"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

13 August 2018

After Zero

Collins, Christina. After Zero. Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018.

Elise keeps tallies in her notebook - one tally mark for every one word spoken aloud. She tries her best to stay at zero every day. If she doesn't speak, then she won't make a mistake. If she doesn't speak, she won't embarrass herself or others. Ellie's silence, though, is affecting her life at school, and once her mom clues in to the fact that things are not as rosy as Ellie is making them seem, Ellie is faced with a family secret that may prove louder than her silence.

This is an #ownvoices story according to the author information in the back of the book, and I can only barely imagine the frustration of a child or teen who is dealing with selective mutism. I was glad that the author highlighted this very real struggle that some people are facing, as well as the difficulty some students have when transitioning out of a homeschool environment and into a public school. The ending isn't a Disney-esque rosy picture where everything wraps up perfectly, but it is satisfying. Well-developed characters and a measured plot make this an ideal middle grade story. Recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens
Red Flags: bullying
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Red Pencil, The One and Only Ivan, The Benefits of Being an Octopus

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

10 August 2018


Shusterman, Neal. Dry. Simon & Schuster BYR, 2018.

California's drought has continued for years now, and when neighboring states block access to the Colorado River, suddenly everyone's water is gone. No water from the tap. No toilets. No showers. And inevitably people begin panicking. The government and the talking heads on the news assure Californians that they will be fine, that help is on the way, but it is taking a very long time for that help to arrive, and in the meantime, this crisis is bringing out the worst in people.

I lived in California for three years near the beginning of the real drought, and this story is terrifying in how true it reads. I could see things developing in a manner very similar to what is described in this book, and all I can say is that this is exactly why I no longer live in California. This is a compelling page-turning story filled with plenty of action. I can highly recommend this book to readers who enjoy survival stories or dystopian tales that focus on the creation of the dystopia rather than the "tearing down the corrupt government" a la The Hunger Games. Highly recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, violence, a character is threatened with rape on at least one occasion
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Life As We Knew It, Ashfall, Hungry

08 August 2018

This Would Make a Good Story Someday

Levy, Dana Alison. This Would Make a Good Story Someday. Delacorte Press, 2017.

Sara is all set to spend her summer with her two best friends, who together have decided to reinvent themselves before middle school. Then she finds out that her family has won a cross-country train trip, so she, her moms, her older sister and sister's boyfriend, and her younger sister are going to be on a train for practically the entire summer. Moreover, one of Sara's moms is writing a book about their trip, and Sara does NOT want every silly or funny or embarrassing thing she says or does put in this book. With her summer ruined, Sara is ready to clam up and get through the entire train ride, but she didn't expect to find friends along the way.

This book is set in the same universe as the family Fletcher stories; this story is about Frog's friend Ladybug's family, even though the narrator is the middle daughter instead of the youngest. It is a cute and fun story with plenty of hilarious moments and some parts that are sad enough that you may wish to have tissues nearby. This is a great middle grade or tween road trip story and is worth adding to every library's collection.

Recommended for: tweens, middle grade
Red Flags: none come to mind. This is a clean read.
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Someday Birds, Everything I Know About You, Book Scavenger

06 August 2018

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

"It is not a failure to readjust my sails to fit the waters I find myself in."

Lee, Mackenzi. The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy. Katherine Tegen Books, 2018.

Felicity Montague wants to become a doctor. Unfortunately, no one will take her seriously because she's a woman. When she discovers a childhood friend is marrying her idol, she travels to the wedding so she can beg to become a student of the famous doctor. But all is not as it seems, and soon Felicity is traveling across the continent and into Africa in pursuit of a mysterious curative substance. But will the pirates keep their word, or will pirates be pirates?

Wow, there's so much in this book that I liked; I barely know where to start. Felicity is a serious-minded girl who enjoys science and medicine and studying. She doesn't have the best social skills, despises frilly things, and isn't really interested in marrying anyone. She turns down a proposal from a man and mostly turns down another one from a woman. From the discussion in the book, I would tag Felicity as either ace or graysexual. Felicity's brother is married (of a sort, of course that wasn't legal then) to his boyfriend from the previous book in this series. So, lots of exciting queer rep.

There's also a great discussion about Felicity's childhood friend, who adores frilly dresses and is the life of the party, but who also enjoys science and spends lots of time in the company of her pet dog. Felicity scoffs at her friend's enjoyment of pink and frills, but her friend insists that it's okay to like both, and indeed it is. There's a minor discussion of religious and cultural differences as Felicity finds herself, for the first time in her life, to be the minority both in gender and in ethnicity.

All in all, this is a fantastic adventure tale featuring strong female characters (not all of them cishet white women, either), and there's plenty to be enjoyed by any reader who likes adventure stories, pirates, or dragons. Highly recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: Some discussion of addiction to an illicit substance; mild piratical violence; character uses "zounds" as a cuss word, so no real offensive language
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Etiquette & Espionage

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

03 August 2018

The Silver Mask

Black, Holly. The Silver Mask. Scholastic Press, 2017.

Callum Hunt, who carries within him the soul of the most evil mage ever, is in prison while the Magisterium tries to figure out what to do with him. Master Joseph wants to turn Callum loose in the hopes that he will complete the work Constantine started. Most of the Magisterium wants to keep Callum in prison for life or possibly execute him. Callum himself isn't sure what he wants; he's certain he's not the resurrected Constantine, but that's about the only thing he's sure of.

This book picks up where the third book left off, and leaves off at a cliffhanger which sets the stage for the fifth and final book in this series. The similarities between this series and the Harry Potter series make it an excellent read-alike for tweens who enjoyed Harry Potter. This may also be a good series to start a reader on if they think Rowling's books look a bit too long or overwhelming. This is a fast-paced story that keeps the reader turning pages, and while it is certainly helpful to have read the first three books in the series, I found that I could pick this one up and get back into the story even though it has been probably a year or more since I read the third book.

It is worth mentioning that this book goes further than Rowling did by having the Dumbledore-esque character actually be gay (or at least he's a man who is interested in men; it's possible that he is bi- or pan- or something else). It was only a brief mention in passing as the character spoke with Callum, but he did say that he was in love with a man at one point.

Bottom Line: The series is good, and it's very readable. It's not my favorite series of all time, but I could easily book talk these books to tweens and entice them to give them a try.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: fantasy violence (a mostly undescribed battle scene, a few deaths and near deaths)
Overall Rating; 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows