Friday, July 04, 2014

OPEN ROAD SUMMER Makes My Summer Awesome!

Oh Emery Lord. thank you for writing OPEN ROAD SUMMER! It is such a feel-good summer read that I actually tried to slow down so I wouldn't finish it to quickly.

I wrote Emery Lord a fan letter when I was on page 29 and considered sending occasional updates but did not on account of not wanting to appear to stalker-y.

The book is the story of two best friends. Reagan, a girl who is acting out with reckless behavior and her best friend Lilah (or Dee) who is a country music sweetheart teen-queen reminiscent of Taylor Swift. Not Taylor Swift, of course, but one does kind of have to make the connection.

Anyway, the book focuses on their friendship as the Lilah Montgomery Tour takes them around the country for the summer.

When opening act Matt Finch joins the tour, he and Reagan dance around starting a relationship in an adorable way.

The book is a terrific look at a strong friendship and the start of a sweet romance set in a fascinating world. A no-brainer for summer reading for next year!

So Many Books in June!

Here is a not very well focused picture of all the books I took out of the BHS library for the summer. The top shelf are things that are new purchases that I want to take a look at either for summer reading next year or for my own interests. The bottom shelf are selections from the Barnico Collection which is a large collection of books, mostly technology and history based, donated by a Beverly family in honor of their parents. What a nice gesture!

My reading in June and July (as of the fourth) has been far more impressive than earlier in the year. I only read 2 books in March! That is shocking! Well, I did some rereads, but I don't count those unless I haven't read the book in over 5 years and I have to read the whole thing.

I started out with NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL by Siobahn Vivian and UNTIL YOU'RE MINE by Samantha Hayes. NTKOG is a YA romance with a prickly heroine who doesn't have a realistic picture of her own best interests. It was mostly something I read while waiting for stuff to happen.

UNTIL YOU'RE MINE is a British mystery about pregnancy and babies and murder and while I was intrigued with the mystery and figured it out at the last minute, it never really came alive for me.

JELLICOE ROAD!! JELLICOE ROAD!! (by Melina Marchetta) I just loved this. Kate from the Beverly Public Library has been talking about this since it came out and won the Printz. I assigned it to my students in the YA course I am teaching this summer, so I had to finally read it. It is just magnificent. I had given up on it a couple times because it is so twisty and doesn't make sense until you are well into it, but oh is the confusion worth it! Students at a boarding school in Australia are in a war with townies and military school cadets and it all harkens back to a group of kids from 20 years earlier who met in tragic circumstances. I LOVED it!

BECAUSE I SAID SO is one of the summer reading books that I really should have finished earlier. Ken Jennings, former Jeopardy champ and all-round hilarious guy, breaks down the old wives tales we have always believed to be true. Or not. I just finished the last third that I never got around to. And it was a hoot!

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos was another one that I assigned to my class so that I would finish it. I love Jack Gantos. I stalked him at MSLA a couple years ago. He is such a compelling speaker. I had read A HOLE IN MY LIFE which I found fascinating. But I just couldn't get off the ground in Norvelt. It was an interesting story about a town that was established by Eleanor Roosevelt and a bizarre family (Jack, his tightly-wound Mom and his jack-ass Dad) who live there. The one character I loved was Miss Volker, the elderly medical examiner who also writes lyrical obituaries for the deceased. She is a great character.

DEAR LUKE, WE NEED TO TALK, DARTH by John Moe was such a cute idea. Background sketches from famous pop-cultural characters. I read it quick, because there was no other way to do it. Funny, but ultimately not that great.

OPEN ROAD SUMMER, I am going to have to do a full post on this one.

CINDERELLA by Charles Perrault, illustrated by Roberto Innocenti was just beautiful! It is the story we all know and love, but illustrated as if it happened during the roaring twenties. It is one of the picture books that the Dohertys donated. Just lovely.

CHEAP SHOT by Ace Atkins is the newest Spencer novels created by Robert B. Parker. I am usually not a fan of dead writers continuing to publish, but Atkins is doing a terrific job of keeping Spencer viable. It still feels Boston-y, Spencer, Hawk and Susan retain the characteristics that make them so appealing - except Susan's bizarre eating issues. The mystery centers around a New England Patriot whose son is abducted. The mystery is twisty and the payoff excellent, as always.

Finally, I read UNFRIENDED by Rachel Vail and IN REAL LIFE by Cory Doctorow, illustrated by Jen Wang. They are both ARCs that I reviewed for VOYA with my beloved goddaughter and I can't really talk about them until the reviews are published. But suffice to say that I enjoyed them both.

So that's June. All I have read in July are grown-up books, shockingly although it is 9 am on the fourth and i have read 4 books. So, dang, I am reading a lot!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

WHAT THEY FOUND: LOVE ON 145th STREET by Walter Dean Myers

I have only read Walter Dean Myers war books. They are excellent and he has been writing forever. I chose this one for my YA class thinking it was straight up love stories, but it was much richer than that. All the stories, which are somewhat interconnected, touch on love, not always romantic. Some stories are purely comic, some are sad, some are wise. They show an interesting slice of life that keeps coming back to characters that we grow to love. I want to know more about these characters, mostly the daughters of Mama Evans who runs the local beauty parlor.


So before I talk about the books, I will just say that the only thing I had read by Jack Gantos previous to the pathetic photobombing you see in the picture was A HOLE IN MY LIFE which was a very bleak look at the time Gantos spent in the pokey after a drug smuggling conviction when he was 19 or 20. It is a great book, but it in no way prepared me for how hilarious I found him to be as a speaker at the MSLA convention two years ago.

Well, I expected to fall in love with DEAD END in no time. It had nostalgia, mischief and Eleanor Roosevelt - what's not to love? But it took me some time to get really into it.

However, but the end I had come around. I will say that I couldn't stand his parents. They were annoying at best, mean at worst. Of course Jack was kind of a pain so I could see their issues. I loved the character of Miss Volker who soaks her hands in wax, performs questionable medical experiments on Jack's nose and keeps track of the town's dead as the medical examiner and obituary writer. She is unequivocally a hoot. This was a slow starter for me, but I ended up smiling through.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Wow, I have tried to start Jellico Road so many times and I just get confused or bored or distracted by some shinier, sexier book and move on. But my pal Kate says it is one of her all time favorites and she as excellent taste so I knew I would eventually succumb.
As it turns out, it took me assigning it to the YA literature course I am teaching to make me finally commit and was it ever worth it!
This book is amazing. It is two stories - five friends who meet on Jellico Road twenty years ago under horrible circumstances are somehow connected to the story of an isolated girl who lives at a boarding school and is embroiled in a territorial war between school kids, townies and some military cadets.
It is so weird.
And it is so magnificent.
There was all this brouhaha on the internet about how adults should not read YA because it is simplistic tripe and this book is the one I would choose to throw at the heads of those who try to make that tired argument.
I'm going to go read it again!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rolling Stone's 40 Best YA Novels

I've been doing some reading, but instead of talking about that (All I will say is that all the hype about E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS is pretty well deserved. Holy cow!) I will present one of the first best lists that didn't make me want to breathe fire. I was surprised at how many recent titles were here and how many books I actually liked. I have read most of them and I am DYING to read VIVIAN when it gets here. I may break this down later with my own blurbs, but for now I present--

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
Speak – Laurie Halse Andersen
Naughts and Crosses = Malorie Blackman
Forever – Judy Blume
Shipbreaker – Paolo Bacigalupi
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares
Beauty Queens – Libba Bray
The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot
The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Gingerbread – Rachel Cohn
The Hunger Games Series – Susan Collins
Vivian vs. the Apocalypse – Katie Coyle
(Vivian Apple at the End of the World)
Romiette and Julio – Sharon M. Draper
If You Could Be Mine – Sara Farizan
Monster – Walter Dean Myers
The House of the Scorpion- Nancy Farmer
The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
Born Confused – Tanuja Desai Hidier
The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
Firecracker – David Iserson
The Summer Prince – Alaya Dawn Johnson
Alice, I Think – Susan Juby
Boy Meets Boy – David Levithan
Adaptation – Malinda Lo
Legend – Marie Lu
The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen – Susin Nielsen
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix– J.K. Rowling
How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Grasshopper Jungle – Andrew Smith
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
(You) Set Me on Fire – Mariko Tamaki
Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein
Uglies – Scott Westerfield
Miracle's Boys – Jacqueline Woodson
I am the Messenger – Marcus Zusak

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Those Blasted SATs - spring 2014 edition

Once again, eleventh graders are suffering and I am in love with a boatload of new books!

Saturday I had a group of 10 scholars and a pile of 10 books, all but 1 of which I am dying to finish. And the only reason I don't want to finish number 10 is because it was wrecking me emotionally. See if you can figure out which because, seriously, the drama!

Here is the list - I will elaborate later in the week.

The middle aged lady books:
WAKE by Anna Hope - puts you in London shortly after WWI
33 GIRLS by Susan Minot - young girls stolen by warlord in Africa

The girls in transition books:
GIRLCHILD by Tupelo Hassman - trailer park girl wants to be a girl scout
LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD by Ava Dellaria - an English assignment causes a girl to write these letters telling about the year after her older sister died (I finished this one today, I couldn't stop reading.)

The YA dystopi-ish:
RED RISING by Pierce Brown - young couple wants to overthrow oppressive government on Mars
HALF BAD by Sally Green - half white witch, half black witch - hard to tell who hates him more

The ones with sleep in the title:
WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT by Elizabeth Blackwell - retelling of Sleeping Beauty from a servant's perspective
THE INNOCENT SLEEP by Karen Perry - a little boy is killed in an earthquake in Tangier until his father sees him in Dublin 5 years later

The YA bad boys:
SEX & VIOLENCE by Carrie Mesrobian - casual sex pays off in the form of a vicious beating and a summer in the middle of nowhere might be what it takes to change his ways
THE SCAR BOYS by Len Vlahos - music saves a kid whose life has been defined by almost being hit by lightening

Oh this is a wonderful world to be so full of books!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Well, this was a treat! I was doing summer reading talks for the 10th graders and this lovely girl came up with a look on her face like she was about to give me an amazing gift. And she did. She recommended this book!

I hung out in bookstores when I was a kid, I met my husband in a bookstore, I still love bookstores - independent, chain, online, whatever. I am not fussy.

This tale starts in an interesting vertical dust factory of a San Francisco bookstore and explodes from there. The story is one of mystery, intrigue and some other stuff.

What you need to know is this:

THE COVER GLOWS IN THE DARK! It completely freaked me out. Be prepared.

Also, the copy I borrowed from Beverly Public Library had been defaced by a ghastly little book reviewer who thought they had the right to critique a LIBRARY BOOK in pencil with snotty comments about grammar, usage and Google. How many books have you written wretched defacer? I didn't love the story from the start (it took about 30 pages for the awesome to kick in) but my ire at the befouler kept me reading. So, HA!

Basically, an underemployed San Franciscan starts work at MP24HBS and uncovers a cult of sorts with the help of a force of nature who works at google and his elementary school best friend who is now a millionaire because of his mastery of... well... he is an expert on... well... you'll find out. They go cross country, the tell some lies, they digitize some stuff and the solve a mystery that may or may not involve immortality. It's terrific.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Longest Post of the Year! Or What I Read and How I Justify Loving Practically Everything.

I am feeling a little tender about my dismal little 67 new books read this year. Some of my pals have scary numbers! Melody read 324, but I do believe that she counts re-reads. Why yes she does, so she really has just a measly 266 new books. Slacker. Lady C has read a very respectable 106. And here I am with my tiny band of 67. Quite respectable for a normal person, but for me a personal low number.

However, I don't count a book unless I have read the whole thing and I read parts of a LOT of books. Plus, you know, the internet...

So here are my stats:
21 five star books that you couldn't have pried from my hands with a crowbar.
33 four star books that I really liked a lot.
8 three star books that I liked well enough to finish and that seemed like they might have four or even five star books for people with other tastes.
2 two star books that I read out of a sense of obligation.
1 one star book that I had to read to review and hated just about every minute of it.

I will start with the five stars so that if you only want to know about the best, you can discreetly stop reading and wander away.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I put these in alphabetical order, but if I were to put them in order of how much I loved them, this one would be at the top of my list. A baby is born and then dies. Then is born and lives a little longer. And then dies. And then is born and does some other stuff which might include meeting and possibly killing Hitler. Oh, Kate Atkinson, I adore you.

Lexicon by Max Barry – This odd, twisty thing confused me, but it kept me reading. There are these poets, see, and they can persuade people to do things. Crazy, dangerous things. And you really can't tell who is bad or who is good or why anyone is doing anything. I think it all comes together in the end in a way that made sense, but it is the feeling of wonderful uncertainty that I took away from the book that I remember.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – This story concerns June, an awkward girl whose closest relationship is with her uncle Finn. When he dies of AIDS, she is cast adrift until she meets Toby, another grief-stricken loner. This story unfolds beautifully and has secondary characters that you don't even think you like until the end when you are just weeping from the beauty of it all.

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson – Shandi has a horrible name, an adorable son and a terrific best friend. She also has a mother who is wound as tightly as a mother can be, a father who thinks he has tried his best and a stepmother you will love to hate. And when she is taken hostage by a gunman in a quickie mart, she meets the man of her dreams. It is SO not what you think it is! I did not put this down.

My Notorious Life by Kate Manning – Orphan trains! Reproductive rights! The Gilded Age! These are a few of my favorite things! One of the reviews on Amazon said, “My only complaint is that the book ended.” and I feel the same way. Axie is born in poverty in New York City and eventually sent out west on an Orphan train. She finds her way back and becomes rich and, well, notorious.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – It isn't so much that I loved this story, you can only imagine yourself punching Earnest Hemingway in his stupid face so many times, but I adored Hadly. She was 28 when she married Hemingway and lived with him in Paris. I can't count the number of times I put this book down to just imagine myself in their lives. Helping with the baby, drinking absinthe, punching Hemingway in his stupid face. This was a book that really transported me.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty – I was a huge fan of What Alice Forgot a couple years ago and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved this even more! Moriarty has a remarkable way of telling a dark and painful story with slices of riotous humor that feels like real life. Cecelia find a letter from her husband to be read upon his death with a HUGE secret in it. So she reads it. But he's not dead. And, wow, are there repercussions!

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – Two “mythical creatures” - one a Golem created to be the perfect wife and one a Jinni freed from his lamp - meet in New York City as the 20th century is about to begin. She was created to fulfill the needs of others regardless of how it will affect her and he is used to being all powerful and beholden to no one. Their backstories are fascinating and the direction their friendships take them are just magnificent. I know it is sometimes considered librarian apostasy, but I really hope someone makes a movie out of this one, because it was so beautifully drawn in my head that I want to see how it would look designed by someone who, well, knows things.

Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler – Aaron was raised in a family that put the fun in fundamentalist! I picked this book up because it referenced the song “The Countdown” (Somewhere in outer space, God has prepared a place for those who trust him and obey...) which was a favorite of mine as a kid. Aaron and I would have been best buddies. Christian kids who wanted to be good, but wanted to be ourselves more. I can't wait to read his follow-up. He damn well better write a follow-up!

Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs – Thanks, A.J., for doing the interesting things I am too lazy to do and then writing about them hilariously! He read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica for The Know It All and he lived obeying all the laws of the Bible for The Year of Living Biblically and now in his quest to be the healthiest man in the world, he has actually changed my life! (It involves standing up at work rather than sitting at a desk. Not a huge life changer, but one that makes me healthier nonetheless.) This book was hysterically funny and also quite enlightening. I will never look at my colon the same way.

Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd – This looked like it might be salacious, and ended up being heartbreaking. It is the story of young girls and human trafficking. Lloyd juxtaposed her story of escaping from the sex trade as a teenager with those of the girls she has made it her mission to help who are in “the life” in New York City. It is the little details that get to you and humanize children who are often demonized for circumstances completely beyond their control.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg – This book was perfect for me! I am a big fan of GLBTQ teen fiction but it is often so bleak. Gay kids can be happy, I've seen it! But I love a struggle story as much as the next guy and this struggle is completely unique. Rafe lives in Boulder, Colorado – a hotbed of liberal acceptance – and is tired of being “the gay guy”. So he goes to a boys boarding school in New England to duck back into the closet to lose the label. Not because he is being victimized, but because he is annoyed. It's a terrific concept and Konigsberg makes it funny, maddening and emotionally satisfying all at the same time.

Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt – It is becoming obvious to me as I write these little review-lets that I am predisposed to love books that look light and fluffy on the outside but have a nice meaty center. Okay, very unappealing food-ish metaphor, but apt nonetheless. In this book (with an adorably retro cover) Mallory decides – thanks to a cyber-cheating boyfriend – to eschew all modern technology. She finds a list that her grandmother made in 1963 of goals for her junior year of high school and decides to make her grandmother's goals her own. And all kinds of awesome stuff happens, some of which was completely unexpected. The story is cute and deeper than it seems. The characters are lovely and the family connections are realistic.

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick – Well, I book-talked the hell out of this one this spring for BHS summer reading and a LOT of teenage boys pretended to read it. Well, they missed out, because it is a great story of friendship, grief, love and redemption. I don't know, maybe not redemption. But it has the Irish Mob, mental illness, basketball and secrets. Lots of secrets.

Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – What, you again Quick? Are you determined to break my heart over and over this year? Between this, Boy 21 and Silver Linings Playbook (the movie, not the book) – mission accomplished. This book was an emotional BEAST! Leonard goes to school with a gun determined to kill his former best friend Asher and then himself. But before he does, he has to deliver gifts to four “friends”. This was just beautifully written and powerful.

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross – I read this last week for my YA book club and we have yet to discuss it, but it has stuck with me. Maude is a French girl at the turn of the last century who runs away to Paris. She answers an advertisement to be a Repoussier, an ugly girl who attends high society events with a debutante to make her seem even more beautiful by comparison. Zoiks! Combine the story of the agency with the family Maude works for (evil mother bent on marrying off her daughter who is kept in the dark about, well, a lot) and a bit of a crush on a musician and you have a very satisfying read.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Attachments, Rowell's first book, was a highlight of my year last year. I awaited E&P with baited breath and I was not disappointed. This is one of those books that is hysterically funny and completely wrenching at the same time. Eleanor is a poor, pudgy, weird girl who loves and is loved by Park a half Korean comic book loving geek in 1980s Omaha. And it is just perfect. It made me feel so much that my stomach hurt and I couldn't talk to people for about 2 hours after I finished it. In a good way.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Well, I knew I wasn't going to love this as much as Rowell's Eleanor & Park, but I expected to like it fine. I did not expect to be completely pulled out of my own life and into that of Cath, a college freshman who is on her own for the first time in her life. Cath writes fan fiction about a series of books about a boy wizard who saves the world or some such nonsense. I knew that the fan fiction bits were annoying and pulled people out of the story. Except they DIDN'T! Oh haters, you had nothing else to grab onto in this perfectly perfect book. It is hard to say if I loved it as much as E&P because they were so different, but I loved it.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider – Oh the manic pixie dream girl, she is annoying and emotional and she just reeks of drama. Of course she is also adorable and life-changing for the right fictional boy. The boy in question here is the incongruously named Ezra. Who is the most popular boy in his high school by virtue of being the captain of the tennis team. (Tennis??? Whatever.) However, his athletic career is cut short when he is in a serious car crash that destroys his leg. He ends up shifting his allegiance from the jock crowd to the forensics team and learns a lot about himself, blah blah, blah. The thing is, I love Ezra. And I want the best for him and his friends are more than just caricatures, even Cassidy, the MPDG. I was taken by surprise by how much I loved this book.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp – This one came at me from nowhere. I was a fan of Tharp's Knights of the Hill Country. It was the football book that many of the high school boys pretended to read for summer reading in 2010. I loved Sutter, the protagonist of this book. He is a party hound with a heart of gold. His substance issues drive the story, but they aren't all he is about. He is good and kind and the fact that he desperately seems to need a 12 step program doesn't change that. I loved him and Aimee, the girl he takes under his damaged wing. And I loved the ending which was as vague as it was true.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein – Well Elizabeth Wein sure hates herself some Nazis! (Forgive me, I re-watched Inglorious Basterds last night.) She wrote the stellar Code Name Verity last year and follows it up with this equally brilliant companion piece. This is the story of Rose Justice, an American flier in England who is shot down and ends up in Ravensbruck. The book meanders a bit but the slow build is necessary and I looked back when I was finished and was amazed at when Wein took me. It was powerful and beautifully written.

The 5th Wave by Phillip Yancy – I tried to read The Monstrumologist. I really did. But it scared me so I put it down and tried to forget it. In his newest book, Yancy scares me once again, but he does so in a way that made it completely impossible for me to stop reading. Nice one, Phil. Thanks for the nightmares. Cassie has miraculously stayed alive for the first four waves of invasion. When the fifth wave comes, it is impossible to know how to survive. And it might be luckier not to. There is a sequel due out on September 16. So if I am hiding in the supply closet in the library, you will know why.

Okay, now here are the four stars because, really, they were quite good.

The Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale – A graphic novel about the unfortunate pioneers

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews – A fluffy beach read by my favorite southern lady
Wonderland by Ace Atkins – Robert Parker might be gone. But Spenser lives on and Atkins does a fine job aping his style.
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – This one was a book club pick about three sisters trying to take control of their lives as their mother is dying.
Z by Therese Anne Fowler – A fictionalized life of Zelda Fitzgerald that made a nice companion piece to the slightly better written The Paris Wife.
Between Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson – Jackson's second book didn't catch me as much as her others, but it was still a great raucous tale of a young woman caught between her birth family and her adoptive family.
The Cheerleader by Ruth Doane MacDougall – This is a re-read, but I remembered not really liking it the first time I read it. But I LOVED it the second time. Snowy is in high school in small town New Hampshire in the 1950s and her story is like traveling back in time.
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCraight – When Kate's daughter commits suicide at her fancy girls school, she desperately looks for answers to the question of who her daughter really was. A slick mystery from the perspective of the dead girl and her mourning mother.
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell – Two Scottish teenagers try to keep their home together after the deaths of their horrible, horrible parents.
Afterwife by Polly Williams – When Sophie dies, she gets to watch her husband and son mourn her and her best friend try to help them get over their loss. Hysterically funny and heartbreakingly sad.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – Or as I called it, “The Not-Interesting Enoughs” it was a fascinating story, but I didn't like a single character.

Mary Rhoda Ted and Lou by Jennifer Keishen Armstrong – A fascinating look at the making of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I watched many DVDs after reading it!
Does this Baby Make Me Look Straight? by Dan Bucatinsky – A sweet and hilarious look at being a gay dad.
Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Hardin – You know what sucks? North Korean prison camps.
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – An amazing man who survived shipwreck and horrific internment in the Pacific during WWII is celebrated in this gripping survival story.
We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen – Frankly, less funny than you'd think, but completely fascinating.
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel – An interesting in-depth look at the space program from the perspective of the women who married into it.

The Elites by Kiera Cass – The sequel to The Selection. I can not WAIT until May for the final installment of this Hunger Games meets “The Bachelor” mash up!
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen – Oh Sarah, you don't do it fancy, but you are consistently creating believable female characters at interesting crossroads. They all kind of smush together in my head, but they are appealing.
Better Nate than Ever by Time Federale – Only the horrible, horrible cover is going to keep this from being a smash hit with middle graders. Nate is a hilarious, talented boy who runs away (temporarily) to take Broadway by storm.
Cold Fury by T. M. Goeglein – A surprisingly well written girl-finds-out-her-family-is-mobbed-up story.
The Social Code by Sadie Hayes – Orphaned twins climb from poverty to Silicon Valley success in this first in a series. I reviewed this one for VOYA.
The Night She Disappeared by April Henry – April Henry knows how to spin a scary little yarn. In this one Gabby is the intended victim of an abduction and she tries to find the girl who was stolen in her place.
Safekeeping by Karen Hesse – Photographs illustrate this gripping story of a slightly futuristic post-war migration to Canada.
Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland – This is the very clever and entertaining story of a half human-half God girl who just might be the Nix, a hero destined to free humanity and from the tyranny of the immortals.
The End Games by T. Michael Martin – Michael, a teen who is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, tries to protect his 5 year old brother from the truth of their situation by telling him that they are playing a full immersion game. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because it freaked me out more than I am entirely comfortable with.
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle – Ooh, time travel! Miranda goes back in time to save Shakespeare from the priesthood. And some other stuff.
The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle – This is a deep dish love story of two teens who have just graduated high school and who are an unlikely but wonderful couple.
The Originals by Cat Patrick – A set of identical triplets being forced to share the same life? Something is definitely shifty here.
Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick – The fairy-tale story of a trailer park girl who, upon her mother's death, is given three dresses that will make her the most beautiful woman in the world – funny, sweet and snarky.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Beautifully written story of a friendship between two unlikely boys.It was good enough to be a five star, but the ending annoyed me far too much.
This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith – This is why we tell kids not to make anonymous friends on the internet. Because they might end up being super cute movie star boys that will fall in love with them. A little counter-educational, but lots of fun!
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith – What, her again? This one is about two teens who meet on a trans-Atlantic flight and kind of fall in love. Falling in love with a stranger on an airplane is perfectly fine, of course.
Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – In what appears to be an alternate Ireland where bloodthirsty Waterhorses are raced by only the bravest men, Puck enters her land horse in the deadly competition.
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr – I resisted this so much, but many, many people recommended it and I finally got into it and fell in love with these prickly characters in a unique teen-mom situation.

And the three stars that might interest others.
The Journey by Aaron Becker – It is quite a lovely picture book. But I am a grown up and pretty much just read it because I needed more books for this list! Shameful...
The Doll House Murders by Betty Ren Wright – A student was looking for a scary dollhouse book from her childhood and several people thought it would be this one. But it was not. Still, pretty creepy for a 1980s middle school mystery.
Dare Me by Megan Abbot – Mean cheerleaders are mean to each other and their coach is probably a sociopath. Still, I needed to know how it ended.
The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez – This was a very sweet, but a little slight, memoir of a girl who faked a pregnancy for a school project and changed the way a lot of people perceived teen moms.
I Pledge Allegiance by Chris Lynch – War, what is it good for? Well, Lynch takes a look at a quartet of Boston boys serving in Vietnam with mixed results.
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – After loving Between Shades of Gray so much, I wanted to adore this. It is the story of a girl raised in a New Orleans Brothel in the 1950s. It seemed I was destined to love it! But it never really got off the ground for me.
Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shin – A very cute graphic novel about disparate high school social groups coming together to solve a common problem.
Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink by Stephanie Kate Strohm – This was a very cute beach read about Libby, a history loving fashionista who works as a historical interpreter/camp counselor with hilarious results in this sweet, light, summer read.

And the two stars about which I will complain.
Gabe & Izzy: Speaking Up for America's Bullied by Gabrielle Ford – Gabe seems nice, Izzy too. But their story feels like one of those improving books that schools buy 300 copies of so that every kid has one. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott – Why did I finish this irritating little book about prayer? Because I love Anne Lamott. But not this time.

And the one star that I will warn you against. Although it must be said that I have written zero books.
Awoken by Timothy Miller – First of all, it is a fantasy and it has creatures. But also, usually when I am forced to read a book I don't like all that much I think, well hey, it's better than I could do. In this case – no - I could do better. And I really don't say that lightly. The story that it here is fairly interesting, but the writing is so stilted and awkward, and the characters are cardboard. The reason I DON'T write is because I am pretty sure it would end up like this. But probably slightly better.

If you have read this far you are a brave soul. I will try to post with more sensible regularity in the coming year!

Happy 2014!