Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WORTHY!. Show all posts

Friday, March 9, 2018

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Rating: WORTHY!

Jewell Parker Rhodes is an award-winning author and this is my first reading of anything by her. Her novel Ninth Ward, the first book in her "Louisiana Girls" trilogy, won the Coretta Scott King Honor Award.

This novel walks lock-step with the Black Lives Matter movement by telling the story of a twelve year old black child who was shot by a white cop. The circumstances of the death are almost a re-telling of the shooting death of Tamir Rice in November 2014. That was the same year that Michael Brown and Laquan McDonald were also shot in August and October.

This is too many controversial shootings in so short a period of time and without question something needs desperately to change. This book, I believe, can constitute a first step in the right direction especially given that it appears to be aimed at a middle-grade readership.

Jerome is the kid shot in the back by a white police officer after he was playing with a toy gun from which the orange tip had been removed making it look much more like a real gun. The story is told from Jerome's perspective now that he has become one of the ghost boys: dead black kids who have suffered a similar fate to him. Among the membership of this ghostly group is Emmett Till. The book is a little disjointed and sometimes a bit hard to follow because it jumps back and forth too much between Jerome 'ghost' and Jerome 'alive and well' in flashbacks.

Sarah is the daughter of the cop who, let's face it, murdered Jerome. I guess technically it was 'involuntary manslaughter' since he didn’t go out there with malice aforethought, intent upon killing him, although the cop seemed to be arguing for 'voluntary manslaughter' because he was farcically claiming it was in self-defense.

I thought it was grossly unfair to show him 'getting away with it', but this seems to happen unsurprisingly, disturbingly often. The stark contrast between Jerome's impoverished life, his poorly-appointed school, and the bullying he suffers every day, and Sarah's privileged white kid existence is starkly drawn. He and Sarah bond (a little too quickly to be frank, but then this is a short novel!), and Sarah gets an education. Jerome does too.

This novel told such a good story and was so well written that I did not want to find fault with it, and I really couldn't except in two areas. The first of these is very minor: there was one quoted speech which was missing a closing quote mark at location 1788 in Amazon's crappy Kindle app where Sarah says 'He's got awards for bravery. Saving lives' The speech continues as a separate quote on the next line. Matching quotes is the bane of all writers' lives. Isn't there an app for that?!

The other complaint is a bit more involved. The author was (and rightly in my opinion) trying to strike a fine balance between the wrong of this child being killed and the right of trying to find a non-violent and understanding way to resolve this ongoing crisis. I felt that certain avenues went sadly unexplored though.

Later in the story, Sarah creates a website, and on it she lists certain facts about this inexcusable slaughter, such as "Did you know black people are shot by cops two and a half times more than white people? But they’re only twelve percent of the population." That to me was a somewhat misleading statistic not because it's not true, but because it's taken out of much larger and very important context. This story doesn't delve deep enough because the issue is far more complex than is depicted here but again this is middle-grade level, so we can't expect everything!

It’s the same problem when Jerome asks a little later if this disaster we see going on every day is because of slavery, and I think there was a missed teaching opportunity here. I think that keeping it this simple doesn't do justice to the middle-graders who are reading this, because while, yes, slavery was a tragic blunder that still echoes today, it’s not the proximate cause.

Black people are shot by cops more often because black people come into contact with cops in taut situations more often than whites, but this higher homicide rate in the black community isn't because they're black, it’s because black people are far more likely to come from impoverished and otherwise deprived backgrounds than are any other race. This in turn leads people into criminal - or at least questionable - activities and that in turn leads them into interactions with police.

Only a complete moron would make assumptions based on a person's skin color (or gender, or religion, and so on). Such assumptions are proven wrong over and over again as more unarmed black people are shot by whites, including by cops, but I don't believe this has to do with slavery.

I believe it has to do with fear induced by misunderstandings and to be frank, sometimes helped along by a certain amount of 'attitude' in the black community about entitlement and privilege, and misplaced notions of respect. The bottom line is that respect has to be earned! You don't get to have it simply because you're person A, or have religion X or skin color Y. And you sure don't deserve it if you have to demand it aggressively from people you don't even know and who certainly do not know you, nor would they want to if you have too much bad attitude! Racism cuts both ways

There was another issue which was unexplored here, which was the gun. This story exactly paralleled the Tamir Rice tragedy. Jerome was playing with a toy gun which had had the orange muzzle cover removed so that it looked real. In a side-by-side comparison, it's easy to tell the fake, but a cop doesn't have that privilege. In a tense situation, when their life may be at dire risk, taking time to accurately determine what you're dealing with could mean the difference between living and dying.

I was sorry the author didn't bring up that fraught issue and the utter stupidity of toy manufacturers in making toy guns look so much like the real thing, especially when the farcical orange barrel tip can be readily removed. Can we not make the whole gun fluorescent orange? Can parents not simply make the assertive decision never to buy realistic-looking weapons for their children? None of the issue of parental responsibility in raising kids to be smarter than Jerome was, or of Jerome's foolish behavior came into the picture and this was a sad omission.

People of all stripes need to be more restrained, more humble, more accommodating, and more forgiving. It would have been nice to have seen these issues explored in more depth in this book. I think the middle-grade reading community can handle complex issues, and I think it does just as much of a disservice to those who have lost their lives to fear and mistrust, and to misunderstanding, and yes, to outright racism, to take a view that's as shallow as skin-deep racism is.

All of that said, I really enjoyed this novel I considered it to be thoughtful and well-written, and to tell a worthy story. I recommend it as a great introduction for young readers to a badly-needed understanding and a long overdue calm and rational dialog.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Reborn by Mark Millar, Greg Capullo, Jonathon Glapion, FCO Plascencia

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a graphic novel I got from my local library which has these days quite the selection. In amongst all the comics aimed at pleasing the Marvel and DC movie crowds as well as comic book aficionados, there are some gems that are not so mainstream even though they may have been penned by mainstream writers and artists. This is one of those.

The writer is a Scot named Mark Millar who has written quite a few graphic novels that I've enjoyed, many of which have been great successes, and some of which have been made into movies including one which starred Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy, and Morgan Freeman (Wanted) and another which starred Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton, and Michael Caine (Kingsman). Millar tends to lean towards writing of the fantastic and the so out there it's almost but not quite parody.

Reborn is a story relating that when people die in our world they're born again into a different fantasy world. Of course in this world there is a sharp divide between good and evil. Decent people are reborn into a world of light and friendship, whereas bad people are born to the dark side which is of course intent upon encroaching onto the light side.

In the story, this really old woman named Bonnie dies and finds herself in this other world as her thirty-year-old younger self who is supposed to be some sort of savior of this new world. She meets her father, who had died on Earth when she herself was young. He is also quite young in this world. She learns of others who are reborn at the same age they died, and yet others who are born younger or older. None of it seems to make any sense. One of her dear friends is bitter because she died after her husband, but by the time she died and came to this world, her husband had grown old and died here as well.

Animals are also born into this world, and some of them seem to have appeared with the ability to speak, including this girl's cat which has gone over to the dark side because it's resentful of being neutered. Also present is her dog which cannot speak and which is the size of a small horse. The dog is reminiscent of the luck dragon in The Neverending Story movie, but it's not quite that awful. I am by no means a fan of having cute animals in stories, but here it wasn't so bad.

The savior girl has no powers and no knowledge of why she should be the chosen one, although she seems to grow powers as time passes. The problem is that when Bonnie discovers that her husband, who had died years before and whom she has long pined for, is also here, but has been taken prisoner by the dark side because they want to lure her into a trap, she abandons her world-saving role to go find him.

The story in some ways is most reminiscent of Lord of the Rings with the hobbit (in this case Bonnie) crossing from the shire to Mordor with her magic sword in hand. There's even a tower, but no eye glares balefully from its twin spires. The leader of the dark side is predictably a Lord - in this case Lord Golgotha. At first I thought he would turn out to be her husband, but later I decided Golgotha is probably her mother or maybe the sniper from the opening panels. Whether I was right or wrong (I'm usually wrong in these guesses!) you'll have to read this to find out! I recommend it as a worthy read.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Rating: WORTHY!

This book was a bunch of bull - young bulls growing up with the idea of fighting in the bullring in Spain - except for Ferdinand that is, who much preferred to sit in the shade under a tree, enjoying the flowers. I must confess I was truly curious to see where the author took this and so I read on!

When the ring managers showed up to pick fresh young bulls to go up against the toreadors and matadors, all the bulls except Ferdinand played their game and were ready to run and fight. Ferdinand was under his tree, that is until something seriously disturbed him, and then the managers were very interested in how feisty he was, and took them with him. But in the ring, all Ferdinand wanted to do was to sit and enjoy the flowers tossed down into the ring by the spectators.

This was a fun and colorful book with a great ending, and a positive message. It's okay not to ask "How high?" when someone orders you to jump! It's okay to stop and smell the roses! I recommend it.

Red Car Green Car by Mara van der Meer, Penny Worms, Amy Oliver, Adria Meserve

Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated in fine young-child fashion with bright primary colors, and beautifully created and worded, this book looked to me like a great and fun book for very young children. There are things to pull on that change the color of the car you're looking at, and lots of sturdy pages to chew to turn happily. The book looked well-made and seems to me like it will occupy a kid for some time. It kept me occupied anyway! Certainly it will take long enough to grab a quick break and a soothing cup of tea. I recommend it!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Elephant's Child by Rudyard Kipling, Karen Baiker, Davin Cheng

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a Rudyard Kipling story adapted by Karen Baiker, and illustrated nicely by Davin Cheng. I reviewed Kipling's Just So Stories a long time ago on this blog, and this one was included in that book under the title How the Elephant Got His Trunk which is the subtitle of the present story. As this newer author and illustrator have shown here, there is probably a rich and free vein of children's stories to be mined there now that Kipling is out of copyright. I'm going to get on it right away. Kidding! I have too much on my plate as it is.

The story is that of an annoyingly curious young elephant who, as all elephants did back then of course, had a snub nose. He was constantly asking questions of his older relatives: the baboon (who is shown incongruously hanging from a tree for which baboons are not really well-known!), the giraffe, the hippo, but none of them can spare him any time, so he takes the advice of a very possibly maliciously-inclined bird, who advises him that his last question, 'what do crocodiles eat?', could best be answered by hiking over to the Limpopo river and asking a croc directly.

The elephant in his innocence thinks this is a brill idea and heads off forthwith. The croc advises him that he will not only be happy to tell him, he will show him what he's going to eat for dinner and snaps at the elephant. This was very probably the first sound bite. Or perhaps more likely, an unsound bite since the croc only manages to grab the elephant's nose. In the ensuing tug of war, the nose is stretched and stretched of course (you knew this was coming, didn't you?!).

Unlike his elders, the young elephant is happy to take the time to relate his story of how his nose grew so long. And there you have it! So while this isn't an original story, it is nicely told and beautifully illustrated, and it's in a nice, so I recommend it.

Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare by Marguerite Tassi, Mercè López

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy, for which to the publisher I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks!

This book was a little bit different from what I expected, but there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. For me, I thought it might be Shakespeare's words altered somewhat to facilitate children's reading, but in fact the text was untouched. What editor Marguerite Tassi (on the faculty of University of Nebraska-Kearney, and much published on many aspects of Shakespeare's work) did was to choose the pieces, include them unaltered in any way, but to add a short glossary after each to explain some of the more obscure or more readily misunderstood terms. Language use and meaning changes significantly in four hundred years!

There is also included some notes at the end on "What William was thinking," and an index. I read this on an iPad and what I would have liked to have seen was a means to get back to the contents page from a given excerpt. From that screen you can get to any item with a tap, but once you've shuffled off this mortal contents, you can't get back except by sliding the bar at the bottom of the page which oft trigger'd Apple's pop-up bar, and it was annoying. To link or not to link, that is the question!

Talented and Spanish-born artist Mercè López contributed illustrations for many of the excerpts. The illustrations, well-aimed at children, served to leaven what otherwise would have been a landscape solely of text and perhaps, because of that, a tragically undiscover'd country. It's a pity the editor doesn't hail from the same place as the illustrator, because then it could have been billed as 'Two Gentlewomen of Barcelona'. But it was not to be!

There are over thirty selections here, so there is no arguing over what was the most unkindest cut of all, because if they are mark'd to read, they are enough. Let us not wish for one choice more; the fewer options, the greater share of honour each derives! The excerpts were a fine selection in my amateur opinion, and made for some great reading if you're at all a fan of Shakespeare. The choice selection (There's a double meaning in that!) is as follows:

  • All the World’s a Stage from As You Like It
  • O, for a Muse of Fire from Henry V
  • We Were, Fair Queen from The Winter’s Tale
  • Over Hill, Over Dale from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Round About the Cauldron Go from Macbeth
  • Under the Greenwood Tree from As You Like It
  • Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? (sonnet)
  • O Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo? from Romeo and Juliet
  • Now Is the Winter of Our Discontent from Richard III
  • If Music Be the Food of Love from Twelfth Night
  • How Sweet the Moonlight Sleeps Upon this Bank! from The Merchant of Venice
  • O, She Doth Teach the Torches to Burn Bright! from Romeo and Juliet
  • O Mistress Mine, Where Are You Roaming? from Twelfth Night
  • What Light Is Light, if Silvia Be Not Seen? from The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • But Soft, What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks? from Romeo and Juliet
  • My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun (sonnet)
  • The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds (sonnet)
  • Cowards Die Many Times Before Their Deaths from Julius Caesar
  • Once More Unto the Breach from Henry V
  • All Furnish’d, All in Arms from Henry IV, Part 1
  • The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strain’d from The Merchant of Venice
  • Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ears from Julius Caesar
  • All That Glitters Is Not Gold from The Merchant of Venice
  • That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold (sonnet)
  • To Be, or Not to Be, That Is the Question from Hamlet
  • Blow, Winds, and Crack Your Cheeks! from King Lear
  • To-morrow, and To-morrow, and To-morrow from Macbeth
  • Why, Man, He Doth Bestride the Narrow World from Julius Caesar
  • If We Shadows Have Offended from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Our Revels Now Are Ended from The Tempest

But soft, what a great way to get kids involved, especially if they can read and you can get them to get all dramatic and really speak these words from the heart with spirit and energy. O for a muse of fire! Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious reading by this daughter of Baltimore! I recommend this.

Great Polar Bear by Carolyn Lesser

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was a beautifully-rendered (using elegantly torn paper) and charmingly-written novel for young children about the hard life of a polar bear. If I had a criticism I would say it was that climate change, while referenced in a note at the end of the book (which can be used as a talking-point with your child of course), wasn't really factored into the story. I felt it should have been because despite the liars who nay-say it, climate change is real, it's affecting people's lives now as well as the very existence of hundreds of species of plant and animal. It's already affecting Polar bears.

That said, this story tells, in gorgeously-written prose and pulling no punches, of the tough existence of this bear in the frozen north, sleeping in wind-sheltering snowdrifts for warmth, and hunting seals. It describes some of the means by which Polar bears stay warm, including the hollow hairs on their pelt. I think it might have gone more into the fact that it's getting harder for bears to find sufficient food as climate changes, but it does tell a stirring story and if it gets childrens' interest warmed to this icy, precarious life, then it will have served Polar bears well.

In the USA, as I write this, there is a movement - finally - to protect our schools from deranged people with automatic weapons. This is long overdue and shames our politicians that they love the NRA more than they do the lives of young children, but as many lives as are sacrificed to political self-interest and inertia, those lives, awfully tragic and irreplaceable as they are, are a tiny portion of what will be lost if climate change is not addressed. It is the most critical crisis facing humanity today, but selfish business interests are literally buying-off right-wing politicians and these callous, cynical low-lifes are sacrificing our children's future for short-term personal profit. They are also sacrificing nature, Polar bears along with it.

I would like to have seen climate changed addressed more directly here because Polar bears are utterly dependent on the ice-floes which are fast disappearing. While these magnificent animals are technically not considered endangered, they are rated as vulnerable and as the North Pole warms (it's thought that it will be ice-free by mid-century at the present rate of warming), their territory shrinks. If the North Pole melts, since it is already floating on the ocean, it will contribute little to sea-rise, but it will rob Polar bears of a major hunting ground. Because the Greenland ice sheet is all on land, if it melts, it will raise sea levels by over twenty feet. Coasts will be inundated and Polar bears will be left with nowhere to go.

If this book does anything to educate people, especially youngsters, about this crisis, then it will have served us well. I liked the book, loved the prose, found the images quite entrancing, and I highly recommend it.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fat tome of a graphic novel and it's the author's debut. It grew out of a single comic strip posted on the web for the woefully misnamed Ada Lovelace day, and then morphed into a webcomic and finally a print version which is what I read.

The author did an awesome job in both in the drawings (line drawings black on white with some shading) and in the text. It was highly educational, and highly amusing. Be warned that since this story is rooted in reality (if given to soaring flights of fantasy once the real historical details have been established), there are extensive footnotes on almost every page. I thought these might be really annoying, but they were not, and I simply skipped the ones which didn't interest me, so it was fine. I found myself skipping very few as it happened. There are also chapter end notes, and two appendices.

It tells the story of Ada King, née Byron, daughter of Lord Byron, and Charles Babbage. Ada is best known as Lady Lovelace; she was actually the Countess of Lovelace, which was a title derived from her marriage. 'Lovelace' was never her last name. She is also known as the world's first computer programmer and as a sterling mathematician. She died of cancer at age 36, curiously the same age as her father was when he died.

The book tells the story of the childhood and formative years of these two people, of their meeting, and of their collaboration working on Babbage's Difference Engine (a mechanical calculating machine) and his Analytical Engine - a next generation machine. The amusing thing is that Babbage never built either of his engines despite getting some seventeen thousand pounds in government grants for his work on it. This equates to very roughly one and a half millions dollars today!

He did have a small working portion of the Difference Engine, and extensively detailed plans for building the whole thing. He seems to have lost interest in it when he conceived of the Analytical Engine and in that instance, he seems to have spent so much time on refining it, that he never got around to building it! The difference Engine at least, actually worked, We know this because one was built based on Babbage's plans and drawings, and was completed in 1991. A second was built in 2016.

Babbage wished to automate the laborious process of creating tables of numbers which were in common use for a variety of functions. His plans proved that he succeeded - at least in planning such a machine! Ada, Countess Lovelace collaborated with him extensively. This story tells those factual details at the beginning, but then moves into a parallel universe where the story takes on a turn for the fantastical and pretends that they actually built Babbage's machine and used it to fight crime.

If you have any ambition at all to write a steampunk novel, I highly recommend this book to get you in the right frame of mind, and to help you appreciate the wealth of talent in Britain over this time period. One of the most thrilling things about their era is that it was loaded with people who are household names today. Scientists such as Michael Faraday and Charles Darwin, for example, writers such as Charles Dickens. Lewis Carroll, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, and Mary Evans better known to us as George Eliot, and engineers such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It's quite stunning to think that all of these people - and very many more - were alive over the early to middle years of the nineteenth century, and that Countess Lovelace and Charles Babbage met and knew very many of them.

I recommend this book

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Scarlett by Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a kick-ass novel from the off, with a good, intelligent story and beautiful artwork. It's a bit bloody here and there, and the eponymous main character (modeled on a woman named Iva) is inevitably sexualized, but it's not overly done thankfully. I favorably reviewed Bendis's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3: Guardians Disassembled back in June of 2016.

The story is set in Portland, Oregon, and is a bit controversial in its subject matter since it suggests that, contrary to the tale we were told in the TV series Grimm, some of the Portland PD isn't so much going after mythical creatures, as it is after drug money for personal use. Why Portland gets picked on, I don't know. Maybe these guys live there?! Maybe Portland has a drug problem? I dunno.

Scarlett is a young woman whose boyfriend is killed by corrupt police looking to notch-up another drug dealer taken out, but her boyfriend was never a dealer; he wasn't even into drugs other than maybe a little weed (this is blog spot, not blogs pot after all!), but he's dead, and Scarlett isn't going to stand for it. She starts taking out she corrupt cops herself and becomes an almost legendary figure.

She varies her MO. We first meet her in a dark alley being approached by a cop who evidently thinks she's a sex worker. When he tries to get a freebie from her, he gets a death sentence instead, and Scarlett finds six hundred bucks on him which she, despite some doubts, takes as evidence that he's dirty.

After this we get her backstory which for a change wasn't boring me (I normally dislike flashbacks), and then the story takes off, always moving somewhere. My only disappointment in it is that this is only book one, so now I have to find others in this series! I recommend this one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a fun book. It started out great and just when I thought the author was giving me a tiresomely trope school-bully story, she changed her game and twisted things around, and overall I really enjoyed it, despite an oddly-rushed a somewhat lackluster ending.

The main character is Piper McCloud, who was born late to her simply country-folk parents and who, from a very early age, exhibited her lighter-than-air abilities. This did not go down well. Her dad had little to say about anything, and mom managed to keep Piper indoors, and keep suspicious and gossipy neighbors away, homeschooling her daughter, but Piper really wanted to explore her ability even though she also tried to keep it secret at her mom's behest. It nevertheless got out and soon the government was showing up offering to take this troublesome child off her mother's hands to a place where there are many children like Piper, and where Piper will get a good education. She certainly does.

The children at the school are very regimented, and are not allowed to use their abilities, which is quite the opposite of what Piper had been expecting. The smooth-talking Doctor Hellion has evidently fed Piper a bill of goods, but while Piper may be down, she's not out and she's going to be up and at 'em first chance she gets. The novel is a bit long and at some points annoying. Also it's lacking somewhat in logic, in particular that all of these children would be sent off by their parents to a place unseen and completely unknown, including its location, and that no parents would raise a stink about their kids disappearing and losing contact with them?

I was surprised no other reviewers raised this issue - not of the reviews I read anyway, not even the negative ones. It's even more curious given that there were other objections raised, such as that the novel pokes fun at religion, like somehow religion is not to be talked about in any negative light? Bullshit! It's not a crime to write fiction about religion whether positive or negative. But I didn't see it as poking fun at anything; it was simply showing Piper in a certain milieu from which she longed to escape. Religion was a very minor part of it and not even the most important one - just like life, in fact!

The other issue was about grown-up themes which clearly never impinge upon children's lives and all children of Piper's age are too dumb to understand them anyway, Right? Again, bullshit. I found these objections rather curious and narrow-minded. They seemed to forget that this is purest fiction. It's not a documentary. It's not a biography. It's not a prescription for how to raise children. It's merely fiction for children. Get over yourselves!

For me the most curious thing was that in the acknowledgements, the author writes of the first thankee: "My Dear husband, Wayne, who has stood by and watched me muddle through this process." I'm not sure that's much of a compliment. At best it's back-handed. From a writer it's poorly worded! If she means he has stood by her, then that's one thing, but if she means what she wrote, then he wasn't much help, was he? What you say matters, How you say it matters more! Every writer should know this, especially one with this author's experience. But aside from these quibbles, I recommend this novel as a worthy read.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Incidentals Powers, Lies, and Secrets by Joe Casey, Larry Stroman, Rob Stull, Snakebite Cortez

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This continues the ongoing story of a meteorite storm, and the super powers some people evidently developed as a consequence. The titles are rather variable in appeal and quality because they're all done by different teams, and while some have been great, others have been lacking. In short the whole series has been a bit patchy and this one just squeaked under the wire into the safe zone, based on the fact that it was a decent story by Joe Casey that melded well with the others I've read.

In terms of the graphics, I was less thrilled, but it was hard to pin down exactly what the problem was. From the illustrations in the back, it looks like Larry Stroman's pencil work is up to par, but perhaps these demo illustrations aren't the same quality as the ones actually employed in the panels. I don't know. The images looked unfinished in many panels. Fortunately, graphics to me are not everything. I mostly fread books that are all text, os to me the story is most important. There has to be an engaging and coherent story, and while good graphics can't make up for a tale poorly told, less than stellar images can get by with a good story behind them.

In this one we meet a team which is dedicated to 'rescuing' the enhanced humans from the selfish clutches of those who would employ them for less than altruistic purposes, shall we say. For this they use an enhanced who has the same power which Jamie Chung's character, Clarice Fong aka Blink, has in Marvel TV's The Gifted. I would really like to see this series distance itself from The Gifted, but it continues to parallel it in terms of the powers which these enhanced people have.

That said, it makes for a worthy read for the most part and this particular issue, artwork notwithstanding, is a welcome addition to the series.

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Rating: WORTHY!

Also known as "The Girls" this novel should not be confused with The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair, The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace, or The Girl From the Garden by Parnaz Foroutan, none of which I've read, but I am intrigued that two of these have authors with rather exotic names! Shades of The Perfumed Garden (but not fifty shades)! Anyway this novel was another audiobook experiment I picked up from the library.

Getting these books for me is like buying a lottery ticket. You take a risk when you buy one of those, because most of them aren't winners, but you hope at least the money you paid is going to a good cause. With audiobooks you take a similar risk. This one was a winner. I really liked it. I liked the writing voice, and I also liked the reader, Colleen Prendergast. If either of those two elements is off in an audiobook it can spoil it even if the other is spot on, but in this case they worked well together, and in this case I did find a good story, so I requested more work by this author from my library in hopes that her other novels will be as good as this one was.

The story is of some dysfunctional families: three in particular. Clare Wild is effectively a single mum. She has two daughters, one who is just twelve, the other a year older. Their father, Chris, is a documentary maker, but recently he was in a psychiatric hospital after burning down their house to get rid of the alien rats which he was convinced were living there. Claire has had enough of him and wants nothing to do with him. He's been released from the hospital, but Claire has not informed her daughters, Pip (short for Pipsqueak - obviously not her real name) and Grace, that he's out.

She lives in London in a home that borders on a private communal park named Virginia, which is supposed to be a shared garden used by all the homes bordering it. Children run free and unsupervised in this park, and are in and out of each other's homes. It's a bit like a commune, but not quite, and everyone except Claire who moved there only recently, has known each other for some time, although that doesn't mean they know each other.

Another such home is where Pip and Grace's friend Tyler lives. Tyler's mom is single, having divorced her husband who was mean and violent. Now she's off dating a new guy and Tyler is pretty much left to her own devices, which are more vice than devious, but that latter element plays a part in this story. Closer to home is Adele and Leo Howes, a seemingly well-balanced couple who home-school their three daughters who are all named after trees. They treat them with worthless homeopathic remedies when they get sick rather than with proven medical aid. I wasn't too keen on the Howes.

On the night of their midsummer party, Claire's daughter Grace is found unconscious with her clothes rucked up as though she was sexually assaulted, and the book then focuses on finding who the perp is. It seems we're meant to wonder if this was perhaps Chris, the schizophrenic absentee father or Leo, who had a technically inappropriate 'relationship' with a 13-year-old girl when he was only eighteen. A month or two before his birthday, everything would have been fine, we're supposed to believe, but a month or two afterwards, and it's an unforgivable crime? Laws are made to serve the lowest common denominator, let's face it, but they are the law. Calling it a 'relationship' though, is a bit of a stretch. Thoughtless misadventure might be a better term.

The thing is that Grace was found in almost exactly the same place that, many years before, 15-year-old Phoebe Rednough was found dead. Phoebe was the sister of Tyler's mum. Has her killer resurfaced? Or was hers merely a suicide and nothing to do with Grace's case?

Be warned that this story moves somewhat ponderously. It's not your usual whodunit, but it was nonetheless interesting to me, and I really enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Mr Hoopeyloops and His Amazing Glass by Andi Cann, Fabrice Bertolotto

Rating: WORTHY!

I wasn't sure what to expect from this title, but it intrigued me! Was this a children;s book about a drunk for goodness sakes? Or was it more likely about someone who had an awesome spyglass? Wrong on both counts, but this was a fun children's book with a good story told on one page and a colorful illustration on the next, and so it went.

Mr Hoopeyloops was an odd sort of a guy who liked to retreat into his barn with bags of sand, and sometimes pipes. At other times he would drive around and make comments about the details of places he visited in town - like nice windows or pretty bowls. When other people weren't pointing at him they were ignoring him. But he certainly was up to something and they were about to find out what!

This was a nice, educational read about a topic rarely covered in children's books, and it had plenty to interest and intrigue young readers. You can play guessing games about what Mr Hoopeyloops is up to. I recommend it.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Terminally Illin' by Kaylin Andres, Jon Mojeski

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a beautifully drawn and colored, and very amusingly-written bittersweet story about Kaylin Marie Andres who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma in 2008 at only 23. Instead of succumbing to paralysis and mute acceptance, she chose to fight it tooth and nail with determination and humor, and not only went on with her fashion career, but also created a graphic novel to illustrate her fight with an amusing graphic story.

The book begins with her going for her first treatment and ends with the promise of a visit to a fantasy-land cancer fun park. There never was a sequel because Kaylin had to endure four major surgeries and attendant radiation treatments to four different areas of her body. And she died a year ago last November at the age of 31.

This book is probably one of the best memorials she could have because it was an awesome read and I highly recommend it. The last entry in her blog was five days before she died - on the day before she was due to fly back home for the last time. Hopefully this graphic novel will serve as a lasting inspiration to others.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman

Rating: WORTHY!

Read in fine style by Liz Morton, this was a charming book for very young kids about Kate and her fine steed Cocoa. They live on a ranch and there are always things to do on the ranch. I was slightly perturbed by the fact that, on the one hand the ranch was "naturally" run by a guy, but on the other hand, it was a girl, Kate, who was doing a bunch of the chores. Is that genderist? Make of it what you will!

Other than that, it was read at a pedantic pace for grown-ups, but at a good pace for children. There were two disks: one being the story and the other being the story augmented with a little 'ding' each time you should turn a page - obviously meant to be listened to in conjunction with with the print book so the child can follow along. Presumably the print book is illustrated, too, as a further aid. This is a great book for kids learning to read.

I liked Kate and loved Cocoa and I recommend this as a fun read for kids.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

Rating: WORTHY!

This is ostensibly a high-school romance story, but it offered so much more than that. It begins during Shabnam Qureshi's last week of high-school and extends into her last summer before college starts. She is nominally a Muslim, but that speaks more to her heritage than her practice, because she really doesn't practice her faith. The story is more about cultural and religious clashes and about how foolish a first love can be.

Shabnam meets Jamie, a charming, romantic guy who easily knocks sheltered Shabnam off her feet. Because of her sheltered upbringing, she has very little experience of boys and is therefore easy prey for the much more worldly Jamie, who seems a bit 'off' right from the start. While Shabnam is falling in foolish teenage love with him, he's more in love with the idea of an exotic and potentially forbidden femme than ever he is with her for herself, and she is far too inexperienced to see this.

In a way, they have a lot in common: they are both very shallow in their own way, and they both purvey a big lie to the other. The difference is that Shabnam is potentially a much deeper person than ever Jamie could hope to be, and as the story progresses, we see this blossoming in her repeatedly. Shabnam knows she lies, Jamie is too selfishly in love with himself to see that he's a living embodiment of a lie.

On the topic of lies, too many YA novels betray their main female character by insisting that she be validated by a man. I detest novels like that. This was not such a novel. It was about girl power and female friendship and it was the better for it. It was also about culture, religion, and conflict between generations, and in some ways I felt it risked cheapening the very message it was trying to send: about the riots and slaughter in India during partition, by tacking those on to this story.

The Brits are often blamed for the problems they caused in India as they should be, but at least they treated all Indians with equal disdain; they didn't single-out any one ethnic group or religion for abuse, whereas during partition, every religion turned against every other religion, which is one reason why I detest religion. It's divisive by its very nature in its arrogant and unprovable assertion that 'we're the chosen ones and you're doomed to hell' or whatever. That said, the injection of the parts about partition were not overdone, so it didn't feel like a lecture, nor did it disrupt the story, and it did get the word out about an historical tragedy that's been largely forgotten today.

Lending more weight to what is an already heavy subject, Shabnam is also at odds with her once best friend Farah, who is far more deeply religious than is Shabnam, but Farah has her own take on her religion. She approaches it in a far more fluid manner than many other people, adapting it to herself as much as she adapts to it. She's a lot more brash and brave, wise and mature than is Shabnam, and she was my favorite character, but I am often in the position of finding the side-kick more interesting than the main character in YA novels.

This is very much a high-school romance, YA novel, but that said, it's leagues ahead of the usual poorly-written, crappily-plotted story that's out there. That's why it won't sell as well as the others, because the bar is so low in YA books, and this one clears it so handily that it's going to be way above the head of an embarrassingly large number of YA readers. That said, this novel, like many YA novels, does fixate on music which it seems to me, is far more the author's addiction than ever it is the character's. This music will date this novel, so I paid as little attention to it as I did the poetry. The music and the poetry were both overdone and contributed nothing to he story. There was more wisdom came out of Farah's mouth than came out of the mouth of the poets and songwriters featured here!

Shabnam betrayed Farah when her friend chose to start wearing a hijab, but Farah failed to give Shabnam advance warning of her unilateral decision, and this is what caused the rift. Shabnam is embarrassed by Farah's change in habit (as it were!), and Farah feels betrayed by her friend's distancing of herself and her lack of support. They do maintain a prickly contact with each other especially since Farah is the only one Shabnam can turn to over her romance. Farah is often warning her friend about it, but Shabnam won't listen because she claims that Farah doesn't know Jamie like she does. In the end, it turns out that Farah actually knows Jamie better, even though the latter two have never met.

Some reviewers have chastised this novel for its lack of portrayal of Islam accurately, but those reviewers make the blind assumption that everyone practices Islam in exactly the same way and no-one ever makes foolish teenage jokes about aspects of it. I don't know a heck of a lot about Islam, and I am not religious myself. I think it's a serious mistake to blindly put your faith in the scientifically ignorant dictates of relatively primitive people from some two thousand or more years ago, but I do know people, and at least I have the decency to regard practitioners of religion, misguided as they are, as individuals, and not as a monolithic block of clones. Every walk of life and every religion has saints and sinners, and I would be surprised if Islam is somehow fundamentally different given that its practitioners are people just like the rest of us!

One thing which did strike me as odd was the whole hijab issue. My understanding is that it's related to modesty (and in this regard, both men and women are supposed to be modest), so I find it interesting that Farah, who considered wearing it to be pretty much a tenet of her faith, made such a big deal of wearing brightly colored and patterned hujub (the plural of hijab, although most westerners use 'hijabs'). I'm against forcing women to do something which men are never forced to do, but I don't have a lot of time for religion, and especially for rigid and blind religious practices, but that's not my point here.

Note that there is a spectrum of covering for females in the Muslim world from the least which is the hijab, or headscarf as we in the west would call it, to the most, which is the full-body burka. Farah wears only the headscarf and it's that term which is used in this novel for the most part, but the ones she wears are colorful and she also dolls them up as elaborate fashion statements. This whole practice was never discussed other than to mention it, but it occurred to me that this was rather hypocritical in that it can hardly be considered modest to wear such bright colors and to sport designs so elaborate that they can only succeed in drawing more attention to a woman than would otherwise be drawn!

In fact, I'd go further than that, because if the purpose of wearing a hijab is to avoid drawing attention, then wearing a hijab or any such garment in the west fails because it draws more attention! If they were to be rational and consistent (which religion is not, admittedly) then they would wear such things only where the majority wears them, and dispense with them where the majority does not wear them, because this is the only way that they would truly blend in instead of standing out! I know it's not quite that simple, and that modesty and means different things to different people, but in this particular story, Farah seems to be flying in the face of modesty by wearing the things she wears in the style she wears them. This was never raised as an issue, which I felt betrayed the whole point of Farah's choices.

That and the fact that the author doesn't seem to know the difference between tread and trod (the past tense of tread, as in 'take a step', is trod, not treaded, and tread and trod are not interchangeable!) are the only complaints I had about this. Farah was awesome and kick-ass, and I'm tempted to think a whole novel about her (her first year in college would be a great place to stage it) would be a worthy read, but that feeling is tempered by the fact that her power perhaps came from the fact that she was a limited exposure character, and if she had a whole novel to herself it might ruin her(!), unless the writer was me! No I'm kidding, I want to say unless the writer was particularly adept at her craft, which has author seems to be, so maybe it would work. But for now, I thoroughly recommend this as a worthy read and I plan to read more by this author.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chance by Kem Nunn

Rating: WARTY!

This is form an audiobook I got form my library after having watched season one of the TV show which is based on this book and actually follows it pretty closely.

Overall, I though that this was a worthy read, but I have to qualify that by adding that this author is so in love with his own turn of phrase and with repetitive philosophizing that he spoils the story in some places. The worst example of this was during what ought to have been a gripping climax, when the final showdown comes between the corrupt detective and the, let's face it, equally corrupt doctor. In stead of letting the pace pick up and making it exciting, this author slowed it down and went off into endless rambling diversions which caused me to skip pretty much the whole of that section instead of enjoying it as I was hoping to. Kem Nunn does not know how to write a thriller.

I did not like Eldon Chance, the so-called "neuropsychologist" either. That actually is a profession, but to me, the name sounds like it was made up by a writer who didn't know medicine too well! Chance was just as corrupt as the detective who was the villain in this story. As a doctor, Chance sees people to evaluate them for legal purposes: court cases, last will and testament contestations, and so on. When he meets Jaclyn Blackstone, he falls for her - which is to say that he just wants to jump her bones; he doesn't really fall for her in any other way, or at least if he does, it's not apparent from the writing.

The problem is that he's the doctor here, which makes him a quasi-authority figure, so though she is technically is not his patient as it's generally understood, he is in a professional relationship with her and it would be flat-oout wrong to get involved. Worse than this, she is a sick woman. She has multiple personality disorder and it's entirely unethical to take advantage of that and of her vulnerability. That said, it's hardly the "steamy affair" the book blurb extolls. Worse than this in a different way, by becoming involved with her, Chance has undermined any reliability his professional diagnosis might have had should people find out about his behavior. This could actually harm Jaclyn Blackstone.

She's not only vulnerable as a patient; she;'s also the victim of an abusive and somewhat codependent relationship. She's married to, but separated from a detective in the San Francisco PD. As Jaclyn Blackstone, she is afraid and seeking to avoid her husband, but as Jackie Black, she willingly has rough sex with him. When the detective discovers that Chance is hoping for a chance with her, he makes veiled threats.

Here is where I really took a dislike to Chance. Instead of thinking of his family and backing-off, he continues to actively pursue Jaclyn, leaving his young daughter open to retaliation by the detective. At one point he spends a weekend with Jaclyn, with his phone turned off (turning it off and forgetting to recharge it are constants in Chance's life), and when he finally gets back on the air, eh discovers his daughter is in hospital having OD'd. That's the kind of lousy, selfish, absentee father he is. We never see him interact with his daughter except in reaction to something.

Chance is also separated from his wife and they're divorcing. In order to try and raise some money, he sells some antique furniture after having had it tarted-up to look like it's all original, by a guy named Dee (real name darius Pringle, but you'd better never call him darius to his face). Dee is a big tough guy who lies about his military experience, but who nonetheless is a very dangerous man. He and Chance form an awkward friendship and partnership in trying to get one-up on detective Blackstone, but until the climax. it's like everything Chance does is ill-conceinved and doomed to failure.

For me, Jaclyn and Dee were fascinating people, and even detective Blackstone was more engaging than Chance, but we only got to know about them through Chance interactions, as it were. Dee and Jaclyn both have amazing stories to tell but that's not what we got unfortunately. I was sorry about that, but even so, we got enough of them and enough of a decent story for me to rate this a worthy read.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: WORTHY!

This is a free (as opposed to fee!) short story published as a filler between this author's Steelheart, and book two in The Reckoners series, called Firefight. The story features David, aka Steelslayer, one of The Reckoners - the people who fight against the Epics, which are the super-non-heroes. The problem with gaining super-powers in this world is that once you use them, you go bad. No one knows why. The only way to use them and stay good is to gift them to others who can use them in your name.

In this story there is a brief introduction with David and another reckoner buying hotdogs, which is rather boring. I don't get this obsession with hotdogs, so it was meaningless to me. The author should have put it in a prolog so I would have known to ignore it! LOL! David and his friend are heading to the city gates where people are screened as they come into the city. The main reason is to catch people who simply want to start a life of crime in the clunkily-named Newcago, but also so The Reckoners can catch Epics and Epic sympathizers who might be trying to sneak in. Why the Epics wouldn't simply come over the walls goes unexplained.

Anyway, David is suspicious of this one guy who comes in, and he soon discovers this guy can split himself just like 'Multiple Man' in X-Men: The Last Stand, but like Michael Keaton's character in Multiplicity, the more he clones himself, the dumber he becomes. This made no sense. Why would the cloning affect only his brain? Why would it not make his body weaker too? Or his heart? Fortunately for this rating, this was addressed.

Once the guy has split into many clones, he starts yelling the same message from different parts of the city - that he will shoot some passer-by if David doesn't show up. We're told the clones have to rejoin in order for their independent memories of what they did to be re-united, but when David shoots the first of these, all the others immediately come running. How did they know?

It turned out that David's information on the Mitosis - the cloning guy - was partly misinformation and in the end it was due to that, that he was saved. Like I said, short story, but not bad! I consider it a worthy read - and it's free, so what do you have to lose?! I'm currently reading book 2. I'll report on it when I'm done.

Frozen by Jennifer Lee

Rating: WORTHY!

From a story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Shane Morris, and a screenplay by Lee, who also directed this as a movie - the most successful animated film of all time - this book for young children distills the epic movie which I, who am not a big Disney fan, really loved, and brings it to a level where young children can enjoy it at their own level and their own pace. It was read appropriately by Andi Arndt.

When I say read appropriately, I mean that Andi Arndt gets that the voice needs to be a little slower and well-pronounced, and she does a fine job. It felt odd to me at first because the voice sounded rather pedantic, so I had to keep reminding myself that this was for very young children, and it's been a while since I've had those around the house!

I'm not going to go into the story at all because it's the same as in the film, with the same dialog, but without the songs, and it's much shorter, of course. Pretty much everyone knows this film now, whether you have kids or not(!), and if you don't, this is a great way to learn what it's about with your young child and decide if you want to outlay the cash for the actual film. I recommend this as a worthy read (or in this case, listen!).

Sadia by Colleen Nelson

Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

The story is about displaced and immigrant Middle-East young Muslim girls in Canada. Sadia Ahmadi is fifteen years old. She and her family left Syria when her father got a teaching post at a University in Winnipeg, which is the capital city of Manitoba, a Canadian province. Winnipeg sits some seventy miles north of the North Dakota-Minnesota state line. It's cold up there at this time of year! it's 5° Fahrenheit, or minus fifteen Celsius as I write this! The average low in January is minus twenty one! Even in August it doesn't breach eighty (25°C), and it's down to the fifties (12°C) at night. Call me a wuss, but that's way too cold for me! You have to be tough to live in Canada!

By moving when they did, Sadia's family missed the Syrian civil war. Sadia has some mixed feelings about the move and her new homeland, but she gets a real education as to how lucky she is when Amira Nasser, a refugee, ends up at Sadia's school having left everything behind in Syria to escape the not-so-civil war. Now she's in a strange land with different customs and language and she's expected to integrate and learn. Sadia is assigned by her school (Laura Secord High School) to help her get up to speed. Laura Secord is (or was) a real person - a Canadian hero of the 1812 war.

But the story isn't about Amira; neither is it about Sadia's best friend Nazreen Hussani who originally hailed from Egypt. Instead, these two are rather employed to represent the trope angel and the devil sitting on Sadia's shoulders. Amira is very much a traditional Muslim girl. Nazreen is a rebel who removes her hijab and conservative clothing as soon as she gets to school, replacing them only before she leaves to head home. Sadia has issues with this and while she tries to maintain their friendship, she also feels increasing tension, dissent, and distance between herself and Nazreen. She feels pulled between these two extremes, yet tries to find her own path.

The thing which seems to erode the rough edges, and bring all these girls together is basketball. It is Sadia's passion. She has the chance to be on a co-ed team which enters a small tournament. Everything seems to be going great until the finals, when one of the teams objects to Sadia wearing what is a suitable outfit for a strict Muslim girl to play a sport in public, but which the opposing team finds objectionable, and which we're told is contrary to the official rules of the game.

On a point of order, it really isn't. The problem is that there is a slow turn-around time for professional publishing houses - a lag between the author finishing a novel and it being published. I don't know when the author wrote this or how long it was between her signing-off on the finished copy and the publishing date (which is this month) but as it happens, the rules in basketball got changed early last year in Canada to allow religious headwear (with certain restrictions), so I chose to assume that events in this novel took place before that date! Full disclosure here: the publisher, Dundurn, is the largest Canadian-owned publisher, and I am on their auto approved list on Net Galley, for which I am grateful since I tend to like what they publish.

Just as importantly, a young girl named Amina Mohamed of the Dakota Collegiate in Winnipeg came up with a design for headwear that meets both Muslim restrictions and basketball regulations. In the novel, it's Nazreen who comes up with this idea. There's no acknowledgement to Amina, so I'm wondering if this book was locked-down before that item got into the news. Perhaps in future editions, the author can acknowledge Amina Mohamed's accomplishment.

The story itself, though, was well-told and moving. It did bring to the fore the issues Muslims have when trying to live in Western society and stay true to their faith: the restrictions, the difficulties, the prejudices and the outright racism in some cases. I'm not religious at all, so some of these issues struck me as trivial, but that's certainly not how they feel to people who are invested in faith, so I let that go, but what did bother me is that there are deeper issues which the author did not explore. The most outrageous of these is the appalling gender bias that seems to go hand-in-hand with far too many organized religions (and not a few disorganized ones as well, for that matter).

If the purpose of covering a woman's body is to prevent inciting passions, then it seems to me to be doomed from the off, because when a woman is completely covered, doesn't that in a way inflame an embarrassing number of the male half of the population with curiosity and desire to know what's under there? Of course you could argue that no matter how a woman dresses, but this is actually the other half of this problem: while all the pressure is placed upon women to tone down their dress (whether it's Muslim dress or even western dress as it happens), none is placed upon men to tone down their behavior and it was this which the Quran addressed first!

The whole idea of covering a woman up isn't only an insult to the woman, it's also an insult to the men in its implicit assertion that they're so lacking in self-control that women need to be hidden under blankets lest their very appearance cause the men to become serial rapists. That whole idea is absurdist and wrong-headed to me and says far more about the men who promote these ideas than ever it does about the women who have suffered and continue to suffer under this oppressive and cruel patriarchal hegemony.

The Quran is quite explicit in terms of modesty, but this requirement did not so much address clothing as partition between the genders, and it does not apply solely to women! It applies to men, too, yet in this story, we find no issues raised over the boys, only over the girls. I thought this ought to have been delved into a little. What;s good for the goose is worth taking a gander!

Why must girls wear a head covering (which technically is a khimar, 'hijab' having a more general meaning) and not the boys? I think there is some mileage to be had there, especially when telling a story of this nature. On a related, but slightly different topic, one of the things Nazreen did in her little rebellion against conformity was to wear (when she did wear them!) very colorful Khumur (the plural of khimar).

Personally, I have no problem with what women wear (or don't wear!), it's their choice, but I can't help wonder how making a Khimar more attractive meets the stated purpose of the garment in the first place, which as I understand it, is to promote a modest appearance. Isn't it less modest to make yourself stand out? Indeed, in western society, wearing a Khimar in the first place is rare enough that it makes a woman stand out more than if she went bare-headed, so this seems to me to be in conflict with the whole purpose of a head covering if it's to detract from attention! That's all I'm going to say on that topic, although I certainly reserve the right to go into it in some future novel of mine!

On a minor technical issue, and prefacing this by saying that I'm not a basketball fan and I certainly don't pretend to be an expert on rules: as far as I know in regular play, once a basket is sunk, the ball goes to the other team! There's no rebound to be had and you certainly can't try to score again. So when we read that Jillian scored a trhee-pointer and then "Allan grabbed the rebound to shoot again" I had to ask: what rebound? There's no rebound from a sunk basket! And even if there were, you can't just grab the ball and shoot again! The possession devolves to the defending team. I'm thinking that the author was conflating regular play here with taking a free throw during which - if the ball rebounds - a player can grab it and take a shot. But like I said, it's a minor issue and we all manage to let a few of those get by if we're honest!

So in conclusion, the novel felt maybe a little young for high school, but then the students were only on the cusp of the high school experience, so perhaps I'm being too judgmental there. Or maybe just mental! I felt there were some issues with this as I've mentioned, more in the omission than the commission, but overall, the novel was a worthy read and I recommend it, especially for the intended age range.