All posts in: book awards

17 Dec 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

#6: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

I know, I know: the least shocking addition to this list. The inclusion of John Green’s latest is probably only surprising to those who did not laugh at this article about 2012’s most overlooked books. Seriously – how can a book that got a full page review in Entertainment Weekly and named Best Book of 2012 by Time Magazine be considered overlooked?

Sometimes I forget how small the kid lit/YA lit-o-sphere really is. We are a small portion of the population. We are growing, but still mostly overlooked. In The Fault in Our Stars, Green writes a satisfying, emotionally complex follow-up to three previous satisfying and emotionally complex novels. But he also did something with TFioS and Hazel and all those nerdfighters to capture a bit of the mainstream limelight. That is great. Welcome to the fold, new friends.

To be honest, I am 100% glad that I don’t need to write this post right now, that I have already read and reviewed this book many, many months ago. I am having a tough time thinking about it, a tough time wanting to write about good books – happy or sad – a tough time thinking that this world is a good place. I mean, I know we are all stuck here and need to make the most of it, but you know, there is just so much tragedy. I spent all weekend trying to enjoy a weekend with my future in-laws without fixating on twenty small children and their families, and then my grandmother died. I am headed to Ohio tomorrow, and maybe in a few months I should re-read this book and learn something about grief and life, but for now, I can’t. I can just keep trying to write these barely-reviews and go to work and shop for gifts and keep my head up.


I don’t feel like I am qualified to write a decent “review” of this book because yes, I am a full-fledged John Green fan-girl.

To my credit, I was a fan-girl before it was actually normal to say you were a fan-girl of John Green (iosome people prefer the term “nerdfighter”). No, I was just an adoring college student with a very tiny literary/not-so-literary crush on an author and his work.

But let me tell you this: despite years now of fan-girl-dom, I find that the more I read Green’s books, the more I like them. The more meaning I find within them. The more they stir up my emotions. I first read Looking for Alaska when I was a senior in high school; last summer I read it for the umpteenth time for a class and found myself Crying While Using Public Transportation.

Despite the near-continual hype – the tour bus, the video blogs, the thousands of signed books – Green continues to deliver.

The Fault in Our Stars put my little bit of Looking for Alaska train-boo-hooing to shame. Narrator 16-year-old Hazel has cancer. For three years, she submits to the gamut of painful treatments, comes very close to dying, and transforms from a normal teen to a sick one. She does survive, but only by the benefit of an experimental treatment and constant oxygen supplementation – she’s still frail, but now she’s isolated too. But when her parents force her to attend a kids-with-cancer support group, Hazel meets Augustus – a cute osteosarcoma survivor with a prosthetic leg who sets his sights on Hazel.

They fall in love. They take a trip to Amsterdam to track down Hazel’s favorite reclusive author. They get sicker, they get better, they get sicker, they get better. But even when they get better, there’s always the promise of getting sicker. And if they get sicker, there’s the promise of dying too soon.

Of course, this is also a very sharp, deeply funny novel. It’s not all kids-with-cancer. But what Green captures brilliantly here is that even when your daily life/immediate thoughts are not about suffering and unfairness and the insane brevity of life and death… your life is still about cancer and suffering and unfairness and the insane brevity of life and death. When you are a kid with cancer, these things are just closer to the surface. In many ways, this book reminded me not of other young adult fiction, but of books like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking; narratives that transcend narrative and become primers for death, grief, and, ultimately, life.

So go read this book and laugh and cry because… yeah. Life. That’s it.

16 Dec 2012

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

#7: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Once upon a time there was a bandwagon that I was too stubborn and busy to jump on, even though all of my reader-friends who know me the best tried over and over again to pull me up along with them. Then Ms. Perkins finally showed up on a syllabus, and y’all know about me and syllabi – I obey, I follow, I worship.

The name of that bandwagon? Stephanie Perkins.

Now, I earlier this week I told a lie. When talking about how much I liked Anna’s follow-up – Lola and the Boy Next Door – I said that I am always looking for romance authors that I liked as much as Sarah Dessen. This is false. I am interested in new contemporary YA romances, but I rarely actually read them. I do not know why. Maybe because I am busy reading other stuff. Maybe because I am busy re-reading actual Sarah Dessen books. Maybe because I don’t feel like I need a “new” Sarah Dessen, because, um, she’s still writing new books regularly.

Or maybe because every time a new romance comes out, everyone insists that “fans of Sarah Dessen will just love this!” and then I read it and wonder what Dessen these reviewers are reading. Just because there is a boy and a girl who fall in love by the end of the book does not make the book any good.

We have established that I am a weird, old curmudgeon about teen romances, which makes me even weirder and curmudgeonly. That being said, Stephanie Perkins completely deserves any Dessen-related comparison. The bandwagon was right, and I am 100% on board.

Anna and the French Kiss has A Girl – Anna, senior, daughter of divorced parents, one of which is a fictionalized Nicholas Sparks of a Dad who thinks sending his daughter to a Paris boarding school for her senior year against her will is a grand idea. She has a best friend and an almost boyfriend at home in Atlanta. She loves films (not movies). She does not speak French.

Anna and the French Kiss also has A Boy – Etienne, senior, son of divorced parents – mother who raised him in LA, wealthy, douchey Parisien Dad.

Anna starts to fall for Etienne, a little bit, but of course Etienne has a girlfriend, and then we have a number of conflicts and oh-they-might-kiss!! moments and later, rinse, repeat, romance.

This could be any not-so-great romance, though. Perkins does the genre its due, yes, but also nails Anna’s narrative voice – quiet but likeable, tentative but not shy, trying to simultaneously discover her interests and motives while navigating the new waters of boarding school without dismantling longstanding social structures (see: Etienne & Girlfriend). The story is well-paced, the writing is smart, the characters are fun and likeable and realistic.

And – get this – you get this weird impression, as you read, that Anna and Etienne, those destined lovers you know will fall in love/hook up/get married before the end of the book? It seems that they actually like each other. This is what makes for a sizzling romance, in my eyes – the slow attraction, the wavering affections, that transition between nothing to friends, friends to more. Nothing Bella & Edward, no Perfect Chemistry.

Call me an old curmudgeon if you want.

But I think Maureen Johnson’s blurb really says it best:

“Very sly. Very funny.Very romantic. You should date this book.”

15 Dec 2012

Rookie Yearbook One edited by Tavi Gevinson

#8: Rookie Yearbook One edited by Tavi Gevinson

Look, guys. I am not cool enough to be into fashion, wear clothes that are not from American Eagle, or even watch Project Runway. I can’t even watch What Not to Wear, really.  I remember when the Internet was abuzz with “Oooh, Tavi Gevinson, 13-year-old fashion blogger who everyone mysteriously thinks is legit!” If it had been any type of blogger other than fashion, I would have have been all over it. But no, not cool enough for normal fashion, much less high fashion. Not interested.

Then, I started using tumblr (it’s okay, don’t worry, I don’t any more, really) and the twisted web of blogging and reblogging, I was led to rookiemag – the visuals, interviews with celebrities I actually care about, and topics of articles caught my eye. When I was taking my Young Adult Fiction class this past Spring, and I spent a lot of time thinking about websites and alternative print sources that teens would be into, that I would be into as a teen, Rookie Mag was on my mind.

It took me many months to realize that it was Tavi Gevinson, magical child blogger, who was behind the reigns. And until I read this article in the Washington Post about her (non-creepy) mentoring relationship with Ira Glass did I think about what an accomplishment this whole Rookie non-franchise is.

Rookie Yearbook One is a print collection of Rookie’s first year as an online magazine for teen girls. It’s impressively large –  a fun book to hold in your lap and to flip through like a magazine, but it’s still THICK with writing. Not necessarily meant for the read-straight-through – I wanted to, but my mind and then my arms would get a bit tired.

The types of articles are various, but in a magazine-like fashion, stick to a few formats and topics – interviews with off-beat celebrities, advice for social situations and coping, tributes to people and things the editors love, autobiographical guest articles about anything teen. Love, sex, boys, make up, fashion, things that are pink – all of these are present and accounted for.

But I can’t express to you enough how far, far away Rookie is from mainstream teen journalism. It is obvious that Ms. Gevinson has absorbed a bit of the 1990s zine culture here – the layouts, the fonts, the art feels homemade, like it is trying to be homemade. The Rookie team also has its own little landscape of pop culture influence that they have adopted as patron saints – movies, television shows, books, musicians, actors standing in for the broader swath of celebrity represented in traditional teen rags… pop culture that I relate to more than what is presented to me in Cosmopolitan… which could be why I find Rookie personally satisfying.

But beyond my own interests, by creating a little well-designed, curated sub-culture in Rookie, Gevinson and pals are speaking to teen girls in a way that the media doesn’t often speak to them: honestly, with a surprising amount of levity, and without the kind of corporate, stereotypical assumptions about teen girls and what they are into. No “Fifty Ways To Get a Guy to Notice You” articles, but maybe one about “How to Actually Speak to The Person You Are Romantically Interested in.”

Or an article about what kinds of food to eat in the middle of the night when you are hungry.

Or a five page essay on why Joni Mitchell is amazing.

Basically, I love Rookie as a theoretical piece of media, and also loved reading it, even though I am neither a teenager nor cool enough. Whatever.


14 Dec 2012

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

#9: Titanic: Voices from the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

Not to pat myself too hard on the back, but this year, I’ve been a pretty good little blogger. I’ve posted regularly and written about a great many books that I’ve read. But now I am faced with the dilemma of loving books that I’ve already reviewed, extensively. Is it journalistically appropriate to re-post reviews? Should I think of some more blather to add to a previous review? Never mind the fact that I probably found the impetus to write so much as I was doing last year’s awards, wishing that I’d had already written up some reviews instead of waiting until the end of the year.

But no more hemming and hawing – too much hemming and hawing does not a good little blogger make. What follows is my original review. I read it in June; six months later, I still remember how easy this book was to read, and how well it was designed and organized. I don’t remember all of the stories and information Hopkinson crams into such a small book, but maybe that means it’s time for a re-read?


When I really love a non-fiction book, I sometimes get confused as to whether I really love the subject matter, or really love the book itself. Some stories are just so interesting, writing takes a definite backseat to content.

I feel like the Titanic is a good example of how this can backfire. The sinking of a giant, luxury ocean-liner is so compelling that almost any article/book/play/movie is going to illicit some kind of emotional tug… but after so many years, I think the vast majority of Titanic literature – especially for kids – is probably relying on the content to carry a lackluster literary execution.

One of the many books published in honor of the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, I think, is a rare success at both. As a non-fiction text for kids, the information is accessible and understandable, the narrative engaging, and the scope neither too broad or too narrow for the audience. (Can you tell I just took a course on nonfiction for kids? Oy vey…)

And just because it is a nonfiction book for kids doesn’t mean that Hopkinson’s treatment of this tragedy glosses over any of the rougher details. No, there is no gore, no descriptions of people sliding down the decks to their doom, but there is all sorts of heaping pain, here. Hopkinson really digs into that pain – exploring the experiences of all sorts of Titanic travelers. And more than that, Hopkinson calls attention to the questions of responsibility here that I think is unique for a book with a young audience. When a tragedy like this occurs, who is to blame? The very experienced captain who pushed the boat to higher speeds than was perhaps prudent? The nearby boat that heard Titanic’s calls for help but did not come to assist? The boat designer for creating a floating death trap, basing many assumptions on “best case” disaster scenarios rather than worse? The lack of safety regulations and practices? There are no right answers – Hopkinson lays out the facts plainly, without bias – but asks the young reader to think critically about these questions themselves. And maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it’s a question of fate. The overwhelming tragedy is present here, too, invoking both the drama of the story as well as the emotional arc.

I was in seventh grade when the Titanic movie was released – prime age for weeping in the theater over a frozen Leonardo DiCaprio. I still love the movie, but after reading Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, I’m finding the actual events more fascinating than a Hollywood-style, fabricated love story. And with Hopkinson’s wealth of interviews, archival material, and photographs, this book feels almost as alive as a film.



12 Dec 2012

2012 Best MG/YA Nonfiction Reads

Quick disclaimer: these nonfiction books (as well as all the other books included in this Extravaganza) have been selected not based on any professional criteria other than my own enjoyment. This is by no mean a definitive report – in fact, I read two brand new nonfiction books since I set up this post a few hours ago that I might have liked better. Also, I had an extreme problem picking just four and have second, third, and fourth guessed my own choices. Sooo… here we go!

Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for Cure

by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank

What keeps me coming back to nonfiction is the fun of exploring something entirely new that you never new existed before you cracked open the book. The lure is important though – some books can feel dry or off-putting and reading feels more like homework than like fun. Some adult nonfic lures me, but on the whole, nonfic for kids and teens does the lure-in so much better. If I like a book, and it’s about something really weird, then I give the book that much more credit. See: tuberculosis. If you have been in my life lately, you will have observed me throwing tuberculosis, weird old medicine, and the dangers of antibiotic resistant microbes into casual conversation. Aren’t you glad you don’t actually know me in real life and have to talk to me? More ramblings here.

Tales from the Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest with

Pete Athans

by Sandra K. Athans

Extreme mountain climbing has been a popular topic for nonfiction and memoirs for a number of years, but I am pretty much not interested. Too macho? Maybe. Mostly, I think that mountain climbing just sounds like a bad idea; expensive, cold, dangerous… all adjectives I avoid in my daily life. However, I found this slim nonfiction title about climbing Mt. Everest to be completely interesting, maybe because it was so straight forward and detailed – minimal machismo. Athans walks the reader through each rest area and pass, talking about the landscape, the health challenges that climbers face, and basically takes the reader along the journey up the mountain. Sidebars that retell dangerous and heroic and tragic moments inject just enough suspense. Maybe next year I will finally get around to reading Into Thin Air.

The Mighty Mars Rover:

The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity

by Elizabeth Rusch

I live with a space and science geek, so I opened this book having a small inkling of how FASCINATING and AMAZING our space journeys have been during the past 8+ years. But I had no idea that we’ve had two crazy robots rolling around on Mars for SIX YEARS! Also, that they are adorable and there are bunches of scientists who have devoted their professional lives to crafting and caring for them, even though they are oh, on a different planet. Also to note: robots that can only roll a few feet a day should not be this interesting – kudos to Rusch for turning wheels in the sand into something page-flippingly interesting.

And I hope that Spirit comes back to life.

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95

by Phillip Hoose

Birds. Books. Battlestar Galactica.

We may have reached the slap-happy point of this exercise.

I just talked about this book last week. My opinions still stand. Also, Mr. Hoose has informed me that I need to go look at some birds, so I will go consult with Peach – I’m pretty sure she knows where all the good bird-viewing windows are.


Up next… THE TOP TEN! Dun dun dun… catch up here.

11 Dec 2012

Best Re-Reads of 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

As a lifelong, persistent reader of YA, there is something quite strange about re-reading a book that I read when I was actually a teen. I can see the gaps in my reading – things I missed, things I thought were one way but ended up another. And sometimes books disappoint – fatal flaws, annoyances, show themselves to Adult Jessica where Teen Jessica didn’t notice. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, however, does not disappoint. This was my third reading, and it’s such a small, thoughtful, complex little book that stands the test of Teen Jessica.

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

A few years ago I decided I wanted to re-read the Sarah Dessen oeuvre, but I severely overestimated my free-reading time during grad school. I could sneak in a book here or there, but 10 books? Consecutively? No. So my re-read project is now taking a number of years. This is another Re-teen Re-Read, one that actually improved upon a re-read. More about that here. And I really need to get a new hobby other than Dessen-gushing, I know. I’m a sad soul.

Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

What’s weirder than a Re-teen Re-Read? Re-reading books you loved when you were eleven-years-old. Oh, Alice. I don’t know why I decided to pick this up a few months ago – I’ve tried to re-read Alice before and never made it further than the first two, so I thought I’d jump in where I hadn’t been in years. And gee golly, I just like Alice an awful lot. She is smart and punchy and nervous and fun. She invites her seventh grade English teacher on a date with her Dad, for goodness sake! Yes, the series kind of morphs into an elongated YA after-school special, but these early Alice books are still golden in their own retro kind of way.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I am really not going to bore you with any more Happiness Project related analysis, complaints, conversation, championing, etc. You can get that herehere and even here. I will just say that I decided to re-read this book at an excitingly stressful time of my 2012, and it made feel more grounded, in control, and yes, happy.


Up next… KIDS’ NONFICTION! Get excited.

09 Dec 2012

Best Adult Reads of 2012

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

It’s not often that eighteen-year-old girls are handed the chance to make loads of money on the sheer benefit of being young and beautiful. Modeling. Reality shows. After leaving home at seventeen and dropping out of NYU theater the next year, Lauren steps slowly into the sex industry – a waitress, a dancer, and escort. So when she aces an “audition” that ends up being a screening for future harem girls for the Prince of Brunei, it doesn’t seem so far out of the realm of possibility. Maybe even fun, to be pampered for months overseas, and to be paid handsomely for it. This could easily be a salacious tell-all of a story – that would be fascinating enough, right? But instead, Lauren crafts a true literary memoir; the big “reveals” of harem life are experienced through Lauren’s own innocent eyes, her own personal growth (or not) reliant on her successes in the harem and out. It’s a fast read, a fascinating read, but more meaty than you’d expect.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

I have expressed my complicated fondness for Rubin’s Happiness Project many times on this blog. I found her follow-up – Happier at Home to strike up similar emotions. As the title would imply, Rubin’s focus is narrower in this second book, focusing on how her physical space, family activities, and personal attitudes can impact happiness. I like this because I am a big, fat homebody. I also roll my eyes at this because Rubin’s agenda seems Upper-Class-Super-Privileged-White-Family-Living-in-Manhattan enough without a chapter on scented candles. But at the same time, I just ate it up. I am a fickle creature. Rubin herself justifies the decision to write yet another personal memoir, despite implications of banality or self-centeredness, by asserting that she herself learns more from reading “one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences” than anything else, and thus offers her own idiosyncrasies to the mix. And maybe that’s why I hang on to this questionable love for Rubin’s work – she is reviving the spirit of Benjamin Franklin, the new/old art-form of the domestic memoir.

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

You probably know Alison Bechdel from her brilliant, almost Gothic memoir, Fun Home. Or maybe you’ve heard of this thing called the Bechdel test? Either or, Bechdel is in fact a woman of known genius. Are You My Mother is her follow up, another graphic memoir that gives the same raw, detailed attention to her mother that Fun Home gives to her father. Are You My Mother is more cerebral, more academic than Fun Home – more about an adult coming to terms with a childhood than with a child living through it, which makes for a denser, less palatable read. I could handle three, four pages at a time before my brain was full. But oh, when I finished, it felt like a true accomplishment, finished something meaty and rich. Warning, though: if you are a smart oldest child, you will probably pathologize yourself and want to run out and read The Drama of the Gifted Child and cry.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I managed to sneak one in under the wire, simply because once I started reading, stopping was not much of an option. I won’t say much, since everyone and their best friend has read this book and has something to say about it. Also: spoilers. But what made this book stand out beyond just another Murder-Mystery-Suspense-Fiction title? Flynn has managed to write a MurderMysterySuspenseFiction title where characters are motivated by more than the typical human tendency toward rage, passion, madness, and self-interest… but are also motivated by the deep insecurities and pain we feel in our major relationships, pain we don’t dare speak aloud. This book twisted me up, because the rantings of insane, reckless people were also things I would write in my own diary. Well played, Flynn.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Look, guys. Despite what I try to convince myself, I like books that have entire chapters devoted to scented candles. Books with pink covers. Home decorating, cookbooks, midwife memoirs. My reading tastes generally veers toward the feminine.

So it takes a lot to get me into a book that celebrates the macho. And as Bourdain exposes, the world of commercial cooking is decidedly macho. A haven for the macho, perhaps, full of sex and drugs and staying up all night and day and unspeakable filth and health code violations. And yes, Bourdain is macho, full of sex and drugs etc, but he’s also a funny, respectful, and forthcoming guide into this underworld, capturing the grit of this culinary landscape while still managing to make even me, girly, wimpy me, think that working in a kitchen might be amazing.

Not that I would. But I entertain the fantasy. I watch No Reservations.

In summary, I have a heaping crush on Anthony Bourdain.

Up next… Books I’ve Already Read! Because why stop at just once!

09 Dec 2012

Best YA Fiction of 2012

The List by Siobhan Vivian

The week before Mount Washington High’s homecoming, the list appears. Again. Just like every year, the list provides the names of the Prettiest and Ugliest girls in each grade. And just like every year, nobody knows where this list comes from.

Ambitiously, Vivian tells the stories of all eight girls – eight alternating POVs, just wrap your head around that one for a second. This book could have collapsed at any point, imploded into a confusing puddle of nonsense. But somehow, Vivian pulls off eight distinct characters, eight distinct POVs that you can keep straight, eight well-developed characters.

When juggling this many characters, it’s natural that some will feel more compelling or interesting than others, but regardless of what I thought of each individual character, the whole was greater than the sum of the parts for me. The combination of voices calls attention to the ways these very different girls are the same; the list calls attention to the ways these similarities often relate to a misguided sense of self and learning to live under the male gaze.

But I am making this sound ridiculous and philosophical. It’s fascinating, yes, but it’s also a mystery. I read the last few chapters at the edge of my seat, no idea who the secret list writer could be.

Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf

Some time deep into our August trip home – hours upon hours upon hours in the car – we ran out of music to listen to. The Boy put on the same playlist of Beatles songs we’d listened to countless times before. “Does it annoy you that I listen to so much of The Beatles?” he asked, and I laughed, laughed, laughed in his face. I love The Beatles, I do. If I had to pick a single artist to soundtrack the rest of my life, that would be fine.

Years ago, I read my first Elizabeth Partridge – John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth, my official indoctrination into Beatles history and lore. Baby’s in Black hones in on the earliest years of The Beatles, back when they were playing seedy bars in Berlin, back when there was a fifth Beatle named Stuart Sutcliffe. Stuart and his German girlfriend, Ingrid, are the stars of this book, but the other Beatles lurk around the pages along with Beatles lyrics, lore, and iconic imagery. Did I mention this is a graphic novel? It is indeed – all black and white and gray and moody and delicious. So you might like it even if you don’t give two rips about The Beatles, just sayin’. Also just sayin’: it made me cry.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Finally discovering Stephanie Perkins was a bright spot in a cold, sad kind of January. Lola is a likeable, somewhat mercurial artist-type with grand plans to build an epic Marie Antoinette costume. When she’s not crafting crazy outfits, Lola works at the movie theater, fights with her two dads, and hangs out with her sexy older boyfriend. THEN! Everything gets turned around when her twin next door neighbors move back in – one twin who used to be her best friend, the other who maybe was in love with her or maybe she was in love with him, and wow, that guy shouldn’t be moving in next door to a girl who already has a sex older boyfriend.

Good romantic fun. I’d been looking for an another author to live up to my Sarah-Dessen standards, and she finally came along. I look forward to years of fan-girl fun!

The Ivy by Lauren Kunze and Rina Onur

Sometimes, you love a ridiculous book.

The Ivy is about some characters who I’m sure have personalities, motivations, names. But no, it’s not about any of that, it’s about Harvard. It’s not even about Harvard, really – it’s about how bizarre social structures and habits look like from the outside, and how crucial and important it all seems when you are living them, especially when you are living them as an 18-year-old.

Okay, I gotta stop trying to be so abstract. The Ivy is about Dinner clubs and Your Rich Roommate and smoking weed in your dorm room and how weird it is to be a college freshman, especially in such a weird place as Harvard.

Also: ridiculous.

The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf

I keep forgetting that this book isn’t one of the billions and billions of nonfiction books in my life. It is researched, based in fact, about a famously-real historical incident, and the characters are mostly people who existed in life. But nope, this is fiction – a delightfully fictionalized true story, written in verse nonetheless. Longer review here. This is a book that I didn’t want to put down, but also didn’t want to finish out of sheer dread. A book that I shared with my significant other, read aloud. A book that I once left in the basement of my place of work and even though I knew it would mean speaking with someone I didn’t really like, I called work immediately to make sure my book was found and wasn’t accidentally sold (I worked at a bookstore, it could happen).

Now excuse me, I think Titanic just came on HBO…

Up next… Books for Adults!

07 Dec 2012

Best Reads of 2012

Welcome to my Best Reads of 2012 extravaganza! I am glad to have you. I hope you are not suffering from End of the Year Book List Fatigue. Personally, I don’t think that such fatigue is possible – if you claim to possess it, you are probably also a practicing hypochondriac, so I do not believe you.

These books are my favorites that I’ve read in 2012, but not limited to books published in 2012, because that list would be very short and wouldn’t be very much fun for me to curate.

I have a full-time job now, and I am still reading like a freak for Cybils, so you will have to wait until tomorrow for the fun to start.

You will also have to deal with my questionable graphic design skills. Ah, last year I had just moved my blog to this new space and I was all hearts and rainbows and Photoshop – I was going to have the prettiest blog in town! Look how the mighty have fallen – not only is my blog mostly the same, I have been doomed to using Powerpoint to craft all of my amateurish images.

Also worth noting, read that last linked post carefully for some heavy career foreshadowing! Creeepy…. also I should probably edit that up quickly.

ANYWAY, on with the show? I’m excited. I read some good books this year. Here is a schedule of upcoming events. Pencil them into your calendar.


Saturday, December 8thBest Middle Grade Fiction Reads

Sunday, December 9thBest Young Adult Fiction Reads

Monday, December 10thBest Adult Reads

Tuesday, December 11thBest Re-reads

Wednesday, December 12thBest Kid’s Nonfiction Reads (special Cybils edition!!)


Thursday, December 13th through Friday, December 21stTop 10 Best Reads!


10. Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

9. Titanic: Voices From the Disaster by Deborah Hopkinson

8. Rookie Yearbook One edited by Tavi Gevinson

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

5. Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach

4. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

3. Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

2. Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet

1. Habibi by Craig Thompson



All books, all the time, until Christmas. At which point we will all receive a stack of holiday gift books, and read ourselves into a stupor until the New Year.

Exactly how life should be.

See you tomorrow!

11 Oct 2012

2012 National Book Awards

It should not surprise me at all that I have not read a single book nominated for this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. I am usually lucky to have read one book on any given set of award-winning books, and the NBAs are always a titch more obscure than the rest of the bunch, including books I haven’t even heard of.

But this year’s picks seemed an especially quirky bunch. A middle grade fantasy full of unpronounceable character names. A sad-looking YA contemporary I would have probably passed over for more exciting pastures. Another book by a previously-honored kidlit celeb. The token non-fiction offering. And a book that seems to be about people and monkeys.

I’m sorry, after muddling through Peter Dickinson’s Eva, I’m not sure I can bring myself to read another book about people and monkeys without fearing that the people might turn into monkeys at any moment.

And of course, none of which I have read. Ah, well. Better luck in January!

Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Out of Reach by Carrie Arcos

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick