Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cybils Reading Part IV

Most of my reading is from the Cybils nominated books.

My category is Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Thank goodness I belong to two spectacular library systems, King County (kcls) and Seattle, so I can get a lot of the books.

 I Read:

GrantedThe Nebula Secret (Explorer Academy, #1)The Land of YesterdayBone's Gift

Lulu the Broadway MouseMinecraft: The Crash (Official Minecraft Novels, #2)The Third MushroomGood Dog

Earth to DadThe Truth About Martians

Granted, John David Anderson. A fairy on her first wish-granting expedition finds she needs a friend to help her get things done. Also that the random allocation of wishes may not be the best approach, both for fairies and humans.

The Nebula Secret, Trudi Trueit. Boarding school action story! A school for smart scientist types, complete with holo-deck technology, has unexpected dangers for our hero, left over from the work his mom was doing at the school before her tragic death ten years ago. A mysterious society is at work, of course. As an adult, I was amused at some of the shenanigans -- no one notices when the children narrowly escape a poisonous gas, and the kids don't wonder why the technician who saved them makes no report.

The Land of Yesterday, K.A. Reynolds. When her brother dies, Cecelia's family -- her parents, herself, and her house, is plunged into grief that hobbles their lives. The mother disappears, the father can't cope, and the house goes on a murderous spree blaming Cecilia for everything. There's a lot of magical realism and lovely images accompanying Cecilia on her heroic quest into the land of the dead to set things right.

Bone's Gift, Angie Smibert. A quiet story of family love and betrayal, set in a small coal mining town during World War II. Bone is inheriting a magic gift traditional in her mother's family, but her father refuses to belief it because he blames her mother's gift for her early death. Several other family members are also twisted up over this loss, and the echoes put Bone in danger from several directions. It's part mystery, part family drama, and part history.

Lulu the Broadway Mouse, Jenna Gavigan. I was charmed by this story of a tiny mouse with big dreams and a bigger capacity for friendship. It recalled childhood rereads of Theater Shoes. The ending was nicely pat with even the nemesis mean girl showing some depth and character, but not in an unbelievable way.

Minecraft: The Crash, Tracey Baptiste. This book borders on YA, but the emotional immaturity of the main character and the Minecraft setting should keep it of interest for younger kids. The protagonist uses a warped Minecraft game to process her grief over the death of her best friend, which she caused by distracting him while he was driving. I play Minecraft, and I alternated between being baffled by their foolish (ignorant?) choices in the game and then amazed at their advanced skill.

The Third Mushroom, Jennifer L Holm. The grandfather who turned himself young again comes back to join his granddaughter in middle school. She is wondering if her best friend might be something more and also looking for a science fair project. Grandfather pulls a Bruce Banner by injecting himself with serum but the book is more interested in the romance question and the sadness of losing a pet.

Good Dog, Dan Gemeinhart. The dog dies in this one. This is not a spoiler -- we find out in the first sentence. But this dog still has something to do, and he turns his back on the first afterlife to try to get it done. A good dog story, if a bit emotionally manipulative.

Earth to Dad, Krista Van Dolzer. A shy and overprotected boy in a post-apocalyptic society trying to relocate itself to Mars makes a new and unruly friend. But the terrible secret his mother is keeping from him warps all his relationships and undermines his steps towards maturity. The science didn't make sense (Mercury popped out of orbit when Jupiter does a shimmy?) and the mother psychological problems were never addressed, but the boy himself was engaging and sympathetic.

The Truth About Martians, Melissa Savage. This story about meeting up with aliens and having to battle the military to keep them safe runs a bit uneasily alongside the other story about a family dealing with grief and depression, although both are well executed. I do object to the scene having the baby clap her hands over her head; for a while I thought that was a sign that our main characters weren't Earthlings.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cybils Reading Part III

Final List is ready for my Cybils team. I'd better get cracking!

My category is Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Thank goodness I belong to two spectacular library systems, King County (kcls) and Seattle, so I can get a lot of the books.

 I Read:

The Lost Books: The Scroll of KingsDenis Ever AfterWizardmatch
The Boy, The Bird and The Coffin MakerThe Frame-UpThe Wild BookThe Last (Endling #1)
The Magic Misfits (Magic Misfits, #1)A Problematic ParadoxFlip the Silver Switch
OtherwoodWhen a Ghost Talks, Listen--How I Became A Ghost, Book 2The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn GrayDungeons & Dragons Endless Quest: Escape the Underdark (D&D Endless Quest)
A Dash of Trouble (Love Sugar Magic, #1)Buttheads from Outer SpaceWinterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Clara Voyant

The Scroll of Kings, Sarah Prineas. Alexandron for a protagonist, and he's a librarian (in other words, a hero?) -- obviously I liked this book. Alex's firm minded pursuit of the best for his books was endearing, as was his no-nonsense approach to royalty. The Queen's dedication to her realm and her slow assumption of power also worked well, and the humor of her brother and his enthusiasm and misfires provided some relief. I'm looking forward to the sequels.

Denis Ever After, Tony Abbott. One brother lived, his twin died. And before he moves on he comes back to unravel a complicated family history of violence and death and a life without hope of forgiveness.

Wizardmatch, Lauren Magaziner. Lennie was great and I enjoyed her enthusiasm for mastering magic while being appalled at the casual cruelty of the adults in her life. The villain is expected to be evil, and the grandfather was a good plot motivator, but the mom had no excuse. I could see her betraying her daughter, but doing it without noticing how painful that was (especially after the explicit conversation!) was a bit over the top.

The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker, Matilda Woods. The moods and vocabulary rocked me to contentment in this story set in a magical Italian-ish town by the sea, where the wind blows the fish directly to the kitchens and a lost boy finds a home, and then finds a new one.

The Frame-Up, Wendy McLeod MacKnight. A girl from long ago and a boy from now struggle with the secrets their father-figures are keeping, ones that might cause more damage than they know. The idea of personalities awakening in portraits is intriguing, and I liked how the kids used blank canvases to smuggle people about. The angst with the distant father is handled well -- the dad is believably bad at communication.

The Wild Book, Juan Villoro. Are all Spanish books this vivid and full of delightful metaphors? Or is is just filtered by the ones that get translated? Although I also wonder if they all view females as a strange and delightful species beyond the ken of males, which is a bit annoying. The mysterious house full of books was delightful to spend time in.

Endling, Kathleen Applegate. An interesting world building including many different races of intelligent life with complex relationships. I forced my book club to read it and now we are looking for a word that means cannibalism but for eating sapient species that aren't your own, a word that would include many characters in this book, including the hero. It does a good job of keeping the stakes high while also foregrounding characters rather than politics.

Magic Misfits, Neil Patrick Harris. Kids with highly exceptional talents in the many aspects of stage magicians band together to stop a crook. Our viewpoint has just arrived in town, homeless and with a shady background, and his struggles to fit in (and eat) keep the plot on its toes. I'm still not sure what was magic and what was just unexplainable.

A Problematic Paradox, Eliot Sappingfield. A girl made miserable by being smarter than all her peers discovers that her dad has been holding out on her when his kidnapping sends her to a boarding school that stretches her to her limits. I found the voice refreshing and the cavalier approach of school supervision very Hogwarts. Even the food jokes were amusing.

Flip the Silver Switch, Jackie Yeager. Having missed the first book, I felt a bit unconnected to some of the characters in this story of a fantastical version of an invention contest. There didn't seem to be any limit to science -- anything the kids could dream up they could somehow make, and their choice of invention rang all sorts of Machiavellian alarm bells for me. It gave a good portrayal of kids forced to work together as a team, and stumbling and picking themselves up to use their respective strengths.

Other Wood, Pete Hautman. Fascinating tale of two young people making a friendship despite their parents, and then losing each other -- literally, as reality splits. The vivid sense of eight year old mentality and then the slow growth in the different worlds works really well, although I wish the kids had more agency in the developments.

When a Ghost Talks, Listen, Tim Tingle. This series is retelling the story of the Trail of Tears through a Choctaw family and ghosts than can go forward and back in time. The emphasis is on teaching the traditions of the nation and the history of this tragedy rather than on the story-telling effects, and in any case this is the second book in the series. I'm still now sure how dead our main character is (I think mostly?).

The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray, B.A. Williamson. A magical tale of imagination powering portals and energizing transformations as Gwendolyn battles the soul sucking (first figurative, later literal) conformity of her gray and dispirited city. The kids at school are bullies, but any speck of decency is drained from them by the powers that be. The ending is a bit muddled metaphorically, as Gwendolyn's powers are both greater and less than they seem.

Escape the Underdark, Matt Forbeck. A choose-your-own adventure done in classic D&D mode -- you start in a tavern having a drink, and then things go downhill quickly.  I wanted a bit more complexity -- I didn't find any loops or even reused options, and apparently some people were just doomed to die; there was no way to save them.

A Dash of Magic, Anna Meriano. The youngest in a family of sisters has trouble waiting her turn; when everyone but her is included in a family secret it's hard not to feel left out, even when after learning that she'll be old enough in a few years. I really liked the mom's approach at the end, when she acknowledged that it's hard to yell at a child for keeping secrets after modeling that for their entire life. (Take that, Wizardmatch mom!) And the way she struggled with asking for help but realized that when she put a friend in danger it was time to bring in more support, even if that meant getting in trouble.

Buttheads From Outer Space, Jerry Mahoney. I was hoping for a light funny read, but this went a bit far in the low humor direction. The kids were all about the potty humor, the adults all fairly stock characters, and the idea of blogging middle schoolers might already be obsolete. But it was a nice break from death and angst!

Winterhouse, Ben Guterson. I listened to this on audio, and I think I would have preferred is as a book because I can't make CDs go fast enough to really enjoy. Also, the protagonist stole a book. But I liked the friendship she built with the other abandoned kid (Freddie) and how they could fight but apologize and make up. For me the funniest part was when the kids were puzzling over the mystery of why she was asked to check in with an adult twice a day. Hmm. Why ever?

Clara Voyant, Rachelle Delaney. Clara really misses her practical, organized grandmother who has utterly abandoned her and moved to Florida, leaving her with her woo-woo mom. She picks up a best friend who utterly embraces the occult, and then finds herself saddled with writing the horoscopes for the school newspaper, horoscopes which have an uncanny habit of coming true. I liked her approach to having mystical powers: something she'll deal with after the important stuff like excelling as a reporter gets taken care of.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Middle Grade Fantasy Is My Reading Life

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
I remember writing a quick status report last week, but I have no idea where it went. So this will be a double.

We're picking up some more books from publishers and authors this week, but the main pile is probably already here. So lots of reading to do.

My currently reading edged back up to 28. I'll worry about that next year.

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, or have read each week called It's Monday! What Are You Reading so I'll sign up there. There's also a version that is kidlit focussed at either Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers and obviously I will be qualified for that as I spent last week reading several books that people were thinking of nominating.

This Fortnight's Cybils Reading:

The Art of the SwapStrange StarHeartseekerEvangeline of the BayouR Is for RebelThe Game Masters of Garden PlaceThe Lost Books: The Scroll of KingsWizardmatchDenis Ever AfterThe Boy, The Bird and The Coffin MakerThe Frame-UpThe Wild BookA Problematic Paradox

Flip the Silver SwitchThe Last (Endling #1)The Magic Misfits (Magic Misfits, #1)Otherwood

The Art of the Swap, Kristine Asselin.

Strange Star, Emma Carroll.

Heartseeker, Melinda Beatty.

Evangeline of the Bayou, Jan Eldredge.

R Is For Rebel, J. Anderson Coats.

The Game Masters of Garden Place, Denis Markell.

The Scroll of Kings, Sarah Prineas.

Wizardmatch, Lauren Magaziner.

Denis Ever After, Tony Abbott.

The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker, Matilda Woods

The Frame-Up, Wendy MacKnight.

The Wild Book, Juan Villaro.

A Problematic Paradox, Eliot Sappingfield.

Flip the Silver Switch, Jackie Yeager.

The Last, Katherine Applegate.

The Magic Misfits, Neil Patrick Harris.

Otherwood, Pete Hautman.

2017 Cybils Reading

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up (Fighting for Justice)

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up, Laura Atkins.

Non Cybils Completed Books:

Two Mates for the Dragon: MMF Bisexual Menage RomanceThe Mortification of Fovea MunsonLady Rogue (The Royal Rewards #3)

Two Mates for the Dragon, ed. Zoe Chant.

The Mortification of Fovea Munson, Mary Heider. Almost a Cybils, but knocked out on a technicality.

Lady Rogue, Teresa Romain.

Bookmarks In:

Son of the Black Sword (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior, #1)Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human CadaversJade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)Stinger
Honor Among Thieves (Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion, #2)Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota, #1)Someplace to Be Flying (Newford, #8)
Shadow of Doubt (Robyn Hunter, #5)The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #6)The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic

Son of the Black Sword, Larry Correia. 12-13/? Baen's podcast serial. A terrible secret revealed. Although not to me.

Stiff, Mary Roach. Audio Reading My Library Quest book. It's a great book for the car since it consists of fairly short bits in easily digested chunks.

Jade City, Fonda Lee. Last month's Sword and Laser pick. Only a few pages this week.

, Nancy Kress. Kress is the next Foolscap GoH.

Honor Among Thieves, James A. Corey. My next Reading My Library book. Pushed ahead a few pages.

Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer.

Someplace to Be Flying, Charles D. Lint.

Shadow of Doubt, Norah McClintock.

Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin.

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic, F.T. Lukens. Cybils YA fantasy book. The adventure is fun but the self-inflicted social drama is exhausting for the aged reader.

Palate Cleansers

These books I'm barely reading; I use them as palate cleansers between books I'm actually reading.

A Traitor to Memory (Inspector Lynley, #11)Sammy Keyes and the Art of DeceptionChange of Heart (Robyn Hunter, #7)The Inn of the Sixth HappinessReading and Learning to Read

A Traitor to Memory, Elizabeth George.

Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception, Wendelin Van Draanen.

Change of Heart, Norah McClintock.

Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Alan Burgess.

Reading and Learning to Read, Jo Anne Vaca.

2018 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2017! 63/104-ish. Read a few nonfiction. Working on a YA.
  2. Reading My Library: Finished Mary Roach's Stiff.
  3. Where Am I Reading 2018?: 40/51. Cybils came through with Illinois and Rhode Island! Now I need some magic in Alaska, Arkansas, and Missouri!