So, rapid-fire reviews!
Daughter of Xanadu, by Dori Jones Yang
The granddaughter of Kublai Khan longs to be the first woman allowed to serve in the Khan's army, but is then distracted by her growing feelings for the travelling foreigner, Marco Polo. The historical details in this one were totally fascinating -- and there's an EPIC battle scene -- but the dialogue was weak and it dragged in parts and the romance fell so flat that it was more of a distraction than anything else. Wicked pretty cover, though. My complaints aside, it's probably a safe pick for readers looking for historical fiction starring a strong female character, and Tamora Pierce blurbed it, which is always a selling point.
Five Flavors of Dumb, by Anthony John
LOVED THIS ONE. Eighteen-year-old Piper mouths off and suddenly finds herself managing Dumb, the up-and-coming band at her high school. Issue #1? She's deaf. Issue #2? The band is comprised of five members, all of whom are completely, clashingly different, and each of whom is in love with someone who's in love with someone else. (Got that?) And that's not even going into what's going on at home. Readers who like YA contemporaries, take note, and if you're into the family dramas or are a music person, this one's a must read.
Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz
An unlikely friendship between quiet Travis and loud Velveeta helps them both in ways neither would have expected. Wow. The Horn Book and I are totally at odds on this one. They gave it a star, and I give it a 'meh'. I didn't find it as 'deep' as some are giving it credit for being, but my main issue is more personal: I had a really, really tough time with Velveeta. She called herself Velveeta, for one. Which, being the shallow lady that I am, pained me. But she was also kind of like an older, louder Stargirl. Who I also disliked. A whole lot. Bonus points for a cameo by The Book Thief, though, I guess. Recommended to those who trust the Horn Book more than me, which is very probably most people.
Chasing Alliecat, by Rebecca Fjelland Davis
Another in a long line of 2011 Cybils nominees that feature sports. This time? Mountain-biking! There's also a mystery of sorts. And a romance. And budding friendships, and secret family secrets. Good stuff. Recommended to... well, Chris Crutcher blurbed it for a reason.