Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Librarian Life-March So Far.....

This month has been extremely busy for me at work which has meant not so much on the reading front.  I am still slowly progressing through A Dance With Dragons and hope to finish it soon.  What has kept me so busy?  Well, yesterday we launched a seed library at the library branch I manage.  It is the culmination of almost 5 months worth of work and we are the first location in the county to launch one.  I am so excited to offer this to our library patrons and also really proud of the staff at my branch who banded together and worked their butts off
to make this happen.

Also since March is reading month, we've been partnering with the local schools in a variety of ways.  We've hosted multiple classrooms at the library for book talks which means I have read/skimmed over more middle grade books in the past month than I've probably touched since I was that age.  This coming week we have one more class visiting and then we will be at parent teacher conferences issuing library cards.  We are fortunate to have an awesome Friends of the Library group who has agreed to sponsor a pizza party for the class that achieves the largest percentage of library card sign ups this month.  I am continually amazed that our staff of 3 people (of which I am the only full time person), can make all this happen in addition to all of our regularly scheduled programming. 

Books on the TBR I hope to finish this month:

A Dance with Dragons (Have mercy George R.R. Martin with these massive books!)

Secondborn by Amy A. Bartol (discovered this one while doing book ordering for the month)

Authority by Jeff Vandermeer (2nd book in Southern Reach Trilogy. The first was Annihilation which is the movie that just came out starring Natalie Portman-thoughts on the book coming soon...).

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (next book club selection)

And a few nerdy librarian books I am reading to see if I want to buy them for us to use at my branch:

  • Adults Just Wanna Have Fun: Programs for Emerging Adults by Audrey Barbakoff
  • The Handbook of Storytime Programs by Judy Freeman
  • 1,000 Fingerplays and Action Rhymes: A Sourcebook by Barbara A. Scott
And now I'm off to tackle some of that pile in addition to the books pictured above which I am reading for the 4th grade class we're doing book talks with this week.  I'll leave you with a few pics of our repurposed card catalog which houses our seed library. :)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin

The Song of Ice and Fire series is the only time I have ever watched a TV series based on the books without reading the books first.  I love Game of Thrones and couldn't see myself slogging through five 1,000+ page books before I allowed myself to give in and see what the fuss was about.  Surprisingly, none of the books have felt like I was laboring through them-until this one.  Originally George R. R. Martin had intended books 4 and 5 to be one book but when he realized how massive that story had become he decided to split them into two different novels whose story lines ran parallel to each other.  Feast for Crows follows the characters in the South (King's Landing and the war in Westeros and Dorne mainly).  The 5th book follows the northern story line (the wall, beyond-the-wall, and Daenerys across the narrow sea).  Sadly that means that book four is almost completely lacking in some favorite characters (Tyrion, Dany, Jon Snow).

As this book is geographically divided it focuses a lot on the war in Westeros, Brienne's search for Sansa, and Cersei's scheming. While this is not a bad thing, it is not nearly the level of excitement of the previous three novels.  I think it is inevitable that every series has an installment that suffers from middle book syndrome and I think that this book is it for A Song of Ice and Fire.  I repeat, this is not a bad book.  It just gets bogged down a bit because it has to include all the necessary details to move the story along.  Interestingly enough, this book deviated a bit more from what the tv series has shown which is fine.  I'm curious to see how much further they diverge as the series goes on.  Normally I do not read two huge books back to back because it is just mentally draining to read several big books in a row, but since I missed the other half of the characters missing from this installment so much I am going to soldier on with A Dance With Dragons.


X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

I finished two novels this week and I'll post my thoughts on the second one later this week but first my thoughts on X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.  This book was chosen as this year's Great Michigan Read.  Every year a book is chosen by the Michigan Humanities Council and the whole state reads this as their book club selection.  All books chosen generally have something to do with Michigan.  This one is a fictional young adult adult novel written by Malcolm X's daughter which focuses on his younger years.  I have to admit, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book as much as I did and I think it is mainly because it changed my perspective of who this man was by learning where he came from. 

As I was born almost 20 years after Malcolm X was assassinated, I remained pretty ignorant of much of his life story (outside the Denzel Washington movie which I vaguely remember watching a long time ago).  For instance I had no idea that he had such strong ties to Michigan (grew up in Lansing), how he became involved with the Nation of Islam, what the turning point in his life was which turned him from petty criminal to prominent civil rights warrior, and really what the differences were between his championing of civil rights and that of his contemporaries.  Another surprise?  This book was well written and really easy to read.  I finished it in just over a day.  I led the discussion for this book at our morning book club last Wednesday and even though we had a small group, it was a very good discussion.  This is not a book I would have chosen to read on my own but it has definitely piqued my interest in learning more about the civil rights movement.  My only disclaimer here is this book was written for a YA adult audience and since it does contain references to drugs and sex on a regular basis, this might be better for older teens.  Not sure I'm ready for my 13 year old to read it quite yet, but definitely a worthy read.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Ready Player One and other book to movies this year

I actually had no intention of reading this book until I saw the previews for the upcoming movie when we went to see The Last Jedi.  Afterwards I went home and looked up the synopsis which was:

"In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win—and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape."

So yeah, I'm a child of the 80's who loves science fiction/fantasy and dystopian.   This seemed to land squarely in that spectrum so sure, why not?  First, this book is clearly written by a walking video game and pop culture encyclopedia.  If you love vintage video games, and TV shows there are an abundance of references to them here.  The story itself was engaging but also left me feeling a bit conflicted.  There were times when things seemed to line up a little too well for Wade.  I found the descriptions of the worlds in the Oasis intriguing.  The book honestly had me wondering if we will reach this type of scenario at one point-the world steadily goes to hell while the human population distracts itself with technology to escape.  I also kept getting the feeling that some of this is going to translate much better on screen than it does in print.  I did enjoy this much more than I expected.  Of course this may be because I grew up in the era this book focuses on and managed to catch 95% of the references.  I'm really looking forward to the movie when it comes out next month and as I'm one of those weirdos who will not see the movie unless I've read the book, now I can actually see it when it comes out!


A few more recently released or will be released book to movie adaptations I'm hoping to see:

It has been a LOOONG wait for the 3rd installment due to Dylan O'Brien's injuries while filming it.  I might even have to go back and watch the first two since so much time has passed between this one and the last.  I really liked the books, although was not happy with the changes they made in the first movie which deviated from the book version.  This one just came out January 26th.

Also saw the preview for this in the theater.  The preview looked good, but then I saw somewhere it was actually a book first, read the blurb and thought "Wow the book sounds like it is going to be better than the movie!"  Read book blurb here

Ordered it from the library and am now patiently waiting for it to arrive. While putting it on hold I discovered this is actually book one in a trilogy so I'm hoping it's good and I can read the whole thing. The movie comes out the 23rd of this month.

I don't think I have picked this up since grade school but have fond memories of it.  The casting looks interesting so I think it's time to read it again and then go see the movie when it comes out March 9th.  We are starting middle school book club back up at the local school and this is the first one they are reading.  I'm not leading this book club (my coworker has bravely volunteered to take on leading teen book club since I lead morning book club and my other coworker leads evening book club).  Think I may read it anyway though.

I have not read this book but my good friend read it and raved about it.  I will be speeding through this one before the May 11th release date.  I also adore Cate Blanchett who is starring in this one.

Confession: I am hopelessly addicted to historical dramas no matter how hokey or fast and loose with history they are.  The CW's series Reign was my guilty pleasure while it was on and I was so so disappointed when they decided not to renew it and had to cram the entire end of Mary's story into that last season.  

Mary, Queen of Scots which is based on the book by John Guy doesn't come out til November but I am curious to see how they spin the story.  Mary is being played by Saoirse Ronan and Queen Elizabeth will be played by Margot Robbie.  Hopefully it ends up being good (fingers crossed).

I've had this book sitting on my shelf for 5+ years.  I'm thinking about blowing the dust off it and giving it a go in case I decide to see the movie which is based on it coming out some time this year.  The movie has Star Wars Daisy Ridley in it and Harry Potter's Tom Felton so that is a plus in my book.

Also looking forward to the next Fantastic Beasts movie and the new Mary Poppins movie with Emily Blunt. It's weird because I actually enjoyed the movie Mary Poppins much more than I liked the first book but maybe it is time to pick up Mary Poppins comes back and see if I like that one more.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Weekend Pile

Brie says: You really gonna read all this lady?
So, I've got one on the Kindle, two from the library, one I picked up on a whim at Barnes & Noble in December, a movie to watch, and seven books to fold into hearts for a February book display this weekend.  I'd also like to finish up my book letters and the last sign for my Dr. Seuss kids area.  Think I may have planned a little too much for this weekend.......

This year, since I've found reading on my Kindle to be much speedier/easier than reading a hard copy, I've decided to peruse Overdrive and Hoopla to see what from my physical collection I can get digitally so I can pass the actual books onto other readers.  Currently, I've got The Summer Queen by Elizabeth Chadwick checked out from Hoopla so I'm hoping to get to that.

I saw the preview for Ready Player One when we went to see The Last Jedi and thought it looked great but since I'm one of THOSE people who refuses to see the movie unless the book has been read first, I snatched it up when I spotted it at B&N.  Fridays mornings at the library are preschool and tiny tots story time.  I'm fortunate to have a coworker that is absolutely amazing at story time.  Normally she does them both but since she had mandatory training during preschool time, it was my job to fill in. Anyone who has ever done a library story time knows how physically draining it is-all the dancing, jumping around, voices, shooing kids out of things they aren't supposed to touch while keeping the whole show going.  When I got home yesterday it felt like I had been cracked in both knees with a sledge hammer.  So, when I got home all I wanted was a nice good soak in the tub and something to read that wouldn't totally horrify me if it got dropped in the tub or splashed with water by accident.  Grabbed my copy of Ready Player One and off I went-before 20 minutes later the water got cold and I had to get out.  Still it managed to catch my interest in the first 30 pages so I"m going to keep going.

From the library I've got The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker.   I actually saw the second one in the series when I was perusing the Harper Collins catalog.  What is this?  A historical series set in viking times?  And I somehow missed the release of the first one?  I love Bernard Cornwell's Saxon stories and the BBC's Last Kingdom based on them. I've watched all of Vikings up to the current season.  I  HAD TO GET this book.  Also in February is Michigan's Great Michigan Read and it has been mandated that both of our book clubs discuss the chosen book which is X:  by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon.  This is a YA historical covering the early years of the life of Malcolm X.

I'm also excited to see Victoria & Abdul.  Dame Judi Dench as Queen V?  Yes please!  On a side note, am I the only librarian that yells at the hubby if he even looks like he's thinking about renting something from Redbox or On Demand?  Every single time I find myself saying "Why did you waste the money?  I have it on order at the library-for FREE!!!"

Well, guess I better get cracking on that pile.  Have a good (hopefully book-filled) weekend everyone!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

In the Library #1

So one of the things you don't learn in library school-if you work in a public library (especially one that isn't well funded) chances are you or a coworker will have to transform yourself into the poor man's Martha Stewart.  Making decorations for the library and various items for programs is very time consuming but fortunately a lot of fun.  Two years ago I wasn't even aware I had a crafty bone in my entire body.  Here are some of the things that I've made in the past year.


Cardinal/Pine Cone Wreath for over the fire place

snowmen lanterns for winter decorations

Snowflake wreath for above the circulation desk


Hot air balloons and clouds for kids area


Signs for our Jazz Age Murder Mystery

We made light sabers just like these for Star Wars Day.....


Harry Potter Pumpkin
Pigeon Pumpkin

Pete the Cat Pumpkin

Sadly, Pete was punctured and deflated into a gooey smelly puddle a week after I made him...


And finally, last month I did a Dr. Seuss makeover for the kids section of the library I am now managing.

Cat in the Hat wreath

Seuss quote signs for the walls

We also did Truffula trees, the fish in the bowl from the Cat in the Hat and a One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish flower display in a bucket.  I'm still working on one more sign and "READ" book letters featuring Seuss characters.  

Honestly, getting to be creative is one of my favorite things about my job.  Now time to put my thinking cap on and create a plan for the teen area.  Aspiring librarians-if your motto is "With Pinterest and a glue gun anything is possible" librarianship may be the right job for you!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

How do I love Deanna Raybourn's books?  Let me count the ways...

She is one of my go to authors when I have just read something with heavy subject matter content and I'm looking for something fun, fast, and with characters I really enjoy.  My love affair with her books first began with Silent in the Grave (#1 in the Lady Julia Grey series) and was greeted by this line:

“To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” 

How can you resist a book with an opening line like that?  For this series I have read book 1, half of book 2 (unfortunately I attempted to read #2 while in the middle of 3 classes for grad school) and now this one.  Book 3 alluded to events in book 2 but not enough to spoil what I haven't read yet.  Veronica Speedwell is one of those intrepid female characters that I have come to love in historical fiction-doesn't care a fig for what society thinks, intelligent, holds her own against any man she comes across, but with a softer side that peeks out every once in awhile.  Yes, some readers who like their characters to fit the mold of the time may bristle at such a character but personally I love them!  Veronica is right up there with Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody, Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, Ariana Franklin's Adelia Aguilar and Lauren Willig's Miss Gwen Meadows poking people into submission with her parasol.

This particular adventure follows Veronica and Stoker as they get sucked into a giant vat of intrigue while solving the disappearance of Stoker's former best friend and partner-a mystery that casts an unflattering light on Stoker if they do not get to the bottom of it.  Synopsis is here:

London, 1888.  As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

 I'm always pleasantly surprised when I don't figure out the mystery before the end of the book.  Also, while I'm sure must be quite tempting to throw these two complicated souls together in a romantic relationship, instead the author keeps us anxiously waiting for the moment this will FINALLY happen (I mean we know its going to eventually...).  I have come to appreciate the slow building of the deeper relationship between the two.  Anyway, really did enjoy this one and cant wait for the next.  Thank you to Netgalley for the ebook ARC.  :)


On another note, I am happy that things have calmed down at work and here at home to the point where I am actually able to read books again.  Last year I only managed 31 books which is absolutely horrendous for me.  Of course, until august I was finishing my MLIS and then in September I started my new job as the lead librarian of my branch.  So now I have joined the ranks of "librarians who grit their teeth and smile when some poor innocent soul expounds on how great it must be to have a job were you get to read all day".  What with the meetings, meetings and more meetings, book ordering, programs to run, collections to develop and weed, I can honestly say I have not read a single page while at work in over 3 years.  Nice that the stars have finally aligned and I am free to dive into my piles of glorious books again!

Monday, January 8, 2018

I need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin

First, I have decided to resurrect this blog just to have a place to post my book thoughts and record my challenges.  No official reviewing happening here, just a place to babble about what I'm reading.  I'm glad I decided to do so because after picking up We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver on a whim, there are so many thoughts rattling around in my head after almost being late to work so I could finish it that I don't know where to start.  Here is the synopsis:

Two years ago, Eva Khatchadourian's son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York. Telling the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault? Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy - the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Yes the subject matter of this book is as weighty as it sounds. First impressions?  This is an epistolary novel where Eva writes lengthy letters to her husband Franklin.  Her "voice" really grated on me at first as she had a rather grandiose way of conveying her recollections.  It becomes apparent right away that this lady was not cut out to be a parent.  Her selfishness, unrealistic expectations, and her inability to commit fully to her child serves as a source of tension in her marriage.  The issues are exacerbated by the fact that her husband refuses to face reality and see that their precious child has serious psychological issues and it is not just his wife only wanting to find fault wherever she can.  Together Eva, her husband Franklin, and their truly psychopathic progeny Kevin make for a perfect storm of screwed up family dynamics.  

After getting further into the book, I adjusted to Eva's way with words and was able to focus more on the story itself.  It progresses with a series of increasingly disturbing occurrences leading up to the massacre.  What started as a "What the hell am I reading and why did I pick this up?" scenario ended with me speeding to the end so I could finish and make it to the library on time.  I had an inkling in the back of my mind of how this book might end and while I was right, it still left me on edge to read it.  This is one of those books that came out of nowhere and probably will stick with me for awhile as I cannot begin to wrap my head around how three people could fail each other so thoroughly and with such disastrous results.  Glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and continued reading even though I was really not enjoying the first 3rd of the book.  I'm looking forward to watching the movie starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly.  I usually read a book and move on to the next without feeling the need for much discussion.  This one gut punched me to the point where I felt compelled to tell 4 people about this book today.  


Monday, March 14, 2016

It's Been a LONG Time!

I have been radio silent on this blog for just about two years now.  Part of my absence was I got burnt out reviewing. Part of it was I started back to school to finish my Bachelor's degree and I was knee deep in the cat rescuing world saving poor helpless kitties by the armload.  Fast forward two years later and.....I'm even more busy than I was then!  BUT I miss blogging so I have decided to give it another go.

Things have changed quite a bit for me in the past two years.  I have changed careers.  I'm working as a Library Assistant/Floating Substitute for my local library system.  I spend my working hours floating between 10 branches, filling in wherever they need me.  I also got accepted into the graduate program for Library and Information Science at Wayne State University so hopefully I'll be running my own branch one day.  A job constantly surrounded by books-can you think of anything better?

On the cat rescue front, I quit the rescue I was toiling away at for the last three years due to several insurmountable disagreements. Myself and my two crazy cat lady friends (we are collectively known as the Sister Wives) are now free agents in the cat rescue world helping all the local rescues wherever we can with donations and attending fund raisers.  After months of this nomadic existence we think we may have found a couple ways to truly make an impact and we are super excited about it (More about this in future posts)!

So what in the world does that mean for this blog now that I've decided to do it again?  Will there still be reviews here?  The answer is yes but they will be pretty informal and only for books I am reading personally.  I have decided not to do reviews for tours or publishers or anything like that here.  My reading tastes have broadened a bit too so it probably will not be all historical fiction like it was previously.

I will still be doing the historical fiction preview pages, the recently released page, and the Tudor book page.  I'm working on updating all of that this week.

The biggest change (besides the site design) will be that this blog will be more of a general purpose blog as opposed to strictly books.  There will be cats (and gratuitous pictures of my dog too), craft projects myself and my fellow Sister Wives are working on and just life in general posts in addition to the books.

I can't wait to dive back in and catch up on all of my favorite blogs.  Sadly there are quite a few I used to follow avidly that are no longer around but I'm looking forward to discovering new blogs too.

So, in short-Hello Again!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

REVIEW: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Synopsis: The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.  As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

My Thoughts:  So here is the thing.  I really do like books with child protagonists if the author is able to successfully write the character without imposing adult viewpoints/actions/mannerisms that totally mess with the authenticity of the character's voice.  For me they have to contain that innocence-an unblemished view of the world that breathes life into the story.  In Whistling Past the Graveyard Susan Crandall tackles the weighty issue of race relations in the deep South during the early 1960's and uses charming and spirited Starla Claudelle to spin an endearing story of adversity, confronting harsh realities, and finding your inner strength.

I was really drawn to this story and particularly the interaction between Starla and Eula, both people who are facing difficult circumstances but find their courage from relying on each other.  Eula knows it is dangerous to even be seen with a white girl and a white baby but nevertheless she follows her inner compass that tells her these two need her help and she is determined to do the right thing by them.  Eula and Starla encounter many obstacles on the journey to Nashville to locate Starla's mother.  Along the way Starla's innocence gives way to the hard truth of reality but by the end of this novel you are rooting for both Starla and Eula to find their happy ending.  This book reminded me a lot of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  Although I wasn't sure what to expect when cracking this book open, what I found was a beautifully told story that held my attention from beginning to end. I will definitely be checking out more from this author.

This book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.