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Trouble Is a Friend of Mine Book Review

Title:Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Author: Stephanie Tromly
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0525428404


336 pp.


ARC provided by publisher


There are hi-jinks aplenty in this screwball mystery by Stephanie Tromly. Zoe is the new kid at school when she meets Digby, a weird, smart, completely impossibleboy who drags her into an investigation of a missing girl. An investigation that may be linked to Digby's sister, who also went missing years before.

The dialog snaps, crackles, and pops as Zoe becomes Digby's somewhat willing accomplice in break-ins, drug deals, and fictional class assignments ... all in the name of finding the truth.

The action is over the top, from a mysterious cult next door to a Gatsby themed winter formal where nothing goes right. It reads like a television pilot that's been turned into a YA novel, because while one mystery is wrapped up, another is remains, sending up for a sequel. And there's nothing wrong with tha…

I Remember You Book Review

Title:I Remember You
Author: Cathleen Davitt Bell
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 10, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0385754552

320 pp.

ARC provided by publisher


Juliet is a good student who has never had a boyfriend before. So when hockey player Lucas tells her he remembers their first kiss, she's not sure what to make of him.

Cathleen Davitt Bell creates a premise where Lucas-from-the-future is trapped in the body of Lucas-of-the-present, sort of Peggy Sue Gets Married set in the 1990's. Juliet is left to wonder if Lucas is nuts or if this weird phenomenon is actually happening to him. And if it is, what can she do to help him?

It's a romance story with (very) light science fiction elements. The novel is told from Juliet's POV and it's mostly reactive. I think the tension and stakes would have amped up if was a dual POV of Juliet and Lucas.

Juliet is also dealing with friendship drama and figuring out if the future that Lucas predicts for her is r…

Teens' Top Ten

It's that time of the year again!

Voting has opened up for Teens' Top Ten nominees! Get the vote out to teens!

Voting will close at the end of Teen Read Week, which is October 24th, so there's still time to catch up on the titles you haven't read yet.

Teens can vote here.

This year's nominees are:


Alsaid, Adi. Let’s Get Lost. Harlequin Teen.Armentrout, Jennifer L. Don’t Look Back. Disney Hyperion.Blackburne, Livia. Midnight Thief. Disney Hyperion.Blake, Kendare. Mortal Gods. Tor Teen.Clare, Cassandra. The Bane Chronicles. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry.Cremer, Andrea. The Inventor’s Secret. Penguin Group/Philomel.Dellaira, Ava.  Love Letters to the Dead. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus, Giroux Books.Despain, Bree. Into the Dark: The Shadow Prince. Egmont.Han, Jenny. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Simon & Schuster.Howard, A.G. Unhinged. Abrams/Amulet Books.Lu, Marie. The Young Elites. Penguin/G.P. Putnam's Sons.Maas, Sarah J. Heir of Fire. Bloomsbu…

Night Film Audiobook Review

Title:Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Narrated by: Jake Weber
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: August 20, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0307932655


Listening copy via local library


Marisha Pessl's debut novel, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, was a hot read a few years ago. I read it and thought it was intelligent and intricately plotted, but overall a meh from me in terms of being invested in the characters.

There was a lot of buzz about her second book, Night Film, and I decided I'd give it go, especially since the audiobook is narrated by Jake Weber. I've been a fan of his since American Gothic, so I was willing to spend a few hours listening to him.

Night Film centers on a disgraced reporter, Scott McGrath, who's obsessed with finding out what happened the night the daughter of a famous director committed suicide. The director is Stanislas Cordova, a provocateur as much as an auteur, whose controversial horror films are only shown at underground screenings. The daugh…

We Should Hang Out Sometime Book Review

Title: We Should Hang Out Sometime
Author: Josh Sundquist
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 23, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0316251020

336 pp.


ARC provided by publisher


Josh Sundquist is a Paralympian, motivational speaker, and YouTuber who's not so good with the ladies. This biography tells the tale of all the girls he's loved before (or at least crushed on) and what went horribly wrong.

It's a quick, funny read about a guy who thinks having a girlfriend means a pretty girl likes him and he doesn't have to, you know, talk to her or actually have to work at a relationship. It takes a long time, a pseduo-scientific study, and some honest friends to set him straight.

This book shows how clueless guys really are about girls, and the big reveal is that girls are human beings with their own inner lives and don't exist to make boys feel special. Josh is not entitled to a girlfriend just because he's a nice guy.

I'd recommend this to reade…

Exquisite Corpse Book Review

Title:Exquisite Corpse
Author: Penelope Bagieu
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1626720824

128 pp.

ARC provided via NetGalley


Fun fact: "Exquisite Corpse" was a game invented by Surrealists where a piece (of art, of literature) was constructed by each participant adding to what the earlier participant had created.

This French import by graphic novelist Penelope Bagieu plays with that conceit in Exquisite Corpse. Zoe is a "booth babe" with a ne'er-do-well boyfriend and no real direction in life. Then she has a chance encounter with famous author, Thomas Rocher.

Except she doesn't recognize Thomas as a famous author. And she certainly doesn't know that Thomas is supposed to be dead. All she knows is that she's met a lonely, kind of weird guy who treats her so much better than she's used to. But when she finds out the truth, everything about their relationship changes.

I absolutely loved the illustrations. Zoe is adorab…

Mort(e) Book Review

Title:Mort(e)
Author: Robert Repino
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1616954277


368 pp.


ARC provided by publisher








"I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."  Kent Brockman
Mort(e) by Robert Repino was an ARC I picked up at last summer's ALA Annual Conference and I finally found the time to read it.

I was intrigued by its animal apocalypse premise: superintelligent ants bring sentience to animals, who rise against humans in "the war with no name." A neutered housecat, Sebastian, becomes a soldier and possibly a messiah.

You don't expect something like that to be especially realistic, and the science given to explain how the ants brought about the war is nonsensical. The author would have better served his readers by making this a Great Unknown. (Not particularly spoilery: the ants put hormones in the water to mutate the animals. And yet it doesn't affect the humans. If you're going to put something in the water, why…

The Time Machine Audiobook Review

Title: The Time Machine
Author: H.G. Wells
Narrated by: Sir Derek Jacobi
Publisher: Listening Library
Publication Date: June 11, 2013


Listening copy via Sync


H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is one of those science fiction classics that I just never got around to reading, so I thought listening to a free Sync copy would be a perfect way to finally get around to it.

I've seen the Hollywood movie adaptations (the Rod Taylor version is infinitely better than the Guy Pearce version) and knew the basic plot already ... Victorian inventor creates time machine that takes him millennia into the future where the human race has evolved into the docile Eloi and the subterrestrial Morlocks.

But this audiobook also has Sir Derek Jacobi, one of the top ten dulcet speakers of the English language. He reads this unabridged edition of The Time Machine with appropriate wonder, charm, and suspense. This recording is delight from beginning to end.

And speaking of the end, the Hollywood versions totally l…

Landline Audiobook Review

Title:Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1427239327

Listening copy via public library

Rainbow Rowell'sEleanor & Park is still crazy popular, and maybe one day it'll be in the library long enough for me to check it out. In the meantime, I listened to the audiobook of Landline.

Landline isn't YA, although an argument could be made that it's New Adult since a good portion happens in flashbacks when the main character, Georgie McCool, is in college.

The conceit of the story is that Georgie's marriage to college sweetheart Neal is at a crossroads, a road that could split off into either divorce or reconciliation. And Georgie is able to talk to Neal -- the actual Neal she knew in college -- on an old landline phone.

Given that conceit, the novel is largely made up of long phone conversations. There's humor and regret and hope in these conversations as the Today-Georgie talks …

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children Book Review

Title:Beautiful Music for Ugly Children
Author: Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Publisher: Flux
Publication Date: October 8, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0738732510

288 pp.

Copy provided via publisher


I picked up a copy of this title (signed by the author!) at the ALA Annual Conference last year, and though it's taken me awhile to get to it on my TBR pile, I am absolutely in love in with it.

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is the story of Gabe, a high school senior who's looking forward to his post-high school life. He wants to put all the bullying and awfulness behind and start over in a new life. Because Gabe has spent the past 18 years as Elizabeth and now he's ready to transition.

His neighbor/friend/mentor John gets him a DJ gig on the local community radio station and a part-time job in an indie record store.  Gabe never thought transitioning would be easy, but his radio show becomes an underground hit. It's the one bright spot in his life, but he's scared he'll lose his fans if th…

Now That You're Here Book Review

Title:Now That You're Here
Author: Amy K. Nichols
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0385753890

304 pp.

ARC provided by publisher



Here's another book in the current parallel universes mini-trend, Now That You're Here by Amy K. Nichols.

There's dual narration by Danny, a street artist in Phoenix who lands in his doppleganger's body after an explosion at a mall, and Eevee, a nerdy good girl who's trying to figure out a topic for the science fair.

The novel is a clever mix of science fiction and romance, as there's a slow burn of revelations and realizations about what's happened to Danny. The Danny that Eevee knows is a burnout, and the Eevee that Danny knows is a mysterious girl in a red dress.

The world-building of Danny's reality gives just enough subtle clues that it's different from Eevee's (and presumably our) world. This is the first of a series, and the second book seems bound for Danny&#…

Free Audiobooks, People!

It's that time of the year again, when the good people at Sync offer a weekly selection of YA audiobooks paired with classic titles.

If you don't have OverDrive Media Console, you'll need to install if, but Sync offers a handy link to that on its website.

Check out this year's offerings:


May 7-14:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
May 14-21:
Dodger by Terry PratchettGreat Expectations by Charles Dickens
May 21-28:
X: A Novel by Ilyasha Shabazz & Kekla MagoonHere in Harlem by Walter Dean Myers
May 28-June 4:
The Ring and the Crown by Melissa De La CruzSea Hearts by Margo Lanagan
June 4-11:
A Corner of White by Jaclyn MoriartyDracula by Bram Stoker
June 11-18:
The Living by Matt de la PenaThe Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
June 18-25:
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth WeinAnne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies & Alison Leslie Gold
June 25-July 2:
Monster by Walter Dean MyersLord of the Flies by William Golding
July 2-…

A Thousand Pieces of You Book Review

Title:A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0062278968

368 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is the first in her new Firebird series, a rollicking, action-packed novel about love and revenge across parallel universes.

Marguerite Caine is an artist in a family of scientists. And not just any scientists. Her parents are cutting edge physicists working on a project, Firebird, that will bridge the gap between parallel universes. But when Marguerite's father is killed in a highly suspicious accident, Marguerite uses Firebird to go after his presumed murderer.

The novel is a fun read as we see Marguerite navigate the different worlds she travels through, sometimes subtly different, sometimes tragically different. The science behind the project is purely fictional, but Marguerite's journey is what keeps the reader engaged.

Helping her on her journey is Theo, a student of her p…

Sold Audiobook Review

Title:Sold
Author: Patricia McCormick
Narrated by: Justine Eyre
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Publication Date: November 26, 2012

Listening copy via Sync

Sold by Patricia McCormick was a National Book Award finalist, a lyrical, heartbreaking story about Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl who is sold by her stepfather into the sex trade.

Justine Eyre does a phenomenal job narrating Lakshmi's story, starting with her love for her mother and the struggling farm they live on in the foothills of the Himalayas, through Lakshmi's journey to what she thinks is a job as a maid to the city, and the suffering that Lakshmi endures in a Calcutta brothel, trying to hold onto her humanity and even hope.

The subject matter is difficult to listen to and Justine Eyre's expresses quiet desperation, loneliness, and grief without histrionics. If you're listening to this on a road trip, as I did, be prepared for an emotional gutting.

YALLWEST 2015

Whew! The first ever YALLWEST books festival is over! Two days of YA madness with over 80 authors, a couple thousand attendees, and tons of books!








I volunteered to help out on both days, so I didn't go to any of the panels. But that didn't mean I didn't get to meet people and have fun!

I was assigned to the gaming area, playing Scrabble with authors and attendees. Hasbro was one of the sponsors and donated a variety of games to give away as prizes. I want to give a shout-out to Hasbro for their generosity.

Several hundred inner city kids were bussed in for the event and they had never played Scrabble before. Many of them didn't own any board games. So it was especially rewarding for me to introduce them to one of my favorite games and then hand them one to keep.

Thanks to all the authors, sponsors, volunteers, and lovers of YA books who made it such an awesome event! Hope to see you next year!


Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone!
(or Passover) (or lazy Sunday)
Enjoy the day and enjoy this video:

The Sculptor Book Review

Title:The Sculptor
Author: Scott McCloud
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1596435735

496 pp.

ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley


Comic book authority Scott McCloud wrote and illustrated the graphic novel The Sculptor, his first work of fiction in over 20 years. The fact that it's already in development for a film should give you a clue that it's a hot property.

David is the titular sculptor, a once-rising artist in the New York art scene. But he's kind of a dick and he alienates his patron and most of his friends. Now he's broke and desperate. So, of course, he makes a deal with a devil.

The Sculptor is an amazing piece of work, a Faustian tale for the 21st century. David is flawed, certainly, but flawed in the way most artistic types are. He cares more about art than people. But then he meets Meg, an aspiring actress, with flaws of her own, and David begins to regret his deal with the devil.

Readers will fly through near-500 pages o…

Wildlife Book Review

Title:Wildlife
Author: Fiona Wood
Publisher: Poppy
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0316242097

400 pp.

ARC provided by publisher


Wildlife is Australian author Fiona Wood's US debut, and my love for Australian YA grows.

Wildlife is a dual narration novel, with Sibylla telling one story and Lou telling another. Both live in the same dorm during a wilderness semester at school, which is a pretty interesting background to begin with. The teens are supposed to learn appreciation for nature and self-reliance, but of course they learn so much more.

Sibylla is a bit of nerd, but recently became popular due to a fluke that got her a modelling gig. Now cute-boy Ben is unofficially her boyfriend and out in the woods, kissing may become something more.

Lou is an outsider, literally and figuratively. She's the new girl at school and she deliberately pushes away any attempts at friendship. That's because Lou has had her heart broken, in the most tragic way possible.

But Lou can…

Soppy Book Review

Title:Soppy
Author & Illustrator: Philippa Rice
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication Date: December 2, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1449461065

108 pp.

ARC via NetGalley

"Soppy" is something that's overly sentimental and it's a word used more in the UK than the States

So it makes sense that the writer/illustrator of Soppy,Philippa Rice, is from the UK.

Soppy started out as a webcomic and the book is a collection of those comics, plus new stuff. It really isn't a graphic novel as it mostly lacks a narrative, but the nearly wordless collection of comics does show the story of two people who love each other and who learn to live together.

There are the sweet, tender moments shared of just being together, cooking, sleeping, watching tv. There are moments apart, moments of regret, moments of anger. But mostly the soppy stuff.

So if you're not familiar with the webcomic, don't go looking for a story here. But if you're looking for quiet moments of couplehood…

Where'd You Go, Bernadette Audiobook Review

Title:Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Narrated by: Kathleen Wilhoite
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1478978947

Listening copy via public library


Where'd You Go, Bernadette was a 2013 Alex Award winner, which means that it's an adult book with teen appeal. Which means it's a book that it is little edgy, a little twisty, a book that you can read for fun without having to write a paper about it. But that doesn't mean that it won't get you thinking.

Maria Semple has written a satire about tech culture, helicopter parenting, and Seattle. It's also a commentary about the nature of art, the loneliness of genius, and the bonds of family.

The story is told through a series of email correspondence, magazine articles, doctor's reports, and the narration of Bernadette's teenage daughter, Bee, who is trying to piece together the puzzle of her mother's sudden disappearance. There isn't much of …

El Deafo Book Review

Title:El Deafo
Author: Cece Bell
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1419712173

248 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

I am so happy that Cece Bell'sEl Deafo got some Newbery love as it was named an Honor Winner earlier this month.

This graphic novel is funny, sweet, honest, touching, and true. It deserves all the accolades and awards and fans that it has.

Cece Bell got meningitis when she was four years old and became profoundly deaf. She has used this life experience to create El Deafo, which was the nickname she gave herself. She went to a regular school and to help her hear the teacher, she wore a Phonic Ear. The device amplified the teacher's voice, but unknown the the teacher, Cece was able to hear the teacher wherever she went throughout the school. Including the bathroom!

Cece thought of this as her superhero power, but it was a secret power that she didn't share with anyone. She was ashamed of the Phonic Ear and of being different.

The…

Sisters Book Review

Title: Sisters
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Publication Date: August 26, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0545540605

208 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Raina Telgemeier made her name with the Eisner-winning Smile, a middle grade graphic novel that perfectly captured what it's like to be different when you're not entirely sure you want to be different.

Raina has created another note-perfect graphic novel with Sisters, which this time explores the love-hate-barely tolerate relationship of sisters. Both Smile and Sisters are based on Raina's personal experiences and it shows in the honesty and humor of the books.

Sisters centers on Raina and her baby sister Amara, a baby sister she dreamed of having but the reality of her turned out to be much different. There are sepia-toned flashbacks of their early days together, the constant power struggle for attention and territory. But the main story is a road trip that the family takes to Colorado.

Family dynamics and drama are all here, from …

More Research Tools for Writers

A while back I wrote a blog post about research tools for writers, and I thought it was time to include some new ones to the list.

One of things I like to do is read up on a certain subject before I write about it. I may use Wikipedia for a brief overview (yes, librarians use Wikipedia), but then I may want a book for a more in-depth view. And if I don't want to spend money to buy it, or my local library doesn't carry it, I check Worldcat. Worldcat is an aggregator of libraries' catalogs so you can search a particular title or author and find out what libraries carry it. Worldcat lists most academic and public libraries, and a few specialty libraries, throughout the world. Is the only copy of a pulp novel you want to read before you finish your noir novel in another state? Then you can see if it's available for ILL (Inter-Library Loan). There's usually a small fee, and there's some restrictions on what items can be loaned, so check your local library for their…

Carter Finally Gets It Audiobook Review

Title:Carter Finally Gets It
Author:Brent Crawford
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: April 7, 2009

I listened to this as part of Sync's audio summer promotion (yeah, it took me awhile to get to it). But it was pretty damn funny.

Carter is a freshman with ADD and a stutter, especially around girls. He, like just about any other 14 year old, thinks about girls ALL THE TIME. He has his friends who live to tease each other, an older sister who is completely embarrassed by him, and really no clue about what high school will bring.

The school year passes by through the sports Carter plays (or tries to play) and the girls he dates (or tries to date). There really is not much of a plot except how Carter tries to survive his freshman year.

Carter is honest, raunchy, occasionally sweet, and voiced perfectly by Nick Podehl. He brings a lot of swagger to Carter and knows just when to deflate that self-importance when reality hits Carter upside the head.

The Prince of Venice Beach Book Review

Title:The Prince of Venice Beach
Author:Blake Nelson
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0316230483

240 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Robert "Cali" Callahan is a street kid. He ran away from a foster home in Nebraska when he was 14 and headed for sunny California. Now he's 17 and he spends his days surfing, skateboarding, and playing basketball with his friends.

But he'll be turning 18 soon and that means he doesn't have to duck social services anymore with the fear that he'll be sent back to Nebraska. He's starting to think about the future because he knows he can't always live in the tree house in a hippie's backyard.

Cali realizes that his one true talent is finding people. He knows everyone around Venice Beach and he knows how to get people to talk. So when a cop he knows asks him to be on the lookout for a recent runaway, and that there's some money in it for him for finding the kid, Cali…

There Will Come a Time Book Review

Title:There Will Come a Time
Author: Carrie Arcos
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1442495852

320 pp.

ARC provided by publisher

Carrie Arcos has written a quiet, sensitive novel about a quiet, sensitive protagonist. Mark is a gifted musician who lost his twin sister in a car accident. It's bad enough losing Grace, but since he was driving the car when they were hit by a distracted driver, he's lost in as much guilt as grief.

Mark has withdrawn inside himself as he goes through the motions of therapy. But when Grace's best friend Hanna discovers Grace's bucket list, she convinces Mark to join her in completing the list. Mark's not sure what to do about his complicated feelings about Hanna, either. His impulse is to push everyone away.

The novel is a poignant, believable story about loss and surviving. It's set in a suburb of  Los Angeles that one's not likely to see on reality television and Mark's family is a multicultural …

Teen Titans: Earth One Volume 1 Book Review

Title:Teen Titans: Earth One, Volume 1
Author: Jeff Lemire
Illustrators: Rachael Dodson & Terry Dodson
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: November 25, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1401245566

144 pp.

ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

I cannot begin to tell you how much I LOVED The New Teen Titans. I mean, seriously, this book saved me when I was a teenager. "A freak among freaks," Vic Stone says in the first issue and I knew this comic was for me. One of my proudest moments was getting a Letter to the Editor published. And here's me with Marv Wolfman at ComicCon a few years back:

Marv Wolfman was instrumental in defining my story sense, taught me how to develop character arcs, and showed me how comics could be smart, funny, and incredibly human.

Plus with George Perez's illustrations, The New Teen Titans was a thing of beauty from the cover to the last panel.

Then it started to suck. George left. Stories were boring. And I was in college by then. So yeah, time to move …