NEW THIS YEAR, a return to my roots as things will be given 0-5 stars. Formatting will remain the same for easy visualization -- bold indicates things I absolutely loved, italics are things I greatly enjoyed and would recommend, plain text is average to mediocre, and
EDIT: As of September 18 (yikes, early this year), I exceeded the posting limit and had to kick the movies over here.
1. A Certain Strain of Peculiar -- Gigi Amateau. 261 pg/2009. **** [1/4]
I was desperately annoyed by the part where's she's mesmerized by her own breasts, but generally a very sweet story. Girl books! As opposed to...
2. X Isle -- Steve Augarde. 475 pg/2009. ** [1/7]
That was a little like Lord of the Flies, but thrice as long and boring. Ugh, boy books.
I figured out the title spoke truth in the second paragraph. What's your excuse, Lainey? Are you an irreparable moron? Actually, what's my excuse for finishing this awful piece of dreck?
4. The Clearing - Heather Davis. 215 pg/2010. **** [1/9]
So beautifully written, and such a lovely romance.
5. After the Moment - Garret Freymann-Weyr. 328 pg/2009. ***** [1/10]
Definitely broke my heart in a 500-Days-of-Summer way, but I didn't even care, because everything felt real. It helped that we started with 20-something characters and flashed back to high school in '03 (my age exactly!), but it just took my breath away. Take note, it is maybe the first time a teenage male protagonist has been completely thoughtful, complex, sympathetic and interesting. I read every page slowly, with a breathless sense of uncovering treasure, that's how rich it was. Already the book to beat.
6. Big Fat Manifesto - Susan Vaught. 308 pg/2008. **½ [1/11]
"Fat Girl" comes across as a randomly angry-defensive blowhard, and everyone else was annoying too. The rest of the book was like one long, gross PSA about why you should never get gastric bypass.
7. Stalker Girl - Rosemary Graham. 296 pg/2010. *** [1/15]
Great idea ruined by rewinding from the high point for 150 pages of backstory that are completely boring by comparison, and then further destroyed by jumping forward to when she's already been caught and giving us a vague, patchy account of how she got to that point.
8. Palace Beautiful - Sarah DeFord Williams. 232 pg/2010. **** [1/16]
It is not only set in 1985, it both looks and sounds like it was written then, too. And is an amazing story.
9. Liar - Justine Larbalestier. 376 pg/2009. *** [1/17]
Why would you insert werewolves into the middle of a perfectly normal murder mystery? I'm going to assume that like everything else in this book, that was a lie.
10. Invisible Girl - Mary Hanlon Stone. 279 pg/2010. *** [1/17]
One of those standard substance-free YA-chick-lit books, only with slightly younger characters. This one's defining mark was being set amidst a rich family in L.A. Side note: what is with junior high girls obsessing over the size of their chests vs. other girls'?
11. To Be Mona - Kelly Easton. 218 pg/2008. ** [1/20]
It sounds so intriguing, and then you open the cover and it's so simple it's like a 6th grader wrote it.
12. Hate List - Jennifer Brown. 407 pg/2009. ****½ [1/23]
Seriously powerful stuff about the aftermath of a school shooting. I mean, wow.
13. Audrey, Wait! - Robin Benway. 313 pg/2008. ***½ [1/23]
Hah! I didn't have high hopes from the first few pages, but that actually got pretty darn charming and Audrey turned out likable after all.
14. Ghost of Spirit Bear - Ben Mikaelsen. 154 pg/2008. *** [1/24]
And thus did we establish that it definitely wasn't the protagonists that made the first book so classic.
15. War Horse - Michael Morpurgo. 165 pg/1982. ***** [1/28]
Despite simpler language, that had every inch the power and charm of Black Beauty. Every inch.
16. Beachmont Letters - Cathleen Twomey. 223 pg/2003. *** [1/30]
Oddly, this both looks and reads like it was written a decade earlier (despite being set in the 1940s, where it evokes the period very well), but that's a good thing. Nice little story.
17. Megan's Beat - Lou Willet Stanek. 201 pg/1983. *** [1/30]
*gasp* An 80s book survived the library's purge system! *tackle-hugs* That ended in kind of an odd place, but cute.
18. Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson. 278 pg/2009. ***½ [2/1]
I just, I can't separate my author hate from the story enough to appreciate it. I hoped I could, because somewhere beyond all the hate is an amazing concept and bursts of beautiful writing (albeit not without minor flaws, like all the formatting nonsense and strings of synonyms separate by slashes), but my resentment masks it. The best compliment I have is that Lia is a far more inspiring heroine than the moron of Speak.
19. Exposed - Susan Vaught. 330 pg/2008. **** [2/6]
I love how that managed to create a relationship that was fun for a while, but then took an appropriate downturn without becoming a caricature of evil. Sometimes when authors set out to teach teens a lesson with their fiction, it's painfully obvious how they set it up to have the right outcome. This felt like something that could really happen.
20. Hit and Run - Lurlene McDaniel. 180 pg/2007. [2/8]
Aw, geeze. I never thought I'd read one of her books again once I grew out of that phase, but she surprised me by breaking format a bit and showing the aftermath of an injury from a plethora of perspectives.
21. Wish You Were Here - Catherine Clarke. 212 pg/2007. *** [2/12]
Road trips: the fluffier, cuter, adult-supervised version.
22. Half Brother - Kenneth Oppel. 375 pg/2010. *** [2/13]
The premise of this book makes no sense until you assume it was set well before anyone taught sign language to primates. The author is poor at establishing a time period.
23. The Devil's Paintbox - Victoria McKernan. 354 pg/2009. ***½ [2/15]
Been a while since we had a good Oregon Trail story. Plus a whole bonus story after that - it's a two-fer.
24. Recipe for Disaster - Maureen Fergus. 252 pg/2009. **** [2/19]
Oh gosh, I could not get over the marvelous syntax of how much this story sounded like MY JOURNALS -- not just the plethora of band room scenes, but all these small, sharp details that most books would overlook. It was like reliving an alternate version of my life, with a refreshingly cute and funny tone throughout. Warning: will induce strong dessert cravings.
25. Ruby - Francesca Lia Block & Carmen Staton. 209 pg/2006. ***½ [2/19]
I have no idea what was going on for most of the book, but that was pretty neat anyway. Especially enjoyed picturing the love interest as Orlando Bloom.
26. Looks - Madeline George. 240 pg/2008. ***½ [2/19]
I didn't like the weird tone of the omniscient narrator that permeated throughout, but I enjoyed the plot and I could definitely relate to Meghan's feeling of being invisible and her fact-gathering Observer status.
27. After the Rain -- Norma Fox Mazer. 290 pg/1987. **** [2/19]
Rich, SOLID, touching, and just generally terrific storytelling. In a "how have I not previously read this?" way, and also a "This is one of those books that should be taught in schools" kind of way -- other than maybe length, seems ideal for junior high.
28. Rose By Any Other Name - Maureen McCarthy. 336 pg/2006. **½ [2/20]
I expected another road trip (this time in Australia), but instead I got a straightforward drive full of flashbacks that got increasingly squicky. What a letdown, especially after the previous day's bender of unusually quality books.
29. The Beef Princess of Practical County - Michelle Houts. 226 pg/2009. *** [2/20]
Why do I read things guaranteed to depress me? Children raising baby livestock and selling them for meat after fairs is not cool, it will never be cool, and I do not appreciate authors trying to make it sound normal. All this proved to me is that cows are most definitely pets. Three stars for good writing and a cute character, though.
30. Tenderness - Robert Cormier. 229 pg/1997. *** [2/20]
Dude writes a decent thriller.
31. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins. 374 pg/2008. ** [2/21]
Eh. Boring. I can't quite bring myself to direct-link to a place you can spend money on it.
32. The Chosen One - Carol Lynch Williams. 213 pg/2009. *** [2/28]
Well, that was rather darker and more violent than most Crazy Polygamist Cult stories...
33. The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption [NF] - Jim Gorant.279 pg/2010. *** [2/28]
Case details drag, and pit bulls still aren't exactly the cutest dog breed around, but it was heartwarming to see how many have been safely rehabilitated. On another note, I continue to be angry that Michael Vick is back in the NFL. So angry.
34. Unseen Companion - Denise Goslinger Orenstein. 349 pg/2003. **** [3/5]
If you want a good, solid story featuring Alaska in 1969, this is your ticket. Wow, that was well done.
35. Holding Up the Earth - Dianne E. Gray. 210 pg/2000. ****½ [3/6]
It's like everything I have wanted out of an amazingly crafted family-history story -- I loved how all these just-probable-enough-to-be-real twists came together to unite the generations of girls on the farm. With a foster kid twist, which is my theme for the year until the Life Unexpected obsession dries up.
36. Somebody Everybody Listens To - Suzanne Supplee. 248 pg/2010. ***** [3/6]
Now this -- I didn't even know I wanted a story about a high school graduate trying to break into the country music business, but this cover was so alluring I picked it up, and it's an immediate favorite. Retta Lee and her adventures hooked me from start to finish, everything felt so real. Meanwhile, each chapter is named after and directly references a popular country song (full playlist provided in back), and the whole thing is just full of powerful friendships and unexpected connections with people, all of whom are characters developed as well as Retta is. And a bonus, there is no central romance. High five, author!
37. Safe - Susan Shaw. 168 pg/2007. **½ [3/9]
Had all the right ingredients, but failed to ignite my interest. The poetry and weird visions of her mom seemed unnecessary.
38. The Dog Who Healed a Family [NF] - Jo Coudert. 182 pg/2010. *** [3/10]
Store-brand Chicken Soup For the Pet Lover's Soul, in one pile of heartwarming (if not outstanding) fuzzies.
39. The Nature of Jade - Deb Caletti. 288 pg/2007. ***** [3/11]
Caletti is a cliche name to bandy as a recommended YA author, but unlike most her rep is well-deserved. Her books are similar in quality, yet each stands as an individual, and in this one I fell so deep into the story that I forgot it was Caletti at all. How could I not love something that focuses on an academically gifted girl, with Panic Disorder, volunteering with elephants at the zoo and falling for a boy with a baby? I didn't even need the quotes on animal psychology at the beginning of each chapter to make this perfect, though that was a nice garnish.
40. Walking Ollie [NF] - Stephen Foster. 177 pg/2006. *** [3/12]
The writing was rather good, but Ollie is one of those obnoxious problem dogs, not even particularly cute, who wears you out just reading about him.
41. Fetching Dylan [NF] - Stephen Foster. 288 pg/2009. *** [3/13]
Dylan is a less obnoxious dog, and thus this is a better book all around, if still not all that compelling.
42. The Girl Next Door - Selene Castrovilla. 237 pg/2010. [3/20]
43. Stranded - J.T. Dutton. 246 pg/2010. **½ [3/21]
Oh look, a cliche book about the aftermath of a Jesus-loving girl who didn't know she was pregnant until a baby fell out. All small Midwestern towns are like that, obviously. (It was easier to focus on this than the 15-year-old narrator whining about how much being a virgin sucked.)
44. Very LeFreak - Rachel Cohn. 303 pg/2010. ****½ [3/26]
Honestly? There are about 27 separate things I'd normally hate, but I find myself unable to hate any of them, because Very is one of the most appealing fictional females I have ever met. Despite how frank/casual/unapologetic she is about her sexuality, she has this sweet, earnest, almost innocent edge to her personality that's impossibly likable.
45. A Girl Named Sooner - Suzanne Clauser. 254 pg/1972. ***½ [3/27]
I had trouble putting it down, but it was not without unsettling pet death and entirely too many Adult scenes. Not graphic, and I tried to overlook it at first because I liked this couple, but eventually I got fed up.
46. Bad Girls Don't Die - Katie Alender. 346 pg/2009. **** [3/31]
I have chills. Chills! This is how you tell a terrifying ghost story.
47. Heart of Fire - Victoria Holmes. 340 pg/2006. ***½ [4/1]
Good historical novel with a horse feature, this author's specialty.
48. Compromised - Heidi Ayarbe. 452 pg/2010. ** [4/2]
That was at least twice as long as it needed to be, and got so annoying and bogged down in itself that I whooped when a character died.
49. The Georges and the Jewels - Jane Smiley. 232 pg/2009. **** [4/11]
Lovely little story about a horse trading family. Juvenile lit is always so focused on the horses, it's great.
I love Vassar with every fiber of my heart and soul (she is the idealized and perfect version of me I'd like to be), and as a result I spent the book physically shaking with rage at Weird-Ass Hippie Grandma Gerd forcing her perfect granddaughter to drop her summer study plans and go recklessly gallivanting all over humid/bug-infested/technology-lacking Southeast Asia, ultimately making her realize that she is self-absorbed or a prig or something, and there is more to life than scheduling every last minute and planning your entire future.
HOW DARE YOU CHANGE HER. FORGET YOU, GRANDMA GERD. I HATE YOUR GUTS. This was not a bad book at all; the writer is highly talented, but it gets a strikethrough because I am just so furious with the message it sends. If anything, Vassar wasn't sullen and hostile enough. She also should have continued hating Hanks, who is full of himself. Furthermore, this book did NOTHING to improve my opinion of Asian cultures. Let's leave it at that.
51. Chasing Down the Dawn [NF] - Jewel Kilcher. 142 pg/2000. ***** [4/11]
I was stunned from page 1 by the breathtaking imagery, wrapped in a silken cocoon of exquisite wording. I loved how it wasn't a chronological autobiography but a timeless and enchanting collection of observations and memories, like all her early songs knit together to form a tangible work of art. Book was a physical work of art too, with its oversized pages full of color photos and her doodles. I am enchanted!
52. A Walk Across America [NF] - Peter Jenkins. 320 pg/1979. **** [4/13]
I think what really appealed to me about this was that it reminded me of my dad, who did not walk across the country but did have a lot of traveling adventures and do a bunch of odd jobs in his artistic/photographer youth around the same time period. Every time I opened the book, it was like, "The blue mist has transported you to another time and another place." /Amazon Trail reference.
53. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? [NF] - Suzy Becker. 282 pg/2004. *** [4/17]
She's not that interesting, but I checked it out on the promise of "illustrated memoir" and was duly impressed by all the cartoons, splashes of color, lists, imaginary interviews, margin notes, and other creative embellishments.
54. Blindsided - Priscilla Cummings. 226 pg/2010. *** [4/18]
This book made me so grateful for my sight.
55. In a Heartbeat - Loretta Ellsworth. 214 pg/2010. *** [4/19]
This is not the heart transplant book I am looking for (a/k/a, so trippy and weird, and Eagan is such a snot you're happy she's dead).
56. Massive - Julia Bell. 261 pg/2002. *** [4/22]
Starts out with a likable character and good descriptions; gets fairly gross and unpleasant and hard to follow by the end.
57. Wild Roses - Deb Caletti. 296 pg/2005. ***½ [4/24]
Cute romance featuring fairly likable teens; would have been better told as a straightforward story, rather than an extended flashback. Could also use a more informative title and cover.
58. Last Dog on the Hill [NF] - Steve Duno. 323 pg/2010. **** [4/27]
Takes a while to kick in, but...reading about a Shepherd mix, even one enviably trained much better than Kym, is guaranteed to hook my interest. And then punch me in the heart at the end.
59. Dewey's Nine Lives [NF] - Vicki Myron w/ Brett Winter. 300 pg/2010. **½ [4/29]
I signed up to read cat stories, not hard-luck stories of people who happened to have a cat in their lives.
60. Home is Beyond the Mountains - Celia Barker Lottridge. 224 pg/2010. *** [5/6]
A good little story featuring an obscure bit of history. Feel like it should be taught in 6th grade curriculum.
61. The Westing Game - Ellen Raskin. 182 pg/1978. ***** [5/8]
A masterpiece mystery -- I could not put it down, and I am not typically a mystery fan.
62. Donkey: The Mystique of Equus Asinus [NF] - Michael Tobias & Jane Morrison. 193 pg/2007. *** [5/21]
There was no central focus and it came across like a bunch of papers written for school with short blog entries mixed in...but oh, so many photos of adorable fuzzy donkeys!
63. The Sweetness of Salt - Cecilia Galante. 311 pg/2010. **** [5/22]
Why can't valedictorian heroines ever just spend their summers being AWESOME, instead of lamely deciding their academically driven high school life is their parents' dream instead of theirs, and changing their outlook on life accordingly? She was irritating. And her sister was 100% unlikable from start to finish, while her parents were clearly amazing. However, there was a lot of potential shimmering in this story, and because the author's a good writer I kept forgetting how annoying the sisters were and putting myself in the story instead, which at least had an enjoyable setting.
64. Losing Forever - Gayle Friesen. 247 pg/2002. **½ [5/22]
Meh. What a boring life; nothing unique about this tale at all.
65. The Egg and I [NF] - Betty MacDonald. 287 pg/1945. ***** [5/31]
Who knew the author of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books had a fascinating chicken-farm memoir of her own? I'd never even heard of it until I stumbled a few shelves over in the library.
66. An Acquaintance with Darkness - Ann Rinaldi. 370 pg/1997. *** [5/31]
Took a very long time to get going; would have been better if it hadn't tried to make me think there was magic or supernatural about when the truth was much more interesting.
67. Torn to Pieces - Margot McDonnell. 258 pg/2008. *** [6/4]
Slow start that revved up into quite the tangled web of fascinating mystery revelation.
68. Red Kayak - Priscilla Cummings. 208 pg/2004. *** [6/5]
I liked how it was written, a nearly-timeless feel without a ton of technology or pop culture refs thrown in, but boy was kind of a self-righteous twit. You didn't solve anything with your stupid guilty conscience, kid.
69. The Secret Life of Prince Charming - Deb Caletti. 336 pg/2009. **½ [6/7]
I think I'm a little tired of Caletti's girls with their stupid divorced parents. Try writing about a happy nuclear family for once! This was a jaded, exhausting story all on its own -- it didn't need the zillion pointless anecdotes of failed relationships making it worse.
70. My Lost and Found Life - Melodie Bowsher. 312 pg/2006. *** [6/10]
Went back and forth on how much I liked it -- great storyline with cool characters at the Madhouse, while she tended to be a horrible main character and I was peeved at all the unnecessary sex, more on the level I expect from adult fiction -- but ultimately with the missing-mother mystery element it pulled itself off. Not without squeezing my heart a few times, though, playing on my irrational fears of losing your only family and being thrown out into the world with essentially nothing and zero work experience to boot.
71. The Snowball Effect - Holly Nicole Hoxter. 2010. *** [6/14]
It was really hard to watch her be so horrible to her amazing boyfriend, but it all worked out in the end so ultimately, I was able to enjoy the well-written book instead of throwing it at the wall. (also, what is with the rash of 18-year-olds-losing-their-mother stories this month?)
72. Five Minutes More - Darlene Ryan. 212 pg/2009. ** [6/19]
I'm sorry your dad killed himself, but this is not an acceptable way to act out, young lady.
73. Hazel - Julie Hearn. 389 pg/2007. *** [6/22]
So it turns out feminism has always been annoying. I love Hearn, but I knew there was a reason I spent the whole story wanting to slap the title character and read about her awesome mum instead, and that's because Ivy was amazing and Hazel is a tedious bunch of cliched PC whining disguised as a historical novel. With information that I'm pretty sure, although I cannot clearly remember the first book's details, would also retroactively ruin Ivy if I ever picked it up again. >:(
74. Porcupine - Meg Tilly. 232 pg/2007. **** [6/24]
What a perfectly low-key, sweet little compact book.
75. And Then Everything Unraveled - Jennifer Sturman. 244 pg/2009. **** [6/24]
The theme of missing mothers continues! This turned out pretty awesome, though. I loved all the characters...until it was "to be continued." THAT IS NOT HOW YOU END A MYSTERY, STURMAN. I AM DISAPPOINT.
76. Out of Focus - Margaret Buffie. 239 pg/2006. ***½ [6/24]
I liked all the plots in this one, but mostly the part about inheriting an almost-abandoned lodge and sprucing it back up.
77. When the Black Girl Sings - Bil Wright. 266 pg/2008. *** [6/25]
Meh. I tried to read it as a future Derek/Meredith/Zola story, but even that wasn't enough to make me really care about her finding her identity. I don't know why I bother with things I know will not move me.
78. Pounding Hooves - Dorothy Grunbock Johnston. 254 pg/1976. **** [6/25]
Weirdly random God stuff thrown in -- what is Christian fiction doing in my horse book? -- and lacking in basic fact-checking (purebred Arabs: not palomino), but otherwise quite sweet.
79. Saving Maddie - Varian Jonson. 231 pg/2010. *** [6/27]
I want this boyfriend. Can I have this boyfriend? Before Maddie corrupts him with her skankiness?
80. Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale. 306 pg/2007. *** [6/27]
A fun, imaginative little Grimm fairy tale retelling.
81. My Invisible Boyfriend - Susie Day. 275 pg/2009. *** [6/28]
Some super annoying (UH. NOY. EENG.) syntax, but let's be fair, these fictionalized personas and conversations she invents are not unlike what goes on in my head.
82. Chasing Tail Lights - Patrick Jones. 294 pg/2007. *½ [6/30]
I had minimal hope going in, but its aimless beginning got more and more aggravating and the quality went down, down, down as it worked toward a point until this book and I were in an outright grudge match to finish. I won, and earned the right to publicly scorn it. Never trust a book that references Speak.
83. Solace of the Road - Siobhan Dowd. 261 pg/2009. ***½ [6/30]
It didn't look like much, but I ended up connecting and sympathizing with Holly/Solace a lot more than I thought I would.
84. In Search of Mockingbird - Loretta Ellsworth. 181 pg/2007. **** [7/2]
Picked a real dull book to obsess over, but wrote an amazing road-trip-by-bus novella to make up for it. I would like to write stories like this.
85. And Then I Found Out the Truth - Jennifer Sturman. 262 pg/2010. **** [7/3]
I am less disappoint now that I see it's just a 2-parter, and actually kind of happy to hang out more with all these fantastic characters (especially the Pushing Daisies-esque aunts and Quinn). It's also one of the few times a YA sequel has been as awesome as the first book.
86. Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott. 170 pg/2008. **** [7/3]
As horrifyingly graphic-without-using-graphic-words as you can imagine this plot might be, I was completely drawn into her tiny world, felt sick to my stomach, and had permanent goosebumps from the chill across my soul. Great. Big. Claps.
87. The Half Life of Planets - Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin. 247 pg/2010. **** [7/4]
"Adam" in YA novel form, and similarly charming.
88. The Twin's Daughter - Lauren Baratz-Logsted. 390 pg/2010. **** [7/5]
Whoa. That was a dark and thoroughly engrossing Gothic tale. FYI, I hand-picked all the titles this week, if you're wondering how I'm on such a hot streak. Except for this one, which was just a nice surprise.
89. Take Me There - Susane Colasanti. 290 pg/2008. ***½ [7/7]
It was actually pretty cool reading the same story from three different viewpoints, though I liked the girls best.
90. Rosie and Skate - Beth Ann Bauman. 224 pg/2009. *** [7/8]
Nice premise/setting, but entirely too much with the teens hooking up. You lied to me, adorable cover.
91. An Off Year - Claire Zulkey. 213 pg/2009. ****½ [7/9]
It is like staring in a mirror at a semi-alternate version of MY LIFE.
92. The Wreckers - Iain Lawrence. 196 pg/1998. *** [7/10]
A nailbiting adventure yarn indeed. Not one I'd read twice, but as one review suggests, a good book for the classroom library.
93. Deadly - Julie Chibbarro. 293 pg/2011. *** [7/12]
Maybe the next book about Typhoid Mary could be from Mary's perspective, because this little girl investigator had a bad combination of an embarrassing crush and bland, Paint By Numbers thoughts about being a doctor (see linked review).
94. Teenage Waistland - Lynn Biederman & Lisa Pazer. 317 pg/2010. **½ ]7/14]
Strike 2 on the "obese teens getting weight loss surgery" list. I don't think there was one likable character in the entire book.
95. Anything But Ordinary - Valerie Hobbs. 168 pg/2007. ****½ [7/16]
They won my heart in five pages, broke it within 30 as intended, and spent the rest of the book tenderly putting it back together.
96. Vulture's Wake - Kirsty Murray. 267 pg/2009. ** [7/16]
Stupid dystopia. I thought I was requesting a regular war-torn survivalist novel, but then it showed up on the shelf with its stupid Sci Fi sticker and was predictably dull as a post. Am surprised I finished it.
97. Would You - Marthe Jocelyn. 165 pg/2008. ***½ [7/16]
This was basically an excuse to cry for an hour. I wasn't real invested in either sister, but I went to town putting various fictional characters and myself into the situation.
98. Upstream - Melissa Lion. 160 pg/2009. *** [7/17]
Not bad. You don't see too many contemporary YA novels set in Alaska.
99. Alis - Naomi Rich. 274 pg/2009. *** [7/17]
So this 16-year-old is arranged-married off to a 40-year-old, even though neither really wants it, and I start shipping it. Stupid inconveniently-not-dead Luke. Stupid everything.
100. The September Sisters - Jillian Cantor. 361 pg/2009. *** [7/18]
Rather slow paced; I had to cheat and check the ending first or I would never have let myself be taken on that ride. Her mother, in particular, never really shows me why I should forgive her for turning into a nutcase and going off with someone else.
101. Tell Me a Secret - Holly Cupala. 292 pg/2010. **½ [7/23]
I can't believe this girl was in AP classes, since she is such an unlikable idiot from start to finish. It makes me really glad her horrible psycho sister (whom she inexplicably idolized) is dead. Her mother says it best: "I had hoped after everything your sister put us through you would learn something. . . apparently it was stupid for us to think we could keep you from screwing the first boy who looked at you."
102. Trapped - Michael Northrop. 232 pg/2011. **** [7/24]
Would have preferred a female or third-person narrator, but that was still hella scary, and an amazing idea for a book.
103. The Other Sister - S.T. Underdah. 248 pg/2007. ***½ [7/24]
Sweet story. She knows how to write a quality YA tale without being stupid and/or gross.
104. Spotting for Nellie - Pamela Lowell. 296 pg/2010. **½ [7/24]
Authors should cut it out with the multiple narrators; very rarely is more than one of them interesting. And it's super hard to care about a girl with brain damage when the idiot would've been fine if she and her sister hadn't behaved like idiots and gone drinking at a beach party.
105. The Uninvited - Tim Wynne-Jones. 353 pg/2009. ***½ [7/28]
DO NOT SHIP ANYONE, REPEAT, DO NOT SHIP (only two couples are exempt; they involve Iris and Jo). Now, it was hard to figure out what was going on at first, but then that was quite the thriller. Officially holding the record for oldest YA novel protagonists -- 19 after freshman year at college, and the others 22 going on 23 -- nothing about this felt like YA at all, it was like a regular novel that got downgraded to YA in publishing for no apparent reason. But a general novel that I would read, as it kept me turning pages from start to finish. Also, despite the ethereal and spooky cover, nothing magical or paranormal; extremely ordinary real-life circumstances. Well, maybe not ordinary. But extremely contemporary, at least. Good job!
106. Stealing Heaven - Elizabeth Scott. 207 pg/2008. **** [7/29]
Shipping! I miss doing that in books! This was the make-or-break-it book from Scott after one epic fail followed by something seriously impressive, and I'm pleased to report that Love You, Hate You, Miss You was apparently a fluke and not the norm -- at least if it has the right kind of hook for a plot. Fun and unique, with a perfectly adorable cop for a love interest.
107. The Deadly Sister - Eliot Schrefer. 310 pg/2010. **** [7/30]
Despite the plethora of bad choices being made (basically all of them), that murder mystery sucked me into its web and just never let go. (and in case you have noticed the trend lately, yes, I went on a requesting spree to find some new books by using the keywords "sister + audience: teen")
108. A Blue So Dark - Holly Schindler. 275 pg/2010. *** [8/5]
You'd think a story about a girl with a schizophrenic mother would be a lot more interesting, but it kept bogging itself down with a moronic best friend and a 100% superfluous love interest.
109. Edges - Lena Roy. 162 pg/2010. ** [8/6]
I have no idea what was happening in this book or what point the author was trying to make about connections when she kept throwing in weird poems and bear mysticism. Your grandmother Madeleine L'Engle you are not.
110. Girl, Stolen - April Henry. 213 pg/2010. *** [8/6]
Entertaining little combination of blind girl + kidnap story.
111. The Winter of Our Disconnect [NF] - Susan Maushart. 265 pg/2010. ***½ [8/8]
Considering how much research was packed into what I expected to be more like a memoir, that was a surprisingly engaging and compelling read. It really made me think about my screen habits.
112. Between Sisters - Adwoa Badoe. 202 pg/2010. *** [8/9]
You know what you do not see a lot of around here? Books set in contemporary, non-rural Africa! If nothing else, that was eye-opening.
113. Stay With Me - Garret Freymann-Weyr. 308 pg/2006. ****½ [8/13]
Oh my God, that was amazing. You inappropriate-age-mismatch-shipped a teenager and MADE IT LEGITIMATE! And that wasn't even the only main plot going on. You also had a blended family and with divorce in its wake and I didn't even care. I loved everyone. Magic! This book and #5 are a perfectly matched set of contemporary YA coming-of-age at its finest.
114. The Hostage - Theodore Taylor. 159 pg/1987. **** [8/16]
I've never seen "Free Willy," but I imagine it must make the adults a lot more money-hungry than the honest, hardworking father in this book, because I loved the writing but honestly couldn't sympathize with the Greenpeace crowd.
115. The Anti-Prom - Abby McDonald. 280 pg/2011. *** [8/17]
Props for a cover designer who actually read the book, but this was so superficial I was halfway through before I felt any emotion. And then it was mostly, "Meg is so much better than these losers. Stop making her doubt her inherent awesomeness."
116. Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts - Lucy Dillon. 438 pg/2009. ***** [8/18]
*handclasp of joy* For once, neither the title nor the cover lied. After a slightly slow start it was full of dogs, dogs with names and personalities, dogs who were the most important characters and made all the connections between people. As a result, I even liked the people. Probably because it was also full of romance and pending babies (but not actual babies), yet nothing to offend my delicate sensibilities. Or: I finally found the canine counterpart to Flying Changes!
117. Forever Changes - Brendan Halpin. 181 pg/2008. ***½ [8/19]
I wish I loved math more so I could fully appreciate it.
118. The Kings Are Already Here - Garret Freymann-Weyr. 149 pg/2003. ** [8/19]
Tedious. I never saw a reason to care about either character.
119. The Cinderella Society - Kay Cassidy. 322 pg/2010. **½ [8/21]
I could sell this book to the Ridiculous Museum. I'm all about YA novels that are good for 11-year-olds to read, but I'm pretty sure everyone in this story is suffering from a collective mental disorder.
120. The Daughters Break the Rules - Joanna Philbin. 276 pg/2010. *** [8/21]
Impulsive, hot-headed Carina is definitely not my favorite in this trio. But at least the girls are still fun to read about.
121. Hot Lunch - Alex Bradley. 276 pg/2007. ***½ [8/21]
Bit heavy-handed on cafeteria reform near the end, but surprisingly entertaining -- and with delicious recipes indeed!
122. This Gorgeous Game - Donna Freitas. 208 pg/2010. **** [8/23]
Incredibly vivid writing, and so psychologically creepy that I felt the icy fingers of dread all over me the whole time, and kept shuddering to try and shake the feeling off. Instinct is to rebel against the easy shot at Bad Priests, but I didn't feel like it was exploiting that trend at all -- rather, it was key to telling this specific story.
123. Cures for Heartbreak - Margo Rabb. 256 pg/2007. **½ [8/25]
I liked how it was subtly set in 1991, but despite boatloads of tragedy that looked great in the summary, everything seemed to go by in a vague blur.
124. Cloaked in Red - Vivian Vande Velde. 127 pg/2010. *** [8/27]
One of those rare, rare times I will read a collection of short stories (reimagined Red Riding Hood, in this case). I loved the good-natured ribbing she gave the tale before offering the lighthearted alternate versions.
125. Store Bought Baby - Sandra Belton. 246 pg/2006. *** [8/28]
126. Confessions of a Serial Kisser - Wendelin Van Draanen. 294 pg/2008. ** [8/29]
My brain started leaking out my ears around page 50. And then there were still over 200 more pages. So many pages.
127. Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me - Kristen Chandler. 371 pg/2010. ****½ [9/3]
"Probably a werewolf book," I dismissed without pulling it out. And then I paused, "But what if it's not?" GUESS WHAT? IT'S NOT! KJ Carson didn't plan on writing about the wolves living in Yellowstone... (insert flaily keyboard smashing) It could really use a title and cover makeover, because what it is is a strong, non-fluff-headed story about a small-town Montana girl, the new transfer student from Minnesota, and a year of rural conflict over wolves as beneficial vs. harmful. Just wish it had a proofreader, yikes; I counted at least 4 glaring errors in the type. This is petty only because the rest was so great. I actually read slowly and savored it over multiple days. And, upon noticing it was her debut novel -- "You go, Kristen Chandler! Write more books!"
128. One Whole and Perfect Day - Judith Clarke. 250 pg/2006. **** [9/10]
Definitely not a quick read, I had to read in small doses, but it felt like the story really sank into my brain. Not clear how it got marketed to teens, as it felt markedly grown-up, but definitely see how it won honors. I just wish the cover made it more clearly Australian, and did not make me think of Chinese New Year. It was hard to keep reminding myself of the setting, and was actually one reason I passed on it for a few weeks.
129. Jump - Elisa Carbone. 258 pg/2010. **½ [9/11]
Both children were losers. I don't know anything or care about rock climbing, so the whole premise lost me. But I guess it was just barely enough to keep me reading to the end. Though it should have stopped after chapter 162.
130. Sweet William: A Memoir of Old Horse - John Hawkins. 269 pg/1993. *** [9/18]
I am perplexed. On the one hand, beyond impressed somebody wrote contemporary adult fiction that is, in fact, an equine autobiography. On the other hand, it's not much fun to read about a horse who is a self-avowed bitter misanthrope pretty much from birth, or some of the deeply disturbing imagery (traumatized forever by zombie!horse), or how a huge section of the end gets bogged down in these pointless, boring as hell conversations between two men in which the horse essentially just stands there and listens to them go on and on and ON.
131. The Secret Diary of Ashley Juergens - "Ashley Juergens". 230 pg/2010. ***½ [9/18]
Best novelty book ever! It is so much more well-written than the show that I just want Ashley to narrate all the insane happenings from now on. She's the best.
132. Where the Truth Lies - Jessica Warman. 308 pg/2010. **** [9/18]
So many unnecessary lies, so much naive idiocy...but I liked the girl, and she was SO dumb about Del that I couldn't help feeling sorry for her, plus the whole time I was completely absorbed in the layers of mystery and thousand plot strands.
133. One Second After - William Forstchen. 350 pg/2009. ****½ [9/19]
Bloodcurdlingly terrifying. Please let this never, ever happen. (on bright side, I have found my standard survivalist book)
134. Coffeehouse Angel - Suzanne Selfors. 276 pg/2009. *** [9/19]
Good gravy, that was bizarre. But, I guess, not horrible? That said, angels are now crossed off the list of subjects I will read about.
135. Bliss - Lauren Myracle. 464 pg/2006. ***½ [9/23]
I can't believe the author of such pathetic books as "ttyl" managed to turn around and write this. Even though it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a period piece or a horror story and had a bizarre non-ending (apparently there are no further consequences to messing with blood magic?), it was pretty great reading.
136. The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon - Sara Beitia. 301 pg/2010. ** [9/26]
Telling stories out of order when there is a distinct driving narrative takes away the urgency.
137. See No Evil - Jamila Gavin. 199 pg/2008. *** [9/26]
Secrets and lies, good mystery and intrigue.
138. My Ultimate Sister Disaster - Jane Mendle. 198 pg/2010. *** [9/28]
Very cute, light, quick read of a paperback.
139. Plus - Veronica Chambers. 271 pg/2009. *** [9/28]
It's not bad reading about a randomly-discovered model for whom nothing goes particularly wrong. Again, nice and breezy.
140. The Life of Glass - Jillian Cantor. 340 pg/2010. ***½ [10/2]
Much better than her last offering. Profoundly heartfelt.
141. Peace, Love and Baby Ducks - Lauren Myracle. 289 pg/2009. **** [10/2]
A critical review said it was "deeper and more nuanced than the title and cutesy cover imply," so I gave it a shot. They were right. Great sister dynamics, and by the end, real baby ducks were involved! Something must be wrong: I'm mistaking Lauren Myracle for a great writer.
142. Kiss My Book - Jamie Michaels. 274 pg/2007. **½ [10/3]
I'm trying to figure out a way that could have seemed cheesier and less believable. I can't. But I did appreciate that I could recognize and mostly approved of every title & poem referenced within.
143. Wonderland - Joanna Nadin. 208 pg/2009. *** [10/3]
I spent most of it wondering how it was possible for the girl to be so stupid, until I realized she was only 20% stupid and 80% insane.
144. Tempo Change - Barbara Hall. 247 pg/2009. **½ [10/7]
High school bands (not the cool instrumental kind), blah. Really expected better from the creator of Joan of Arcadia.
145. Four Seasons: A Novel in Four Movements - Jane Breskin Zalben. 322 pg/2011. **½ [10/11]
Spent forever waiting for something to happen. Though appealing in theory, turned into an "I will finish this or die trying" grudge match. Most intriguing characters: the parents. Feel like this should tell me things about myself.
146. The Diamonds - Ted Michael. 342 pg/2009. *** [10/13]
Worst. Administration. Ever. I don't even get how a clique like that would rise to such power and popularity in the first place. I do not recall beauty being a super rare commodity in high school, so when the girls are evil, who looks up to them?!
147. Vintage Veronica - Erica Perl. 277 pg/2010. *** [10/14]
Nice but nothing especially new or memorable -- feels like wasted opportunity after setting us up in a vintage clothing shop. God, I am on a streak of duds.
148. Animal Patients: 50 Years in the Life of an Animal Doctor [NF] - Edward Scanlon w/ Martha Scalon Ronemus. 219 pg/2000. **** [10/16]
Told with such wonderful heart and charm. I forgot what it felt like to be genuinely happy while reading a book.
149. Willow - Julia Hoban. 329 pg/2009. **** [10/17]
It's got cutting, it's got a boy determined to make her stop the cutting, it's got tragedy in the form of deceased parents and an awesome big brother with his own family. What's not to like? Pretty much just the romance's uneven beginning and its supposed zenith, but those are small complaints.
150. The Vinyl Princess - Yvonne Prinz. 313 pg/2010. ***½ [10/17]
Not a world I know anything about, but she made it really fun and relatable.
151. Jump - Ginger Rue. 217 pg/2010. *** [10/18]
Aw, if only all bulllying/bitch girl problems were so easily and quickly solved with a little "turn into someone else for a day" magic.
152. Summer Hawk - Deborah Savage. 297 pg/1999. **** [10/19]
Quality storytelling! I remember what that's like. Oh, 90s. I didn't love the last chapter and wanted her to take the spiteful road out, but otherwise, great summer tale.
153. Where I Belong - Gwendolyn Heasley. 291 pg/2011. ***½ [10/20]
Aw! I tend not to give credit to anything published by the glossy and superficial HarperTeen, whose very logo seems airheaded, but that was unflinchingly fun and, except for the dumb drinking, very much a life experience I want to have.
154. The Six Rules of Maybe - Deb Caletti. 321 pg/2010. ***½ [10/21]
Yet another feather in her "happy marriage is too hard to write" cap, but she seems to be trying to improve on that front. Plus, she added a dog! And kudos to the power of her writing for the fact that even I was all pro-adultery in the first ten pages, since she made Juliet such a horrible human being from start to end. Hayden would have been perfect if not for the ridiculous need to make him a smoker.
155. Lions and Tigers and Mares...Oh My! [NF] - Gay Louise Baillet. 325 pg/2004. **** [10/22]
Got a bit loopy and New Age-y here and there, but it was refreshing to see someone's unbridled love for all animals gushing forth on the page.
156. Citizen Mitten [NF] - William Voedisch. 200 pg/2009. **** [10/23]
Cat memoir! Hilarious, warm, and entertainingly filled with stories about many animals beyond just Mitten. The local area backdrop was especially neat.
157. Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love [NF] - Matthew Logelin. 262 pg/2011. **** [10/23]
Tragic fiction comes to life. The langauge was unnecessarily "blue" at times, but finding out he was an SJU grad (even one disappointingly transplanted to L.A. afterward) really hit it home. This is exactly the memoir I've unwittingly been looking for for several years now. Or at least the one for this particular scenario. I've probably opened the floodgates to a host of others now that I know these books exist.
158. Dog Years: A Memoir [NF] - Mark Doty. 216 pg/2007. *** [10/24]
Part pet memoir, part regular memoir, and part confusing rambling with no clear point or purpose. I think he probably should have just written a straightforward pet memoir, because I sobbed for twenty minutes at the end.
159. Elixir - Hilary Duff. 336 pg/2010. *** [10/24]
Yes, that Hilary Duff, which is the only reason I checked it out after side-eyeing the "supernatural" keyword. The quality was fine, it was fast-paced and I appreciated that she took a different angle from most celebrity YA authors, but at the same time: supernatural magic reincarnation crap doesn't get greeted With Love. Neither do things called "A Novel" that are actually set up for sequels. (p.s. dump Sage, get with Ben, how hard is this)
160. Side Effects - Amy Goldman Koss. 146 pg/2006. *** [10/26]
*reads stubbornly* This is important information to have. Would have been easier with likable main character.
EDIT: As of October 30, I (unsurprisingly) exceeded the posting limit again. Remaining books are here.