Only Fallow was just six harvests old when she realized that not everyone sees lies. For Only, seeing lies is as beautiful as looking through a kaleidoscope, but telling them is as painful as gnawing on cut glass. Only’s family warns her to keep her cunning hidden, but secrets are seldom content to stay secret.
When word of Only’s ability makes its way to the King, she’s plucked from her home at the orchard and brought to the castle at Bellskeep. There she learns that the kingdom is plagued by traitors, and that her task is to help the King distinguish between friend and foe. But being able to see lies doesn’t necessarily mean that others aren’t able to disguise their dishonesty with cunnings of their own.
I don’t normally read a whole lot of middle grade. Even as a middle grader the genre annoyed me. Writers (or the people who buy the books) often look down upon middle grade audiences; oversimplifying everything, and giving the main character a voice that would better suit a small child rather than a pre-teen. Even with books like Artemis Fowl and the Bartimaeus Triliogy out there that have both challenging material as well as fiercely intelligent protagonists, many people assume that just because a middle grade novel is intelligent, it’ll loose its target audience.
This may sound like an unfair generalization, but I’ve experienced it firsthand. A few years ago, my mother wrote an excellent time traveling middle grade novel with an intelligent protagonist. Mel wasn’t unrealistic, in fact she sounded like many 12 year olds I’ve met. However, she constantly faced criticism from publishers on “Mel’s voice being too mature ”and the plot “too complex”. While these are all fair opinions, the middle school beta readers tended to disagree. They were avid readers who were all able to comprehend the book easily. This book, like the Artemis Fowl Series, was designed to appeal to intelligent and voracious readers, however, especially due to the new shape and attitudes of the publishing world, those in the industry were reluctant to venture out of the middle grade comfort zone. Perhaps this is due to a stigma about middle grade readers. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that more middle grade books are bought by the parents of readers than YA novels, and edgy material might not sell well. Whatever the reason, it drives me bananas.
Just because a reader is young doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be challenged.
More and more I find kids who, having outgrown the middle grade genre in elementary school, are now looking for books in the Young Adult sections. Middle Grade is being dumbed down, and avid middle school readers find themselves stuck between rock and a hard place. Read something basic, in which the main character makes stupid mistakes and your intelligence is insulted, or go above your reading level and get a good story… riddled with sex and violence and other age inappropriate topics. I don’t know about the average fifth grader, but I hated those sex scenes in books. Why were they even necessary? It was so gross.
Middle graders should have the option of intelligent books whos content is suitable to the life experiences of pre-teens. More and more young people are getting turned off from the genre because authors or publishers are too unwilling to take a risk. Yet in both the YA genre as well as books targeted towards adults, there are intelligent books for intelligent people. It is simply assumed that, while there is a market for novels like Once Upon a Kiss, or Twilight, there is also a market for more complex novels. Why shouldn’t middle grade be the same?
So why am I bringing this up now?
I’m bringing the topic of intelligent middle grade books up now because, just recently I read one. I am a YA reviewer, with occasional forays into adult books. However, I think it is important to acknowledge these less mainstream middle grade novels that struggle into the world despite criticism and complaint, if only for those poor middle schoolers who are tired of frantically skimming of yet another sex scene in order to read a book on their level. I want to promote these books whenever I find them, for both the kids as well as those authors and publishers who are trying to decide whether to take a risk.
Please feel free to share your comments below. While I’ve seen this issue crop up among middle grade audiences for years, it is just an opinion. I’d love to hear your observations!
Read my upcoming review of Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty for more middle grade musings.
Nate was eight the first time he stabbed someone; he was eleven when he earned his red laces—a prize for spilling blood for “the cause.” And he was fourteen when he murdered his father (and the leader of The Fort, a notorious white supremacist compound) in self-defense, landing in a treatment center while the state searched for his next of kin. Now, in the custody of an uncle he never knew existed, who wants nothing to do with him, Nate just wants to disappear.
Then he meets Brandon, a person The Fort conditioned Nate to despise on sight. But Brandon’s also the first person to treat him like a human instead of a monster. Brandon could never understand Nate’s dark past, so Nate keeps quiet. And it works for a while. But all too soon, Nate’s worlds crash together, and he must decide between his own survival and standing for what’s right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if society will never be able to forgive him for his sins.
Devils Within is my kind of book; potentially controversial and mind-bending. I enjoyed it in large part because the main character isn’t safely sympathetic, his problems superficial. No, our protagonist, Nathaniel, just got out of the KKK like hate cult he had been raised in by murdering his father, the leader. Sound a bit far fetched? This book is loosely based on very true, very messed up events. More on that later.
Devils Within follows Nate as he struggles to adjust to a world with diversity and little violence. He’s a good guy, and the author tries very hard to balance out his unintentionally racist remarks with sympathy and understanding. After all, how would Nate know the proper word to call someone of Asian decent in a creepy hate cult? He wouldn’t! And here in lies the part of this book that bothered me.
Hello everyone, and welcome to my new site! If you are getting this post via email, congratulations, you survived my terrifyingly incompetent and lengthy follower transition process. Hooray! If you, like several WordPress.com followers and all of my site hits, have been lost in the complicated and confusing maelstrom of cyber chaos when I switched hosting providers, you won’t be seeing this post. I’m so very sorry for the loss. Your life may never be the same.
Anyway, the posting hiatus is now over, my site has been (mostly) set back up, and we are back in business.
If there were two pieces of valuable wisdom I’ve learned from this whole horrifying experience that I can impart on you it’s this:
1. WordPress.com makes it so unnecessarily difficult to switch hosting providers. You may loose data in the attempt. So do it now or forever hold your peace.
2. Only sign up with a hosting provider that has an option on their phone help line to turn off the waiting music. You will be on there for a total of several hours and the ability to turn off that tinny torture will save both your sanity and your eardrums.
That’s it! Enjoy the new layout and, if any of you WordPress bloggers out there have any questions about doing the same, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.
Do you ever find yourself bored to death and in need of non-crappy book to read? Well look no further. Here are some books to try out if you find yourself in need of a thought provoking novel, or a simple, enjoyable YA. Feel free to post any good recommendations of your own!
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.
Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?
Sarah Rees Brennan’s Tell the Wind and Fire is loosely based on A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. In her world there are two versions of New York. Light new York, a place of wealth and beauty, where the light magicians and their relatives live, and Dark New York, where the dark magicians reside. However, Light New York is reliant on Dark New York to survive, as, without the Dark Magicians, the Light magicians would die.
Hello readers, and welcome to another day of random fact blog posts. So far we’ve covered archery and cooking. So, following this trend, today will be about genetics! (Just kidding, there is no logic, life is anarchy). Today, we will be learning how to understand your own DNA, some facts about the human genome, and how to destroy the world with some time and a $300 Crispr kit!
Hear me out. Genetics are literally the source code of alllife as we know it. And yet, some people know absolutely nothing about what makes them tick!
Okay. We will start at the basics. DNA.
DNA is the stuff that tells your body what proteins to produce and basically dictate how your body works. The entirety of the coding part of DNA is made up of four nucleotides that we call T,C,A, and G. Sort of like binary. Four different amino acids may not sound like enough options to code for all life as we know it, but human beings have three billion pairs of these in our genome. That allows for a lot of variation. Trust me.
On a side note, those fun little $75 ancestry DNA tests that are all the craze nowadays (I did them, they are really cool) only sequence about 900,000 base pairs depending on the test, so don’t put too much stock in the results when it comes to diseases. Many illnesses are influenced by many different genes, so just because one might say you are 2x more likely to get diabetes doesn’t mean that’s necessarily true, as you could have five other genes that state the opposite. If you really want to know, get your whole genome sequenced or go home. The price is really affordable now. It’s gone from $3 billion to a few thousand dollars in just the fifteen years since the first human genome was sequenced! That’s quite a reduced rate!
Back to understanding DNA. You have three billion base pairs in your genome. This means that you have three billion base pairs of DNA in each cell. Crazy right? That’s the equivalent of 700mb of data stored in each human cell, or roughly 70 Zetabytes of data in the human body. That’s nuts. That is more than the entirety of data used by human beings. More than every movie, every website, every image and secret government AI ever created in the history of the digital age. In one human body. Insane.
As a side note, as the entire human genome can fit in 700 mb, all of what makes you you can be stored on a CD. Hilarious. Of course, most genomes are so similar, we could probably compress it down a lot further than that, but why? A CD costs next to nothing at Best Buy .
Alright, now we’re going to discuss Autosomal dominant and recessive traits. Autosomal simply refers to DNA not inherited from the sex chromosomes.
So, each human has two sets of chromosomes, one inherited from the mother, one from the father. When you have a child, you only pass down one of your two chromosomes to your kids. It’s (mostly) random. This means that if you have a gene on one chromosome, say, for an extra finger, and one chromosome without that gene, you have a 50/50 shot of passing on that gene to your kid. If the child gets the gene from you, and a normal one from his father, and gains an extra finger, the trait is dominant. If the kid gets the gene from you, a healthy gene from his father, and only has five fingers, then the trait is recessive, meaning both genes need to have the same mutation to express it. Most diseases are recessive, as if you had a dominant disease in prehistoric times, you often didn’t survive to child bearing age, whereas if the disease is recessive, you could carry the mutated gene and pass it on without showing symptoms due to your other, healthy gene.
However, some autosomal dominant diseases, such as Huntington’s, do exist today. These diseases are often particularly horrible as many people don’t know they have it until after having kids and having a 50/50 chance of passing it on to them.
Now inheritance is usually a little more complicated than this. There usually isn’t a “blue eyed gene” or a “smooth skin gene”. Many genes factor into having one trait, and untangling them all is often confusing. In addition, recently scientists have begun to understand the effects the environment has on influencing what genes get expressed in your genome.
There was actually this really cool study done on twins where the genomes of two identical young twins were compared with the genomes of two old identical twins. It turns out that the older identical twins actually had fairly different genes being expressed, despite being genetically identical at birth, due to differences in what they ate, where they lived, ect. This is how one identical twin could be more likely to get cancer, or go bald a little earlier.
This environmental effect on gene expression actually explains a lot about why we can’t just insert a gene into someone and know the outcome, or why a person with a lower genetic likelihood of cancer might still get cancer.
However, despite all these crazy factors influencing our genes, scientists are getting closer and closer to cracking the human genome. In fact, there is a crazy cool new project being implemented where scientists are collecting one million human genomes through volunteers to help solve this mystery once and for all. I’m going to sign up. And no, I’m not afraid of government subsidized cloning, or insurance companies getting hold of my DNA because let’s be honest here, all it takes is a single skin cell to know your entire genetic makeup. In ten years, DNA tests will probably be so cheap, any Joe Shmo could pluck one of your hairs and get it sequenced for the price of a meal.
So that’s the basics of genetics. We are only going to discuss one more really freaking awesome and slightly terrifying thing today and that is the idea of gene drives.
“What’s a gene drive?” you ask, as you’re not totally bored yet by my rambling. Well, remember how I said that the mommy and the daddy each pass down one gene? So if the mother has a gene for, say, invisibility and one for laser eyes, the child could get either one? Well, gene drives allow you to play God in that you can choose which gene will always be passed down. So you can design it so that invisibility will be passed down to all the kids, and all the kids’ kids, and so on forever until every person on the planet has invisibility. This is wicked crazy.
How a gene drive works is a little too complicated for a random fact post on a book blog, but let me grossly oversimplify it. Basically, scientists take, say, a mosquito and alter one of its genes with CRISPER/Cas9 (a cool new technology that lets us edit DNA). This new gene has whatever we insert in, plus a little segment that instructs the “normal” gene in the other chromosome to be cut out. So, after the normal gene is gut out, the broken chromosome needs to repair itself, and does so using the second, altered chromosome as a template, thereby copying the altered gene. As the mosquito has little nasty mosquito babies, the gene gets passed down to them, altering the other, healthy chromosome. Now, with two altered chromosomes, that trait is 100% likely to be passed down to the next generation. And on. And on
So think about it for a minute. If we were to use a gene drive to make all female mosquitoes infertile, the gene would rapidly spread via the males until every female mosquito is dead, and the entire mosquito population becomes extinct. I’ve also heard it hypothesized that with the rate of reproduction, rendering an entire mosquito species extinct by releasing a handful of altered mosquitoes would only take a few years. That’s it. A few years and a 300 dollar CRISPR kit to wipe out humanity’s #1 killer (other then other humans). Isn’t life insane?
So yes, genetics is terrifying, and complex, and it’s easy to shy away from it and not want to know or give anyone your genetic information, or use this technology on plants or animals. And you have a very valid point. However, for better or worse the genie is already out of the bottle, so if you really want to save this planet from humanity’s mistakes, make all research go through very public, government approved processes and pass preemptive legislation. Banning GMO’s and burying your head in the sand is more harmful than it is helpful. We all have a responsibility in this new age of unprecedented technological advancement to use our new tools with caution and respect, and the best way to make that happen is to educate yourself and encourage transparency. So let’s do it!
The cover of The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton is Barbie Dreamhouse pink, with sparkles and roses adorning the cover. Inside is a map of the fictional island setting, beautifully detailed in hot pink and white. On the front of the cover is a beautiful girl (although her eyebrows are a little scary) in fancy dress with a sultry expression. Okay, so I can’t say I’m a fan of the girl’s look on the cover, but, overall, I believe that this cover perfectly reflects the tone of the novel. It’s ornate, and so, so pink, enough to make me slightly uncomfortable picking up the book. Yet this was one of the factors that drew me to the novel, the sheer audacity of all that hot pink in anything but a middle grade novel about popularity and hot crushes. Yet, in a YA that professed to be about the dark side of beauty, the cover, and its choice to be so glaringly, overwhelmingly pink and flowery felt almost like a dare.
So I gave The Belles a read. And kept reading. I finished this book in less than a day, all 434 pages. It was flowery. It was ornate. And it was dark.
I received this book from the author. This is my honest review. Thank you to the author for letting read your work!
I am huge Percy Jackson fan. To be honest, I have not read the books, only watched the movies. When I was given the chance to read and review Bridge of The Gods, I was excited. The book blurb lead me to believe it would be similar to Percy Jackson. The only thing in common was the use of Greek mythology.
Luthor McAlester is a teenage boy living in San Diego, California. His father died when he was a child. Leaving him to become man of the house, living with his mother and younger sister. On his 18th birthday he discovers a power that has been held dormant until now. He is unsure what to do with it in the absence of this father’s guidance. His best friend Gwen, who claims to be oblivious, knows more than she is telling. Can Luther figure out how to use his power and help the Gods like they ask with just the help of his best friend? Or will the lack of guidance from his father prove to be more than young Luthor can handle?
*The Bridge of The Gods* was an awesome read. The author loosely uses Greek mythology to tell a wonderful coming of age story. Our MC, Luther, has no idea that he has special abilities until he turns 18. Then, he is approached by Zeus to help the major and minor gods. They face devastation if Luther can’t help them.
The story is a fun. Luther and his best friend run into all kinds of danger and meet lots of cool gods along the way. My favorite is Apollo. He tries hard to be smooth with the ladies but dead down inside he is a sweetheart.
There are a few twists to the story but it ends well. I can’t tell you more than that without revealing any spoilers. 😀
Tank and I give this a 3 paw rating.
I enjoyed it but it didn’t keep me up at night reading it.
Read more reviews like this one here: https://girlwithagoodbookandherdog.blogspot.com/