Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: March 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 10
Tween: 2
Children: 1

Sources
Review Copies: 5
Purchased: 1
Library: 6

Standouts
Teen: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Sometimes Felton was astonishingly wise and perceptive, sometimes he had the emotional intelligence of a mummified hamster. A very realistic fifteen-year-old, in other words.
Tween: Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air by Stewart Ross, illustrated by Stephen Biesty
Although parts were problematic (they entirely left out the treatment of native peoples during the Age of Exploration, for instance), it was really interesting to see how people have set off to explore our world and what they used to do it. With fold-out diagrams!
Children: Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh
If you can count, you know this is the only children's book I read this month. That being said, if I'd read ten, I probably still would have mentioned this. It brings a fascinating artist to life and made me hit the web for more of his work.

Because I Want To Awards
Another Cracking Main Character: Plus One by Elizabeth Fama
Sol is impulsive, prickly, and often thoroughly exasperating. Naturally, I loved her.
Oooh, I Get It Now: Everything by A.S. King
For some reason I was never on the A.S. King train, but all of a sudden I've added all her books to my reading list and am tearing through them.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Book: The Winner's Curse
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4. 2014
Source: ARC from a friend

In the Herrani city conquered and occupied by the forces of the Valorian empire, everything and everybody has their place. Kestrel knows what's expected of her, as General Trajan's daughter. She will either join the military or she will marry. Either way, she will take a predetermined place in the adult world by her twentieth birthday.

Unfortunately, at seventeen she's miserably unsuited for either. In spite of her clever strategic mind, she's only okay at actual combat with actual weapons after years of training. And she can't think of a single Valorian man she's willing to marry. The only thing she truly loves is music, and making music is not a suitable pastime for a Valorian lady. It is the business of slaves.

It's music that prompts her to purchase Arin, a Herrani slave. But he refuses to sing. In spite of that, the conquerer's daughter and the conquered man find themselves drawing closer to each other. And it's getting noticed, by Herrani slaves and Valorian high society alike.

But Arin is embroiled in a plot to rescue his homeland from the iron grip of the Valorian empire. When the revolution explodes, the only safety for the conquerer's daughter is with the man who betrayed her country.

And maybe not even there.

Before I delve into this book, I'd like you to have a look at that cover. Go ahead. Study it hard. That girl in a pretty dress, swooning, clutching onto the lettering for dear life, letting a dagger slip from her fingers. Is that Kestrel? To me, it wasn't, and thus I spent most of this book in a quiet simmer of WTF over that cover, while enjoying what was beneath it very much.

Honestly, I was so put off by this cover (I'm really really over the swoony girls in opulent dresses thing, guys) that it was only a cover blurb from Kristen Cashore that got me to try it. I'm so glad I did. It's a love story, true, but it's also about power and politics and rebellion and strategy.
It starts small and intimate (here's a girl, out of place; here's the boy who sees her real self) and grows into a story that concerns itself with the fate of not only countries, but empires. And yet never loses sight of the small and intimate. That's quite a trick.

The love story at the center is also more than your usual love-at-first-sight. In spite of surface differences, Arin and Kestrel are very much alike. Besides music, they both have brilliantly strategic minds, watching the world and people from the outside and seeing game pieces that can be played. They are also both terribly lonely. More than anything else, this loneliness pulls them toward each other.

As they grow closer, they play emotional chess with each other and with themselves, examining their own behavior and each other's at every turn. In this book, love does not switch off the strategic mind. It becomes another game piece, another lever, another way to twist the world into your control or to see how and why it's twisting out of it.

This is (of course) the first of a trilogy. But it's a trilogy that's going on my auto-read list, especially after the end of this book. I just hope the next two covers are better.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: February 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 9
Tween: 2
Children: 4

Sources
Review Copies: 6
Library: 9

Standouts
Teen: The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Two lovers playing emotional chess with each other and themselves, in the midst of the kind of political upheaval that lays waste to empires. The only thing I hated about this book was the cover, and in my review I will tell you why.
Tween: Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
A deeply fun romp about a girl who's arguably smarter than most of the adults around her, and of course frustrated beyond the telling of it.
Children: Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath
As hilarious and weird as the first one. My favorite scene was the one in the bookshop. I dare you not to crack a grin at that.

Because I Want To Awards
Ain't No Thang: Adaptation by Malinda Lo
Lo takes a plot point that would have been front and center in another book (emerging bisexuality) and makes it part of the story of a girl waking to a world that's
changing right before her eyes.
Penguins, Malevolent Refrigerators, and Surfing: The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan by Maxwell Eaton III
I think that says it all, don't you?
Worst Bestie Ever: The One That I Want by Jennifer Echols
From page 1, Addison was the worst excuse for a human being, never mind a best friend, that I'd ever met. By the time Gemma puts an end to it, I cheered.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Reading Roundup: January 2014

Sorry to be a day late on this, guys. When I realized it was the first day of the month, I was already half-asleep. It was a light reading month anyhow.

By the Numbers
Teen: 12
Tween: 3
Children: 2

Sources
Review Copies: 6
Purchased: 2
Library: 6

Standouts
Teen: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Wrenching, harrowing, violent, and for me, totally unputdownable. Even though it was a terrible world, I kept wanting to crawl back into it and find out whether Mahlia and the others were going to save their lives or their souls.
Tween: Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
I have to say, while I deeply adored Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Rendi was a much more interesting main character to me than Minli. He had so many secrets and so much anger that I loved seeing how the stories that he and others told began to change him.
Children: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
When people ask for an old-fashioned adventure story, this is the kind of book I hand them. An enchanted boy, a lonely museum, and a terrible evil to right? Yep, this wouldn't have been out of place on a library shelf 50 years ago.

Because I Want To Awards
Disney Movie in Book Form: Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill
A figure skater and a female hockey player, both named Sloane Jacobs, decide to trade lives for the summer. Unlikely, sweet, fun.
ARGH THE ENDING ARGH: Dead to You by Lisa McMann
Returned to the bosom of his family after being kidnapped nine years before, fifteen-year-old Ethan struggles to fit back into his life while worrying about why he can't remember it. The ending, as you might be able to tell, made me claw my face and howl. Not because it came out of nowhere, (you have your suspicions from the first) but because he just disappears. ARGH.

Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Youth Media Awards

John Newbery Medal
for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature
Flora and Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell
(H) Doll Bones by Holly Black
(H) The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
(H) One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
(H) Paperboy by Vince Vawter

Randolph Caldecott Medal
for the most distinguished American picture book for children
Locomotive by Brian Floca
(H) Journey by Aaron Becker
(H) Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Scharr Idle
(H) Mr Wuffles by David Wiesner

Michael L. Printz Award
for excellence in literature written for young adults
Midwinter Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
(H) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
(H) Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
(H) Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch
(H) Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award
for the most distinguished beginning reader book
The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli
(H) Ball by Mary Sulllivan
(H) A Big Guy Took My Ball! by Mo Willems
(H) Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

Coretta Scott King Awards
for the best book about the African-American experience
Author
P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams Garcia
(H) March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell
(H) Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers
(H) Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
Illustrator
Knock Knock: my dad's dream for me illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Daniel Beaty
(H) Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

John Steptoe New Talent Award (illustration)
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the creation of hip-hop illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, written by Laban Carrick Hill

Virginia Hamilton Practitioner Award for Lifetime Achievement
Patricia and Frederick McKissack

Schneider Family Book Award
for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience
Picture Book
A Splash of Red: the life and art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Middle Grade Novel
Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Young Adult Novel
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Alex Awards
for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences
Brewster by Mark Slouka
The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
Help for the Haunted by John Searles
Lexicon by Max Barry
Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu
Mother Mother by Koren Zailckas
Relish: my life in the kitchen by Lucy Knisley
The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
The Universe vs Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Andrew Carnegie Medal
for excellence in children's video
Bink and Gollie: Two for One by Weston Woods, based on the book by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile

Margaret A. Edwards Award
for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.
Markus Zusack

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
recognizing an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site
Brian Selznick

Mildred L. Batchelder Award
for an outstanding children's book translated from a language other than English and subsequently published in the United States
Mister Orange by Truus Matti, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
(H) The Bathing Costume or the Worst Vacation of My Life by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec, translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
(H) My Father's Arms Are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde, illustrated by Oyvid Torseter, translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
(H) The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax illustrated by Caryl

Odyssey Award
best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults
Scowler by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne
(H) Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, narrated by the author
(H) Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, narrated by James Naughton
(H) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Roman and Sunil Mahotra
(H) Matilda by Roald Dahl, narrated by Kate Winslet

Pura Belpre Awards
For the best books about the Latino cultural experience
Author
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina
(H) The Living by Matt de la Pena
(H) The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's greatest abolitionist by Margarita Engle
(H) Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a migrant's tale by Duncan Tonatiuh
Illustrator
NiƱo Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
(H) Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenía Una Llamita by Angela Dominguez
(H) Tito Puente Mambo King/Rey del Mambo illustrated by Rafael Lopez, written by Monica Brown, translated into Spanish by Adriana Dominguez
(H) Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: a migrant's tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Robert F. Sibert Medal
for most distinguished informational book for children
Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore
(H) A Splash of Red: the life and art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(H) Look up! Bird Watching in your own backyard by Annette Cate
(H) Locomotive by Brian Floca
(H) The Mad Potter: George E Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature Award
Books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered experience.
Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
AND (!)
Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
(H) Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
(H) Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington
(H) Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

William C. Morris Award
for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens. Finalists are announced in December.
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
(F) Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian
(F) Dr Bird's Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
(F) Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
(F) In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults
honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults during a November 1 – October 31 publishing year. Finalists are announced in December
The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
(F) Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd
(F) Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler
(F) Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
(F) The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: 2013 plus Bonus! New Year's Resolution

By the Numbers
Teen: 176
Tween: 78
Children: 71

Sources
Review Copies: 116
Swapped: 2
Purchased: 8
Library: 167

Standouts
Teen (Selected in September) Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (link leads to my review)
"The companion novel (not sequel!) to Code Name Verity delivers all the same grit and darkness of wartime. I've seen some reviews that say it's darker but I think it's a different quality here."
Tween (also selected in September; that was a good month): The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
"This is a standout pick because of Oscar, who is shy and bewildered by anybody who is not a plant or a cat. Ursu's deft, honest narration brings you right into that place with him."
Children: (selected in August): Dumpling Days by Grace Lin
"On a family visit to Taiwan, Pacy struggles with being in a place where she feels like an alien but is expected to feel right at home. For every kid who's ever been caught in the middle and had to carve out their own place, this is for you."

Soooooo. That was 2013.

I've been thinking about the way I read lately, especially since KidlitCon. In the past, I've tried to read one book a day on average. I'm getting to the point in my life where that's just too much, and I'm reading for the sake of reading fast. There's probably any number of reasons for that, but the effect is that I'm not enjoying the actual reading as much, and that's . . . well, guys, that's just awful.

So, I'm giving myself permission to slow down. To cut my TBR list, to renew my library book if I need to instead of hurrying to finish it, to request books for review only if I'm excited about them, to take as long as I need to over a book, to give myself enough time out to review them if I want to. That's another thing: I've been so busy pushing myself to finish more books that I haven't been writing about them, and what the heck is this blog for, if not that?

I'm also giving myself permission to read other books than the ones on my TBR list. Re-read old favorites, pick up a romance novel or a fascinating adult nonfiction book if I want to.

I guess my New Year's Resolution is to get back to the fun.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reading Roundup: December 2013

By the Numbers
Teen: 15
Tween: 1
Children: 6

Sources
Review Copies: 2
Purchased: 1
Library: 18

Standouts
Teen: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
I admit, there were some parts in the hyper-conservative worldview of the town and the church that made me go, "Whoa . . . okay." However, this was a compelling look at the moment when your faith is tested by direct contradiction of the things you've always known, and whether it's possible to come through with that faith intact.
Tween: No standout this month.
Children: Animal Fights by Catherine Ham
Poems about fighting animals? You wouldn't think it would work. It does, which can be attributed equally to the poems, which are accessible and fact-based, and the great photography.

Because I Want To Awards
Move Over Veronica Mars: Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday
Okay, not really, because VMars doesn't move over for anybody and will tase you if you try. But this story of a snarky, clever teen sleuth got me and I'm quite sad that there's only one sequel. Yeah, the plot's a little uncertain, but I was taking the ride with Hartley.
Veronica Mars in 1942: The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
Why did I enjoy this one? See above. Less snark, more history, definitely more character growth as Iris learns painful lessons about the world, her father, her mother, and herself. And there's a sequel to this one too. Yay!
Wow, That Was Something!: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet
I've seen these balloons all my life and never stopped to think of all the engineering and creativity that went into them. This book brought that to life, and what makes it even more stunning is that the first idea and execution came from one man.