"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

28 February 2013

The One and Only Ivan

Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. HarperCollins, 2012.

Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a strip mall on a highway exit. His only companions are an elephant, a dog, and a young girl. One day, the owner brings in a new elephant, whom Ivan befriends. Ivan promises to take care of her and help her be free from this prison of a "circus." Ivan is able to work a little magic of his own and the animals eventually are placed in a zoo.

This book is a really fast read, but I enjoyed the fact that it was told from Ivan's perspective. I can see why it won the Newbery this year. This was not my usual type of book, and I probably wouldn't have picked it up had it not been in the running for the award, but I am glad I read it.

27 February 2013

Better Nate than Ever

Federle, Tim. Better Nate than Ever. Simon and Schuster, 2013.

Nate wants to sneak away from his small-town life where he's always in his big brother's shadow and audition for a Broadway musical. His friend helps him get out of town, and once he arrives in New York City, hilarity ensues.

This was a cute story. I liked Nate as a character and felt sorry for him living in a small town where he was teased for being gay, even though he admitted himself that he wasn't sure what/whom he liked. I liked watching Nick navigate a big city by himself; I was glad to see some things get resolved in his family toward the end of the book.

And the thing I liked most was the fact that Nate didn't necessarily get the part he tried out for, so this book didn't have the Glee-esque ending I had expected. This story was cute and fun and definitely worth reading.

26 February 2013


Accardo, Jus. Touch. Entangled Publishing. 2011

Deznee lives to make her father mad. Ever since her mom died, her dad's been absorbed in his work, and Deznee would love for things to go back to the way they were. So when a mysterious boy crosses her path one night, she brings him home as a chance to enrage her father. But when her father comes in the door, takes one look at the boy, and attempts to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart, Deznee realizes she's gotten in over her head.

This book was an interesting read. It was fairly fast paced and contained enough plot twists to keep me interested. At first I thought the book would be too weird or to unbelievable, but I ended up enjoying it more than I expected.

25 February 2013


Moskowitz, Hannah. Teeth. Simon Pulse, 2013.

Rudy's little brother has cystic fibrosis, so his family moves to this remote island so the brother can eat the fish that live there; apparently, these fish has some mystical healing powers.  Rudy's trapped on this tiny island with nothing to do, when he meets Fish Boy.

Fish Boy, or rather Teeth, as he calls himself, is sort of like a merman. And he's trying to protect the fish that people are scarfing, because he calls those fish his brothers. Rudy has to decide who he'll save - the fish or his little brother.

This book was a bit weird.  Okay, so the whole "fish boy exists because a woman was raped by one of these miracle fish" thing - that was REALLY weird.  The rest of it was just sort of weird.  The story had an okay ending, though.  And it was a quick read.  Not a bad beach book, I guess, but I won't be putting it in my personal library any time soon.

24 February 2013

Graphic Novel Audiences

I enjoyed the articles in Weiner’s book this week, especially considering my e-discussion of graphic novels last week. It is true that graphic novels have a fairly stereotypical audience; however, it is also true that as librarians we would be doing a disservice if we did not recommend graphic novels to all of our patrons. I appreciated Boyer’s mention of the groups who do not typically read graphic novels: adults, particularly senior citizens, parents who regard graphic novels as “less than,” teens who believe that only certain types of teens (geeks, nerds, however you want to name them) read graphic novels, and most importantly, librarians.

Boyer’s position that librarians should be familiar with all of the different media and materials available in the library is a valid one. This is precisely why I am taking this class. I don’t know enough about graphic works, nor am I comfortable/familiar enough with classic graphic novels or newly published and popular graphic novels to do an adequate job advising readers. Eventually, I will work at a library, and hopefully I’ll have a cadre of regular patrons who can offer suggestions on what I should read next. Until then, though, I must rely on my classmates and the internet to define my “to read” list. 

Gavigan also made some good points about using graphic novels to reach reluctant readers, particularly adolescent males, who have been shown to read significantly less than their female peers. Although the idea of using a graphic novel as a “stepping stone” into another medium has already been hotly debated in our class, I see no problem with suggesting a graphic novel to a reluctant reader if, in the librarian’s opinion, that reader will engage with or enjoy the graphic novel better than a traditional print novel. The librarian does not need to have a “hidden agenda” of encouraging the patron to read print novels; rather, the librarian is simply meeting a need for a patron, regardless of the outcome. Perhaps that patron will eventually read other types of books; perhaps s/he will continue to read exclusively from the graphic novel /comic medium.

I appreciated the idea of suggesting graphic novels alongside other books; for example, suggesting Marvel’s Oz books alongside other fantasy novels, or adding Persepolis to a list of memoirs / autobiographies. In the future, when I am responsible for book displays in the library, I will make a point to include graphic works in addition to traditional print works, the same way I would attempt to include both fiction works and non-fiction works in a display. While it may be true that graphic novel aficionados will generally prefer to read other graphic works, and print novel fans will prefer print works, it is also true that offering a variety of media and a variety of genres is part of the appeal of the public library, in addition to the benefit of being able to try something completely new without having to pay for it. Jimmy John’s may offer free smells, but the library offers free adventures, both familiar and brand-new.

23 February 2013


Telgemeier, Raina. Drama. Graphix, 2012.

Callie loves theater. She's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage and offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

This graphic novel was adorable.  It was just really cute.  The panels were easy to follow, I enjoyed the story, and the illustrations were colorful and not overdone.  This was a really quick read, and if I still had a classroom bookshelf, this book would be on it. 

22 February 2013

Ask the Passengers

King, A.S. Ask the Passengers. Little, Brown, 2012.

Astrid's family moved from New York City to a tiny speck of a town.  Her younger sister has adjusted to small town life.  Her father misses his "real" job and smokes pot in his free time so he can forget where he is.  Her mother pretends she's still in New York and tries desperately to balance her family's image with settling in to this small town.  And then there's Astrid.  She's taking a philosophy class in high school and learning to question everything; she's in love with her coworker at a catering company, and no one else knows that she's gay.  She's not even sure herself.

Everything explodes when Astrid and several of her friends are caught at a gay bar, where the police are making all the minors call their parents to pick them up.  Astrid's sister is devastated and can't stand the rumors that intimate that she is as gay as her sister.  Astrid's dad is still in his pot cloud.  Astrid's mom spends the first several days in bed and the next several ironing the curtains.  Astrid's few friends have betrayed her. Where does she go from here?

I found this story line to be very similar to The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. There's a crazy mother, a laid-back father, a spoiled-brat sibling, and the main character who needs to grow a backbone.  Also similarly, Astrid does eventually stand up for herself and things get better.  It's not a "happily ever after" ending, but it's also not a "I am now depressed because I read this book" ending.

I liked the story.  I liked the tie-in of Astrid "sending love" to airplanes overhead.  I think her mother was a bit over-the-top (who takes their 16 year old daughter on "mommy and me" dates that involve drinking?).  I was glad that Astrid was willing to dwell in the questions; I was glad she was able to come to terms with who she is, and I was grateful for this book painting a fairly accurate picture of coming out in a small town.  This book was a quick read, but well worth it.

21 February 2013

Between You & Me

Calin, Marisa. Between You and Me. Bloomsbury, 2012.

This is the Goodreads blurb about this book: "Phyre knows there is something life-changing about her new drama teacher, Mia, from the moment they meet. As Phyre rehearses for the school play, she comes to realize that the unrequited feelings she has for Mia go deeper than she’s ever experienced. Especially with a teacher. Or a woman. All the while, Phyre’s best friend—addressed throughout the story in the second person, as "you"—stands by, ready to help Phyre make sense of her feelings. But just as Mia doesn’t understand what Phyre feels, Phyre can’t fathom the depth of her best friend’s feelings . . . until it’s almost too late for a happy ending. Characters come to life through the innovative screenplay format of this dazzling debut, and unanswered questions—is "you" male or female?—will have readers talking."

Here's my take on this book:

1. I was intrigued by the premise.  An LGBT YA book with the teen protagonist crushing on a teacher. It sounded interesting (as long as it didn't get creepy - which it didn't).  A focus on drama/theater high school groups. It sounded good, and sounded like it would reach a new audience, the same way Beautiful Music for Ugly Children did with its emphasis on music and radio shows.

2.  I hated, really hated the format. I don't think in screenplays, so it's hard to read one. Also, the protagonist spoke to the reader, so there's lots of "you" going on, but she referred to herself as "me," so I'm the "you" reading what "me" said, but I'm not "me."  If that sentence confused you, try 242 pages of that.

Also, I checked with my better half, who has a degree in theater performance, and she said that the screenplay isn't formatted correctly.  And interspersed with the screenplay are bits of narration that sound like a normal novel (except for the second person craziness). So it's like a screenplay that wants to be a novel that wants to be an in-your-face real-time conversation.  No wonder I was unimpressed.

The story concept is a good one, but I'm not sold on the execution.

20 February 2013


Cashore, Kristin. Bitterblue. Dial, 2012.

In the wake of Leck's evil reign and demise, Bitterblue inherits the throne of Monsea.  She has to try to help her country recover from the evil wrought by Leck.  But how can she do that when her advisors keep her stuck in a tower office, signing papers and listening to court cases all day? Bitterblue decides to sneak out of the castle and see her country for herself. Thus begins a long, complicated story full of crosses and counter-crosses, spies, intrigue, coded messages, hidden passages, etc. etc.  As Bitterblue begins to understand the full depth of Leck's madness and evilness, she wonders if she'll ever get her kingdom back on its feet.

I really enjoyed this book.  I liked the ciphers and the cleverness of the characters in leaving them in all the places they did.  I loved the librarian.  Bitterblue grows on me throughout the book.  I found myself rooting for all of Monsea to recover from Leck's treachery. 

This book demands a huge time investment, but it's well worth it.  

19 February 2013

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things

Mackler, Carolyn.  The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. Candlewick, 2003.

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex. She lives for television, scarfs junk food, and follows her self-made "Fat Girl Code of Conduct." Her best friend has just moved to Walla Walla. Her new companion, Froggy Welsh IV, has just succeeded in getting his hand up her shirt, and she lives in fear that he’ll look underneath. Then there are the other Shreves: Mom, the successful psychologist and exercise fiend; Dad, a top executive who ogles thin women on TV; and older siblings Anais and Byron, both of them slim and brilliant. Delete Virginia, and the Shreves would be a picture-perfect family. Or so she’s convinced. And then a shocking phone call changes everything. Virginia has to decide whether to help her mother keep her family's perfect image or to begin living for herself.

I started out not liking this book.  Virginia is bossed around by her "perfect" family; she has no friends; she eats to comfort herself.  Her mother is an adolescent psychologist and should, therefore, be a great mom to a teenager, but she's way too concerned about the family's image to be a real parent.  And Virginia has NO backbone.  I only kept reading because 1) I was in the car, listening to the audio version on a longish commute to work, and 2) the narrator is excellent.  I mean, really excellent.

Early on in the book, Perfect Brother Byron gets kicked out of college for date rape and is sent home.  He doesn't get punished; in fact, no one in the family talks about "the incident" at all. He even gets to go to a Yankees playoffs game with his dad.  He is given permission to move to France for the rest of the semester ... it's like his family just wants to sweep the whole thing under the rug.  Meanwhile, Virginia is traumatized by the whole thing and has nowhere to turn because mentioning what's bothering her will ruin the family's reputation.  Argh.

Around Thanksgiving, things change and the story gets much better.  Virginia develops a backbone, first of all, and starts being herself.  And with that backbone comes some self-confidence.  And then she makes friends. And things are better.  My favorite part (aside from the hair dye incident) is when Virginia's dad says something like, "It looks like you've slimmed down," and her response is, "Dad, I don't like it when you talk about my body.  It's not yours to discuss."  Wahoo! 

I thought I wouldn't like this book, but I did.  If you get a chance, try the audio version. :)

18 February 2013

Starting From Here

Bigelow, Lisa Jenn. Starting From Here. Amazon Children's Publishing, 2012.

Colby's mom died of cancer just a couple of years ago. Her dad is a truck driver, so he spends most of his time on the road. At the beginning of this book, Colby's girlfriend breaks up with her, only to show up at school the next day hand-in-hand with a boy. Then, when Colby is picking up cans with a friend, a stray dog chases after them and is hit by a truck. The dog survives, but has to have one of its legs amputated. Colby and her dog are both trying to adjust to life as it is, but the dog is much more successful than Colby.

I don't like the way Colby's ex-girlfriend treated her, but to be fair, Colby treated just about everyone badly - her dad, her best friend, the vet who saves her dog, her new girlfriend, etc. This book was sweet and heartfelt and easy to read, and even though it wasn't a Disney-style story, it did have a satisfying ending: Colby recognizes that she's been a jerk and starts to change, starting from here.

I enjoyed this book so much that I actually considered "losing" the library's copy and keeping it for myself.  Instead, I'll return the book and get my own copy.  This one is definitely going in my library.

17 February 2013

Biographical and Autobiographical Graphic Novels

This week for our class we were required to read Satrapi's Persepolis. Persepolis is Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran, which I have found intriguing because I have very little familiarity with Middle Eastern countries and customs.  I think that having graphic novels about different cultures is a great way to present information that people might otherwise be interested in or exposed to.  Although things are improving, there is a dearth of children's and young adult works featuring characters from the Middle East, and in our increasingly global community, this is to our detriment.

My first foray into graphic biographies, though, came through Art Spiegelman's Maus. Maus was my first introduction to graphic novels in general, and especially to non-manga graphic works. I taught on the island of Guam, so my students hailed from Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, and a host of small Pacific islands; they frequently brought manga to class and flew through it so fast I wished I had a manga version of our grammar textbook.  But these works were all in Japanese (or Chinese, or Korean, etc.), so I had little to no exposure to graphic novels of any other variety.

Then I found out about Maus and how controversial it was and how wonderful some people said it was, so I ordered a copy.  I'm not a history buff by any means, but the second world war does interest me, so it was easy enough to step into the world of Maus. I believe, though, that I became a bit overwhelmed by the combination of words, pictures, and difficult subject matter.  I enjoyed the book and added it to my classroom shelf, but I didn't pick up another graphic novel for quite some time.

My other experience in graphic biographies or autobiographies has come through Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. I was required to read this book for a class last semester, and I was greatly surprised when I went to Barnes & Noble to purchase it, only to have the clerk retrieve the book from the biography/memoir shelf, not the graphic novel/comics shelf.  I enjoyed most of the Fun Home story, aside from the literary references that made my English-teacher self feel like a complete dunce. I could easily see how Bechdel, who is famous for her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, would choose to write her autobiography in graphic novel form.

It makes sense to me that libraries choose to shelve serial graphic novels in a separate section, but I wonder whether it would make more sense for graphic biographies and autobiographies to be shelved with the other biographies. Would this promote reading across a variety of media for patrons, or merely create frustration for those who prefer graphic works and wish for them to be placed separate from the rest of the collection? After reading about libraries that are "genrefying" their collections or doing away with the Dewey decimal system altogether, I wonder if it would be easier to shelve graphic works according to their genre instead of their medium.  Any thoughts?

16 February 2013

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Ryan, Carrie. The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Delacorte Books, 2010.

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

Good points: There's a sort-of happy ending. There are zombie babies. The story is suspenseful.

Bad points: The ending took too long to resolve. The characters had trauma after trauma, with hardly any break; any story I have to describe using the phrase, "And then they almost die again" is a problem. Also, I listened to the audio version of this book; that was a bad life choice. The narrator has Shatner-esque pauses in her speech and gives Sister Tabitha and Jacob really weird accents (think of Counselor Troi in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and you'll be pretty close). It was obnoxious. But I was in my car, and I can't exactly read a print book while I drive, so I put up with it. The narration got a bit better. The story didn't.

15 February 2013

The Rules for Disappearing

Elston, Ashley. The Rules for Disappearing. Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

She’s been six different people in six different places: Madeline in Ohio, Isabelle in Missouri, Olivia in Kentucky . . . But now that she’s been transplanted to rural Louisiana, she has decided that this fake identity will be her last. Witness Protection has taken nearly everything from her. But for now, they’ve given her a new name, Megan Rose Jones, and a horrible hair color. For the past eight months, Meg has begged her father to answer one question: What on earth did he do—or see—that landed them in this god-awful mess? Meg has just about had it with all of the Suits’ rules—and her dad’s silence. If he won’t help, it’s time she got some answers for herself.

This book was a fun, quick read, and I enjoyed it in spite of myself. Meg/Anna/whatever her current iteration is has moved so often in the past year that it's taken a toll on her family. Her mom's an alcoholic now, her little sister won't talk, and her dad is having clandestine conversations with the very person who caused them to be in Witness Protection in the first place. It's no wonder Anna feels like she's the only one holding her family together; she is.

This story starts slowly enough but picks up speed quickly, and there are enough hints and clues along the way that indicate that something isn't quite right. And just when you think everything's resolved, there's a nice twist at the end as well.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

14 February 2013


Cashore, Kristen. Fire. Dial Books, 2009.

Fire is a monster human - she's half human, half monster: her looks stop people in their tracks, sometimes causing them to do ridiculous things, and she can enter people's minds and know what they're thinking or cause them to do things she wants them to do. She saw the devastation monsterhood created in her father and she is determined not to let it do the same to her. She will not use her monster powers to influence others. But war is brewing in her land and the king needs her help to save the country. Soon Fire has to choose between what is right and what is safe.

I enjoyed this book from start to finish. I checked it out on Sunday afternoon and would have had it read this morning (Tuesday) if I had gotten up just a little bit earlier. I'm definitely ready to devour Bitterblue next.

13 February 2013

Zombie in Love

DiPucchio, Kelly. Zombie in Love. Atheneum, 2011.

Mortimer just wants to find true love.  He's tried wooing the postal worker at his door, the waitress at the diner, and anyone who is near him. He reads books about how to win the love of his life, but nothing's working.  Finally, he puts out at ad to see if someone will meet him by the punch bowl at the Valentine's Day dance.  And just when he thinks it's over, someone comes to meet him, a girl who will love all of Mortimer's zombiness.

12 February 2013

One for the Murphys

Hunt, Lynda. One for the Murphys. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012.

When Carley's stepfather beats her (while her mother holds her so she can't run away), she is placed into the foster system.  The Murphys are a bustling, happy family, and Carley has difficulty adjusting to life in their home and accepting the unconditional love she finds there.  When her mom has recovered enough to leave the hospital, Carley has to face leaving the one place she felt like home.

I enjoyed this story. I loved how "real" the Murphy family was and how patient the mom was with Carley and her odd behavior.  I didn't want Carley to go back with her mom, but I was glad she had had a chance to grow strong and see that there are possibilities outside of her normal experiences.

11 February 2013

The Reluctant Assassin

Colfer, Eoin. The Reluctant Assassin. Puffin, 2013.

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick. In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a nineteen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

This book was a lot of fun to read.  I enjoyed following Riley and Chevron on their escapades through both Londons, and Garrick was a great opponent for them.  The pacing was fast enough to keep me interested but not so fast that I was felt like I was missing out on something.  Both characters are believable and entertaining. I would recommend this book not only to Colfer fans, but also to any teen or tween who enjoys adventure stories.  This also would make a great read-aloud book, particularly for a teacher/librarian/parent who is able to read with an accent.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review. 

10 February 2013

Introducing the New Spiderman

I enjoyed the three Spiderman movies back when they were first produced. Although Peter Parker was occasionally annoying, and MJ definitely got on my nerves, the stories were fun and they always ended well. I had the same experience with the older Spiderman comic books we've read for class.  I enjoyed them, somewhat, but they didn't cause me to race to the local comic book store to purchase the rest of the series.  I was okay with Spiderman, but I could easily take him or leave him.

Introduce Miles Morales, the new Spiderman in the wake of Peter Parker's demise. Miles Morales is night-and-day different from Peter Parker.  Miles is half African-American and half Latino; Miles lives in a poor neighborhood and wins a lottery to go to a charter school.  For a while there were rumors that Miles would also be gay.

I'm surprised I haven't heard any uproar over this, like the uproar that happened when Kevin Keller entered Archie comics. Kevin's wedding caused quite an uproar, so much so that it ended up as the highest selling individual issue of Archie comics.

I read Kevin's story, too, although the Archie characters are far too cheerful and caffeinated for my preferences. I don't think I'd enjoy that series, regardless of the diversity presented by the characters.I definitely preferred Batwoman's story to Kevin Keller's.  Batwoman is interesting, and her story is one I'd actually enjoy following, were I into superhero comics.

It seems that more comics are introducing LGBTQIA characters now, and they are facing less opposition, too. Marvel's Northstar was able to marry his partner, Kyle, in 2012 without causing much ripple, although Northstar's 1992 coming-out experience was much less positive.

There have always been LGBTQIA comics, although more often than not these were written by and for the LGBTQIA community.  It's only recently that LGBTQIA characters have made headway into mainstream comics. In response to the brouhaha over such characters appearing in superhero comics, Perry Moore wrote a novel, Hero, which one a Lambda award for excellence in young adult LGBTQIA literature. I listened to Moore's novel on CD in my car, and I found myself staying in the car, even after I had reached my destination, just to finish the story.

Hero's main character is Thom, a boy whose mother disappeared years ago and whose father used to be a superhero's sidekick until an accident left him with a damaged hand and a tarnished reputation.  Now Thom has realized that he has a superpower - he can heal people with his touch - and he has been recruited by the League to become a superhero-in-training. He has to hide this from his dad, though, who doesn't want him to have anything to do with superheroes.  The ending of this story is intense, as a plot twist causes Thom to risk everything to save the day.  It's definitely well worth your time to read (or listen to) this book.

And if you are interested in other LGBTQIA comic book characters, check out this article.

09 February 2013

Peregrine Harker and the Black Death

Hollands, Luke. Peregrine Harker and the Black Death. Sparkling Books, 2013.

London 1908: A secret society stalks the murky streets, a deadly assassin lurks in the shadows and a series of unexplained deaths are linked by a mystery symbol - When boy-detective Peregrine Harker stumbles across a gruesome murder he sparks a chain of events that drag him on a rip-roaring journey through a world of spluttering gas lamps, thick fog, deadly secrets and dastardly villains. Every step of Peregrine's white-knuckle adventure brings him closer to the vile heart of a terrifying mystery - the true story behind the Brotherhood of the Black Death.

Part Sherlock Holmes. Part Indiana Jones. Peregrine Harker and the Black Death was a quick, enjoyable read. I could easily see my former students or future patrons flying through this book and begging for the next one in the series. A great middle-grade mystery novel that will keep readers hooked from the first page. Well done!

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Net Galley for the purposes of review.

08 February 2013

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Danforth, Emily. The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Balzer & Bray, 2012.

When Cameron Post's parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they'll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn't last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship--one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to "fix" her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self--even if she's not exactly sure who that is.

I enjoyed this book, even though it isn't a quick read. It isn't full of action, it isn't fast-paced, and there isn't a zombie or vampire in sight.  But it is a good story, and many LGBTQIA teens would really enjoy this story and relate to Cameron's situation.  Other teens and adults could also enjoy the story and perhaps get a glimpse into the concept of reparative therapy from a gay teen's point of view.

My family never sent me to Straight Camp or Straight School or had the pastor try to cast the gay demons out of me, but I was involved with an online reparative therapy program. I was encouraged to do so by my superiors in the strict religious environment where I chose to work.  So I can understand Cameron's frustration at hearing that she's condemned forever for being what she is and that she needs to choose to change (like she chose to become gay in the first place).

If I still had a classroom, this book would be in my collection. As it is, I'll add it to my list of books that I want in the collection at my library-in-the-future.

07 February 2013

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite

Simon, Lianne. Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite. Faie Miss Press, 2012.

Meh. I wanted this book to be good. There are so few YA books about LGBTQIA (especially BTQIA) teens, I was glad to find one about an intersex person. Jamie/Jameson has been raised as a boy, but she feels that she is a girl, and she wants to live her life as the princess she feels she is. Her dad, though, is insistent that she is a boy, going so far as to invent rules for her to live by and whipping her as he would a son.

She's 16. She's away at college. She starts living as a girl. Dad gets mad. She's 18 - still living as a girl and still not at home. She wants to marry and adopt a couple of orphans, but her dad still thinks she needs to come home and go into some kind of gender therapy and become a boy. Then everything gets resolved and she lives happily ever after.

Like I said, I wanted this book to be good. But the narration switches from first person to third person frequently, so I never felt like I was truly inside Jamie's head. And I got SO frustrated at her insistence on obeying her parents even when she was an adult and not even living with them - she knew she was a girl, the doctor agreed she was a girl, so why did she keep trying to be a boy for her dad? Argh.  And her family was sort of religious, but not really, so I was confused when they started talking about Bible verses just randomly.  Having spent a considerable amount of time in a strict religious near-cult, I know what that kind of environment is like, and this book didn't paint that picture quite right. I was unconvinced.

I guess I wanted to be in Jamie's head more, and I wanted her to have a backbone. Better luck next time.

06 February 2013


Barnes, Jennifer Lynn. Nobody. Egmont, 2013.

There are people in this world who are Nobody. No one sees them. No one notices them. They live their lives under the radar, forgotten as soon as you turn away.

That’s why they make the perfect assassins.

The Institute finds these people when they’re young and takes them away for training. But an untrained Nobody is a threat to their organization. And threats must be eliminated.

Sixteen-year-old Claire has been invisible her whole life, missed by the Institute’s monitoring. But now they’ve ID’ed her and send seventeen-year-old Nix to remove her. Yet the moment he lays eyes on her, he can’t make the hit. It’s as if Claire and Nix are the only people in the world for each other. And they are—because no one else ever notices them.

I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. But it just didn't keep my interest. It was narrated in third person, but it still flipped between the two main characters, and the writing style in the two sections was not different enough to make it easy for my brain to adjust to the new point of view. 

And one of the main characters is an assassin and has been trained to be so from the time he was young, but the story isn't very suspenseful or thrilling at all. I would have expected it to be more suspenseful. Instead, I found myself dreading the time I spent reading this one. Better luck next time.

05 February 2013

Blind Spot

Ellen, Laura. Blind Spot. Harcourt Children's Books, 2012.

It's a bad thing when the shelf titles other people use in Goodreads have more interesting content than the book being placed there, but that's the truth in this case.

This book sounded so good. A missing girl. A girl with a physical impairment as the main character. Some creepiness. I thought I'd fly through it because it would be so hard to stop reading.

Wow, was I ever wrong.

The main character has macular degeneration, a condition I am fairly familiar with as two of my college friends had that same condition. Her teacher must spend time reading "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" for fun, because he's crazy. Just plain crazy. And not following her IEP, which is illegal. And the principal believes him, not her. But I digress.

The main character doesn't have anyone in her corner except this one kid named Greg, and she doesn't even know he's the only one on her side.

The bulk of the book is filled with high school drama. Girls going out with guys to make other girls jealous, etc. etc. It was ridiculous. Between that, the mom who doesn't care about her daughter, and the freaky teacher who marks the main character absent because she won't sit in the back row ... I didn't like it.

It wasn't thrilling. The murder mystery wasn't mysterious - the reader knows who did it, and we spend the entire book waiting for the characters to catch up. This one's not worth your time, folks.

04 February 2013


Winter, Kathleen. Annabel. House of Anansi Press, 2010.

When Wayne was born, he had what doctors call "ambiguous genitalia," that is, he is an intersex person. His parents chose to allow the doctors to operate on their child and then raised him as a male.  However, Wayne  feels as though he has a shadow persona named Annabel, and she is starting to exert her influence over him.

I really wanted to like this story. Wayne occasionally expresses desires for feminine things, desires that are quashed by a dad who wants a very masculine son. All of that is well and good, but this story is told in third person, so we never get inside Wayne's head. Added to that are the numerous passages describing the landscape or some history of the town where Wayne lives, and this book lost my attention. I wanted to learn about Wayne, not about Canada.

03 February 2013


Wikipedia defines a superhero as “a character possessing ‘extraordinary or superhuman powers’” who uses those powers to fight evil. Some of the more famous superheroes will have a standard set of supervillians they fight; these supervillians may be beaten, only to return later for another attempt at beating the superhero. A superhero story follows a fairly standard plot: the superhero lives incognito, working a regular job, until some big, scary, bad thing happens and the hero is called upon to save the day. The hero and the villain have a battle of epic proportions, usually involving a lot of damage to buildings and city infrastructure, and the villain is ultimately defeated by the hero, who eventually resumes his average appearance and his ordinary job.

Because of this standard plot, superhero comics could almost be considered genre fiction, similar to romances, science fiction, or mysteries. The stock characters are standard, the plot is predictable, but none of those things take away from the comics’ popularity. In fact, some readers may gravitate to comics precisely because they are predictable, the same way some library patrons check out a stack of mysteries every time they come to the library. Those who don’t read genre fiction may find the books to be too similar to one another to be enjoyable, but the huge readership of genre fiction proves that its popularity is far from over. 

The same goes for superhero comics. It is comforting to know that no matter how scary things become in the story, or how strong the villain is, the superhero will come through in the end; good will triumph and evil will be defeated. This may be why some characters – such as Spiderman – have endured for as long as they have.

Marvel has an online “create your own superhero” program that kids would probably love to play with. There are lots of options to choose from as far as what your superhero will look like or what kinds of weapons he/she will have. I played with it for a little bit and was able to create my own superhero. There’s even a print option, so you could print out your superhero and color in his/her picture or imagine adventures that he/she would go on and villains he/she would fight. 

I also discovered a rather unfortunate list of superheroes. It’s supposed to be some sort of catch-all list of all the superheroes and villains in the comic book universe; however, it includes some characters that I wouldn’t consider superheroes or villians, such as the Disney characters Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Neither of those characters has any superhuman characteristics or fights evil; I’m not sure why they were included on the list.

I also took one of the inevitable “which superhero are you” quizzes and discovered that, for some reason, I am most like Superman. Except without the spandex. Probably many people enjoy imagining themselves as superheroes (or villains), doing great things with super powers. Perhaps that is part of the appeal of superhero comics; for just a few moments, as we read, we can imagine that we are more than the sum of our parts.

02 February 2013

The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet -- A Memoir

Weiss, Dara-Lynn. The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet -- A Memoir. Ballantine Books, 2013.

The Heavy is Weiss's retelling of her journey in helping her obese daughter lose weight and change her eating habits. Weiss's family did not have a habit of eating lots of food or eating junk food or sitting around lazily all day. It was a real struggle to adjust her seven-year old's eating so that she could lose weight. Throughout, Weiss encounters unhelpful and judgmental parents, hard to navigate menu options, a school lunch program not designed to help kids lose weight, and a host of doctors who help with varying levels of success.

This was an interesting book and a quick read. I enjoyed learning about Weiss's journey with her daughter, and I appreciated Weiss's approach both to the weight-loss program and also the story she has told of her struggle in finding the balance between giving her daughter what she wants and helping her do what she needs.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program for the purposes of review.

01 February 2013

Sock it to Me, Santa!

Parker, Madison. Sock it to Me, Santa! Smashwords, 2012.

Ryan, a closeted gay teen, has a homeroom teacher who insists on "team-building" activities to help her students get to know each other better.  For the holidays, she chooses to do a Secret Santa gift exchange where the students must make gifts for each other over the weeks preceding Christmas.  Ryan is devastated to discover that he has selected Jamie - an openly gay, Kurt-esque character - as his recipient.  He despairs of finding appropriate gifts for Jamie.  In the end, Ryan discovers that perhaps he has feelings for Jamie.

This short story reads a lot like an episode of Glee.  If you are willing to suspend your disbelief and expect miracles within a short time span, the story is fun.  Not uber-believable, but fun.