Odd one out around here, eh? But I think we can muddle through it.
The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan
Published: March 2nd, 2021 by Atria Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Genre: Adult non-fiction Binding: eARC Page Count: Goodreads says 352 Part of a series? Nah Got via: Simon and Schuster email me periodically telling me about their upcoming books and I go “hey I’d like to read this” and they approve me on NetGalley
Summary (from goodreads): Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck.
But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.
Some of his victims were buried—in pieces—right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.
Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.
Review: This was incredibly engrossing. I’m not the biggest true crime person – like I’m not out there watching every new documentary Netflix drops. I think it’s mostly that I don’t really have the stomach for the real life details, especially when they get graphic. I do, however, like things like BuzzFeed Unsolved and Bailey Sarian’s Murder, Mystery, and Makeup series. But I try not to overdo it because I think that can make you kind of weirdly desensitized and I don’t love that.
This is a very “I’m just dipping my toe in” friendly true crime book. I think the fact that it’s half-memoir makes it a lot easier to take in. You get breaks from reading about a truly awful person and it’s a lot less glorifying, which can be a real stomach-turner. The point of the book isn’t to romanticize Costa – it’s an exploration of something that deeply affected both Liza’s childhood and adult life, and also taking a look at the red flags we ignore from people we care about.
It’s also a really interesting slice of history. The book talks a good amount about what the attitude towards missing girls and young women was in the 60s, mainly that people just didn’t care. It was just a thing that happened and so many people never got answers about lost loved ones.
And I appreciated that the authors did not gloss over how, at best, utterly incompetant, and at worst, incredibly corrupt, the police that handled the investigations into the deaths were. It’s infuriating to read, especially knowing how little things have changed in that aspect.
All in all, while this was really different for me, it was really interesting and it did pique my interest in maybe reading a little more true crime. I’m glad I took a risk on this one, and if you’re at all into true crime, I would definitely recommend it. Or if you’re only, as I said, dipping a toe into true crime, I think this could be a good introduction.
Content notes: Whole lot of rape, murder, some descriptions of dead bodies, child abuse including child sexual assault. Also a bit of unchecked racist language in places but it is a real story from the 60s so. Kind of expected, but now you know going in. I don’t think things are super detailed graphic, but they’re not glossed over either.
What other true crime books do y’all think I should read?
Okay, some clarifying first. For the sake of this thread we’re referring to independent productions, typically made for youtube. Wikipedia sometimes refers to Netflix shows as webseries, but we’ll be treating these as different genres. Also I’ve been watching a lot of video essays lately and I won’t apologize for being wordy here.
(I absolutely will – I’m Canadian.)
I’m not sure how familiar y’all are with early 2010s youtube, but for a while there, webseries based on classic literature were really popular. Specifically, vlog style webseries where one character sits in front of a camera and talks about their life.
Often there would be cameos from other characters, but that wouldn’t generally be the main focus. This, to some extant, reflected 2010s youtube – sitting in front of a camera and talking about your life was a lot of what vlogging was at the time.
“Vlogs” today have become more about a person taking a camera with them as they go about their day, but a lot of early youtube is people sitting and talking about their lives as they were using webcams – often the ones built into their computers/laptops. You didn’t really film your going-abouts with your 20 pound laptop that had an hour and a half battery life and the world’s grainiest camera, yanno?
The episodes of these series were usually quite short, ranging usually between 2 and 10 minutes, and generally aimed at teens and young adults. They also often used other social media like Twitter and Tumblr to further their world-building.
The most well-known of these, though not the first, is probably the Lizzie Bennett Diaries, which ran from 2012-2013. Which honestly I’ve never seen XD But it definitely launched the genre into the mainstream.
I personally really like Carmilla, because, you know, gay and vampires, but I also enjoyed Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party as it’s not actually a traditional vlog style series and also there’s murder. Gary Cook’s Hamlet Monovlogs are a really cool way to approach Shakespeare. I think they’d be a cool thing to talk about in an English class. This genre doesn’t seem to be as popular anymore, but I am quite curious about Frankenstein, MD. Would be down for more murder in webseries tbh
Now, there are actually TWO Anne of Green webseries, Green Gables Fables and Project Green Gables. We’ll be talking about both today! They’re both pretty long so I’m only going to watch a few of the first episodes of both. I am human here lol.
First up, Green Gables Fables!
Green Gables Fables was created by Alicia Whitson, Mandy Harmon, and Marie Trotter. It has two seasons, running from 2014 to 2016, and it was an American/Canadian production.
…I’m pretty sure. It’s a bit hard finding information on this one as most of the team were actual teenagers and internet stalking teenagers is weird and creepy so I didn’t do that! They’re probably in their 20s now, but I still want to respect their privacy and not get on any watchlists.
It is also set in Avonlea, Saskatchewan, instead of PEI, which is cool because I live in Saskatchewan. It was funded through Kickstarter, and it seems like they worked super hard on it, so go them.
I watched 10 episodes of this, but there are about 70 total. 10 seemed like plenty for us all to get a good idea of what this series’ deal is.
The first episode starts with the main character telling us to call her Cordelia. She talks about imagination and stuff for a bit, and complains about not being able to wear pink due to her red hair.
We also find out that she’s a foster kid who’s moved around a lot and had some really crappy homes along the way. She’s recently moved in with her new foster parents Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. And at the and of the episode, we learn this is Anne (obviously).
The second episode reveals Matthew and Marilla didn’t actually want a girl and they plan to send her back. She decides to keep a positive outlook while she’s at Green Gables, though. And we find out some of her backstory. Seriously, these episodes are very short.
Episode three tells us Anne will be staying at Green Gables! And she says, “It’s still a trial run of sorts.” Why do so many adaptations do this??
She states that Matthew and Marilla are “extremely religious’ and expect her to go to church and pay before meals. Not entirely sure how I feel about that take, honestly. It makes them sound a bit more… well, extreme than I ever saw them as.
She also met Mrs Rachel in this episode, and episode four is all about her. Apparently Mrs Rachel and Anne are beefing on Twitter. Which is possibly the best sentence I’ve ever written. This is hilarious. I want to follow Mrs Rachel on Twitter.
However, I hate that Anne calls Rachel “morbidly ob*se”. Like, modern fat-shaming, yay! Honestly that’s more offensive than just saying she’s fat.
This episode reminds me I am glad to be an adult. How do teenagers feel this much emotion and not explode? Also Anne gives Mrs Rachel’s twitter handle but they didn’t make her an account so the @ is just a random person. Which was probably weird for them XD
Episode 5 is Anne’s apology to Mrs Rachel for the previous video. It’s kind of passive aggressive??? It really doesn’t come across as the most sincere thing.
Oh, and apparently Anne listens to Lumineers.
Episode 6 Anne has really pretty hair.
Mrs Rachel has forgiven her, and she’s started school. She insults her English teacher a little, Mr. Phillips, and I love it.
Oh, they’re reading the Turn of the Screw, lol. You may know that story from a little webseries called The Haunting of Bly Manor.
New friends include Jane Andrews, who’s really nice but “so serious”, and Ruby Gillis, who is “absolutely adorable” and very kind. She has also met Josie. “She’s um. Yeah.” Very lol. Still no best friend in Avonlea, but she has a new tumblr friend she’s bonding a lot with. Also, there’s a very rude, conceited boy who she hates – Charlie Sloane! Yeah, remember him from the book? He gets written out of like all the adaptations. So props!
There is also a dance coming up, and all the other girls are talking about some boy they called Gilbert, who’s been visiting family in Toronto. Anne doesn’t have high hopes about him.
Episode 7 is the brooch episode. Marilla apparently thinks Anne is planning to hock it. That’s an interesting choice. The school dance is functioning as the church picnic in this, also.
Also she gets a phone call from a “Diana”!
And in Episode 8, we get to meet this Diana Barry!
Diana is Anne’s tumblr friend! Who lives in Regina, not Avonlea, “over an hour away”. Also, they say Regina the correct way. Americans never do XD They are really cute. They’re so excited to be meeting but it’s just a hair awkward, as you’d expect.
Brooch resolution – Anne gave her false confession, Marilla banned her from the dance, and then found it in the laundry basket. Dance was fun, Anne had fun dancing with Charlie Sloane, etc. Diana and Anne continue to be cute. Anne almost falls off the bed at one point which I don’t think was planned, but they roll with it and it’s funny.
Episode 9 is about bad flirting tecniques. They include winking at strange girls, distracting girls in Chemistry, poking girls with pencils, flirting with Ruby Gillis instead, cheesy pickup lines, and calling girls “Carrots”. Guess who this video is about??
So Anne smashed a locker whiteboard over his head. Or as she says it, “I bent a magenetic lockerboard over Gilbert Blythe’s head.”
He did apologize but Anne think he was faking it. “I shall never speak of Gilbert Blythe again.” So episode 10 is all just Anne complaining about Gilbert and Chemistry class.
And that’s the 10 episodes I watched! It’s cute! Is it my favourite thing ever? Not really. But it is a whole lot better than the animated series XD I still haven’t fully recovered from that. You have to enjoy a very specific style of vlogging, one more from the mid-2010s. If that’s not your thing, you may find this a bit boring.
But it’s very impressive considering the creators’ ages, and budget and location constraints. I believe the lead actress as Anne and what I saw of Diana seemed good, too. I don’t know that I’ll watch more myself, but it’s cool. Check it out yourself if you thought anything I’ve said sounded interesting!
And on to our other web-series! This one is Project Green Gables!
Project Green Gables was created by Laura Ekland Nghaga (who also plays Anne) and Janika Vikman. This series also apparently adapts Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island as well, so we’ll be coming back to it after those books!
For now, though, I again watched the first 10 episodes. This series is Finnish, while still being set in PEI, so everyone in Canada just has a Finnish accent now. Suddenly I am much more exciting!
Don’t worry, PGG, you’re in… company… with the English dub of the anime where everyone was British. It’s not good company but it’s there. (For real, though, it’s not an issue. Just amusing to me.)
So, meet our Anne for this series!
Anne is again a foster kid, but it’s not actually because her parents have died, it’s because they’re “crappy”. I really like this actress, also. She’s really enjoyable to watch and I like her take on Anne.
In this one, Anne is played by a Black actress and her hair situation is changed from red hair to natural hair. Obviously it’s not my place to say how this is handled, but I think it’s a cool idea!
She talks about her interests a bit, especially old books and beautiful things like nature and paintings. Marilla gave her the camera she’s vlogging with as a creative outlet and I like that. Also Anne Shirley being a Disney fan makes SO MUCH SENSE.
Episode 2! Right away, we get a different form of video. This is a house tour as Anne’s narration plays over the footage. It’s really cool and I like the choice here. We see a bit of our Green Gables for this series and honestly I’m impressed considering they’re probably working with their literal homes. I imagine they didn’t just randomly creep up to a neighbour’s house, yanno?
There’s lots of nature shots and some great straight from the book material in the narration. This whole episode is really, really well made. We also learn Anne has been living with Matthew and Marilla for a little bit since they decided to foster her.
Episode 3 is based on the prayer chaper and I kind of love it. It’s handled so well. They definitely understood both the humour of it, and the sincerity. Marilla and Matthew are both still quite religious, but Anne says, “Marilla told me right from the beginning that she doesn’t expect me to believe” which is one of many ways I really like how this series depicts Marilla. She does hope Anne will choose to attend church with them, as that’s something they do as a family. Awww, honestly.
“The whole ‘being part of a family’ thing would probably make me perform Satanistic rituals if that’s what it would take,” Anne says. I both lol and aw at that.
So Anne’s cool with atending church and also is probably going to check out the church youth group. Basically Anne’s faith is very open and questioning and she settles on calling herself agnostic. I really like the handling of this. Very true to book and the character, but modern.
Episode 4 changes Mrs Rachel’s comments about Anne’s hair to saying she should have a weave instead of wearing her hair natural. Mrs Rachel is also a Black woman in this, for context. I’m not sure about Marilla and Matthew – it didn’t come up in these episodes, but I got the feeling they were probably white.
Obviously Anne is angry and rightfully so! She insulted Mrs Rachel right back (with NO weight comments, nice to see that). Marilla grounds her to her room until she’s ready to apologize and Anne is absolutely fine with that… for a bit. Not long later, she’s feeling bad – while she still says what Mrs Rachel said was absolutely wrong, she feels bad for embarassing Marilla.
Cut to after her talk with Matthew, and she decides to apologize. You never see any of the adults in this, but Anne’s dialogue about them builds their characters well.
Episode 5 surprised me because it adapts the chapter where Anne goes to church for the first time and makes herself a flower crown. This is the first time I’ve seen this in an adaptation! The anime might do it, but I didn’t get to that point.
It also introduces the reoccuring thing of Anne using little sketches to act out conversations she had off-camera. It’s very clever and creative.
She also randomly makes Mrs Rachel Southern? Like US American Southern? Which in universe she’s very much not, and even Anne is not sure why she made that choice. It’s utterly hilarious.
Also, Marilla got Anne some new clothes but… you know, buying teen girl clothes is hard. Anne would really like a strapless dress, or at least pretty clothes. Marilla is VERY anti-strapless dresses, of course.
Episode 6 introduces one Diana Barry! Who is amusingly a redhead herself.
They’ve already become fast friends. This Diana is a lot of fun – she’s got a quick sense of humour, and their interactions are great. And they swear to be friends forever while VERY dramatic music plays. It’s funny and cute.
Episode 7 is the first one with some bigger changes. One, the church picnic is now a house party at Charlie Sloane’s place. Two, it’s not a brooch that goes missing. It’s prescription medication – pain medication being the idea I got, though it’s not stated. Anne’s confession/lie is that she spilled them down the sink by accident (she never touched them) and it even brings up possible drug testing. It’s a big change, but I don’t mind it at all. It’s a little more dramatic, but I don’t have an issue.
I also never got the impression that Marilla was looking to punish Anne exactly – she is responsible for Anne’s health and if she’s struggling with addiction, Marilla kinda needs to know that so she can help her.
However I will say at the point I still don’t know if Marilla is white or not, so it might be a white woman accusing a Black teen of stealing prescription meds which obviously could be triggering for some people. But I am not trying to criticize this, as one of the creators IS a Black woman, so like, we can kind of trust her to talk about racism, lol, just putting that out as a warning. And moving on before I dig myself into a hole of awkward…
Marilla actually spilled the bottle in her good purse and didn’t realize until she went to use it. She apologizes and Anne easily forgives her.
Party time in episode 8! And it’s an on-the-scene vlog which is an interesting choice of words my past self chose. They took the camera to the party, is what I mean. Anne and Diana are hiding in Charlie Sloane’s bathroom.
And speak of the devil! Never seen you before, Charlie Sloane. Anne is thrilled, too, clearly.
I saw someone point out that it’s really obvious when people are drinking out of empty cups and now I can’t unsee it. Everyon in this has suuuper empty cups. This is Ruby! This scene is edited very quick-paced, which looks great but is hard to screencap! (Sorry for that pause, Diana.)
Episode 9 is Anne talking about school! She’s a bit behind from all the moving around, but she really likes school. She loves learning.
This is possibly my favourite change so far – Anne basically calls Mr. Phillips a perv. Okay, she says “a bit creepy” at first, but as she describes him creeping on Prissy Andrews, she calls him out hard. I love it XD
Almost everyone at school loves Anne, which is really nice to see. They keep in the line about someone saying Anne’s nose is pretty which I think is really cool with the context of Anne being Black. They also keep in Charlie Sloane liking Anne and Anne being SO not into his goggley eyes. And the Pyes are all sisters now which is HILARIOUS. Very fun episode.
Last episode for now has Anne doing a Draw Your Life video. Remember those??
This is a creative way to give us Anne’s backstory. I really like it. It’s fun and changes things up form just desk-vlogs, and videos like this really make Anne’s youtube channel look like a real teenager’s channel, with video trends and such.
Oh, and Diana is apparently helping because she draws better. So, Anne’s life.
Like I said, the only real major change is that Anne’s parents aren’t dead. (Well, her father is also named Jedediah but whatever.) Her mom wasn’t around much as she was in prison and her father had substance abuse and gambling problems.
Her parents aren’t demonized for any of this or anything, which I think is nice So, she went into foster care at five. Then the Thomases and the Hammonds and the orphanage. No real changes besides a bit of modernization. I really like this handling of her backstory.
So that’s all for the episodes I watched but I do want to mention something else. I was only going to watch 5 of each series, but after the first 5 of these, I did a bit of research on it and realized I needed to watch more BECAUSE ANNE IS QUEER IN THIS. I don’t know a lot of details because I don’t want to spoil myself too much, but I watched a video from the creators and it’s canon. AND! It makes Anne/Diana canon in at least some way. (Again, spoilers.)
Like I was sold on this before, but that gets me even more on board. I’m very intrigued by this series in general and I’ve liked what I’ve seen a lot.
I also read a tumblr post from Laura about how her grandmother read Anne to her as a child and how she grew up with Montgomery’s work and how it influenced her and you can absolutely see that love.
Both writers also bring their unique lived experiences to the table (Janika is queer) and I think seeing Anne updated in this way is so cool. They fit perfectly, and it really makes it unique amongst this rather large media group.
I would absolutely recommend this one and plan to watch more!
Overall, this was fun! The nostalgic look back on literature based webseries was fun, and I really liked Project Green Gables. AND WE GOT OUR FIRST EXPLICITLY QUEER ANNE.
“Book to YouTube Adaptations.” IDEA, ideaexchange.org/reading/idea/book-youtube-adaptations.
Summary (from goodreads): Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.
But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.
The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.
The part where I talk: I deeply need this. This sounds so freaking good and I kind of just want to sit there and pet the cove. AND there’s ace rep. This book sounds so, so good and I want it so bad.
If you’re new around here, Things I’ve Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn’t have enough to say for a full review, or just didn’t want to do a full post about for whatever reason.
“Okay” (The Wicked + The Divine, volume 9) by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson (Contributor), and Clayton Cowles
Published: October 8th, 2019 by Image Comics Genre: Comics Binding: Paperback Page Count: Goodreads says 168 Part of a series? This collects issues #40-45 and ends the series. Got via: The library
Summary (from goodreads): After five years, we reach the final volume. We go not gentle into that good night, but go driving a converted tank, covered in glitter and spangles, with a soundsystem audible from Mars blaring nothing but bangers. Gods, pop stars, an ending. We’ll miss you.
Thoughts: This is a really good end of the series. Obviously when you’re talking about the 9th book in a series and the 40-45th issues, you can’t really say much without going into major spoiler territory, but I think this wraps the series up well. It’s a very satisfying ending, with some sad moments, and it feels well earned. Maybe a bit sudden, but I like how things end.
Also they redeemed themselves when it comes to Dio and that’s all I’m saying about that. But I’m happy and I forgive them.
Overall, I would recommend this series if you like more “adult” comics and you’re okay with a bit of gore and blood. It has its ups and downs but any series does, and I think it pull through the low points well, and the art has always been truly gorgeous.
My Best Friend’s Squirrel (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, volume 8) by Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Rico Renzi
Published: July 18th, 2018 by Marvel Genre: Comic Binding: Paperback Page Count: Goodreads says 136 Part of a series? This collects The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl issues 27-31 Got via: The library
Summary (from goodreads): Journey to the Forbidden Pla-nut! When Nancy and Tippy find themselves on an alien world where all is not what it seems, Squirrel Girl must find a way to get to the other side of the universe to save them. And fast! Intergalactic transport through the cosmic realm? This sounds like a job for the Sorcerer Supreme! Doctor Strange will be only too happy to…wait, what’s that? Doctor Strange is gone and now Loki is Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme? Oh. Well, I’m sure he’ll do his best. After all, what could possibly go wrong? Be here as everything possible goes wrong!
Thoughts: Well, this was delightful as always. Really, just a blast. This also contains an absolutely delightful issue focusing on Doreen and Nancy’s friendship that I loved. All in all, it’s a very funny set of issues and I had a blast reading them.
Also they call Loki genderfluid in this which is always a nice touch, since, you know, he is.
Here There Be Dragonflies (Skyward, volume 2) by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela
Published: March 5th, 2019 by Image Comics Genre: Comics Binding: Paperback Page Count: Goodreads says 104 Part of a series? This collects Skyward issues 6-10 Got via: The libary
Summary (from goodreads): Now a fugitive, Willa leaves Chicago and goes on the run! But when she takes refuge with some low-G farmers, she stumbles into a plot to attack the city. Oh, and on top of all that: giant, man-eating bugs! Maybe we should have led with that.
Thoughts: The idea of this continues to be very interesting, but there’s a lot of things left unexplored and the thing I complained from the last book, that I don’t understand how muscle mass works in this world, continues to be an issue. They introduce an incredibly bulky, muscular character who also complains about how rich people are fat. How does that work??? How do you gain SIGNFICANT muscle mass?
And where even are the fat people? Because I have seen like none. I don’t get it.
The plot in this one also seemed really predictable. I’ve seen so many movies/TV show with this exact plot.
I did like the giant bugs, though, and I’m generally really don’t like bugs. But it’s a cool idea.
Published: September 22nd, 2020 by Image Comics Genre: Comics Binding: Paperback Page Count: 136 Part of a series? This collects Moonstruck issues Got via: The library
Summary (from goodreads): Spring comes to the supernatural town of Blitheton, which can only mean one thing: It’s time for the annual mermaid festival! Werewolf barista Julie meets one of her girlfriend Selena’s friends, but as per usual, things take a turn for the worst. Why does everything seem to go wrong for Julie and Selena? Is the universe conspiring against them, or is it something more sinister? More importantly, will their relationship survive once it starts taking on water?
Thoughts: I love this series. It’s so cute and queer and fat positive. Julie wears an outfit in this that I basically own in different colours XD That’s really amusing to me. I love how soft everything is in these, the illustration style, the colouring. It’s so pretty.
This also has a hilarious subplot that isn’t a huge part of the volume but is really funny to notice as you read the main plot. Would seriously recommend this series.
Summary (from goodreads): Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public.
Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…
The part where I talk: Someone on goodreads said this was Dark Academia and I think the kids are into that now? I do tend to like those moodboards on Tumblr, though I think my general vibe is a little more cottagecore. I embroider!
Now that I’ve gotten very off topic, this sounds really interesting. I like the whole blackmail plot thing, and the aesthetic seems great. Very interested in it!
Summary (from goodreads): When Nozomi Nagai pictured the ideal summer romance, a fake one wasn’t what she had in mind.
That was before she met the perfect girl. Willow is gorgeous, glamorous, and…heartbroken? And when she enlists Nozomi to pose as her new girlfriend to make her ex jealous, Nozomi is a willing volunteer.
Because Nozomi has a master plan of her own: one to show Willow she’s better than a stand-in, and turn their fauxmance into something real. But as the lies pile up, it’s not long before Nozomi’s schemes take a turn toward disaster…and maybe a chance at love she didn’t plan for.
The part where I talk: It’s fake dating and it sounds cuuuuuute.
And now for a middle grade moment!
Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz
Release date: June 1st, 2021
Summary (from goodreads): When twelve-year-old Maddie’s older brother vanishes from his college campus, her carefully ordered world falls apart. Nothing will fill the void of her beloved oldest sibling. Meanwhile Maddie’s older sister reacts by staying out late, and her parents are always distracted by the search for Strum. Drowning in grief and confusion, the family’s musical household falls silent.
Though Maddie is the youngest, she knows Strum better than anyone. He used to confide in her, sharing his fears about the climate crisis and their planet’s future. So, Maddie starts looking for clues: Was Strum unhappy? Were the arguments with their dad getting worse? Or could his disappearance have something to do with those endangered butterflies he loved . . .
Scared and on her own, Maddie picks up the pieces of her family’s fractured lives. Maybe her parents aren’t who she thought they were. Maybe her nervous thoughts and compulsive counting mean she needs help. And maybe finding Strum won’t solve everything–but she knows he’s out there, and she has to try.
The part where I talk: This is a really interesting idea to explore from a middle grade perspective. I think this is a more common theme in YA, but not as much in middle grade, and I think it could be really interesting to read.
If you’re new around here, Things I’ve Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn’t have enough to say for a full review, or just didn’t want to do a full post about for whatever reason.
This week it’s because that box of books in my bedroom is really getting annoying and I need to make a dent in it.
The Stonewalkers by Vivien Alcock
Published: December 1987 by Lions, a division of William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd. Genre: MG Fantasy Binding: Paperback Page Count: 142 Part of a series? Nope Got via: Library reject
Summary (from goodreads): The statue smiled, its calm and beautiful face white against the black sky. Poppy was gripped with fear. Both were so white and motionless it was difficult to tell which girl was made of stone.
What began for Poppy Brown as a tall story turns into an eerie adventure as the statue comes to life during that menacing storm.
Thoughts: This wasn’t half bad! It’s a cool premise, and I like the author’s writing style. I read that other book by this other, the Haunting of Cassie Palmer, and I would like to check out more from the auther if I ever came across them.
Also I swear some little British child read this, completely forgot about it, and then came up with the Weeping Angels on Doctor Who. An angel statue even comes to life in this!
I’ll be keeping this one since it goes with the other book by the author I own, and I do like it.
Content notes: There’s some mildly spooky moments but nothing extreme.
So Young to Die by Candice F. Ransom
Published: August 1st, 1993 by Scholastic Genre: Biography Binding: Paperback Page Count: 152 Part of a series? Nope Got via: A garage or thrift sale of some kind
Summary (from goodreads): Hannah Senesh was born in 1921 in Hungary. She grew up while Hitler’s influence was spreading across Europe. Twenty-three years later, she was executed by the Nazis for her role in a top-secret Allied mission. But in her brief lifetime, Hannah Senesh was a hero.
Bright, ambitious, and hardworking, Senesh was loved by all who knew her. In 1939, at the age of 18, she left her om in Budapest and went to Palestine. There she joined in the struggle for a Jewish homeland.
But she yearned to do more. And so in 1943, she was accepted by the British Air Force to be part of one of the most courageous rescue attempts of World War II – parachuting back into enemy territory to rescue Allie pilots and Jews, including her mother.
This is the story of a daring, brave young woman.
Thoughts: I don’t think this was a very good biography. She was a very interesting person and it’s an interesting bit of history that I don’t think is very well known for a lot of us outside of Hungary/who don’t know much about Hungary, but I don’t think it’s particularly well done. I would have rather have read her actual diaries and writings. They include some excerpts of her writing and they were the most interesting parts of the book.
It’s also just not that well written. It’s inconsistent and honestly it just felt like reading the Wikipedia article more than anything? There’s a lot of summarizing.
I wouldn’t recommend this one, but I do think the story is interesting and I’d recommend reading more about her.
Going to the Sun by Jean Craighead George
Published: Sometime in 1976, with edition being from Harper Trophy probably in 1977 Genre: Contemporary (at the time) YA Binding: Paperback Page Count: 132 Part of a series? Nope Got via: Library reject
Summary (from goodreads): Marcus and Melissa, secretly married, go to live in the high mountains of Montana, where Marcus is studying the mountain goats for the wildlife research station. His father, a hunter, hopes Marcus will show him where the goats are, so he can hunt them in the fall.
The young couple track the goats and through Melissa’s charts and Marcus’s notebooks they begin to see that the goats have no natural predators except the mountains, and their unnatural enemy is man. Marcus goes down the mountain to tell his father that the goats must not be hunted. He and Melissa expect to be temporarily apart, but a misunderstanding between them leads to tragedy.
Thoughts: Boy this was a lot. A 15 year old and 17 year old get married and run away up a mountain to watch goats. Which, by the way, I love how it’s his job and he’s the only one getting paid, but she’s doing at least fifty percent of the work if not more.
This book suffers from the problem of Marcus being its main character and Marcus being incredibly annoying and dull. Look, if the book had been about Melissa, who has SOME idea what she’s doing, knowledge about plants, passion, it would have been interesting. Marcus is not interesting and the romance is ridiculously boring. I have absolutely no reason to be interested in these two people being together and frankly when he yelled at her for thinking about college, I was glad she could get an anulment because she hadn’t legally been old enough to get married. (Yeah.)
Also like they never talk about sex? I know it’s the time period but that’s something that people tend to talk about before getting married. Are they using birth control or was it just sheer luck Melissa didn’t get pregnant?
This book was so dull I fell asleep in the middle of writing the review of this. Not keeping it, would not recommend it.
Representation: There’s some sketchy Native American representation that I’m sure is not very good if we’re judging by other books by the author. There’s just hardly any of those characters in the book so it skates by more because of that.
Content notes: Lots of talk about animal death.
Coast to Coast by Betsy Byars
Published: Originally released in 1992, this edition came out in 1994 from Yearling Books Genre: Contemporary MG Binding: Paperback Page Count: 164 Part of a series? Nope Got via: Library reject
Summary (from goodreads): Birch’s grandfather has always wanted to fly all the way across the United States in his antique Piper Club. But now that Birch’s grandmother has died and he’s moving into a retirement community, he’s decided to sell the plane. As Birch and her mother help him pack up the house, Birch knows that his spirits as well as his time are running out. He’s just not the same old Pop.
Much to Birch’s surprise, it’s easy to convince Pop to take off on a short trip on the spur of the moment. Now Birch wonders how hard it can be to talk him into making the big on and taking her along.
Thoughts: This wasn’t particularly interesting either. I found Birch incredibly annoying as a narrator – she never stops talking but also never seems to, like, think about things? She just talks constantly. Her grandfather seems to be as annoyed by her as I was because half the time when she talks he ignores her. He doesn’t seem to actually care about anything she says.
There’s also no conflict whatsoever. There’s no stakes about them maybe not making it or anything bad that happens. Birch does go on a date with a 16 year old while being a 13 year old, though, and her grandfather let’s her, so that’s cool and not creepy at all.
This was really just a lot of nothing. I like Betsy Byars but this was not her best book at all. Not going to be keeping this one, either.
Content notes: It talks about infant death a couple times.
Wow, three out of four are not such great numbers! Though it is good for the sake of my bookshelves. I made some room at least.
This posts going to be a little different as the state of musicals means I don’t have access to a lot of what I’ll be talking about.
Hence why today, we’re talking more about Anne and musicals in general than any one specific one.
To start, let’s talk about what I’m calling, for clarity’s sake, the Charlottetown Festival musical.
The Charlottetown Festival is a yearly music festival that has been running since 1965. The Anne of Green Gables Musical debuted the same year and is Canada’s longest running musical. It’s also recognized by Guiness as the world’s longest running annual musical.
It’s, um. Also one of the world’s ONLY annual musicals. But we won’t let that stop us from bragging about it because it’s still cool!
Fun fact, the musical was originally made for TV, with two versions airing on the CBC in 1956 and 1958 respectively. Then the Charlottetown Festvival commissioned the writers to expand it into a full musical in 1965. Allegedly, according to the Toronto Daily Star, the actor playing Gilbert attempted to portray him as… Elvis Presley.
I. Don’t know where to go with that. I can’t verify this since you can’t access the Star’s archive unless you live in Toronto, but. Wow.
And apparently footage of this does still exist, or did as of a 1996 CBC documentary. CBC, release the tapes!!! I wish to see Elvis!Gilbert. Where’s those lost media people when you need them.
And I guess the 1958 version made some change and it was not as well received.
Anyways, the Charlottetown Fesival has also had independent productions in London (England, not Ontario), Toronto, Regina and the US including off-Broadway in New York. The musical toured several times across Canada, played in New York and had a VERY successful run in Japan as mentioned in the anime thread.
In October 2020, the Charlottetown Festival released a 40 minute special on Youtube which is going to be what I’m working with for the rest of the thread. Not going to full recap this, but I will give you my thoughts.
First, they show a clip of the musical, where Anne and Matthew meet at Bright River, and it looks great. It’s really beautifully shot.
Then we go to Green Gables Heritage Place and get a brief tour, which is super cool, followed by a live performance of a song from the musical by an artist called Meaghen Blanchard. I don’t really know her, but she actually played Anne for 4 years as a summer job in Cavendish. That’s neat.
The song is really nice, also.
Another musical clp and it looks so good??? Everyone seems great and the costumes look so good.
The actress playing Anne is kind of hilaious.
Finally, they show a clip of a song in the musical! It’s Anne’s apology as a song and it’s very fiting of Anne. She’s super hammy.
And that’s about all they show. It’s still really cool to watch and I want to see the whole show even more. There’s a lot of love in this, clearly.
The full cast recording is available on Spotify and to purchase but I’m not a person who can just listen to a musical. I need visuals, at least the first time.
You know who is though???? Luce! So I forced them into it!
Luce likes musicals a lot so they took a listen and they were not blown away. I think, honestly, this one is a lot more fun live, but it’s also not the most exciting musical ever. And obviously the 2020 season was cancelled due to covid, and there isn’t news about 2021 yet.
Confederation Centre of the Arts? Might I suggest selling copies of the musical or streaming it? I can’t pay for a trip to PEI but I could pay for a movie! It looks like y’all are doing more stuff online and I support this so much! Also, if this sounds cool to you, may I suggest a donation to the centre itself? They seem really cool, and I’m sure they’re struggling right now.
So as mentioned, there have been several Japanese shows, I believe. It’s a bit harder to find information on this because I cannot read or speak Japanese and google translate only goes to far, but here’s what I got. In addition to the Canadian show touring Japan, I’m pretty sure around the 80s there was a separate Japanese show. It was mentioned very briefly in an article I saw.
I did find this clip, but I’m not sure of what show or year it’s from.
I think the show ran for quite some time, too? But again, not a lot of information. It may be that there have just been several versions of it. Doing my best here, I swear.
But I do know that the current one by ST Company has been running since around 2000. Its 2020 tour also got cancelled due to coronavirus.
Also their website is adorable.
There are some Anne-related videos on their youtube, like this:
And that’s about all I’ve got for that one, lol.
The Guild in Charlottetown hosts one called “Anne and Gilbert” WHICH YOU CAN ACTUALLY WATCH ONLINE FOR LIKE 9 BUCKS. But it’s based on the sequels so we’ll have to come back to that.
I am intrigued, though.
There was also that one I mentioned in the mini-series thread, the off-Broadway one in New York from 2006, which was let’s say… poorly received. Not made by Canadians, and they hadn’t read the book before being asked to create it. This is the one that was warned not to sell merchandise, and did not ask the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority about making anything.
Yeah, don’t do that, basically.
It did not do well. The New York Times describes a kid in the audience GROANING IN DISGUST when Anne and Gilbert kiss at the end.
Side note: I love this child.
Recently, there has also been “Anne of Green Gables: A New Folk Rock Musical” which I can only find a short clip of and a tiny interview with one of the creators. It’s not my cup of tea, but they seem to respect it a whole, whole lot more than the 2006 one.
The last one I have to talk about today is the ARIEL Theatrical version because they’re the only ones who have a full recorded version so I actually can. And it’s free on youtube!
So ARIEL Theatrical is a non-profit children’s theatre from California and the quality of the video on youtube is, um. Not great.
It’s a children’s theatre. There are like four adults and everyone else is a literal child. This show is the definition of “trying their best”. So I’m obviously not going to rag on them because tha would just be mean. Obviously they have next to no budget and it’s literally a non-profit for kids. I’m not a monster.
But there are things here I think they do really well, and I’d like to mention them.
Obviously for a musical you have to condense things but they hit all the major plot beats to feel like a satisfying Anne story. It feels complete when you finish. I also think things generally look pretty good. The sets are simple but they do a lot with what they have.
They do basically the Peter Pan thing of having an older actress play Anne, and just asking you to roll with it that she’s totally 12, but the Charlottetown musical does that too. You don’t really have that much choice, lol.
It wouldn’t work to change actresses halfway through the show as Anne aged. And this actress is really good. I like her Anne.
Anne, Matthew, Marilla, and Mrs Rachel all look great. I particularly like Mrs. Rachel.
They also do this fun thing where cast members walk in the aisles of the theatre and do short little songs or speaking scenes to move the plot along. It’s fun because honestly that kind of gossip in a small town is very accurate. And it’s a fun way to do exposition without having a full-on narrator.
I am going to criticize this since it’s an adult – I think Matthew talks too much. Just feels weird for him to have so much dialogue.
I really liked the scene after the one where Anne won’t eat because she’s upset – Marilla brings her a bedtime snack so she doesn’t go to bed hungry. It is both practical and very sweet. I also really like the set piece for Anne’s bedroom. It’s really cute, and I like that they actually walk up there.
They aadd a GREAT line about Anne pretending at the orphanage to be a Queen of Naples during a famine. It implies to me something I’ve always believed, that Anne has a history of not getting enough to eat.
This actress also nails the prayer scene. The way she delivers the lines is so funny. Honestly if you watch nothing else, go watch it. I will honestly be comparing all others to this now XD
The actresses playing Anne and Diana have really good chemistry and I enjoyed their scenes a lot. They have a really cute song about being friends.
The slate smashing scene is also really fun. I don’t think it’s a prop slate so it doesn’t break hitting Gilbert which honestly makes it look more painful. It kinda bounces off his head and looks like she didn’t realize how hard she hit him. Quite amusing tbh
They also add a scene of Gilbert coming to see Anne at Green Gables to apologize. He brings her a new slate and interacts with Marilla and it’s awkward and cute.
It’s a nice way to expand on his character a little so you actually believe they like each other. And it’s HILARIOUS.
Gilbert: “It’s a slate.”
Anne: “I know what it is AND I KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.”
Yep, she straight up threatens to hit him again. Now that’s the Anne spirit! This Anne is ready to throw down at all times and it’s really, really funny.
They do even include Diana getting drunk and it’s quite amusing.
I also like that they show Anne hanging out with a bunch of girls without Diana when they’re not allowed to see eac other. She is a popular girl. They almost make Diana more of the lonely one in this, and that’s an interesting idea.
Oh, fun thing, Mrs Rachel does get to make Anne’s dress in this! They combine the Christmas dress with her White Sands concert/white organdy dress, but we’re pressed for time here so whatever. We can’t be here all day.
Gilbert sees Anne before the concert, sees how nervous she is, and basically goads her out of her stage fright. He starts by trying to reassure her it’ll be fine but it doesn’t get through her nerves so he goes, “I should have known you couldn’t do it, Carrots.”
Anne is very mature about this, obviously, and is basically like “FUCK YOU GILBERT BLYTHE.”
And her outrage carries her through the performance.
The ending with Gilbert giving Anne the school and Anne finding out from Mrs Rachel is right book accurate and really cute to see. It’s so sweet.
They meet and they’re both really excited to see each other. It really captures Anne seeing Gilbert in a whole new light.
Now, the fun stuff – let’s talk quickly about fashion.
Clearly they’re mostly using stock “old-timey” costumes. Are they the most accurate thing? No. But whatever, it gets the job done.
I really like this shot of the church picnic clothes, though. Anne just looks a little more drab than Diana and Mrs Barry. The clothes are fine, but they aren’t bright and pretty – which is the point. Well done.
Also I like these two outfits Anne has. It’s a really good contrast from the begnning of the show to the end.
#LainaWatchesAnne And this shot of the store is cool. The two dresses on display are really quite neat.
I’m pretty sure in the White Sands concert scene, they’re using 80s wedding and prom dresses and honestly that’s pretty darn clever. There are similiarities in the silhouettes and it’s a way to get the puffed sleeves!
Obviously it’s not a perfect 1890s evening gown, but it gets the idea across and I like their resourcefulness of using what they have access to.
I truly do think this is a really clever way to get across the idea of the 1890s fashion when you clearly have such a budget limitation. It’s creative and clever.
All in all, this is a very small show made by a group of people, most of whom are children. It’s not perfect and it won’t blow your mind, but. Let me show you something cool. Like I said, the performers go into the audience sometimes during this. So, you keep seeing this kid.
There’s two in this particular spot and they’re both SO engrossed. This is really for them, and not in a bad way. It’s not talking down to them or anything, but it is FOR kids in every sense of the way.
I probably wouldn’t watch it again, but I am glad I did. This is clearly more of a labour of love than the New York one.
And I would honestly recommend it. It’s on youtube for free, it’s cute, and some of the moments are hilarious
Musical thoughts overall is that Anne musicals are fun and I REALLY want the Charlottetown musical to be released online lol. If you’re ever in PEI when it’s playing, please go see it for me.
“Anne of Green Gables (1956 Film).” Anne of Green Gables Wiki, anneofgreengables.fandom.com/wiki/Anne_of_Green_Gables_(1956_film).
“Anne of Green Gables–The Musical™.” Confederation Centre of the Arts, confederationcentre.com/whats-on/anne-of-green-gables/.
Denise MénardOrford, Emily-Jane, and Denise Ménard. “Anne of Green Gables, The Musical™.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, 28 Feb. 2012, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/anne-of-green-gables-the-musicaltrade-emc.
Summary (from goodreads): Skylar’s got ambitious #goals. And if she wants them to come true, she has to get to work now. (At least she thinks so…) Step one in her epic plan is showing everyone that her latest app is brilliant. To do that, she’s going to use it win State at the Scholastic Exposition, the nerdiest academic competition around.
First, she’ll need a team, and Skylar’s not always so good with people. But she’ll do whatever it takes to put one together … even if it means playing Cupid for her teammates Joey and Zane, at Joey’s request. When things get off to an awkward start for them, Skylar finds herself stepping in to help Joey. Anything to keep her on the team. Only, Skylar seems to be making everything more complicated. Especially when she realizes she might be falling for Zane, which was not a #goal. Can Skylar figure out her feelings, prove her app’s potential to the world, and win State without losing her friends–or is her path to greatness over before it begins?
The part where I talk: This sounds so good and the cover is so cute. The main character is also apparently demisexual and gets migraines and I’m really excited about both those things. A fat ace character? I am DOWN.
And, to my actual shock, I have two books with fat main characters to talk about this week. So we’re having a double day today!
A Sisterhood of Secret Ambitions by Sheena Boekweg
Release date: June 1st, 2021
Summary (from goodreads): Behind every powerful man is a trained woman, and behind every trained woman is the Society. It started with tea parties and matchmaking, but is now a countrywide secret. Gossips pass messages in recipes, Spinsters train to fight, and women work together to grant safety to abused women and children. The Society is more than oaths—it is sisterhood and purpose.
In 1926, seventeen-year-old Elsie is dropped off in a new city with four other teenage girls. All of them have trained together since childhood to become the Wife of a powerful man. But when they learn that their next target is earmarked to become President, their mission becomes more than just an assignment; this is a chance at the most powerful position in the Society. All they have to do is make one man fall in love with them first.
The part where I talk: A historical mystery secret society book with a fat protagonist???? And somebody’s ace in this one too????? This week is amazing! I’m so excited.
Tell me about what you’re looking forward to this week!
Looky a very late review! 2021’s been a lot. We’re not apologizing for being human this year.
The Good Girls by Claire Eliza Bartlett
Published: December 1st, 2020 by HarperTeen Genre: YA Thriller Binding: eARC Page Count: Goodreads says 368 Part of a series? Nope Got via: Edelweiss
Summary (from goodreads):The troublemaker. The overachiever. The cheer captain. The dead girl.
Like every high school in America, Jefferson-Lorne High contains all of the above.
After the shocking murder of senior Emma Baines, three of her classmates are at the top of the suspect list: Claude, the notorious partier; Avery, the head cheerleader; and Gwen, the would-be valedictorian.
Everyone has a label, whether they like it or not–and Emma was always known as a good girl. But appearances are never what they seem. And the truth behind what really happened to Emma may just be lying in plain sight. As long-buried secrets come to light, the clock is ticking to find Emma’s killer–before another good girl goes down.
Review: Just as an FYI this book deals heavily with sexual assault. I’m still including my content warning section, but I’m going to address it in the review itself as well, so I just wanted to put this as a heads up so if you need to skip this one, you know here.
This was really good, though. It has a super interesting style. The book alternates between third person and first person, and uses police interviews, diary entries, and newspaper articles/blog posts. That’s really hard to do well, but I think the author did a great job with it. It really increases the tension when you know that literally none of the characters are safe just because they had a first person POV.
As I said up top, this book deals heavily with sexual assault and specifically rape culture, addressing some of the many reasons that victims of rape and sexual assault don’t come forward, and how they’re not believed even when they do. It’s handled really well, in my opinion. Obviously it’s going to be a really serious subject no matter how you look at it, but the choices the author makes in how to talk about and depict those things work well. It’s not overly graphic, while still being blunt and not glossing over things, but I think that can make it more accessible to a lot of people who could struggle with very graphic depictions of this kind of thing. I think that’s a good balance.
The book uses a fictional media case that’s clearly based on similar real-life cases like the US Supreme Court justice who was accused of sexual assault – I think I have to say alleged to avoid being sued, so there, I said alleged – as a framing device to explore how the characters are affected by rape culture in the world outside their school. It’s a great way to show the different viewpoints of the main characters’ parents and how some of their reactions contribute to none of the girls coming forward.
I do think this lacks a bit of acknowledgement that girls are not the only ones affected by sexual assault, and it’s pretty cis-centric in particular, and the book doesn’t spend a lot of time addressing that all the girls are white. It addresses that some of them are more likely to be believed than others because of some privileges, like class, or because people would blame their assaults on their past behaviour if they had active sex lives or had gotten into trouble before, but it didn’t ever really address how they would be even less likely to be believed if they were Black or brown. May 5th in Canada and the US is the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls as well as Red Dress Day and I would suggest doing further reading about that.
This works great as a thriller, though. It’s nice to see genre fiction that addresses issues like this, honestly. They don’t exist in a bubble where those things don’t happen somehow, or treat it as not actually that big of a deal like a lot of adult thrillers do. Like a lot of adult thrillers I read, even ones written by women, just kind of brush that kind of thing off. Like of course your antagonist sexually assaults people, we don’t need to actually give depth to that. It’s just how this kind of thing works. This is a really nice antithesis to that type of thing, showing that no, it matters, and it shouldn’t be brushed off. It’s also refreshing to see a book, especially a thriller, acknowledge that actually the police aren’t very good at their jobs sometimes.
I don’t think everyone out there is going to connect with this because the writing is a little different from a lot of books, but I liked it and would recommend it. It’s blunt, and I liked that bluntness. I would recommend this one for sure.
Representation: Avery is bisexual, and Gwen is gay.
Content notes: Avery deals with some bimisia and both girls deal with social stigma and worry about family. Avery’s family and friends in particular are pretty shitty about it. Avery’s mom also portrays traits of disordered eating that Avery is both forced into (her mom WEIGHS HER every morning) and does herself (restricting her own food).
The book talks a lot about sexual assault, rape, and rape culture, and some is depictured on page as it happens, but it’s mostly talked about having happened in the past and the way it affects people. There’s also attempted murder and an actual murder is framed as a suicide.