Monday, January 8, 2018

Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens

*Dress Codes for Small Towns* starts with the night that Billie McCaffrey and her best friends accidentally burn down the church youth room. That sentence leads you to think some things about Billie and her friends, and those thoughts would probably be inaccurate. Preacher's kid Billie has a good relationship with God, a strained relationship with her dad, a rocky relationship with the church people, and a confusing relationship with her friends.

Billie's friend Janie Lee might be in love with their other friend Woods, which is confusing because Billie might also be in love with Woods...or with Janie Lee. Or maybe Davey? She really isn't sure. But she's pretty sure what the church people think of her.

She might be wrong.

All the stereotypes of small-town Kentucky that you've ever seen in books are not in this book--at least, not the way you've seen them before. The characters are dimensional and lovely, and almost nobody does what you think they might do. And yet, the story makes sense, beautifully, from beginning to end.  I was especially pleased that, in this book, "church" and "belief" and "religion" are not weapons used to clobber non-conforming kids.  May it be ever so in the real world.

This may be the best book I've read in 2017.  Highly recommended for readers ages 12 to adult. Some kissing and cussing on the page. Also some praying, some square dancing, a broken bone, and Batman.

Thursday, January 4, 2018


Wintersong  by S. Jae-Jones

Liesl's grandmother makes sure that all the children in the family know the stories of the Goblin King: of his changelings, his love for bright human things, and the danger of letting the fae folk too close.  And yet, when Liesl's sister is taken away Underground, she doesn't hesitate to offer herself as a hostage instead.

Gradually, the grim existence of life under the fairy mound begins to wear down even the toughest of humans--they lose their sense of song, of taste, and gradually fade away as the goblins drain them of their humanity.  But Liesl is different...isn't she?

Some reviewers have compared this to the 1986 movie "Labyrinth" but of course the story of humans taken away underground by supernatural forces is older than Persephone herself.  Students of folklore will detect faint traces of Thomas the Rhymer, Tam Lin, and even Rip Van Winkle, and each portion of the story is preceded with stanzas from Rossetti's "Goblin Market."   

The pacing is steady, with excellent character development for Liesl and her family, and also a nice amount of detail developing the various fae folk, especially the Goblin King--who, despite his grounding in world folklore, probably looks a lot like David Bowie.

Minor cussing, some blood, violence, some sexual situations.  Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult.  This is first in a series but stands alone.