Thursday, May 19, 2016

Mini-reviews: Tales of Accidental Genius and A Tyranny of Petticoats

Simon Van Booy is the beloved author of the novels The Illusion of Separateness and Everything Beautiful Began After. In Tales of Accidental Genius, his second short story collection, he takes readers to the pet store with an old man hoping to help his fish and with a fashion designer on her trip to find inspiration. A couple is torn apart by the wife's alcoholism and infidelity and the final story is a Chinese folktale through the eyes of a film director who wants to make a different kind of movie.

Tales of Accidental Genius will not give you high speed chases or epic battles. Instead, the stories focus on quiet moments of understanding and the melancholy of loneliness. The genius referenced in the title has nothing to do with admission to Mensa or high test scores. Instead, the genius in these stories is the one that comes from kindness, from doing the right thing even when it's difficult or unexpected. So often in literary fiction, we read about darkness and pain and loss. But these tales give us hope that kind people do still exist in the world and that, once in a while, goodness is rewarded.

Tales of Accidental Genius
By Simon Van Booy
Harper Perennial November 2015
272 pages
From my shelves

In A Tyranny of Petticoats, 15 of the best young adult writers bring history alive through the stories of brave, smart young women. In the introduction, editor Jessica Spotswood says that their aim was to bring American history to life. They travel through the Alaskan wilderness in the 18th century, carry out espionage for the Union during the Civil War, and fall in love with a fellow riveter during WWII.

Collections like this one are a perfect way to hook you on new authors. One of my favorites was Leslye Walton's El Destinos, which reimagined the Fates are three young sisters in 1848 Texas. It was such a clever and unique spin on a well-known tale. I also greatly enjoyed Gold in the Roots of the Grass by Marissa Meyer, where a young Chinese women gets more than she bargained for when she tries to speak to spirits in a mining town. Y.S. Lee introduces readers to The Legendary Garrett Girls, sisters who refuse to let a man take over their Alaskan bar. While not every story is equal, I love that this collection is not just populated by white girls and it equally features girls fighting for love and marriage and girls who want nothing to do with it because they have awesome things to do. This is a book I will be happy to share with my daughter in another decade or so!

A Tyranny of Petticoats
Edited by Jessica Spotswood
Candlewick Press March 2016
368 pages
From the library


  1. Your second book is certainly different!

  2. One of these days I will read Simon van Booy. Have you read any of his other books?

    1. Yes, I've read An Illusion of Separateness and Everything Beautiful Began After. I really enjoyed both of them.

  3. A Tyranny of Petticoats sounds like a fast, fun read. History lite. :)

    1. History light sounds about right! Maybe fun history would work too!

  4. I loved everything about A Tyranny of Petticoats - not something I can say about many short story collections - but the ones you highlighted were some of my favorites too! I should definitely look up more books by those authors.

    1. I find YA anthologies really helpful for me. Somehow it seems that there are a million beloved YA authors and I don't know where to start!