Tuesday, January 26, 2016

TTT: Spies and Sneaky Times

This week's TTT topic: This week is a freebie so I've decided to do Books with Spies and Sneaky Times since that is one of my favorite types of book to read. That is the only common thread for most of these books. They are all very different in the ways they use these tropes.

 The Queen's Thief Series by Megan Whalen Turner: Because you know a list without these books is almost impossible for me to make, but they really do set the bar for spies, sneaky times, and all the political intrigue there is.

The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope: This is a tale of American Revolutionary War spies. Trust me when I say you will never find a more swoon worthy British soldier trying to hinder the Revolution anywhere else.

 Mara Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw: Mara is one amazingly crafty sneaky girl. There is plenty of political intrigue and romance to make me happy in this one too.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Spies who will make you cry.

Kiki Strike Series by Kirsten Miller: Books full of awesome girls doing amazing clever things while being sneaky, saving the world, and running their world.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy: The classic spy novel that makes my heart happy every time I read it.

The Lion Hunters Series by Elizabeth Wein: Elizabeth Wein is just really good at this spy thing and these are all magnificent.

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge: It's hard to be a spy when you show your every emotion on your face. Neverfell's story is captivating and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson: Excellent MG sneaky school story sneaky times can be found here.

Secretes of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire: My newest favorite to use what I love well and with a great deal of creativity and adventure. 

Do you like stories with spies and intrigue? What are some of your favorites? 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Mystery of Hollow Places

I love a good mystery story, but I admit to being kind of picky in my literary detectives. The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos was intriguing enough in its premise that I knew I wanted to read it.

Imogene has no  memory of her mother. All she has the story fanciful story her father has told her since she was little of how they met and fell in love. Her father was a forensic pathologist and her mother was there to identify a body. When Imogene's father goes missing, he believes one clue behind with Imogene. A clue Imogene is convinced is meant to lead her to both her parents. With the help of her friend Imogene begins to look into her mother's past and follow a trail of clues that will hopefully lead her to the answers she's always pretended she didn't need.

Imogene has spent her entire life never getting too close to anyone. She convinced herself that her dad was enough. She didn't need the risk. As a result, Immogen looks at most of her relationships as mutualism. She has a pretty amazing best friend who she is judgmental and dismissive of most of the time. Until she needs her help. Imogene is incredibly selfish and self-centered. It makes her incredibly real, but also frustrating to be in her head sometimes. However, there was a lot about her I understood and appreciated too particularly regarding her relationship with books. And Podos does not allow Imogene to escape the consequences of her selfishness and has her grow from the things she learns about herself and her relationships with other people. Jessa may be a better best friend to Imogene than Imogene is to her, but I enjoyed watching Imogene realize that and see that growth. Lindi, her stepmom, also suffers from the walls Imogene has put up in her mind and heart against others. Their relationship also undergoes changes and Imogene's appreciation of her stepmother grows as the story progresses. I really enjoyed this book for these relationships in particular, but also that it was so much about relationships in general. I also thoroughly appreciated how the relationship between Imogene and Jessa's brother, Imogene's long time crush, resolved. It was a unique and refreshing thing to see in a YA novel.

Both Imogene's parents suffer from depression or a disease that influences their behavior and emotions. Not having experienced what either of them do, I can not speak to how well this is handled for their particular diagnoses. I do like how the book portrayed the need for and helpfulness of therapy and medication. It really stressed how bad it is to trust your emotions and thoughts and how important taking the meds for continued health are.

The mystery of the book is not nearly as important as Imogene's personal journey. She isn't the detective she thinks herself, but her investigation and the way the author revealed each piece of the puzzle kept me riveted and reading. My big problem with the book is the end is a little too wrapped up. I would have preferred the end without the very last chapter (which is very much an epilogue even if it's not really called an epilogue). Imogene's character development up to that point was clear. Enough was figured out and set in motion for a hopeful future. The last chapter overdid that. This made me sad as the book was incredibly well executed up to that point.

The Mystery of Hollow Places is a book I definitely recommend to those who enjoy good character stories and puzzles.

I read an ARC provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. The Mystery of Hollow Places is on sale January 26th.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

TTT: Most Recent Additions to my TBR

This week's TTT topic: Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to My TBR

I'm going the very literal route of putting the last 10 books I added.

 What are some recent adds to your TBR?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Queen's Thief News!

Finally. Sort of.

Today on her blog Monica Edinger posted about a conversation she had with someone who knows (apparently) that said:

"…. a little bird told me the next two are in the home stretch of being finished and coming out in the near future*.  First the publisher will reissue the original four to bring a new generation of readers to them and then….numbers five and six. "

Five and six. Five AND six. FIVE AND SIX.

To say I'm excited it is an understatement. Even with just as vague news as this is, I'm over the moon. As is the best half of my Twitter feed, which I think is a testament to just how amazing, wonderful, and unique these books are. How absolutely perfect they are.

If you haven't read them yet, you should. I've never written reviews of them here because they are too special to me, but the best and least spoilery motivation is still The Book Smugglers review of the first three books from 2009. Now is a good time to get started if you haven't.

*whispers* Those covers are so beautiful and make me feel things. I'm very nervous about that "reissue" word.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

TTT 2015 Releases I Meant to Get to But Didn't

This week's TTT topic: 2015 Releases I Meant to Get to But Didn't

I'm making these a priority for the first few months this year.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Youth Media Awards Announced

I confessed in my looking ahead post on Friday that I was nervous about this year's awards. Last year was an amazing year in which so many committees thought outside the box and broke new ground. The winners across the board were so diverse. I was nervous because I didn't want a return to the status quo.

And I am so pumped that we didn't get one.


Congratulations Matt De La Peña!!! This book also won a Caldecott Honor.

Newbery Honors include: Echo, The War That Saved My Life, and Roller Girl

I LOVE Roller Girl. It is by far my favorite graphic novel of 2015. I didn't list it in my hopes for the award because I honestly didn't think that the committee would award a graphic novel two years in a row. I've never been happier to be wrong. My daughter squealed and bounced so hard at this announcement. I read this book in the first place because she literally followed me around the house with it for days begging me to.

Thanks to the Newbery Committee for their hard work this year.

Even more exciting to me is the Printz Award Winner. I think I've made it abundantly clear in numerous posts how I feel about this book.

I'm so excited that not only a strong fantasy story won, but one that is feminist and about the struggle of all women and men against a system that subjugates women and puts them at the mercy of powerful men. That it plays with one of my favorite myths/fairy tales and highlights the very problematic aspects of those is another reason it is such a special book for me. And I love Petey and Finn forever. (And Roza and Sean.) But mostly Petey and Finn. 

Jason Reynolds won TWO Coretta Scott King Honors. I said on Friday he deserved to win for both All American Boys and The Boy in the Black Suit. So happy the committee agreed with me.

Jerry Pinkney won both the Hamilton AND Wilder awards. I was a little taken aback he hadn't won either a long time ago, but YAY!

Other Random Thoughts:
Angie Manfredi said on Twitter that it is time for the Belpré Award to have a YA Award. I couldn't agree more.

The Carnegie for video went to That is Not A Good Idea and the clip they showed was ADORABLE. My kids were enchanted. They want to watch the whole thing. That book is a favorite in our house anyway. (I mean, Mo Willems so obviously.)

Both the YALSA Non-Fiction and The Sibert reminded me how much great non-fiction I missed out on reading last year. I have so much catching up to do!

Here is the complete list of awards given by ALSC.

For the life of me, I can't find a link for YALSA. If someone knows it, feel free to put it in the comments. (This kind of sums up my experiences of being a member of both organizations really.)

What are your thoughts on this morning's awards?

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Hopes for the Youth Media Awards

Monday is the day. The Academy Awards of children's literature will occur in Boston at 8:00 AM. The past two years I've had the privilege of being in the room when they were announced. There is nothing quite like that experience, and if  you ever get the chance to attend, I highly recommend it. This year I will be watching the live stream at home with my kids. (They look forward to this and have missed it the past couple of years when I've been gone.) I will also be live tweeting it as always.

Here I will share my hopes for this year's winners. (NOT PREDICTIONS. Hopes.) This is an odd year for me. I find myself with no book I absolutely want to win the Newbery this year. Much to my dismay there are more books I have a fervent desire to see NOT win. I don't know if this is due to my massive reading slump this year (or if the books are the cause of the reading slump). It's possibly due to the some of the stuff I've seen go down in the wider community this year. Last year's awards were amazing. All of the committees thought outside the box and there was so much diversity. I'm almost scared Monday will see us take a huge step backwards. Hopefully not.

My Favorites:

My Dark Horse Contenders (I have less hope for these, but whoa would it be nice. But genre fiction.):

My Favorites: 

My Dark Horse Contenders (I don't know that anyone has mentioned either as a contender, but both deserve more acclaim than I've seen them get.): 
In the end all six of these may be too hopeful for the award I often refer to as the Printz Award for the Dark and Depressing.

My top pick would be for Jason Reynolds to win for author. He had two amazing books this year, one he was co-author of, but still. Even with just The Boy in the Black Suit, he deserves it.

Other strong contenders:

For Author I want Daniel José Older to win.

This is one of my favorite awards to hear announced every year because it is often a delightful surprise. I feel like most of the books I read this year that would be logical choices felt problematic in one way or another though. For teen winner you could make a case for Bone Gap. But my favorite would be:

There are a couple of MG books that may cause me to throw something hard if they win. (Hey, remember that year the committee didn't award a book because they said none were worthy? That was awesome.)

I can't comment on the Sibert because I didn't read any non-fiction this year. *hangs head in shame* It was a rough year for me reading-wise!!! I do have Most Dangerous on hold at the library and it's a Steve Sheinkin book so the chances of it winning something are high.

I also have no thoughts on the Caldecott or Geisel because I have not the expertise for those.

Does anyone else have any thoughts or hopes they want to share with me?