Flashback December 2009

And now, a look back at what I was reading in December 2009!

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. From my review: “It’s 1899, and Calpurnia Virginia Tate is twelve. Well, actually eleven. But she’s the type who thinks twelve is an acceptable answer. It’s a hot summer in Texas. Calpurnia, sometimes Callie Vee, is the middle child, with three older brothers and three younger, most named for Texas heroes. Her family is well off; as the only daughter, her mother has plans for her. Plans that include cookery and knitting and housewife skills and possibly being a debutante. It’s not what Callie wants. But what does Callie want?A chance conversation with her imposing Grandfather Tate about grasshoppers leads her science. And studying nature. And to realizing that there is more to life than her corner of Texas. But is it realistic for a girl to dream of being more than what her family wants her to be?

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper. From my review: “1936. Sophie FitzOsborne, 16, lives with her family on the small island nation of Montmaray. She’s a princess, yes, but a princess who tends the chickens and helps keep the decaying castle in repair and takes care of her uncle, King John. Whatever fortune the family had is gone, but the titles remain, the island remains, the pride remains. How long can a royal family survive, when the the money is gone and royals outnumber the commoners? . . . The FitzOsborne cousins are a small, tight, close family. . . . The decaying of Montmaray and its royal family has happened for multiple reasons: deaths, the loss of villagers to the Great War and the influenza and emigration, loss of revenue from changing times, stock market loss, no strong leaders. A handful of teenagers are trying to maintain the only home they have ever known, not realizing how futile it is.

Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan. From my review: “A perfect romance, written from a teenage boy’s point of view. Blake really likes Shannon, even eventually saying the “l” word. He’s trying to figure out how to be a good boyfriend, what to say, what not to say, to ignore the “advice” of his brother and friends that say, don’t be so into her, ignore her sometimes. Blake also really likes Marissa, but just as friend. And that’s true; it’s Shannon he is in love with, it’s Shannon he cannot get enough with, loves her shoulders, the feel of her skin, the way she smiles just for him. Marissa is his buddy in photography class, a friend. Want to know the difference between feeling friendship for a person and something more? It’s in the details of Blake’s interactions with and thoughts about both Shannon and Marissa. This is NOT one of those stories where the best-friend-who-is-a-girl becomes something more, or the girlfriend turns out to be a shallow undeserving bitca. It’s about three nice, likable, teenagers: Blake, a photographer who is always cracking jokes; Shannon, who plays soccer and plays the piano and is strong and sort of confident but also not quite sure how to handle her first real relationship; Marissa, a photographer, living with her grandmother and haunted by her past.

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Gennady Spirin. From my review: “You know the song: A partridge in a pear tree.”

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis. From my review: “Julian Calendar, eleven, outwardly looks like a nerd and inwardly is actually an ultra nerd. He’s smart, he’s inventive, he cannot help or hide it, even in his attempts to make friends at his new school. When he stops pretending, he meets Greta Hughes, outwardly a bad girl, and Ben Garza, outwardly a dumb jock. Greta and Ben are ultra nerds like him, and together they form the Secret Science Alliance. . . . This better be the start of a series! We get the origins of the SSA, including what has to be one of the best top secret laboratories and workshops in the hideouts. It’s full of stuff (including a bathroom!) and is neatly hidden from view because it’s the forgotten basement of a long-ago torn down house on a vacant lot. What’s not to love about three kids who are outsiders who are brought together by their love of science, invention, and fun? The last part of the book involves their loss of their Invention Notebook, and plan to recover it and stop a criminal that is an Oceans Eleven caper for smart tweens. Bonus points because it’s three kids, using all their smarts and invention and science skills.

The Everafter by Amy Huntley. From my review: “”I’m dead.” There is much she doesn’t remember, not even her name. But she knows that once she was alive, with a body, and now she is dead. Objects are floating….keys. Pine cone. Bracelet. Sweatshirt. Touch the sweatshirt, and suddenly she is a place, a time, a when, a where, and finally, a name. Maddy. Madison Stanton. 17. She’s dead. But why? Each object, bracelet, keys, sweatshirt, is something that, when alive, Maddy lost. Touching the object brings Maddy back to that time, that moment, and she can relive that memory again and again and again. If, in that captured moment, alive-Maddy finds the object, the door is shut and that memory cannot be revisited. So a ghost story. A dead girl revisiting her life story.

Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford. From my review: “I listened to this on audio…. I have never laughed so hard. Laughed out loud. A cop followed me for five miles, convinced, I’m sure, that something was wrong with me from the laughing. Carter, Carter, Carter. I’ll admit it; I didn’t like the punk at first. I almost took the CD out during the first ten minutes. He was so annoying! Talking like a kid who has watched one too many bad music videos and believed they were real, about his boys, talking about girls like they were objects and not people. But then… something happened. I laughed at something he did (the dumbass). I cringed as he walked into a situation that I knew would not end well. And I found myself falling in love with Carter. It’s a good thing I have a 45 minute commute and kept listening, or I’d have lost out on the funniest book of the year and my Favorite Books of 2009 would be one book less. The narrator, Nick Podehl, is awe-some. His reading is energetic, totally capturing every emotion — shock, lust, disappointment, excitement, with a reading that is off the wall.

Nikki & Deja: The Newsy News Newsletter by Karen English. From my review: “Nikki and Deja decide to start a neighborhood newsletter. Problem is, what types of things can two third graders report on? Especially when they may not know the whole story?

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. From my review: “My non spoiler teaser. Which, really, is just me telling you: these books are fabulous on every level: plotting, characterization, setting, theme, writing. I say “sequence” because I will argue until hoarse that A Conspiracy of Kings sufficiently stands alone to be considered for those prizes and awards that demand a book not be dependent on other media, including previous books. Yet, while arguing that, I would advise those who have not yet read these books that they are best read in order. It is a deeper, richer, reading experience. . . . Three countries are at the forefront of these books: Sounis, Attolia, Eddis. In the first, a thief in one country (Sounis) is recruited to steal something of political importance from a second country (Attolia) to help the king of the first force the ruler of a third (Eddis) into an alliance. The second, third, and now fourth book continues to look at the politics and machinations as three independent countries compete for power and dominance while at the same time fighting against a fourth country, the Mede Empire.

Dinotrux by Chris Gall. From my review: “Dinosaurs that are trucks. Or is it trucks that are dinosaurs?

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. From my review: “New York City, 1979. Miranda, 12, is finding out that life isn’t what you expect it to be. One moment, you have a best friend; the next, for no good reason, he doesn’t talk to you. Mira starts to make friends with others, but the loss of her best friend, Sal, for no good reason haunts her. Soon there is another mystery to solve — mysterious, cryptic notes that appear in odd places, urging her to do something — to write a letter. Which will somehow save a life. . . .  How we see things, how Miranda sees things, makes When You Reach Me not just a mystery of notes left, but also a mystery to solve in how we navigate the world, how we see others, and how we link events to create cause/effect that are not necessarily accurate just as how there may be unintended consequences to thinks we do or don’t do. Neither the reader, nor Miranda, fully understands or sees what the story really is until the end of the book. This is true both for the mystery of the notes and the mystery of friendship.

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. From my review: “If you like romance with a hint of supernatural, read Shiver so you’re ready for Linger in the summer. In Shiver, Grace meets Sam, a teenager who is a wolf half the year. They risk everything to be together. In Linger, the question is — what happens after your happy ending? What happens after you get the love of your life? In both books, Stiefvater explores the question of “what is family?” Is it those who raised you, or those related by blood? Is it those we are born to are those we choose? Where are ones loyalties?

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. From my review: “Anna and Frankie are next door neighbors, best friends since babyhood. For as long as anyone can remember, the two girls, along with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, are a trio. Matt dies the summer before he was to start college. Everything changes; everyone changes. One year later, the two girls, now sixteen, prepare for summer vacation at the beach. Frankie is now more worldly, more glittery, more stunning — more boy crazy. It is she that comes up with the ideal summer vacation plan: if they are at the beach for twenty days, why not a boy a day? The twenty boy summer, to create a perfect vacation. Except Anna has a secret. . . . This is not a story about Anna’s grief. This is the story, one year later, of Anna discovering that she can fall in love again. Laugh again. And it not be a betrayal of Matt.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose. From my review: “Montgomery, Alabama. March 1955. Claudette Colvin, fifteen, refuses to give up up her seat on a bus to a white woman — nine months before Rosa Parks’s similar refusal leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Why is Rosa Parks remembered, while Claudette Colvin is not?

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. From my review: “Young Frances, preparing for a Christmas play, observes a monkey and organ grinder. Where do they go at night, she wonders? “Somewhere,” her mother assures her. “Everyone goes somewhere.” But Frances suspects this is not so.

God Grant Me The Serenity… OK, not a review, but a look back at “that” cover!

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr. From my review: “Samara “Sam” Taylor is not having a good summer. Everything seems broken or run down, as the heat builds. Her mother’s secret drinking is not so secret anymore, thanks to a DUI and court-mandated residential rehab. Her father is more dedicated to his work as a pastor than to being a father. Money problems may mean that Sam doesn’t go back to private school. The backyard garden is a pile of dirt; even the air conditioner and fans aren’t working properly. And then thirteen year old Jody Shaw, from her father’s congregation, who Sam kinda knows from her Church youth group, disappears. Sam is having doubts; a crisis of faith. Thinking things, wondering things, that she cannot say aloud because she’s a pastor’s kid. Everyone thinks they know who she really is; who her family really is; and thinks they have a right to say what she should think, do, believe.

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