Posted in geek, geek culture, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult/New Adult

Fandom, friends, and the real world: Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good

Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good, by Nancy Werlin, (Apr. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214734

Ages 13+

High school senior Zoe Rosenthal is a planning machine, bullet journal set for stun. She and her boyfriend, Simon, are the definition of power couple: they’re researching college choices to attend together (so many color-coded spreadsheets); she’s working to save money while he volunteers for a local politician and envisions a socially just career in political science, and then they’ll marry, have their 2.5 kids, and live happily ever after. All she has to do is sneak off to Dragon Con for a season premiere of her secretly favorite show, Bleeders. It’s great science fiction, which Simon poo-poos as “ridiculous”. She should be watching Very Serious Documentaries, not wasting time on genre “garbage”. But once at DragonCon, she falls in love with fandom and meets a group of “Bloodygits” – the Bleeders fandom – that may just be the best thing that ever happened to her. A story of how fandom is always there to catch you when you fall, Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good is filled with great little pop culture and fandom winks and nudges. Zoe and her fellow supporting characters are all pretty well realized, and encompass a diverse cast. Author Nancy Werlin is a National Book award finalist, Edgar award winner, and NYT bestselling author who not only gets fandom, she enjoys it; she sees how it brings people together. Give to your fandom fic fans; the readers who loved The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love  by Sarvenaz Tash (2016), Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series, and Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek (2017).

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, geek culture, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Reading Rundown, Reading Challenge!

There are SO many great books coming out over the next few weeks, WOW. My reading mojo came back with a vengeance, thankfully, about a month ago, and I have been working on the TBR; everything I pick up has been really good stuff. I’m also starting to come out of an overall blue period (like Picasso, but not as talented), so I’m hoping my blogging can keep up with my reading habits. Let’s give it a whirl.

Con Quest, by Sam Maggs, (June 2020, Imprint), $16.99, ISBN: 9781250307279

Ages 9-13

The first book is Sam Maggs’s middle grade novel, Con Quest. If you already know Sam Maggs, I welcome you, my geek friend. If you don’t, this is a great place to start. She’s a geek girl who’s written comics, nonfiction about fandom, and awesome women in history, but this is her first middle grade novel. And what a novel it is. It’s a love letter to fandom and con life; to Supernatural fans and quests for charity; to friendship, family, and that first blush of a new crush. If you dig fandom, are in fandom, or are fandom-adjacent, you’ll recognize the players here. At a con that’s remarkably similar to San Diego Comic Con, twin siblings Cat and Alex are competing in an intense quest, run by one of their fave celebs, to benefit a charity. The big prize is getting to meet the celeb, but first, they have a gauntlet of geeky challenges to complete, all while dodging their older sister, who is SUCH a drag. There are great, realistic characters here – con life is truly stranger than fiction, friends – and moments you’ll recognize and love. The characters are fun and diverse, with a diversity in gender identity and culture; one of the main characters, Alex, is autistic and Sam does a good job at describing how he experiences things, as opposed to his slightly intense (and sometimes frustrating) sister, Cat.

Introduce Cat and Alex to your readers, then get a (virtual) library con up and running to introduce them to the joy that is fandom. Hey, Free Comic Book Day is running for most of the summer!

 

Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed, (July 2020, Random House Children’s), $16.99, ISBN: 9780593174470

Ages 9-13

All hail the middle grade superhero novels! We are – hopefully – getting our long-awaited Wonder Woman 1984 movie this October, so TALK THIS UP. Our tweens and teens have Tempest Tossed, a phenomenal Wonder Woman original graphic novel; middle graders and tweens now have Diana and the Island of No Return, by Aisha Saeed. Here, Diana is a tween herself, a princess forbidden to learn to fight, despite living on an island of warrior women. She’s hoping to persuade her mother, Queen Hippolyta, this year… maybe during the festivities, when her best friend, Princess Sakina arrives, they can plan an approach? Before the festivities begin, Diana discovers a stowaway – a BOY – on Sakina’s mother’s ship, and learns that the entire island of Themyscira has been put under a sleeping spell. Diana and Sakina, the only two awake on the island, must travel with this boy to his island, where a demon lies in wait, wanting to capture Diana.

This is the first in a Wonder Woman trilogy, and Aisha Saeed wastes no time getting to the action. Diana and Sakina’s friendship is well-written and realistic; she creates larger-than-life figures and makes them very human; the girls are giggly best friends who plan to sleep in the same room so they can stay up all night, and yet also ready, at a moment’s notice, to go on a dangerous mission to fight a demon and free their mothers. It all comes together beautifully, with great world-building, pacing, and storytelling. I can’t wait for the next book.

Follow the DC Comics Kids Twitter and Instagram for DC Kids Camp activities. There are coloring sheets, videos, and crafts that everyone will love: you know you want to color, too.

 

Rise of Zombert (The Zombert Chronicles), by Kara LaReau/Illustrated by Ryan Andrews, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9781536201062

Ages 8-12

This first book in a new middle grade series is a good one for kids who want to read something creepy, but not TOO scary. In a corporate town where everything is owned and run by YummCo Foods, a black cat escapes a lab. He’s found by a girl named Mellie, who discovers the filthy, ragged cat in a dumpster and takes him home to nurse back to health. She names him Bert and decides that he’s going to be the pet she’s always wanted… but Berg wants blood. He has a taste for heads, in particular; after decapitating Mellie’s stuffed animals, he heads out for less stuffy game. As cats would do, Mellie discovers Bert’s version of sharing a meal with her, when she keeps finding headless birds and mice left for her. Mellie’s best friend, Danny, is convinced the cat is a zombie, and readers will get the feeling that there’s a lot more going on at YummCo than the oh-so-friendly representatives will let on. And Bert? Well, he can’t really understand why Mellie isn’t appreciating his gifts, he still feels something for the girl, but nothing can stop him from his mission: revenge and freeing the other animals in the lab.

I loved how this book built and built up the suspense, but it ended so abruptly, I had to check and make sure I wasn’t reading an excerpt. It’s a fast-paced read, and will definitely invest readers right away. The black and white sketches add to the moody atmosphere of the book, and the ending will leave everyone waiting for the sequel. Kara LaReau is the author of the Infamous Ratsos series, so she knows how to write for a younger audience and get things moving along quickly. Ryan Andrews illustrated another book I love, The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

 

The Mulberry Tree, by Allison Rushby, (July 2020, Candlewick Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536207613

Ages 9-13

I LOVE a good creepy book, and this one is amazing. If you’re a Mary Downing Hahn reader, run to your computer and request or buy The Mulberry Tree. Ten-year-old Immy (Imogene) and her parents have moved from Australia to the English countryside as her father battles depression. They decide to rent an adorable thatched English cottage, but the realtor – and the town – have their misgivings about anyone living there. You see, there’s an cursed mulberry tree in the backyard; a tree that’s rumored to have stolen two girls away on the eves of their 11th birthdays. People cross the street rather than walk by the tree, and when Immy’s father speaks out on the ridiculousness of a tree kidnapping girls, Immy finds herself even more of a pariah at school. But when she starts hearing a strange song in her head, and seeing the tree move, she begins to wonder whether the rumors may be true after all. What’s the story of the tree? Immy’s going to have to do some investigating to find out, and she’d better hurry… her 11th birthday is coming.

This book hooked me from the first page. It deals with depression and grief, and how it can drive a wedge into a family; a spooky tree with a cursed history, and mean girls. If you have readers who love a bit of the creepy, with some supernatural thrown in, give them this book. I read this one in one night, because I refused to put it down until I was done. The setting, the pacing, everything built at such a wonderful pace, and the resolution… chef’s kiss good. One of my favorite Quarantine Reads so far.

Allison Rushby wrote 2018’s The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery; an historical fiction ghost story. It’s a good one; pick it up if you haven’t had the chance yet.

 

Last but not least, a reading challenge! What better way to keep track of all of the great books you’ve been reading with your kids (you are reading with them, aren’t you?) than by working through reading challenges together? I just received an email with seven printable challenges, all free, all downloadable, through Redbubble. There’s Book Bingo; a Cross-Genre reading list; a Habit Tracker; a Create Your Own Reading List; and my favorite, a Reading Coloring Sheet where you can color in books on a bookshelf as you read (and, if you’re like me, try to write itty bitty names on the spines). These add a little bit of color to the same old boring reading logs the kids get sent home with every summer, so try one or two out. You can view all the reading challenges here.

As always, I received eArcs of all the books I talked about in exchange for reviews. Thanks for reading, and go get some books!

Posted in Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Once Upon a Con: Bookish and the Beast keeps the magic going

Bookish and the Beast, by Ashley Poston, (Aug. 2020, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683691938

Ages 12+

The third Once Upon a Con book is coming! I’ve been enjoying this series since picking up Geekerella back in 2017. Remixed fairy tales, updated to take place in a fandom world? Yes, please! In this third installment, we’ve got some returning characters, some new faces, and a familiar storyline with a little fandom magic.

Rosie Thorne is a high school senior, living with her widowed dad, and mourning her mom, who happened to be a huge fan of… you know it, Starfield, the sci-fi series introduced in Geekerella. She’s also stuck on her college application essays and on the memory of the masked General Sond cosplayer she met at ExelsiCon. While trying to do a good deed, she inadvertently stumbles into a house where Vance Reigns – actor, Hollywood bad boy, and Starfield’s very own General Sond – is hiding out from the paparazzi after a major scandal hit the tabloids. He’s predictably beastly (see what I did there?) to Rosie, who’s so taken aback that she ruins a rare book in the house’s gorgeous library. She offers to work off the cost of the book, which means she’s now spending every day in Vance’s presence. As the two get used to one another, literal and proverbial masks come off, but they’re both hurt and vulnerable people: can Rosie and Vance let their guards down enough to fall in love?

Bookish and the Beast has all the elements that make Ashley Poston’s Once Upon a Con series so readable: great dialogue and pacing, fun characters that you want to fall in love with and hang out with, and most importantly, the genuine love of fandom. Her characters’ fandoms – in this case, Starfield – have passed on through generations, from parents to children, and it’s here that the heart of fandom lies. Fandom is a community, with its good, bad, and ugly, and Ashley Poston respects that community by creating characters that inhabit that space in her books and the readers who love them. Each character goes on their own personal journeys here, and so many relatable, enjoyable characters.

Rainbow Rowell readers, this series is for you. Check out Ashley Poston’s website for an FAQ, links to her social media, and more information about her books.

Posted in Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Geekerella gave me feels!

Geekerella, by Ashley Poston, (Apr. 2016, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1594749476

Recommended for readers 12+

The short story: Geekerella is Cinderella for geeks, starring a fangirl and fanboy.

The slightly less short story, but short enough for review purposes: Elle is a devoted fan of the science fiction show, Starfield. Its got a fandom right up there with Star Trek and Star Wars, with conventions and cosplay, online forums and blogs. Elle’s still feeling the loss of her father, who introduced her to the love of Starfield as a child, and the mother that died when she was little. She’s living with her awful, social climbing stepmother and her vapid, beauty vlogger stepsisters and working in the vegan food truck, The Magic Pumpkin.

Darien Freeman is a teen sensation. Half-British society, half Indian, he lives with his Dadager (dad manager), who will sell Darien and his insured abs at any opportunity. Darien’s claim to fame came on an OC-type teen soap opera, but playing Federation Prince Carmindor is going to make him a star – and since he’s a Starfield fanboy, it’s kind of a dream come true. Too bad he’s miserable: his best friend sold him out to the paparazzi, he’s under fire online for taking on the role of Carmindor, and his father is a social climber who uses his son as his stepladder. And now, his dad has him going to this Starfield convention where he just knows he’s going to get eaten alive by the fandom.

Told in shifting perspectives between Elle and Darien, this is the fangirl adaptation of the Cinderella story, complete with cosplay masquerade ball, a magic pumpkin and a punk lesbian fairy godmother in the form of Sage, who works the Magic Pumpkin truck, has a fantastic eye for dress design, and quotes Lord of the Rings at will.

Geekerella hits all the feels for me. I’m a 46 year-old fangirl; a fangirl nurtured by my dad, my uncle, J.R. R. Tolkien, and the kind creators of Star Trek and Star Wars. Unlike Elle, I’m still lucky enough to have my parents, but the story and feelings resonate. Do you know how it’s going to end? Of course you do, but darned if you don’t love the journey. There’s something for every fan in here: Firefly references join hands with Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, Avengers, Trek, and Star Wars winks and nudges. You’ll embrace the characters like longtime friends (I’m partial to Sage and Frank the dachshund), because Ashley Poston’s writing to her tribe: the fans, the cosplayers, the fanfic writers, those of us who have looked beyond the ordinary and dared to see more.

Give this to your fangirls, fanboys, gamers, and geeks. Display or pair with other fandom fic like All the Feels, Queens of Geek, and The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love.

Follow Ashley Poston’s Tumblr for great fandom musings and pictures of amazing cosplay (Yuri on Ice fans, get over there now). Her website has more info about her books and an FAQ.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, gaming, geek, geek culture, Humor, roleplaying, Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Attack the Geek: Geek Culture Gone Wild!

attackthegeekAttack the Geek, by Michael R. Underwood. Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books (2014), $2.99, ISBN: 9781476757780

Recommended for 18+

Attack the Geek is more of a New Adult read than it is a YA read, but there are plenty of pop culture, gaming, and garden variety geek references in there that will appeal to younger audiences. There’s a content heads-up for language, but it’s nothing the kids aren’t screaming at each other these days.

Attack the Geek is a side adventure to a series created by Michael R. Underwood; his previous two books, Geekomancy and Celebromancy, are available via digital download on Amazon for a very reasonable price. I haven’t read the two previous books which could be a reason why I felt off-kilter with Attack the Geek.

For any gamers out there – did you ever have a roleplaying session where one bar fight or battle took up hours of your campaign? If you know what I’m talking about, that’s how I felt while reading Attack the Geek. It’s a single combat story, with barista Ree Reyes, the heroine and protagonist of the series, and her fellow geekomancers coming under attack at Grognards, the establishment owned by Ree’s boss, Grognard. The geekomancers have the ability to channel the power of geek culture by consuming it – Ree, for instance, keeps clips from her favorite movies, like X-Men or Spider-Man, to draw upon when she needs power – and she’ll be able to shoot webs or toss people with telekinesis. There are props aplenty, including working Star Trek phasers and Star Wars lightsabers, and collectible card game cards merely need to be torn to release their  magic in this world, if channeled by the geekomancer. So when they come under attack from a Strega witch named Lucretia, it’s a hairy battle, loaded with pop culture references and witty banter.

This being a side adventure is my own issue – I am unfamiliar with the geekomancy power and these characters, so in a sense, I was at a disadvantage. But I also thought the book was trying to be too witty, throw too many references in, for its own good. The references took over the plot, and after a while, I was just reading about a battle where there was Spider-Man web slinging, Star Trek phasers, and lots of collectible card game references. This just wasn’t my book. For anyone who’s a devoted sci-fi/fantasy/gaming/comic book fan, it’s worth a shot. It’s why I requested it from NetGalley, after all, and I may read Geekomancy now just to see if having more of a background will help me better grasp the book.