DECEMBER

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas
Celaena Sardothien has been pulled out of a death camp to go to the Crown Prince and act as his Champion in a contest to determine the King's Assassin. She is the king of assassins, but only because she was rescued after the death of her parent by this king. Lots of action and intrigue and romance. Oh now, two men who love her and sh e's got issues. This is violent and I think later volumes contain explicit sex. High School. Very well written.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
The was a surprisingly short but powerful fairy tale for YA. Nothing in particular makes it YA except an ephemeral quality of maturity. I liked this a lot.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Only for the compassionate and stout of heart. This WWII story is heart-rending. Florian, Joana and Emilia's paths cross int eh forest of north Germany as they flee the war front and the advancing Russians. Their stories unfold tragically but head toward even more tragedy--the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. So very hard to read, yet it inexorably pulls you in. So sound in its history research, this certainly reads like nonfiction. Violent of course, and a great deal of sexual abuse, but still appropriate for mature MS students. Excellent. YA

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick.by Joe Schreiber
Like watching a frenetic James Bond movie but with more moral weight and emotional cache. Perry Stormaire hosts a visiting Lithuanian exchange student and is coerced into taking Gobi to prom. But that night turns into a complicated assassin's job that pulls Perry deeper and deeper into Gobi's plan. Lots of violence. Each chapter starts with a college admission essay question. (I loved that.)

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
I'm ambivalent about this one. I really like the story as told in the art. But when it moves to the written story I felt like it was confusing and never hooked me. The Blink character was floating there somewhere but never solidified. The made up/reality parts were never clarified in my mind and it's all fiction anyway (except the actual house which seems the most fictionalized.) I know the book if controversial because of the homosexual relationship but that's not the bothersome part for me. I was trying to feel what the child Joseph was feeling never happened for me. Meh.
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff
Trent is starting middle school, but it's a small town and everyone knows him as the boy who killed Jared. There are all sorts of reactions from people, but the more important element is Trent's own internal anger and confusion. Then he meets Fallon Little, the girl with the facial scar that sets her apart from everyone. Lots of relationship conflict in this one including a dad with a new baby in a different town, brothers with their own issues and Ms Emerson, the ancient ex-home ec teacher. Several hate/maybe not sets of people. Good. Several audiences for this. 4th-Middle school.

I was Here by Gayle Forman
The was a hard read. Cody's best friend from childhood has committed suicide very very deliberately. Cody goes through what she has to until Meg's little brother suggests that something is odd. Cody begins to follow up on the blank hole before the suicide. This goes in lots of directions, with lots of family complications and emotions. It was emotionally draining, but really well written. Excellent. YA for sex. (better for High School)

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm
Graphic novel about a 10 year old who is sent to a Florida retirement community to spend the summer with her grandfather. This is about being a family member of an addict. A quick read but well done.

Steve Jobs: the Man who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal
Read this to see why it's YA. Well, Jobs was a jerk. Brilliant and perfectionist, but still a jerk. His personal relationships were bizarre including his romantic relationships and his business relationships. This was a good timeline for seeing how Apple products came to be. Not for elementary readers though.

Curio by Evangeline Denmark
prepub edition. Grey is in a weird community somewhere in Colorado where Chemists rule with the proverbial iron fist. Her father and grandfather are somehow working outside of those constraints but Gray doesn't know much until in a moment of crisis she is sucked into a Curio cabinet where Tocks serve animated Porcies. That world is pretty creative. It's all very steampunk. (both worlds) and just a tad confusing. The writing wasn't great, although I couldn't put my finger on why. YA for violence and sexual situations.

The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry Jenkins
Really disappointing. The story is fairytale like, but has some modern elements that are a bit confusing. The teens are "kids". By the time I finally got involved in the story it was over. But not. Totally left hanging. And the next isn't do until 2016 fall. Dang it.

"The President has been Shot" by James L Swanson
This was a sad read for me because I remember so much of it in real life. This wasn’t just history—it was my history. There were certainly many details here that I didn’t know or remember, and it avoids the conspiracy theories that have lasted for so long. I didn’t realize that Jackie stayed with the body virtually until burial. Well written. Too graphic for elementary, but excellent for middle school. YA

The Rainmaker by John Grisham
Rudy Baylor is finishing law school and needs to pass his bar exam and get settled in a good law firm in Memphis. Doing a “geezer law” class in a senior center he meets Dot and Buddy who want to sue Great Benefit Insurance for causing the death of their son Donny Ray when they denied his claim for a bone marrow transplant from his twin brother. He also meets Miss Birdie who has a will for him to work on, and then later meets Kelly who has the heck beat out of her by her husband. Things get complicated and a tad scary. The court scenes are excellent. Not too technical and with the right amount of drama. It’s written for adults, but there is nothing inappropriate in this for middle school.

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
Five teens have secret powers that are not exactly super. Ethan, “Scam”, has a voice that can convince people to do what he needs. Kelsie can move crowds to feel like she wants them to. Then there’s Teebo (Thiebeau) or Anon who no one can ever remember. Each of their powers also seems like a curse too. This turns very exciting very quickly with multiple life and death situations. Great read. OK for mature middle schoolers. YA.

Dead Boy by Laurel Gale
Crow Darlington has been closed up in his house with his mother for two years because, well, he's dead. His days are pretty much the same although he is still decomposing and has some pretty gross accidents. But then he meets the new neighbor Melody and things get pretty exciting. This is a typical puzzle solving, magical creature, wishes story--with the complications of being dead thrown in. Creative. Easy read. 4th+

How to Fight a Dragon's Fury by Cressida Cowell (#12)
What a wonderful conclusion to this wonderful series. When things seem impossible, somehow Hiccup comes through. Every page here seems to present a new hurdle, but Hiccup has learned his lessons about love and sacrifice. Hiccup has awakened to a lost memory and everyone good and bad is searching for him. Even if Hiccup manages to become King of the Vikings he still has to deal with the dragon Furious. I cried through lots of this story. Excellent. 3rd+