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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book Review: A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

Silas Walker does a presentation about former Major League Baseball player Glenn Burke for his sixth grade class, complete (thanks to assistance from his best friend), sound effects and extra drama. Glenn Burke invented the high five in 1977. That blew my mind. (And it's really true!) The high five was invented after I was born. seems like it would have been centuries older, right? And it's wild that it was at a baseball game, so it's documented to the exact time and place.

What Silas doesn't tell his class or his baseball teammates is he has another reason he was researching Glenn Burke and is a huge fan--Glenn Burke was openly gay to his teammates. No, not to the general public, and yes, a coach asked him if he would get married just for show (he declined rather vociferously) and he was pretty quickly fired from baseball, despite being an excellent all-around player, which is rare.

You see, Silas is pretty sure he's gay. He's scared about it. He's scared to tell anyone, even his best friend, even his coach. But he sees how Glenn Burke dealt with it, in the 1970s. How he stood up for who he is. How he was discriminated against and run out of baseball. He sees a role model--and also a cautionary tale.

So Silas worries. He goes to school and he goes to baseball, and he's his usual fun-loving, exuberant, over-the-top self, but at the same time he's also always scared in the background. How will he be able to come to terms with this? His fear is making him lose part of who he is. Can he be strong like Glenn? Can he be himself, and be happy?

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Farrar Straus and Giroux BYR, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Book Review: Articulated Restraint by Mary Robinette Kowal

This is a short story that takes place during the action of The Calculating Stars. Ruby, a different astronette, has twisted her ankle the previous night in a dancing competition--something she does to try to retain one single "normal" thing from before the meteorite struck. An emergency has happened on the moon, and she is called in to work in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab immediately to try to work the problem. If they can't figure this out, people--some of them her friends--will die. So she grits her teeth and ignores the pain as she works and works and works the problem.

I love when Kowal gives us the perspectives of others in the astronaut program in this series. Different personalities and different backgrounds lend to different outcomes, and I feel like I could stay in this world forever, as she explores different people's experiences and decisions. Even a short story is beloved because I got to be in this world just a few minutes more.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Book Review: The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President by Jill Wine-Banks

Jill was one of the prosecutors in the Watergate trials. She worked on Ehrlichman, Magruder, Dean, all the men made famous by All the President's Men. She was the loan woman attorney involved in the case, and often the only woman in any room at that time. She was a tough prosecutor, having come from working Mob cases, but she was often sidelined and daily faced rampant sexism and misogyny.

But she stuck to the job. It was grueling work with horrible hours and not great working conditions. She was in her early 30s and still felt she was proving herself. It also helped as a distraction from her terrible marriage to work herself to exhaustion.

Throughout this book we see the inevitable parallels between what happened in 1973-74 and today, with the manipulation, threats, power plays, and truly despicable abuse of the office of the President. With the benefit of hindsight, Nixon doesn't seem as bad as he once did, and this play-by-play within the context of the time helps remind us that his behavior, and that of the men under him, was truly reprehensible. It as also interesting for me to hear for the first time about people like Rose Mary, Nixon's personal secretary, who probably played as active a role in the cover-up as the men mentioned above, but was never even considered as a co-conspirator because of her sex (even by Jill!)

This is a fast read, and a worthy reminder of the past which we seem to be doomed to repeat.

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Book Review: Go to Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons from the Fog of New Parenthood by Lucy Knisley

I don't have kids. But I am the oldest child, my youngest sibling, my half-brother, is 12 years younger than me, and he slept in my room until he was four. I got up in the middle of the night with him scores of time, and taught him how to climb out of his crib before he could walk. I also was a nanny in college for infant twins. I am very good with babies. So this lovely, sweet, occasionally distracted memoir in cartoons about being a brand-new mother still managed to speak to me despite my lack of child. Lucy's exhaustion, pain, hunger, and LOVE all come through with a few strokes of the pen. Made me appreciate mothers everywhere, and also so glad I'm not one myself.

THE most perfect baby shower gift ever.

This book is published by First Second, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Book Review: The Other Bennet Sister: A Novel by Janice Hadlow

Most people I know who read Jane Austen just detest Mary Bennet, the unlikable, prudish, judgmental middle sister from Pride & Prejudice. However I've always felt a little bad for her. Even in a large family, she's obviously cast out, with no allies to get her through their somewhat difficult life out in the rural countryside with nothing to do, no real prospects for her, and a highly uncertain future. It's lovely of Ms. Hadlow to imagine a different future for Mary than most of us do.

The book begins a bit before the appearance of Mr. Bingley and his party, and near the beginning of the book Mary, having learned that books are her only friend, is struggling to see well, and she talks her mother into letting her see an oculist, who makes a pair of spectacles for her--of which Mrs. Bennet is horrified. The oculist's son, who is learning the trade, actually seems interested in Mary and this gives a frisson of hope right up front, which sets a hopeful and positive tone for the whole book, even when things seems bleak.

The Pride & Prejudice plot is set into motion and we see some scenes from the book from Mary's eyes instead of Lizzy's, which does turn things a bit on their head. We also see that the much-older Charlotte Lucas is both a source of advice and frustration to Mary, who is following in her old maid footsteps, and may also one day have to hope for a Mr. Collins to come along. So when Charlotte seems to swoop in and snatch Mr. Collins right out from under Mary, it's a blow to her already minuscule self-esteem.

Then the book jumps ahead. The Bingleys are married, the Darcys are married, and Mr. Bennet has died. Mr. Collins has taken over Longborne, and horrifyingly Mary is the last single daughter, doomed to spend her days not only at the charity of her sisters, but with their mother at her constant side. After unfortunate stays with both the Bingleys and Darcys, Mary is desperate to escape, and finds solace and a welcome home in London with her Aunt and Uncle, who previously had hosted both Jane and Lizzy.

With some advice from her Aunt, a lot of self-reflection, and a couple of handsome young men who see much more potential in Mary than her relatives back home ever did, Mary starts to blossom. She'll never be the great beauty that Jane is or the life of the party that Lydia is, but she's herself--just better--when she's no longer hounded and disapproved of and insulted all the livelong day. And will she find love? Is this an Austen pastiche? Is the sky blue?

This book is published by Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Book Review: Chirp by Kate Messner

Mia has moved back to Vermont from Boston. It's the beginning of summer which is not the best time to make new friends but her grandmother lives in town, and her mother makes her sign up for a couple of summer camps. Everyone assumes she'll sign up for gymnastics camp. But she's's done with gymnastics. After breaking her arm badly last year, requiring surgery, she's finished. Plus, there was her creepy assistant coach she'd rather forget.

So instead she signs up for a Makers camp that's participating in a Shark Tank-type of entrepreneur competition at the end of summer, and on the spur of the moment, an American Gladiator camp that she immediately regrets. Plus she'll be helping her grandmother with her cricket farm! Mia will have plenty to keep her busy.

Everything soon ties together. The entrepreneur project she decides to work on is her grandmother's company. And at the gladiator camp, while she can't do most of the activities which she's either too weak for, or which remind her too much of gymnastics, she does work on strengthening her arm. Even if all she's doing is hanging from a bar for 10 seconds, she's still building muscle and growing stronger. Soon she figures out her grandmother's cricket farm is being vandalized and having too many weird problems to be coincidences--it must be sabotage! Inspired by old classic teen mystery novels, she and her new friends investigate.

There's a lot going on here, but it absolutely does all come together, and the constant action keeps the story moving forward briskly. The mystery element kept me guessing for a while. I liked her new friends. You can probably already guess that her old assistant coach in Boston is a Problem. He didn't abuse her, but he made her very uncomfortable, and he was inappropriate. There's also a boy in the Makers camp who's a creep and a future lech, but over the course of the novel, multiple people, mostly his peers, call him out on his behavior and put him in his place, and by the end he's started to see he can behave better and then the other kids will like him more. The other kids are very diverse (which, given this is set in Vermont, which is in actuality the whitest state in the country, isn't very realistic, but I still appreciate the effort). And the cricket farm was a fascinating thing I was unfamiliar with and really appreciated learning about, even if I'm never, ever going to eat a cricket. But good for others who do! It's a great protein source and really good for the environment.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This book is published by Bloomsbury, which is distributed by Macmillan, my employer.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Month in Review: January

The Month in Review meme is hosted by Nicole at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

I note the non-Macmillan books in this post with a star.

Books completed this month:
Austen Years: A Memoir in Five Novels by Rachel Cohen
Stealing Mt. Rushmore by Daphne Kalmar
Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America's Fast-Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler (audiobook)
Once Upon a Time I Lived on Mars: Space, Exploration, and Life on Earth by Kate Greene
This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi
One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway -- and Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad, translated by Sarah Death
Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman (audiobook)
Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness by Catherine Cho
Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam*

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton
Check, Please!, Book 2: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu

What I acquired this month (non-work books):
Off to a good start with none! Read a lot of magazines on flights this month though.