Friday, April 17, 2020

The Cybils Awards TBR Reading Challenge: CybilsReaddown

The Cybils Awards are giving us a fun challenge during this time at home, and it's one that I sorely need. They challenge us to tackle our TBR piles, from our libraries or our bookshelves, and clear out what we can. There's even a prize but I hope I don't win because I'd feel bad. I already have a Cybils tote. 
The goal is to "share with other reader" what we've got, what we've liked, what we recommend. That a good frame of mind to have when penning a review, either on twitter or goodreads or on my blog. 

There's a hashtag: #CybilsReaddown to use with social media; I think I'm only going to twitter-tag Cybils books because they want you to limit to three a week. So books that are either past Cybils finalists or prospective nominations from me will get tagged, and on here I'll list what I've read for this challenge.

So far I've read:

  1. As the Crow Flies, Melanie Gillman, a Cybils 2018 YA graphic book finalist. I recommend it to young teens who appreciate beauty and who are are questioning and identifying their identity as they move from childhood to independence. This book specifically looks at racial, gender and religious identity, Charlie finds herself in a group where she's not sure she fits in along any of those lines. 
  2. Gathering Edge, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. #20 in a long running space opera with lots of different cultures clashing and space pilot zooming about.
  3. Countdown Conspiracy, Katie Slivensky, a Cybils 2017 SF book. I really like the team work and the trope of super-smart kids doing real work, and Slivensky did a great job making them real kids while also showing the amazing things they were capable of. I found a lot of the science rather shaky; the programming of Ruby seemed rather magical and the descriptions of rocketry and orbits sounded bizarre; it's possible it was simplified for the audience and I just couldn't recognize the truth behind the words. But it made it hard to suspend disbelief; luckily the emotional connections between the team were more realistic and brought the story back to life for me.
  4. Grand Theft Horse, G. Neri. A Cybils 2018 YA graphic book finalist. A gripping and inspiring story of a woman willing to sacrifice her life for a horse, and maybe also to spite the men determined to hurt that horse. The comic was sometimes hard for me to parse, since I'm not very skilled at reading graphic novels, but the story line was intense and kept me turning the pages. 
  5. Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir. A 2020 Hugo novel finalist. The youth of the future exhaust me.
  6. Last Day on Mars, Kevin Emerson. A Cybils 2017 middle grade SF book. Super fun plot, with twists and hints that leave me wondering want will happen next. Liam is a friendly and determined guy with some good friends and skilled robots on his side, which he needs if he's going to save himself, his friends, their parents, the colonist ship, humanity and the universe.
  7. Golden in Death, J.D. Robb. Fifty books in and I'm still having fun. Charles isn't as much fun now that he's respectable, but it's hilarious seeing Eve still whining about being filthy rich. And the bad guys were bad but not grotesque, so their take down was pure relish.
  8. Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka. A Cybils 2018 YA graphic, a memoir of a complicated childhood (almost all childhoods are complicated) done with emotional precision both in writing and in the art.
  9. Other Words For Home, Jasmine Warga. Cybils 2019 poetry book that's a verse novel documenting a middle schooler's move from Syria to Cincinnati and her struggles to both learn to love her new home but not to give up on her old one.
  10. Wolfsbane, Patricia Briggs. I like the way it looks at family from several different directions, and what it means to have people you will love and forgive and sacrifice for.
  11. Great Alone, Kristin Hannah. The book has been on my to-read list for two years, and I've checked it out of the library twice, once just before the COVID closure that gave me an extra four months to read it. Once I managed to start it I found it smooth going -- lovely evocative setting, complex characters, coming of age bits. At the end a stupid problem made me put it down for a while, but I pushed through to completion. But the end kind of spoiled things.
  12. Spirit Hunters, Ellen Oh. Cybils 2017 MG SF finalist, where the middle sister must defend her little brother from badness. I like how it turned out that she needed her grandmother's skills in this fight, and her new friends new and old also stood with her. 
  13. Tell the Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt.I read this excruciatingly slowly because it brought back all the intense emotions of a young teen, when you are sure you are going to be the worst person ever. It's a story of an unlikely friendship and of a family that is uncertain of each other but also ultimately strong.
  14. On a Sunbeam, Tilly Waldon. 2018 YA Graphic novel. I found it hard to tell the characters apart (I'm terrible at this in general!) so it was a bit hard to follow. I also found it hard to tell when they were in a flashback. Some of the art was lovely; I liked when I could just admire the pictures and not try to figure out what was going on. 
  15. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke. A book I'm glad to have read because it sits comfortably in my memory but it was a long slog to get through it. My favorite character was the fairy king, who unfortunately had a habit of slaughtering people. 
  16. All the Pieces Fit, Judd Winick. HiLo is great. This story had a lot of heart -- loss, sacrifice, redemption, tears, and triumph. It was a bit light on real world situations, but instead it had a mom coming through in an awesome way. 
  17. Winter Sisters, Robin Oliveira. This was supposed to be for my local library's book club back in March. I think that ship has sailed away, so I finally read it. I liked the historical detail -- it's set in Albany after the Civil War and starts with an unexpected late blizzard that wreaks havoc on the city. The status of women is shown through the prostitutes and the doctor characters -- one doctor is a woman and she faces a lot of discrimination. The characters are authentic but the author's tone is disapproving of the injustice. The family details are well balanced and I enjoyed it and would have liked to discuss it!
  18. Rediscover Catholicism, Matthew Kelly. A deeply sincere and loving description of how Catholicism helps Kelly be the-best-version-of-himself (his term) with details into how this works and what is important to him (Mass, the rosary, prayer, etc.). It's a good reminder of the good derived from the Church, although it doesn't really address faith or the issues I have with it.
  19. The Midwinter Witch, Molly Ostertag. I'm a bit tired of Ariel's dramatics, but she is slowly starting to mature. At least she is flouncing off trying to help people rather than destroy them. And I could sympathize with the mistakes the adults were making. Easy to read pictures help my enjoyment, although I did manage to confuse all the brunettes at some point. I'm so bad at faces, and not much better at clothes -- it does make graphic novels hard for me! But Ostertag is very good at what she does.
  20. The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan. I paused reading this one because it felt too close to Jonathan Strange but enjoyed it when I went back to it. The combination of poking around with dragons in a foreign country while learning what it means to be a responsible, moral adult and fighting the traditional role for one's gender was a pleasing one, and I'm old enough to appreciate the perspective of writing memoirs.
  21. Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship, Chitra Soundar. An Early Chapter Book from 2019. I got the audio since my library didn't have it as an ebook, and it was a delightful listen, with the taste of India permeating the sweets, the village sounds and trades, and the court of the king. The two boys who raced around dispensing fairness were extra fun. But I missed all the illustrations which I bet is a pity.
  22. Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet, Megan Frazier Blackmore. A fun book about friendship, inventions, and rodents. I like the inventor hook, and how Frankie isn't that good at reading and writing but recognizes their value and researches stuff even when it's hard. The moral was rather blatant but also the sort of thing elementary kids struggle with -- what is fair to expect from and demand from one's friends? How do you handle conflicting desires when there is only one outcome?
  23. The Orphan Band of Springdale, Anne Nesbit. Set in Maine just before WWII, a period I love reading about: Check. Protagonist has a family involved in the labor movement: Check. And she wrestles with ideas of fairness and courage while pushing herself to be a better version of herself, surrounded by complex people who are a mix of good and failed. And the scenes where she learns to see with her new glasses are beautiful and reflective of the overall themes. This book could have been written for me. Clearly I loved it.
  24. Witchmark, C.L. Polk. gives out a free book each month, but sometimes my science fiction book club is reading something else and I fall behind. I'm glad I went back to this one -- I enjoyed the worldbuilding, which took and Edwardian English backdrop and mixed it with magic, gender equality, and limited tolerance of homesexuality in an interesting way. I also liked the protagonist, a self-effacing guy who had a lot of backbone to him.
  25. A Is For Elizabeth, Rachel Vail. This Cybils early chapter book was delightful. I share her name, so I enjoyed her creative spelling and name poster, and thought that the kids resolved the fairness issue with great wisdom. And the short chapters would be great for beginning readers, or would also work for a shared read.
  26. Mr Penguin and the Lost Treasure, Alex Smith. A light mystery with a budding penguin detective and his spider-bodyguard. Not as much to my taste as the Elizabeth book, but I can see it appealing to kids as Mr Penguin has to learn his trade and they may be quicker at seeing some clues than he is. It did feel a bit light on girls, though.
  27. Cookie, Jacqueline Wilson. I enjoyed the very British feel of this book, although the characters seemed a bit flat. But it was nice when life turned out happier than Cookie expected in the first chapters. 

And that's a wrap! And our libraries should be opening again (for curbside pick up) so good thing I got through some of those.

1 comment:

Katy @alibrarymama said...

Glad to see you participating, Beth! I’m glad to focus on writing reviews especially as I’m months behind. I like your plan of only tagging the Cybils-related titles.