Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Girls Who Went Away Fascinating Look at Unwed Teen Pregnancy in a (Not So) Bygone Era

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Discovering your unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant can be a traumatic experience no matter what the circumstances. But, during more conservative decades—the 1940s, '50s, '60s and even into the '70s—it was considered so shameful that parents routinely forced their expectant daughters to hide in the house for months in order to conceal their condition from family and friends. When the girls began to show, they were often sent to homes for unwed mothers, where they stayed until they gave birth. Relatives, teachers and friends were told the absent girls were working at faraway vacation resorts or taking care of a sick auntie. Once their babies had been adopted, the new mothers were sent home with instructions to forget the children they'd borne and move on with their lives. The women did move on—graduating high school and college; establishing successful careers; dating; marrying; even having more children—but not one of them ever really forgot the babies they relinquished.

In Ann Fessler's fascinating book, The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, the author presents the stories of dozens of women who, like her own birth mother, went through this experience. Told in their own words, the women's stories are both surprising and heartbreaking, providing an astonishing picture of what life was like for unwed mothers in the era before single parenting became acceptable in society.

Although the mothers' experiences varied in many ways, there were plenty of similarities: most of the women said they received no sex education as teenagers, not from classes at school, and certainly not from their parents; most knew so little about pregnancy that they were surprised when doctors shaved them "down there," since everybody knew babies came out of their mothers' stomachs; most were bullied or guilted into placing their children for adoption; and many suffered from low self-esteem for the rest of their lives as a result of being made to feel like whores and sinners for getting pregnant before they were married. Nearly all of the women interviewed said that whether or not they would have chosen adoption had they been allowed to make the decision on their own, they would have at least liked to have been given a choice. A common feeling among them was that, because of their young age (which made them both ignorant and vulnerable), parental pressure, societal pressure, and the desire for a clean reputation, they really had little choice but to surrender their babies for adoption by "deserving" married couples.

However you feel about adoption and abortion—and, believe me, I have strong opinions on both—it's impossible not to feel empathy for these young pregnant women who faced such judgment, betrayal and even cruelty from the people who were supposed to love and care for them most. Fessler discusses the way these attitudes have changed—today's parents, for example, are encouraged to discuss sex with their children early and openly and advise their sexually-active children to at least use contraceptives—and ways in which they have not.

I don't agree with all of Fessler's conclusions, but I did find The Girls Who Went Away to be a fascinating study of America's sexual history and the way society's attitude toward unwed motherhood affected so many young girls as well as the children they bore. Fessler's own experience, which she uses to frame the others', makes the whole subject even more intimate and affecting. Overall, it's an interesting book, albeit one I ultimately found to be sad and depressing.

(Readalikes: I can't really think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language and sexual content (although not explicit)

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

Monday, January 23, 2012

With Happily Ever After As Guaranteed Destination, Readers Can Just Enjoy the Ride

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: Although this review will not contain any spoilers from Promise Canyon, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessors. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

When Clay Tahoma finally tires of his ex-wife's melodrama, he heads for the hills. Literally. As a well-respected farrier, he could land a job at any stable in California, but the idea of working with an old friend sounds most appealing. Jensen Veterinary Stables and Clinic, run by Clay's buddy Nate, sits in a beautiful, secluded spot near the small town of Virgin River. It's quiet and serene—the perfect place for Clay to hide away and lick his wounds.

It doesn't take long for Clay to notice Lilly Yahzi, a woman who's pretty enough to turn heads, strong enough to stack heavy bales of hay by herself, and too stubbornly independent to admit to needing anything at all. Lilly's half-Hopi, Clay's all Navajo; he was raised on a reservation, she wants nothing to do with her ancestral roots; he's interested in pursuing a relationship, she's not ready for that—especially not with another large, controlling Native man. She's been there, done that, got her heart shattered in the process. And yet, the two can't stop thinking about each other. With all their differences, it's obvious things wouldn't work out between Clay and Lilly. Or would they? The more the pair come to know each other, the faster the sparks between them fly. Is Clay finally ready to put his messy marriage behind him? Can Lilly learn to trust the exact kind of man who once stomped her heart so thoroughly to pieces? In the quaint little town of Virgin River, absolutely anything is possible ...

Meanwhile, Jack and the rest of the V.R. regulars are busy dealing with a large sum of money bequeathed to the town by a surprising source; a young stranger who insists someone in the community is his birth father; and a treacherous stretch of highway the county doesn't have the resources to fix. Life in the small community may be slow-paced and routine, but it's never, ever dull.

If you've read any of the books in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series, you know exactly how Promise Canyon (#11) is going to end. And guess what? That's okay. Because the thing about a Carr romance is you know Happily Ever After will be its final destination, so you're free to sit back and enjoy the ride. You also know it will be an entertaining journey, filled with lovely scenery, friendly people and all the simple pleasures one associates with small-town living. From the serene covers to the warm prose to the engaging characters, everything about a V.R. book says, "Welcome home. We're glad you're here." And everything in me responds, "It's good to be back. I think I'll stay awhile—like maybe forever."

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language and sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Promise Canyon from the always generous Robyn Carr. Thanks, lady!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Who's the Winner? Well, Me.

Since I know you're all dying to know if you won the $25 Amazon gift card I had up for grabs, I'll

get right to it: If you are Sarah (of Sarah's YA Blog), then you're the lucky winner! Congratulations! Since this is an actual gift card, not just a code, I'll need your mailing address so I can send it off to you. Email me at blogginboutbooksATgmailDOTcom and I'll pop it in the mail.

Thanks to all who entered and especially for your wonderful book recommendations. Getting all these wonderful suggestions makes me feel like I won something :) I didn't want to forget any of them, so I made a list, which I will use whenever I'm looking for a good book to read. Here it is (alphabetized by author's last name - because I'm just anal like that). Oh! And I crossed out the titles I've already read. Okay, here it is for real:


Thanks for entering, everybody, and thanks for the recommendations!

The Sibling Effect A Fascinating Look at Those Mysterious Brother/Sister Bonds

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you have siblings, you get it. You understand what it's like to gaze adoringly at a favorite brother or sister and think, "At least there's one person on Earth who really understands me." Or, conversely, to look at a not-so-favorite sib and wonder, "Where in the world did this person come from? We might share DNA, but that's the only thing we have in common!" If you have siblings, you know just how complicated the bonds between us and our first housemates can be. So, maybe nothing in Jeffrey Kluger's fascinating book, The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, will surprise you, but I guarantee it will make you think. Not to mention psychoanalyze every interaction you've ever had with your brothers and sisters.

Kluger's book began as a series of articles for Time magazine—where he works as both a writer and senior editor—then evolved into a much longer work about the complex relationships between sibings. Using his own experience of growing up in a tight band of brothers as a framework, he explores what happens between brothers and sisters as they are reared together in the same home. Kluger talks about the biological reasons siblings depend on each other and some of the variables (sibling rivalry, divorce, abusive parents, etc.) that can strengthen or destroy the bonds between them. He also brings up things like birth order (which he believes is interesting, though far from conclusive), favoritism (a natural phenomenon that can have devastating and long-lasting effects), the almost telepathic relationships between twins (fascinating, albeit a little eerie), and the psychology behind "lonely onlies" (who may not be as dysfunctional as some believe them to be). As Kluger touts the benefits of having siblings—who function as our first classmates, teachers, friends, and confidants—as well as the hardships—decreased parental attention, soul-stripping rivalries, etc.—he uses his own example to prove why sibling relationships matter, why they're worth preserving.

As one of six siblings and the mother of four, I always find books about family relationships intriguing. The Sibling Effect was no exception. Not only is the book well-written and well-researched, but the inclusion of Kluger's own story makes it both intimate and personal. Kluger cites dozens of psychological studies in the book, not putting too much weight on any one theory, just allowing the data to speak for itself. As I mused on all these fascinating tidbits, I came to the same conslusion as the author: While science can certainly explain some of what goes on between siblings, there are aspects of those most mysterious of relationships that will never be fully understood. And that's okay, because even when you can't stand your irresponsible little sister or your controlling older brother, you can—and have—learned valuable lessons from them, and that instruction will inform every relationship you'll ever have. Like my mother always said, "Friends will come and go, but your bonds with your siblings remain forever." I believe that to be true. And, overall, I, like Kluger, believe it to be a good thing. A very good thing.

(Readalikes: I can't think of any other book like this one. Can you?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for some language (1 F-bomb) and references to adult subject matter (sex, rape, child abuse, etc.)

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

Thursday, January 19, 2012

C'mon, Sophie Mercer, Work Your Magic A Little Harder ...

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers from Demonglass, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Hex Hall. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

When Sophie Mercer first arrived at Hecate Hall—a reform school for screw-up paranormal teens—she believed herself to be a witch. A crappy one, who couldn't even begin to control her powers, but definitely a witch. She also believed herself to be in love with a gorgeous warlock named Archer Cross. Then, two witches were killed (one by the ghost of Sophie's great-grandmother, no less), a large family secret was revealed (Sophie's father is a demon, making her part human, part monster) and Archer turned out to have a secret of his own (A demon hunter? Who knew!). Now, Sophie's not sure what to believe. About anything.

The one thing Sophie's pretty sure of is that she no longer wants to possess any powers at all. She longs to travel to England where she can go through the Removal, a process that will take away her magic forever. Or kill her. Either one is preferable to the catastrophic damage her powers always create. So, when Sophie's estranged father shows up, offering to take her back to London with him, she agrees to go. What she discovers across the pond, though, gives her pause. Although Sophie and her father are supposed to be the only demons in the world, she meets two more, which can only mean one thing: someone is secretly raising demons. Oh, and she's betrothed. But not to the guy she's in love with, the guy who's currently stalking around London trying to kill her. To complicate matters, Sophie's having friend drama with Jenna, parental drama with her father and ghost drama with her dead best frenemy. What's a witch-turned-demon to do?

With the paranormal world at the brink of all-out war, Sophie's scary-powerful magic could really come in handy. But she refuses to unleash it, especially since she can't even decide which side of the battle she's on. As the fight escalates, Sophie has to decide who she is, what she wants, and how much she's willing to risk to get it. Everything—her family, her friendships, her future, even her very life—depends on what she does next.

Like Hex Hall before it, Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins is a fun, lighthearted paranormal romance. Sophie's snarky, but lovable; flawed, but admirable; strong, but sympathetic. Her upbeat voice keeps the story engaging, even when it dwindles into predictability (something that happens often in this second book of the series). Plotwise, Demonglass gets a little slow and, unfortunately, nothing surprising really happens. So, while Sophie continues to amuse me, I still say this series lacks a certain polish that keeps me from truly loving it. Which isn't to say I don't enjoy the books—I do—I just think there's a whole lot of potential here that's not being realized. And that's always a bummer. Sophie just needs to work her magic a little harder to win me over. That shouldn't be too tough for the most powerful demon in the world, now should it?

(Readalikes: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Demonglass from the generous folks at Disney/Hyperion. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

T.G.I.F.?

In Book Blogger land, nothing heralds an upcoming weekend more than the logo above. Traditionally, the Book Blogger Hop begins on Friday and lasts through the weekend. No longer. For various reasons, our host (Jen) has given the popular event a facelift. She almost dropped it altogether and I'm so glad she's decided to keep it going. It really is my favorite book blogging event. The rules have changed a bit, though, mostly in the fact that the Hop is now a monthly thing, not a weekly thing. Hopefully, this will allow more bloggers to participate and in more meaningful ways.

No matter its format, I'm always get excited about the Hop. It's one of the best methods out there for finding great new book blogs. Who doesn't love that? So, please, head over to Crazy for Books and sign up for the Hop. It really is a whole lot of fun.

Whether you're an old friend or a new one, welcome to Bloggin' 'bout Books! I'm so glad you've found me. Feel free to browse around, enter the contest I'm running for a $25 Amazon gift card, and leave me lots of comments. I will definitely return the favor. Happy Hopping!

Black Boy, White School Frank, Affecting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Anthony "Ant" Jones has never really felt safe in his inner-city East Cleveland neighborhood. Teeming with gangsters, drugs and crime, it's the kind of place where violence can break out at any time over any little thing. The 14-year-old is used to it, but when his best friend is killed in a drive-by, Ant knows he can't stay in the ghetto for one more minute. Fortunately, he's got a way out—he's been offered a scholarship to an exclusive boarding school in Maine. Unfortunately, Belton Academy's student body is made up mostly of kids who are wealthy and white, two things Ant most certainly is not. It's not the ideal situation for a black city boy, but Ant's determined to make the best of it.

When he arrives at Belton, Ant's happy to discover he's not the only minority in residence. There are a few others, most of whom are athletes, all of whom are there thanks to financial aid. Ant doesn't like the message Belton's meager attempt at diversification sends—not all black people are poor and good at basketball (his game, for instance, needs some serious help). Determined to change that image, Ant does his best to fit in. Only he doesn't. Not really. His temper flares every time someone looks askance at him, he bristles each time someone assumes something about him because of his skin color, and he gets especially riled up when his black friends accuse him of becoming too white. The more time Ant spends in his whitewashed new world, the more he begins to wonder who he really is. Is he some prep-school white boy wannabe or a tough-as-nails E.C. homeboy? Both? Neither? As Ant struggles to find his place in the world, he has to ask himself some tough questions—and face the hard truths revealed by his answers.

Black Boy, White School, a debut novel by Brian F. Walker, takes a hard look at issues like race, inner-city violence, poverty and white privilege . The author, whose life path curved in similar ways as that of his protagonist's, clearly knows his stuff—not just the gritty details of ghetto life, but also the difficulties minorities face when navigating their way through an often biased, all-white world. While Walker focuses on racism toward black students, he remains sensitive to the fact that prejudice goes both ways, making his story ring authentic and true. White readers may still be put off by Walker's frank discussions of uncomfortable subjects, but it's difficult to deny the need for YA books that address these issues in honest, affecting ways, especially through the eyes of black protagonists. That being said, I would have liked Black Boy, White School to have a little more plot, a lot better character development, and a less predictable ending. Walker's storytelling seemed to sag under the weight of the messages he was trying so hard to get across. Perhaps that kind of subtlety simply comes with experience, which bodes well for Walker, who will no doubt hone his skills with every new book he writes.

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language, violence, sexual innuendo and scenes depicting underrage drinking and illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Black Boy, White School from the generous folks at HarperTeen. Thank you!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crazy Fun and Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Except for the fact that they all go to Clifton Springs High School, Sicilee Kewe, Maya Baraberra and Waneeda Huddlesfield have little in common. Until a gorgeous new boy arrives, that is. Now—probably for the first time in their lives—the three girls want the same thing: Cody Lightfoot. A transplant from California, Cody is not just good-looking, he's also charming, friendly, and smart. Before long, he's starring in the daydreams of nearly every girl at CSHS. Since he can clearly have anyone he wants, the only question is—who will he choose?

Sicilee knows she can turn Cody's head. She's got the looks, the fabulous wardrobe, the star power that comes with being one of the most popular kids in school. What she doesn't have is the effortless cool that makes Maya stand out. Not that Sicilee's worried. Much. Waneeda, on the other hand, knows the hottest guy to ever walk the corridors of Clifton Springs would never look her way. Until he does. She may be a dumpy, junk food-obsessed nobody, but she also has a tiny, flickering hope that maybe, just maybe, she can win the heart of one Cody Lightfoot.

When Cody joins the very unpopular Environmental Club, the girls discover where his true passion lies. And rush to exploit it. In a mad scramble to out-granola each other, the trio commit to veganism, bicycling to school every day, wearing recycled clothes—anything to get Cody to notice them. But as the days go by, the girls find themselves asking if living so unnaturally is really worth it, if he is really worth it. Because, seriously, isn't this whole love thing getting just a little bit crazy?

I always need a nice, light read to buoy me up after consuming a dark dystopian and The Crazy Things Girls Do For Love by Dyan Sheldon worked like a dream. It's a funny, lighthearted novel that, despite being utterly predictable (and a tad preachy), is also totally entertaining. A bubble-gummy read it may be, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

(Readalikes: I should be able to name dozens of titles, but I'm drawing a blank. Any suggestions?)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs) and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of The Crazy Things Girls Do For Love from the generous folks at Candlewick Press. Thank you!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Under the Never Sky Combines Familiar and Orginal—in the Best Kind of Way

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

The world outside her Pod may be a disease-ridden, nightmare-awful "Death Shop," but inside, 17-year-old Aria is kept perfectly safe. Perfectly. Safe. She feels no pain, no fear, no discomfort. Not "in the real" anyway. If she wants a little excitement—or romance or adventure or even a good scare—she only has to enter the Realms, a series of virtual worlds that exist inside the Smarteye she wears at all times. Aria can experience anything she wants in these faux environments without risking a thing. The Realms' slogan says it all: "Better Than Real."

When an acquaintance suggests a stunt guaranteed to provide some real thrills, Aria agrees to go along with it for one reason—she needs information about her missing mother. What she gets, astonishingly enough, is banishment. Forced to survive in the very hostile world outside the Pod, Aria has no choice but to put her trust in an unlikely ally. Perry is an 18-year-old Outsider who hates "Moles" like Aria just as much as they loathe "Savages" like him. But, since she can't find her mother without his help and he can't get what he wants without her, they strike a deal. It's a tense, infuriating partnership that both want to dissolve as soon as possible.

As Aria and Perry fight their way through a treacherous land full of every kind of enemy, they come to some startling realizations about each other, like the fact that maybe they're not so different after all. When Aria makes some even bigger discoveries about her home, her family and herself, she 's forced to admit that Perry's right about one thing at least: nothing under the Never Sky is ever what it seems. Not her home, not herself, and especially not the Savage on whom she's come to depend so wholly. But what does that mean for Aria? Does she have a home? A family? A future? And when Perry walks away after fulfilling his end of their bargain, will she have anything left at all?

Under the Never Sky, a debut novel by Veronica Rossi, combines a whole bunch of dystopian elements to create a tale that's at once familiar and original. In this case, "the usual" doesn't bother me, predictable though it may be. Why? Because Rossi takes the time to create a fascinating world, build a believable romance, and develop a plotline that veers in enough directions to keep the story interesting. Taut plotting kept me on the edge of my seat, while Rossi's careful character-construction ensured that I cared—and cared a lot—about what was happening and to whom. This patchwork quilt of a story (a little dystopian, a little paranormal, a little romance) kept me so enthralled that I read it in one day. And wanted more, more, more. In case you can't tell, I loved it. A lot.

(Readalikes: Parts of it reminded me of Feed by M.T. Anderson; other parts reminded me of Delirium by Lauren Oliver and the Chaos Walking series [The Knife of Never Letting Go; The Ask and the Answer; and Monsters of Men] by Patrick Ness)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), sexual innuendo/content and violence

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Under the Never Sky from the generous folks at HarperTeen. Thank you!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Vivid Everglades Setting Makes For Harrowing (if Underdeveloped) Survival Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With her mother working as a lunch lady in the school cafeteria, it's pretty much guaranteed that token scholarship student Sarah Emerson will never fit in at fancy-pants Glades Academy. Sarah signs up to go on a school science field trip to Everglades National Park hoping to change that. If she can make just one friend, things will be so much better. Unfortunately, her snooty classmates make it painfully obvious that they want nothing to do with someone like her. As fascinated as 13-year-old Sarah is with all the wonders of the Everglades, all she wants to do now is hop back on the bus and go home to Coconut Grove.

Then an unexpected opportunity arrives. Sarah meets gorgeous Andy Malone, a 15-year-old whose parents help manage part of the park. When he boasts that he can show her "more of the Everglades in an hour than you'll see on a dozen field trips, and without getting your feet wet" (25), Sarah decides to take the chance. But when the outing goes horribly awry, what began as an exciting day trip becomes a terrifying nightmare. Getting back to any kind of civilization means hiking through gator-filled swampland for at least two days. Andy claims to know his way back, but does he, really? It's bad enough that they're stranded in the wilds of the Everglades, Sarah doesn't want to be lost in it, too. With no choice but to trust Andy, Sarah follows him through a tangled wilderness maze, where every kind of danger—from blistering sunburns to gnawing hunger to giant snakes to territorial alligators—lurks. Making it home will be the hardest thing Sarah's ever done, not to mention the most impossible.

While I had issues with other parts of Lost in the River of Grass (available January 28, 2012) by Ginny Rorby, the one thing the author does extremely well is bring the Everglades to vivid and frightening life. Her descriptions of the snakes, the alligators, the wolves, even the mosquitoes, sent chills running up and down my spine. If only that kind of care had been extended to the characters, this would have been a much more satisfying book. Unfortunately, Sarah and Andy remain rather flat. Despite spending most of the story with just the two of them, I didn't feel any closer to them on Page 200 than I did on Page 22. Add in a somewhat dissatisfying ending, containing a surprise announcement (Sarah's black? Huh? Why are we not finding this out until Page 239? Actually, I'm still confused—is she black?), and I ended up feeling annoyed with the whole novel. A bummer since Rorby really kept me enthralled with her descriptions of the Everglades. I just wish the rest of the book was as well-developed as the setting.

(Readalikes: Reminded me a little bit of Hoot and Scat by Carl Hiassen as well as a bit of Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (no F-bombs), mild sexual innuendo and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Lost in the River of Grass from the generous folks at Carolrhoda Lab. Thank you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lamott's Griping Makes Grandparenting Memoir More Annoying Than Affecting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)


(Note: While it is certainly not necessary to read Operating Instructions before its sequel, Some Assembly Required, I recommend doing so in order to get a more panoramic view of the relationship between Anne Lamott and her son.)

When Anne Lamott's son (the one whose first year she chronicled in Operating Instructions) becomes a father at nineteen, she deals with it the same way she did her own surprise pregnancy twenty years ago - she journals. Putting everything down on paper helps Lamott cope with all the anxiety, frustration and stress she feels while watching her only child, Sam, learn how to be a father. At the same time, it gives her a vehicle for expressing the intense love she has for her grandson, Jax ("This is the one fly in the grandma ointment—the total love addiction—the highest highs, and then withdrawal, craving, scheming to get another fix" (40-41). As with Operating Instructions, Lamott's unfailing honesty makes her story intimate, engrossing and illuminating.

I have to say, though, that while I found Lamott's neurotic nature more or less endearing in Operating Instructions, it annoyed me to no end in Some Assembly Required. Perhaps it's because as Jax's grandmother—not mother—she's more removed from the situation, making her insanity less justified (in my humble opinion). Naturally, Lamott's concerned for her only grandchild, especially due to the tumultuous relationship between his parents, but after a while, I found myself siding more with Jax's mother than grandmother. I kept wanting to yell at her (as Sam's girlfriend, Amy, no doubt did), "Just mind your own blankety-blank-blank business, Lamott." Still, the author's commentary brings up some good questions about grandparenting: How involved should parents be in the lives of their adult kids and their children? Should they have any say in how their grandchildren are being raised, especially if the kids are growing up in a stable environment, if, perhaps, not a perfect one? And are adult children required to listen to their parents' advice, opinions and criticism when it comes to child-rearing? I think the conclusion Lamott finally comes to—that she has no control over the situation whatsoever—is probably most apt.

So, what's my final word on Some Assembly Required (which comes out in March 2012, by the way)? While the book is both funny and thought-provoking, it's not nearly as impactful as Operating Instructions, probably because it lacks the immediacy of Lamott's first parenting memoir. Some Assembly Required definitely asks important questions about grandparenting, but Lamott's griping—constant and irritating—overshadowed everything else. Maybe it's only because I haven't reached that stage of life yet and cannot possibly understand the worries of a grandmother, but the only thing this book makes me want to do is give Grandma Lamott a good shake and tell her to chill out a little.

(Readalikes: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Some Assembly Required through Elle magazine's Reader's Jury program. All quotes were taken from said ARC.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Operating Instructions A Little Too Honest, But Still Enlightening

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"I just can't get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat" (66).

When writer Anne Lamott finds herself alone and pregnant at age 35, she's terrified. The baby's father wants nothing to do with the unborn child, but Lamott discovers that she does. Very much so. Despite being scared, despite being completely clueless about kid-rearing, despite the fact that she's "too self-centered, cynical, eccentric, and edgy to raise a baby" (4), she decides to do it anyway.

Operating Instructions is Lamott's journal of that first year with her son, Sam. With unfailing honesty, self-deprecating humor, and a voice that feels like your best friend's, she writes about the ups and downs of motherhood. Lamott says nothing I've not heard before, but she says it in a way that seems fresh. Maybe it's her candid, tell-it-like-it-is attitude or possibly it's the simple fact that she's a single mother relying on a motley crew of friends, a slightly dysfunctional family and a flailing, ragged kind of faith to get her through - whatever it is, her story strikes a chord. It's engaging, entertaining and enlightening. Lamott's a little too honest at times, saying things all moms have probably thought at one time or another, but wouldn't dream of uttering out loud ("I was very rough changing him at 4:00 when he wouldn't stop crying. I totally understand child abuse now. I really do" [64]). Still, she comes off as an Everywoman, albeit a neurotic one.

While Lamott focuses on her experience with motherhood, that's not all she discusses in this very forthright memoir. She talks about her years as an alcoholic and drug addict; she talks about the fight to stay clean and sober; she talks about loneliness, depression and grief; she talks about the faith she found in a small, quirky black church in San Francisco; she talks about illness; she talks about healing; she talks about life. Through it all, she comes back to one simple fact: "He [Sam] is all I have ever wanted, and my heart is so huge with love that I feel like it is about to go off. At the same time I feel that he has completely ruined my life, because I just didn't used to care all that much" (60-61).

Like I said before, Lamott gets a little too frank at times (I really didn't need to know every time she felt like having sex), but that's also part of her charm. She says things others would never dare to, which makes reading her book an eye-opening, intimate experience. And while I appreciate that about her, I think her constant neediness and ever-present anxiety would drive me crazy in real life. It certainly does in Operating Instructions. Still, I found Lamott to be a funny, sympathetic narrator with an engrossing tale to tell. I wasn't sure I would, but I enjoyed this little sojourn into her sleep-deprived, colic-crazy, baby-dazed head. It made me feel much more normal. And that's always a plus.

(Readalikes: Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son by Anne Lamott)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for strong language and fairly graphic sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I bought Operating Instructions from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

Mormon Mentions: Anne Lamott

You may not be familiar with the "Mormon Mentions" feature on my blog, so let me explain: Hi, my name is Susan. I'm a book blogger and I'm a Mormon. I'm sure you've seen the ads, right? Well, as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as The Mormon Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media. So, every time I read a snippet about Mormonism in a book written by a non-LDS author, I post it here, along with my opinion about its content. If you hate this kind of thing, feel free to skip these posts, but, if you have questions, answers, discussion points, whatever, please comment. I'm always interested in knowing what you think!

Okay, here's one from Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. I don't really have much to say about it, I just think it's funny:

"Last night I decided that it is totally nuts to believe in Christ, that it is every bit as crazy as being a Scientologist or a Jehovah's Witness. But a priest friend said solemnly, "Scientologists and Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses are crazier than they have to be" (69).

Ha ha.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Because Who Doesn't Want to Know More About Me?


Today, I'm being featured by the wonderful AubrieAnne over at Who's Your Editor. Click here to check it out. While you're over there, join AubrieAnne's 2012 Bookmark Break Challenge. It's a really easy one because all you have to do is read. What could be simpler than that?

Tuesdays at the Castle Just As Fun, Magical As It Sounds

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Every castle has its mysteries, but none more so than Castle Glower. Every Tuesday, the structure surprises its occupants by making some kind of change - it might add a new suite of rooms, subtract a turret, or move a staircase to a whole different wing. The constant change drives some people crazy. Not Princess Celie. She loves the playful nature of her home. No one else can keep up with its weekly madness the way she can. Everyone says it's because Celie is the castle's favorite. It's true that she can feel the thrum of its happy, ancient magic just by pressing her hand against the castle's stone walls and the place does seem to have a fondness for its youngest resident.

Celie doesn't realize just how protective the castle is of her family until her parents go missing. Left on their own, the three Glower children must decide what to do next. If their father is truly dead, 14-year-old Rolf will take the throne. He doesn't want it - not yet, anyway - and even the castle seems hesitant to approve the change. In the meantime, it's up to Celie, Rolf and their older sister, Lilah, to defend their kingdom against would-be invaders, find out what really happened to their parents, and keep themselves from getting thrown in the dungeon in the process. Thankfully, they have Castle Glower on their side. But when an opposing ruler brings in his own ancient magic, Celie feels the castle weakening. Without its help and protection, what possible chance do she and her siblings have of saving the kingdom? Armed only with their own cleverness, the Glower kids must find a way to save their home, their family and their people - before it's too late.

Tuesdays at the Castle, the newest middle grade fantasy from popular children's author Jessica Day George, is just as fun and magical as it sounds. With humor, originality and lighthearted prose, it's simply an enjoyable read. I bought the book for my 9-year-old daughter as a Christmas present, but I loved the story just as much as she did. If my boys could get over the princess thing long enough to give Tuesdays at the Castle a chance, I think they would really enjoy it, too. It's that appealing. Definitely don't wait until next Christmas to buy yourself your kids a copy.

(Readalikes: Hm, I can't really think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love: I bought Tuesdays at the Castle at Changing Hands Bookstore with some of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

I'm Just Going to Say "Amen" and Leave It At That

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I must be getting lazy in my old age because, for the second review in a row, I'm going to use a plot summary I didn't write. If you've read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, you understand why (and if you haven't, what's wrong with you??) - the book's difficult to describe. Plus, whoever wrote the blurb on the front and back cover flaps did a bang-up job, so here goes:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white-striped tents awaits an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des RĂªves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way—a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved—the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them—are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

And that about says it all, folks. Really. I think I'm just going to say "amen" and leave it at that.

(Readalikes: I really can't think of anything. Can you?)

Grade: A-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for language (1 F-bomb), violence and some sexual content

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of The Night Circus at Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

What Could Be Better Than 1000 Posts From Yours Truly? How About An Amazon Gift Card?

Yep, it's true. This is my 1000th post here at BBB. I know, I'm kind of blown away, too.

This blog has come a long, long way since the day I created it. It's opened the doors to so many great opportunities - from getting to interview bestselling authors to having portions of my reviews published in magazines and books to just being able to talk shop with other bibliophiles. It's been an amazing trip. I can't wait to see the blog evolve even more between now and my 2000th post!

Because I'm incredibly grateful to all of you for making book blogging so fun and rewarding, I thought I'd host a little giveaway to celebrate this momentuous occasion. What am I offering? How about a $25 Amazon gift card? I wish I could send one to each of you, but, since my last name isn't Trump, I've only got the one. Still, it's a nice little prize, no?

Okay, so, if you're interested in throwing your name in the (proverbial) hat, here's what you do:

1. Leave a comment on this post answering the following question: What one book do I have to read this year? It can be a new release, a classic, whatever. Just give me a good must-read title to add to my always-growing TBR pile. Doing this will earn you one entry. P.S.: If you do not have a public blog, which you update frequently, please leave an email address in your comment so I have a way to contact you.

2. I'm not going to make you follow my blog or Like my page on Facebook or any of that stuff in order to get extra entries (although I would, of course, be honored if you choose to do these things), but I will give you points for spreading the word about this contest. For every method used (Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.) you will receive one extra entry into the giveaway.

3. That's it! Other deets: The giveaway will run until January 20 at midnight. The contest is open to all of my readers, wherever you happen to live. Good luck!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Because Failing Miserably Is Always An Option

Because I did so brilliantly with 2011's reading challenges, I decided to sign up for a whole slew of 'em for 2012. Why not, right? I actually love reading challenges, especially when I don't take them too seriously. Lots caught my eye this year and, as usual, I had a very difficult time resisting the urge to sign up for every single one. I finally narrowed it down to five. What about you? Do you love reading challenges? Hate them? Which are you joining this year?
Mine are:

Bookmark Break Challenge - Because this one is so simple (all you have to do is read), I totally rocked it last year. I'm going to see if I can win it two years in a row ...

50 States Challenge - I didn't quite finish this one last year, but I came pretty close. Plus, I enjoyed doing it. So, I'm giving it another go this year.

Adoption Reading Challenge - I've always been interested in the subject of adoption, but even more so since experiencing it for myself. This one sounds fun and informative.

You don't have to make a reading list, but I'm going to do it anyway. I'm choosing Level 3, which requires that you read 12 books about adoption - 6 fiction, 6 non. I'm totally excited. Here's what I'm thinking I'll read:

Fiction:

The Red Thread by Ann Hood
Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton
The Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom
Girls in Trouble
by Caroline Leavitt
The Buffalo Soldier
by Chris Bohjalian

Non-fiction:

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
There Is No Me Without You
by Melissa Fay Greene
The Lost Daughters of China
by Karin Evans
Swimming Up the Sun
by Nicole J. Burton
The Girls Who Went Away
by Ann Fessler
Jessica Lost
by Bunny Crumpacker and J.S. Picariello

Dystopia 2012 Challenge - I love dystopian and am always reading it, so why not join up with this one? I'm going for the Contagion level, which means reading 15 books. Here's my list:

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Monument 14
by Emmy Laybourne
Ashfall
by Mike Mullin
Crossed
by Ally Condie
Possession by Elana Johnson
Shatter Me
by Tahereh Mafi
1984
by George Orwell
1Q84
by Haruki Murakami
Under the Dome
by Stephen King
Fear
by Michael Grant
Inside Out
by Maria V. Snyder
Sapphique
by Catherine Fisher
The Other Side of the Island
by Allegra Goodman
The Death Cure
by James Dashner

YA Contemporary Challenge - I'm also loving contemporary lately, so I decided to challenge myself to read more realistic fiction. I'm going for Level 2, which involves reading 10+ books. Here's my list:

52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody
Bittersweet
by Sarah Ockler
Black Boy, White School
by Brian F. Walker
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins
Lola and the Boy Next Door
by Stephanie Perkins
Paper Towns
by John Green
Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
How to Save A Life
by Sara Zarr
The Crazy Things Girls Do For Love
by Dyan Sheldon
Along for the Ride
by Sarah Dessen
Dreamland
by Sarah Dessen
Sparrow
by Sherri L. Smith

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011: A Review

Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for making 2011 such a fun and successful one here at BBB. Zombie apocalypse or not, 2012 is going to be an exciting year. I've got lots of reviews, giveaways and other stuff planned, so you'll definitely want to keep up with the happenings around here.

As for 2011, I - once again - did not reach my goal of reading 200 books. I came close. I ended up finishing 186, one more than last year. So, I'm just going to roll over the goal one more time and aim for 200 in 2012 because, darn it, I know I can do it.

Of the 186 books I read this year:


  • 171 (92%) were fiction and 15 (8%) were non-fiction.

  • 56 (30%) were adult books, 89 (48%) were YA and 41 (22%) were children's/middle grade (I don't count picture books in my yearly total)

  • 61 (33%) were written by males, 119 (64%) by females, 2 (1%) by female/female teams, 3 (2%) by male/female teams and 1 (.5%) by a male/male team.

  • 120 (65%) were sent to me for review, 43 (23%) were library books and 23 (12%) came from my personal collection.

  • 30 (16%) were written by LDS authors.

  • 167 (90%) were written by American authors (9 of whom are African-American), 12 (6%) by U.K. authors, 4 (2%) by Canadian authors, 2 (1%) by Australian authors and 1 (.5) by a German author.

  • Oh! Because I was doing the 50 States Challenge, I kept track of the states in which the books I read were set. In case you're interested, here's the Top 5: New York (12 books), Massachusetts (7), California (6), and Louisiana, Washington, and Utah tied with 4 books each. Kind of interesting, no?

Challenges at which I failed miserably:



Challenges at which I did okay:



Challenges at which I totally rocked:



Books I read in 2011 (beginning with the most recent - asterisks denote favorites):


186. Some Assembly Required by Anne and Sam Lamott
185. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
184. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George*
183. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern*
182. The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty
181. One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
180. Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett
179. In the Dark Street Shineth by David McCullough
178. Edge of Evil by J.A. Jance
177. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens*
176. The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
175. Glass by Ellen Hopkins
174. The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine*
173. Crank by Ellen Hopkins
172. Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay
171. It All Started With Autumn Jones by Jack Weyland
170. Our Best Bites: Mormon Moms in the Kitchen by Sara Wells and Kate Jones*
169. The Big Game of Everything by Chris Lynch
168. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
167. Bleed by Laurie Faria Stolarz
166. I Survived: The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis
165. Small As An Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
164. The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
163. Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor
162. The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf*
161. Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
160. Gone by Lisa McMann
159. Fade by Lisa McMann
158. Feed by M.T. Anderson
157. After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
156. Titanic, Book Three: S.O.S. by Gordon Korman
155. Titanic, Book Two: Collision Course by Gordon Korman
154. Titanic, Book One: Unsinkable by Gordon Korman
153. You Are My Only by Beth Kephart
152. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
151. The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer
150. Dear America: Voyage On the Great Titanic by Ellen Emerson White
149. Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
148. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
147. Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
146. Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
145. The Talk-Funny Girl by Roland Merullo
144. 8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich*
143. Circle Nine by Anne Heltzel
142. Dark Eden by Patrick Carman
141. Friend Is Not A Verb by Daniel Ehrenhaft
140. Lake Eden Cookbook by Joanne Fluke*
139. The Secret Journeys of Jack London: The Wild by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon
138. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
137. No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko
136. Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack
135. Swindle by Gordon Korman
134. Circle of Secrets by Kimberley Griffiths Little*
133. English Trifle by Josi S. Kilpack
132. Your Happily Ever After by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
131. Under the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer*
130. First Day On Earth by Cecil Castellucci
129. PIE by Sarah Weeks
128. Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones*
127. My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours by Kristina Springer
126. Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
125. Eve by Anna Carey
124. Love You, Hate You, Miss You by Elizabeth Scott
123. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
122. Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones
121. From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender
120. Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs
119. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick*
118. Girl Parts by John M. Cusick
117. Variant by Robison Wells
116. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
115. Everything I Was by Corinne Demas
114. The Entitlement Trap by Richard and Linda Eyre
113. The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
112. Silhouetted by the Blue by Traci L. Jones
111. Frost by Marianna Baer
110. Flyaway by Lucy Christopher
109. Bluefish by Pat Schmatz
108. Good Graces by Lesley Kagen*
107. Prized by Caragh M. O'Brien
106. Bloody Jack: The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer*
105. Rip Tide by Kat Falls
104. Miles From Ordinary by Carol Lynch Williams
103. Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer*
102. To Die For by Sandra Byrd
101. Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn
100. Dear America: The Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials; I Walk in Dread by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
99. Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer
98. Fathermothergod by Lucia Greenhouse
97. Nerd Girls: Rise of the Dorkasaurus by Alan Lawrence Sitomer
96. The Third by Abel Keogh
95. Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face by Paul Acampora*
94. All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin*
93. Scat by Carl Hiassen
92. Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy
91. Storm Runners by Roland Smith
90. The Agency: The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee*
89. Flashback by Dan Simmons
88. The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee*
87. Putting Makeup on Dead People by Jen Violi
86. Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
85. Things We Didn't Say by Kristina Riggle
84. Dear America: The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson: With the Might of Angels by Andrea Davis Pinkney
83. Plague by Michael Grant*
82. No Biking in the House Without A Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene
81. Beside Still Waters by Tricia Goyer
80. Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan
79. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
78. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs*
77. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
76. Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer
75. Season of Secrets by Sally Nicholls
74. Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick*
73. Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
72. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
71. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt
70. Cayman Summer by Angela Morrison
69. Divergent by Veronica Roth*
68. Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler
67. Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison
66. Wishful Thinking by Alexandra Bullen
65. Faith by Jennifer Haigh
64. Don't Breathe A Word by Jennifer McMahon
63. The Beach Trees by Karen White
62. Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
61. Savannah Grey by Cliff McNish
60. The Luck of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker
59. Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon
58. The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls
57. Wither by Lauren Destefano
56. Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart
55. Skinny by Diana Spechler
54. Journey of Honor by Jaclyn M. Hawkes
53. The First-Timer's Cookbook by Shawn Bucher
52. Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler
51. Wrecker by Summer Wood
50. What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Perez
49. Enclave by Ann Aguirre
48. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda*
47. Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes
46. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
45. Blood & Flowers by Penny Blubaugh
44. The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little*
43. NERDS by Michael Buckley
42. What Would Your Character Do? by Eric Maisel, PhD & Ann Maisel
41. Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
40. Lowcountry Summer by Dorothea Benton Frank
39. Unwind by Neal Shusterman*
38. Back When You Were Easier to Love by Emily Wing Smith*
37. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
36. Mr. Monster by Dan Wells
35. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine*
34. GEAS by Robin Weeks* (my friend's work-in-progress)
33. The Oracle of Stamboul by Michael David Lukas
32. Exodus by Julie Bertagna*
31. Everlost by Neal Shusterman*
30. Father of Lies by Ann Turner
29. Wolves, Boys & Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler
28. The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey From White to Black by Daniel J. Sharfstein
27. Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe
26. Missing In Action by Dean Hughes
25. Hush by Kate White
24. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
23. The Forbidden Sea by Sheila Nielson
22. Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick
21. Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum
20. The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia
19. The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern*
18. Dear America: The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl by Patricia McKissack
17. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
16. When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt
15. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness*
14. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness*
13. The Rogue Shop by Michael Knudsen
12. The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner
11. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness*
10. Vesper by Jeff Sampson
9. Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon*
8. X-Isle by Steve Augarde
7. Trapped by Michael Northrop
6. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
5. The Danger Box by Blue Balliet
4. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman*
3. Lemon Meringue Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke
2. No Such Thing As Dragons by Philip Reeve
1. Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis

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