"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

22 June 2018

What If It's Us


Albertalli, Becky. What If It's Us. Harper Teen, 2018.

Arthur is in New York for one summer only, assisting his mother at her law firm. Ben is a New York native, but he is reeling from a recent breakup. When the two of them bump into each other at the post office, it creates a perfect storm of teen angst and desire. They like each other; they think they love each other, but can they make this relationship work?

This story is equal parts adorable and frustrating. I love the friend groups that Arthur and Ben each have and how they work through their various relationship struggles. I was bothered both by the self-centeredness of each of the boys (although that aspect was entirely normal considering these are teen characters) and found it a bit difficult to navigate whose story I was reading. This was an e-ARC, however, so it's possible the publisher will change the typeface for each narrator or do something similar.

This book will resonate with teens who enjoy contemporary stories, especially those involving romance and drama, as there is plenty of both in this story.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: underage drinking, some language
Overall Rating: 4/5

Read-Alikes: They Both Die at the End; Leah on the Offbeat; Let's Talk About Love

18 June 2018

Love Came Calling





Popovich, C.A. Love Came Calling. Bold Strokes Books, 2018

Josie has inherited her dad's rustic Michigan resort, has renovated it, and has turned it into a lesbian retreat center. She has almost paid off the debt on the resort and is hoping that business will start booming. But a strange man starts showing up at her door and demanding that she sell him the land that is "rightfully his."

Kelly is stressed out at her job at a nursing home, so when her boss sends her to northern Michigan to help start a new nursing home, she is glad for the break. However, she does insist that she can still take her planned vacation with her group of friends, who end up at Josie's resort.

Kelly is looking for her happily-ever-after. Josie is not ready for commitment. Can the two of them still make a relationship work?

This is a fairly standard lesbian romance story, and I did enjoy it. I didn't think the added tension of the subplot with Abe, the guy who wanted to take over the resort, was necessary. I can't speak to the accuracy of the Ojibwe elements, either, but they are fairly prominently featured as the cover suggests. This would make a great summer read or a light read during a vacation.

Recommended for: adults
Red Flags: N/A this is an adult book. Abe does once use a slur in reference to Josie's lesbian resort, and a character is shot.
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purpose of review.

15 June 2018

Pulp

Talley, Robin. Pulp. Harlequin Teen, 2018.

Abby's magnet school requires every senior to complete a special project connected to one of their classes. Abby chooses her creative writing class and delves into the world of 1950's lesbian pulp fiction. She begins researching one particular author and is captivated both by her story and by the story she writes. Abby is determined to meet this author, if possible, but since she wrote under a pen name, this is proving to be very difficult.

The best word I can use to describe this book is "meta." There is Abby's story of living in 2018 and going to protests and working on her senior project, and then there's the story of Marian Love, the author she is researching, and there is the story that Marian herself is writing in the 1950s. There are times when it feels a bit like one of the holodeck episodes of Star Trek: the reader is not always sure which layer of story they are reading.

I loved Abby's research and the disparity between the world Marian was forced to live in and the world Abby is growing up in. I, too, am now tracking down as many of these pulp novels as I can get my hands on. Although there aren't many teens who can relate to attending a school where they are encouraged to attend protests (or where their teachers join them at protests) or where they can work on such a large capstone project, I think most teens will be drawn in by Abby and her group of friends and will enjoy reading about Abby's research into the "ancient history" that is the 1950s. Highly recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: homophobic language, particularly in the scenes of Marian's life; quite a bit of sexism as well in Marian's life - all of this is appropriate for the time period described
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

13 June 2018

Phoenix Goes to School


Finch, Michelle. Phoenix Goes to School. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018.

Phoenix is going to school for the first time, and she is wearing a dress. She is nervous about the way her classmates will react to her since she is transgender, but she need not have worried. She has support from her family, her teacher, and her new friends.

This is a cute book to introduce young children to the concept of gender diversity. Co-written by a transgender child and her parent, this book is appropriate for its age level, although the story tends to go a big longer than many children would have patience for. Colorful illustrations grace every page. This would be a good book to use in a classroom situation along side I Am Jazz or Red: A Crayon's Story. Recommended.

Recommended for: kids
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purpose of review.

11 June 2018

Ready Player One



Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. Crown Publishers, 2011.

It's 2045 and the world is falling apart. Wade is a high school senior who lives at the top of a stack of mobile homes. He goes to school online via the OASIS, a virtual reality world invented by a genius game designer. When the game designer dies, he leaves a cryptic message and puzzle for the world: the first person to find three keys to go through three gates will inherit his fortune. Wade becomes a gunter (egg hunter) looking for this hidden "Easter egg" in the game. But as he gets closer to finding answers, he discovers that others are also searching and are willing to do whatever is necessary to get him out of the way.

I cannot believe I didn't read this book when it came out. I must have picked it up and put it back down a dozen times, but it wasn't until this past weekend that I actually tried to read it. And then I couldn't put it down. And I wasn't paying attention to anything else - food, sleep, sunshine - because I just had to find out what happened. Once I finished it, I turned back to the front and started reading again, which is something I don't think I've ever done. This book is simply fantastic. It is certainly an homage to all that made the 1980s what they were, but inside of that there is the adventure story and the mystery of the different riddles Wade and his friends had to solve. I haven't seen the movie yet, as most of the time when I love a book I do not love the movie, but I do highly recommend this book.

UPDATE: On page 173 of the paperback edition, Parzival and Art3mis are having a conversation, and Parzival asks Art3mis: "Are you a woman? And by that I mean are you a human female who has never had a sex-change operation?" This is unbelievably transphobic and once my spouse pointed it out to me, it left a bad taste in my mouth. The story itself would be fine without this ridiculous line. 

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: lots of threats of violence, both in the real world and in the game
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Ender's Game, Scythe, Proxy