Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Read in December 2014

This month I read the following books:

1. How to Avoid Making Art - Julia Cameron
2. Jackaby - William Ritter
3. The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch
4. The One - Kiera Cass

picture credit: Woman Reading from a French postcard c. 1920's

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas haul 2014

Apparently, the secret is out... I'm a Whovian. Here's a picture of my Christmas haul this year - all gifts from different people!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe review

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
January 2012

First line: "One summer night I fell asleep, hoping the world would be different when I woke."

Fifteen year old Ari is a loner without many friends until he meets Dante at a local swimming pool. The two of them quickly hit it off, and begin hanging out over the course of a long hot El Paso, Texas summer.

This is a lyrical book with a slow and easy pace. I thought it really captured the way that a summer vacation can feel so long and boring, yet studded with emotional highlights for teens who don't have much to do over the break. The feeling is very masculine but also very sensitive. So often, sensitive, emotional boys in fiction are derided as "not realistic" but here, Ari and Dante's voices feel quite genuine. Ultimately, this is a sweet and tender story about two teens who become best friends and eventually more.

The boys each come from very close-knit Mexican-American families. The closeness they share with their parents is really heartwarming, and the way their families completely accept them is refreshing. Ari struggles with the fact that his older brother is serving time in prison for a homophobic hate crime. Dante is impatient to take things to the next level and ends up kissing other boys while he's waiting for Ari to come around. Eventually, after having worked everything out, it does seem like they'll end up together forever. I think that there are definitely more upbeat, faster-paced gay-positive books for teens out there, but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe offers a nice happy ending for the two leads.

Compare to:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M. Danforth
Freak Show - James St. James
Dishes - Rich Wallace

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Beast Keeper review

Beasts of Olympus: Beast Keeper
by Lucy Coats, illustrated by Brett Bean
Grosset & Dunlap
January 2015

The adventure begins when Pandemonius (called Demon for short,) the ten-year-old son of Greek God Pan, is unwillingly roped into a messy job as a stableboy caring for the mythical beasts of Olympus. While the story remains mostly true to the original mythology, plenty of humor and some modern slang is inserted, for example, when the hapless hero debates how to address his father Pan, “Your Godness? Your Holiness? Your Dadness?”

Scatalogical humor abounds as Demon copes with mountains of beast poo and flatulent Cattle of the Sun. Purposeful anachronisms such as robots and a computer-like machine made by Hephaestus, god of the forge, are presented as evidence of the Greek gods omniscient powers. Hercules is the villain in this tale as Demon works on doctoring up poor animals injured during Hercules Twelve Labors. Demon's magic ability to speak with animals comes in handy as he soothes cranky animals such as a bald Nemean lion, Stymphalian birds in need of new feathers and a Cretan bull that has lost his fire. Demon's biggest challenge is curing Hera's beheaded pet Hydra who requires some of Atalanta's magic apple. Energetic cartoon illustrations enhance the fast paced excitement. The book is appended with a glossary and pronunciation guide featuring all the major players in the Greek pantheon.

I received a free copy of this book.
This review originally appeared in School Library Journal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite 2014 Reads

I actually didn't read that many books published in 2014 - I'm usually all over new releases, but this year, I read plenty of books that I'd been meaning to catch up on from the back of my list.

So, rather than a "top 10" I'll just present a few of my favorite published in 2014 titles that really stood out to me this year.

Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
          This was a lot of fun. It really is in a choose-your-own adventure format. There are a few sudden "dead ends" but for the most part, it was a way to read about NPH's life in the order that seemed most interesting.

Everything Leads to You - Nina LaCour
          A fun story about a young Hollywood set designer who incidentally is lesbian.

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart
          I love books with a surprise ending. I did not see that one coming. An intense read.

The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski
          Great fantasy with a forbidden love interest between princess in a conquered land and her captive.

My Real Children - Jo Walton
          So timey-wimey! I wasn't sure which alternate timeline I wanted to root for.

Noggin - John Corey Whaley
          Slightly creepy story of how a young man copes with his brain translpant.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lucky Breaks review

Lucky Breaks
by Susan Patron
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
March 2009

First line: "Eleven, Lucky thought from her seat at the back of the school bus, eleven, eleven, eleven, and the idea of it, the sound of it, threw off sparks in her head."

In this wonderful sequel to The Higher Power of Lucky, we return to the dusty micro-town of Hard Pan, California. Lucky's meandering thoughts and careful appreciation of little details is explored in a quirky and whimsical fashion.  She sees eleven as being intrepid and cherishes the "secret 11" in the straps of her new training bra. At eleven years of age, she is clearly looking forward to growing up, wearing make-up and other such things that are just ahead of her... yet she is still happy to not-quite be there yet. Lucky reminded me of Fern from Charlotte's Web in many ways.

Lucky has settled into a much more comfortable relationship with her adoptive mother Brigitte, who has started a new business, a small cafe. Geologists are up to study the rocks in Hard Pan, which affords Lucky the rare opportunity to make friends with a visiting girl her own age, Paloma.  Again, Lucky stirs up trouble with her misunderstandings, and awkward, earnest overeagerness to reach out to new friends.

Birgitte's speech to Paloma's overprotective mother about how the world is full of danger, but full of adventure and wonderful things too, to let children experience things and try being brave seems like a rallying call against helicopter parenting.

Lucky's reverence for science, including her hero worship of Charles Darwin and, in general, her unique way of looking at the world will continue to charm those who enjoyed the finely-wrought world introduced in The Higher Power of Lucky.

Compare to:
Penny Dreadful - Laurel Snyder
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu - Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Because of Winn-Dixie - Kate DiCamillo

I borrowed this book from the library.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

14 authors new to me in 2014

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Authors New to You in 2014.

I couldn't narrow it down to just 10! Once I whittled my list down to 14, I thought, "Ah! How appropriate!" So, here is my list of the top 14 new to me authors for the year.

Emily Croy Barker - I must read more by this author! I loved The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic.

Cara Chow - I loved Bitter Melon. It was hard to read at times, but you could tell it really came from the heart. Write more books, Cara Chow, and I will read them!

A.C. Gaughen - I already have the rest of her books sitting on my nightstand.

Nina LaCour - I love a story set in L.A. (one of my favorite places)

Robin LaFevers - Ah, Grave Mercy was loooong, but it was worth it.

E. Lockhart - I love surprise endings and was blown away by We Were Liars. I definitely have my eye on this author.

Scott Lynch - Amazing! Gentleman Bastards is the most amazing medieval mafia thief vs. magician's guild type story I have ever, ever read. If you haven't heard his guest appearance on the Writing Excuses podcast yet, you should definitely give it a listen to get a sense of what a rascal he is.

Marissa Meyer - Cinder was much lighter and more fun than I expected. What a fun world she's created.

Nnedi Okarafor - A totally unique voice, her books belong in every library.

Rainbow Rowell - Like everyone else, I am ready to hop on board with this relatively new YA sensation.

Marie Rutkowski - I like her world building.

Benjamin Alire Saenz - Wow, who says guys can't be sensitive?

Sherry Thomas - There will never be another Harry Potter, but I can always comfort myself by reading awesome magic boarding school stories.

Jo Walton - I love timey-wimey stuff, and her book My Real Children left things just open-ended enough that readers won't know which alternate timeline to root for.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Read in November 2014

This past month I read the following books:

1. Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers
2. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
3. Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
4. Lament - Maggie Stiefvater
5. Cinder - Marisssa Meyer
6. Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
7. Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris
8. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul - Jeff Kinney
9. Article 5 - Kristen Simmons

picture credit: Thoughts by John Henry Marshall

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Top 10 books I'm looking forward to in 2015

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is: Top Ten Books You're Looking Forward to in 2015.

Normally, I'd have trouble narrowing it down to just 10, but I've been feeling very choosy lately! Here are the ones that looked really appealing to me.

I Remember You - Kathleen Davitt Bell 
Sounds a bit timey-wimey, with a teen romance imperiled by memories of the future.

Remember - Eileen Cook
A girl uncovers a conspiracy with her father's memory erasing company.

Immaculate - Katelyn Detweiler
A virgin finds herself pregnant... and no one believes her.

The Leveller - Julia Durango
A bounty hunter is hired to deprogram teens addicted to virtual reality.

The Memory Key - Liana Liu
In a dystopian world where everyone is losing their memories and must rely on a memory chips, a girl starts to doubt that her memory chip is working correctly.

The Orphan Queen - Jodi Meadows
Sounds like high fantasy with an imprisoned magical princess spy.

Soulprint - Megan Miranda
A girl is imprisoned because it's determined that she is the reincarnation of a famous criminal.

A Book of Spirits and Thieves - Morgan Rhodes
High fantasy, with travel between modern-day Toronto and and ancient fantasy kingdom.

A Darker Shade of Magic - V. E. Schwab
Fantasy which alternates between two very different Londons in the multiverse.

Shadow Study - Maria V. Snyder
A new spin-off of the Poison Study series.


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