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The Mexico Series, Bobbie Kalman

When I begin to research a story, especially if it's a topic I know nothing about, I usually go straight to the children's section and find some short books. Not because I intend to stop there, but because they usually give me a brief summary of the topic or issue and provide a place for me to start more extensive research. With that in mind, I'll definitely be looking for more of Bobbie Kalman's Lands, Peoples, and Cultures series, because I found these very helpful.

Now, these are children's books. They're aimed probably at second to fifth grade, though. The language can be somewhat dense, but it is accompanied by plenty of pictures and is in large print. I appreciated the pictures most of all, I think, because they let me get a visual image of Mexico, where adult books would stick with description. At any rate, they were about as comprehensive as children's nonfiction ever gets, and I felt like I got a good grounding in a basic understanding of Mexico as well as several topics to conduct much deeper research on. Good books, good for kids, good for basic groundwork.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/403247.html. Please comment over there if possible.

State of the Me

I am tired, internet, but it is a good tired.

Last Saturday we went to Faire, which is why there was no State of the Me that weekend, because I still had a Faire hangover (well, that's not the right word; this was a good feeling, but a very tired one). I bought many hairsticks and watched my beloved ride an elephant. The elephant's name was Essex. It was a good day. I will miss Faire now, until I can go again in the spring.

The week was very chill after that. Really not much going on, just quiet recovering and hanging around the house and finishing up my commissions from the lovely people who helped me out with my car bill, WHICH, by the way, I paid in full yesterday. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who helped, whether you ordered something or just helped me out. I am still in awe and so, so grateful. I'm also two and a half commissions from being finished with that, so I'm feeling pretty good and productive.

My mom brought her new boyfriend down to the DC area and I got to meet him last night. He's pretty cool! Also engages in PDA with my mom, which is good, since the last boyfriend Did Not and also didn't really act like he wanted to be involved in anything, soooo yeah, screw him, Current Boyfriend is better, and I hope he will be good to my mom so I won't be required to do anything I might get arrested for.

How are you, internet?

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/403028.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Various Fairy Tale Retellings

Why yes, I am trying to catch up on my backlog. However did you guess.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, Vivian Vande Velde

I first ran across this book in a library when I was quite small, and I've been coming back to it on and off for most of my life.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is a collection of short stories that address Vande Velde's concerns about the fairy tale, which are less "this is problematic" and more "this doesn't make any goddamn sense." She came up with six variations of the story that did make sense, and wrote them down. I'm fond of them all, but I think my very favorite is Straw into Gold, in which the king wants gold and the miller's daughter is simply trying to survive and then gain his attention. There are others, though; like a miller's daughter trying to marry a king, and a troll trying to get a human baby, and a father trying to free his daughter. They all make much more sense than the original story, and I really just love to read them. Definitely recommended.

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, Ron Koertge

This one's a little weirder. It's a series of poems (with some really fantastic cutout illustrations, by Andrea Dezso) based on various fairy tales; some updated (like the little match girl, now a little girl selling CDs), some not (like Bluebeard, which I think is one of the better ones). They're very short-- 23 poems in less than 100 pages-- but some of them, like the Bluebeard one, are better for it. Some, like the Red Riding Hood one, are not so much? That one I could have enjoyed a lot more had there been more detail, I think. The thing I disliked about this book is that Koertge seemed to think he was doing something new and different by inverting and darkening these stories, but what he really seemed to be doing was getting back to the stories' Grimm roots. They're dark, yes. They're horrible in some places. But so are the originals. That, and the poetry can come across as a bit sameish (though the Red Riding Hood voice was pretty great). That said, I did enjoy this book, and frankly I think it's worth picking up for the illustrations alone. If you really like fairy tales, yeah, sure, give it a read. If not, it's probably not worth your time.

Toad Words, T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the adult penname of Ursula Vernon, and with that said, you probably know how this review is going to go (namely, eeeeEEEEEeee). So let's jump into the usual squeeing!

All that aside, I really do love Vernon in all her incarnations. She has this sense of humor that's wonderfully sly without being mean-- think Roald Dahl if he didn't hate everyone and everything. She also has a terrific eye for detail. The stories in Toad Words are wise without being preachy, and funny without being cruel, and just generally wonderfully done and a joy to read. They retell fairy tales from Andersen's The Little Mermaid to Arthurian stories of the Loathly Lady to traditional tales like Little Red Riding Hood. They are, however, not for children, not even in the way that the original fairy tales are not for children. The Kingfisher books are very much for adults. That said, they are, in my humble opinion, for all adults and everyone should read them, especially if you enjoy Vernon's other books. Highly recommended.

The Raven and the Reindeer, T. Kingfisher

Okay so the Raven and the Reindeer is a T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon book AND it has queer girls in it SO I am 100% sold on everything it does and want nothing else for the rest of my life.

Okay, that's not quite true. I think my actual favorite Kingfisher book is Bryony and Roses, but this one is very close to my heart. It's a retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson story The Snow Queen, which you may also recognize as the story that Frozen is very (very very) loosely based on. It starts fairly traditional-- Gerta and Kai, friends from more or less birth, Kai is taken by the Snow Queen and Gerta goes to get him back-- but then Mousebones the raven is introduced and the story takes an abrupt swerve into Kingfisher land that I delight in. Before Mousebones, the story is good but it hasn't quite taken that step up. After Mousebones, things just get delightful. And did I mention there are queer girls? Because there are queer girls. Also otters. And Mousebones. But mostly, there are queer girls.

100% recommended forever.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/402847.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Regency Romances, A Selection

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After, Julia Quinn

Technically, this isn't a book, it's an anthology of short stories that follow up on each of the books in Quinn's Bridgerton series. So if you haven't read those, odds are this book will either mean nothing to you or annoy you. For me, who has read those books, I really actually enjoyed this quite a lot. These short little sequels give a glimpse into the actual relationships of the couples from each book, sometimes quite far down the line. It just makes me happy to see them navigating actual marriage rather than the immediate fall in love, get married of the books themselves. So it's nice. Plus the couples are one and all rather sweet, and we even get a glimpse into the mind of the Bridgerton matriarch, which I liked. So, recommended if you've read the books. If you haven't, read the books first.

Any Duchess Will Do, Tessa Dare

So we can all agree that Regency romances don't tend to make a lot of sense or be super historically accurate, right? Generally when you read them, you have a decent suspension of disbelief. This one... broke that pretty goddamn hard.

The titular duchess is a serving girl plucked at random out of an inn room by the necessary duke, whose mother has ordered him to choose a wife from the women in that room that instant. Now, the duke in question doesn't particularly want to get married, so I can get him doing that in the hope it would put his mother off. What I don't get is that his mother immediately says, "Okay, great, I'll train her to be a duchess." And since this is a romance novel, he does in fact marry her and life is pretty good. Which... no? Not really? Sorry?

Apart from that severe suspension break, the rest of the novel is pretty good. Griffin's issues are fairly realistic and kind of sweet in their origins. Paulette has quite realistic goals for herself and a family she loves (apart from her father but fuck him). Her sister is also intellectually disabled and never treated condescendingly. The characters are fun and the story pretty good, which is why I did like this book in spite of everything, but wow can I just... not believe it.

Talk of the Ton, Eloisa James, Julia London, Rebecca Hagan Lee, and Jacqueline Navin

This is (obviously) an anthology of Regency romances, all centering (more or less) on gossip and rumors. In the first, A Proper Englishwoman, rumor draws a young lady to London to answer her fiance's remark that he would not marry her until she had his ring on her finger and his baby in her belly. Now, that is a Shakespeare quote, and I knew it, and the hero knew it, and the heroine knew it, and a good chunk of the story's humor came from that, which I appreciated. The second story, The Vicar's Widow, is mostly just a very sweet love story between the titular vicar's widow and... I think he's an earl, but it's interrupted by malicious rumors spread by a young debutante who wants to marry the earl. Not my favorite; I'm not a fan of women against women, but at least the debutante admitted she was wrong.

Third story is called Clearly a Couple, and this is the one most loosely connected to the theme, since there's only about four characters and the problem is the inevitable gossip rather than gossip that actually took place. It's also.... weird.... I think it's loosely based off the legend of Aimée du Buc de Rivéry. Essentially, our heroine has just been rescued from a sultan's harem and is being returned to her grandfather via our hero, who wasn't aware that the "package" he was supposed to pick up was in fact a person. Communication, folks. Anyway, the story is... weird... IDK, it's hard to describe, but it's weird and rushed and vaguely racist. Not a fan.

Then there's Miss Jenny Alt's First Kiss, which is also kind of weird and rushed but at least isn't vaguely racist. It's a similar plot to The Vicar's Widow-- nobleman and unlikely woman fall in love, jealous debutante tries to sabotage-- except the debutante and the unlikely woman are cousins, and the nobleman is an even more distant cousin. So there's things about class differences and penniless relatives and things like that, but it's clunkily written and a little weird. Still, better than Clearly a Couple.

Overall, cute book, especially the first two stories, but the last two are... odd.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/402503.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Mexican Whiteboy, Matt de la Peña

The Book: Mexican Whiteboy, by Matt de la Peña.

The Banhammer: Contains "critical race theory" and is seen as "promoting racial resentment." http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/education/racial-lens-used-to-cull-curriculum-in-arizona.html

My Reaction: Mexican Whiteboy started out kind of slow for me, which is odd because it starts right in the middle of the action. Danny Lopez is spending the summer with his cousin Sofia and his aunt and uncle in National City, San Diego. His father is in Mexico, and he is trying to scrape together the money to go visit him. Meanwhile, Uno (whose last name I don't remember) is also trying to scrape together money to go live with his now-prosperous father in Oxnard. Both boys are into baseball: Danny is an incredible talent. Together they work up a plan to get them both their money.

I think it started slow for me because I am fundamentally uninterested in baseball. Like, fundamentally. But I was very much interested in Danny and Uno. Danny is mixed-race (as is Uno, though he doesn't really dwell on it) and I sympathized with his struggle to find a place for himself between his Mexican family and his white mother's different life. Uno is trying to get out of a bad family situation and figure out how to change himself, how to escape what seems like the inevitable fate of prison. Their mutual fight and growing friendship was a delight to read, and well worth slogging through the baseball.

Do I Buy Its Banning? I mean, not really. If by "contains critical race theory" they mean "talks about the actual lives of PoC and doesn't focus on white people." Disclaimer here: I am white, and it is entirely possible I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, but seriously this book really just seems like it's talking about the lives of two young mixed-race boys. This is not dangerous. This is vitally necessary. Containing "critical race theory" is an exceptionally stupid reason to ban something.

Would I Recommend It? Yes! Especially if you like baseball. There's a lot of baseball.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/402310.html. Please comment over there if possible.
Yay more Daisy Dalrymple books! I talked about the first five here.

So, just to recap: this is a cozy mystery series starring Daisy Dalrymple, a journalist and reluctant aristocrat, and her eventual husband Alec Fletcher, a Scotland Yard inspector. They fight crime, and also fall in love and have a very strong relationship, and fight with each other and make up (including one very frustrating moment in book 7, which we'll get to, in which the only person who spoke any sense was the nine-year-old), and are generally very charming and sweet together. I love them.

Dead in the WaterCollapse )

State of the Me

Hi internet! How're you doing?

I'm tired, mostly. It's not that I've been doing anything particularly exhausting, and I've got the day off tomorrow so there's that, but Lordy am I tired for no particular reason. Augh. Also I have had many, many headaches this last week and that needs to stop now kthx.

In better news, it literally took four days for the internet to give me enough commissions to fix my car. I just want to reiterate my utter stunned gratitude for that. I've finished all the Tarot readings and I'm well into the first beading commission-- just got to put the clasp on and the pendant and then it's done. Which leaves me with four more beading commissions and a thing to knit. That's it. I genuinely can't, guys. I am so grateful.

What good things have happened to you lately, internet?

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/401826.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Spite Meme Time

I'm sure I don't need to say why.

Give me a pairing and a prompt and I will write you something. Here is the catch: it cannot be a heterosexual pairing, it must be QUILTBAG of one form or another. I am reluctantly disqualifying couples who are asexual or bi but present as straight, because this is about spite and I want the people who pissed me off to have as many unexplained twitches as possible because OMG THE GAYS ARE HAPPY. You may request up to three; I promise only one.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/401576.html. Please comment over there if possible.
GUYS. Guys. Oh my god. Wacky Sith Lord Roadtrip Hijinks is apparently a legit subcategory in the Star Wars EU. Can we talk about how happy that makes me.

That said, this particular entry in the subcategory is really more meh than it is lulzy, at least for me. It's good for a kids' graphic novel: the story is pretty suspenseful, with quite high stakes and an interesting message, and oh my god I love Luca. He's a one-shot character but he snarks Vader, guys. He snarks Vader, and Vader largely lets him get away with it, and it's beautiful. Also, point of interest, he's black.

Where it falls down for me is the art. It's just sliiiiiightly off for me. The angles are wrong or something, and some of the expressions are a little more cartoony than I think the artist may have been aiming for. It bothers me, so I can't really say I enjoyed myself as much as I'd like.

That said, this is an entry in the Wacky Sith Lord Roadtrip Hijinks subcategory and therefore I love it. Good for kids or people who are really interested in Vader or people who like Wacky Sith Lord Roadtrip Hijinks.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/401358.html. Please comment over there if possible.


Kat Reads Anything She Bloody Well Wants To

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