Links from around the web: 3-26-15

- The ongoing messy discussions of sexism & associated issues in YA makes me tired & sad & angry. Several friends have written good responses, including Jenny’s “Why I’m Not ‘Good People’” and Brandy’s “Twitter Turf Wars and Blocking of Criticism”. I also recommend Sarah McCarry’s post here and Ellen Oh’s Storify. There’s lots more to it, and I hope that it leads to productive discussions but at this point I don’t have much hope for that. (It’s probably clear that I’m not supporting Andrew Smith, and I’m still mulling over whether to try to talk about that here.) I’m not even engaging with the horrifically misguided Telegraph article that claims that people voluntarily choosing to not read books by white men for a year “has the beginnings of something altogether more sinister” but yes, that happened too. This has been a wild couple of weeks. Anne Ursu also rounded up several examples from ONE WEEK that highlight why women are angry about these issues.

– However, Preeti Chhibber started a great hashtag called #womeninfiction, which really took off Saturday night. You can read about it and see some of the tweets here.

– Kelly Jensen at Stacked Books is also running a 2 week series called “About the Girls.” The posts so far have been excellent and thought-provoking.

– This is a nice allegory for consent. Of course, this being the internet, there are a number of commenters attempting to go, “But in THIS circumstance, forcing tea on someone is totally justified!!” which I think proves the original point more than anything else.

– I loved this review of Bone Gap over at The Book Smugglers. (I also loved Bone Gap. You should read it.)

– If you need to practice some self-care and are looking for ideas, this is a great place to start.


Awesome fanart portraits of some favorite characters

Cuckoo’s Song is a Carnegie medal finalist!

– Terry Pratchett tributes: How to tell if you’re in a Pratchett novel, which made me cryyy; Tiffany Aching fanart; Tiffany Aching quote

This poem is beautiful and breathtaking and breaks my heart.

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Jinx’s Fire by Sage Blackwood

jinx's fireJinx’s Fire is the third and final volume in Sage Blackwood’s lovely Jinx trilogy, a middle grade fantasy featuring a diverse main character and some of my favorite settings ever. [Full disclosure: I’m Twitter friends with Sage Blackwood and we often chat about pets, food, and the vagaries of life. However, I liked her books first!] SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST TWO BOOKS FOLLOW. IN THE NEXT SENTENCE. BE WARNED.

At the end of the second book, we left things in a very precarious state, with Simon missing and Jinx struggling to counter the forces moving against the Urwald. In this book, Jinx really starts to grow up in certain ways, which I really loved. He’s a lot more sure of himself, and more inclined to trust his own instincts. This is definitely both a strength and a weakness. At several points, I wanted to cheer and also worry about him. But I completely believed that he’s a teenage boy–he has exactly the right mix of vulnerability and total believe in his own invincibility.

I am also extremely happy because Sophie’s back! Hurray! And Elfwyn is also coming into herself! Hurray! Reven is still being awful! Boo!

One of the things I’ve especially liked about this trilogy have been the themes that are woven into the story. Without being messagey, the books definitely take on some big things. Here, there are lots of questions about nationhood and patriotism, as Jinx and co. try to persuade the Urwalders that they must become a country in order to survive. I thought this was dealt with nicely, with other viewpoints given attention.

And as in the second book, the idea of balance is discussed quite a bit. How does Jinx balance Ice and Fire? How does he fight the Bonemaster without becoming him? How does he confront his own past and recognize that other people have their own versions of what happened? I really appreciated that throughout the story, we’re very much in Jinx’s point-of-view and yet we also get glimpses of how other people think, a sense that they aren’t only as he sees them.

My only criticism is that I felt the middle section dragged just a titch. However, I will also note that I was reading an ebook and my patience level when reading an ebook is never as high as when reading a paper book, so I’m not even entirely sure this is fair.

Regardless, I’m very pleased with where this book ended up. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the story, and I plan to revisit the Urwald often.

Book source: eARC from Edelweiss
Book information: 2015, Katherine Tegen books; middle grade fantasy

My reviews of the previous books: Jinx, and Jinx’s Magic


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This is just a test post

wonky things are happening and I’m trying to straighten them out.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books to revisit

This is a post for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. You can find out more and follow along there!

There are so many favorite books I want to re-read! Some of them I used to read all the time, and others I’ve only read once but want to revisit.

lavwinter princepaladinbloodline rising

Among Others by Jo Walton: I LOVE THIS BOOK. LOVE IT. And there’s so much richness and complexity to Mori’s story that I definitely want to read this one again and soon.

Lavinia by Ursula LeGuin: Because Ursula K. LeGuin! Because Lavinia is one of those characters who proves you don’t need to be badass to be strong and complex. Because I loved seeing the Aeneid through her eyes.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold: Ista is one of my favorite characters ever; she’s somehow angry without being bitter, or at least without being hopeless. Even though she’s at a very different time of life, I love her journey and her relationship with faith.

Sabriel by Garth Nix: I know someone is probably going to rise up and smite me, but I have only read Sabriel once. I KNOW. But I loved it, and I really want to revisit that world (especially since I don’t want to try Clariel before a reread).

Betsy’s Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace: I’m a lifelong fan of Betsy Ray, but this is my favorite book, because it shows Betsy as an adult, learning how to be fully herself without setting aside her dreams. Plus, the ending is perfect.

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein: For several years in a row, I read this one every January, but I haven’t managed that recently. Heartbreaking family relationships, a somewhat unreliable narrator, and gorgeous writing. It’s like a square of dark chocolate that you eat slowly and savor the whole time.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: I’ve read this one a few times, but not very recently. And I love Puck and Sean and their story. My favorite Maggie Stiefvater book to date and possibly ever.

Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran: This is a somewhat Sutcliff-y, somewhat Megan Whalen Turner-y historical fantasy set in Byzantium and Britain. It also features a cocky thief and complex family relationships. I loved it, and I’d really like to revisit it.

The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones: I’m really just overdue for an epic DWJ reread, but it’s been an especially long time since I read Chrestomanci. Since they were some of the first DWJ books I ever read, this is just sad.

Chalice by Robin McKinley: As with Diana Wynne Jones, I’m really just overdue for an epic reread of all McKinley. But I really enjoy Chalice, which has a marvelous texture to it.


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Three of a Kind: Young women coming into power

fistful of skyA Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: This is a marvelous and deeply weird book–weird in the sense that I’m not sure if I actually liked it or not. The children of the LaZelle family are supposed to come into their power in their teens, but Gypsum alone of her siblings has reached her twenties with no power at all. She has determinedly made the best of this. But then she abruptly comes into quite a strong power, except that it’s a twisted power, a curse power. What follows is Gypsum’s attempt to come to terms with her own power and find her place in the family that had often ignored her.

It’s also, as I said deeply weird in ways I can’t explain because they would be spoilerific. Suffice it to say that some of what Gypsum has to reconcile is the deeper and darker parts of her own personality, and that the ways she does this are fairly unique. I loved the bits about the magic. On the other hand, some of the family dynamic made me uncomfortable and I can’t tell the degree to which this is intended. I’ll also mention that Gypsum is fat and fairly comfortable being fat, although I can’t really say how accurate or sensitive the portrayal is.

bad luck girlBad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel: This is the third in the American Fairies trilogy, following Callie LeRoux in her quest to find and free her parents and escape from the fairy relatives who wish her harm. I like Callie and her story, although I did feel that this third book was a little unfocused at times.

On the other hand, I really liked the way Callie’s arc in this one is all about coming into her own, learning the limits and contours of her power. She stands at the crossroads of several identities: black and white, fairy and human, and she must figure out who and what she wants to be. She also is struggling to understand the politics of the fairy courts. Despite all these shifting pieces, she is clearly herself, and also clearly wants to help others, particularly the half-fairies who the courts despise and see as a food source. I loved this, and the sense that she cares about those on the outside because she has been there herself.

personaPersona by Genevieve Valentine: I would like Genevieve Valentine to write all the things, please and thank you. In the first two books I’ve talked about, the power is mostly magical, or at least is magical on the most obvious level. Here, in the slightly distant future, Suyana Sapaki is the Face of the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation. She and her country are not among the rich and powerful. She takes her job seriously, but she is not important.

But then someone tries to assassinate her, and a Korean photographer named Daniel Park saves her, despite himself. What follows is really a complex unwinding of layers and identities as both Suyana and Daniel are forced to come to terms with who they really are and where their allegiances should like. They have both been keeping secrets, and it’s hard for them to trust each other let alone the other players in the game.

What I love about this one is the sense of possibility–both that this version of the future could be exist in some alternate universe, and the potential in Suyana and Daniel as they try to not only stay alive but change the course of history.

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Library Displays: Amazing Women and Spring

Amazing Women

The first display I made in March was highlighting Women’s History Month. I created a graphic in Publisher which I would be sharing right now if I hadn’t accidentally deleted it. And then I pulled together a bunch of books, trying to feature different times and kinds of being women, as well as representing a diverse group. I think I ended up with a good mix, and this display circulated really well for a more serious subject. I mostly focused on picture book biographies, because I think they’re more eye-catching, with some non-fiction mixed in.


I always enjoy putting together a spring display for the library. Last year, I did a row of over-sized tulips and the year  before I did a rainy day theme. This year, I was inspired by a program I did a month or so ago, where we made tissue paper flowers. I created a swag of colorful flowers, printed off a banner, and assembled it.


The finished product


Here’s a close-up of the flowers. Some of them were inspired by real flowers, and some weren’t, but I’m very happy with how they turned out overall (I tried to make a tulip and it looks like a poppy, I think because tissue paper isn’t stiff enough to hold shape well).


What I especially like about this display is the three-dimensional aspect. My normal default is to make displays that are 2-D, because I like paper crafting. But this is really different and eye-catching, imo. Something to remember!


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The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

penderwicks in springWhen I first picked this book up, the premise made me nervous. I have grown to know and love the Penderwicks over the first three books in this series, but in this fourth book, we’ve moved five years forward. Rosalind is in college, Batty and Ben are the focus of the story, and there’s a new Penderwick. Worst of all, when the story opens, Hound, the Penderwicks’ beloved dog, has just died. With all of these changes, how could I hope to love this book nearly as much?

Well, really, I should have known. The Penderwicks are a little bit magic, and Jeanne Birdsall doesn’t falter. Batty has never been my favorite of the sisters, and now she is. There’s the bittersweet feeling of some things ending and some things beginning, but woven through it all is the marvelous sense of family and both the stresses and warmth that entails.

Batty, at the beginning of the story is both grief and guilt-stricken. She can’t face the idea of another dog, ever, and with everything in her family still changing around her, the loss of Hound runs very deep. Besides all of this, she feels very strongly that she should have been able to love him a little better, to keep him around a little longer. Although as adult readers, this may seem obviously impossible, it reminded me quite a bit of the deepest fears and anguishes of childhood, these things that can’t possibly be said.

And there’s the fact that Batty is discovering her own talents as a musician, in a not-very-musical family. Jeffrey, the family friend, has been her support and mentor in this, but he is in school and not with them very often. When he is with them, the not-quite-romance between him and Skye keeps getting in Batty’s way.

Most of all, Batty’s place in the family feels almost tenuous. She alone of the original Penderwick siblings does not remember their mother, and although her new brother Ben shares the death of a parent, he doesn’t seem haunted by it in the same way. (I loved how warm and natural the relationship between Batty and Ben seems.) With Lydia, the baby, a demanding presence in the household, with Rosalind away and Jane and Skye distracted by their own concerns, with the Penderwick parents busy, and Hound gone, Batty is in danger of slipping through the cracks.

And for most of the book, she does slip through. This was really quite hard to read, as I wanted everything to be okay for her. She’s trying so hard to make sense of who she is and where she fits into the world; she’s trying to deal with both the fresh grief of Hound’s death and the long-ago echo of her mother’s. This is, even more than the other Penderwick books, a really emotional read. I cried quite a bit, both at individual moments in the book and through the whole denouement. (I am habitually weepy, but also this is a very RIGHT IN THE FEELS-y book.) At the same time, I never felt emotionally manipulated or like Birdsall was adding unnecessary complications.

There are several important characters in this one, including Ben. But most of all, I felt for Batty, and her attempts to define who she is as herself and as a member of the Penderwicks. It’s a beautiful story and one I loved. There’s one more Penderwicks book to come after this, and I can’t wait to see what happens.

Book source: ARC from Midwinter
Book information: 2015, Random House; juvenile/middle grade contemporary fiction

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