Thursday, January 01, 2015

Reading Roundup: 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 127
Tween: 36
Children: 27

Sources
Review Copies: 78

Purchased: 7
Library: 81

Standouts
Teen: The Drowned Cities (chosen in January)
"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." (Link goes to my review, which finally went up last week.)
Tween: The Swift Boys and Me by Kody Keplinger (chosen in April)
"One tumultuous summer changes all the things eleven-year-old Nola has always taken for granted. Some better, some worse, some just different. I've loved Keplinger's work for teens, and she displays the same deft touch with people and relationships in her first book for younger readers."
Children: Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty! by Polly Horvath (chosen in February)
"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."


Last year, I made a resolution to actually read less. To make room for other things, focus on reading the books instead of finishing them, blog more.

Well I didn't really blog as much as I wanted to, but I definitely gave myself more breathing space when it comes to my reading. I can see it in the numbers, but I can also feel it in how many more books I remember enjoying and diving into. My TBR list grew mountainous, of course, because there are so many good books out there, but I'm getting really good at pruning hard.

For 2015, I'd like to keep up that mindset, and definitely try to blog more steadily, rather than going in spurts the way that I have for some time. At least two reviews a month. You heard it here first, people.

Happy 2015!

They're Here, They're Here!

Check out the 2014 Cybils finalists! What do you think?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reading Roundup: December 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 0
Children: 0
And Cybils reading is done!

Sources
Library: 6
Review Copies: 5

Standouts
Teen: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
This sci-fi coming-of-age story takes Ava from a safe, ordered existence within a patriarchal polygamous spaceship to a scary, uncertain life on her own, in futuristic India. I can't even explain how much I fell in love with Ava and her world.

Because I Want to Awards:
Better Than Expected: Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy
This was a very difficult reading experience, partly because the main character’s outlook was so different than mine, and also because the nightmare scenario of a United States imploding, starting with Idaho, felt like it could happen all too easily in my own home state of Arizona. But I cared about Danny and his friends and family, caught in the middle of something far bigger and scarier than they ever bargained for.
Yaaaaaay Serial Killers!: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Um, so to explain that. This was the first realistic book I read in three months, having been neck-deep in fantasy and sci-fi for the Cybils. So this book’s firm roots in the real world was a refreshing change, no matter how you feel about teenage prodigy profilers for the FBI. Aside that palate cleansing aspect, I did enjoy this tense and twisty thriller.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cybils Wrap-Up and Statistics

Well, round 1 is done. We've picked a shortlist, we've sent in our blurbs, and now all the round 1 panelists wait to hear the announcement, simultaneously grinning over our secret knowledge and anxious to hear from the other categories.

With all that, I thought I'd type up a few thoughts and numbers. Because I like numbers.

Books nominated in YASF - 205
Books I read before the nomination period - 21
Books I finished during the nomination period - 34
Books I didn’t finish during the nomination period - 41
Books I didn’t read but am keeping on my TBR list - 43

See, this is why we have more than one person on the judging panels.

One of the adventures of the Cybils is reading books I would otherwise never pick up. Maybe the premise didn't appeal to me. Maybe I'd overlooked them. Maybe I wasn't a fan of the author's other work so had planned on giving them a miss. For the Cybils, I read them, and stretched myself. Some of them were stellar. Some . . . were not. That's okay. I'll talk a little bit more about the stellar ones after the announcement. 

Thanks to Sheila Ruth and all my fellow Round 1 judges for the past three months. It's hard, hard work but it's also a lot of fun with people as opinionated as you guys to debate the books with. For me, talking about the books is just as much fun as reading them. In some cases, more.

Check out Cybils.com on January 1 and see the fruits of our labor. And thanks. The Cybils are a community effort, and everything that you do to support it, like nominating books, cheering us on, talking up the shortlists, and even retweeting each other, makes these prizes what they are.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Book Review: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

Book: The Drowned Cities
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Published: 2012
Source: Local Library

In the future, America has been knocked from leader of the free world to a war-torn wasteland, torn to shreds by guerrilla civil war and abandoned even by the Chinese peacekeepers. In this world, four different people struggle to survive.

Mahlia and Mouse have already lived through the worst and are keeping their heads down in a backwoods village. Tool is a genetically modified man-beast, created to serve warlords and wage war. He’s decided to strike out on his own, serving no master. Ocho is a guerrilla soldier, sergeant of the squadron that hunts Tool and invades the village.

When Mahlia takes the risky step of saving Tool’s life and helping hide him from the soldiers, she sets off a chain of events that will take all four from the relative safety of the backwoods into the Drowned Cities and the heart of the never-ending war. None of them expect that they’re going to live to a ripe old age. They’ll settle for living to see tomorrow.

I told a colleague that if I’d known that this was about child soldiers and guerrilla warfare, I probably wouldn’t have read it. (Upon hearing that description, of course, he was all over it.) If I’d skipped it, I would have missed one hell of a book.

At every turn, the characters (minor and major) must make the decision about whether to see to their own safety or honor their connection to another person. Intriguingly, Bacigalupi doesn’t always prioritize one over the other. Sometimes you have to save your own skin. Sometimes, you have to save your soul instead.

A harrowing, powerful, and complex story about the things we do to save ourselves and others.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Bibliovore is in Your Ears!

Or I will be.

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books is one of my very favorite non-kidlit book blogs, and I am a devoted listener to their weekly podcast as well. Awhile ago, blogger/host Sarah Wendell put out a call for kidlit recommendations. Not only was I all over that, much of her audience was as well. She was reading kidlit booklists for months.

When she asked for possible interviews, I put my name out to her, and to my great excitement, she said yes! We talk about everything from picture books up to YA, and everything in between.

You can hear the podcast, which is almost an hour long, at the Smart Bitches Trashy Books website or you can download it from iTunes under "DBSA romance fiction podcast," episode 120.

Enjoy!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Reading Roundup: November 2014

By the Numbers
Teen: 11
Tween: 1
Children: 1
(Still reading for the Cybils! A note about my numbers: this is books finished, not books half-read and set down.)

Sources
Review Copies: 4
Library: 8

Standouts
Teen: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
With a title like that, I gotta love it. I also loved the snarky narration, the musical-theater subplot (turned out demons love the show Sweeney Todd) and the fact that Cynthia gets her crush's attention and he turns out to be capital-A Awesome.
Tween/Children: Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel
Okay, this was the only book this month that I marked tween or children's (I think it straddles the line). But I still might have picked it out even if I'd read others. What I loved best was how much Lucy loves her baby sister, born with Downs Syndrome, without hesitation or reservation. It's also worth noting that very few of Lucy's problems stem from her sister's differences, even when adults think they do.

Because I Want To Awards
Finally, a Girl Who Knows Her Worth: Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier
Natividad is a special magical girl that all the werewolves want, and does she ever know it. With clear-eyed unsentimentality, she uses her value to wangle safe haven for herself and her brothers, and her powers to fight for the pack once they've accepted her. Girlfriend, I want to take you out for a drink. Yanno, once you're done saving the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Book: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Lara Jean Song has loved many boys, but never one who’s loved her back. She formed a habit of writing a goodbye letter to each boy and hiding it in her treasured hatbox as she gets over them.

Suddenly the letters disappear, sent out to the boys who were never supposed to see them. Lara Jean finds herself facing the consequences of her own emotions for the first time.

The most horrifying consequence is that one of the letters went out to Josh, her next-door neighbor, and also her big sister’s recent ex. Desperate to stop him from thinking she still likes him (although she sort of does), she begs one of the other crushes, Peter, to pretend to be her boyfriend. He’s amenable because he’s trying to make an ex jealous. They embark on a fake relationship, but as it goes on, Lara Jean gets more and more mixed up about what she wants. Is it Josh? Or Peter? Or neither?

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare - your old crushes suddenly discovering the feelings you hid so deeply! Okay, not the worst nightmare. Zombies and public nudity are probably worse, but this is right up there. Han explores this situation by having Lara Jean encounter all her old crushes again in the course of trying to get the letters back. Some are great, some are horrifying, some are, “What did I ever see in him?!”

Lara Jean starts off the book childish and impulsive, almost slappably so. But as the story goes on, you can see her maturing. Is this because she’s having to face the consequences of the letters? She always crushed on boys silently before, never giving any indication of her feelings. Is it because she is having to step into her older sister’s Margot’s place as the caretaker of the family, or possibly coming out from under Margot’s shadow? Is it because she gets the opportunity to see how she herself has changed over the years, through the lens of the boys she once crushed on? For me, it was a mixture of all those things.

I was a little disappointed in the end because it left us dangling as to the resolution of Peter and Lara Jean’s story. Although Lara Jean had made a decision, we didn’t get to see the effects of it. Luckily, according to the author’s blog, there will be a second book called P.S. I Still Love You due out in the spring.