Helen

Funny, You Don't Look Autistic: A Comedian's Guide to Life on the Spectrum by Michael McCreary

Canadian Michael McCreary introduces himself as a stand-up comedian who is also on the Autism Spectrum

In his book, he explains parts of his life that were important to becoming a comedian. He also explains how his autism spectrum has affected him at different times in his life. He writes very well, and candidly. His first “romance," for example, was pretty embarrassing, in a cringe-worthy way, and exaggerated by language miscues. He narrates what happened to him at different times, and points out how a neurotypical person would not – probably – have made the mistakes he made. I learned the word neurotypical from this book, and a lot about ASD as it relates to the author, which is his stated goal. He has succeeded very well!

This is a really accessible, engaging, often laugh-out-loud funny, but sneakily informative book. To me, it’s a window into his world. For someone on the spectrum, it’s a rare and invaluable literary mirror. Because of this book, I’ve learned a little bit, and am also going to try to see some of his comedy! I highly recommend this book and urge you to make room for it in your library. 

Young Adult Non-Fiction Paperback pr1306363


The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Book 2) by Mackenzi Lee

My favourite books have had swords and all things swashbuckler-y (also dragon-y), since forever. What a delight to start a book, expecting neither, and finding both. Admittedly, the title does have “piracy” right in it - fair, enough...

Our heroine, Felicity Montague, is described as wanting to become a doctor, womanly wiles – blah, blah, blah, so one really doesn’t expect so much action… but, I’m getting ahead of myself. Felicity’s story begins when her employer - to her narrowly suppressed glee – accidentally cuts himself. She’s pleased because the wound requires stitches and she’s been reading voraciously about how to do stitches and wants a chance to practice. (In an anticlimactic side-note, she’s disappointed to find the cut isn’t serious). In her world of the 18th century, women aren’t admitted to medical school and she’s been rebuffed at every turn. Her attempts to enroll lead her to a recently estranged friend’s wedding, where Felicity hopes to meet the groom – a doctor she admires. Her plan of how this meeting might in any way lead to an apprenticeship proves a moot point when her friend, the bride, suddenly flees the morning of the wedding. Felicity follows... and we follow into a WONDERFULLY unpredictable plot.

Felicity’s wit and many of the conversations are extremely quick and funny. All of the characters are engaging and well-drawn, especially Sim, one of said pirates from the title. Sim’s interest in Felicity and Felicity’s disinterest in romance (her asexual nature) add to the suspense of the book, but don’t take away from the dragons. YES! Dragons! We don’t even have time to talk about them. I cannot wait for the third book in this series. I didn't read the first but had no problem in following the plot. Recommend this book to fans of the adult and YA Gail Carriger series, particularly the adult series the Custard Protocol.

Young Adult Fiction
Hardcover pr2183475 
Audiobook pr2759208

 

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

In previous reviews, I compared Rachel Hartman’s first duology - Seraphina and Shadow Scale – to Kristin Cashore’s Graceling. Like Cashore’s Katsa, in Bitterblue, Seraphina is present and integral to plot points and character development in Tess on the Road, but the focus shifts to a younger character, Seraphina’s half-sister. And again, similar to Bitterblue, the book ends as a major sea expedition is setting out, promising wonderful adventure. Like Cashore, Hartman’s writing, world building and narrative are excellent, but there, the similarities end...

We meet Tess as a bossy, scrappy, lippy and generally naughty little girl, evading restrictions enforced against girls and young women. She’s a bad influence on her angelic twin and friends with Pathka - a Quigutl – a small dragon-like creature whose race is tolerated but oppressed in Tess’s regimented society. In adolescence, Tess sneaks to lectures at the university, which leads to a secret romance that destroys her reputation and prospects. Faced with becoming a governess in her sister’s new home or beginning a new life in a nunnery, Tess runs away. On the road, away from other people’s negative expectations, Tess becomes a better self, has fantastic adventures, and together with Pathka tracks down and communes with a mythic creature. The book closes as Tess joins an expedition to track down a second such creature, as governments and dragons begin to compete for control and hegemony of World Serpents.

This book explores, with nuance and clarity, the difference between self-interest and selfishness and what can be the folly of misguided sacrifice for family. I recommend this book to fantasy and science enthusiasts – adults and young adults – to fans of historical and science fiction. I can’t wait for the rest of Tess’s singular adventure.

Young Adult Fiction Hardcover pr1304787

The Serpent’s Secret is the first book in the series Kiranamala and the Kingdom BeyondAru Shah and the End of Time is the first book in the Pandava series. I received an audio book for one of these novels and about a week later the other I’d reserved at my local library became available. I thought it might be helpful to compare them as they both feature similar, but different, diverse characters and stories.

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranamala and the Kingdom Beyond, Book 1) by Sayantani DasGupta

Although these books are both for ages eight to twelve, The Serpent’s Secret is more appropriate for the younger end of this range. The age and maturity of the protagonist depicts this difference, but equally, this book has fewer characters, a less complicated plot, less terrifying adversaries and less overall danger. 

The story begins as our protagonist, Kiran, arrives home to find her parents missing. She’s mulling over a mysterious note from them when a huge, slobbery, monster crashes into her kitchen. It is a rakkhosh, she realizes, from the bedtime folk tales her parents have always told her (Apparently, these folk tales are actually true!). She is immediately saved by two princes on winged horses. Although the monster seems intent on eating the three of them, it is also chanting rhyming threats that are more funny than scary. Our princes are reluctant to kill the monster, and render him unconscious, instead. A quest to find Kiran’s parents ensues into a kingdom in a different dimension...

DasGupta's world building is vivid and imaginative, and peopled with elements from Bengali folk tales. Banter between the princes, Kiran and other characters is often hilarious and always engaging. There are battles and fighting, but rakkhosh rhymes and their copious snot and drool create more slapstick comedy than fear for the reader. The monsters feel harmless rather than menacing. The author also works STEM content into the story, like ideas about dark matter, time, dimensions, etc. Albert Einstein even makes an appearance!  An author’s note relates many of the scenes and characters to part of Bengali Folktales she heard as a child. It is her hope that her ideas might encourage young patrons to read more. I’m looking forward to book two!

Juvenile Fiction 
Hardcover pr1306363
Audio CD pr1306364
 

Aru Shah and the End of Time  (Pandava, Book 1) by Roshani Chokshi

In Aru Shah and the End of Time, by contrast, there is a lot more at stake. Aru inadvertently releases a malevolent spirit from a lamp when she intentionally disobeys her mother – for a dare. When said spirit is free, everyone around Aru freezes. Her mother is frozen in place, the frenemies who dared her, everyone on the street...  She learns that she and Minnie, another tween girl, are Pandava - two reincarnations of five hero brothers born again and again to save the world...

Weighty themes of trust, self-hood and honour define much of the action. The gods of Hindu Mythology are all characters in this story, as well as the mythical creatures they ride. They are extremely interesting and their backstories and interactions enhance the story immensely; but, it is tougher sledding than the world in The Serpent’s Secret. Also, Aru and Minnie are tasked – alone – with completing quests, and eventually confronting the evil spirit before time stops completely and everyone in the world dies.

Rakkhosh demons are among the adversaries confronting Aru and Minnie, but they aren’t funny and they are very scary. Rick Riordon was involved in publishing this book. Readers who enjoy his many series should enjoy this one.

Juvenile Fiction
Hardcover pr1232233 
Large Print pr2078571

 

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