chapter. Completely charming.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber – These two wacky kids are spending an evening in New York City and I am pretty sure that one of them is a contract killer. Or a spy or something. It was funny, but obviously doesn’t stick in the mind!

A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan – Very neat premise, Rose’s absolutely wretched [and extremely wealthy] parents put her in stasis when they decided that they need to escape the shackles of parenthood. Well, she gets lost in the basement in her tube and is found 50 or so years after a global catastrophe that has completely changed everything. She needs to come to terms with this, obviously! A cracking good read.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmeseb and Darcy Vance – I saw Charity Tahmeseb speak at the BETSY-TACY convention and she was charming and funny. I had started this way back and liked it, but just never finished. I read it all the way through this year and was impressed with the clever story of a smart girl and her best friend who decide to defy expectations and become cheerleaders.

My Family For the War by Anne C. Voorhoeve – This was an excellent novel about a girl who was part of the kindertransport during WWII and the impact it had on her.

Varient by Robison Wells – Boarding school? Check. Slightly rebellious boy? Check. Cute girl? Check. Dead bodies? Wait, what? This is a sinister adventure tale about Benson’s unfortunate time at Maxfield Academy, where things, and people, are rarely what they seem.

Ooh – coming soon – the five stars! Books that made me their…um…indentured servant?