5 Bookish Resolutions for 2018 + 12 Books I missed in 2017

5 Bookish Resolutions for 2018 + 12 Books I missed in 2017

It’s Tuesday (or it was) and so once again I am tempted away from my backlog of reviews and my looking back at what I read in 2017 to participate.  Thank you for the entertaining distractions!  And it’s my blog, so I can do whatever I want, right?

Top Ten Tuesday is a longstanding meme now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl (with many thanks to the folks at the Broke and the Bookish who hosted for so many years!)


Here are my resolutions

 And here are some books I missed. I think I read one or two books that weren’t either eligible for or nominated for my Cybils category from September on.   That means my want-to-read list for the second half of 2017 is basically still unread – I just finished Shadowhouse Fall, but all the other teen and adult books and the middle grade books that didn’t get nominated are still on my list.  In the meantime, here are some more books I want to read.  Just in case I ever feel short on books.


5 Books I missed in 2017


  • Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
  • Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells
  • Provenance by Ann Leckie
  • The Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

5 More 2017 Books I’m Currently on Hold for:

  • Winter of Ice and Iron by Rachel Neumeier
  • The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • Buried Heart by Kate Elliott
  • Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

What books are you wanting to read?  What are your resolutions, if you make any?

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9 more Cybils titles I loved

I really do love all the books we put on the Cybils Finalists list this year.  But is it really surprising that when we’re considering over twelve dozen books  I fall in love with more than seven?  I know we have to keep the shortlist short, but…  Anyway, here are more personal favorites from the Cybils nominees. I have brief notes just on the ones I haven’t yet done full reviews of, with links to full reviews where I have them.

The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman

Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

The Shadow Cipher. York #1. By Laura Ruby

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin – this lyrical fairy tale retelling with the author’s painted illustrations casts its own magic spell.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce

The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline Ogburn and Rebecca Green – a rural boy discovers that the family now living in his grandmother’s house is running a magical veterinary service.  It’s a quiet, reflective book, good for third grade and up.

The Wolf Hour by Sara Lewis Holmes – I do love my fairy tales!  This is a subversive mash-up, with unlikely dual heroes learning to step out of their assigned plots.  The audiobook was especially delightful

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2017 Cybils Finalists

Happy New Year, dear readers!

I’m back at work after spending a week with my family. I have lots of lists and stats to get to – but first of all, in case you missed it, the Cybils finalists were announced on the first.  I’m really happy with the great books we chose for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction:

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander

Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

The winner will be announced on Valentine’s Day – but meantime, I’m going to be checking out and reading finalists from the other categories!

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Ghosts of Greenglass House

It’s been three long years since we were first introduced to Milo Pine and his parents in their fabulous inn at Greenglass House.  I was very excited that the new book was nominated for the Cybils, so that I had to read it.  The publisher was even kind enough to give me a review copy, as it’s popular enough at my library that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a library copy in time.  And then I saved it until right before Christmas – a perfect holiday book, both revisit beloved characters and to rejoice that as crazy as the holidays are at my house, at least they’re less crazy than Milo’s Christmas.

Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate MilfordGhosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford. Clarion Books, 2017.
In the book, just a year has passed since the tumultuous events of Greenglass House. Milo is home for the holidays and feeling grinchy. There’s been no sign of his friend Meddy since last year, there’s no snow, and an overly enthusiastic art student has decided to extend his stay to keep sketching the windows.  Under all that, Milo is dealing with discomfort at a teacher who’s been singling him out for being Chinese and adopted.  Things start to head back towards the kind of Greenglass Christmas we remember when old friends Clem and Georgie show up after a caper gone wrong, needing a place to hunker down for a few days.  They were looking for a cache left by legendary smuggler Violet Cross, including her rumored derroterro, a map to the unmappable waterways around Nagspeake. Then, a group of Waits arrives at the door, including caroling, a chimney sweep, and a spooky skull hobby horse.  It’s an old Nagspeake Christmas tradition (I love old traditions!) – but as ash from the untrained sweep spreads over the living room and one of the guests passes out after drinking his own punch, things veer back to craziness.  Can Milo find his courage again?  And can he solve the mysteries without his old adventuring partner?

I’ve already said how much I love these characters – Betsy Bird talked eloquently in her review of Greenglass House at a Fuse #8 Production about how Milford breaks the rules about parents in middle grade novels needing to be dead or incompetent.  Milo’s parents are still doing the tough work here of giving Milo space to be independent while still being supportive.  Even so, Milo is getting old enough to notice their humanity and recognize when they, too, need support.  The parts about Milo figuring out what to do about his teacher, talking with his parents and adult Chinese adoptee Owen, were thoughtful leavened with humor.  I’m noticing the background, here, while the mystery – missing objects, and a new crew of characters that clearly includes both future friends and some villains – takes the foreground.  Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile felt it didn’t quite hold up to the high standard of the first one, but I didn’t notice. I was just too happy to be reunited with some favorite old characters, leavened with the power of remembered traditions and imagination.

I’m adding both of these to my list of favorite Christmas fantasies.

This book has been nominated for the Cybils award.  This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.

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The Adventurers Guild

The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick EliopulosThe Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos. Disney Hyperion, 2017.

Zed is a servant’s son, half-elf in a city where that’s a much bigger deal than his fawn-colored skin.  His best friend is Brock, a wealthy merchant’s son.  They are both just old enough for the city’s big formal guild selections, both sure they know where they want to go – Zed to the Magicians and Brock to the Merchants.

Instead, they both end up part of the disreputable but very important Adventurers Guild, the only one whose members journey outside the walled city and brave the monstrous Dangers that mean that everyone now must live in one of a handful of similar cities.

Once there, they’re part of a group of new recruits that includes Liza, a nobleman’s daughter, and Jett, a dwarf.  At one point in the story, Jett loses a leg, and it’s made clear that he’ll still be a full part of the guild.  The team makes their way around mysterious adults and treacherous plots with lots of action and, as promised, adventure.  Things wrap up neatly to feel satisfying, while still leaving room for this to continue as a series.

There is a lot of good stuff going on here, with diversity in race (including humans and non-humans and different skin colors), gender, income, and ability all wrapped together convincingly with a very entertaining plot and a satisfying amount of soul-searching. I think the only reason that I didn’t personally love it as much as I wanted to was that the twists seemed a little too familiar, perhaps reminiscent of John David Anderson’s The Dungeoneers.  It has lots of appeal, though, and I could see less jaded and more plot-oriented readers than me loving it.  I’m saving my review copy for my son to read, as it should be exactly the sort of thing he enjoys.

This book has been nominated for the Cybils award.  This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Books I Hope Santa Brings Me

It’s been… about 6 months since I last did a Top 10 Tuesday (hosted by the dedicated folks at the Broke and the Bookish.)  Oops.  But I ran across Chachic’s, and now I am distracted from all the books I still need to review, and ignoring the piles of books still waiting to be read, to think about books I want to have on my shelf for my own. Top Ten Tuesday

Since I have an early December birthday, I usually save any gift cards I get until after the holidays.  But this year, I had to order something else, and couldn’t resist adding these two books to the order. These are both books that I’ve already read to myself but want to read aloud with my children. (Question: birthday presents arriving in time for Christmas.  Do I wrap for the kids to open and share?)

I’m pretty conservative about books that I want to keep permanently.  It has to be a book I’ll want to reread and loan out to friends before it’s worthy of shelf space in my small house.  But here are some I’d love to make space for:

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The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente, author of thought-provoking fantasy for children and adults, takes the authors of classic literature for adults – the Bronte siblings – and turns them into characters in a book for children.  Can she pull it off?

The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente. Simon and Schuster, 2017.
The book opens with the four Brontë siblings, Charlotte, Emily, Branwell and Anne, all living at the parsonage at Haworth.  They all feel the pain of their lost mother and two older sisters.  Charlotte, formerly a middle child and now the eldest, feels her new responsibility keenly.  Branwell, though younger, also feels that he is in charge of the siblings because he is the only boy. Despite this, all four children have made a secret world for themselves in rooms the adults don’t enter, where they have fantastical battles with their wooden toy soldiers. Continue reading

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The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal

The Lost Property Office. Section 13 Book 1 by James R. Hannibal. Simon and Schuster, 2017. Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal
Jack Buckles and his mother and little sister Sadie have flown from America to London to search for his missing father.  When impulsive Sadie thinks she sees him, Jack chases her, and is led to the Lost Property Office, a steampunky magical-technical place that searches for all sorts of missing things, including both property and people.  A young trainee clerk, Gwen, tells Jack that he is in fact the 13th of that name, and descended from a long line of Finders.  Goaded by a nefarious villain, the French Clockmaker Jack and Gwen set out to search for both Jack’s father and the Ember that started the Great Fire of London.  Clockmakers have been the enemies of Finders since that long-ago time, and the Clockmaker stays on their tails with quantities of clockwork beetles.

There are lots of stories of kids who think they’re ordinary finding out that they have inherited some spectacular ability from their family.  This one is good especially for those interested in the history of disasters and who like their magic mechanical with a side of steam/gear punk. What especially stood out for me is that Jack has sensory issues that make being in crowds or loud places overwhelming.  All of his life, this has been a liability for him.  Now, as Gwen teaches him to “spark” to feel the history of objects, and to focus his Finder abilities, his disability turns into his greatest strength.  I know more than one kid who has sensory issues like this, and I’ve never before seen it used as a superpower.  On the minus side, though, this is yet another modern-day multi-character fantasy where all the major characters are white.  I’ll admit that my experience of modern Britain is pretty much limited to the Great British Baking Show, but that is a whole lot more diverse than this book.  Still, unfortunately, children’s fantasy defaults to all-white.  This is a solid choice for kids looking for a fantasy adventure, with a similar to feel to Ted Sander’s The Box and the Dragonfly. 

This book has been nominated for the Cybils award.  This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.

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The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

What does happen to a witch once she’s done with school?

The Apprentice Witch by James NicolThe Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. Read by Elizabeth Knowelden. Scholastic Audiobooks, 2017.
Arianwyn Gribble has flunked her witch’s test.  She hopes it isn’t just the influence of her grandmother, who’s on the witch’s council, that’s she’s given a provisional badge and still assigned to the remote border village of Lull, which hasn’t had a resident witch in years.  She’s determined to do her best to take care of it anyway, doing her work of banishing dark spirits and making protective charms for the village residents.  She finds a friend in the innkeeper’s daughter, but is horrified when it turns out that her long-time rival and tormenter, Gimma, is the mayor’s niece. As it turns out that Lull has serious magical problems, will Arianwyn be able to overcome her self-doubt and Gimma’s obstruction to save the town?

Arianwyn is a charming character (ooh, was that a pun?) and it is really fun thinking about what the day-to-day work of a helpful witch might be – something along the lines of a more institutionalized Kiki’s Delivery Service.  There are some major inconsistencies in the underpinnings, though, including the magic ability measurement machine that clearly fails to measure at least two of the characters in the book properly.  Why are they using it if it’s so inaccurate?  This not-England but British-feeling, fairly modern world also seems populated exclusively by pale-skinned people, which is unfortunate. While it doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, it’s still a fun, light read, with potential for growth in further books.

This book has been nominated for the Cybils award.  This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.

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Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins

I enjoyed Rachel Hawkins’ earlier Hex Hall series, and was pleased to see her first middle grade book nominated for the Cybils.

journeysendJourney’s End by Rachel Hawkins. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017.
Our story opens in the village of Journey’s End in northern Scotland a hundred years ago, as young Albert Macleish sneaks out of his house early in the morning and rows through the thick, roiling Boundary Fog to the lighthouse on the island off the coast.  He is never seen again.

In the present day, 12-year-old American Nolie, still learning to deal with her parents’ recent divorce, travels to Journey’s End, where her father is a scientist researching the thick gray Boundary Fog that never leaves.  While he firmly believes there’s a scientific cause, Nolie is a fan of ghost stories, particularly the “fun creepy” kind.  She’s come prepared with a book of Scottish ghost stories.

Meanwhile, similarly aged Bel is a native of Journey’s End, whose family owns a tour boat and tourist shop, since tourism is now the major industry here.  She’s been lonely since her best friend abandoned her in favor of a new girl in town, so that she and Nolie are able to make friends fairly quickly.  It’s in the back of Bel’s shop, in a row of photographs of people lost in the fog a century ago, that Nolie recognizes a face she just saw on the beach….

This present-day story alternates with snippets from “The Sad Tale of Cait McInnish”, a young nanny whose noble charge fell out of a tower window centuries earlier.

The whole book is an appealing mix of developing cross-cultural friendships, giving old friendships a second try, mystery, and time travel.  I would say it succeeds at Nolie’s goal of “fun creepy”, with just the right balance of fear, suspense, courage and humor.  Plus, Scotland!

This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.

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