40. Josi Kilpack, Banana Split. (Whitney, Mystery). I'll admit that I've only read a couple of the Sadie Hoffmiller culinary mysteries prior to reading this one. However, I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I think that was due not only to the cozy-style mystery (I love a good cozy!), but the fact that we actually see Sadie stretching quite a bit out of her comfort zone here. In this novel, Sadie is nearing the end of a long vacation in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, where she's trying to recover from the recurrent panic attacks after the resolution of her last case. At this point in her life, every little thing feels like a success: going out during the day, cooking her own food, etc. But when Sadie finds herself literally entangled with a body during a snorkeling outing, she finds herself struggling to maintain what little progress she's made. At first determined to have nothing to do with this case, Sadie becomes increasingly drawn in: first, when the victim's young son Charlie contacts her trying to find out more about his mother, and second, as she learns more about the victim (Noelani Pouha) and realizes that the police's easy dismissal of the case as that of a lapsed druggie may not be the full story. There were a few parts in the middle--as Sadie begins to recover and turns more toward the mystery--that were a little slow. But the opening chapters that showed Sadie as fragile and the closing chapters that wrapped up the mystery were all very good. There's even a recipe or two that I want to try . . .
41. Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan. I am not, in general, a fan of animal books. I don't mind stories where one of the protagonists is an animal (like Bobbie Pryor's A Dogs Way Home), but generally speaking, these aren't the books I seek out. This one, however, I'd heard great things about even before it won the Newbery for 2013. The story is loosely based on a true story of a gorilla, Ivan, who spent nearly 3 decades in a small zoo that was part of a strip mall. Ivan seems mostly content to live out his days being admired by guests, drawing pictures, eating food, and hanging with his friends: Bob the dog, Stella the elephant, and Julia, the daughter of the janitor. All this changes when a baby elephant, Ruby, arrives to help boost tourist numbers. I think what I loved most about this novel is the voice: Applegate was able to write convincingly as a gorilla, with little observations and details that seemed true to Ivan and his way of life. The writing, too, was lovely--simple and beautiful. Probably not a book I'm looking to re-read, but it was lovely.
42. Aprilynne Pike, Destined (Whitney, YA Speculative). Confession: I read the first novel of this four-book series some time ago; I haven't read the others. As a result, it was hard for me to get into this final novel of the series because Pike assumes that readers have followed along for the whole series and takes little time to catch up readers who may have forgotten (or missed) previous story lines. I'll admit I prefer this to novels that hit you over the head with back story, but I wasn't as emotionally connected to this story because it starts out in the middle of action, with Lauren and her friends trying to save Avalon (the home of the faeries) from Yuki and Klea, two powerful fairies on a mission to overthrow the kingdom. Pike does a nice job moving the action along and I appreciated the fact that in this war there are definite casualties (something that some fantasy novels fail to show). However, ultimately I didn't care about the characters as much as I should have.
43. Lana Krumwiede, Freakling (Whitney Middle Grade). I enjoyed this debut novel from Krumwiede, about twelve-year-old Taemon's experience living in a dystopian city where everyone has some form of psi, a psychic ability that allows them to manipulate things with their minds, rather than their hands. Those who don't possess psi are cast out of the City and called "freaklings." Taemon himself possesses some unusual psi abilities that he's usually quiet about; however, when an accident robs him of his ability to use psi, he's deported to the colony to live with the other freaklings. Surprisingly, he enjoys life outside of the City, but when he hears reports of mysterious disappearances and finds other evidence that life inside the City is not what he once believed, Taemon decides to take action. A quick, fast-paced, well-written read.