Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: The Future Will Be BS Free

The Future Will Be BS Free by Will McIntosh
Publication Date: July 24, 2018
Read Courtesy of NetGalley.com

The plot is a winner; the characters are secondary. If you read The Future Will Be BS Free with this in mind, you'll have a good time. True, it's another teen-saves-the-world sci-fi action adventure, but it's also thought-provoking. My favorite line in the book is, "Secrets aren't the same as lies." Here's the true moral dilemma faced by the characters, as well as by the government, as well as by the reader. The intriguing aspects of their invention are if technology has the ability to differentiate between a lie and a secret, and how soon in the future could this become our reality. Even though the details of why and what kind of war there was are vague, that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the cyborg aspect of the characters that evolved from the back story. They were fun, tough underdogs, and I found myself rooting for them - especially because these cyber-enhanced characters had more personality than the main, teen characters. Don't let the underdeveloped teen characters deter you from sitting back and enjoying the tension - both in action in in morality.

Book Review: The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred
Courtesy of NetGalley.com
Publication date May 8, 2018

The premise of this book makes you want to like it -- non-judgmental self-discovery should be everyone's luck to have. However, in order to get there, these characters took us on a shallow roller coaster ride of stereotypes. I liked the main characters as people, but everyone else around them played to the message instead of the story. If I suspended disbelief and went with the flow, I enjoyed the story, the struggle, the humor, the self-deprication. Granted, I'm not a teen in 2017-18, but I really wonder how authentic the thoughts and dialog were as opposed to being manipulated to convey a message. I understand it is fiction, so this book provides a point-of-reference for jumping into a dialogue with teens about gender issues. Teens reading this as fiction will enjoy it; teens hoping for a template for a self-help guide will be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Review: The 11th Hour

The 11th Hour by Kristine Scarrow
Pub Date 20 Mar 2018
Through the courtesy of www.Netgalley.com

I didn't want to like this book at first. I felt like I was listening to whiny teenagers. And I was, but that ended up being the beauty of the book. The characters were real; they were real teenagers. What's even more impressive about this tale is that it occurred in such a short amount of time. In spite of this pace, Kristine Scarrow created great tension and anticipation as the reader comes to the realization about Annika's predicament in tandem with Annika's own awareness. Scarrow uses a successful and tight he-said/she-said, back-n-forth delivery of the dialogue and action, regardless of (or in reflection of) the turmoil of the teenage mind, the disordered mind, or both. The addition of resources is an absolute plus.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Review: Love, Hate, and Other Filters

Love, Hate, and Other Filters
By Samira Ahmed
Publication date: January 16, 2018
Previewed courtesy of Netgalley.com

I am surprisingly pleased how much I liked this book. I didn't know what to expect, and that may have helped -- so I didn't have preconceived notions of what was coming. Trying to represent a culture without making it stereotypical is difficult, and since I'm not Indian-American or Muslim-American, I have to rely on the author and editor to tell a truthful story. I feel like they did because the characters interacted so well with each other... believable dialog and plot made this an emotionally accessible story for many cultures to understand and relate to - whether through empathy or sympathy, the book's characterizations were well created. I believed their motives and their actions.

I enjoyed the thread of movie-making commentary throughout the story, too. It backed up Maya's hopes and dreams and how invested in them she was. It was sometimes corny, but even Maya acknowledged that, so it wasn't distracting. Maya's friends, family, classmates, and community all play a well thought out role in the story.

SPOILER ALERT: The only place I waivered was trying to believe that no one else knew about Phil's secret place.  END OF S.A.

I had a bit of a "Sixth Sense" moment at the end of the story when I wanted (and did) go back to the beginning and re-read the interspersed story to make sure I understood what I had read. This is a good thing, by the way... it meant I was invested in the story and cared enough to revisit it. I'm glad I did, too. It reinforced how connected we all are and how Maya and her family could have experienced what they did and how they did.

There are some good "lessons" from this story, and they are imparted without being preachy or distracting from the story. I think this book wou;d be a good book for a discussion in a classroom or book club. I will definitely be purchasing this book for my HS Library.

Review: The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Publishing date: January 30, 2018
Previewed via Netgalley.com

In all fairness, I have to begin with "I don't like fantasies." However, there are times when I can look past that prejudice and enjoy a story; this isn't one of those times. I found this story convoluted and unable to be untangled.  Some of the text felt trite and wooden. Much of the action or description felt like it was included because the author or editor felt the text was interesting enough in itself to include in the story, even when it did nothing for the plot or characterization. I don't want to include specifics in case they are spoilers for those who might enjoy this book. But these extraneous blurbs added to my confusion about where the story was going, and even where it ended up. Not a retold-tale, not a fairy tale,  just a fish-out-of-water tale that doesn't hold water for me. I probably won't include this in my HS Library collection because it doesn't stand up to tales like Miss Peregrine, Coraline, and other similar stories.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Review: The Silence of Our Friends

Pub Date   ,  graphic novel  , nonfiction 

The Silence of Our Friends sets us up for a very timely discussion. Although some reviews that I read about this graphic novel fault it on its one-sided perspective, I disagree. A memoir is someone's experience, and people can't change that to suit their own agendas. I thought the story was very well told in both words and drawings; it created mood and tone, empathy and sympathy, realization and disbelief. I think this would make a good book for a group discussion or book club, but it would not be a stand-alone choice for my high school graphic novels shelf due to the language as well as the need I feel it sets up to process or debrief the nature of the historic events and their implications to history and for today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: Plague Land

Plague Land by Alex Scarrow
Read through NetGalley
publishing date December 1, 2017

No spoilers in this review...

Getting this review in under the wire! But.... Plague Land is GREAT! To be honest, I wasn't getting into it at first, but I soon couldn't put it down! And for those of you who don't like cliffhangers, this isn't one; though, it does leave itself open for a sequel!

Just enough science to make it scifi instead of fantasy, it is a story with a wide appeal. While the tension isn't too aggressive to scare off casual readers, avid fans of runaway virus stories won't be disappointed, either. The characters have depth - as far as the typical YA novel where the child is smarter than the parent goes. There is even international appeal as the virus goes, um, viral.

What's really appealing is the great descriptions of the evolving virus. Scarrow's adept as creating vivid images without details that drag down the storytelling.

I will definitely be getting this for my high school library!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

School librarians or Techbrarians

I publicly commented on this Facebook post, “Couldn't have made the argument without it being a sexist post?” and Nadine Bailey replied, “I’m not sure sexist - feminist yes. But backed up with data and taking about broad trends rather individual situations - and as I stated I’m in a fortunate position in my campus.” The Future Ready Librarians post was originally on https://informativeflights.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/advocacy-is-not-enough-we-need-power/
by Nadine Bailey, November 11, 2017.

In fairness to Nadine, she came right out and said,
And I’m wondering, not saying this is a fact, just wondering out loud, whether it has anything to do with the fact that so many of those leading this corner of the education landscape are male as are most of the leadership in schools?
Also in fairness and in resemblance to Nadine (and all of us), my personal background, too, affects my perspective.  First, I was biased since I just received my Google for Education Certified Trainer status on November 9, 2017. Secondly, I am a school librarian who is a past-president of my state’s school librarian association, and thirdly, I am a [probably] a member of what Nadine refers to when she said, “I’m not going to name names but it’s a biggie, and one of my fellow (male) librarians managed to convince the organisers to include a library strand.”

I’ll share how I began my own soul-searching about Nadine’s assertions: by looking up “sexist” vs “feminist.” My inclination was to think of ‘sexist’ as having a negative connotation, as representing an action as opposed to an idea, and as being oppressive, demeaning, and possibly illegal.  I viewed ‘feminist,’ on the other hand, as having a neutral or positive connotation, as suggesting a philosophy or morality to follow, and as being supportive, thought-provoking, and certainly not illegal.

http://thefreedictionary.com (11/12/2017) defined sexist as “pertaining to, involving, or fostering

  1. Discrimination based on gender, especially discrimination against women.

  2. The belief that one gender is superior to the other, especially that men are superior to women.”

http://thefreedictionary.com (11/12/2017) defined feminist (feminism) as “ A person whose beliefs and behavior are based on

  1. Belief in or advocacy of women's social, political, and economic rights, especially with regard to equality of the sexes.

  2. A doctrine advocating social, political, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.

OK. That felt better. I have no disagreement with Nadine’s proffer and premise based on her perspective.

I entirely agree with Nadine’s suggestion, “... that the decline in school libraries and school librarians is inversely correlated with the rise in EdTech or Digital Tech or Digital Literacy teams and resources.” I have a few theories why as well, though they are exofeminist. Primarily, ‘tech’ is the sexy buzz prefix of the era. Risking the ire of my school librarian colleagues, I’ve even begun to call myself Techbrarian. My students ‘get it,’ and my teachers embrace it. I really believe they are more comfortable with the ‘tech’ in my title, since they intuit that I’m more than the “Book Lady” but aren’t sure why. Another of my posits arises from my philosophy of my role as a school librarian; my job is to ensure that the teachers get the resources they need to ensure student success. That gives me 125+ patrons, who in turn have 1,500+ clients. Here’s the problem created: if I’m doing my job correctly, I am practically invisible because I’m making the teachers look good. (And before you panic, don’t worry; I facilitate student learning directly, as well; the above merely explains a philosophy, not a practice, since students, teachers, staff, and administrators are all my patrons.) To offset this self-imposed invisibility, I also create an environment of public praise when a teacher is successful using something I’ve helped them achieve (an email to their supervisor, a mention at a faculty meeting, a good word at the lunch table, etc.). In return, my teachers tell their supervisors how I’ve helped them, suggest to their colleagues to come to me for similar help, and tell administration to present professional development opportunities to spread the knowledge.

Like Nadine, I also
...could use every iteration of word processing, presentation and spreadsheet tools from the very first most basic types. When I say I can use, I REALLY can use. I know how to use templates, make an index, do auto-intext citation, add captions, make data tables, pivot tables, look ups, statistical analysis, import addresses into labels etc etc. And what I don’t know I know how to find out how to do, either online or because I know people who know their S*** around this type of stuff. People of my generation and younger. I also have an Education masters in knowledge networks and digital innovation [I have two Masters: one in Secondary Education and one in School Librarianship,] follow all sorts of trends and tools and try everything at least once.  I can use basic HTML and CSS and find out how to do anything if I get stuck. I know how to learn and where to learn anything I need to know and I’m prepared to put in the time to do so. This is in a “just-in-time-and-immediate-application-and-use-basis”, rather than a

So why did I pursue the “merits of becoming Google Educator certified?” Because I’m invisible. Whether I’m invisible because my job is to make others look good or because tech is the new sexy or because of some other reason, including the possibility that our schools don’t embrace feminism, becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer makes me visible. As a Google for Education Certified Trainer, I cannot comment on Nadine’s description of the process or the result (“...a couple of hours of mind-numbingly boring and simple video tutorials and/or multiple choice tests with or without a cheapish fee and then to add a row of downloadable certs into their email signatures…”), but I can admit I “played the game.”

Because yes, Nadine’s right again. What Nadine calls advocacy, I see as the “push” industry mentality of school librarians, whereby our teachers run when they see us coming because we want to help them, and they just “don’t have the time.” I’m tired of us having to push ourselves on them to get them to use us, or even to keep us. Our industry should be a “pull” industry, whereby our services are so invaluable that teachers are clamoring at our doors to get to collaborate with us. I’m tired of school librarians being taught the how to collaborate with teachers, while pre-service teachers aren’t taught how to collaborate with school librarians. I’m tired of asking to be on the district’s tech committee, not only to be turned down, but to then have the committee disbanded. I’m tired of offering to provide professional development at the teacher-, department-, school-, and district-level only to be given five minutes at a faculty meeting. I’m tired of teachers going to the tech guy (with an Associate’s degree) to ask questions of how to integrate technology to make their lessons better rather than coming to me (with two Masters and National Board Certification). (Shoutout to my tech guy, though; unless they are asking an equipment question, he always refers them to me.😉)

Nadine’s more right than she knows. Not only are school librarians part of the Island of Misfit Toys and at the wrong table at the education conference, the parent organization of U.S. school librarians also seats us at the kiddie table. At their national conference one year, their get-to-know-you bingo card icebreaker listed every kind of librarian, including youth librarian (which is a public librarian moniker), with the exception of school librarian. This is even more heartbreaking considering I learn more relevant topics and issues at the national education conference than I do at the national school librarians conference.

Here’s where Nadine and I differ, though. Technology changed or eliminated many jobs over the years. We no longer need bowling alley pinsetters, switchboard operators, Daguerreotypists, town criers, or lamplighters. Likewise, think about jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago until the technology developed, such as app developer, Uber driver, drone operator, and genetics counselor. Regardless of the gender neutrality of technology (or lack thereof), school librarians will either adapt or atrophy. I became a Google for Education Certified Trainer in order for the badge to speak for me when I’m otherwise invisible. Since our collective ability to advocate for ourselves isn’t working world-wide as Nadine acknowledged, I prefered to flourish rather than languish or perish. Although I played the game, I prefer to think of it as

http://thefreedictionary.com (11/12/2017) self-betterment: n. personal improvement in terms of education, prospects, etc.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: Recipe for Hate

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to preview yet another YA novel. This one, Recipe for Hate by Warren Kinsella, will be published December 5, 2017.

Because it is set in and around Portland, Maine, which was a favorite vacation spot of mine for 10 years and is where my husband and I met the son we adopted, I really wanted to like this more than I ended up doing. I think it's because, as far as storytelling goes, the setting overpowered the narrative. While the plot could have happened anywhere, Kinsella made Portland practically one of the characters. I would feel much more comfortable recommending this to my high school readers if I didn't think they'd be bored by all of the setting descriptions interrupting the flow of the story.

Other than that, though, when I could downplay the interference of setting descriptions, the story itself was compelling. Part cultural history, part murder mystery, Recipe for Hate helps today's readers understand the punk rock movement and see that the racism of neo-Nazis has been around for a while.

I required a bit of suspension-of-disbelief with the main character X as the hero.  As a character, X was part The Outsiders and part Fonzie from Happy Days -- a tough underdog who was feared and revered by his peers and adults alike. The coincidences toward the end, of the punks using their acquaintances with bikers as allies and the police choosing to apply the law where it benefitted them, added to the surreal impossibilities of this being a realistic and not hyperbolic tale.

Readers will relate to the way the teens in this book think and are thought about by adults. They will be interested in reading how Kinsella describes the murders, the friendships, and kidnapping. This is where Kinsella's attention to detail allows readers' creative imaginations to flow - and Kinsella writes some great descriptive images. Unfortunately, then, the fact that this is all taking place in Maine intrudes on the narrative progression. I understood the importance of the plot occurring in "Small Town, USA." As a reader, though, I needed to know why it was so important that it happened in Portland. A map of Portland on the end pages would have been more useful, i.e., less intrusive, than precise details of streets in Portland.

As I said, I really liked the premise of the story  - I just wish I hadn't been grounded to Portland or encountered a demigod-like X. (p.s. - I'm still not sure why the book is entitled Recipe for Hate.)