Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Truth About Twinkie Pie

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh is a delightful read about relationships, secrets, and starting over. It is as light and fluffy as the cover implies.

GiGi (Galileo Galilei) is starting a new private school after she and her sister DiDi (Delta Dawn) move to start over. DiDi, who dropped out of school to cut hair at a young age, is insists that the future will be better for her smart sister. GiGi spends most of her time studying and working for her future. GiGi is determined to start over entirely at her new school, insisting that her new nickname will be Leia. At this school she is going to have friends and spend her free time doing a few things other than studying. On her first day GiGi is knocked over (literally) by cute popular boy, Trip, and it looks like all her dreams are going to come true. But first she has to deal with Mace, the girl shooting daggers at her every day during lunch, and DiDi's relentless need to organize her life and push it in the direction she thinks is best.

GiGi is an independent, strong-willed, often pushy girl. She is quite good at the snarky comeback and mostly unafraid to allow her opinion to be known. She and Mace, the pretty popular girl who seems unhappy about her presence at her much table, have some snappy conversations. GiGi manages comebacks most middle school girls can only dream of managing in such situations. Sometimes she doesn't know when to hold them back. I liked that GiGi was a good balance of strengths and weaknesses. She's a good friend to those who she wants to consider her friend. She can be downright mean to those she doesn't. Even when Mace shows her vulnerable side and GiGi realizes there is far more to her than she imagined, GiGi is not giving an inch. Their relationship remains fraught until the very end of the book, and I really liked the realistic tone of this. Mace does a lot to help GiGi, but its because she is really a giving and sympathetic person and not because she and GiGi have become friends.

The other characters in the book are not as well developed. I felt that most of the interactions between the middle schoolers were realistic, but their characters just don't stand out individually. I've forgotten most of their names. Trip, the cute popular boy GiGi develops a crush on, is incredibly flat. He's nice. But that's about it. DiDi is one of those quirky southern stereotypes that causes me to grit my teeth. (GiGi is as well but to a lesser extent). DiDi had me rolling my eyes on every page she was on.

The book has a pretty major twist that I saw coming from the beginning. MG readers are probably going to have their socks knocked off by it though. I feel like that twist was wrapped up a little too fast and prettily at the end. This may be because I knew it was coming and had plenty of time to ruminate on all the consequences and complications.

I do enjoy Yeh's writing and the way she pulls readers into a story. I am looking forward to seeing what her next book is like.

In the end I had mixed feelings about the book overall, but it is an enjoyable read and a decent recommendation for kids who love contemporary school stories with themes of changing friendships and complicated life situations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

TTT: Wishes From the Book Genie

This week's TTT topic: Wishes From the Book Genie

I know this is supposed to be a Top Ten, but I'm going to play by the traditional genie rules and only choose three wishes. These are the bookish wishes nearest and dearest to my heart.


Seriously. Those of us who love these books, the world, and the characters are slowly going out of our minds as we analyze the meaning behind the pictures of her coffee Megan Whalen Turner posts on Tumblr.

2. A house that contains a library like this but that is EMPTY (wait for it):

3. Unlimited funds with which to buy the books I want to fill above library. (With unlimited funds, even if they're out of print, I wills till be able to purchase exorbitantly priced collector's copies.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Blackthorn Key

I feel there is a lack of good quality MG historical fiction that is fun and adventurous, where the point isn't to teach a history lesson, but to just have a story that sweeps you up in its magic and action. The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands fills this need.

Christopher Rowe is an apothecary's apprentice in post Restoration London. He works hard, but he has a kind master who teaches him well and allows him enough free time for adventures that often end in mischief and trouble. He can't complain about his life. All of that starts to fall apart when a series of murders occur in their small corner of London. Murders that seem to be targeting apothecaries. When Christopher's master becomes the next victim, Christopher's entire future is left unsure. Worse he finds himself a suspect. As time is running out, Christopher races to find the true murder and finds himself caught in a web of politic intrigue and ancient intrigues.

Christopher is a hero whose story it is easy to get swept up in. When the reader meets him, he is trying to convince his best friend Thomas it would be a good use of their time to build a cannon. I really enjoyed the bond between Christopher and Thomas and how they behaved very much like typical kids their age. They have the responsibilities of their time and social situation that influences their life, but they are happy, active, inquisitive kids looking for ways to lighten the intensity of their days. Modern kids will be able to find much to identify with there.

The mystery aspect of the story is well done. I felt like the discoveries Christopher made were realistic enough to not stretch incredulity, but made for an adventurous read at the same time. What he was able to do and accomplish fit his character well too. He is a bright boy and is fueled by a desire to regain control of his future. It is the world's best motivator.

This is a book that is heavy with male characters. There are girls in the story who are helpful and if there is going to be a sequel, I would love to see some of them have a bigger role and importance. However, given the world in which Christopher was moving and working, the roles the girls played made sense.

As I read, I was just so excited to be reading a fun historical mystery where that was the whole point. So refreshing.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cybils Nominations One Week Left!

There is still a week left to nominate your favorites for The Cybils and there are some great books that haven't been nominated yet.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Death Marked by Leah Cypess

Dream strider by Lindsay Smith

Pure Magic by Rachel Neumeier

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett

YA Fiction
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

The Kidney Hypothetical by Lisa Yee

Kissing Ted Callahan by Amy Spalding

Love, Lucy by April Lindner

Most Likely to Succeed by Jennifer Echols

Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

MG Speculative Fiction

The Arctic Code by Matthew Kirby

Mark of the Thief Lord by Jennifer Nielsen

Omega City by Diana Peterfreund

Shadows of Sherwood  by Kekla Magoon

Villain Keeper  by Laurie McKay

MG Fiction

Best Friend Next Door by Carolyn Mackler

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quarterly Round-Up and GIVEAWAY!

It is time for the Quarterly Review Round-Up where I talk about the best of the best, the one's I couldn't finish, and the adult novels I'm reading that I don't review here. Plus there's a GIVEAWAY.

Adult Books (links to reviews on Goodreads):
Ask Me Why by Various
A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand
Red Blooded by Caitlin Sinead

The Best of the Best (where the Giveaway comes in):

Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prineas

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder

A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

Walk On Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Links to my reviews unless otherwise noted.


*Indicates later books in a trilogy or series. If you are wanting to begin with the first book and you win, I will allow you to choose that as your prize.

If you want to win one of the 4.5/5 star books I read this quarter, leave a comment below and tell me:
1) A favorite book of yours from the past few months.
2) Which of these books you are interested in if you win. (You can change your mind if you do.)
3) A way to reach you (email or Twitter handle) if you win. If you are using a Twitter handle, you may want to follow me in case I need to DM you.

Open to any reader who lives where Book Depository ships for free.

I will close this GIVEAWAY and choose a winner on Wednesday, October 8 at 8:00 PM EDT.