"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

29 September 2016

Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit

Brown, Jaye Robin. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit. HarperTeen, 2016.

Jo's father is marrying for the third time, and now Jo and her father are moving from metropolitan Atlanta to the small town of Rome, Georgia. What's more, Jo is an out lesbian, and her father has asked her to go back into the closet, so to speak, for her senior year. Jo agrees somewhat reluctantly, but things become complicated when Jo meets the girl of her dreams.

First off, Jo's life is already hard enough, what with moving her senior year of high school and getting yet another fill-in mother, so her father really, truly was being unreasonable in asking her to un-out herself for her last year of school. I absolutely agree with Jo that this sends her the message that he is less-than-okay with her sexuality. That being said, I just moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Midwest, and I work in a small town not unlike Rome, Georgia. While I do not hide my queer status from those around me, I don't have a pride flag on my office or an HRC sticker on my car, so there's that. I kind of understand. Would "straight Jo" have an easier time in Rome than lesbian Jo? Definitely. Would it be super hard for lesbian Jo to pretend to be "straight Jo" while in Rome? Absolutely.

The drama in Jo's high school life was understandable and realistic. Jo's confusion and conflict over whether to stay closeted per her father's instructions or to be honest with her new friends is also understandable. I liked that the story ended on a good note, even if that seemed a bit Disney-esque. Will this book be added to my library's collection? Yes. Will any of the teens actually check it out and read it? Not sure.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: at least two of the supporting characters are sexually active and like to talk about it; Jo and Mary Carlson nearly have sex (but are interrupted); underage drinking; Jo's Atlanta friend is put in jail because she's involved with identity theft
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Dumplin', Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature, Openly Straight

27 September 2016

My Fall TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly series hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. 

I try to keep a relatively short to-be-read (TBR) list, so my "Fall TBR" list is pretty much just my TBR list right now, since it's fall.

  1. One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi
  2. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  3. Burn, Baby, Burn by Meg Medina
  4. Heartless by Marissa Meyer
  5. Vicarious by Paula Stokes
  6. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
  7. Three Truths and a Lie by Brett Hartinger
  8. The Bronze Key by Holly Black
  9. When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
  10. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
What are you itching to read this fall?

22 September 2016

As I Descended

Talley, Robin. As I Descended. Harper Teen, 2016.

Maria and Lily want to have it all. They are competing for a scholarship at their prestigious private school, but they know that Delilah will win it, just as she wins everything. How far are Maria and Lily willing to go to get what they want, and will they be able to live with the consequences?

This is a retelling of Macbeth, modernized and set in a boarding school, so it's hard to judge this book, since it's not a standard boarding school story, nor is it a standard fairy tale retelling, nor is it a typical story with LGBT characters. It's spooky, and it's confusing at times, and the pace is pretty slow even though the events take place over a short period of time. In all those ways it's a lot like Shakespeare's Macbeth.

I would recommend this book to teens who enjoy boarding school stories and for strong readers. Readers looking for an action-packed page turner should find a different book.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: This is a retelling of MacBeth, so murder. Also underage drinking and drug use
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Huntress, Dorothy Must Die, Beast

20 September 2016

I See You

Your ninja skills are not as advanced as you may think, my young friend. You came to our LEGO club, and like all the other kids, you heard me say that each kid gets "one eatable and one drinkable" snack during club. I don't spend much time near the snack table, doling out food to you kids. I like to wander around the room, chat with you as you build, take pictures if you don't mind, etc. etc. I don't like to guard food.

I saw your trick; it was a good one. You put your first snack in your pocket and ate it, then when you got a second snack, you put it in the same pocket. I certainly wasn't paying attention to which snacks people had, so probably no one would notice if you were still eating snacks from your pocket. But I noticed.

I have eagle-eyes honed by years in a classroom, so I knew when you took a second snack, and a third and fourth, and then a second drink, and then a fifth snack. I saw you each time you walked oh-so-casually over to the refreshments and shoved another cellophane bag into your pocket.

You know what I also saw, though? I saw your eyes. You were not being a greedy kid. You were not trying to get away with something simply because I said no. Other kids were too busy building to care about a second snack. You, however, were too hungry to care about building.

I've seen that hungry look before, on my students when I was a teacher, and when I was a librarian, that look hounded a few kids who were honest with me: "Miss, I got here too late to get my free breakfast, and I'm hungry. Do you have anything to eat?" For some kids, the meals at school were all they could depend upon.

I don't know if that's your situation; I didn't ask. But I saw the hungry look in your eyes and I chose to ignore the plastic rustling in your pocket, because maybe getting a second snack isn't fair, but being hungry isn't fair, either, and I can certainly afford to make sure there are extra snacks available for you, kid.

Maybe some day you'll know me well enough to tell me what's going on, or maybe not. Either way, though, I'll keep the snack tray stocked, and please, please eat what you need.

15 September 2016

The Pants Project

Clarke, Cat. The Pants Project. Sourcebooks Jaberwocky, 2016.

A delightful middle grade novel in the vein of Gracefully Grayson with the upbeat hopefulness of Better Nate Than Ever.

Liv is not excited about starting middle school. He hasn't told his moms yet, but Liv has figured out that he's transgender, and his school has a strict dress code which will require him to wear a skirt since everyone thinks he's a girl. Not only that, but he loses his best friend to the popular crowd within the first week of school. Liv takes matters into his own hands and decides to challenge the school's dress code, and along the way he finds allies in unexpected places.

This story was completely adorable, from the small details of Liv's Italian heritage to the superhero comic pages his friend Jacob draws. I am so glad to see that there are more middle grade books featuring transgender characters, especially FTM (female to male) characters. This book is smart and funny and good, and even though the ending wraps up in a Disney-esque fashion, I want my middle grade readers to see some "happily ever after" endings. I love Liv, and I'm so glad his moms are supportive of him being true to himself. Strongly recommended

Recommended for: middle grade readers
Red Flags: minor bullying - Liv is referred to as "it" on occasion and called a freak, usually in reference to his two moms and not related to his being trans*
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Other Boy, Gracefully Grayson, George, I Am Jazz

13 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Fantasy Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

There's no way I could pick the top ten books in ANY genre. It's like asking me to choose my favorite child (which is part of the reason why my only child is a cat). I can't pick the top ten books of all time, but I can give you the top ten books of right now.

With that caveat in mind, here are my current top ten fantasy books:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. I still remember exactly where I was sitting when I read this book, and I consistently re-read it, too.
  2. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Like HP but for grown-ups. Also, not as happy. But still really good.
  3. Ash by Malinda Lo. Cinderella retold with a queer angle.
  4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Allegorical Christian references aside, this series defined my childhood. I re-read these books then like I re-read HP now.
  5. Tuesday by David Wiesner. This picture book is fantastic! I find new things every time I look through its pages.
  6. The Iron Trial by Holly Black. This is a different take on the Harry Potter story. What if Harry discovered he was actually a reincarnation of Voldemort?
  7. A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston. This book is truly lyrical and beautifully written. This is a book to be savored, not devoured.
  8. Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire. This is a thick book, but it's well worth the journey.
  9. Lair of Dreams (Diviners #2) by Libba Bray. This book also makes an excellent audiobook, and it had my spouse sobbing as we listened to it.
  10. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. If you haven't read this book yet, watch the movie first. Then read the book. Then watch the movie again and appreciate all the back stories you don't get in the movie, since you've read the book. 
Did I miss one you think should be on this list? Let me know in the comments!

08 September 2016

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes

White, Wade. The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes. Little, Brown, 2016.

Anne is an orphan, and she is looking forward to the day she turns 13 and is kicked out of the orphanage, because she hopes to join a quest and find her family. The day before her 13th birthday, though, she is accepted as a student at a minor quest school and immediately sent on a special quest. Thus follows a hilarious adventure story involving a book that changes what's printed on its pages, a rainbow sparrow, and a giant robot named Rokk.

This book is funny and silly and enjoyable. It would make an excellent read-aloud book for an upper elementary classroom, and fantasy fans will lap this one up in a hot minute. I enjoyed the story, although I did find the inevitable "final battle scene with a villain" to be a bit drawn-out. Middle grade readers will love following Anne's adventures, and as this is possibly the first book in a series, this is a great book to give a child who has read everything and is hoping for something else.

Recommended for: middle grade readers
Red Flags: minor fantasy violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: What We Found in the Sofa and How it Saved the World, The Bad Beginning, The Edge Chronicles 1: The Curse of the Gloamglozer: First Book of Quint, Dragonborn;The Mysterious Benedict Society
I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley for the purposes of review.

06 September 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: TV edition

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.

Confession: I confuse cable providers whenever they call me, because even though I like television, I don't have cable. I only got cable in my last apartment because cable+internet was less than just internet, which is an equation that still doesn't make sense to me. In any case, Netflix is my go-to source for television viewing, which seems to work just fine for me. If I'm desperate to see something recently aired, I can always check online and watch it there.

That being said, when I do have access to television, or if I'm binge-watching reruns on Netflix, these are the shows I usually choose:

  1. NCIS. I have watched this show since its beginning, and Abby is still, hands-down, my favorite character on television. 
  2. Bones. Ditto on this show. I especially liked the first several seasons when Bones and the other "squints" were more socially awkward, but it's still a favorite.
  3. Criminal Minds. So apparently I really enjoy what my spouse calls "bang, bang, shoot 'em up" shows, but I actually like listening to the "why" behind what a person did, rather than watching the crime-committing parts. 
  4. Hart of Dixie. This show is funny, and the small-town life that Zoe is trying to fit herself into describes some of the places where I've worked.
  5. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I've written before about the similarities between Kimmy and me, and that's probably a lot of why I like this show. Unfortunately, since it gets released all at once on Netflix, I end up binge-watching the entire season, then slowly rewatching it as I wait for the next one.
  6. Dr. Who. Confession: I don't like the current Doctor. I liked #10 and #11, but I am just not a fan of #12. Also, I miss Amy and Rory, so watching this on Netflix works well for me since I want to see the old episodes anyway. 
  7. Star Trek. In answer to the inevitable question: Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine, in that order. I can't really stomach much of either of the other two iterations. 
  8. Cutthroat Kitchen. Why are "reality" shows so fun to watch? I particularly enjoy cooking shows, and Cutthroat Kitchen is a favorite just to see what weird things Alton Brown is going to do to the contestants and how they'll be able to make something amazing even having to work with their hands tied behind their backs or using tinfoil as their only utensil or whatever.
  9. MasterChef Junior. The regular version of this show is also mildly entertaining, but I like watching the kids cook. First, they're adorable. Second, they're usually pretty nice to each other. Third, the judges are so much nicer to them than they are to the adults. It amazes me that the Gordon Ramsey on this show is the same one on Hotel Hell. 
  10. My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic. I hadn't seen any of this MLP reboot at all until I met a colleague who was very interested in the entire franchise and was indeed writing a book about it. She recommended the ten episodes I should watch if I wanted to be able to have an intelligent conversation about the show, so I watched them, then I finished the rest of the first season, then I watched the first season in proper order, and before I knew it I had watched the entire five (now six) seasons as well as the movie spin-offs. I still like it, and now I know enough about it to talk with my young patrons. 
Is there a particular show you can't live without? How about a show that your spouse/roommate/partner/friend loves that you can't stand? 

01 September 2016

The Inside of Out

Thorne, Jenn Marie. The Inside of Out. Dial, 2016.

Daisy is excited when her friend Hannah comes out. Hannah is her best friend, and Daisy wants to be the best ally anyone has ever had. She's ready to join the campus GSA and take on the world, including abolishing the school's rule about not bringing same-sex dates to dances. Things soon spiral out of control, though, and Daisy has to choose between staying in the spotlight and doing what is right.

Wow, this is an odd book. While I applaud the idea of a character like Daisy who wants to be super supportive of her best friend, I had more than a few problems with this story:

1. The GSA isn't really a GSA. They don't allow non-queer students join their group and they're very adamant about this point. In trying to make this a safe space for queer teens, they failed to make it a safe space for allies.

2. Hannah's relationship with Daisy's enemy. Hannah starts dating a girl who used to be Daisy's best friend but then became a bully and teased her. There's no way that Hannah didn't know about this after being such close friends with Daisy, and if she would definitely have taken this into consideration when choosing whom she'd date.

3. Daisy's personality and privilege. Can we just acknowledge that Daisy is the most self-absorbed, over-enthusiastic, flighty, impulsive, privileged person ever? She jumps into projects only to not ever finish them, decides to do things without thinking about the consequences, and she can get away with this because she's white, cisgender, hetero, and has money. Everything is about Daisy, even getting the school to let kids bring their same-sex dates to dances. I wanted to slap her so many times throughout this book.

4. This last one is the biggest, most important problem I had with this book. Daisy wants to join the GSA, finds out that there's no "S," then promptly declares herself to be "asexual" so she can be a part of the group. While I never would insist that anyone "prove" they have any particular label before embracing it, it's painfully obvious that Daisy grabs the only label she thinks she can appropriate and then insists on being part of the group because of it. This does a disservice to people who are genuinely asexual, as there is no exploration in this book of true asexuality, and it certainly goes deeper than Daisy's flippant "Well, I've never really dated anyone, so yeah, that's me!" mentality.

The purpose of books with LGBTQ+ content is to provide windows and mirrors to readers, and this book only provides a window into the life of a flighty privileged white girl. It has offended members of the LGBTQ+ community, and while I can forgive Daisy's flighty nature and sell it as a book for some readers but not myself, I can't in good conscience ignore the appropriation of an identity for the sake of having that identity. With my library's very small collection space, I will not be adding this particular book. I need that room for better options.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: mostly Daisy's appropriation of the label "asexual;" other than that, this book is fairly clean
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars