"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 June 2018

Hullmetal Girls

Skrutskie, Emily. Hullmetal Girls. Delacorte, 2018.

Aisha works as a janitor to support her brother and sister, but when her brother contracts the plague, she sends her siblings to live with her aunt and volunteers herself to become a scela, a cyborg bodyguard who works for The General Body. This won't earn her enough to move her family from the seventh ward up to the first, but it may be enough to save her brother's life. After Aisha's transition, she is placed with three other scela as a training group. Each is trying to keep secrets from the others, but when they uncover a hidden agenda during their training mission, they will have work together and trust each other to survive.

If you were to take The Hunger Games and set it in space on a fleet of ships filled with humans and Borg from Star Trek, you'd have Hullmetal Girls. I love the concept as a whole. I love the setting in space, three hundred years after humanity has left Earth behind. The scela transition was intriguing to me, and I enjoyed the political intrigue as well as learning about the different levels of their society.

However, the team Aisha is part of is a four-member team, and we really only learn about two of those people. Aisha and Key narrate this book, so we hear their perspectives on things and learn about the two of them, but it feels like the other two team members weren't really there. The book is even called Hullmetal Girls, yet there is also a male member of their team whom we barely get to know.

There is plenty of intersectional diversity in this book, although I am guessing that race isn't as much of an issue after three hundred years in space. One of the team members describes himself as pansexual, another member is transgender, and Aisha describes herself as aro/ace (we don't learn what Key's sexuality is, although it is mentioned that she had a boyfriend at one point). This isn't a coming out story, though; rather, the teens are fighting against the corrupt society and attempting to take down an evil leader, while also trying to save as many of their friends and family as possible.

The premise of this book is intriguing; however, the plot is fairly predictable, and the latter half of the book was so similar to every teen dystopia I've ever read that I found my mind wandering. That being said, this will be a popular book with teens who are science fiction fans.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: violence, some language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Ender's Game, Old Man's War, The Hunger Games, Red Rising

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

27 June 2018


Baguchinsky, Jill. Mammoth. Turner Publishing, 2018.

Natalie, a plus-sized fashion blogger who is also interested in paleontology, has achieved the near-impossible: she has an internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin, Texas. When she arrives, she discovers that she's rooming with the daughter of her hero, a famous paleontologist who runs a popular podcast. But when she makes an amazing discovery and her hero steals the credit, Natalie has to decide what is most important to her.

Natalie uses her fashion and her makeup as her armor, protecting herself from the fat-shaming and negative comments of her peers. She has reinvented herself to the extent that one of her tormentors now asks her out on a regular basis. But none of her armor works at the dig site, so she has to discover if she's got the strength on her own, without her fancy clothing or makeup, to stand up for what's right. Natalie is most definitely self-conscious about her weight, to the point where she makes deliberate choices regarding what she eats in front of others. Her romantic interest in her fellow interns, the shenanigans she gets up to in order to claim credit for her own finds, her insistence on wearing fashionable clothing even if it is impractical at a dig site - all of these ring true for a person who is only sixteen years old. Natalie is real and relatable, and I appreciate that she achieved this internship via scholarship rather than simply being born rich. I am also glad that Natalie enjoys fashion and science and that it's not presented as weird or wrong for her to have such divergent interests. This book follows a fairly predictable rom-com plot which will appeal to many readers. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: a few fat-shaming negative comments on Natalie's blog
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Summer of Jordi Perez, Puddin'

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

25 June 2018

What They Don't Know

Maggi, Nicole. What They Don't Know. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018.

Mellie's family is very conservative, so when she discovers that she is pregnant, she isn't sure what she should do. She has always believed that abortion is wrong in all circumstances, but she is certain that she doesn't want to carry this baby, even to give it up for adoption. Lise used to be friends with Mellie before Mellie's family took her out of Girl Scouts. They are still classmates, but their lives couldn't be more different. When Lise hears Mellie crying in the bathroom, she wonders if she can do something to help her childhood friend.

This story is told from both Mellie's and Lise's perspectives, in the form of journal entries they complete for their English class. Mellie's family rings true for the most part, although I have questions about some things, particularly Mellie's reference to the Apocrypha being like an addition to the Bible. From my fundamentalist Christian upbringing, which seems to mirror Mellie's, the Apocrypha was not considered to be Scripture, nor was it anything we ever read or studied. Lise and Mellie also sounded very similar in their journal entries. I was reading a digital ARC, so I am hoping the publisher will use a different typeface or something for each girl, as it was occasionally difficult to remember who was telling the story. The story itself was also a bit didactic and afterschool special-esque at times, which I found grating when the topic itself is so important. Nonetheless, I could see the teens at my library thoroughly enjoying this story and wanting to read and discuss it. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: discussion of rape, verbal abuse, threats of violence, description of an abortion
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; Quiver by Julia Watts; Hush by Eishes Chayil

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

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


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

08 June 2018

The Someday Birds

Pla, Sally J. The Someday Birds. Harper Collins, 2017.

Charlie has a set routine that he thrives on, but when his father is injured overseas and is sent to a hospital across the country, everything about Charlie's routine is thrown off as his family adventures across the country to reunite with his father.

I love Charlie and I love the way his family usually accepts his differences and is willing to accommodate him. The cross-country road trip descriptions were accurate, and Charlie's obsession with finding all the different birds on their someday birds list was adorable. (He should have stopped to see the sandhill cranes when he was in Wisconsin Dells, since there's a crane sanctuary nearby.) This is a sweet story and would make a fantastic classroom read-aloud. Highly recommended.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The War that Saved My Life, Rain Reign, Fish in a Tree

06 June 2018

Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows

Calejo, Ryan. Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows. Aladdin, 2018.

Charlie loves studying the mythology of his Latin American culture. He knows all the stories about all the different monsters and gods from all the countries in Central and South America. But when Charlie is teleported into the very mythological world he loves so much, he will have to keep his wits about him in order to save his family and the rest of the world.

This book is a perfect read-alike for the many Rick Riordan mythology stories, and as there are still scores of fans of these books, this will be an easy book to recommend. There is plenty of adventure and fantastical stories in this book, and the compelling, action-filled story will keep readers turning pages to find out what happens next. Recommended.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: mild fantasy peril
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Aru Shah and the End of Time, The Storm Runner

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

04 June 2018

Letting Go of Gravity

Leder, Meg. Letting Go of Gravity. Simon Pulse, 2018.

Charlie and Parker are twins, but that's where their similarities end. Charlie has had leukemia twice and is now in remission, although he has one more year of high school to finish. Parker has just graduated first in her class, has an elite internship at the local hospital, and is headed to Harvard where she will be studying to be a pediatric oncologist. As Charlie and Parker clash throughout one summer, each must confront what others expect of them and what they actually want.

Even though Parker is really the main character of this story, she is not the only well-rounded character. Many of the characters are fully three-dimensional, flawed, and real. This isn't a book that is action-packed or compelling reading, but it is a thoughtful character study of what happens to the siblings of people who have serious illnesses. Parker and Charlie's entire family had to make sacrifices for Charlie, but it takes a summer of lying to her parents for Parker to realize the truth about herself and what she really wants. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, underage drinking and drug use, domestic violence
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone, All the Bright Places, My Sister's Keeper
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purpose of review.

01 June 2018

The Storm Runner

Cervantes, J.C. The Storm Runner. Rick Riordan Presents, 2018.

Zane loves his home in New Mexico, even though he isn't a fan of going to a real school again. He is afraid the other kids will tease him because one of his legs is shorter than the other and he uses a cane. At school Zane meets Brooks, a student no one at his school has heard of, and she convinces him that he is a demigod and is destined to release evil upon the world and that it is her job to stop him. All of this is going to take place in the supposedly dormant volcano in Zane's backyard.

This is a great adventure story along the lines of Riordan's many series, but the focus is on Mayan mythology. There is plenty of page-turning action and adventure as well as heavy doses of humor. I can easily recommend this book to tweens who have read all of the mythology adventures on the shelf and need something more.

Recommended for: tweens
Red Flags: mild fantasy peril
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Aru Shah and the End of Time, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

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