Books I’ve already talked about
The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Prep School Confidential by Anne Dowling
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle
September Girls by Bennett Madison
Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standisford
Shadows by Robin McKinley: A new McKinley book is always a joyful event! And yet, slightly nerve-wracking, because what if it’s not good? I’m happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Shadows. The resolution is perhaps a bit hand-wavey, but I’m quite willing to live with that, because the rest of the book is so strong, and also that does tend to be the type of resolution McKinley writes. I very much appreciated the subtle-but-present diversity of the world, and I loved the shadows. However, I wish SO MUCH that the book had a different cover, and I even know exactly what it should be: one of the origami creatures that Maggie folds, with its shadow projected behind it, except that the shadow is real. Why don’t they hire me?
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick: A Cybils contender, as well as one that was featured on the Printz Blog. The central conceit of this one was interesting, but I thought there were way too many things going on technically–the framing narrative of the four gifts and the four goodbyes, the letters from the future, the footnotes, the semi-poetic shifting of text during key moments. One or two of those, well developed, would have served the story a lot better. I’m still not sure whether my visceral personal reaction was due to being in Leonard’s head and not liking what I saw there (i.e., effective writing) or reliance on sloppy characterizations. Perhaps it’s some complicated combination of both. I still don’t know. In the end, I think it’s a gutsy book, but a flawed one.
Nobody’s Secret by Michael MacColl: I really liked the historical mystery aspect of this book–a young girl has a brief encounter with a stranger, whose body then turns up in her family’s pond. The adults seem to not care whether his murder is solved, so she takes it on herself. The problem is, the young girl is supposed to be Emily Dickinson. This creates two issues for me. First, I simply didn’t buy that the Emily of the book was Emily Dickinson, even a younger version. Second, the process of writing poetry that was shown in the book did not ring true to me; poems which are dated years later apparently are springing fully-formed from a much younger girl’s mind.
Lulu and the Dog From the Sea by Hilary McKay: I love Hilary McKay, and I’ve been really enjoying this younger chapter book series. In this one, Lulu and family go to the sea, where Lulu encounters a wild dog and, naturally, wants to save him. I liked this one a lot, although I was personally less wild about the sections from the dog’s point of view.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff: This is a wonderfully fun graphic novel, full of hijinks and adventures. I loved the story and the art. And huge bonus points for the historical setting, Delilah’s awesomeness, and the humor. Anyone who thinks mad-cap adventures with a sword-wielding lady sounds fun should check it out.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: This is a case of wanting to like a book more than I actually did. I loved the world and the set-up, and I really liked Tana. But…something about it just left me cold–I was never fully engrossed in the story. The closest I can come is to say that the romance really didn’t work for me because I did not understand what Tana saw in Gabriel. I did like the relationship between Tana and Adrian, which seemed complex and complicated and interesting. This is one I suspect will work for a lot of people, and I’m glad that it does. It just didn’t work for me, and again, I’m still struggling to say why.
Between the Forest and the Hills by Ann Lawrence: Charlotte mentioned this one at some point and I got it from inter-library loan. I’m really glad I did! It’s a lovely, quiet, old-fashioned middle grade book, about a small Roman-British town in the days after Rome has left. I loved the characters, and the setting, and the humor, and just the flavor of it. If you’re looking for something a little slower and quieter, I highly recommend this historical fiction.
Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett: I still missed the competent and resourceful Captain Vimes. But I did like the developing relationships between the different Watchmen (and Watchwomen).
Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw: The second in Bradshaw’s Arthurian trilogy. It’s told from the point of view of Rhys, Gwalchmai’s servant. I thought the point of view shift was interesting; in some ways I missed the immediacy of Gwalchmai’s narration, but I liked seeing the point of view of someone different, and of a different class. The fact that the names are the same as in Elizabeth Wein’s Arthurian books continues to mess with my head. (I keep expecting Medraut to be, you know, Medraut. And he’s really really not.)
Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann: Another Cybils book. I appreciated the intent of this one, but it really didn’t work for me. Too many Issues, and not enough complexity. On the most simple level, a picture of a young girl on the autistic spectrum, it does work, but the other characters weren’t convincing. I’m sure there are readers who will really connect with this book, but for me it isn’t one I could whole-heartedly love.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman: A very cute story from Gaiman, with a wild, building on itself plot. Lots of fun, and one I expect will be enjoyed by many a child (it seems like the most child-friendly of any of Gaiman’s kids books to date).
Her Mother’s Secret by Barbara Polikoff: A Cybils book. Historical fiction, based on the life of one of the author’s relatives. The details of 1890s life in Chicago were interesting, as were the details of the Jewish immigrant experience. But it never completely gripped me, and the writing was occasionally shaky enough to be a problem. I would say that if you’re interested in the time or setting, or Jane Addams and Hull House, it would be worth reading.
Saints and Boxers by Gene Luen Yang: I read these two-volume set because it’s on the Printz Blog’s longlist. Gene Luen Yang does a wonderful job of setting up the story, telling it from two points of view and valuing them both. We can understand and sympathize with the motives of both main characters. I do think that, from the Printz perspective, it suffers from being split into two separate books, even though I actually love the format simply as a reader.
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian: A Cybils book. In some ways, I wish that this book had a different title, because I suspect it has turned off some readers who would otherwise try it. And it’s well worth a try. Evan’s narration is fantastic–the layers of it, the way he is struggling to rebuild his life, the fact that he is both open and closed off, both hurtful and hurting. He’s a wonderfully complex character, as are most of the other characters in the book. It’s a very strong title, and I’d encourage those of you who like contemporary books that take on hard things to give this one a try.
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil: Another Cybils book. I very much enjoyed this contemporary Australian title. (Are they just exporting the good ones to the US, or are Australian writers all excellent?) The story was fresh and funny, and I did buy the nerdiness of the characters (sometimes I am a little more dubious when this kind of plotline comes up). It wasn’t a hugely deep book, but I do think it’s one a lot of readers will enjoy.